June 2012 Archives
Amazing radar footage of a storm that emanated around eastern Iowa and western Illinois and then made a bee-line for the East, tearing a path all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, bringing 75+ MPH winds and rain and thunder and lighting and destruction upon Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, and DC.
This is a must-watch, superbly-delivered message from a company executive to the company's customers.
Bob Taylor, co-founder & President of Taylor Guitars, explains the dire situation with ebony wood forestry. (Ebony has been sought after for thousands of years as the wood of choice for many musical instruments.) Even if you know nothing about guitars, this talk (13 min) is fascinating on any number of levels.
Can you imagine the executives of gas and oil companies (or any other company, including Apple) offering similarly authentic, plain, honest chats with the public about sustainability? If only.
When Mr. Kedrosky throws down a challenge, it must be accepted.
Here's my hastily-whipped-together response (apologies to The Clash):
Spanish banks have all been downgraded
Rajoy talks but the Germans don't listen
Spanish bonds, they're in a heap of trouble
A hundred billion might make a difference
Madrid asks how much longer can this go on
Spanish banks slide into the seashore
In case you're not familiar with the tune:
At some point there will be bots running automatically 24/7, scouring all media looking for such "echoes". As soon as we have full voice recognition, things get interesting. Particularly enjoyable will be the ones where candidates from one party are found to be quoting something a candidate from another party said many years earlier.
The further we move into the 21st century, the more we seem to be dredging up, re-enacting, re-mixing, and re-living the pop culture of 20th. I come across bands like this that strive for absolute fidelity to original 60's recordings and I cringe, marvel, and in the end, groove. Enjoy:
I was watching one of Ze Frank's recent video monologues, which is always a disconcerting experience. Just a little too intense. But today I made two discoveries.
The first discovery was tha the best way to watch any Ze Frank monologue turns out to be to set the video to fullscreen, especially if you have a big monitor. But then turn the audio COMPLETELY OFF. Try watching him talk then. It's insane.
But it's more than just insane. It's reminiscent of a certain movie...
Remember the finale wedding scene in the movie The Graduate?
It occurs to me, when I'm particularly noticing how attention-draining the web experience is in 2012, that that scene in some strange way perfectly explains that very same web experience. It's like we are collectively Ben, the user, viewing the scene behind glass, but our attention is Elaine, and sometimes we get so distracted our attention gets swallowed up in the scene. And so Ben is pounding his fists at the glass, shouting Elaine!, trying to get her back. And she slowly turns, focuses on him, then turns and observes her mother, her father, and her groom all grimacing and yelling and spouting unknown exclamations at Ben. She looks at each, and then she looks back at Ben, and after a moment of realization, shouts out "Ben!" as if to say, "rescue me!" And then she and he scape, run away from the wedding, hop on a bus, roll away into an unknown future, and the movie is over.
Sometimes the web feels this way, bug-eyed, glaring at us, all the time. YouTube, Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, AIM, email, CNN, the political sites, everything . . . look at *me* they say. All of it clamoring for, insisting on, demanding our attention. Sometimes you just gotta steal your attention back, get the heck out of there, hop on the bus, and go explore something different and new.
Saw PROMETHEUS today. I found it visually stunning but not very original and filled with a set of characters none of whom I could scrounge up any interest in or sympathy for (with maybe one exception explained later). The references to past sci-fi films were frequent and annoying as in, couldn't you think of *anything* new here?
But what really got to me was the broader picture, the broader statement about the future. We are not in Kansas anymore, where Kansas was the hope- filled, optimistic '60s both in reality (Apollo program, filled with people who had The Right Stuff) and fiction (2001, Star Trek).
One of the core features of, perhaps the core feature of, sci-fi film depictions 60s and 70s was the ensemble: the crew of Star Trek, the team of scientists in ANDROMEDA STRAIN, even the Nostromo crew of the original ALIEN. They were real, well-rounded characters, and they worked together, lived together, went through it all together, and formed a palpable camraderie. You wanted to cheer them on, and you hoped they got through whatever scrape they found themselves in.
And later, with with films like CONTACT, we start seeing politics and scheming and backstabbing and ambition and hubris and all sorts of factors coming into play, including religious fanaticism, to spoil everything and not just chip away but sledgehammer away the foundation we saw in the 60s and 70s. (Perhaps it has something to do with filmed science fiction's transition from science fiction to sci-fi/horror -- more on that in a minute.)
By the time we get to movies like SUNSHINE it was not hard for a viewer to wonder, what the hell happened? How could such important space missions have selected such a whiny, bratty, spoiled, entitled, grumpy, scheming, incompetent, emotional, unstable, and ultimately stupid crew? It's like the Hollywood producers of the horror films, which always depict young stupid coeds in danger, took those characters and have inserted them into the science fiction stories.
And now we have PROMETHEUS, in which with the exception of Michael Fassbinder's character, nobody is interesting or likeable, nobody is trustable, the casting criteria seems to have been, pick stars most likely to attract the TWILIGHT audience. (I do have some sympathy for the casting directors, as they sure weren't given anything but cardboard characters to cast.) Poor Idris Alba's talents are wasted here in a role where he has nowhere to go, and ultimately does something that didn't make any sense to me (except make me think of another movie, INDEPENDENCE DAY). Why the hell a company would build a trillion-dollar spaceship for a huge mission of discovery and then populate its crew with a bunch of unreliable argumentative losers right out of IDIOCRACY? Ridley Scott likes unreliable characters: I kept thinking this is THELMA AND LOUISE meets ALIEN: dumb people driven to do dumb things without any forethought or protocol or safety procedures.
And finally we have yet another movie with the grim future of the megacorporation. We've covered this territory of huge evil corporations before (BLADE RUNNER's Tyrell Corp, CONTACT's Hadden Corp, AVATAR's RDA Corp). Do we have Philip K. Dick to thank for this trend? I don't know. But in the era of SpaceX, which I personally am uneasy about, PROMETHEUS comes across almost as a statement of guilt, that we as a society are finished, we blew it, we've handed it all over to the corporations and the whims of the billionaires (or perhaps trillionaires). Maybe that's what Ridley Scott is trying to say: privatize things and things will only get worse, precious natural resources will be used up, squandered, and dumb incompetent people will be given decision-making authority. Ugh.
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