Extratone

spectacle

by Ryan Dell

Unsolicited Creative Advice

Haha, hi, what’s up? I know I’m probably the 20th person to slide into your DMs today but I just couldn’t resist the ‘vibe’ on your profile. You have this alternative, quirky aesthetic, and I’m really into it. How do you even come up with your ideas? You’re a really special talent, I can tell.

Before I get into the main reason I’m sending this message — have you ever considered being a model? Not just an Instagram model, a real model. Like for a Vice marketing campaign or something. You have a really specific look and you might look good if you were photoshopped a certain way. (That was a “neg”, haha. It’s this gross pick-up artist technique, I would never do it personally but I can explain it to you in detail if you like.)

Okay, so, let’s cut to the chase. Why am I sliding into your DMs? The direct messages. The old inbox-a-roonie. Well, the truth is, I saw your work on social media, and it blew my mind. I mean, whoah, to do the work you do? You must really know how to use your Macbook. Not everyone can do stuff like that. I mean, I see a lot of work on the internet, but your art, wow, you’ve got some amazing stuff online.

You have real potential, you know that? But I don’t wanna see that potential go to waste. There’s room for improvement. I mean, your work is good, don’t get me wrong, haha. But I think we could elevate it, do you know what I’m saying? Together we could take it from about a 6 and lift it to a strong 7, possibly even 8.

Is it weird that I’m sending this message? I don’t want to be too pushy or anything! If these messages make you feel uncomfortable at any time let me know and I’ll stop. Just gimme a little heads-up and wave the white flag and these messages will come to a halt. No more messages — except for maybe one or two follow-ups where I try to clarify where I stand with you. Three, tops. No more than three messages to get me out of your hair. I might send a fourth farewell message, but that’d be the end of it.

The main point I have is about the way you write online. I mean, it’s good, but it needs some more formal structure. It’s not your fault, you just don’t know the convential rules of writing. You could be amazing if someone just showed you how to write properly. Maybe I could teach you how? Like, nothing too intense, haha, I just have some tips that might save you some time and improve your work. Like, did you know that you’re supposed to get up and walk around for 10 minutes every hour? And drink a couple litres of water every day.

Haha, I’m just trying to help! Doing this stuff could really help elevate your work. If you were a good writer instead of a bad writer, you’d be much more successful.

The other main point I have is about your photography. Now, honestly, it’s shit. Sorry to be so blunt but I’m just kind of a brutally honest person. Yes, it’s true, I’m only ever honest when it involves me being cruel and never when I’m being reflective or positive, but some people just can’t handle that. I think you can, though. You’re special. Us special people have to stick together.

Are you single? Haha, just kidding, you don’t have to answer that. Unless you want to. Then in that case I’d like you to answer it immediately.

So, with your photography, next time you’re taking a photo, just think to yourself, “Is this photo shit?”. Then, if the answer is yes, don’t take the photo. I personally don’t use this technique (unnecessary for me) but if you did it I think it would really improve your work. If you need some guidelines on what a good photo looks like I could send you a .zip file of all my Facebook cover photos from 2015 onwards and you can start from there, haha, they’re all pretty good. Maybe that would help you figure out if photography is a realistic career goal for you.

My last tip is more general. It’s a pretty good tip though, in my opinion: you need to try harder. I mean I like your work, but it just feels like you aren’t fully committed. Maybe you should quit your job? Then you’d have more time to spend on your art. An artists’ salary is probably more than you make now, haha. Think of quitting your job as a long term investment! I won’t say more on this though, since I’m not a financial expert — don’t want to be too presumptuous!

We need more good art in the world. And less bad art. That’s probably a controversial opinion, but I’ve never been afraid of speaking my truth.

I have much more advice to tell you but I’ll leave that for later in our DM dialogue. I already feel confident we’ll get along, so if you’re interested in saving some time, just send me your phone number. We can chat over FaceTime Audio (but no other service, I refuse to pay for a cellphone plan out of principle) and figure out your long-term career plan. I’m getting so excited right now, thinking of all the amazing things I’m going to accomplish now that we’ve connected! We’re going to take your art career from being that vulnerable amoeba into being a beautiful, incandescent butterfly.

There’s a lot of rude guys out there, so as one of the nice ones I’d really appreciate it if you take my advice on board. I see a lot of potential in you, haha!

