Altered States

December 27, 2011

Paddy Chayefsky had no business being angry about the treatment given to his screenplay for the movie Altered States directed by Ken Russell in 1980.  Reportedly, he was angry about the way his beautifully crafted dialog was treated.  Here’s a rant by whiz kid scientist Jessup (William Hurt) delivered while he’s raging drunk:

“What dignifies the Yogic practices is that the belief system itself is not truly religious. There is no Buddhist God per se. It is the Self, the individual Mind, that contains immortality and ultimate truth.”

Not far from the truth, but an absurd piece of dialog, in context.  All the characters speak in this stilted, intellectual way, which, along with the deadpan treatment of the action, gives the film a comic-ironic dimension.  Apparently, Paddy took the ideas dead seriously, but this story is ridiculous, and what redeems the film is Russell’s usual over-the-top imagery, in this case perfectly in sync with the psychedelic freakout ethos of this post 60s romp that seems trapped in Strawberry Fields.  Religious, mythic, erotic, pop-cultural, oh that Ken, he’s something else!

In this series of images from Jessup’s mushroom induced hallucinations with rural Mexican Indians, Russell recreates the craziness of pharmaceutical mirages and seems to be paying homage to that milestone of surrealism, An Andalusian Dog.

That Andalusian Dog

 

 

 

Man meets his inner lizard.

 

Pagan Goddess

Adoration

…………………  …………..

 

In stone, for eternity.

As I said, the plot and the ideas driving it are laughable:  it includes an extended interlude in which Jessup regresses, physically, to a primitive hominoid state, nearly kills some security guards, and finds peace only after breaking into a zoo and devouring a sheep raw.  I wanted nothing but to survive that night, to eat, to sleep.  Italo Calvino treats the same ideas, the bliss of pre-cultural consciousness, in his wry and funny piece, Interview with a Neanderthal Man, but, as I said, the screenplay of this film plays it straight.

During Jessup’s final trip, there are some nice images, and more homages to films, I think:

Could be Kiss Me Deadly.  What’s in the damn box?

Bill Gates freaking out on Windows?  Where did this primordial goo come from?  And who’s going to mop it up?

This definitely recalls 2001:  A Space Odyssey.

The Love Goddess saves the day!

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Batting 500

May 2, 2011

I thought he would never be captured or killed – I was wrong.  Oh, well, I was right about those weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

The reasons for my relative sang froid regarding this event are illustrated by this quote from the journalistic blusterer, Ross Douthat:

They can strike us, they can wound us, they can kill us. They can goad us into tactical errors and strategic blunders. But they are not, and never will be, an existential threat.

This was not clear immediately after 9/11.

As with his fellow windbag, Thomas Friedman, as well as many, many, politicians and talking-head wannabee pundits, he takes far too long to learn his lessons.  The sense of those two sentences that are in bold was very evident to me in 2001, and to John Kerry in 2004, and to the writer of an op-ed piece that I recall from the NYTimes shortly after 9/11 (citations, please, if anyone can find it![Here it is.]) that stated that Osama bin Laden’s was a form of ‘politics’ doomed for the dustbin.  Yes, there were plenty of reasonable people who understood what was what, but the hysteria of people like Ross and his fellow scribblers, not to mention GWB, made it hard to understand what they were saying.


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!


MUNDO VIDEO!!

October 10, 2010

Homage to 2001

Daily Life

Iguana Fractal Generator

NYU 1978:   Self-Portrait

NYU 1978:  The Romance of  Machines

The meaning of life, according to Marcel Duchamp

Homage to Aligators…and Zappa

The story of Abraham and Isaac, the sacrifice on Highway 61

Oscar Wilde in an E.A. Poe favorite

The meaning of life again, from the zendo

Blasting the rock away…


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.