March 2006

Monthly Archive

All my senses tell me that Aristotle's Poetics is in vogue. This work enumerates the principles writers should adhere to in order to produce imitations of life that are believable and relatable to other people. It is the Newtonian physics of drama and portions of it are clearly applicable to almost every form of storytelling. With regard to the visual aspect of what audiences experience, Aristotle suggests, “In constructing the plot and working it out with the proper diction, the poet should place the scene, as far as possible, before his eyes.” Modern dramatists are able to present the images the language and action of their film is built around with vividness impossible to achieve in Aristotle's time. Through this and the possibilities created by the ability to record rather than perform live, the film is a medium that automatically bleeds beyond the boundaries Aristotle draws. DOGME 95, arguing that, “by using new technology anyone at

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any time can wash the last grains of truth away in the deadly embrace of sensation,” introduced a set of rules that in some ways returned the film medium to a form that would have been more familiar to Aristotle–with its strict rules regarding light and sound eliminating use of some film production techniques and devices that distance the film from life as our senses present it. Poetics’ treatment of medium is obscure and seems to reflect a lack of opinion when compared to other sections. He simply lists different musical ensembles that may be utilized and clearly bores himself as he describes some different rhyme schemes and meters, concluding with, “So much then for these distinctions.” He has a lot of good things to say about Homer, and doesn't seem to mind a bit about all the deadly revenge his protagonists serve both cold and with vim. Rather than condemning the use of music, he considers it a useful tool. In this light, DOGME 95 must be seen as going a step further than mere corrective measures against the perverted and excessive Hollywood filmmaking ethic. The ethics laid out in DOGME 95's Vow of Chastity act in the category Aristotle defined as “medium.” The apparent goal is to liberate filmmaking from bloated conventions, exaggerated scenarios, and tired genres—though it is controversial because of the constraints it places on filmmakers. There are good DOGME 95 movies, and there are also good movies that have soundtracks. Lars von Triers's evolving working relationship with the problems in drama–discussed in Poetics or otherwise–is an article unto itself. You can find it here. In summary, himself as a pillar of DOGME 95 no longer adheres to his original manifesto. Directors Wes Anderson and Richard Kelly have earned the reputation for controversy that also marks Lars von Trier's career. Anderson and Kelly have both shown themselves capable of using unlikely music to establish complex moods, with lyrical imagery and lush visual styles that can utilize rubber monsters and CGI with equal ease. They create emotional and changing characters that are often forced to confront the disconnect between their own desires and the part they're expected to play in the lives of those around them. They've gotten interesting and useful performances out of actors like Patrick Swayze and Jeff Goldblum. In most ways, their films are effective and offer many excellent scenes. Irreproachable on a technical level, most of the criticism of these directors seems to center on the spontaneous nature of their plots, which present serious contradictions. Kelly's Donnie Darko presents a time puzzle the solution of which is something like looking at your right eye with the left. I have argued amongst friends with a 100% failure rate that Cate Blanchett's Cubby in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is actually pregnant with her lover Owen Wilson as Ned Plimpton, who may or may not be Steve Zissou's

