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Leaving gaps

July 17th 2015 07:37
I occasionally edit short films; and one thing I'm paying attention to is the gaps between lines. I close my eyes and listen. I play with the actor's original timing -- I make their delivery faster or slower, insert a pause here, reduce one there.

***

It used to be said of actors that he/she has "good comic timing". But what makes timing good or bad?

Well, depends on the context. For instance:

-- If it's a stand-up routine, then it's partly to do with the speed of your audience's thinking. People need to have enough time to "get" a joke, to make the unexpected connection: any less time and they won't get it; any more time, and you're overdoing it.

-- Good timing is sometimes to do with laughter and recovery. You want to play each joke for maximum impact, milk the most laughter out of it -- meaning that, generally, you want to allow a little bit of recovery, and don't want the second joke to cut in before people have finished laughing at the first. But at the same time: (a) if someone is already at the edge of laughter, it's easier to keep pushing them over, so you don't want to allow a complete recovery; (b) some of the best stand-up routines are remarkable for the way they manipulate the rhythm of laughing, and mix small and big laughs, and build up to big laughs.

-- In a sitcom scenario, the pause before or after delivery is sometimes to do with implications about character. Leaving a long pause might imply the character is thinking about something sexual, or is an idiot, or is preparing for an outburst.

-- Comic timing can be to do with misdirection. For example, an unexpected joke to round off a scene.

***

How can you methodically teach an editor, a comedian, an actor, or a musician for that matter, how long a pause to leave?


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So, nouns often have a "family resemblance" logic. That is, there are core, paradigmatic examples, and then there are extensions from that nuclear family to more distant relatives. A typical chair has a certain appearance for me, but it's not outside my range of usage to say non-facetiously, "I am so poor, the only chairs in my house are milk crates".

So, thus it is with "beauty". Its core uses might be to do with human beauty, or emotive music, or water and green fields, or flowers -- things that make us happy through the sensations they give us, or sensations we are perhaps drawn to for evolutionary reasons.

But, when the word is extended, you can find beauty in, say, a plastic bag fluttering. We all understand what a mathematician means when he calls an equation beautiful. Or when Leni Riefenstahl looks at the shapes of marching Nazis and calls the geometry beautiful. Or what it is to find the cold, artificial minimalism of a sci-fi future beautiful. Or when someone remarks that death or manner of death is beautiful.

One way to conceptually arrive at extension: if you take the core examples, you can abstract different qualities from them that themselves have wide range -- for instance, ideas of pleasure or elegance or harmonious arrangements or order or perfectibility. And not all languages, of course, need have a single ambiguous word of similar reach; a Latin adjective like "pulcher" or "decorus" or "bellus" or "praeclarus" wouldn't cut it.

A question: at what point is there novelty? At what point does a dialect become a language or a group of stones a heap? At what point has a possible instance of "beauty" drifted so far from its source that one might want to rename it, or identify it as something new? For instance, no longer "beauty" but "terror", or no longer "beautiful" but "sublime"?

Perhaps there is no novelty in nature, but only in our usages -- so it is mainly the practicalities of a given context, or the pressure from particular purposes, or internal pressure from the rest of the sign system, that would force differentiation of a thing as a thing.



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Bomber's Moon

April 6th 2015 02:12
So here's a painting, Bomber's Moon by Alan Moore:

Bomber's Moon by Alan Moore

One of the things that surely anyone notices is the shapes -- the streaks of lights, the brighter diamonds formed where the lights intersect, and the way the planes line up with these diamonds.

But, given the context of the piece and the title, you can't not bear in mind what it must have been like to be there -- the exploding bombs, the screaming, the terror, the chaos.

So, on the one hand, an observational, cold stance, seeing just the shapes and the play of light and dark. On the other hand, an affected, human stance, with an imagination spelling out the realities behind the depiction.

Thoughts about this combination:

-- It could be seen as a strange moment of beauty, even enlightenment -- a moment of order amongst the chaos. With panic and confusion around you, you look up to the sky and you see... this...

-- Human drama is sometimes made more poignant when contained, or when its complexity is reduced to simpler forms. The emotion is more concentrated, more suggestive.

-- Human drama is sometimes more poignant when seen from afar -- the hopelessness, the "in vain" of our efforts, when viewed against the indifference of the universe from a God's-eye perspective. Called back to dust despite it all, called back to inert matter.

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Computer vs human

March 4th 2015 20:35
Now, it's quite possible for me to be walking in the park, to hear a song, and for that song to remind me of x, which reminds me of y, which reminds me of z, which in turn provides inspiration for solving a maths problem.

One difference between the human brain and a CPU: we react to stimuli differently. A stimulus can echo along webs of association, so that you end up somewhere apparently quite distant from where you started. Our gift for seeing similarity is greater than a computer's. Our gift for this kind of pattern recognition is greater


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Job creation

February 7th 2015 00:44
Anything the government does is at a cost. If it spends more on universities, presumably it’s spending less on the arts. Or else it’s raising the money somehow (through increasing taxes or borrowing).

So, when a government promises 290,000 new jobs if re-elected, you should be at least a little cautious


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Wealth

January 28th 2015 20:54
I know nothing at all about economics, but wanted to note down some ideas anyway.

* It’s possible for someone to be wealthy but unhappy, and it’s possible for someone to be poor but have a great standard of living. Therefore, the concepts of “wealthy” and “poor” are in many contexts separable from ideas of happiness and standard of living


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Executing the innocent

December 27th 2014 02:13
Assume that "justice" in a particular case requires death, and consider these two claims:

-- Claim 1: "I would rather let 100,000 criminals escape the death they deserve than execute one innocent person." Under peacetime conditions, innocent life is just that valuable


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Real-world argument

December 26th 2014 02:03
You leave a pencil balanced vertically, standing on the kitchen table. You go to the bathroom, and when you return you find that the pencil is now lying on its side.

There are infinite imaginable explanations, and the same goes for science generally -- any set of facts is compatible with infinite theories. Maybe an alien time-travelled from the future to knock the pencil over


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Heads or tails

December 22nd 2014 23:27
A problem I'm worrying at. Forgive me if this is old news to you; I'm sure it's the sort of problem many people have thought about already.

So, someone presents you with a gamble: heads, you win $15; tails, you lose $10. Should you take the bet


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Does art matter more than life?

December 20th 2014 19:56
An extract from A Conversation of the Quai Voltaire by Lee Langley:

“He held out his hand and touched the blue tracery beneath the skin


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