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Friday, June 29, 2001
Industrial Luddite
Is It O.K. to Be a Luddite? by Thomas Pynchon : Luddite. It sounds like an element doesn't it? Basically, a Luddite is someone who opposes technology. Pynchon tackles the subject with his usual gusto:
Except maybe for Brainy Smurf, it's hard to imagine anybody these days wanting to be called a literary intellectual, though it doesn't sound so bad if you broaden the labeling to, say, "people who read and think." Being called a Luddite is another matter. It brings up questions such as, Is there something about reading and thinking that would cause or predispose a person to turn Luddite? Is It O.K. to be a Luddite? And come to think of it, what is a Luddite, anyway?
Pynchon goes into the history of Luddites, from the Ned Lud, straight through to Frankenstein and Star Wars references - oh, and lets not forget that all important folk hero, the Badass. Theres something about scholarly discussion of the Badass that I just find compelling. Anyway, if anyone wants to give themselves a headache, check out Pynchon's acclaimed classic Gravity's Rainbow (and for people who want to lessen the strength of said headache, you can buy a 345 page book containing the Sources and Contexts for Pynchon's Novel). Actually, from what I've read of it (which is, admittedly, not much), its quite good. [via wood s lot]
posted by tallman 2:31:34 PM .: link


Thursday, June 28, 2001
Special Effects Porn
F/X PORN by David Foster Wallace : If you substitute F/X for intercourse, the parallels between the two genres [F/X blockbusters and porn ] become so obvious they're eerie. Wallace makes an interesting and wholly reasonable case against Terminator 2, which, he claims, is an appalling betrayal of 1984's The Terminator. I've always considered T2 to be inferior in many ways to its predecessor, but Wallace tears into T2 with both intellectual and practical arguments that can't really be denied. The main thing that always upset me about the sequel was its blatant departure from the ironic way in which T1 solved the time travel paradox... in effect, T2 succumbs to the paradoxical nature of time travel! Why would you do such a thing? Apparently it has something to to with Wallace's Inverse Cost and Quality Law (ICQL), which states that "the larger a movie's budget is, the shittier that movie is going to be."
posted by tallman 1:14:26 PM .: link


Wednesday, June 27, 2001
Hate Letters of the Week : Samples of the type of "hate mail" sent in to Disney and Miramax concerning Kevin Smith's film, Dogma. I found it to be somewhat disturbing reading, especially considering that most of the letters were sent before the film even began production (not to mention that many of the letters are shockingly ignorant). One would think that seeing the movie would be necessary in order to deride it. In an effort to better understand these folks, Kevin Smith decided to hang out with them at a protest outside a local movie theater where the film was showing. Interesting and funny stuff.

I bought the Dogma Special Edition DVD last night, and it is quite the treat. Come to think of it, all of Kevin Smith's DVDs are well done and exceedingly enjoyable. Highlights include two feature length commentaries (a technical one in addition to the standard cast and crew funfest where Smith and Affleck crack jokes at each other's expense) and over 100 minutes of deleted scenes, each of which are introduced by Kevin Smith and other various members of the View Askew team.
posted by tallman 4:48:07 PM .: link


Tuesday, June 26, 2001
12:15, Press Return
Insert Clint Mansell techno music here
Techno-Thriller, by Ian Frazier : An interesting little parody of computers in movies. I always found it funny that every computer in a movie has its very own unique graphical interface and hardware that is able to process even the most complex calculations in about 3 seconds - complete with comprehensive pie charts and bar graphs. An excerpt:
KEYS: Click-click-click. Click ... click ...

Shot of the fingers moving over the keyboard. Extreme close-up of right index finger moving slowly, slowly, to the Enter key. It pauses above the Enter key for several seconds. Then it hits the key.

Burst of loud, suspenseful music. Sudden close-up shot of computer screen. Flashing, in greenish computer type on the screen, the words ILLEGAL OPERATION ILLEGAL OPERATION ILLEGAL OPERATION
My favourite part of the screenplay is one scene towards the end: "Scene 55: Shot of Harrison Ford and Julia Roberts embracing." There are only two lines of dialogue in the screenplay. Brilliant. [via Ned Blog]
posted by tallman 9:19:13 AM .: link


Friday, June 22, 2001
Unproduced Scripts
This list of Top Ten Unproduced Scripts is interesting reading, though woefully incomplete and sometimes inaccurate. Take the assertion that the script for I am Legend sticks close to Matheson's original novel (which it doesn't; Hemocytes!?! What the hell are Hemocytes? Call them vampires, dammit!) and that its one of the best sci-fi-adventure films the world will never see (which it probably wouldn't be). Matheson's influential novel was a study of isolation and grim irony, which the script mostly reduces to thin action sequences and barely tolerable exposition. In all fairness, adapting the novel faithfully would be tremendously difficult, so I guess the script isn't that bad.