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son. Thinking of the film in these terms illustrates the problem many have with the film. The Life Aquatic features tragic loss as the first act and as the second to last act. It is confusing because it avoids the tragic plot outline Aristotle breaks into first and second introductions and deductions. There is no second deduction to elucidate the plot, but instead a senseless, joyful conclusion that explains nothing. Multiple viewings have convinced me that Anderson avoided clarifying certain situations and confounding the audience revelations that typically codify film plots, with his shift resulting in dramatic storytelling where emotion and subjectivity are constantly producing the sort of unreliable narrator Fitzgerald specialized in. Zissou's recreational drug use, vanity, and penchant for escapism and giving play to his ego are reflected in the structure of the plot, as well as Anderson's setting of the film out of time and space. In both this film and Donnie Darko, the conclusion finds the protagonists laughing at the futility of their plans, in full knowledge that their own actions have caused the death of a loved one. The emotional contradiction is an excellent imitation of life, while the plot swings freely between satirical and fantastical episodes and depictions of the commonplace. To achieve this effect requires the director to abandon some of the plot guidelines found in Poetics as well as similar conventions that appear in most movies. The extension of spontaneity to new aspects of a film is a risky business as directors run the risk of “stretch[ing] the plot beyond its capacity, [being] often forced to break the continuity.” Woody Allen's brilliant and notoriously uneven productions may serve as fair warning for these directors, although the sensitive relativism of their style is applied to protagonists more diverse than those found in Allen's films. But in any case I would rather some non-sequiturs than the garish and overwhelming continuity that spreads through Jerry Bruckheimer's catalog. The man must dream the same dream every night. “Then Nicholas Cage does a pushup. Then Nicholas Cage steals a car. Then Nicholas Cage . . .”

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David Sarnoff, founding general manager of RCA, visionary giant behind many radio advances, and spur for the technological design stallions who produced the first practical color television technology was in 1964 quoted as follows:

The computer will become the hub of a vast network of remote data stations and information banks feeding into the machine at a transmission rate of a billion or more bits of information a second. Laser channels will vastly increase both data capacity and the speeds with which it will be transmitted. Eventually, a global communications network handling voice, data and facsimile will instantly link man to machine—or machine to machine—by land, air, underwater, and space circuits. [The computer] will affect man's ways of thinking, his means of canada drug pharmacy education, his relationship to his physical and social environment, and it will alter his ways of living… [Before the end of this century, these forces] will coalesce into what unquestionably will become the greatest adventure of the human mind.”

In a world replete with infrared and other wireless protocols, satellite communications, undersea telephone lines, and a host of other technologies along the same lines too numerous to list, viagra name it seems that from a technical standpoint David Sarnoff’s vision of ladies and viagra the communications future has largely come to pass. The array of practical applications and consumer electronics products growing as meat on this skeletal vision will not merit specific mention in this article, as it is nearly impossible to avoid hearing about them. Of greater interest is Sarnoff’s concern for the humanistic value of the technology he envisions. The areas of life Sarnoff predicts will be affected by the computer are, in fact, undergoing change. Apart from media fear-mongering regarding Myspace, prudish hand wringing over the moral blight Adultfriendfinder, or shrill, self-important pieces on “Internet addiction,” there is very little public discussion regarding the Internet’s impact on the way we think or socialize. Eliminating the Internet or making it the newest controlled substance would force those lazy pederasts back

