Monday, July 30, 2007

An open apology to Terry Gilliam

I was discussing Terry Gilliam with my roommate last night, and was yammering in my usual film nerd kind of way about how disappointed I was with The Brothers Grimm. The film had seemed like Gilliam had compromised his way into one of the worst films of his career. I talked about how he really needs to stay out of the studio system, how the CGI, while fairly spectacular, distracted from the story rather than support it, as was the case with the non-CGI effects in Brazil and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (but I will also say that CGI isn't intrinsically a bad thing).

It all screeched to a halt when I realized that I hadn't actually seen Tideland, which certainly seems much more like what I was talking about as the direction Gilliam should be headed; even worse, I did pony up my nine bucks to see Brothers Grimm. It seems as though I should actually reward the behavior that I ostensibly encourage in an artist with my money, which is really about all that I can do.

So here goes--

Mr. Gilliam (in the extremely unlikely event that you should somehow come across a little-read blog by some random dude in California, perhaps while trying to find an actual sandwich machine), I have been a bit of an ass, and I will support the career and artistic freedom of one of my favorite directors by actually seeing his films. While Untitled Gorillaz Project might give me pause, I will see it, and, if I like it, I will see it again with others that I drag in by their hair if necessary; what's more, I will continue to support your endeavors, both in word and in action, as long as you keep taking risks and telling the stories that you need to tell in the way they need to be told (and I'll get around to renting Lost in LaMancha).

Again, apologies for the smug half-assery,

Sous Rature

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

This Was Going to be About Something Else

It was going to be used as a symbol of our times. That we had the richest people on Earth spending millions on submarines. About, with all thats going on, the people reaping the greatest rewards are then preparing to sneak off under the sea-that it wasn't even 'conspicuous consumption' because they where keeping them secret. A secret underwater Navy of uber-rich.

It was going to be great. It was going to be speculative. It would have mocked this trend while not entirely successfully trying to mask a bit of jealousy...that while I do believe it's silly, excessive, and telling, I still would totally have a submarine if I could.

That's what it was going to be about.

Until I got to the end of the article.

As for marine life, the local dolphin population can be a problem for some submariners.

Jaubert says he has clients who wrestle with how to conduct a deep-sea love affair in front of an observation window without creating underwater paparazzi.

"Dolphins are easily excited when they sense people making love," Jones says. "They get jealous and bang their noses against the window."

The best solution? Curtains, says Jones.

Dolphins like to watch.

Suddenly everything else I was thinking about was can it compare?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Kids are Alright

There's this theory that I've been inflicting on just about anyone who will listen for a while now--

A good friend of mine (We'll call him B) was up from his Ph.D. work at UCR a while back, and we got into a discussion about bands using the internet/youtube/myspace to self-promote their work, and B, who looks deceptively young (he's in his early 50s, but can easily pull off mid 30s, and has a youthful vibe that makes it very hard to believe that he is exactly the same age as my stepfather), started grousing about how young people just don't have the same creativity they did back in his day (B's youth covered the end of the hippie thing and went up into early punk--he's seen all those legendary punk acts that self-destructed in the 80s). This assertion led to a bit of an argument, with me going to bat for all the young folks (being an ancient 34 myself), with the general (and chosen for maximum irony of reference) assertion that "the kids are alright."

I won't claim that I haven't had the same kind of thoughts, but aging has always had the effect of convincing us that the world is going to hell:

I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words. When I was a boy, we were taught to be discrete and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise and impatient of restraint.

--Hesiod 700BC

All this really comes around to what's at the root of all this panic about "the direction of society." I spend a lot of time around 18-20 year olds, and they alternately impress and scare the bejeezus out of me, but the scary stuff isn't some transgression against good sense, but an adaptive response to the world in which they find themselves.

Sitting here at my computer, I have access to an effectively infinite source of information and entertainment. Let my construct a basic quasi-syllogism here:

1. There is a massive amount of information generated and pushed through this "series of tubes" on a daily basis.
2. I, and anyone else, has a finite capacity to absorb that information.
3. The mechanisms for sorting and filtering that information that we learn were developed for a very different world, where the interwebs are a novelty at most, and publishers and editors did most of the work for us.
4. Nevertheless, we all have to find a way to get what we need from the infosphere.

Conclusion: Young people (and the population at large--children and teenagers are just ahead of the curve 'cause they're doing it in real time) have new mechanisms for accomplishing the task of sifting information.

The trouble is, though, that the mechanisms at work have a few flaws that are often exploited. Basically, I think most people sort through information in two ways:

1. Plausibility--does this piece of information, on a quick examination, fit in with all the other notions I have about how the world works?
2. Repetition--have I heard this information from more than one source?

What's the danger here? Well, plausibility is vulnerable because sometimes implausible things are true because we happen to exist in a reality where our perspective tricks us (Aristotle fell for this all the time--and why Gallileo had such a rough time with the whole Earth 'round the Sun thing). This is why "counterintuitive" is one of my favorite words. It should be noted that, in our daily lives, the plausibility test is indispensable, but infoparasites can exploit it readily (maybe Walrus will illuminate us with his own investigation of the Air National Guard document forgery scandal--it's exactly what I'm talking about). Walrus and I spend a lot of time generating plausible bullshit; the difference, though, is that we make it clear that it is BS from the beginning. Repetition can be summed up in three words: talking points memo. If a small (or large) group of insiders can just get part of the media to reinforce the same idea, often phrased exactly the same way ("hatefest" being one of my favorites--"war on christmas" is another), then a lot of people are simply going to accept it as true. It's a rigged game, and we'd all better twig to it sooner than later.

The thing is, though, that I can't blame people, especially those who grew up in this kind of environment, for responding this way; it's not as though we can all be Thomas Jefferson any more and have the bulk of recorded knowledge in out parlours. We can't put the toothpaste back in the tube, and traditional methods of critical thinking are like insisting that people use a toothpick to deal with all that paste as it oozes out on the bathroom counter at an accelerating rate.

Now comes the hard part:

I have no idea how to deal with this problem. We all need to think hard and come up with a way of getting through all this info that is simultaneously more accurate, more reliable, and more efficient, because anything else is going to get its ass kicked by the sorting method described above. Thoughts?

Friday, July 06, 2007

Cover Battle

There were times when I worked at the record store that things like this would go through my mind. In fact, this guy may have animated my nightmares...