View current page
...more recent posts
Here's an idea for a short story; it's literary freeware if anyone wants to run with it and do the hard work of exposition, fleshing out characters, building up tension, etc. It's a science fiction/fantasy story. The protagonists are named Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz. A rip in spacetime causes their minds to be transported to Iraq and placed in the bodies of a couple of regular army guys. Simultaneously the army guys' minds go into a kind of limbo, like a pleasant sleep. Perle and Wolfowitz wake up in army cots, are disoriented, and start demanding to be taken to the top brass. Their superiors think they're crazy, and dispatch them under heavy guard to the infirmary for psychiatric exams. On the way to the infirmary, their Humvee is attacked. The vehicle explodes in flames, and here's where it gets really spooky: the soldier's body occupied by Richard Perle sustains no injury, but Perle's actual body, back in Washington DC, which has continued to go about its business (in a parallel continuum), DISAPPEARS! One minute he's feeding his lovely mug with foie gras in a DC restaurant, dreaming up new U.S. military adventures and ways to profit from them personally, and the next minute he's just...gone. Meanwhile, back in Iraq, Wolfowitz is dragged out of the burning Humvee by the Iraqi resistance, taken on a tour of the back streets to see the wounded people and destroyed homes he missed last time around, and then dumped back at the US Army base. He spends a few more days living the dangerous life of Iraqi Occupation troops, trying to convince his superiors he's Paul Wolfowitz, evading bullets and bombs from angry Iraqis. Eventually he's taken to the brig, and suddenly, mysteriously returns to his own body, back in DC. His "Iraq memories" merge with the "DC memories" of his parallel world double. The soldiers' minds return to their bodies, which are unharmed. Alternate endings: Wolfowitz (1) goes insane trying to reconcile his two contradictory sets of experiences and ends his days in St. Elizabeth's, in a room next to John Hinckley; (2) does a Scrooge and becomes the war's biggest opponent. In both scenarios, Richard Perle remains mysteriously vanished. Okay, writers, it's yours!
UPDATE: This was obviously written before the pajama-clad Wolfowitz got awakened by a missile hitting the floor below his Baghdad hotel room. They said he was visibly shaken--good! Meanwhile, news of self-dealing by the corrupt Perle continues to come to light.
Maybe because the Matrix Reloaded was so [fill in pejorative], you could be forgiven for not picking up the Animatrix tie-in DVD. The first short in the collection, Final Flight of the Osiris, ran briefly in theatres; this Final Fantasy-style synthespian adventure made me want to run screaming for the exits (something about seeing texture-mapped gooseflesh on a human butt projected two stories tall...). The Animatrix includes 8 more films, mostly in the straight anime style and by Japanese directors, which fill in back story and sidebar details to the main movies. Quick report: the next two shorts after Osiris, depicting the Rise of the Machines, the desperate blacking out of the sky by humans, and the conversion of people into batteries, are pompous and ridiculously violent, although there's one sequence of a factory with machines building other machines that's rather, er, riveting.
The two best shorts are "Beyond" and "Matriculated." In the former, set in the weedy back streets of Tokyo in the summer, a young woman searching for her cat discovers a disturbance in the Matrix that neighborhood kids call "the haunted house." In this abandoned building, the laws of space and time break down; the kids amuse themselves by jumping face first from the second floor and entering slow-mo "bullet time" right before they hit the ground--a kind of invisible safety net. The inside of the building, where doors lead into black voids, dogs change colors, and inexplicable rain pours from the ceiling, has the look and mood of "the Zone" from Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker. While the children explore the house, Agents are dispatched in a futuristic exterminator truck to seal off the area and repair the "error" in the Machine's simulated city.
In "Matriculated," by Aeon Flux's visionary director Peter Chung, an outpost of humans captures a robot and forces it to "jack in" with it their little group, coaxing the befuddled Machine into a weird, Aeon-like world of digital hallucinations. By doing this, they hope to create conditions where it will bond with its captors and reprogram itself voluntarily to do their bidding; whether this is for ethical or practical reasons isn't entirely clear. Some amazing tripped-out stuff here, featuring Chung's trademark queasy psycho-sexual imagery. A classic Aeon moment: the robot sticks its head into a sort of bio-mechanoid glory hole and gets trapped; our POV is looking at its back but then the camera swings around to the other side of the hole and shows the creature's head and neck protruding from a Looney Tunes logo inside a miniature movie theatre. The robot's skin peels off, rolls into a ball, and drops into another hole of brushed aluminum resembling a dentist's spittoon. Frantically trying to recover its skin, the scalped robot...anyway, you gotta see it.
