Mary Rose Cook's notebook

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Chainsaw Records

Chainsaw Records

Chainsaw put out some of my all-time favourite records:


The Fakes, Real Fiction

[Sleater-Kinney, Sleater-Kinney](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleater-Kinney_(album))

Tracy + The Plastics, Muscler’s Guide to Videonics


About Chainsaw

Chainsaw started as a fanzine around 1988.


I made the fanzine as a kind of tool to help me find other freaky people like myself. I had always wanted to be part of an underground network of freaks, queers, radical thinkers and artists.


I made chainsaw as a way to introduce myself to the ones I read about in fanzines around the world (and to girls at shows).


Around 1991 I found myself in Washington DC with a box of 500 throwaway cassettes.


I decided the best use for them was to make a compilation cassette of all my favorite bands and people of the time. I mostly gave them away or sold them for food money when I was on tour with fifth column.


When I moved back to Olympia I got encouragement from my good friend Gary to start a label with my current job. I put out an authorized bootleg and then the frumpies 7″ and from then on I was a label.


I’m proud of every single chainsaw release. All these records are special to me. I’m inspired by the artists who create the music. I’ve always said the reason why I put out the records by the bands I do is because I really want my very own copy to listen to.


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She’s Real (Worse Than Queer)

She’s Real (Worse Than Queer)

She's Real (Worse than Queer) Part One 1997 on Vimeo


A documentary about the queer women musical movement of the late eighties to mid-nineties. Part 2.


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Kicking Giant, She’s Real

Kicking Giant, She’s Real

13 She's Real (Version).mp3


“You put this chayenge in me. I used to be so cruel, but now it’s you who’s breaking all the rules.”


“I was sleepless, 2nd Avenue. Everybody’s out tonight. 85 at half past two.”


“From a block away, I can see your shades, drawn down and black.”


“Tonight it’s much too hot to sleep… now I am walking down Rivington to East River Park.”


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Dronie

Dronie

Bernal Hill selfie on Vimeo


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At the Yankees/Red Sox game with my dad

At the Yankees/Red Sox game with my dad


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I can’t count how many copies of Potential I have bought over the years: for me, friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, family.

I can’t count how many copies of Potential I have bought over the years: for me, friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, family.


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Sun Kil Moon, I Watched the Film "The Song Remains the Same"

Sun Kil Moon, I Watched the Film "The Song Remains the Same"

08 I Watched the Film the Song Remains the Same.m4a


This song comes from Benji, which is a pretty good record. I like Mark Kozelek’s conversational way of telling stories. I like his easy-sounding but probably hard-won rhymes. The record has some songs I like and some songs I don’t. I can’t really say what the differences are.


In this song, I like the way the melody unexpectedly goes up when he sings, “But even more, I liked ‘No Quarter’”. But then it comes back down and the last three notes slip down on the single-syllable “hum”.


“And when we got the call that my grandmother passed. The nervous tension I’d been feeling for months broke and strangely, I laughed.” I like his honesty. I like his ability to mention something he doesn’t understand.


“I threw a punch that caught him off-guard and knocked him down.” I like how the “u” in “punch” seems to come out hollow from the back of his throat, from the place a hard “k” comes from.


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Bohren & Der Club of Gore, Segein Ohne Wind

Bohren & Der Club of Gore, Segein Ohne Wind

06 Segeln ohne Wind.m4a


Bohren sound like schmaltzy lounge jazz: sultry saxophone, stately double bass. But they play at half speed. And there are lots of downward plunges in the tune that are more menacing than sexy. And there are great, wide spaces in the songs that only contain hisses and drones. The final effect is of standing in the French windows of a ballroom, an opulent party at your back, a valley filled with dawn fog to your front.


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Breadcrumb Trail

Breadcrumb Trail

BREADCRUMB TRAIL - THEATRICAL TEASER - YouTube


A documentary about Slint. I always knew they were young, but seeing that footage of them as kids playing Good Morning, Captain: holy shit.


