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bawd extra: An Obsession with 3-D
2003-03-10

henever I must fill out a form that asks me to list my hobbies and outside interests, I am bewildered. How to answer such a question? I pick up and drop hobbies like children pick up and put down Leggos. In this past year alone, I have taken up yodeling, gun-spinning, rope twirling, and knife throwing, most of which I use in my infrequent singing cowboy shows. Atop that, I have dabbled in seed art, puppet and toy theater, acting, making paper playthings, collecting books on hobos, and, most recently, writing an online journal.

Further, I am not certain how to define a hobby -- it seems as though the very word suggests an avid, amateur interest, but my interests are rarely avid -- I will often try something a few times, and then forget about it. If an interest lasts for more than three months, I usually figure out some way to get paid for it. For example, can my interest in Western stadium arts really be considered a hobby when, but for occasional freelance writing gigs, my semi-weekly singing cowboy show is my only source of income? I have been a playwright for more than a decade, and a fairly successful one, but nonetheless make very little money at it -- could my playwrighting constitute a hobby? An avocation? I have written bad poetry for an awfully long time, and don't really make any money at it, but somehow it inevitably creeps into my professional work. As an example, when I was a theater critic, I once authored a short doggerel review, which read as follows:

While idling in the library I recently stumbled across a singular masterpiece of theatrical criticism, in the form of a letter from Arthur Guiterman published in late 1929 by the New Yorker. It was written in response to Charles Brackett's review of Dynamo, a bewildering play by Eugene O'Neill about a man who begins to worship an enormous electric power generator. I will quote the letter in entirety: Eeny, meeny, mynamo / I have just seen "Dynamo." / All except that girl in red / It is worse'n what you said." This bit of doggerel has inspired me to compose a few verses of my own about In Coya's House, currently playing at the Great American History Theatre. Indeed, such a poetical act is perfectly in keeping with the subject of the story. Coya Knutson, the first woman elected to represent Minnesota in the United States Congress, was quite famous for picking up her accordion and singing out self-composed ditties in mockery of her political opponents, which would certainly have gotten my vote. Played by Signe Albetson, she spends this play defending herself against an act of political sabotage, all of which is quite perplexing and seems to have something to do with a letter written by her souse of a husband (Fred Wagner) accusing her of adultery. The script by Jenna Zark attempts to pack too much obfuscated political wrangling into two hours, and, at the end of it, I am not certain anybody really knows who did what to whom. Some confusing double casting lends a hand here, and this is the subject of my little verse, which is as follows:

Say what you will about Julian Baily
He plays Estes Kefauver gaily
And wittily plays Hubert Humphrey
And here, my friends, alas, galumphery
As both men for VP in '52 ran
But who cares just who won when they're both the same man?

The moment I got paid for that wretched piece of verse, my poetical endeavors could no longer exclusively be defined as a hobby.

I do, however, have one hobby that I have pursued avidly for -- well, for most of my adult life, as a fan, and for the past eight months as a participant. Specifically, I am obsessed with 3-D. I had always been intrigued by the subject: As a boy, I inevitably fell for gimmicky 3-D promotions, such as cereal boxes emblazoned with images printed in the instantly identifiable blue and red. However, it wasn't until I became an adult that my obsession truly blossomed, and I blame Los Angeles.

I moved to Los Angeles in my early 20s, pursuing a typically unsuccessful career as a screenwriter and ending up with an embarrassingly successful career as a clerk in a video store. I spent most of the tiny money this job provided on strange music, stranger comic books, and unspeakably strange movies, all of which were then in abundance in LA. The Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, as an example, had given itself over to occasional Psychotronic-style film series hodted, if I remember correctly, by Johnny Legend, while a theater near the city's downtown happily offered a 3-D film festival. The first such film I saw at this theater was the astoundingly self-indulgent Andy Warhol's Frankenstein, which included, as its climax, an endless monologue by star Udo Kier. The remarkable thing about Kier's monologue is that it is delivered after the man has been impaled, resulting in his liver being thrust forward into the audience by the miracle of 3-D.