Some notable absences from the list are the apocalyptic The Sky is Falling, which will never see the light of day due to its controversial premise:
Two clerics on an archaeological dig discover proof that God does not exist; with their faith irrevocably shattered, they go on an extremely violent crime spree, which includes murders, rapes, robbing and indulging in all sorts of drugs. The Catholic Church, faced with losing their power and influence, hire an assassin to stop the two clerics before the public learns of the truth.
Now that is some fucked up shit (pardon my language). Also missing from the list is Aliens vs. Predator. It sounds like a piece of crap, but AvP actually has a thoughtful premise and Dark Horse's original comic was well executed and not at all cheesy. The script is not quite as good as its source material, but its decent. Unfortunately, the project seems to be stuck in Limbo. Speaking of the Alien franchise, David Twohy's unused script for Alien3 is also worth looking at.

So there you have it. Just for good measure I'll throw you a link to Drew's Script-O-Rama, the definitive web resource for movie scripts. And look here, Samael's started a nice discussion in the Kaedrin forum about "important" films.
posted by tallman 2:26:43 PM .: link

Out of This World
Scientific American's Steve Mirsky shows a sense of humor in his story about the drop-off in UFO reports, giving several flippant explanations for the lack of sightings. Some claim that the aliens have completed their survey of Earth, but Mirsky believes the idea that they could complete their survey of Earth in a mere 50 years is both ludicrous and insulting and reasons that they must have run out of their alien government funding. My favourite explanation:
The aliens have finally perfected their cloaking technology. After all, evidence of absence is not absence of evidence (which is, of course, not evidence of absence). Just because we no longer see the aliens doesn't mean they're not there. Actually, they are there; the skies are lousy with them, they're coco-butting one another's bald, veined, throbbing, giant heads over the best orbits. But until they drop the cloak because they've got some beaming to do, we won't see them.
I love the description "bald, veined, throbbing, giant heads". [via Follow Me Here]
posted by tallman 1:16:11 PM .: link


Tuesday, June 19, 2001
How Science Ignores the Natural World
Where the Buffalo Roam - How Science Ignores the Natural World : An interview with Vine Deloria, one of the most important living Native American writers. Central to Deloria's critique of Western culture is the understanding that, by subduing nature, we have become slaves to technology and its underlying belief system.
"...Indians experience and relate to a living universe, whereas Western people - especially scientists - reduce all things, living or not, to objects. The implications of this are immense. If you see the world around you as a collection of objects for you to manipulate and exploit, you will inevitably destroy the world while attempting to control it. Not only that, but by perceiving the world as lifeless, you rob yourself of the richness, beauty, and wisdom to be found by participating in its larger design."

"Science insists, at a great price in understanding, that the observer be as detached as possible from the event he or she is observing. Contrast that with the attitude of indigenous people, who recognize that humans must participate in events, not isolate themselves."
This is the sort of thing you don't hear very often and its very interesting. Deloria makes some great points (along with some I don't particularly agree with, but are interesting nonetheless), especially about science and how it attempts to reduce everything to a paradigm. Doing so certainly has its value, but much like every other version of reality that is forwarded, science is not completely satisfactory.
"...the point is to ask the questions, and keep asking them."
Right on. [via liquid gnome]
posted by tallman 11:49:14 AM .: link


Friday, June 15, 2001
Heroic Apocalypse
Mad Max, Mythology and the Millennium : An extract from a book that regards the trilogy as a reconstitution of archetypal tales of social decline and rebirth. The Mad Max films were tapping into some of the classic story telling elements, seen in similar stories and myths of cultures worldwide. This conforms with Joseph Campbell's concept of the Universal Myth (also seen in other films like Star Wars and the Matix) ; "the evolution of Max as hero - from his rejection of the 'outside world' due to personal tragedy in the first feature; his wanderings, trials and tests in the hostile wilderness of both the sequels; through to his individual (if not yet communal) reconciliation with his humane self in Beyond Thunderdome." George Miller's trilogy is certainly a thought-provoking and unexpectedly pertinent series. Interestingly, Miller's other work includes the critically acclaimed series, Babe and Babe: Pig in the City, playful stories about a sheep herding pig (yes, you heard correctly).
posted by tallman 12:27:12 PM .: link


