Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

In the film Avatar, the audience may be responding less to special effects or political messages and more to the dramatization of the following uncanny phenomenon:

1. The inhabitation of a different form-of-being accompanied by the immediate rejection of any preliminary advice or testing concerning the operation of this form; aching to run wild.

2. The accompanying understanding that when one inhabits an avatar, one is, then, burdened with responsibility because – as it turns out – one simultaneously inhabits a broader spiritual network of avatars – each of which exists through both their “avatar bodies” as well as this network.

One is not free, but rather cast from one political context to another. A tension here is that, while the film makes this phenomenon into the stuff of science-fiction myth (like a wise old man’s warning about a world wherein this experience could occur, but, thankfully, hasn’t yet), the drama of Avatar is a very actually-occurring phenomenon requiring a thorough exploration of the ripples it sends through daily experience.

Avatar is the daily grind of logging-on-to the Web, negotiating the management of one’s virtual persona as well as this persona’s relation to the databased network. The problem with the idea of dramatizing these phenomena as if they were an actual part of “real life,” though, is that the pictures one has in their minds of “realism” doesn’t include the Internet or virtual experiences.

“Real life” is the alcoholic mother, the lonely small-town basketball coach, not the Internet avatar.

In the history of literature, though, certain authors have developed a “third way” in-between what looks to the viewer like a work of “realism” and what looks to the viewer like a work of “science-fiction”.

Crash by J.G. Ballard, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson, and VALIS by Philip K. Dick; they double as a form of literary stream-of-consciousness sci-fi and sharp-eyed, stick-to-the-facts reportage of the contemporary scene; and as the reader shuttles between these understandings of the work, the understandings themselves may blur as mutated pictures of what one means when they say “realism” or “science-fiction” emerge.

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

From Tea From An Empty Cup (1998) by Pat Cadigan:

In the next moment, Tom was gone and she was staring at a regular-style reflection. Or as regular-style as a reflection in Artificial Reality could be, considering it wasn’t really a reflection of something that wasn’t really there in the first place. Or was it? Maybe reflections were sort-of reflections, subroutines dumbed-down to the point of the AR version of an automatic reflex.

Monday, March 29th, 2010

In the film Greenberg, Ben Stiller’s character sees the world as false and meaningless and he’s bitter about this, resulting in a form of nihilism.

In the same film, Greta Gerwig’s character sees the world the same way, but, instead of bemoaning this or going on a quixotic quest for truth or certainty, her character seems to say you that you should rather begin with the knowledge that you’re obviously, automatically just playing at reality and then mean that playing as if it was real.

By acting with conviction (meaning what you say to the best of your ability), your actions then become real and this is the only way to deal with things.

According to the film critic A.O. Scott, Greta Gerwig herself is:

embarked on a project, however piecemeal and modestly scaled, of redefining just what it is we talk about when we talk about acting.


He says:

She will play – that’s what acting is – but she will also mean what she says.


In a key scene from Greenberg, Gerwig recounts a story, which is told like a dream, in which she and a friend play (or “like, are”) these “slut” characters who let themselves be picked up by random guys at a bar.

Her point (as broken and dream-like as it sounds) is that she is not really that girl, but when she played that girl like she meant it she became that girl because that’s what happens when you mean the part you play.

As she tells this to Greenberg, she looks at him with equal parts longing and hysteria as if to say:

I’m sorry I’m telling you this, but this is – to the best I can tell – my situation – my un-real real situation.


This is her philosophy.

NOTE: This post was inspired by Stanley Cavell’s The World Viewed: Reflections on the Ontology of Film (1971).

Friday, March 19th, 2010

From Triton (1976) by Samuel R. Delany:

The Web of possibilities is not simple – for either abstract painting, atonal music, or science fiction. It is the scatter pattern of elements from myriad individual forms, in all three, that gives their respective webs their densities, their slopes, their austerities, their charms, their contiguities, their conventions, their cliches, their tropes of great originality here, their crushing banalities there: the map through them can only be learned, as any other language is learned, by exposure to myriad utterances, simple and complex, from out the language of each. The contours of the web control the reader’s experience of any given s-f text; as the reading of a given s-f text recontours, however slightly, the web itself, that text is absorbed into the genre, judged, remembered, or forgotten.

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010 is a social network.

Users publicly share url’s, notes, and metadata associated with websites bookmarked by the user throughout the course of their own Web surfing.

This information, then, becomes the foundation for a useful search tool which often provides more productive (or at least differently productive) search results than Google.

Outside of its function as a search engine, delicious users manage a stream of their own bookmarks that are viewable to anyone that has become a “fan” of the user’s bookmarking.

In turn, the user can become a fan of others and view all of their bookmarks in a stream representing the entire network of others users that the first user has become a fan of.

The use of the term “fan” on Delicious – as opposed to, say, “friend,” “subscriber,” or “follower” – denotes a consideration of the social network as a game space.

This is an important shift regarding a social network’s description of its own functionality. In Delicious, social capital is gained through performance in a game.

While many users of the site are not particularly engaged with this game (for example, they bookmark for their own research and pay little attention to other users bookmarks), there are many other users who do play.

Some find a niche – say, computer science bookmarks or experimental music bookmarks – which become a key consistent note in the data flow of the bookmarking network.

Other users account for a potpourri of moves through the Web – from, say, a funny YouTube clip, to a news item on Internet security in China, to a Wikipedia entry on a scientific theory, to whatever else the user comes across – each of which adds (what one hopes to be) a harmonious note in the data flow.

And, finally, a small number of Delicious users – such as, for instance, J_O_D_I – turn their performance through the cloud into a type of self-reflexive artwork in which bookmarking becomes about itself.

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

If I encounter the work of a contemporary artist through their website or some other form of managed presence on the Internet and I do it again and again and again and again, then the evolution of their website or managed presence itself becomes a work.

That is to say, the more I view the artist’s work as an ongoing chronological development accounted for in a database accessible on the Web (as opposed to, say, seeing an object first-hand and, then, relying on memories or reference books to account for the artist’s previous body of work), the more I view a whole new type of first-hand:

A performance of the artist as an artist, moving in and out of positions and tempos, and, in some cases, picturing their own inhabitation of time.

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

Watching feature length movies shows one “the two hours,” “the hour-and-a-half,” and “the three hours” and if one views enough feature length movies one begins to develop a picture in their own mind(s) regarding these lengths of time. “This is what two hours feels like.”

Thus, when a feature length movie is successful it perfectly corresponds with the picture in one’s own mind of “the two hours,” “the hour and a half,” or the “the three hours.”

(That is to say, it finishes at the same you do.)

But what about other lengths of time?

Well, television figured out that we could be trained to picture “the hour,” “the half-hour,” and “the thirty seconds” and it began to regulate these particular time-units vigorously.

Thus, the joy of good television is the spasm of correspondence between the episode or commercial’s account of “the hour,” “the half-hour,” or “the thirty seconds” and one’s own trained picture of “the hour,” “the half-hour,” or “the thirty-seconds.”

When one downloads an entire season of Mad Men, for instance, one begins to get off less on the content of the individual episodes and more on the rhythm of the individual episodes in succession as each one fills in “the 48 minutes” again and again and again and again as versions on a theme.

What time, though, does the digital network picture?

On the one hand, everything’s gotten shorter:

Blog posts are short, videos are short, news articles are headlines.

However, on the other hand, everything’s gotten longer.

One blog post is merely a version on a theme developed in an ongoing performance inhabiting “the several months and years.”

Does the digital network, then, polarize one’s desires for time – make you crave for both the instantaneous and the epic?

Make it schizophrenic?

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

Parisian Love is a television commercial created by Google.

Visually, the entire ad takes place in either the Google search field or in a series of Google search result fields.

One views the protagonist, an anonymous computer user, manipulating a cursor and pointer, searching his way through time – from, for example, “study abroad paris france” to “impress a french girl” to “long distance relationship advice” to “churches in paris” to “how to assemble a crib.”

Underscoring this narrative is a driving piano anthem collaged with sound effects such as an airplane taking off, a “How to Learn French” tape, church bells, and, finally, a baby laughing.

In each search, a dramatic tension rises as the user types in her queries word by word, performing the act of searching.

It begins when the user types in the word “study.”

Before typing in another word, however, Google instantaneously supplies him with a plethora of likely options such as “study island,” “study abroad,” “study Spanish,” “study skills.”

So, study what?

“study abroad”

Again, Google spits out an instantaneous list of “study abroad” options.