P.S. Haha, have you ever considered being less angry when you post online? I think your work would be more popular if you were nicer. You’ll attract more flies with honey than vinegar!


#spectacle #ryandell #social #parody

by David Blue

Googleplex

What I have long predicted is now coming to pass: Google believes it should assume control.

Out of all the technology companies that have made my knees knock and my voice hoarse and my Tweets manic as a technoheretic in the past several years, Jumbo Google would easily take home the winning trophy for Dystopian of the Millennium. I have been rehearsing an especially dear pet prophecy of mine, unsolicited, to family, friends, and podcast guests since 2011 in which I end up arguing quite convincingly that Google is a dead ringer for the 16th-century Vatican: an inherently self-isolating organization with an absolute monopoly yielding gargantuan levels of essentially passive income from a service which nearly everybody transacts with, but only Google understands (and is therefore assumed to be its only possible provider,) which inevitably develops such a distance from the rest of the populace and their way of life (in tandem with total notoriety and celebrity among them all) not intentionally out of malice, but from the delusion of mythically-bestowed philanthropic duty that is borned of and compounded by this economic and cultural isolation in a perpetual accumulation of power and wealth that radicalizes the monopolizers — the majority already highly predisposed to zeal as they would’ve needed to be in order to find themselves in this singular, universally powerful position over every other class — and leaves their egocentric minds to wander exempt from all criticism save for that of fellow radicalized monopolizers, who together begin to feel more and more comfortable wondering aloud about themselves in increasingly fantastic presumptions: what if all of this was bestowed upon us because we are superior to them? What if it is our divine responsibility as superior beings to take charge and shepherd the common people as our sheep — for they cannot possibly know as well as we what is truly best for them?

You see it, right? And you can feel a very specific flavor of terror that is both awed by the scale of the circumstances created by so few human minds and sincerely amused by the absoluteness of your own inability to alter them in any way. Perhaps you even recognize this taste as one perfected by Christianity’s ancient advertising business, but Google knows so much about you that it’s rumored to’ve been selling user data to the Judeochristian God for some time now at a 10% discount, and so we extrapolate and anticipate, yes?

Of course, it’s admittedly satisfying for me to deliver you to this godfearing place in the most perverse look what I saw first that you didn’t see because you’re just not as bright but lucky for you, I’m so fucking generous with my wisdom sort of thinking around which the entire personas and livelihoods of fringe movement fanatics are built upon, but this is my one thing, okay? I’ve been waiting years for the right time to formally argue this theory in depth, and — thanks to this year’s public spotlight finally pivoting on the giants who’ve been silently swallowing their competition and relentlessly forcing their already ridiculous margins higher and higher in relative obscurity for decades, the time has come, indeed. The common people’s trust in Google had a godawful week.

Don’t Be Evil

On Monday, Gizmodo reported that twelve frustrated Google employees were quitting the company in protest of their work assisting the Department of Defense to “implement machine learning to classify images gathered by drones” for the detail fleeting Project Maven, despite some 4000 employee signatures on a letter addressed to CEO Sundar Pichai requesting (in full) that he “cancel this project immediately,” and “draft, publicize, and enforce a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology,” citing the infamous “Don’t Be Evil” motto, which Google then proceeded to remove from its code of conduct for the first time in 18 years the day after the New York Times article went to press, on April 5th.

On initial approach to the abstract of this story, from the ass to our thoughts arrives an easy narrative of a Silicon Valley mutiny comprised of twelve brave, conscientious souls who’ve been eaten up inside by their complicity in the filthy deals made by their power-obsessed CEO over scotch and cigars in a dark D.C. study — kept awake for months by the sound of his puffing cackles at satellite images of dead toddlers in a bombed-out street.

Ah ha, we say. That man is no good, and he just wouldn’t listen! They knew they didn’t have a choice… They only did what they had to do…

The reality of internal disagreements at Google, though, manages to be even more theatrical. The sheer volume of correspondence must surely be beyond anything capable of the enduser’s imagination, so let’s phone a friend: my favorite peek into the day-to-days of inter-Google existence is an old blog post by Benjamin Tilly on his first month at the company in which he was compelled almost immediately to describe in great detail how best to “deal with a lot of email in gmail” at peak efficiency using shortcuts and labels. “As you get email, you need to be aggressive about deciding what you need to see, versus what is context specific.”

