Tag Archives: movies

Infinite Enjoyment with Finite Resources

Have you ever thought about the miracle of music? OK, some might object to the world miracle, but I’m talking about music, something where transcendental terminology is appropriate.

On a piano you have 88 keys. Instruments can go higher (violin) or lower (organ), but with the same repeated 12-note octave everything in western music is created.

Thing about that. 12 notes, repeated over and over, at higher and lower frequencies. It’s such a small working set! How many melodies can you create in one octave?

More importantly, how many beautiful melodies can you create? Thousands of composers over thousands of years have proven that there is no limit to the originality possible with these limited tools. Of course, there are accompanying tools: instruments, rhythm, and personal style. But always with the same 12 notes.

And an infinity of beauty is possible because of it. Granted, our notions of what art is beautiful change over time, but who denies the beauty of War and Peace, Les Misérables, The Last Supper, Intermezzo from Cavelleria Rusticana, Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, Pachelbel’s Canon in D, or anything by Rembrandt? Beauty grows, never shrinks.

Now imagine if there were infinite numbers of keys–how would that change things? What if we doubled the resolution of the notion of half-step (F toF#, for example) to a quarter step?* 8th step? 16th step? I don’t think this will inspire more creativity (at least not creativity that produces beautiful works of art). Too many options will spoil the landscape–clutter it up so much that not only can we not understand music produced like this, but creating it becomes onerous–there are way too many possibilities. The mathematical framework of music forces us to contain our creativity within bounds of structure that “make sense” to our minds, that allow us to understand, dissect, and enjoy.

The modern notion that lack of constraints promotes creativity is a false one. No constraints means less thought and feeling has to be put into work.

I hand you a canvas and tell you to paint your best work ever. What will you do?

You might ask–“What is the subject of the painting?” I respond–“Anything.”

You can’t work like that. Of course, you might come up with a theme yourself, but now you’re constraining yourself along a certain path.

Another example: in the 20’s Hollywood had no movie-making constraints. There were no censors. Do you remember many movies from the 20’s? In the 30’s, constraints were imposed by the government, forcing Hollywood to clean up its act. How many movies are memorable from the 30’s onward? A lot, even to my young mind. I think a case could be made that dissapearing constraints now is creating the same dull period in Hollywood that existed back in the 20’s. Sure, you can make anything you want, but who is actually going to care deeply about it?

Software development thrives under these conditions. Software developed with no or few constraints quickly looks like garbage and is much less useful. Impose coding constraints, design constraints, interface constraints–all these RULES you have to obey–and your code will become artful. Look in all the books on the subject of turning average programming into craftsmen, artists, what-you-will–the books mostly teach you RULES to follow, lines to stay within.

Coloring outside the lines is fun every so often, but you rarely frame it and call it art.

* Of course, continuous instruments such as strings can do this, but it’s not standard musical technique.


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First billion dollar movie

With today’s large blockbuster movies (LOTR, King Kong, Spiderman, Chronicles of Narnia, Titanic) costing hundreds of millions of dollars to make, I wonder what will be the first movie to cost $1 billion to produce.

How will they recoupe the cost? When will it happen?


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A sign that ticket prices are too high

Les Misérables is in town, and I would love to see it. I’ve seen it three times, but it’s one of those shows that I could see a million times and love it more each and every time.

Problem is: the tickets are minimum $200.00. The best seats still available are over $300.00. $300.00 for 3 hours of entertainment? Is it that really worth it?

In London, front row seats are about £40 ($70). A quick search turns up a flight for $419 from Dulles. So… for $300 I could see Les Misérables here, or for $490.00 I could fly all the way to London and see it.


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Movie Theaters

Much has been said in the media lately regarding the drop in movie theater attendance by the American public. Reasons given include: awful movies; expensive tickets and concessions; competition from DVDs, home theaters, and video games; cell phone users; advertisement and preview glut; rude patron behavior; etc. I bet the list could go on for many people.

Yesterday, we went to see March of the Penguins. It was highly recommended, and some said we had to see it in the theater for the full-scale effect.

The movie was great–but not overly so. Worth a theater ticket? (and the popcorn I have to get?) I’m not so sure. But each time (and they’ve been few) that I’ve gone to the theater here, I’ve understood more and more the reasons people are not going as often.

I think I’d rather watch things at home where I can control the environment–sure I don’t have a cavernous room with a 30-foot screen and 7-channel Dolby Digital, but…

…It still seems more enjoyable. Probably the next big thing to drag me to the theater will be the next Harry Potter movie. After that, the Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. After that? Who knows…the list gets smaller every year.

I wonder if theaters will become the exception, as DVDs become the rule?


Check out my latest book, the essential, in-depth guide to performance for all .NET developers:

Writing High-Performance.NET Code, 2nd Edition by Ben Watson. Available for pre-order:

Narnia

At the Star Wars movie the other day, we happened to see the teaser trailer for the upcoming movie: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

The Chronicles of Narnia are perhaps some of the best books I have ever read. I read them as a young child, and reread them again a couple of years ago. They are wonderful stories in their own right, but they are so full of rich symbolism and meaning that they are eminently more enjoyable now.

My wife read the series after me and loved them as much as I did. She had tears in her eyes during the trailer. She wants to see it NOW. (It will be in theaters on December 9)

I hope the movie is a faithful rendering of the book. The creatures and effects are being done by WETA (of LOTR fame), so it will be spectacular in that regard. It’s also being shot in New Zealand. I think it’s a nice coincidence (?), given that Tolkien and Lewis were wonderful friends for much of their lives.

Something fascinating that I learned in biography of C.S. Lewis by A.N. Wilson is that Lewis is credited for pushing Tolkien to finish Lord of the Rings.

I just hope that they eventually decide to do all of the books. The stories are amazing, and the images I see in my head are only possible now with the magic of computers. The children they’ve picked for this movie look solid, too.

We’ve also been very fascinated with Lions as a result of the books.


Check out my latest book, the essential, in-depth guide to performance for all .NET developers:

Writing High-Performance.NET Code, 2nd Edition by Ben Watson. Available for pre-order:

Star Wars Epsiode III: Revenge of the Sith

Leticia and I went to see this movie this Friday, and we loved it.

Apparently, Spielberg and many others cried during episode 3 of Star Wars. It is a very moving, very sad tale of the demise of the Jedi, and Anakin and Padme in particular.

I’ve read that many people don’t like it. I don’t understand why. I think it’s because of “old fogey” syndrome–a tendency to romanticize the past to be greater than it was, and to denegrate the present as not living up to it. I could be wrong, but that’s how it seems to me.

I loved the fighting, the drama, the music, the introspective scenes, and all the rest. It is easily the best of the current three, and may be as good as the original, IMHO. Although, I didn’t think that Episodes I and II were all that bad either. I think there are fundamental differences in the types of stories that needed to be told, and George Lucas pulled it off pretty well.

People like to complain about Hayden Christensen. I don’t think he’s that bad of an actor: he was exactly what the part required (and very similar to Mark Hammill, it seems). I think the problem is Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen together: they don’t mesh on-screen at all. Natalie doesn’t seem quite comfortable in the role. However, her final scenes in Episode 3 were absolutely wonderful.

It didn’t make me cry, but it was close. If we didn’t know that it was all going to turn out OK in the end, I think this movie would be even sadder and harder to watch.


Check out my latest book, the essential, in-depth guide to performance for all .NET developers:

Writing High-Performance.NET Code, 2nd Edition by Ben Watson. Available for pre-order: