Archive for the ‘art’ Category

Gibson and the Internet

In art on 26/02/2012 at 1:47 am

Cyberpunk qua cyberpunk served, in the long run, only to provide a facile adjective for the working vocabulary of lazy journalists and unimaginative blurb-writers. Yet even those at least partially in the know about science fiction (if nothing more) who debated, defended, or denigrated Gibson didn’t have the faintest idea of what Gibson was actually doing. (Though he didn’t either, at least not at the time—no writer knows what he or she has actually created until the book is actually read by others.) Neuromancer, foremost, was a shout in the night that was the 1980s, is the 1990s, and will be, it seems to me, the decades soon to come. That is to say, a foreshadowing and estimation of our future derived from a specific reinterpretation of our present, and in this very special instance lifted into actuality through the agency of its readers. For if Gibson in truth had nothing to do with the making of cyberpunk as it came to be known (he didn’t create it, didn’t name it, and after it was cursed with its catchy monicker, didn’t want a whole lot to do with it), in the most genuine sense he did create cyberspace. Not merely the word (see the OED); the place.

Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation.

… Let me emphasize a point earlier glanced upon: All fiction, whether straight or genre, whether literature or Literature, is a personal reinterpretation of its writers’ existence during the time the fiction was written. Therefore science fiction has rarely predicted with any accuracy, save through coincidence or extremely well-informed suppositions a la Verne or Wells, the specifics of the future that ensues, postpublication. (Where do you park your atomic-powered lawnmower?) Sometimes, however—who can say how the spark catches fire, how the fish manages to live on land—it turns out to exactly, mysteriously, capture the spirit. In Neuromancer Gibson first apprehended, as no one else had, what I believe shall prove to be the shape of things to come; he saw the writing on the wall, the blood in the sky, the warning in the entrails. Saw the mind beneath the mirrorshades, as it were, and what that mind would be capable, or incapable, of thinking. Saw the substance disguised in style. What if someone, in the spring of 1914, had stood in the center of Berlin, foresaw in a vision the philosophies and worldviews capable of provoking the events for which the twentieth century would be most remembered, and then went off and wrote it all down? Now let’s be Heisenbergian and ask: What if the act of writing it down, in fact, brought it about?

When Neuromancer appeared it was picked up and devoured by hundreds, then thousands, of men and women who worked in or around the garages and cubicles where what is still called new media were, fitfully, being birthed; thousands who, on reading his sentence as quoted above, thought to themselves, That’s so fucking cool, and set about searching for any way the gold of imagination might be transmuted into silicon reality. Now Gibson’s imagined future cannot by any means be called optimistic (nor, in truth, can it be called pessimistic—it is beyond both); more to the point, he has often said that he intended “cyberspace” to be nothing more than a metaphor. No matter. Once a creation goes out in the world its creator, like any parent, loses the control once so easily exertable over the offspring; another variety of emergent behavior, you could say. That’s so fucking cool, man—I think we can pull it off. So rather than the theoretical Matrix, we now, thanks to all those beautiful William Gibson readers out there in the dark, have the actual Web—same difference, for all intents and purposes, or it will be soon enough. (Some Dark Holler, Jack Womack)


Existence Has its Own Order

In art, fallibilism on 06/12/2011 at 6:06 am

The universe is no narrow thing and the order within it is not constrained by any latitude in its conception to repeat what exists in one part in any other part. Even in this world more things exist without our knowledge than with it and the order in creation which you see is that you have put there, like a string in a maze, so that you shall not lose your way. For existence has its own order and that no man’s mind can compass, that mind itself being but a fact among others (Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian 245).



In art on 10/10/2011 at 6:37 am

Problems worthy

of attack

prove their worth

by fighting back. (Piet Hein)


Philosophy and Science-Themed T-Shirts!

In art on 02/09/2011 at 11:47 pm

It’s difficult for anyone working in philosophy to find a nice casual philosophy-themed shirt. A few years ago, I picked up this most awesome shirt:

I’ve just learned that the company behind the shirt, Amorphia Apparel, has come out with a new line of t-shirts. And they are awesome. Most of them use the instantly recognizable font of some of my favorite punk and metal bands, mashed together with famous philosophers and scientists. I think I’ll have to pick up a copy of this one soon, seeing as I rate Hume as one of the greatest philosophers …

I’m just sad that there’s no Popper shirt. What would it even look like? I decided to make a quick mock-up Popper-logo in an homage to Iron Maiden.



In art on 05/08/2011 at 1:59 am



In art on 18/07/2011 at 2:21 am

Jake Gittes (Nicholson) calmly tells a client at the beginning of Chinatown, “When you’re right, you’re right, and you’re right.” It is of the utmost importance that throughout the film Jake is almost always wrong. Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974), like most neo-noir films of the 70’s and 80’s (the forgotten Robert Altman film The Long Goodbye (1973) is its sister-film in all general themes), is constructed in the manner of a traditional detective film — but with a significant twist: this time, the truth does not prevail, good intentions aren’t enough to save a woman in peril, and the detective is borderline incompetent at doing his job.

As an analysis of Chinatown, there are serious spoilers after the break.

Read the rest of this entry »

J.J. Gittes

In art on 17/07/2011 at 3:33 am

I was trying to keep someone from being hurt. I ended up making sure she was hurt. (Jake Gittes, Chinatown)

Finishing up a short analysis of Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974). Should be up either later today or tomorrow.



In art on 16/07/2011 at 2:45 am

When we go through our creative process, we don’t go into a white room with a white sheet of paper and close the windows. That’s ridiculous. What we do is fill our minds with what other people have done. We put pictures on the walls. We look at magazines. We look at pictures of incredible places. We get inspired—and “inspired” seems to mean bringing something out of something else, not out of nothing.

… One of the first questions we asked was, “Why do you have to die in a computer game? I get tired of starting over.” Of course, once you break that rule in the gaming world, nothing else is sacred. (Rand Miller, The Mind of a World-Maker)

One of my favorite games–nay, imagined worlds–of all time is Riven, the sequel to Myst. In development for four years, it was finally released in 1997 as a puzzle adventure game. The graphics still stand up today and at the time were revolutionary. The brothers Rand and Robyn Miller simply created one of the most immersive and challenging games of the 90’s. It had its own number system with a different base, two different languages, an entire back story full of drama and intrigue, and several hours of music and video.

The ending can never be truly be written. (Atrus, Riven)

In light of this, I was overjoyed to learn some months ago that Jonathan Blow, creator of Braid, is in the process of creating The Witness, a Riven-style puzzle adventure game. I expect The Witness to be my generation’s Riven.

Riven is now available on iPhone and iPad for 4.99.

Two die-hard Myst fans pitched a film treatment to Cyan, the company run by Rand Miller, and Cyan decided to get behind their project. A film is in the works!



In art on 15/07/2011 at 2:43 pm

I highly recommend Impasse, a free minimalist puzzle game. Discover the rules as you go and make your way to the goal of each level.

There were points where I breezed through levels–and other points where I was left scratching my head.


End of an Era

In art, ethics, fallibilism on 10/07/2011 at 12:07 pm

We’re the kind of species that needs a frontier for fundamental biological reasons. Every time humanity stretches itself, it receives a jolt of productive vitality that can carry it for centuries. (Carl Sagan)


Silent World

In art on 15/06/2011 at 4:41 pm

Copyright Michael KennaOn the Shoulders of Giants, an interview with Michael Kenna.