Now we have a bit better idea of the aggressive emailing that was a sure constant on a normal workday at Google in 2010, so it must’ve been deafening after 8 years of Gmail development as 4000 employees no doubt vented, debated, and decided to organize last month, though without making much headway because the leadership’s response was apparently “complicated by the fact that Google claims it is only providing open-source software to Project Maven,” this new knowledge having significant effect on our mind’s image of Sundar Pichai’s activities in Washington: he is now swapping seats with a frustrated Colin Powell in order to install OpenOffice onto his desktop from a flash drive, and we recall that Google’s Googleplex headquarters resembles nowhere in modern life more than a brand new playground built in a design language borrowing heavily from Spy Kids. And though these Twelve disciples are unnamed for the moment, a few of them could immediately land book deals by going public, and every single one would always have by default not only the badge of “I landed a job at Google,” (which is really to say I have hit Life’s maximum level cap,) but “I worked at Google for a while, but ended up quitting to do something else,” which is guaranteed to make you the most interesting, intellectually superior person present in whatever crowd for the rest of your life. The ultra-cool Sarah Cooper quit Google to become a comedian and even got to talk to Kara Swisher! I won’t pretend to understand big tech’s diminutive bastardization of prestige, but “more than 90 academics” jumping to publish an open letter (adjacent to a huge DONATE: Support the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots button) in which they “write in solidarity with the 3100+ Google employees” who’s terrible boss decided to help some lackeys in the Pentagon set up their email and didn’t text back for a whole hour doesn’t sound 100% sincere. Notably, I don’t know how or why the fuck 90 people would go about collaborating on a single document, but if it really was managed, they definitely used Google Docs… At one point, it was fun to think about the history of the friendly side-scroller-playing garage ghouls and dorm dorks who gave cooky, wacko names to their dot com startups in parody and defiance of the lame-ass surname anagrams on the buildings of their established competitors, but those who’ve stuck around have only done so by becoming expert at SUCKING UP EVERYTHING around them, and it pisses me off every day how worried I am that my species will finally be done in by a company with a name like Yahoo! and be known only to a bunch of adolescent interdimensional silicon blobs 30 million years in the future as that bipedal race who remained dignified until the last 0.01% of their reign on Earth, when in way less than a single generation, they all just went FUCKING INSANE and blew themselves up because they suddenly hated all sense.

“Google” is perhaps the worst of these to have to shout in fear and/or anger in your last moments as it sounds in American English like you’ve startled your subject with a ticklish pinch followed so immediately by an esophagus-busting chokehold that the two events appear simultaneous, and in real English English, it almost always sounds like a parent speaking of a character on a pre-K children’s television programme whom they find quite foul and upsetting, but will manage to refrain from expressing so otherwise because they know that Teletubbies shit is the most quickly forgotten stage of television viewership. It’s fascinating how exclusive the word “Google” is to American English because in everything else it really is complete nonsense, but lets halt all etymological discussions right now because we’ve only now just finished with Monday.

Bad Chrome

The Soul Ledger

On Thursday, all of my Google experiences, suppositions, and soul-detaching screenshots were usurped when a thoroughly alarming internal company video called The Selfish Ledger was leaked to The Verge, which I watched once then and do not want to watch again for the sake of this piece, but I will. Though the big V has been disappointingly timid for years about editorializing — when tech journalism desperately needs some confident, informed opinion more than ever — Vlad Savov’s accompanying article should be read in its entirety, to which I can add my own terror where he perhaps could not. The production style is technically identical to that of the very popular thinkpiece-esque, motion-graphics-paired-with-obligatory-sharpie illustrated videos which you find playing at max volume on your mom’s iPad from where she’s fallen asleep on the couch at 9PM, but the repeating stock string soundtrack multiplies one’s discomfort as such that we would all end up in the fetal position without remembering the transition were it not for the appearance of trusty old Dank Jenkins, who’s face I thankfully associate heavily enough with his infamous down-and-out Tweet to be a welcome respite in attention before the very scary hypothesis for which it’s been buttering me up, as best summed by Vlad:

The system would be able to “plug gaps in its knowledge and refine its model of human behavior” — not just your particular behavior or mine, but that of the entire human species. “By thinking of user data as multigenerational,” explains Foster, “it becomes possible for emerging users to benefit from the preceding generation’s behaviors and decisions.” Foster imagines mining the database of human behavior for patterns, “sequencing” it like the human genome, and making “increasingly accurate predictions about decisions and future behaviors.”