Whatever you’re planning to do, get on with it.


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Climbing on Sunday

Climbing on Sunday

On Sunday, my climbing took a step up. I’d been stuck on two V1+ problems for a couple of weeks. On Sunday, I completed both. One was a matter of improved technique, leaning hard into a series of sidepulls. The other, a matter of a dynamic lunge up to the final hold. I also completed a bonus V2.


I watched my friend, Zach, work on a V5. He tried a few times. Another group were working on the same problem. Zach would try, they would try, Zach would try, they would try. Each person’s attempt was informed by the attempts of the people before. One technique or approach would be answered or built on by the next. They collectively explored and discussed without ever saying anything. It was magic.


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Particle Fever

Particle Fever

A film about the experiments run at the Large Hadron Collider to find the Higgs-Boson. Too much human interest. Too little science. Pervasive meaningless animations. The lack of science in the film was best captured towards the end. One of the experiment directors gave a speech about the implications of their experimental findings. The audience of scientists were, judging by their expressions, fascinated. The audience of the film were not, because the speech was drowned out by music that the filmmakers added to the soundtrack.


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The Puffy Chair

The Puffy Chair

This film comes from the same scene as Humpday and Your Sister’s Sister by Lynn Shelton. Mark Duplass, the co-writer and co-director of The Puffy Chair, stars in all three films. All three have the same aim: naturalistic portrayal of the subtleties of relationships.


I have been thinking a lot about the differences between the films. I can’t identify any. They are all shot the same way. There is an improvised, messy tone that is common to all the dialogue. They all have crucial, contrived elements that should derail the films completely (the brother in The Puffy Chair is a caricature, Humpday corners the two guys and makes them agree to have sex, Your Sister’s Sister herds three people into a remote cabin).


The thing is: Humpday and Your Sister’s Sister are marvellously truthy and moving and meaningful, and The Puffy Chair is not. I don’t know why.


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Des Ark, My Saddle Is Waitin’ (C'mon Jump On It)

Des Ark, My Saddle Is Waitin’ (C'mon Jump On It)

Des Ark - house show (solo) - YouTube


I’ve posted this several times to my blog. I still find it meaningful: the setting, the song, the rendition of the song, the explanation.


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Last Year at Marienbad

Last Year at Marienbad

This film had interesting themes. Collaborating on constructing the story of a time you shared with someone else. What it means to be a writer allowed to make up a story out of nowhere. The possibility for multiple, equally credible interpretations of a piece of art. The different ways your current self can inhabit your memories as you examine them: by acting differently, or saying different words, or changing what other people say or do.


Unfortunately, the way the film was constructed was so over-bearing, it was impossible to surrender to it. The insistent man: first nagging, then hectoring. The evasive apathy of the woman. The paused tableaus. The non-linear cuts. The repeated reformulations and reinterpretations of statements and events. It all served the themes, but the overall effect was of a dream. And dreams are boring because they make no sense. I wished the film had explored the same ideas, but in a simple, down-to-earth story.


My favourite part was the formalism of the garden mirrored the formalism of the film’s representations of people:



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Thirty Flights of Loving

Thirty Flights of Loving

I find it difficult to bring myself to say anything about this game. It is, in essence, an interactive dream. It has the narrative discontinuities of a dream. The inexplicable feelings of a dream. And I mistrust anything I can’t explain, so I am tempted to suppress any praise of Thirty Flights of Loving.


But, through the things Colin Stetson says with his saxophone, and the things Jonathan Blow said about Buddhism and the moon and a pointing finger, and the things my friend, Joe, has said about learning to experience art through someone else’s perspective, I am learning to set aside my mistrust.


With that in mind, I can present the two pieces of Thirty Flights of Loving that I found moving, and I can side-step the desire to explain them or justify why they are good, or talk about their relationship to all the other bits of the game that I did not find moving.


Um, these are spoilers, I suppose.




