Over the Shoulder…

December 31, 2010

. . . and into the future, or the past.

I watched 2001:  A Space Odyssey again a week ago, as I do around this time of year, and noticed something new.  When Dave Bowman is in the pod preparing to blast off the door and enter the main ship through the airlock, he goes through a series of maneuvers and turns his back to the camera.  Briefly, he looks partly over his shoulder and then counts down.

Later, when he’s in the space-time-evolution-warp, he breaks a glass, bends down, and looks back over his shoulder to see what is making that breathing noise… It’s him, of course.  The movement of the body is the same.

Today, I felt myself making exactly that move as I looked over my shoulder to back out of a parking space, driving my little four-wheeled pod.

Happy New Year!


The adverts have arrived!

December 1, 2010

Just yesterday, I happened upon this essay in the NYTimes by William Gibson about the world according to Google – and today, looking at my recent post on Babylonian mathematics what do I see but an ad for Google!!  WordPress explains:

Note: To support the service (and keep free features free), we also sometimes run advertisements. We’ve tested a lot of different ad providers and currently use Google AdSense and Skimlinks. We try hard to make the ads discreet and effective and only run them in limited places. If you would like to completely eliminate ads from appearing on your blog, we offer the No-Ads Upgrade.

The upgrade costs about $30.oo per year.  I guess the free ride is over, but then, why should I expect to be given a good service for free?  Will I pay to be add-free?  I doubt it.  I’m pretty cheap.  Considering the content of my blog, it might be amusing to see how Google et al place ads on it.

BTW, the picture is by Kupperman, and anyone who reads this blog knows how much I love Kubrick and 2001!


To Infinity and Beyond (1978)

October 8, 2010

  

A video I created as a summer student at NYU using 5-inch tape reels and a very heavy recorder with a bulky camera.  Editing resources were extremely crude.  I’ve cleaned it up a bit, but the quality suffers from thirty years of sitting in a crate.

Music by Saint-Saens.  My world.


Drainage – the musical

August 31, 2010

Michael Kupperman is a funny guy, and pretty weird.  His Tales Designed to Thrizzle carries on the madness, but without that vaudeville duo, Snake ‘n’ Bacon from the earlier numbers.  This one, however, rises to new heights with its appreciation of DRAINAGE!  At last, my voice in the wilderness is finding echoes!  The connection with 2001 is beautiful!

In this issue, Kupperman tells the story of a new Broadway show, all about that essential element of civilization, what makes the world go ’round, drainage.  The leading lady of the production finds out a little late that it has been reworked into a musical.  The show must flow on!


At the Metropolitan

May 1, 2010

Some images from my most recent visit, all taken in ambient light, so pardon the fuzziness.  Flashes are not allowed.  Some images are linked to others if you click them.

L) My kind of interior – dizzying, isn’t it?    R) Lombard tryptich – click for more info.

Back view of a Chinese  stele with multiple images of the Buddha.

Samurai daggers and sword, objects of incredible beauty and precision.  Click to enlarge.

From an altarpiece by Lorenzo Monaco, one of my favorite artists.  Note Abraham with the flaming sword, and Isaac, in the upper right.  Click for more info.

Those northern mannerists!  They’re weird, but I love them.    Oil on copper plate, for a piece of furniture.  Click for more info.

A favorite of mine, Antoine Lavoisier and his wife, Prima della rivoluzione by that propagandist for 1789, Jacques Louis David.  Carlyle had fun with him and his revolutionary fervor.  Antoine was not so lucky.  He, a liberal, was guillotined by the radicals – dare I call them terroristes? – just leave it at Jacobins.   His wife survived.  Madison Smartt Bell has written a nice capsule biography of him, his monumental contribution to the creation of modern chemistry, and his destruction in those chaotic times, Lavoisier in the Year One.

The imminence of the divine, by an artist in Verrochio’s worshop [full image], a teacher of Leonardo.  From here to 2001 is not such a stretch – click to see why.  And to the right, the floor, mundane, just for balance…


Spoke too soon!

March 9, 2010

In an earlier post on 2001, I wrote:

Some say we will know we have developoed intelligent machines not when they can speak, but when they can read our lips.

Not so fast!  Today’s article in the NYTimes on Google’s translator programs raises the possibility that we may get lip reading machines before intelligent ones.  Oh well, many people speak before they think already!

