‘Screencap Madness’: an explanation; plus "Thanks!" to commenters….
It may appear that I have been locked in a basement and forced to make screencaps lest my family be drawn and quartered before my eyes, but it is not so. Except for a few sets done as last-minute whims (like the Oliphaunts in Ithilien set which will come next), all of my screencaps were made and polished a month ago. I was just dawdling writing the posts to present them. Writing, assembling, and hand-formatting posts is time-consuming. And I can’t be sleepy or muddle-headed, I have to be alert.
Making screencaps themselves is a sort of zen activity; I can make them when I’m too tired or keyed up to do anything else. Looking at scenes frame by frame is engrossing, and a pleasure to the eye. Tweaking and honing them is a salve to the mind when it’s overloaded and not able to think clearly.
How did I end up making these things? A couple of years ago I learned to make screencaps because I wanted images for my manips, the Frodo Art Travesties. There just weren’t enough suitable faces in the existing online archives. So I began to screencap, browsing film scenes for images of Frodo that would work for the art work on the table. But this meant really looking through scenes.
I ended up making reams of caps, images of Frodo I so loved I wanted to share them with others. So I began to post them in LJ entries, starting with “the Money Shot” from the opening of FotR—just for the sake of gazing at the beauty of film-Frodo. Over time, though, the cap entries became portals into the film scenes—and the book scenes they were drawn from—new mediums for thinking about and appreciating the film and book. And that’s how I ended up doing this project.
At this point, there are six more posts planned for TTT (the Oliphaunts, and a multi-installment series for Henneth Annun), and over two dozen posts to present the parts of RotK I haven’t already covered but want to present: caps from the Crossroads, and night in Ithilien, the Stairs, the Pass of Cirith Ungol, Shelob’s Lair, the Tower, a bit more of Gorgoroth and the slopes of Mt. Doom, and the Sammath Naur scene.
But as I said, this all takes time. And soon time is what I won’t have. That’s why I’m been churning out these entries as though my life depended on it. In a few weeks I will lose a great deal of my free time, the time I have been accustomed to spending creating LJ posts.
1. Why there will be less time (personal stuff that can be skipped).
As some of you know from answers to comments, I am going to be starting a six-month provisional assignment where I work. It will be full-time, rather than the very meagre part-time work I do now. Whether it becomes a permanent job remains to be seen. It pays well for this city, more than two and a half times the minimum wage rate I get paid now. The permanent job comes with benefits, a huge luxury in the United States nowadays. That is to say: this is a great opportunity for someone like me, who has a lot of education but few marketable skills.
We have always got by financially without my contributing much monetarily, but now our daughter has started college. The loan payments are already coming due (in the old days payments were deferred until after graduation). Since our child is not specially gifted in sports or the arts, and is only above average academically, she is not eligible for merit-based scholarships. And since we do get by financially, she doesn’t qualify for scholarships based on need.
Therefore we are borrowing the money, all of it, to send her to school. And it isn’t cheap! At the end of her four years we will have borrowed enough to buy a house. Not ours, unfortunately, for which we have only begun to pay the principle. This job is my chance to “show my quality”—to show that I can make a decent contribution to our family finances.
I haven’t worked full-time since our daughter was very little, when I was in graduate school. When she started kindergarten, I went back to work part-time as a teacher’s aide. When we moved here to Minnesota, I didn’t work outside the house at all for four years. It was heavenly. I made such lovely gardens! I walked a lot! And….I found and became immersed in LotR film-driven online fandom. I started at Tolkien messageboards. I began to write again—first posts, using the arguing skills I'd developed in academia—then fic. Creative writing was something I hadn’t done in ages. At the same time I was learning how to make and display images to post online. I don’t think I could have done any of this if I hadn’t had plenty of time to do it. I knew nothing about the internet, not having needed it to write academic papers, and not having a job that had internet access.
For the last three years I’ve begun working part-time again at the library, but not enough to stop me posting and writing and making images. But now, going to a full-time position, I’ll be losing 30 hours of free time a week. That’s a huge chunk for me.
I know that a lot of you work full time, and have worked full time all your lives. Some of you have done this while raising children, some while raising children alone. How I admire you! My lone experience working full-time as a single parent was when my husband was assigned overseas for 15 months. Our daughter was a toddler and I was finishing graduate school on a teaching fellowship. I thought it was simply awful and bore it with little grace, on the inside, resenting the time and energy taken away from my academic work. I can be a trouper in some ways, but I am very jealous of my time. I married late and enjoyed living on my own, which probably didn’t help. I didn’t realise how much I valued my time until I didn’t have it anymore.