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Tim's Vermeer

Tim's Vermeer

A documentary that follows Tim, an inventor, as he tries to paint his own version of The Music Lesson by Vermeer. His theory is that Vermeer used an optical device that places a mirror showing the subject over the canvas. This lets the painter compare the paint with the reflection of the subject side by side, so they can get the tone and texture just right.


Tim spends some time closing in on a replica of the optical device that Vermeer used. He makes a replica of the room that is depicted in The Music Lesson. This latter is the most interesting part of the film. He has a viola da gamba made. He builds the facade of a virginal. He turns the legs for a replica of the chair that sits in the foreground. He builds windows and fixes to them screens that show a view of Delft.


The film spends some time criticising the art historians who refuse to accept that Vermeer employed optical aids in his work. David Hockney is shown saying that this refusal betrays a simple-mindedness about what art really is.


The film shows a somewhat greater degree of insight. A man points out that Pieter de Hooch achieved somewhat similar looks without using optics. He credits Vermeer for his geometrical and symbolic compositions. But, ultimately, the film suffers from the same simple-mindedness as the historians. It positions Tim’s Vermeer as a successful replica of Vermeer’s Vermeer. It reduces Vermeer’s technique to the optics. But look for half a second and you see that the people in Tim’s Vermeer are a complete disaster.


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Catherine Destivelle solos in Mali

Catherine Destivelle solos in Mali

Catherine Destivelle - amazing solo climb in Mali - YouTube


That moment where she can’t mount the overhang.


My dad said he saw this on TV in the seventies and he had to watch it lying on the floor.


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React.js - JSConf EU 2013

React.js - JSConf EU 2013

Pete Hunt: React: Rethinking best practices -- JSConf EU 2013 - YouTube


A great presentation about a very exciting JavaScript framework. I love how there seems to be almost nothing to React.


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Pink grapefruit lip balm.

Pink grapefruit lip balm.


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Leonard Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein

“When the passion is too much to talk, sing. When the passion is too much to sing, dance.”


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ABBA, The Winner Takes it All

ABBA, The Winner Takes it All

08 The Winner Takes It All.mp3


This song was written by Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson and sung by Agnetha Fältskog. They all deny that the words are about Ulvaeus’s and Fältskog’s divorce, saying the words describe any divorce.


It is sort of tempting to delight in the magical brutality of an ex-husband writing a song from the perspective of his ex-wife about their divorce, and then getting her to sing it. But, this temptation comes from a desire to see life as harsher and more beautiful and more coherent than it really is.


It seems more likely that Ulvaeus took the fact of his own divorce and emphasised it to produce an exquisitely beautiful pain.


The words are sometimes laughable (“Their minds as cold as ice”) and occasionally meaningful (“Building me a fence. Building me a home.”) They serve chiefly to give you a few emotional reference points. The music takes these and develops them into something far bigger and more moving. Especially the last chorus where Fältskog sings “The winner takes it all” in the ordinary way, and then sings it again, one tone higher.


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Destiny’s Child, Say My Name (Cyril Hahn remix)

Destiny’s Child, Say My Name (Cyril Hahn remix)

Destiny's Child - Say My Name (Cyril Hahn Remix).mp3


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Alex Honnold free-climbs the El Sendero Luminoso

Alex Honnold free-climbs the El Sendero Luminoso

The North Face: Alex Honnold - El Sendero Luminoso - YouTube


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Robert Henke interview

Robert Henke interview

30dez13 - Robert Henke (english subtitles) on Vimeo


“I try to be more structured in my approach. Because I want to avoid the great danger of being arbitrary. Let’s say this is pretty and this is pretty, and this and this. I’ll combine them. You can do that for one album, but if you do it for your entire career, I think the chance is relatively big that you’re producing an arbitrary output of exchangeable stuff. So I try to find a context of some sort into which I can put my own creation while I’m creating it. This context then becomes an auxiliary construction which excludes certain things.”


“With music I’m primarily interested in timbre. What does it sound like? Which overtones happen when and why? And then there is rhythm. And then nothing for a long time.”