Postscript: The Wachowskis owed Chung big time for the scene in The Matrix where spyware is inserted into Neo through his navel. This is a more or less direct cop of Trevor Goodchild's "custodian"--a spindly robot also inserted navelly--in the AF episode "The Purge." The spyware's later removal as a disgusting squidlike glob sucked into a vacuum container is also pure Chung.
Speaking of html (see previous post), Mark taught me a new trick, which is making little pixelist drawings big by assigning them bigger values in html. I know, duh, but I was surprised to discover that the edges of the pixels stay really sharp (provided the pics haven't been saved and/or compressed too many times). Below is a drawing of mine posted a few weeks ago (actual size about 100 x 133), all pumped up on digital steroids at 400 x 450:
There's still some fuzz in there--I'm going to try some more and see if I can make them cleaner.
Unfortunately I missed the opening event at Team Gallery kicking off the Beige/Paper Rad etc "SUMMEr oF HTML" tour, but photos (with funny captions) are here. The lineup included "performances and videos by: Extreme Animalz, Paper Rad, Jamie Arcangel and the Arcangels, Bitch Ass Darius, Taketo Shimada, DJ Jazzy Jess, Beige Records, Dr Doo, Insectiside, plus live HTML!!!!!! and new 'html' work by Mark River." The official tour page is here, and James Wagner has a report with more pictures on his weblog.
When is a graveyard not a graveyard? Answer: when it's a porno set! The title of the above photo, by Laura Carton, is www.ebonyplayas.com--no, I'm not kidding. Other images by her are here, all pretty innocuous and bearing titles of x-rated websites. These are some of the best (wittiest, most patiently executed) examples I've come across of the "erased porn" genre, a kind of deliberate, art world cousin of those altered news photos the papers keep palming off on us. Each originally had, let's just say, a human figure or figures in it, but they've been removed in a photo program so you're left with a kind of empty stage for smutty-minded projection. To do them requires getting inside the image and matching colors and textures and light--basically making a photorealist painting, a skill similar to that of an "inpainter" who restores missing chunks of old masters. By removing all the hot action, the pictures become quirky vernacular photography, as much a catalog of the archetypes and tropes of "place" as Cindy Sherman's were of "feminine roles." The porn charges up the innocent or banal location, and Carton taps the residual energy.
I referred to what she does as a genre; here are a few more examples. The first is proto-porn: Kathy Grove's erasure of Thomas Hart Benton's pin-up nude from his painting Susanna and the Elders, leaving only the old codger staring at her blanket on the grassy riverbank. Istvan Szilasi, a Hungarian artist working in New York, and Arizona artist Jon Haddock (scroll down pictures at left), however, are doing work somewhat similar to Carton's. Szilasi doesn't attempt to hide the fact that he's removing figures, he's almost expressionistically sloppy in his use of Photoshop tools. I find his approach pretty amusing. Judging by the Kent State/Vietnam photos in the Whitney's "BitStreams" show, Haddock attempts to hide the erasure, but poorly--the telltale marks of the rubber stamp or "clone tool" are obvious, and not in a good way. Carton's images aren't infallible (almost nothing in Photoshop is), but they pass the "close enough" test when printed and laminated on Plex. On a content level, Haddock's porn photos are just a record of tacky motel interiors--there's none of the sense you get with Carton's work that porn is a strange mirror for the "normal" side of life: the everyday world of recreation, communications, plumbing, TV repair, dentistry, and, um, cemetery caretaking.
Astroboy I found on the Internet; the rest I did. I like Osamu Tezuka (and this color blue).
Pres. Admits He Lied Us Into War
AP via NYT: President Bush on Wednesday accepted personal responsibility for a controversial portion of last winter's State of the Union address dealing with claims that Saddam Hussein was seeking nuclear material in Africa. "I take personal responsibility for everything I say, absolutely,'' the president said at a White House news conference. Bush has been seeking to quell a controversy over a controversial claim that has dogged his administration for weeks.So, now he's going to step down, right?