Seven hours into a bad mood, and it's getting a mellow characteristic like a fine aged wine: rich notes of resentment and long-simmered grievances, balanced by an acidic note that starts out as humiliation but leaves the palate with the soothing sensation of self-righteousness. I have a case of the stuff and intend to start drinking it as soon as I wake.

It's always nice when you can take time out from being angry about one big thing to being annoyed with a small thing. My recent viewing of "Citizen Kane" came to mind while reading this Personal Tech column in the WSJ. Headline: Watch Video on Your Phone the Right Way: Vertically

This gets my inner Bugs all angered up. Of course you realize this means war. The article is more breezy than bossy, but still manages to wag a finger at anyone who's not hip to the new style these cats are laying down - or standing up:

It’s more comfortable to read things when the phone is standing up. Smartphones and their software were designed to fit in our hands. So why do we turn our phones to shoot and watch video? We shouldn’t. Those of us who used to scream, “You’re holding it wrong!”—we were really the ones who were wrong.

Speak for yourself. Of course it's more comfortable to read when the phone is in portrait; the text adjusts and you thumb-scroll as you peruse. People read in columns. But we don't see the world that way. We have peripheral vision, and can apprehend space outside of our immediate focus. Watching a YouTube video in portrait devotes half the screen to buttons and related videos and other crap; turning the phone embiggens the picture and improves the experience. Unless you're one of those people who says "it's too much trouble to turn the phone sideways, I'll just watch the smaller version on the page with extraneous distractions."

But it turns out "improved" isn't necessary, now when those crazy kids are going all Cyber on the Snapbook or Yikchat or whatever consarned thing they have now:

Because Snapchat was designed to capture imperfect, in-the-moment shots (stuff you may be happy never seeing again anyway), shooting horizontal video became the enemy of the now. By the time you twisted your wrist, the moment was over. Plus, people weren’t turning their phone to watch anyway.

Good point! I've tried to turn my phone to the proper orientation, and it's, like, parallel parking a tanker truck.

She concludes:

Smartphone innovation may have plateaued, but the phone in your hand continues to rapidly change the way we get information and view the world. You and your phone should stand tall and never again doubt the truth: You’re holding it right.

Perhaps for Snapchat or any other ephemeral thing that isn't meant to survive, it's fine. But this is not an argument for redefining the way we understand video. The platforms are training an entire generation to ignore the advantages of horizontally-oriented imagery. This is why viewer-supplied footage to news outlets is always vertical. They don't know any better.

Let me add that this is why viewer-supplied footage sucks.

Unconvinced? There's a helpful graphic! I've taken the liberty of using the Journal's graphics to show how not to make your point.


First off, they might use a still from the movie to make their point, instead of a publicity picture. That shot isn't in the movie.

Anyway. You get a sense that you have sufficient information here. The man, the image, the ego, the grand stage on which his titanic ambitions play out.



"Better focus on humans," except that we're missing the big picture. I mean we are literally missing the big picture, which is the face of Kane, looking in the opposite direction, looming larger than life behind the man himself.

The main thing we see is more podium.



Let's take a shot from a few minutes later, as Boss Jim W. Geddes observes from on high the stage on which Kane is declaiming his enemy's political obituary.

You tell me where you'd crop that. On Geddes, and leave out the distant stage? On Kane, unaware of his doom observing him from on high?

Let's take a look at some other scenes, and believe me, I've a reason for this.



What's the diff, huh? Who needs the guy in the foreground? Just lotsa back.

Well, the lower right-hand position in the movie is used for the Witnesses, as Ebert calls them - the people through whom we are hearing this part of the story. It's part of the language of the story.


Likewise here, with Mr. Bernstein as the witness. This is an amazing scene - the deep focus allows for Kane to walk away and shrink as his companies are being taken away from his control. Without the two flanking figures the effect is diminished, and the intimacy the audience has with the Witness - and, to a lesser extent, the man in the middle of the field - evaporates.


