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April 2007 Archives

Reverse Time

Reverse Time

(Project 365 Day 185)

Tonight I went to see Merrily We Roll Along, a musical. The gimmick in this musical is that each scene takes place progressively earlier in time. So at the very first scene, you know the ending, that the main character is a composer who's "sold out" and miserable in middle age. Then each scene tells you a bit of his history, and of those around him, until you get to the wide-eyed days of his youth, when he was still optimistic and full of wonder.

It was so twisted! I mean, it gets happier and happier, but that actually means that their lives got sadder and sadder! Also, the production values were really good, and the acting was great, too, so if anyone who reads this lives in the Silicon Valley, I'd recommend that you consider taking a look.

So was al-Zarqawi a miniboss?

The Army decides to eschew subtlety in its latest TV ad. It shows a couple of kids playing a first person military shooter when the soldier in the game asks them, "You ready to take this to the next level?" It tells you how can call for a free copy of the America's Army video game.

Pillarboxing in a Restaurant!

Pillarboxing in a Restaurant!

(Project 365 Day 176)

I took a picture of this TV in B J's Restaurant & Brewhouse because it's the first time I've ever seen a public HDTV display regular TV in pillarboxed format instead of distorted/stretched format. I was impressed. Details below:

So traditional TVs have an aspect ratio of 4:3. When you watch a movie on a normal TV, it's sometimes presented in "letterboxed" widescreen, which means you see the full picture as originally intended, with black empty spaces above and below the picture. Other times it's presented "pan & scan", where they crop the sides off of the image to fit your TV, customizing the cropping based on what makes sense for each shot. (The marketers love to call this "full screen", even though it actually means you're missing parts of the picture.) People used to get confused by letterboxing, wondering if parts of the picture are cut off, etc, but I think almost everyone understands it these days. In fact, some TV shows being shot for HDTV even broadcast in letterboxed format on normal TV these days. Which brings us to...

HDTVs have an aspect ratio of 16:9, which is wider than normal TV. This presents a bit of a problem when you're watching normal TV. To get the full picture, you would have empty spaces on the sides of the screen. (It's called "pillarboxing".) This presents two problems: (1) People aren't as comfortable about blank areas on the sides of their screen as they are about blank areas on the top and bottom. I think part of it is that people don't want to feel like they're wasting display area on their expensive HDTV. :P (2) Plasma TVs, the most common type of flat screen HDTVs, suffer from burn-in, such that if you leave the sides of the screen black and keep displaying stuff in the middle, the middle eventually turns a different shade from the sides.

To solve the second problem, plasma TVs usually come with gray bars (which will burn in the TV just as much as the rest of the image, on average, kind of an "I am Spartacus" way of damaging all the pixels equally so nothing stands out). That's what you see here. The problem, though, is that gray bars are even more ugly and annoying than black bars.

So then you really only have two options: You could ruthlessly crop off the top and bottom of the screen and fill the screen with the middle. Unfortunately, it's not logistically feasible to manually pan & scan every TV show, not to mention that movies are usually shot with pan & scanning in mind, whereas TV is not. So this usually cuts off important information and isn't very feasible. You could also simply distort and stretch the 4:3 image so it fills the whole 16:9 screen.

Who would want to spend $2000+ on a fancy new TV and watch most of their programming extra fat, as if it were on stretched-out silly putty? The answer: Almost everyone! I'd say about 90% of the time I see an HDTV, it's showing non-HD standard TV programming in stretched mode. I admit that the stretched images are not quite as annoying as you might expect, because our brains compensate for it to some degree, but I'm still baffled that this is the norm.

Anyway, this is why I'll never get a plasma HDTV. I don't want to watch my shows stretched, and I don't want those ugly gray bars, either. I'm waiting for LCD HDTV prices to come down before getting one of those. LCDs don't have that burn-in problem, so they can use black bars on the sides, which is far less annoying.

Still, I think I definitely prefer the gray bars to watching stretched images, and so I applaud B J's Restaurant and Brewhouse for giving us undistorted TV!

The ironic thing is that I didn't care at all about what was actually on TV there. :)

McGraw vs Bunny

McGraw vs Bunny

(Project 365 Day 175)

The fight of the century! Has Bunny met his match? But wait, McGraw's got a shiv! Is that even legal?

Bunny attacks with cybernetic hand

Bunny attacks with cybernetic hand!

(Project 365 Day 174)

Look out! Bunny's got a weapon now!

Judging a book by its cover

Judging a book by its cover

(Project 365 Day 173)

I still remember finding this book at my local public library. I think I was drawn to it by the image of an intrepid girl backpacking her way around the galaxy. Turns out it was the third book of the Foundation Trilogy, often named the best science fiction trilogy of all time. I ended up reading them in reverse order the first time through. :P

It was the first Isaac Asimov book I had read, and I became totally obsessed with Asimov in my teenage years. Two concepts of his have stuck with me all these years: (1) Complexity. his stories often involved multiple parties each trying to achieve their own goals, but once their plots interacted, the outcome wouldn't be what anyone anticipated, though it would of course be perfectly logical. That's kind of how I see life. (2) Clarity. I loved Asimov's direct style of writing. He was never big on poetic flourishes; he always just wanted to get the ideas straight through, and that's what I aspire to in my writing. (Yes, I know this post is ironically somewhat long-winded. :P)

I had considered buying a copy of the Foundation Trilogy and re-reading it for a while now, but the new covers always felt kinda cheesy to me, and they made the books seem different, somehow, less appealing. I mean, take a look at the recent covers on Amazon. Then one day I noticed this used copy with that cover from the 80s that drew me in originally, and I finally bought it. (It took me a while, rummaging through used book stores, to find copies of the other two books from the same edition, but I eventually did.)

I judged this book by its cover, and it lead to the wonderful world of Asimov, so I feel attached to it, I guess. But then, I also still buy physical CDs because I think the album cover art affects my appreciation of the music. So maybe I'm just weird. :)

And in the end, it's also just a wonderful cover.

(P.S.: I noticed that the glow from my lamp was just about the right size to put a halo around the image. I think it makes for a nifty effect. :) )

Update: Hm, you know what? I'm terrible at remembering the plots of books, and, despite the fact that the Foundation Trilogy are nominally my favorite books, I can't actually remember a thing about what this girl actually does in the book. But I do vividly remember this cover and all the ideas and emotions that it evoked the first time I saw it. I guess I'm just a visual person.

Bunny Rises From Grave

Bunny Rises From Grave

(Project 365 Day 171)

This is my Easter-themed photo of the day. :P

(flashlight + bunny + wall)

Kurt Russell Goes Crazy ... a dream I had

Kurt Russell Goes Crazy ... a dream I had

(Project 365 Day 167)

Just to mix it up a bit, instead of a photo of some random object today, I bring you a photo of my MIND! This is a dream I had this morning just before my alarm went off. I've probably been seeing too many Grind House ads. (Hm. Patrick Swayze was in the so-bad-it's-still-pretty-bad Road House. Coincidence?)

Whoa.. So when I was trying to make this, I did a Google Image Search for kurt russell crazy, and a few of the images are of Patrick Swayze! WTF?! Has Google Image Search gotten into my brain?!?!?! I'm officially freaked out.

About April 2007

This page contains all entries posted to the klog in April 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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