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to the parks and schools, people looking for an Adult Friend would frequent singles bars, and Internet addicts could memorize sports statistics or something constructive. In other words, personal foibles, vices, and neuroses would likely continue with undiminished force. Finding no moral solvency through the PC or Internet’s existence or non-existence, let us turn our focus towards examining the ways in which these technologies actually extend the scope of human potential. While Sarnoff envisioned future innovations that would “coalesce into what unquestionably will become the greatest adventure of the human mind,” the actual resulting structure may less resemble a vessel than a tether. The decline of mass communications technology from a tool with great potential for informing and enriching the public mind to a common whore for vested commercial and political interests is an old and almost universal story. Witness the media mogul cum Italian prime minister cum crybaby Silvio Berlusconi’s conglomeration. Or Clear Channel Entertainment. Or Fox News, and hell, throw CNN in there, too. Tony Snow . . . Prior to World War I ham radio flourished, with people operating their own stations featuring independent content. In 1912, the US government ushered in licensing programs, and with them restrictions on broadcast range and power. Fearing that The Enemy would use the radio to destroy our way of life and steal our big-tittied granddaughters, licensing was suspended for the duration of the Great War. Throughout the development of mass communications technology, the average person has enjoyed very little opportunity to utilize TV or radio for his or her own communication. Additionally, people that think about these kinds of things detect a general lessening of conversational and social skills with each subsequent generation in this new era of communications. Like any tool, the impact of the Internet and the PC will be shaped and judged largely based on who is wielding it. The legacy of the BBS has yet to be stamped out, and to this day the Internet remains a more open medium than television or radio. Hesitating is at this stage a project whose form is familiar to most Internet users—a form that has no counterpart in other electronic media apart from college radio or public access television. This circumstance owes much to the ways in which the mode of information access on the Internet differs from that franchise viagra of other media. The search engine represents a leap forward in interactivity with mass media. It is akin to a feedback loop, whereas earlier technologies would be better described as pulses. This fact adds an additional wrinkle to benefits that advertising and propaganda have enjoyed in terms of efficacy through improvements in mass communications technology. The advent of the Internet led many to believe that now mass communications technology would enable more than the passive receipt of information. The President would give his fireside chat and you could go online and tell the whole world what you think about it. However, just as the broadcasts emitting from the world’s thousands of TV stations are not at all determined by the average viewer beyond what networks calculate he or she will watch or buy, so is the likelihood of Internet content being widely seen based largely on that content’s profitability. While Google does not accept payola—instead selecting search results on criteria that are essentially mathematical—the companies that advertise on the Internet have talented people crafting material that matches those mathematical criteria. It is search results that have replaced the television dial. Even outside the protective realm of FCC licensing, corporations have met with great success in dominating the Internet landscape. As this technology moves further and further beyond the borders of the nation that birthed it, it must be considered that its impact may carry negative consequences. As Google enters China on the heels of other Internet services, it is quickly becoming apparent that there will be little change in the way of increasing freedom of information. With the Ministry of Information having full viagra en pharmacie censor power over its search results, Google China sounds like as much fun as a Christian bookstore. Add to this Yahoo’s third known assist—with its handing over of a draft e-mail stored on a computer in Hong reputable online pharmacy australia Kong—in the persecution of thought crime, and it becomes clear that in China, the Internet is business as usual. Google’s e-mail service searches the content of its users’ e-mails and selects the most suitable advertising—advanced methodology that could from a technical standpoint easily be turned to nefarious purposes.

The company officially explains the various adjustments to its China service by saying:

“While removing search results is inconsistent with Google's mission, providing no information (or a heavily degraded user experience that amounts to no information) is more inconsistent with our mission [—to make] all the world's information universally available and accessible.” But with the advertising revenue (sponsored links ¹ search results) rolling in and the controversy going the way of the earlier Microsoft flap, there remains scant incentive for the company to battle the PRC down the road. Domestically, major search engines are being forced to turn over information to the government. Many will find this acceptable if it is used to help nab criminals, but this number is likely to diminish if South Dakotans can’t find out about abortion or Americans about drugs by going online. Given these potentials for abuse, it is regrettable that less stewardship is being shown by the companies whose technologies are shaping the present and future world. safe meds online pharmacy review Google showed thoughtful foresight in avoiding launching its e-mail service in China, explaining that it did not want to be in the position of handing dissidents over to the government. While we might applaud their resolution to stay bravely at the sidelines, this article’s lead quote is apparently the kind of thing Mr. Sarnoff would grunt during sex. By contrast, the best that Internet real viagra “property” Google can come up with for their corporate philosophy is some fatuous pap about being a kindly dam against pesky advertising. I gather as well that we’re all supposed to be jazzed that on paper, at least, these folks are against doing evil. Oh wait, the exact words are, “You can make money without cialis 40 mg tablets doing evil.” Damn if that isn’t the crack that drowned the village. Send Dutch boys post haste.