Those of you reading who have managed to “do it all” (working, creating, keeping up strong relationships with friends and/or family), my hat goes off to you. I guess I don’t expect sympathy about my upcoming loss of personal time. I suppose I am asking for understanding. That is, if I don’t keep up with things, if I no longer produce work the way I did, know that it’s not from lack of interest.
For myself, I worry that this creative engine that’s been propelling me, internally, ever since I became involved in online fandom is going to sputter and die. There are all these screencaps I want to present (several featuring poems by jan-u-wine)! And a post on Brian Sibley's book on Peter Jackson—and a few more manips—not to mention my Frodo saga languishing unfinished since last summer. Also some non-LotR-related stuff (not much, I'll admit). I know, I should look at it as an opportunity to find more pleasure in daily life. And it is a pleasure. But it’s not the same pleasure. To no longer have the time and energy to write, to create, would be “like falling asleep again.” Hopefully it won’t come to that.
2. Some Thank-you’s.
As I’ve been charging ahead writing entries, thinking all the while about what an immense amount of passion and thinking and pleasure I’ve had writing these posts, I’ve been scrolling over past entries. Doing so, I see how much of the pleasure has come from the input of commenters. It’s always nice to get comments, as you who write posts know, even if they are only remarks like, “Nice!” or “Thanks!” These are better than “That sucks!”
Some of you don’t have time to comment in people’s LJ’s the way you’d like, others are shy of saying things publicly. But browsing my old entries, I have to say that many of you do comment, generously and substantively. It is you who make this LJ lively and interesting and varied. When I was fretting over how I didn’t have enough time to jan-u-wine, I said maybe I should just disable the comments feature on my entries. That way I could still post—whether caps or manips or humour or essays—but not feel compelled to answer comments. No, she said, don’t do that. Some of the best things that appeared in a post were said in the comments, whether by me or the commenters. Looking back, I could see that it was so.
So I want to thank all of you who comment. You give of yourselves, sharing your perceptions, your appreciation for Frodo, LotR, Tolkien, or whatever is the topic at hand, your good will, and your sense of humour. You have significantly helped make this LJ what it’s been.
Last year I was worried when I hadn’t heard from some old friends from my messageboard days on LJ for a while. Why weren’t they commenting, I wondered? Or maybe they were, but I hadn't noticed. So I downloaded a statistical tool I saw on someone else’s journal for a reality check. 283 posts! I hadn't realised! 115 of them are screencap presentations. I rarely write spam entries, announcements, or birthday greetings; I tend only to write full-blown posts, as if my LJ were my own illustrated Frodo magazine. So there’s usually something to speak to—if you’re a fan of Frodo, of course. Maybe I was whingeing for nothing, or maybe they really had drifted away.
The tool displayed which posters had commented in the LJ, in a “Top 100” format. Using it showed me a number of things. First, it showed me a lot of people had written a lot of comments. I thank you all, for I know that many of you are far more pressed in real life than I, yet you still read and comment.
As for the reason I used the tool in the first place, it showed me that people I thought weren’t posting actually had posted quite a lot, but in the past. This helped me be more gracious about letting them go, accepting that they had moved on to other interests. If you are one of these people, and happen to be browsing, I thank you now very sincerely. Your enthusiasm and support helped jump-start this LJ.
The tool also showed me that some people posted a lot, but only on particular subjects. Some of the most interesting discussions I had here were written to Brokeback Mountain posts. There were only eighteen BBM posts. Yet several posters commented regularly, with perception and passion, but only about BBM. When the topic was finished they did not return, but they provided exciting conversation while they were there. Although you won’t now see it, BBM posters, I say, thank you!!! You were great.
This “Top 100” tool also showed me there were people who really did comment above and beyond the call of duty. These are fandom friends, old or new, who seem to be especially faithful to Frodo, this LJ project, or both. Some don’t comment on every single post, but when they do, they are so enthusiastic they end up making multiple replies to the same discussion. Either way, it was easy for me to see that you contribute tremendously to the liveliness, thoughtfulness, and warmth of this LJ. So, “Top Commenters”, I want to offer a special thank you for doing so much to keep the Frodo-love alive.
For you who are interested, below is a copy of what the tool makes. The report shows comments for posts from the beginning of the journal (July 2005) up till the end of April. It’s got pretty colours, too.
Just to note, "Anonymous" includes the posts of people who either forget to log in, or are not registered LJ users, like Blossom, Mary or jan-u-wine.
Report of LJ replies, as of April 29, 2007:
Top Commenters on mechtild's LiveJournal (Self comments excluded from rankings)