So I find myself in Seattle for the first time ever, and what do I find but a city literally wallowing in pig art! Who woulda figured that Seattle was the mecca of all things pig??? There are literally dozens of these things, all different. We found this one in a shopping mall near the Monorail - now even pigs have good cyberpunk!
If you ever find yourself in Seattle, definitely check out the Science Fiction Museum. This thing is a joy for Sci-Fi (and cyberpunk) fans. It has all sorts of movie props and costumes. For instance, I was amazed at how awesome Rachael’s black dress from Blade Runner looked up close. They also had the Terminator skull, a full-sized Alien queen from Aliens, the captain’s chair from the original Star Trek, the Death Star model from Star Wars (1977), A full scale, operational Robbie the Robot replica who argues with an actual Robot from the Lost in Space series, etc. It was definitely worth the price of admission.
Mac Tonnies over at Post Human Blues posted a link to a fun little essay/emerging tech news overview from the Free Geekery Blog. The packing is a Top 10 list titled “The Do It Yourself (DIY) Guide to Becoming a (Real) Cyborg.” I would list them here, but really they don’t do justice unless you see the words with them.
I just noticed that CPR was down and bugged my ISP to get us back online. I recently switched ISPs. If there are issues with this ISP have less than a month now to cancel my agreement.
Please let me know if you are experiencing access problems to CPR. I want to know about downtime and really slow access. If you experience this, Comment here with the time the issue occurred (In GMT time or eastern standard time, preferably) and the symptoms. If I’m stuck with a dog, I need to know it earlier rather than later.
UPDATE: I am happy though that at least my ISP took responsibility for the downtime and apologized. The could have given me the run-around. This from my ISP:
I am very sorry for the downtime with this website. I reconfigured the Apache instance on the server and your site was back up and running right away. Please let me know if this happens again, or if you have any other questions.
Why the change? Primarily for usability reasons. TikiWiki isn’t just a wiki, it’s a full-featured CMS. Unfortunately, as it tries to do everything, it does mosts things only halfway well. MediaWiki is more streamlined. It has less options, but does the Wiki thing a bit better. Also, people are more familiar with the wiki language used. Finally, we had a number of ugly hacks and bot attacks on the TikiWiki software. These may be fixable if I was smarter, but frankly I just got tired of it. I’m hoping that I can protect MediaWiki a bit better. It will also be easier to change the look and feel of the Wiki to look more like the rest of CPR.
Who Can Edit It? For the moment, anonymous edits are turned off. Hopefully, if I can get a few of you to help moderate the wiki, we can turn this feature back on and see how things go.
What about the Cyberpunk Images? TikiWiki had a gallery feature that some had used to upload images. It wasn’t great, but it worked. In a few weeks or so (after my upcoming vacation), I’ll install a gallery application. This will do the images better. Once we then transfer the images out of the TikiWiki app, I’ll turn it off. Until then, the old Wiki content is still available.
Finally, I TRULY want to thank everyone who spent time updating the Cyberpunk Wiki to date. We have some really good content there now. But we have lots more to go. If you have an interest in participating, just dig in! I think the plumbing change will make this easier.
Every now and then, two great ingredients come together to create something magical. The latest “peanut butter and jelly” moment comes from two powerhouses in Web 2.0: Google Earth and Second Life. Arguably the second-most popular and influential work cyberpunk, Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, has fueled a generation of virtual worlds developers, who have continually strived to achieve the vision laid out in this wonderful story. Now it looks like that possibility is on track to arrive in a reality near you.
Question: What do you get when you combine Google Earth with Second Life? Answer: The Snow Crash Metaverse!
…within 10 to 20 years–roughly the same time it took for the Web to become what it is now–something much bigger than either of these alternatives may emerge: a true Metaverse. In Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow Crash, a classic of the dystopian “cyberpunk” genre, the Metaverse was a planet-size virtual city that could hold up to 120 million avatars, each representing someone in search of entertainment, trade, or social contact. The Metaverse that’s really on the way, some experts believe, will resemble Stephenson’s vision, but with many alterations. It will look like the real earth, and it will support even more users than the Snow Crash cyberworld, functioning as the agora, laboratory, and gateway for almost every type of information-based pursuit. It will be accessible both in its immersive, virtual-reality form and through peepholes like the screen of your cell phone as you make your way through the real world. And like the Web today, it will become “the standard way in which we think of life online,” to quote from the Metaverse Roadmap, a forecast published this spring by an informal group of entrepreneurs, media producers, academics, and analysts (Cascio among them).