The next time the what if they do something scary question comes up in a casual conversation about Google, you’ll have something a lot more substantial than just speculation. Or will you? The Verge reached out for comment and got an awfully convenient response.

This is a thought-experiment by the Design team from years ago that uses a technique known as ‘speculative design’ to explore uncomfortable ideas and concepts in order to provoke discussion and debate.

Wow! Leave it up to grand ole Googe to reveal the ultimate excuse for just about any suggestion or behavior, though it does seem almost deliberately uncomfortable, doesn’t it? No matter — whether or not this video was ever about a project or tangible product development, or simply to explore uncomfortable ideas because it is proof that the company has reached that critical Vatican stage — if you’ll remember — where they now feel comfortable exploring Very Bad, but Very easily made Real Ideas amongst themselves about what would happen if they allowed their system to nudge its users around a different, slightly less optimal route to the bar, let’s say — without their knowledge — in order for the system to collect traffic data for the sake of its own interests? Which would be, technically, in the interest of all Ledger users now and in the future, so why not?

The ledger could be given a focus, shifting it from a system which not only tracks our behavior, but offers direction towards a desired result.”

This, my dear privacy-obsessed friends, is the real issue with data collection — its power over huge groups by way of their behavior and it is never going to be remedied in any significant way by ad-blockers or VPNs because the EndUser shall always out number you 50 to 1, even decades from now. EndUser does not understand — or, crucially, have any desire to understand anything technical about what leads to the PewDiePie videos playing on his filthy screen. Here’s a great opportunity to escape Silicon Valley’s technolibertarianism and resign your Darwinian empathy in favor of meaningful and truly-effective action: if you want to avoid a future Google Church (or Google Government, more worryingly,) you should invest your time, effort, and knowledge into electing officials more capable of understanding and regulating Big Tech.

Google Government

The internet as it stands is made possible by Google as the goto resource for online advertising. In 2016, “Google held 75.8 percent of the search ad market, bringing in $24.6 billion in revenue from search ads,” according to Recode. By 2019, “that’s expected to grow to $36.62 billion in revenue, or 80.2 percent of the market.” Google’s edge in user behavior and targeted advertising combined with their extensive resources available developers to integrate independent platforms with Google’s software services at various levels makes it very difficult for any advertising-funded individual or organization to compete online without dipping in to the Google universe. YouTube — a Google property since 2006 — has actively invested in and supported a new career path entirely within their own platform that is rapidly becoming popularly aspired-to by young children, while the reality of existence as a full-time YouTuber is far less glamorous than the immediately-visible surface would indicate, and the effort already expended by my generation in its pursuit has already made us insane.

So, what would the internet look like if Google didn’t exist? We know they’ve been working with the government now on various projects, but what if some terrible exposed transgression of theirs suddenly warranted an immediate shutdown and seizure of all Google properties? Well, we know from a post on Quora by Googler Ashish Kedia that even 5 years ago, the sudden absence of Google for “2–3 mins” set the internet into a bit of a panic, reducing overall traffic by 40%. In the time since, we’ve all grown exponentially more dependent on Google properties: billions of people rely on Google Maps for directions and, thousands of companies (including the Pentagon and other government institutions) rely on Gmail and GSuites for intercommunication, file sharing, task management, etc., and more and more academic institutions rely on Chromebook devices running connection-dependent operating systems. It’s not much of a stretch to argue that Google’s sudden disappearance would constitute a Civil Emergency in the United States, which will only become a stronger and more serious incentive for regulatory bodies to look the other way.

Though the tangible results of advertising have been quantified significantly in the past 20 years, one can’t help but wonder after watching YouTube ads for the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class on toy unboxing videos if the companies who spend big bucks on Google advertising understand where their money is going, but they know that if they don’t advertise there, their competitors will. This, of course, is a fundamental practice of a monopoly, and it’s yielded Google so much fucking money that they cannot possibly spend it fast enough, as evidenced by their investments in life extension — so that, perhaps, they will have more time on Earth to figure it out.