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“WHEN YOU LOOK IN THE MIRROR
DO YOU SMASH IT QUICK
DO YOU TAKE THE GLASS
AND SLASH YOUR WRISTS”

From 'Identity' by X-Ray Spex

Hollywood physics would have made the scene impossible without a bong anchoring our little circle… Dim lighting, Hank Williams revolving slowly in the corner and meandering discussion of art certainly seems the likely result of some serious puffing and gagging but really there was a nearly empty box of Pacifico in the kitchen and many more empty cans of Pabst in my own personal history predating that… Somehow someone had pulled a notebook from a shelf and we were examining a quick sketch of an image from a dream and I was surprised that someone would attempt to preserve a memory by drawing– maybe this is another reason why discussions of art typically find me out on the porch or back stairwell smoking a cigarette…

Meanwhile the kids, both past and present conscripts at McArt, were a little mystified about my concentration on the events of my (rare) remembered dreams over the setting… Looking at the sketch I couldn't possibly imagine trying to relate in any detail what was pictured but I guess the crux of their curiosity is that it never really would have occured to me to take a moment to mention what things actually looked like while I swam around the horrors of my sub-conscious…

 I'm pretty sure this is how we ended up with my head needing scratching… Are you gonna wear your suit (recently bought to appear as a flackey in someone's recent wedding) for Twin Peaks? If you could dress to immitate your ideal what would that be? At first I took this as a gentle jab about my slovenly nature but a quick study of the other two in the room found little room for such criticism… I didn't understand, rambling about how I'm not very flamboyant, but apparantly my course was still set for a reef… If you could dress up without any societal constraints and 'become' someone or something what would that be? Like in bearskins? There was a begrudging yeah while wheels spun inside heads… Mine jumped the rails:

I used to run around town wearing this grey (soft)collared shirt that a friend had given me to impress prospective employers up and down the downtown offices… It may not seem particularly fancy but a grey button-down and Ben Davis was a big step in a direction from my evaporating t-shirts and jeans with holes in the seat… Obviously I never got any of the jobs but every time I was waiting outside smoking a cigarette watching the suits and bums stagger about I always felt like I'd infiltrated something– like a secret agent but with cheap plastic sunglasses that didn't shoot lasers at foreign dignitaries… I obviously didn't belong anywhere around here, certainly had no business standing on the steps of some 30-story office block, but this costume let me slip in and out of places effortlessly… Usually I get followed around the store when I buy toilet paper…

 Since I'd been drinking all day I related this to the other occupants of the room but the earlier begrudging yeah was revoked and I was stamped 'ignorant' and the

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matter moved on to some other one in the morning heart-felt, mind-expanding topic… But somewhere in the head the conversation had found a corner and taken a nap and when it woke up the next morning it began raising hell, demanding attention and wanting to know if I still thought it was beautiful or not…

It reminded me of a friend who worked at a TV station which was decidedly unhip and clueless… She had purchased and on occassion wore a studded belt which I thought was some serious Hot-Topic contrived bullshit but she found liberating… When she wore a belt people at her work had no idea what to make of it… Was she a slut? Is she into bondage? Maybe it's punk-rock? None of these were true but because people supplied their own answers she could exploit their interpretations and live as something other than herself for a little while…

If I had time… But I don't…

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Pierre-Étienne-Théodore Rousseau worked on The Forest in Winter at Sunset (above) for over twenty years. As I disappeared into the warm thrill of its terror, it occured to me that no matter what I do in my life it's unlikely that I will work on anything for twenty years, much less ten or five.

I was visiting the Met in New York, and this revelation – along with other works I saw there – brought to light an obsession I have with greatness. Not just my personal progress or regress towards an idea of it, but how it has changed over time and what it actually means.

In the past, to be canonized traditionally meant you had a single piece and/or a body of work that was impressive in its difficulty. Whether this meant massive tedium, groundbreaking insight, or thriving in spite of adverse circumstances varies from genius to genius (and those labeling them geniuses). For whatever reason, it was something that could be appreciated – but not duplicated – by

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a large population.

