Monday, February 20, 2017

The lingering gaze

The best part of a home-improvement show is, of course, the big reveal, where they take you through the newly built or renovated space and show you how it looks.

On some shows, the film editing is done in an extremely annoying manner. The camera pans slowly over an area, but just before we can absorb what we're looking at, there's a jump cut to some other area. Sometimes the screen will split, showing three or four areas simultaneously. It's all jump cuts and sudden flashes. After five minutes of touring the place, I feel as if I haven't really seen anything, because the eye hasn't been allowed to linger anywhere.

That lingering gaze is one reason I enjoy reading above video or audio of any kind. When I'm reading, I can speed up or slow down at will. I can reread certain lines. We now have the ability to freeze, fast forward, and rewind through other media, but it isn't quite the same. A mumbled or rushed line is still mumbled or rushed in replay. With reading, I decide on the volume and pacing of every line. I build all the scenery, and I may add details that aren't specified in the text but seem to fit. I can stare at everything as long as I want to. I can let a really good line of dialogue hang in the air without abruptly stopping the background music and turning the characters into mannequins.

People do like having control, and maybe this is one reason reading has endured as long as it has. I love the ability to savor.

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