Yeah. No. Of course, no one would shoot the middle of the table - they'd whip back and forth, because they're an illiterate.

This scene starts by dollying in on the two, who are close together at one end of the table; then it's a passage-of-time sequence with alternating shots of each character at their end of the table, then a slow pull-back to show their eventual estrangement. The horizontal view and camera movement are essential to the shot. Impossible to achieve in VV.


In the normal version, we get Susan doing her pointless puzzle, a gargoyle in the front screaming soundlessly, and Kane swallowed by the enormous fireplace. In the modern, new-and-improved version, just her. It's so efficient! Really, all you need is her, right? Better focus on humans, as the argument goes.

A visual language for the medium may arise, but it's nonsense to suggest it can achieve something better. Only something different.

Well, you say, this is silly. "Kane" is the last movie you'd use to make an argument for vertical video. You would indeed avoid this example if you didn't want to look like you knew nothing about the very medium you're trying to redefine, but the author is apparently untroubled by such an inference. From the article:

It’s hard to imagine “Citizen Kane” shot tall instead of wide, but if Orson Welles were around today, I’m convinced he’d find it to be the more intimate approach.

This is the author's way of saying "that's the one about the sled, right?" It's possible she's seen the movie, but she certainly has no idea what Welles was trying to do, or what makes it such a visual masterpiece. I would give anything to hear Welles' response to such an assertion; the author would be a smoking pile of chaff.

Then again, if Spielberg were making "Saving Private Ryan" today, she'd be convinced he'd make the whole thing a seven-second GIF, which is certainly more immediate and definitely more sharable.


The Governor and JJ.

Dan Dailey was one of those actors you recognized as a kid from . . . something. But he was a star so he must have been in movies. Or something.

Plot: the governor's wife died, and his daughter takes over as First Lady. Not ooky at all. Do you get a Mary-Tyler-Moore vibe from this? It's 1969, so they would have had the chance to see what MTM's opening credits were like.

He's conservative! She's liberal! It's the generation gap! They never thought if making it the other way around, did they? That would have been imaginative.






There's nothing I enjoy more, and less, than prowling around the empty streets of Detroit. It was a prosperous place, once - or at least prosperous enough for decoration and embellishment. Take look at this one: was that a clock on the top floor? Did it glow at night? Did all the windows shine at 5 PM on a winter night?

Look through the passageway:

An empty area - a park? An open-air storage area? Parking lot?

It's available, you know.

If you use your imagination, you'll see the old building.

Beneath the facade, a two-story building and the low-slung one-story. But who's going to buy canvas from a place that's not up-to-date? So brick it up, nail down the siding, buy an overhanging roof from the guy who sells them and insists they're all the rage - he's got a book full of examples - and take a picture on reopening day with all the employees out front, smiling.

Did the letters start to fall before they closed for good?

Nature barges in, if you give it an opening:

That's a sign that the building between the two has been gone for a long, long time.

The facade has an interesting scar. Can you imagine why the different color brick extends up to the second floor? If I had to state a theory, I'd say there was a sign under the windows, and a hanging sign perpendicular to the building, and something about the way they were attached required this fix after they were removed.

Just waiting for fire or gravity to deliver the killing blow.

These streets are forlorn in a way small towns with withered downtowns are not. The small towns were never big. This was a big place, or at least part of a big place. It's not that nothing will fill this building again, it's that nothing will be built here again when this is gone.

I'd like to be wrong about that.

The bank is no longer accepting deposits, I suspect:

All around are weeds and empty places.

A few fragments of post-war modernization on the left: you could buy that thin beige faux-brick by the yard.


Enough. I can take no more! Wait, no, there's ten more next week. Okay, well, we'll see if it gets better or worse. I'll leave you with this. In the midst of the abandonment . . .

Two dishes talking to space.


That'll do; three Motels await. See you around.



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