Imagine a scene in San Francisco, where you want to have a meeting with two associates at a local coffee shop, but at the last minute, you decide that three others need to participate. They can log into Second Life, and then show up in the coffee shop virtually. You and your friends have special glasses and sound devices that allow you to see and hear them as if they were literally at the coffee shop. By overlaying detailed maps onto a Second Life sim, and then tying them together with augmented reality sensors scattered about the locale, people will be able to simultaneously live in both virtual and real events, tied to the same geographic location. The possibilities are endless.
In the field, technicians or soldiers may get 2-D slices of the most critical information through wireless handheld devices or heads-up displays; in operations centers, managers or military commanders will dive into full 3-D sensoriums to visualize their domains. “Augmented reality and sensor nets will blend right into virtual worlds,” predicts Linden Lab’s Ondrejka. “That’s when the line between the real world and its virtual representations will start blurring.”
I asked David Gelernter why we’d need the Metaverse or even mirror worlds, with all the added complications of navigating in three dimensions, when the time-tested format of the flat page has brought us so far on the Web. “That’s exactly like asking why we need Web browsers when we already have Gopher, or why we need Fortran when assembly language works perfectly well,” he replied.
The current Web might be capable of presenting all the real-time spatial data expected to flow into the Metaverse, Gelernter elaborates, but it wouldn’t be pretty. And it would keep us locked into a painfully mixed and inaccurate metaphor for our information environment–with “pages” that we “mark up” and collect into “sites” that we “go to” by means of a “locator” (the L in URL)–when a much more natural one is available. “The perception of the Web as geography is meaningless–it’s a random graph,” Gelernter says. “But I know my physical surroundings. I have a general feel for the world. This is what humans are built for, and this is the way they will want to deal with their computers.”
We all know the web itself will once again morph into something completely different. Geospatial positioning is intuitive for structuring our reality, so why not use it to structure cyberspace? And yeah, this certainly brings us on track to move ever closer toward a post-human society. When smart phones are passé and augmented reality devices become the norm, our cultural patterns of interaction will again shift in counter-intuitive ways. When combined with transformations to our bodies we see with prosthetics research, and transformations of machines with robots and AI advances, our society may look very different far sooner than we think.
About a month ago, Variety came out with a story stating that Indie producer Peter Hoffman was going to be making William Gibson’s Neuromancer, and that it had been greenlit with a $70 million budget (First Showing also reported this). Then the other shoe dropped - Torque director Joseph Kahn, also known for his Britney Spears Toxic video, has been penciled in as the director. So what, was Michael Bay already busy fucking up some other movie franchise, and therefore wasn’t available? Surely Uwe Boll could have been persuaded, right? Seriously, you gotta wonder what criteria was used in making this selection. OK fine - when the previously unknown Peter Jackson was thrust in the role of directing a movie of a genre-creating sacred novel, he emerged a cinematic genius; but lets face it, Braindead and Heavenly Creatures at least showed real talent, whereas Torque…
We know that there have been a variety of attempts to turn Neuromancer into a movie before, most notably by Chuck Russell and later by Chris Cunningham, but for whatever reason, the projects never got off the ground. With this in mind, William Gibson on his blog put this issue in perspective.
Discussing said possibility, earlier today, with Cory Doctorow, he said:
“I’ve noticed that everything in Hollywood always appears to be in a liminal state of nearly there, with enormous, gallumphing enthusiasm all around, then long periods of indifference. I get almost weekly calls about the amazing things that are just about to happen for me. I go to studio meetings with people who tell me about the amazing things we’ll do together. Somehow, nothing much comes of it… It reminds me a little of bubble-era tech entrepreneurs, especially the business development people who always seemed about to close a GIANT DEAL.”