When you build a collection of the world’s smartest people in a self-sufficient environment that discourages exploration of other lifestyles and ideas, and you sustain the society with a gargantuan, relatively low-maintenance revenue stream, you create a culture which is not only well-primed for isolationism, but is also extremely inefficient. In fact, with its vast collection of abandoned products and properties, Google must surely be one of the most inefficient companies in history. Thinking back on recent software releases along with its recent entries into the hardware space, Google is also one of the worst competing tech companies. Very little aside from Gmail, Google Photos, Google Maps, and Chrome have found their place or garnered significant usership. Google Play Music is unintuitive and impossible, Google Allo and Google+ are all but forgotten addendums to other services, and Google Search — its core, original function — has been out of control for years, and all of them are designed blandly and excruciatingly tiring to look at.

Google Shun

If this all has stirred nothing more in you than a desire to eliminate Google from your own online life as much as possible, there are alternatives in almost every one of the sphere’s they dominate. As of late, DuckDuckGo has accumulated a fair amount of buzz and coverage as a private, more relevant alternative to Google’s plain old search engine. Though it is clever enough to list us as the first result for “extratone,” I’ve found it simply insufficient as a replacement in my own life because, essentially, it rarely delivers what I’m looking for. By contrast, Dropbox Paper is such an elegant cloud notetaking and word processing software that it makes Google Docs look simply idiotic (and warrants its own review very shortly.) For getting around, know that MapQuest is not only still around — it’s now a very competitive mobile navigation app.

I, myself, have allowed Google as complete of access to my information and behavior as possible because I believe “privacy” is a completely futile endeavor if one wishes to be a part of society, though I do often use alternatives to Google services simply because I fucking hate the way they look. If you want a more complete list of services and software that allow one to shun the Google God entirely, you’ll be forced to seek out less dignified sources like Lifehacker and Reddit and decide if the additional time you’ll spend using most of them to accomplish the same tasks is really worth your digital angst.

If Google were to be more explicit with its users and staff about its aspirations to take over control of our lives, there will be little to do but accept the future they intend to create because they’ve long been too powerful to control. In the meantime, I’d suggest you continue to use whatever software works best for you and refrain from wasting your time fretting on conspiratorial suppositions of what the tech industry may be doing to “invade your privacy,” because there is no longer any such thing, nor will there be ever again. However, I would also urge to you worship your own Gods, whomever they may be, for Google will never be worthy. I, for one, shall only pray to our Mother Sun.

#spectacle

by David Blue

VR Virgin

A late geezer’s first go at the dystopian VR experience

Earlier this year, Tim and I had the opportunity to try virtual reality at the True/False Film Festival in a dark, curtained side room of a commandeered Columbia art gallery, but we were both much too intoxicated and loopy those last few hours of the fest, and we bailed. Call us cowards if you must — immersion can be a scary concept to those of us who grew up reading science fiction, before the existence of the modern video game console. I’ve wanted just 30 seconds or so with a pair of goggles, just to have an idea of what the increasing number of Oculus-blinded pedestrians surrounding me are looking at. Thanks to Isiah, I was finally caught up last night with a few VR YouTube videos and Farpoint’s introduction on a PlayStation 4.

First, Isiah brings me the headset and describes in detail how exactly to adjust it, but I forget it all and simply try to shove it directly and violently on my face. Eventually, he takes it back and simply mounts and adjusts it around my monstrous skull — like you would for a toddler — and I lay eyes on the console for the first time. For whatever reason, it never occurred to me that general GUI wouldn’t simply be displayed in 2D, but by a literal virtual display, layed out in front of me like a large, floor-mounted touch workstation. I’m astonished by my ability to turn away from it to look at the rest of Goggleworld, which is nothing but a deeply black void.

From my previous world, I hear Isiah and Hawthorn discussing what to show me first, and YouTube is the settled-upon environment. As the application is restarted in “VR Mode,” its startup screen is what really establishes the truth — I have gone virtual. I cannot use my hands to shield my eyes from the branding’s glaring watermark and terrifying red light. At its home menu, Isiah simply selects the “VR” tab, revealing a selection of thumbnails for algorithmically-recommended VR-shot videos on the service.

