ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Cry —

One of my friends, knowing how much I’ve grown to dig the video weblogger Ze Frank and his show, sent me a link (which is now getting quite popular) of an absolutely spectacular presentation he gave at an ideas conference called TED a little ways back, before he started doing an every-weekday weblog. And I really did enjoy the thing immensely. I just didn’t expect to cry at the end.

I didn’t cry about the actual conference presentation; that was just great all the way through. But for some reason, this digitized video had to be “brought by” someone, so it was “brought by” a car company.

The theme of the short commercial was “What if great ideas held no value?”, the point being that since we do in fact hold ideas in great esteem the cars that the company makes are all great ideas so you want to buy them and probably pay a little more for them. So to prove this point, while the deep voice is asking you this, they show some great works of art being destroyed or ignored by people, since, again, in this hypothetical world great ideas have no value.

Anyway. At one point they take a wrecking ball to Fallingwater.

In a very realistic and sudden manner, too; one moment you see Fallingwater and then next comes this wrecking ball that starts destroying it.

I don’t know when I first heard about Fallingwater, but it had to be my late teens, and it struck me as such a perfect home, this idea that yes, people could actually gain the homes and places they wanted, if they worked hard enough or made the right choices or were brave. Even though I’ve yet to visit, I forged this strange emotional bond with the building. I’m aware, make no mistake, of some of the design flaws in Frank Lloyd Wright’s design, and how they had to go back and fix some major stuff so it would last, but regardless, it had this very strong place in my heart for me.

I cry seldom enough that anything that can consistently cause it to happen (and I tested it, I can keep playing this footage randomly and I will in fact start crying again) fascinates me. So I spent some time wondering what about it affects me this way.

I think watching it being destroyed, I overlaid this sense that the reason it had been destroyed was that very thing, that nobody found it worthwhile (except me! I’m over here, but nobody could hear me) and so I watched a great thing go away. I actually have nightmares like this, where I find out too late that I am the curator or owner of a wonderous and breathtaking thing or place, but my inaction (before the dream started) means I can only witness it being taken away or being lost.

On the subject of crying, in the 5.5 hours of edited footage of the documentary, there’s only a couple places that consistently make me tear up. They’re kind of weird, so worth mentioning.

One is during the COMPRESSION episode, when I mention that Phil Katz died at 37. I’m 35 (until next Wednesday), and that just really hits home, how short his life really was and therefore how young he was when he got into this controversy. He was in the wrong, by the way, if you haven’t seen the episode or keep going with the “official” memory of what happened.

The other is near the end of the MAKE IT PAY episode. It was so touching at the time that I put it in even though I had to include subtitles explaining what I was asking. I was interviewing three ex-employees of the now-gone Mustang Software, a BBS company that flourished in the 1990s. The company, founded in 1986 by Jim Harrer (and others), sold the “Wildcat!” BBS system. The company was in Bakersfield, California, and I travelled up to Bakersfield (getting a hell of a speeding ticket) to interview them. I ended up staying very late, like 2 or 3 in the morning, and drove back (not getting a ticket on the way back).

They talked about their times at the company, the good and the bad, and especially how they learned how the whole thing was coming apart and ultimately they lost their jobs as the company essentially shut down and was sold off. They also talked about how the homes they were in, the very home I was interviewing them in, was as a result of Mustang, and that it was their time at the company that ensured the homes they were raising in their families in.

I don’t know why the question occured to me, but I asked “If Jim asked you to join a new company, would you go?”

The words were barely out of my mouth when they both rushed to say “Yes. In a heartbeat. Not even a question. Yes.”

Mini-DV is only 720×480 resolution, and it’s encoded in MPEG above that. If I’d shot it in HD, maybe you’d immediately feel what I felt in that room; absolutely undying, to-the-ends-of-the-earth loyalty. Drop-everything-you’re-doing, go out the door and drive to wherever you need to right now. It was a wave of honor that hit me. There’s no clever smile on their faces, there’s no winking “yeah, sure, I’d relive those days”. It’s pure, uncut loyalty. And I’ve never seen anything like it before or since. So when I see that footage in the film (and I moved a lot of stuff around to ensure it got in there), I just start tearing up that someone could actually inspire that loyalty in others.

As for movies in the general sense, I actually cry at great editing/arrangement shots, too many of which to go into here, but that’s just weird. Ultimately weird, though, is that when I saw the 2000 remake of Shaft and just started crying about halfway though and couldn’t stop for the rest of the film. Why? Because one of the main villians, “Peoples” Hernandez, brings his little brother around his job as a leading drug dealer, but obviously just out of a sense of obligation of including his brother in the business, even though his brother won’t touch guns or really do much of anything. In fact, he makes his brother wait in the car when stuff is going on, just so he’s safe. And of course, his little brother is shot by a stray bullet during a fight, killed with no reason, and the Hernandez character goes absolutely insane from that point on, completely irrational until the end of the film, because his little brother died. And I have a little brother. He’s 30 percent bigger than me and runs his own landscaping and landmoving business and could crush a fork in his hand, but he’s still my little brother and one of the great loves of my life, and if anything ever happened to him at someone else’s hand, I would claw through concrete to get at them. So meanwhile the rest of the audience is watching Samuel Jackson kick some major ass, and I’m just crying about the lost little brother.

I suppose it’s not entirely polite to discuss crying, but it’s all part of being a person and I spent way too many years hiding that I was a person. I’m done with that. So yes, I cry.

Saw “Crank” tonight. Great movie. Didn’t cry.

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  1. fuzz says:

    Not sure if you saw it, but someone has mapped Fallingwater in HalfLife 2 (and done a bloody good job)

  2. leahpeah says:

    is men not crying a cultural thing only in the US or is it a worldwide male thing? when i lived in germany, it seemed like men cried more and it was totally accepted as a normal part of life. there was no embarrassment as far as i could tell. but i did notice it. and i liked it.

  3. Jason Scott says:

    Leah, are you saying you like to make men cry?

  4. leahpeah says:

    why…yes. ?
    no. but i like seeing men comfortable enough with their feelings to cry when they feel like it. unless they are putting on a show so i won’t make them watch an awards program or a pagent with me. that just bugs me.

  5. Jim Harrer says:

    Mustang was a once in a lifetime experience. It can’t be duplicated because it was a unique group of people, with a amazing amount of energy and a work ethic next to none.

    I appreciate the kind words about Mustang in the video. I have to admit, when I first watched it I was moved by their comments because I feel the same way about them. I would work with them again in a heartbeat.

    Jim Harrer