In looking into this, it is interesting to note that Peter Hoffman’s company, Seven Arts still has no listing in its “Coming Soon” section for Neuromancer. If the movie has been greenlit and is being rushed into production (never a great sign), you’d think they’d already be hard at work on the advertising. As of just yesterday when I checked, there was no IMDB listing for Neuromancer, so I was ready to believe this was all just vapor. However, when now I look, we do find a new, fairly empty IMDB Neuromancer listing (if anyone has an IMDB Pro account, please let us know what additional info is listed!). By no means does this make Neuromancer a done deal (and happily, it doesn’t yet list the director), but it does indicate progress toward a real attempt of a project. Lets keep track of Seven Arts’ website for updates.
And its not that I have anything personally against Mr. Kahn - perhaps he’s just waiting for the right opportunity to show his genius nature. But I think I might be happier if, say, someone in the ballpark of Chris Cunningham or Ridley Scott were making this - you know - someone that had already proven their Scifi brilliance. Especially considering its apparently gonna be a “rush” job, I guess all we can do now is hope for either a miracle or early termination.
I found this juicy little tidbit at JWZ’s blog. As a viral video, I think it works wonderfully. It’s simple, well produced, and sexy enough to suck you in. It was produced by Wyld Stallyons and Lascivious (lingerie), who on Wyld’s site state:
The Doll is a short film about death, desire, and robots; made for boutique lingerie label Lascivious in 2007 by moving image company Wyld Stallyons.
Lascivious approached Wyld Stallyons in late 2006 with the idea of producing a collaborative short film which would act as a viral campaign for them, and also a promotional piece for Wyld Stallyons.
Inspired by the infamous Real Doll sex toys, a token dollop of Greek myth, and countless teenage evenings watching straight-to-video sci-fi b-movies of dubious quality, Wyld Stallyons quickly developed a concept based around the idea of a mail order sex robot, delivered in parts. Once assembled, the robot becomes sentient and takes a shine to its owner’s lingerie, with fatal consequences.
The whole “sentient robot wants to kill you” trope is definitely well understood by all at this point (the blue and red eyes switch most recently show up in I,Robot), so the connection is pretty solid. However, I’m not quite as thrilled about the usability of Lascivious’s website (pictures are too small to see the quality, and the cart works strangely). But the video definitely drew me there, so thumbs up to Wyld.
Sometimes I really hate being a stupid American (meaning only knowing one language). France seems intent on punishing US cyberpunk fans by putting out a number of great French cyberpunk flicks and then not getting them released here in the US (yes, I’m being facetious - it seems that most great recent foreign Sci-Fi films can’t even get DVD deals here until years after their release). Potentially, we have another one called Chrysalis, directed by Julien Leclercq, which Vesper posted on the Meatspace Forums. Unfortunately for me, the film makers don’t want to waste their time translating information about the film into English. I did take this site into Babelfish and extracted a few interesting tidbits:
The action proceeds in Paris, in 2025. The body of an immigrant young person is found with strange scratches around the eyes. David is in charge of the investigation. In the heart of the private clinic high-tech of professor Minkowski, Manon, his daughter, raises the same scratches. To the sides of his assistant Marie Becker, David will have to establish the bond between these two universes. Believing to go up the wire of a vast traffic of bodies, David will actually find itself in search of his own memory.
Enki Bilal of course provided us with the Nikopol Trilogy graphic novel and Immortel. Here’s the trailer, which certainly looks cyberpunkish…(go here for a larger widescreen trailer):
Here’s where I hope some cool French speaking dude or chick will take pity on me and do some research to give me the low-down on this movie (Please!). I’ve already come to grips with the fact that it won’t be getting a US release this year (or ever), so I’ll be getting my copy on Ebay, just as I did Renaissance and Immortel (no, US distributors, I’m not planning to wait for your lame asses to get around to giving me a legit R1 copy - release it when everyone else gets it if you want me to pay YOU for it).
In 1998, as part of its 100th anniversary, the American Film Institute presented a list of the top 100 American movies of all time based on factors such as box office success, film making innovations, and cultural impact. Films like Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz made it with Citizen Kane as #1, while Blade Runner was left out. Now, on the tenth anniversary of that list, the AFI counted them down again on CBS. This time around, Blade Runner was joined by 1999’s cyberpunk-action-blockbuster The Matrix as eligible candidates for the big list. With The Matrix Trilogy out on HD-DVD and Blade Runner - Final Cut later this year, fans would love to see both movies on this list, though judging by my informal poll, more would want to see Blade Runner make it. You asked for it, you got it!