“I remember creating a piece at some point. It was a Saturday or Friday night. I finished it at two a.m. I put it on a DAT tape, put my portable DAT recorder under my arm, went to Panasonic, said hello to Mo and Kotai, and bang! the track was playing. I never wondered if this would work at Berghain at three a.m.”


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Watching Des Ark

Watching Des Ark


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Charlie Victor Romeo

Charlie Victor Romeo


Everyone has their 3D glasses ready for Charlie Victor Romeo. I thought the mention of 3D in the trailer was a joke.


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Drinking Buddies

Drinking Buddies

It is trite to say that Hollywood romances are trite. One of the interesting things they tell us is how little story matters, but how important narrative is. Stories are just events and causality. Narratives are meaning. The director can make meaning from the exciting new person, the reliable ex, a character’s sacrifice of their ideals for their beloved, a character staying true to themselves. And, really, when we say “meaning”, we are talking about order. Things being as they should be.


What Hollywood can’t do is complexity. Perfection, in whatever event it is found, must be simple. Two lovers must be of one mind as they turn together into their shared, final moment. All idealised romances peak in a perfect moment and then end. That moment might be eternal, but there are definitely no new moments afterwards. If you don’t stop the story, you have to return to imperfection.


I find the complexity in indie movies. Your Sister’s Sister. Humpday . And, now, Drinking Buddies.



It’s just about a man and a woman who are friends and who kind of fancy each other. It’s about what might have been. It’s about flirting, but always maintaining deniability. It’s about physical affection that is both sexual and not meant to go anywhere.


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Le Cousin Jules

Le Cousin Jules

I saw this at Film Forum. It was gorgeous.




It’s a documentary about an old couple who live on a farm. He is a blacksmith, she tends to the animals and cooks and cleans.


There are many fascinating details. The axel above the well that has been worn away in the middle by decades of winching up buckets of water. The huge bellows for the blacksmith’s fire, the leather more patch that not. The way the fire is lit. The way the metal is heated and worked. The wine kept in a barrel in an outhouse.


The husband and wife say almost nothing, besides remarks about the good coffee or requests for errands in the town.


The film looks very beautiful. The fields. The orange of the fire. The rich grey of the stone. In a way, it is too beautiful. What is probably a life with many privations is shown as a gilded communion with nature.


Half way through the film, you realise you haven’t seen the wife for a while. Now, based upon what you know of the couple, it is unlikely she has gone for a week away with the girls, or run off with another man. There is only one possible explanation for her absence: she is dead. Nothing is said. There is no voiceover to explain. There is just the man cooking. The man sewing on a button. The man fluffing the pillows on the bed.


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Songs: Ohia, Farewell Transmission

Songs: Ohia, Farewell Transmission

songsohia-farewelltransmission.mp3


The album from which this is taken,  The Magnolia Electric Co ., has been part of the soundtrack to winter, washing-up and walks to the cinema.


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The Knife, Stay Out Here

The Knife, Stay Out Here

theknife-stayouthere.mp3


I like the way Karin Dreijer Andersson’s voice changes from female-sounding to male-sounding. I like the way the second voice joins in, like one runner falling into step with another. I like the way this is, really, a commercial dance track, but queer.


The album is a little too diffuse. The latest Chromatics album wanders down a similar path, but retains its shape because, really, it goes in one direction for a while, then resolutely heads off into the wilderness. Shaking the Habitual doesn’t quite keep it together because it has a twenty-minute atmospheric in the middle and then fails to regain a direction.


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Pierrot le Fou

Pierrot le Fou

What does it mean to entangle the characters in a criminal underworld that seems phoney? What does it mean for Marianne to betray Ferdinand when her act of betrayal is both non-sequitous and inconsequential? If you can’t believe in the plot, there is no framework of causality in the film. You stagger from image to image and event to event without being moved by anything.


But what is left are fragments of meaning that, though not logical or causal, are emotionally true.


A stagey party that is emblematic of a stagey life, the characters throwing shadows like actors.




