Friday, August 20, 2010

2D Cinema vs 3D

The 2D vs 3D cinema debate rumbles on, though the studios seem committed to the new technology.

In the old days of cinema, before polarising glasses, I never used to sit irritated in the dark thinking - this is far too flat for me. Why? Because through the art of the cinematographer, the image projected onto the 2D screen had 3D depth.

It is a trick of the mind and the eye so subtle that I was never even aware of it until I started to make films myself. The subject - the thing on the screen which the film maker wanted to direct my eye to - was in perfect focus. Other things, closer to the camera or further away, were softened. The slightest of out-of-focus blur.

This so closely maps onto the way we experience depth of field in everyday life that in watching a 2D movie, the mind tells us some things are further away and other things closer. A flat screen becomes 3D.

But in the old days those three dimensions were trapped behind the screen. Modern 3D extends out into the space between the screen and the audience. It offers that spooky moment when the Cheshire Cat hovers in the air just in front of you and speaks in Stephen Fry's voice.

3D vs 2D Cheshire Cat
For that moment of magic however, a payment is required. A thirty percent loss in colour. The hassle of having a pair of uncomfortable glasses pressing down on your nose - over your own glasses if you are short sighted like me. And a substantially more expensive cinema ticket.

There is also a strange mismatch between the old and the new systems of indicating depth. The subject is still in focus, the background and foreground are out of focus. But now some of those out of focus things are floating around in the air just in front of you. I find my eye is no longer pulled only to the thing I should be looking at, but jumps between things at different depths. They remain out of focus, which my brain finds hard to accept. The experience is disorientating and mildly unpleasant.

Perhaps we are in an age similar to the end of the silent era, when cinematographers were experimenting with the new technology and hadn't quite got it right. Or perhaps this is an unneeded technology. Time will tell. But for now, given the option, I'll be going for 2D screenings.

And here, for your enjoyment, is Mark Kermode and Simon Miller's revolutionary invention - glasses that allow you to see 3D screenings in spectacular, immersive 2D.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dyslexia, Memory, Socrates and Smartphones

Socrates disapproved of writing. It was not an aid to memory he said, but a replacement. If people could use symbols on a sheet of paper to record information, why would they bother to develop the latent power of their minds?

Socrates was right. As literacy spread, the use of memorization techniques dwindled. The art of memorization used to be part of the foundation of learning. But from the time I entered primary school to the day I graduated from university, only one teacher bothered to tell me how to remember things.

Even he only mentioned memory two times (as far as I can recall). Once to let us know that there was a difference between short, medium and long term memory. And once, after using a particularly entertaining simile, when he told us that the ruder the imagery we connect to a memory, the easier it would be to hold on to. (Alas I cannot repeat the image that he shared with us that day because it would never get through adult web content filters.)

Few today would say that the exchange of literacy for memorization technique was not a trade worth making. But for dyslexics, who may have particular difficulty with short term memory, memorization techniques can still be very useful. The loci system, for example, which has become a powerful tool for me, turning an area of weakness into a strength.

Socrates Memory and Writing
But if writing was an anathema to Socrates, what would he have said about the information revolution?

Followers of this blog will know that I recently bought a Dell Streak smartphone/tablet to help me with organization. I've had it a week now and have discovered that it is helping me to remember things in a way I had not anticipated.

How long until the parking expires? When should I head in to town to the Writers' Club meeting? When will I need to collect my wife from the train station on Wednesday? Two dyslexic issues converge on questions such as these: short term memory and tracking the flow of time. But by using the calendar alarm on the Dell Streak, I now don't need to remember. This may sound trivial, but it removes the layer of background anxiety that goes with struggling to do something one is congenitally poor at.

What would Socrates say? He'd probably tell me to work on the memory rather than using an external solution. But perhaps by removing the anxiety associated with remembering times, the smartphone will give me the space to do just that.

We will see.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Dyslexia the Dell Streak and Organization

Microsoft Word turned this dyslexic into a writer. Might the Dell Streak or some other smatrphone/tablet computer enable me to be super-organized?

I'm not one to harp on about the problems of dyslexia, as I am far more interested in the significant and often overlooked strengths. But here we do need to state the fact: dyslexics often have problems with organization. Find a really successful dyslexic and you will usually find a highly effective PA or partner standing close by.

Why is organization a problem? Because of a deficit in short term memory and problems tracking time/date combined an intense, creative tendency to make more lateral jumps than logical ones. I'm not going to show a photograph of my office to illustrate this. Even I blush sometimes. If you want to picture it in your mind, just meditate on the phrase 'creative chaos'.

Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't have my brain wired any other way. But this is a non-dyslexic world and I want to fit in if possible, so I'm always on the lookout for coping strategies.

Might the smartphone be the answer? Or perhaps a netbook computer? This is the question that has been tumbling in a pleasantly chaotic way around inside my head for the past year. My problem was that the netbook is just too big to carry round with me all the time - and thus would not work as a portable calendar. And the smartphone seemed just too small to read documents from with ease as well as some of the other features I was looking for. In short, I wanted something just in between these two classes of devices and nothing was on the market.

Enter the Dell Streak. Is it a tablet computer or a smartphone? A bit of both. In other words, it was exactly the class of device I was looking for.

Dell Streak
It is a calendar, an alarm clock, a note taking device, a camera to take photos of receipts etc, a voice recorder, access to the Internet and e-mails, lists of contacts, names of people, documents I would no longer need to carry, an infinite supply of maps and it would tell me where I am when I get lost. Oh, and it makes phone calls too.

I believe this kind of technology will make a huge difference for many adult dyslexics, liberating them to integrate more effectively with the non-dyslexic world. As to whether the Dell Streak will be THE landmark device in this respect - there was only one way for me to find out.

So two days ago I went out and bought one. Or rather, the Carphone Warehouse gave me one and I agreed to pay a £35 contract every month for the next two years. Was it worth it? I'll report on my progress over the coming months.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Baha'i leaders sentenced in Iran

I'm reposting the text of an article from Iran Press Watch. I don't usually repost other people's material, but this report covers such an outrageous breach of human rights that I feel compelled to share it as widely as possible. You can find the original article here.

A total of 140 years of prison for the seven Baha’i directors

August 9th, 2010

Hrana News – Each of the 7 former leaders of the Baha’i community has been sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment.

As reported by the Committee of Reporters on Human Rights, this sentence comes after more than 2 years that they had been detained in prison, with repeated illegal orders. Previously, many times the court sessions had been postponed but in recent months, after holding several court sessions, finally the 20 year sentence of imprisonment has been handed down to their lawyers.

Six of the seven Baha’i citizens who were responsible for attending to the affairs of Baha’is in Iran have been detained since 25 Ordibehesht 1387, following coordinated attacks by the security forces of their homes. The seventh, Mrs Mahvash Sabet had been arrested in Mashad previously, on 15 Esfand 1386.”