Tuesday, June 12, 2001
More than Pong
This History of Video Games is fairly comprehensive, thoughtful and exceedingly interesting, even if you don't care too much for video games. The history even goes as far back as the late 19th century, when Nintendo started as a playing card company; then it details the evolution of several companies leading up to the current day wars between Sega, Sony, and the upcoming Microsoft Xbox. Its funny to note the parallels with the internet's collapse (and, hopefully, rebirth). After a short period of growing pains where several video game companies crashed, the industry rebounded with fewer but healthier players (Sega, Nintendo, and later, Sony). I still miss the glory days of the Commodore 64 though; I spent countless hours playing games like Test Drive and Airborne Ranger (one of my all time favourites). [via alt text]
posted by tallman 1:52:43 PM .: link


Friday, June 08, 2001
Disjointed, Freakish Reflections™ on Web Browsers
Mozilla 0.9.1 was released today, to much fanfare. Even the Slashdotters are praising the latest release, which marks a monumental leap forward over Mozilla 0.9. After downloading it myself and playing with it, I've been very pleased, though I still have a few small gripes (right clicking on the menus should work damnit!). Otherwise it seems like a much leaner, cleaner, faster and more stable build. Great work, Mozilla developers; I'm looking foward to a 1.0 release soon. However, with the news that Netscape is going away, I don't know if any browser will be able to put a dent in Microsoft's stranglehold, which is a shame, because Mozilla is a really great browser. Right now, I'm going to continue using Opera 5.11, because that is the best browser I've ever used - its only dowside is that I can't really use it to post on Blogger or 4degreez.

Some of my previous thoughts on Browsers: Also worth noting is this article and this article by Joel Spolsky illustrating what Netscape did wrong with version 6. Mozilla has come a long way though, and I think by the time 1.0 comes out, there will be little to complain about.

Update: 4:45 p.m. ET
After using Mozilla 0.9.1 all day, I can say that while it has improved greatly over previous versions, it still has a ways to go before it can really compete with IE. I ran into a few bugs and it crashed a couple of times, so its not quite the rock solid browser I was looking for. It doesn't even come close to Opera, which is still my browser of choice. But then, 0.9.1 isn't a finished product, so I still think its coming along well and that the finished product could be worth it.
posted by tallman 9:27:02 AM .: link


Thursday, June 07, 2001
The Unknown Kubrick
This article focuses on the legendary filmmaker's days as a photographer for Look magazine. While he was still in high school, at age 16, Kubrick happened to snap a photo of a newsstand owner on the morning following FDR's death. He soon sold the photograph to Look, a well-known news and photo magazine in its day, for $25. When Kubrick finally managed to graduate from high school (he was not one for formal schooling), Look decided to employ him as an apprentice photographer. Its widely regarded that his cinematic style has its origins in his time at Look, which makes a lot of sense. Nowadays though, young directors start off with music videos or commercials (like David Fincher, for example).
posted by tallman 9:38:04 AM .: link


Wednesday, June 06, 2001
Structured Procrastination : an amazing strategy that converts procrastinators into effective human beings, respected and admired for all that they can accomplish and the good use they make of time. I like this optomistic approach, turning a weakness into a strength. This website itself is basically another project in a long series of attempts aimed at avoiding responsibility. Its funny how I have always noticed this situation, where I seem to be at my most creative when I've got tons of important stuff I should be doing, but never got around to articulating it like this guy did. [via]

Procrastination: "Hard work often pays off after time, but laziness always pays off now."
posted by tallman 8:49:27 AM .: link


Monday, June 04, 2001
How Dare You?
The Soul of America by Neil Gaiman : In a preemptive attempt to answer a question he was dreading, Neil Gaiman askes of himself (in an extended version):
How dare you, an Englishman, try and write a book about America, about American myths and the American soul? How dare you try and write about what makes America special, as a country, as a nation, as an idea?
Much like his weblog (from which I lifted the link), the article is candid and fun to read, and it makes me want to read his new book, American Gods, right now (sadly, its not being released until June 19th). Also of note is this advance review by Mikewhy, webmaster of a popular Tori Amos fan site. Thanks to DyRE for that review.
posted by tallman 9:38:32 AM .: link



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