It seems that the translators, which are pretty darn good, I think, use models of language that are augmented with, among other things, huge amounts of multi-lingual transcripts from UN meetings.  The translators there are among the best – human – ones around, so their work is the gold standard.  The massive database of phrases and sentences is parsed and indexed a la Google, and that’s why they do a decent job with text that strays from textbook, factual propositions.  What’s to stop the Google folks from feeding in massive amounts of video of people’s mouths speaking words whcih the machine can already process with it’s voice-recognition software?  It would build a model of the relationship between mouth configurations and actual phonemes, which it already knows, lip reading.


Class conflict, anyone?

February 23, 2010

Two women, two misfits, two people with something shady in their past lives.  The maid (Sandrine Bonnaire) cannot read, and is intensely ashamed of it.  She makes herself into a cipher so as not to be found out, but there’s something terrible bubbling beneath, and a criminal deed in her past…maybe.  They couldn’t prove anything.    The postal clerk (Isabelle Huppert) seems to never have been properly socialized – she’s just this side of out of control.  Did she kill her young child by abusing her?  The judge said there was no proof. They fall in with one another, recognizing each other as soul mates, and form a Platonic bond.  Together, their resentment of the local patron, the maid’s employer, and his comfortable bourgeois family becomes something terrible.

Claude Chabrol jokingly called his film La cérémonie, made in 1995,   “the last Marxist film.”  Some of his fans could learn something from his sense of humor.  Consider this exceprt from a review that insists on extracting a class-conscious moral from the story:

In La cérémonie, the characters’ latent sexualities may insidiously be equated with evil, but this evil remains immeasurably more moral than the hypocritical and hierarchical society it attacks.

Chabrol is certainly intensely aware of class divisions, and he weaves  them with great effect into this chilling tale, but his vision is nuanced and subtle rather a simple conflict or classes and relative immoralities.

The title of the film is slang for being lead to the guillotine for execution, a state ritual of justice, adding a further touch of irony and ambiguity as the film moves with heavy stateliness towards its blood spattered conclusion.  The force that drives the violence is not ideology, but evil and happenstance.   The massacre is a crazy stunt that gets out of hand, or maybe it was inevitable, but that is taken in stride once it comes about.  Surveying the bodies, Huppert’s character says, “That’s well done.”  “You know what to do now.  Call the police and say you found them like that. They won’t be able to prove anything.”  The state doesn’t protect the good bourgeoisie from these looneys any more than it protects workers from the predatory owning class.

And what of this bourgois family?  They’re not a bad lot.  They are fair.  They pay well.  They are very loving to one another.  Maybe a bit full of themselves and a bit too used to their great advantages, but not a bad lot after all.  They certainly don’t want to hurt anyone.   Is this hypocrisy?  Does the fact that the father owns the local factory make him a ruthless exploiter?  Nothing would indicate that.  He is almost the ideal bourgeois.  It’s true, however, that servants can be such a pain in the neck!  And they definitely should know their place.

This theme of the bourgeoisie is such a terribly important theme in European culture that it can be puzzling for an American.  Here, everyone is middle-class.  Of course, bourgeois is more than a term for a group with a certain income:  it has very deep and wide connotations in Europe.  They are on full display in La cérémonie.

Another film also intensely involved with class dissection is Bernardo Bertulluci’s Before the Revolution of 1964.  I thought I detected an homage or allusion to that film in this sequence from Chabrol’s:

During a party, the young girl passionately makes out with her boyfriend – the camera pans away to the next room where the boring chit chat among les adultes continues.

In Before the Revolution, pop music blares from the radio, the old man leaves with his newspaper:  Let’s dance, shall we?Ah, look – she’s asleep!

The man and the woman in the extremely sexy passage are aunt and nephew:  after all, the movie is very loosely based on Stendhal’s novel, The Charterhouse of Parma.


The Christmas season is upon us…

December 25, 2009

click for original

…And unto us a child is born…

Background material to this picture here, and original source material here.   (Und auch hier..?]  And here’another star-baby:


Go where no man has gone before…

December 11, 2009

Yes, I love the movie, 2001, and as a boy I loved to build models of the moonshot rockets.  (This book is a really cool summary of the stunning images from that program.) But…in the end, I really think that manned space flight, at least right now, and as it’s being pursued, is a waste of effort. 

Let’s hear it for the unmanned space probes like Cassini, that have brought us marvelous pictures leading to new understanding of our solar system!  In the picture here, an old mystery about one of Saturn’s moons is resolved.


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