BLADE RUNNER - # 97
The venerable cyberpunk classic made it! It barely made it, but it’s on the list! I know many would have preferred to see it higher, like top ten, but just getting on the list is a major accomplishment in itself, as now it can stand along side movies like Star Wars and Citizen Kane as a great American film. If you were watching, you would have heard Harrison Ford (Deckard) call it “urban science fiction” and even seen a commercial for the Final Cut edition. Replicants and sympathizers, rejoice!
A CLOCKWORK ORANGE - # 70
The Stanley Kubric classic makes a return to AFI’s big list. This masterpiece of pre-cyberpunk cinema has been warping minds since its release in 1971 when it nearly got an X-rating for its content. If you have the DVD, you have the full X-rated version of the gem.
While A Clockwork Orange still being on the list will come as good news, there is some bad news for the classic: It has fallen from #46 since the first listing, beaten out by films like The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
What? No Matrix??: The impact of these films on cyberpunk cannot be denied and deserve a place on the list; Blade Runner giving cyberpunk its look and feel and its transhuman themes, while The Matrix gave mostly technical innovations like “bullet time” that will be copied for years to come, but it also offered cyber-religious themes as pointed out in SFAM’s essay on The Matrix Trilogy: A Man-Machine Interface Perspective. I was certain that The Matrix would have made the list, but it seems the “experts” didn’t feel that it was good enough.
Some might question why films like The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Ghost In The Shell, and Sneakers haven’t made the list. The AFI represents American film makers, so GITS is not considered (it’s Japanese); Sneakers, while a good film, hasn’t had much impact on culture so much as reflecting hacker culture at the time; The Terminator movies, probably because the AFI doesn’t consider action movies “artistic” enough for such a list of legends.
Future AFI Lists and Cyberpunk Films: Certainly, there will some controversy over the results; Why The Matrix didn’t make it and why Blade Runner came in so low. In ten years AFI will do the list again, and maybe the cyberpunk films will get the recognition they deserve… and could possibly include Neuromancer as well. Hopefully, there will be enough recognition of cyberpunk films by the “experts” to give the genre its due.
This post has been filed under Essays by Mr. Roboto.
Overview: With a production budget hovering around $60,000, first time film director Darren Aronofsky teamed up with actor Sean Gullette to create a powerful addition to the cyberpunk genre. Filmed entirely in grainy black and white handy cam type shots, Pi is an exploration of obsession. Pi ha an ever-increasing frenetic pacing, terrific acting and interesting ideas. Even though it occurs in current times (as opposed to near future as with most cyberpunk flicks), the cyberpunk nature of this flick is embedded both in its ideas and setting.
The Story: Max Cohen (played wonderfully by Sean Gullette) is a neurotic, genius mathematician who obsesses about trying to understand the stock market. He begins to think there is an underlying pattern that underlies the dynamics of the stock market – a pattern that can be explained in a 216 digit number. Max developeds an organic supercomputer that takes up the bulk of his apartment to further his search by developing tests and programs, but unfortunately, he still can’t find the answer. As his obsession deepens, he becomes tortured with headaches and nosebleeds.
1. Mathematics is the language of nature
2. Everything around us can be represented and understood through numbers
3. If you graph the numbers of any system, patterns emerge. Therefore, there are patterns everywhere in nature. So what about the stock market…
My hypothesis, within the stock market there is a pattern, right in front of me…
Max is paranoid in the extreme, and suspiciously assumes everyone is out to get him. Even his old teacher, Sol (Mark Margolis), comes under suspicion after cautioning Max to moderate his obsession. Max believes he is continually being followed (in fact he is). Finally, a Wall Street corporate representative named Marcy (Pamela Hart) offers him the use of a high-powered, secret chip to run his organic supercomputer – all she wants in return is insight into his results.
