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April 13, 2000

For my birthday, Mom got me tickets on a bus trip to see Fantasia 2000 on the giant IMAX screen at the Sony Metreon in San Francisco. Today was the day, so I did no work, no packing, and as little worrying as I could manage. In spite of myself and my tendency to fret constantly over what I'm not doing, I was able to put aside the daily grind and relax for a few hours.

our busFor lunch, our little group (of which I was not the youngest member, but nearly so), went to the Mandarin, a family-style restaurant at Ghirardelli Square, where you sit around a big table and they keep bringing you food until you tell them you've had enough. I was definitely the youngest person at my table, and most of the conversation was of the "these kids today" variety. In this company, I felt like one of the kids. They complained that if you rent to these-kids-today you should be prepared to have them trash your place, because they just don't respect other people's property. "Yes, we do," I almost said. Then I remembered how old I am, how long it's been since I've been a kid, and how ridiculous I would sound claiming to be one. These days I'm registering near the top of the crotchety meter at times myself.

Some of the fortune cookie factory workers have a bizarre sense of humor.

Ships in the Bay

I had fun taking these pictures with my new camera. I found myself looking at the world differently, framing the scenes in front of me and clicking away madly. Since it's a digital camera, I didn't worry about wasting film. This was quite liberating, and among the many photos I took, a few were ... well ... not bad for an untrained amateur. I walked across the street from the restaurant and took this one of ships in the Bay. In the background, you might be able to spot Alcatraz. It was foggy on the Golden Gate Bridge, and we had rain off and on all day. This kept me from overcoming my limited photographic experience any more than what you see on this page.

MetreonThe Metreon is a spectacular building where Sony will sell you anything they make, from their movies and music to the treasures found in the Playstation store inside. There's also a Discovery Channel store and a variety of restaurants. Every major current release was playing on at least one screen somewhere in the building, but the IMAX screen, eight stories high, is probably bigger than the rest of them put together. It's a technological marvel, and sometimes the technology can overwhelm the experience itself.

Some of the reason for that is probably the novelty of seeing film presented on such a grand scale. And so far the temptation to exploit the size of the screen above the quality of the films made for it has kept IMAX movies isolated in their own corner of the arts world. They're a genre apart from anything else being produced in the medium.

Of course, the true limiting factor is the unavailability of giant screens to show these movies. It would be hard for a producer to justify the cost of a film that couldn't be distributed. And it would be just as hard for an exhibitor to spend the big bucks for a big screen, unless there were movies to show on it. This is the same conundrum that delayed the introduction of talkies, even after the technology was there. That problem was overcome, but 3-D, at one time in a similar position, never attracted the audience to get over the hump.

I took a film history class once, can you tell? All my reference books are packed away for the move, though, and this is just what I remember off the top of my head. But my recollection is not as precise as I seem to recall it once might have been, if memory serves.


Fantasia 2000 is a step toward changing the reputation of IMAX from a thrill ride to a true cinematic experience. It's a worthy updating of the original 1940 film, from the opening abstract images set to the first movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, to the finale, a story of death and rebirth done to Stravinsky's Firebird. The pieces in between have enough variety to please all segments of the audience, and the sound quality of the classic musical works is extraordinary. The delightful New York story set to Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue might be the best linking of music and image in either version of Fantasia. And you can sometimes forget, amid all the corporate hype, what a wonderful character Walt Disney created when he drew Mickey Mouse.

So tomorrow, it's back to routine. I'm a day further behind in my rush to get everything done at once. My goal for tomorrow will be to check as many items off my to-do list as I possibly can in a single day, whatever it takes. But for today, for one day, I was able to put all that aside and remind myself that there is another side of life, and that I don't always have to keep my head down and creep forward through the briar patch on my hands and knees. Sometimes I can lift my eyes to the stars and remember what it's all for.

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Latest recommendation:

Read Beth's account of Chuck's accident in her April 13 entry, Withdrawal. Then read Chuck's version.

There are great pictures of Beth and Zoe, by the way, in The Sole Proprietor's April 12 entry, On The Journal Path, Part I.

This is a bizarre and ironic juxtaposition, I know, but Dave Van updates us on what's going on with his kids in his entry for April 10-13.

Other recent recommendations can be found on the links page.
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