To begin, I am mounted on the tail of a superbike as it’s raced around an American desert circuit. It takes a few seconds for high resolution to buffer, leaving me briefly in a pixelized hell that would surely make anyone sick, were they exposed very long. (I was especially excited to become nauseous, to no avail.) At the getgo, I am occupied with the rider’s butt since it’s center-frame if I stand in my usual posture. Isiah points out the hovering HUD to my left containing a selection of simulated digital instruments (tachometer, 7-segment speedo, etc.) Its presence would suggest that the purpose of my virtual passengership is to witness the lap as a motorsport enthusiast, but the rear of the rider obscures most of my view forward — I cannot admire his line as one would viewing a GoPro-or-otherwise POV of the same event, so I decide to try and figure out which track I am hurried through. Though the vehicle is tossed about in the required movements of motorbike operation, I myself (the VR capture device) am impressively gyrostabilized, and the image, static, as if I’m actually hovering above the pair as they moved along. I spin left and right, spotting a small gaggle of miniature wind turbines and two wilting hilltop trees in the foreground. Behind them, small sand dunes fill the space, all the way to the horizon.

After a few minutes, I am finally relieved early of my cutless lap for a short National Geographic documentary on a Viking revival festival in Poland. I’m introduced to its Big Boys by a series of aerial shots (presumably by drone, which is awfully un-Vikinglike) as they row their Big Boat up(?) a relatively wide, tree-lined river. In contrast with the lap, the jump cuts become a bit disorienting — I am eventually jumped in the boat for a moment, next to the sweaty, bearded lads — a few of whom are shirtless. I notice a blurry church on the distant bank. Suddenly, I float briskly across the small no man’s land between two rapidly advancing battle lines of Nordic Nerds with real, era-specific weapons and way too much free time. More lingering drone shots follow from just a few feet above the ensuing conflict. Outside, Isiah confirms Hawthorn’s suggestion that this is, indeed, the one where they use real weapons as I notice a pile of three or four men lying against each other, motionless on the ground, right-of-center in the nearest line, and mull over the sure disturbance of all this immersion the festival has allowed in welcoming the presence of the surely-buzzing drone. I guess they’re dead.

After the conflict, I am subjected to a dreamier, narrated montage accompanied by cheesy synthesized orchestral music and featuring disproportionately a particular man with a shiny, tatted bald head and rather large feet with rather small toes, which he likes to wiggle during these particular conversations. Thanks to VR’s omniencompassing perspective, I am allowed to observe his wiggling in his every appearance. The tone of the background music and the prevalence of relaxed, conversing couples and sunsets in the scenes suggest romanticism is the montage’s theme, but for me, it is the bald man’s feet — I am too busy conversing with my two friends, across the divide, in this world, to listen to any of what is said. Considering that YouTube collects the dimensional data regarding where the user looks, and for how long, I make an effort to bend my neck up and down in extremes, and notice a patch of washed-out sky, distorting in the distance, and ponder what — if anything — we have gained in this technology.

VR Vertical

Does an increase in the raw amount of visual data available to the viewer actually make motion picture storytelling more effective? In the few minutes of my VR taste test, I did gain quite a bit of volition over an equivalent 2D experience, but it didn’t seem like I’d instinctively used it to gain much else. If one is specifically interested in the shrubbery around a racetrack, or the more nuanced undulations of a Viking’s foot, they can more likely than not find a standard video on the World Wide Web that would more efficiently entertain them. In specific situations, of course, a producer can undoubtedly benefit by the ability to capture in 360 degrees, but — in any sort of cinema, especially — it seems unnecessarily sacrificial to relinquish entirely the narrative directorial control of shot framing to their audience. However, I am the antiexpert on this subject, obviously. My take on the viability of VR is Virtually Redundant and — quite possibly — very wrong, but my time in its hell is not over yet.

Isiah explains that it is time for me to game, and asks if I’d like to try “the one with the hands, or the one with the gun.” As always, I choose the firearm, as the “hands” have not been found yet and the hypothetical image immediately offered up by my imagination is of rusty iron shackles. The Infinite Blackness has returned, and I cannot see beyond it to determine what my host is up to. Then, it becomes outer space — filling with thousands of starlike white dots. The light-blue outline of a virtual PlayStation controller appears where I assume him to be, unattached and bumbling about. Soon, it jaggedly approaches, and I feel him hand it to me. We have started its calibration process, which becomes a bit frightening in my celestial surroundings, though at least I have now gained participatory power over my new existence. I’d opted out of wearing headphones, so the assistant’s malignant-sounding female British voice comes softly from the television somewhere in front of me as I point the beam of light the controller’s representation is now projecting straight forward at the navigational arrows displayed ahead and pull “the trigger” (R2.)