Ferdinand lying in the bath and reading a passage of art criticism to his daughter:


“Velázquez, past the age of 50, no longer painted specific objects. He drifted around things like the air, like twilight, catching unawares in the shimmering shadows the nuances of color that he transformed into the invisible core of his silent symphony. Henceforth, he captured only those mysterious interpenetrations that united shape and tone.”


You have no idea what the critic is talking about, but you know exactly what she means.


A red tie against a blue door.



A romantic drive that is at once a rich, graded old Hollywood picture, and washed through every few seconds with primary colours.



The final shot. Just the sea, with Marianne and Ferdinand reunited in the voiceover above our heads. Le Mépris, too, is about the dissolution of a relationship, and it, too, ends with a shot of the sea.



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Functional programming for the rest of us

Functional programming for the rest of us

Functional Programming For The Rest of Us


A wide-ranging article about functional programming. The code examples are a little strained, but the commentary is fascinating.


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George Orwell

George Orwell

Good prose is like a window pane.


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Climbing

Climbing


Twice this week, I have been to Brooklyn Boulders to climb. So fun. My friends, Zach and Dave, have helped me with tips, spots and a dizzying array of climbing terminology, and I have managed to do a V0, a V1 and a V1+.


Bump. Smear. Flag.


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Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

A film about the man who is regarded as the best sushi chef in the world.



“You have to fall in love with your work.”


“You must immerse yourself in your work.”


“The rest is how hard you work.”


“After about ten years, they let you cook the eggs. I had been practicing making the egg sushi for a long time. I thought I would be good at it. I kept messing up. I was making up to four a day. But they kept saying ‘No good, no good, no good.’ I felt like it was impossible to satisfy them. After three or four months, I had made over 200 that were all rejected. When I finally did make a good one, Jiro said, 'Now this is how it should be done.’ I was so happy I cried.”


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Vermeer, Rembrandt and Hals at the Frick

Vermeer, Rembrandt and Hals at the Frick

Last Sunday, I got up early and went to the Frick. I stood outside and, after a couple of hours’ queuing, I went in.


The Girl with the Pearl Earring only really made me feel one thing: fearful radiance.



I very much liked Hals’s portrait of Jacob Pietersz Olycan. The hand is incredible. And his arrogant, slightly weary expression.



I spent a long time looking at Rembrant’s Tronie of Man With Feathered Cap. I found it fascinating that, the more I stared at the area around the right eye, the side of the nose and the nostril, the more realistic it became. It just seemed to come more and more into focus.



But my favourite, by a long chalk, was Rembrandt’s Susana. He has done two paintings of the subject. In this one, the lustful Babylonian elders are not pictured, because, as Susana’s gaze makes clear, we are them.


Her eyes are horrified, which makes it all the more awful. The whole moment seems to be paused like a memory, everything stopped: her hand wringing out her hair, her jewellery glinting hyperreal, the half-contorted thumb of the hand that is moving to cover her body.



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The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark

The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark

Production Designer, Norman Reynolds: “I just wonder if it’s just a little bit convenient that everything happens in [the same town square].”


Steven Spielberg: “But you see, what it does is gives it a geography. And I think sometimes a geography makes an audience more secure with a story.”


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Steven Spielberg: “Every actor needs a different director for each moment. And I think I have to be a different director for each actor, moment to moment.”


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It was surprising to me how much Spielberg guided the actors. For example, he showed Karen Allen the exact facial expression he wanted for a scene.


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Spielberg storyboarded the entire film himself in advance.


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Why do some fields of enquiry - physics, maths - only advance, producing increasingly accurate views of the world, while others - politics, history - oscillate between being closer to and further from the truth?

Why do some fields of enquiry - physics, maths - only advance, producing increasingly accurate views of the world, while others - politics, history - oscillate between being closer to and further from the truth?

