Work of Art - No bang for our bucks

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By Art Trujillo

There can be no doubt — no doubt whatsoever — that Sandra Bullock ranks second in the pulchritude department. She’s gorgeous, just a step below Katherine Zeta Jones.

But let me explain:

I’m not one of those callow teenybopper reviewers who go gaga over anyone who’s relatively attractive. I’ve given up on inviting Marilyn Monroe into my dreams, to make room for KZJ, and in her absence, Sandra Bullock.

But the more I type these three names, the more I feel like the kind of dizzy fan I criticize.

So let’s end all this discussion about “crushes” held by septuagenarians.

Except for the following:

My wife and I saw “Gravity” (not the 3-D version) recently at a multi-plex theater in Santa Fe. Because of its two fine actors, George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, we looked forward to about 100 minutes of great dialogue, splendid special effects and a tight plot.

We got none of the above. In order to make the flick about two space travelers appear somewhat realistic, the directors apparently tweaked the cast’s voices in such a way that we, the forgiving audience, would feel as if we were right in the space vehicle with Georgie and Sandy. It’s like listening through a poorly tuned loudspeaker.

All right, after a seeming eternity of dodging space rocks, the pair talk about the perils of space travel. Some of the bigger chunks that hit the space module cause some loop-de-loops: One or the other character is ejected and, tethered by a thick life-support hose, makes his or her way back into the vehicle. And that, folks, is about all that happens. I say “about all” because I’d rather not reveal the plot, inasmuch as “Gravity is one of the most highly touted movies featured in this past Sunday’s Oscars Awards ceremony. You might still want to watch it.

Finally, let me explain how our ten-dollar price of admission served us: The 100-minute plot could have been compressed into one of those Superman serials we watched as kids at the Serf (remember when Las Vegas had three indoor theaters plus a drive-in here and there)? The dialogue wasn’t by any means profound, and remember the voices seemed distorted, the way that might sound in real outer space.

You’re probably familiar with the expression, “Cut to the chase.” One of the definitions is to skip the slow-moving action and go directly to the chase scene, with cops going after the bad guys, which now ends so many movies. Well, the 15 to 20 people with us in that Regal theater that day waited for the chase but instead simply got one, two, or three more episodes in which one or the other character did some outer-space flips.

It’s a truism that many prefer movies to end with the chase scene, instead of on a muted note, or, as the poet T.S. Elliot wrote in a poem in 1925, “This is the way the world ends/ Not with a bang but a whimper.

At 10 cents a minute, “Gravity” gave us very little bang for our 10 bucks.

And that makes us whimper.

• • •    

It’s enjoyable not only to note the use of various expressions we hear every day but also to explore why such expressions originated and why they mean what they do.

Quite a few columns ago, I wrote on the meaning of “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” For most years of my life, I wondered, “why not?” Why can’t I have both? Why can’t I buy a cake, enjoy looking at it and then eat it?

A friend alerted me to the obvious: If you eat the cake, you no longer have it. Further, based on my partial understanding of the expression, I realized that cake has almost nothing to do with it.

The metaphor behind this deals with one’s inability, for example, to “have it both ways.” You can’t, for example enjoy a large salary and yet spend most of your year on vacation. Well, maybe if you’re in Congress.    

But back to expressions:

I heard the question, “How many times can you take that to the well?” It came in the context of a couple of typos that I swear were deliberate and which nevertheless some readers thought was a misspelling. My sister, Dorothy Maestas, who never lets a typo go unpunished, and Alice Chambers mentioned I’d written “alright” in place of “all right,” in a recent column. I plead guilty. And Mary Byers once pointed out that instead of “included” I’d written “inclueded.”

How do I convince them the typos were on purpose?

Many of my columns are on language and its correct usage. But what if I were to say, “I’m aware of the typos and just put them in to see if anyone would notice”?

Now that prompts the question of how many times we can take that trick to the well. Would it be ethical to claim that I made errors on purpose, “just to see if anyone was paying attention”?

Today’s technology makes it difficult to misspell words, at least among those who use  a spell-checker.

Instead of misspellings, what we get are substitutions. Newspaper headlines abound in substituted words, which sometimes are worse than a simple typo.

But I’ve already conceited that point.

• • •

The books kept rolling in. The past weekend’s annual book sale, put on by the local AAUW chapter, netted close to $2,000 that will go toward scholarships for women.

The second day, as closing time approached, my wife, who buys used books by the carload, asked a worker, “Haven’t you sold any books yet?” Bonnie was reacting to the fact that hundreds of boxes still lined the walls and filled the tables of Sala de Madrid.

Perhaps the AAUW group wasn’t able to sell all they received. They’ll keep. Meanwhile, it’s great that groups such as this still exist. They keep literacy foremost and help defray tuition expense for deserving women.

Art Trujillo is a copy editor at the Optic and a contributing member of the newspaper’s Editorial Board. He may be reached by calling 425-6796 or by e-mail to atrujillo@lasvegasoptic.com or art@rezio.net.