Greatness used to be reached at an early age because people just didn't live that long. Dickens wrote Oliver Twist when he was 25 but he only lived until he was 58. Yet the age that genius is expected to emerge has remained static. If you haven't found your calling by the time you're 21, settle in for a nice long life of anonymity. The cycles of greatness have also become tighter and tighter, now averaging only a few years. Even consistently popular artists like the Rolling Stones simply spark new cycles rather than continuing the first (started when they were around 20 years old I might add).

Part of this fickleness has to do with the dilution of the product. The celebration of the everyman – recently brought to the vomiting point by ironically named reality television – as well as GarageBand, digital photography, and blogs, has eroded the barriers to entry into

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the gallery of popular awareness. This gallery has become so expansive that there are no longer Mona Lisas or Beatles, but only temporary and disposable Survivors (both show and band) and Piss Christs, and your projected life-span will not carry you through more than a relatively small number of these exhibits.

Perhaps we are witnessing the creation of Borges' Library of Babel, with its invariable distribution of galleries and absence of landmarks.

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And like Borges' story, I imagine that we travel in our youth to find a book, until our eyes are too poor to read, only to find ourselves a few galleries away from the one we left.

But the truth is that the times of greatness are romantically desirable and realistically horrible. We'd rather live longer, have our views expressed to even a modest sized audience instead of not at all, and build our personal kingdoms.

The current system of greatness both inspires – by demonstrating the amazing potential of the human race – and oppresses – by raising the fruit of cultural capital above the hands of the masses. A more inclusive system of greatness does not necessarily mean a lowering of standards, but perhaps a more comprehensive documentation. Biographies and stories of triumph read like grad school resumes: They string together life's events as if they were always leading to their destination. In reality, even the most profound geniuses have their failures, doubts, and red-herrings. On the other side of the coin, many instances of brilliance go uncelebrated because the surrounding context did not support the incident.

Many of us collect artifacts of greatness as if our selective appreciation of genius or heroism would somehow allow us to bask in its glow. I would recommend a complete disposal of this practice if it didn't leave us all directionless and empty. I still might. The best we can do in the meantime is to practice a more robust value system and realize that yes, as readers we play a vital role in the meaning of cultural artifacts, but we still didn't make them.
Update: A strange parallel to this entry was posted on wired.com today.

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I found this image on Harvard's Web site. The project it is part of involves a concept known as gravitational lenses. Understanding the effects of gravity on light is essential for accurate calculations in deep space astronomy.

Haunted Castle
As the program's site explains, this image contains two renderings of the same subject–one inside the other. The image is built on a computer, simulating the changes that the gravity of something like a black hole would effect.

What interests me in this kind of picture is the forced reinterpretation of what we are viewing. The image is difficult to process in many ways. The probable reason is that our everyday lives do not involve cosmic events on the order of a black hole. If Harvard can be believed, (and the jury's still out) if we managed to be alive in the presence of a black hole our

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lives would be incredibly confusing.

Eating would be terrifying, as a simple meal could quickly resemble light-speed travel. Your baked potato would be the center of a force that was shifting your surroundings in such a way as to disrupt your ideas about matter.

Stepping off of a typical city bus would land you on a church steeple, but if you rubbed your eyes you would be standing next to a bench plastered with urine-soaked newspapers and could probably navigate to a phone booth or bar.

Dancing would almost certainly land you in jail, and if your boss heard about it you'd get fired.

We call the glass in our doors' peepholes a “fisheye” lens, but our humaneye lenses are generally taken for granted. However, we do give the eyes a special place in our physiology, alongside the heart and the ass in terms of recurrence within collocations.

While some people rely heavily on their asses to accomplish many things, perhaps a greater number trust their own perception to see them through difficult situations. Our own experience is our most valuable guide, but it is becoming more apparent that we're only getting half the story even from ourselves.

I say the time is right for an eyeball that works as hard as I do. In a world where I may well after all be going the speed of light because there's nothing not moving for me to measure against, I'd like to believe that at least my own personal visual perception isn't hung up on something like gravity.

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