While getting coffee, Max meets a nice Hasidic Jew named Lenny (Ben Shenkman) who appears to have an interest in numerology. As Max gets to know him better, it turns out that Lenny is part of a group seeking God’s real name, which just happens to be a 216 digit number. This group believes that God has made Max his vessel, and in uncovering the secret of the stock market, Max will simultaneously be able to give them the key to salvation. As Max gets closer to finding the answer, it becomes clear that neither of these groups have Max’s best interest in mind - worse, they aren’t going to take “No” for an answer.
The Cinematography: Given that Aronofsky has so little to work with in terms of budget, its hard to poke too many holes here. The washed out feel serves to make the viewer feel as if they’ve been up as long as Max, with ten too many cups of coffee in their system. The grainy black & white visuals work for the most part, although often one is left with the idea that in experimenting to foster a frenetic feel, Aronofsky sometimes goes overboard. Case in point, the room spinning works wonderfully, but then is taken to annoying extremes. This overly artistic experimentation feel generally works wonderfully, but on occasion distracts more from the story and pacing than it adds.
The Sound: As frenetic as the visuals are, these are matched by fast-paced, industrial rhythms and sound FX. The keyboard-laden soundtrack perfectly paces the story, which goes from contemplative moments to fast-paced, paranoid chases and fantasies. Tracks are continually reset to show a resetting of the thought process in the movie, and then spin out of control, again mimicking the transition in the scenes. Pi is one of those movies where the sound is almost as critical to the mood as the visuals itself.
Genius With Insanity: In PI, Aronofsky explores the idea that genius often achieved in combination with insanity. Max Cohen’s mind is unique in that he is a master at number pattern assimilation. His obsession with a 216 digit number, which might be the key to understanding nature itself borders on both genius and insanity. Eventually Max starts to see his brain outside his body, sometimes covered with insects, crawling about. Max begins to imagine puncturing the mathematics portion of his brain to end the obsession. Instead, he continues on his quest. In essence, Max needs to become insane in order to truly tap into his genius.
Converging Knowledge Domains – Economics And Religion: One of the interesting facets of Pi is the degree to which overlapping knowledge domains are explored. In examining whether there is a 216 digit number, of which its meaning and syntax can explain both the stock market and God’s will, Aronofsky juxtaposes the meaning of humanity (God’s will) with society’s insane drive toward wealth creation. Worse, Aronofsky’s setting is a world in which our social context – our human-ness has devolved into a paranoid, lonely landscape, where socialization is no longer about friendship – it’s about survival of the fittest. Max is first and foremost alone. Everyone he interacts with has a nefarious motive. As we move toward a world that is divorced from humanity, one can’t help but wonder what our pattern-finding minds will devise. Aronofsky ‘s answer is clear – finding the stairway to heaven now becomes a by-product of seeking to greedily game the cornerstone of our society’s tally of winners and losers – the stock market.
Is Max’s Computer Self-Aware? I totally missed this connection, but Textpundit below makes an excellent case for this:
Okay, I get what you mean when you say “organic”… but I mean actually a small bit “organic”, as in animal. Remember when the computer comes up with the number the first time and then shorts out the processor? When Max goes to change the CPU out, he finds some kind of gooey, organic matter…almost like scrambled brain matter or something similar.
That’s where I came up with the idea that the computer became self-aware (even if only for a split second) when it found the number.
I need to watch this again, but the “gooey” matter that Max keeps finding seems clearly organic in nature. So either this is part of his paranoid delusions (like the external brain), or in fact his computer becomes self-aware. If so, it’s his computer, not Max, who is truly God’s vessel. This actually makes the movie quite a bit more interesting, especially when coupled with the idea that the “vessel” needs to be pure. Clearly no human fits this description, as Max points out to the Rabbi. But Max’s response, “It came to me!” is just as flawed - perhaps it came to his now self-aware computer, who is pure. I’m beginning to think I was just a bit slow in grasping this - did anyone else get this interpretation?
The Bottom Line: The teaming of Aronofsky with Sean Gullette is a terrific one, as they almost seem made for each other. The overall feeling of Pi, while not enjoyable to sit through is certainly very memorable. The ideas are interesting, but it’s the wonderful acting, immersive mood and frenetic pacing which really sell the film. I must admit though, the first time I saw Pi (years ago, before I created this site) I wasn’t as enamored with it as I am now. It really took a second viewing for me to warm up to – it grows on you.