We’ve got “study abroad scholarships,” “study abroad programs,” “study abroad italy,” “study abroad australia.”

So, study abroad where?

“study abroad paris france.”

Is this what you were searching for?

It is.

Search it.

Google does so and the user moves his pointer around the first two search results:

1. “Study Abroad in France, Search Study Abroad Programs in France”


2. “Study abroad programs in Paris, France – Study French in France – CEA.”

We cut in close as the protagonist is forced to choose between the two options.

Which will it be?

He’s unconventional, so he goes with the second one instead of the first.

The sound of an airplane taking off appears as the piano changes key and we jump forward in time as the user searches for “cafes near the louve.”

A list of search results appears along with a question posed by Google:

“Did you mean: cafes near the louvre”

And so on and so on and so on and so on and so on until we are faced with a blinking cursor on a blank text field as the user spells out the query:



“assemble a crib”

Google it.

The next thing one views is the slogan – “Search on.” – (an updating of Nike’s “Just Do It”) as it cuts in over the sound of a baby laughing.

On the one hand, the ad shows us that our lives can be marked by Google searches.

But, on the other hand, on a perhaps deeper level, it shows one that life can be marked by endless searching, never doing it, but working towards it and changing it as one grows and learns.

As the user enters search queries, one views less the drama of action (just do it), and more the drama of evolution (search on).

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

From More Than Human (1953) by Theodore Sturgeon:

It was quiet in the glass room.

For a long time the only sound was Gerry’s difficult breathing. Suddenly even this stopped, as something happened, something – spoke.

It came again.


The voice was a silent one. And here, another, silent too, but another for all that. It’s the new one. Welcome child!

Still another: Well, well, well! We thought you’d never make it.

He had to. There hasn’t been a new one for so long…

Gerry clapped his hands to his mouth. His eyes bulged. Through his mind came a hush of welcoming music. There was warmth and laughter and wisdom. There were introductions; for each voice there was a discrete personality, a comprehensible sense of something like stature or rank, and an accurate locus, a sense of physical position. Yet, in terms of amplitude, there was no difference in the voices. They were all here, or, at least, all equally near.

There was happy and fearless communication, fearlessly shared with Gerry – cross-currents of humor, of pleasure, of reciprocal thought and mutual achievement. And through and through, welcome, welcome.

They were young, they were new, all of them, though not as new and as young as Gerry. Their youth was in the drive and resilience of their thinking. Although some gave memories old in human terms, each entity had lived briefly in terms of immortality and they were all immortal.

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

The problem with Shutter Island, according to the film critic A.O. Scott, is that it tricks its audience into following a lot of leads and theories about what might be happening on Shutter Island, only to reveal that these leads are false – misdirections on the way to the film’s ultimate reveal – none of it matters – it’s all delusional.

For Scott, this bitter pill is a betrayal on the part of the film’s director, Martin Scorsese, ultimately declaring his vision “closed, airless systems, illuminated with flashes of virtuosity but with no particular heat, conviction or purpose.”

The reveal at the end of the film is, it should be said, very bitter.

There is no discovery of the missing girl.

There never was a missing girl.

Instead, we learn, the entire plot is a series of wacky ravings orchestrated by a man who did a terrible, violent thing and doesn’t want to come to terms with this terrible, violent thing.

He creates an elaborate fantasy in which he’s never been a violent man and if he can just figure out the mystery of the missing girl, he’ll get off of Shutter Island and ride into the sunset – a Hollywood happy ending.

The film, though, is not so much a closed, airless system as it is an open door to a more interesting question regarding the reasons we like the happy endings of Hollywood in the first place.

At the end, the protagonist is sitting on the steps of the hospital ward following a harrowing scene in which he “wakes up,” coming to terms with his own condition.

The doctors are skeptical, though, because he’s had flashes of insight into his violent past before and he always ends up regressing back to the elaborate fantasy world of good guys, bad guys, and happy endings.

This time is no different; the protagonist is right back in the thick of his private narrative.

The doctors are disappointed. But, in a great film moment, the protagonist turns back to his doctor and asks (almost winking):

Would you rather die a good man or live as a monster?


In the tradition of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Chinatown and Mulholland Drive, it’s a real question raised by a Hollywood filmmaker about the making of Hollywood movies.

Is it better for Hollywood to die a good place or live as a monstrous one?

Perhaps this question is its own answer.