Click here and listen to a recording of Ernest Shackleton telling a story from one of his expeditions to the South Pole. The audio was recorded in 1910 on a wax cylinder. Now, you can listen to it in all its digital glory.
Besides amazing the dungarees off me, this recording reminds me of the relative costs and benefits of different media. A wax cylinder can exist in more or less the same condition for 109 years. But it’s confined to one place. A digital recording can travel the world, but will probably be lost, corrupted, or obsolete a decade from now.
The semester starts a week from tomorrow. Hoping to give the students more to chew on this time ’round.
ken, by Destroyer, queued up in the background.
These were carved nearly 1000 years BEFORE the golden age of ancient Athens‼️ They predate Phidias by as much as the Bayeux Tapestry does from Banksy. 🤯 pic.twitter.com/QPLgmYGITO
— Dan Snow (@thehistoryguy) January 12, 2019
A children’s book I want to write someday is full of comparisons like this one, that such-and-such a thing was ancient to those we think of as ancient. For example, we live closer in time to Thomas Aquinas than Aquinas did to Augustine of Hippo. William Shakespeare lived closer in time to the founding of the United States than he did to Columbus’s discovery of North America. Julius Caesar lived closer to the invention of the internal combustion engine than he did to the construction of the Egyptian pyramids. Much of what we think of as dead and gone is practically knocking at our back door.
Apparently, H. G. Wells was somehow responsible for Japan’s current constitution.
The founding document of the most technologically saturated society in the world was based on the work of a science-fiction author. In retrospect, yeah, I really shouldn’t be surprised.
via Adam Roberts
My take on Spufford’s book Unapologetic got me thinking. I don’t deny the value of an emotional defense of Christianity. (See Nate Wilson’s Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl for a great one.) But Spufford specifically says that he wants to explain what it feels like to be a Christian, and there’s something curiously lacking from his explanation. For most Christians, being a Christian is primarily about interacting with other Christians. Another Christian raises you, befriends you, challenges you, teaches you, extends you grace, or all of the above. No one—and I mean no one—becomes (or stays) a Christian by themselves.
The more I think about it, the odder this absence is. What about Spufford’s relationships? How did he find his way back to the faith after a long absence? His book may have been stronger if it had been more autobiographical, in the vein of Surprised by Joy.
My latest article for Frame.io went up on their blog on Monday. It’s about why aspiring TV and features editors should move to Los Angeles or New York (or London). Writing for a business is a tricky business, since you have to remain more or less objective, which means you may have to lean away from your own bias. My name is under the article’s title, but if you asked me my opinion on the same question in person, I’d have a much more qualified answer. Here’s part of that answer.
I aspire to write (yea, even direct) feature films. Yet I have no plans to move to New York or LA (or London). Where do I get off telling others that’s what they have to do? For one thing, the article I wrote is specifically directed at editors, not writers or directors. Editors are not high on the filmmaking totem pole. They bow to the needs of the production (despite the fact that the editor has more control over the finished film than anyone else involved except the director). Unlike writers, who also bend the knee, editors are almost always on-site with the director. No months of working in isolation for them. (Where the post-production is, there the editors will gather…) Some of the pros we interviewed for the article admitted that new tools are changing things (Frame.io!) and that sometimes a small-town editor gets to cut a big film (see John Gilbert). But, as a general rule (for now), editors need to be physically present with the rest of the team.
Writers have a better chance of working off-location than editors. A screenwriter can spend months working alone before he needs to meet with the director. And screenplays are easier to email than full-res video files. Since writing is my strong suit, I’m hoping I can make non-LA writing work for me. On their excellent podcast, Scriptnotes, screenwriters John August and Craig Mazin have urged their listeners countless times to move to LA if they want to pursue screenwriting. Their reasons make sense. And yet, the fact of it is that those reasons only apply to people who want to make screenwriting (and nothing else) their full-time job. There are lots of people who don’t live in LA who have written movies (novelists, journalists, playwrights, teachers, even filmmakers) and plenty of screenwriters who left LA after a while to pursue other interests. Writing travels well.
What about directing? Don’t you need to be LA-based to get that next directing gig? Yeah, probably. But who wants that? Frankly, most of the films coming out of the big-time movie studios these days bore me. They leave a sour taste in my mouth. Why would I want to make movies like that? The most interesting movies right now are labors of love from people outside the studio system, who then get courted and admitted into that inner circle. I would much rather make a small film on a shoestring budget and my own terms than spend a decade scratching my way to the top of the Hollywood heap and be rewarded with a job directing Avengers XIV.
Though I would love to write movies and direct them, it’s not my highest priority. People who live in LA admit that it sucks, especially if you don’t have a big income. The traffic is a nightmare. The industry is petty and immature. And it’s far away from most of my relatives (and my wife’s). I don’t want to raise a family in that environment. I’d rather raise them somewhere where we can live close to our church and school and get to know our neighbors. Somewhere that’s not covered by smog eighty percent of the time. I’d rather make an impact in a small, insignificant place than no impact at all. Raising a healthy, godly, mature family in a thriving church is a bigger priority for me than working as a full-time screenwriter (or editor, or director).
I believe that it’s possible to write and make films without living in LA/NYC/London. It’s hard, but possible, especially these days. If you want to edit big-budget features or mainstream TV shows, you should move to one of the Big Three. But if you’re willing to be a Hollywood outsider – and see a lot less money – you can live anywhere and still make movies. And your movies might be better for it.