things to think about

today i am thinking about: STUBBORN OBJECTS
May 3, 2011, 2:16 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’m doing this lez film series right now, which can be subtitled “my excuse to watch a ton of old lez films and take notes and read lez cinema books.” It’s satisfying. I am learning a lot and it is fun to start watching films and see the things I am reading about, and it is fun to see enough films to actually see the connections between them.

But this isn’t about that. This is about the experience of watching the films. This is about the fact that a lot of these films haven’t been re-released on DVD; they’re still on VHS. This is about trying to track down a VCR, and about pressing play, and about BE KIND PLEASE REWIND.

I don’t know how long it’s been since you’ve watched something on a VHS tape, so maybe you’ve forgotten. Backing up is a matter of hitting the rewind button. To skip forward, you have to use the fast forward. There is a physical tape there, running back and forth over tape heads. When I got my most recent tape, Madchen in Uniform (the 1931 version, not 1958, which has been released on DVD), the person below it was not kind and did not rewind.

I have been exploring shooting film lately, instead of just playing with digital media. The physical object of it, plus my total lack of film editing capabilities*, means that I have to work even harder than usual to make sure that I have exactly the thing I want from the beginning. I should do that with digital too, but it’s so seductive to just go with it – I can always sort it out later, when I edit on my computer on my nonlinear editor; the only limit is how many little chips I have. Film, though, no dice – I guess I could find ways to work digitally, or edit the old fashioned way, but it is a limited, tangible, and precious commodity.

Lately, all I want are objects. Real and tangible things. I admit the weirdness of writing this on a blog but I am working on an answer to that, too. But I want a pen and I want a paper calendar and I want friends I see face to face, not just friendsters. In this mood, there is something very satisfying about being kind and rewinding, watching the snow on the screen, and having to wait for a real object to move in real time.

I got a free vcr from a friend that doesn’t quite work. Something seems to be wrong with the play button, and so I opened it up with a hankering to take a look at the circuit board and see where the problem is. But first I have to take it apart to see the soldered side of the circuitboard, a process that is frankly just right for me. Find the screws. Get them loose. Find the next ones. Try to understand the construction. Fail. Try again. Fail. Try again. Succeed. I like that this is an object I can take apart.

I worry that the decline of objects in favor of digital files, we will lose something important. Touch, smell, the feel of something – what about when it is all mediated through a screen? What do we lose when we forget that you cannot force everything to do whatever you want instantly. Sometimes you have to take it apart first. Sometimes you have to sit there and wait for the tape to unwind. Sometimes you have to seduce a screw slowly, patiently, little by little. These are important skills for us to remember – the world isn’t all digitalia and NOW NOW NOW. Sometimes. you just have to sit there and wait for it.

* I mean, let’s be real, I edit in iMovie HD. I can splice with splicing tape but that’s all, and even that makes me really nervous.


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