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Seymour Papert, Mindstorms

Seymour Papert, Mindstorms

[But there are cases where] the conflict [between reality and our expectations] remains obstinately in place however much we ponder the problem. These are the cases where we are tempted to conclude that "intuition cannot be trusted”. In these situations we need to improve our intuition, to debug it, but the pressure on us is to to abandon intuition and rely on equations instead. Usually when a student in this plight goes to the physics teacher saying, “I think the gyroscope should fall instead of standing upright,” the teacher responds by writing an equation to prove that that the thing stands upright. But this is not what the student needed. He already knew that it would stay upright, and this knowledge hurt by conflicting with intuition. By proving that it will stand upright the teacher rubs salt in the wound but does nothing to heal it. What the student needs is something quite different: better understanding of himself, not of the gyroscope. He wants to know why his intuition gave him a wrong expectation. He needs to know how to work on his intuitions in order to change them.


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Seymour Papert, Mindstorms

Seymour Papert, Mindstorms

GAL’s idea [that looking at one two-pound object as made up of two one-pound objects, that a whole can be seen as additively made up of whatever parts we care to divide it up into] is powerful and is part of the intellectual toolkit of every modern mathematician, physicist or engineer. But one would not know this from looking at textbooks. GAL’s idea is not given a name, it is not attributed to a historical scientist, it is passed over in silence by teachers


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A game based on forced perspective

A game based on forced perspective

Tech Demo for Pillow Castle's First Person Puzzler - YouTube


I loved how much this demo made me laugh.


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Blindness: Ludum Dare 28 innovation winner

Blindness: Ludum Dare 28 innovation winner

http://shaunew.github.io/bl1nd-ld28/


I found this very tender. And I love the idea of only seeing having to infer the size and location of objects by changing your vantage point.


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Wynne Greenwood, image from Peas

Wynne Greenwood, image from Peas

Exhibition by Wynne Greenwood - Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects



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My niece likes to have many straws in her drink

My niece likes to have many straws in her drink


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At Berkeley

At Berkeley

A four hour documentary about UC Berkeley. It mostly covered administrative decision-making. The best parts, and the most convincing arguments for the film’s main thesis on the value of a public university, were the recordings of interesting lectures on science, history, psychology, English literature.


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A present for my nephew

A present for my nephew

Can you guess what it is?



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On the subway. Taken by Vera.

On the subway. Taken by Vera.


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Wynne Greenwood

Wynne Greenwood


Tracy + the Plastics are one of my all-time favourite bands.


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Richard Feynman

Richard Feynman

It is a great adventure to contemplate the universe, beyond man, to contemplate what it would be like without man, as it was in a great part of its long history and as it is in a great majority of places. When this objective view is finally attained, and the mystery and majesty of matter are truly appreciated, to then turn the objective eye back on man viewed as matter, to view life as part of this universal mystery of greatest depth, is to sense an experience which is very rare, and very exciting. It usually ends in laughter and a delight in the futility of trying to understand what this atom in the universe is, this thing — atoms with curiosity — that looks at itself and wonders why it wonders.


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The Pervert's Guide to Ideology

The Pervert's Guide to Ideology

I saw this with my friend, Dave, a couple of weeks ago. The thrust was that every film tries to push an ideology, usually implicitly and sometimes covertly. Most of the ideologies that Slavoj Žižek cites are ones of control and subjugation.


It was interesting to hear his thoughts on the imagery, metaphor, scripting and construction of great films. Which is to say, it was great to hear his thoughts on how interesting films achieve their effects. It made me want to see Jaws, Taxi Driver, If and The Sound of Music again. It made me want to see Brief Encounter, The Searchers, West Side Story, Zabriskie Point and The Last Temptation of Christ for the first time.


But his central thesis, that popular films are pushers of ideologies of control, was like all grand unified theses of popular culture: it has so much material to choose from, and that material is so subjective, it is possible to find evidence for any argument. One can often even see a way to take the same material and argue the precise opposite.


Even less rigorous, he cited The Last Temptation of Christ as the only film that escapes the ideology of control and evangelises for individual freedom. Which sounds suspiciously like another ideology.


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