Additionally, I discovered the meticulous reprints of old comic books offered by Ray Zone, who, for my money, is the greatest 3-D artist working today. Most old 3-D comics were, of necessity, done with a very limited number of levels. Looking at them through cardboard glasses, you see a few things recede into the distance, and a few more things spring out at you, and that is it. During the height of its popularity, 3-D comics were done by manipulating cel acetate overlays, and it was impossible to put more than a few of these on top of each other before the image could no longer be reprinted. However, Ray Zone is a man blessed by fortunate timing and the sort of admirable exactness born of obsession. Thanks to advances in printing, Mr. Zone is capable of printing however damn many levels he wishes. As a result, looking into one of Ray Zone's compositions is like staring into a bottomless well of 3-D. It can be difficult to figure out where one level ends and another begins -- they all seem to merge together, drifting into the background. One of the dubious perks of my video store job was that it offered my a 45-minute bus trip, each way, from Hollywood to Westwood, and during this interminable journey I could usually be found peering through plastic coated cardboard glasses at one of Ray Zone's comic books reprints.

Additionally, at that time there was not an American landmark that did not offer one specific, and marvelous, feature in its gift show. I speak, of course, of View-Master slides, the greatest form of 3-D yet invented. And I was then, as I am now, a perpetual tourist. Everywhere I went, from the La Brea Tar Pits (which, comically, translates as the The Tar Tar Pits) to the LA Zoo, I inevitably snapped up whatever View-Master slides were offered, and still do.

This past summer, while toying with self-promotion ideas for a series of ukulele performances that I was then planning, I discovered that it was possible to make and sell your very own View-Master slides. This idea was irresistible, but expensive, and I began to explore other possibilities. I understood the process by which an image was converted into 3-D -- it's quite simple, really. While looking through your 3-D glasses, you place two identical images atop each other, one red, one blue. Each eye, looking through a colored lens, is only able to see one of the images. If the two images are moved away from each other, the eyes focus outward to try to match them together, and this creates the illusion that the image has receded into the distance. If the two images are moved toward each other, the opposite happens, and the image seems to push itself off the page and forward into the space above the page.

I settled down in front of my computer and began to toy with Photoshop, and soon discovered that, with a little bit of cutting and pasting, I could create 3-D images of my very own. Soon after , while researching the subject, I tripped upon a simpler style of 3-D called freevision, which requires no glasses. Instead, the viewer looks at two images, placed side-by-side, and crosses their eyes slightly, focusing into the distance. Soon, the two images merge into one in the center, and this merged image appears to be 3-D. This process is deceptively simple -- I can create one of these images in the space of five minutes -- but always seems to bewilder people who are new to it. After multiple attempts, they claim they simply cannot get it to work. I tell you this, however: if you have two functioning eyes, it will work for you. (Sorry, Cyclopses, but you need two eyes to see depth.) It's really just a matter of practice. Ignore the two images, and focus on the center. Now look deep into it, as though you were looking behind the image. On it's own, the two images will merge into one, and when they do, your eyes will take over. Eyes want to find focus -- it's all they do when they are open.

So here, as a very special bawd extra feature, are five freevision 3-D images. These images are also available as email postcards to send to your friends on our ecards page, but you might want to send some instructions along with the cards, or your friends become confused and run to an optometrist. If you like, cut and paste into the text of your ecard the following:

Alternately, write something of your own explaining how the cards work, but using less hysterical language. And now, for your viewing pleasure, I give you the World of 3D!

We'll start simply, with a text-based Freevision image:



For some reason, drinking always makes me see double.


Here he is, the bawd mascot!



Now I have a hankering for some spankering.



If you cross your eyes too long, you might end up like this:



Cheers!

© Max Sparber. Click for republication information.


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Posted by UkuleleKing at 8:45 p.m.

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