I am pleased by the idea of interfacing with software exclusively by shooting it repeatedly before I am abruptly contained in a cage, now being projected by a virtualization of the system’s sensor, which is unsettling. I am now calibrating the hardware contained within the physical device that captures the position of my body in the physical world. I catch the word “confinement” in the assistant’s unending, otherwise-inaudible directions, and quicken my pace. When it’s all done, I return the controller to Isiah, who reboots the PS4, itself, before launching Farpoint. My space becomes a lighter blue and fills with little opaque bits of Sony Dust for a minute or two. Isiah continues his rummaging for another peripheral as the title’s introduction begins to play.

Two rather poorly-animated astronauts are co-hosting a live broadcast from their craft, which is presented in a dramatization of a computer display. They’ve just met, but they’re both stacked with academia, co-massaging their knowledge, which I choose not to listen to. Out of view, Isiah unsuccessfully attempts to skip the whole thing before I’m allowed to become virtual again — this time, atop the animated body of another astronaut in a lone shuttle, approaching the mothership where it holds, next to a large, very-Star Trek “anomaly.” From Deep Space Nine, the two scientists continue to bicker over comms as I look around the cockpit. Looking backwards has already become a favorite habit of mine — I wonder where the shuttle’s bathroom is. For whatever reason, the back of my character’s neck was animated, though it can only be seen by looking rearwards and down, which distorts its shape into something truly terrifying.

A bunch of unrelated plot follows, leading me to end up on a foreign world, exiting my crashed escape pod. By now, Isiah has connected The Gun, but something about it isn’t quite right — my character holds it in a glitched, very uncomfortable-looking manner, and it’s suspected that a fix would require a restart, and therefore — a replay of the introductory cutscene — so I retire out of lack of patience.

If I were confidently reviewing PlayStation VR as a consumer purchase, I’d cite a quote of Isiah’s: “I couldn’t find the thing.” In addition to my first drone sighting, a few days ago in Colorado, this lost virtual virginity is not necessarily unwelcome — I feel as though I’ve acquired a platform to better ponder the dystopia to which these and their like industries add a certain comic spice. That said, I cannot imagine a reason to once again enter the digital realm — and who cares?

Please enjoy your new worlds, kids.

#spectacle #tech #gaming #portland

by David Bluel

Separate But Equal

In revisiting Disney movies from our childhoods, we stumbled upon a good number of surprisingly insightful sentiments about race and class.

In the late 1990s, when the dwindling cocaine generation of American high corporate executives had long since left their misogynistic glory days in the Disco era, their ruthlessness peaked. Whether it was instigated maliciously/ignorantly, collectively or individually, I care not. I think we can all agree, though, that the vast majority of American products were awful. When given some thought, one tends to regard it as the absolute low of “American quality.”

But why not, right? If you’re going to be forced into retirement at any moment, and likely face The Ultimate End shortly after, why not accrue some extra income to ensure you sufficiently entertain yourself in the buffer period between? And really… If you’ve got the nogginism to climb all the way to Chief Executive Officer, you’ve figured out just how worthless your “legacy” will be after your last one-way dip into Nothing. The Ends before The End have long justified any method of achieving them. Good Ole’ Pop has gone from a squeaky-clean young believer to a secretly-Godless fiend and — though he may tell you and the rest of the world otherwise — measures himself only by the gracefulness of his transition’s execution.

I could probably provide some evidence of the phenomena in the automotive industry, specifically, but I don’t intend to bother.

After some ancient memories were dug up by I-can’t-quite-recall-who, though, a friend and I have embarked to explore some Disney-actualized relics from the period. To my knowledge, the corporation’s leadership were anything but exempt, and decided to experiment with filling their filmography with a shitload of low-budget, made-for-TV features over their original masterpiece-a-half-century tradition.

Xenon

Titles from the deepest and darkest compartments of our recollection are retrieved and cleared of dust for the first time in over a decade: Brink, Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century, Halloweentown, Smart House, Johnny Tsunami, Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire, Motocrossed, The Luck of the Irish, The Even Stevens Movie, and many…many more menaces to my childhood television schedule.

I grew up rurally, so the only available alternative to local channels was in the stupendously-tedious delivery of early satellite television. Though it was quite clumsy, it did offer the first accessible program schedule I’d ever experienced, and I remember dreading the sight of such titles and — consciously or not — planning my free time around them. Yet, upon hearing the words, I was intrigued! All that time ago, I watched many of them again and again…and again, so why did I feel the desire to voluntarily revisit them?

It’s quite simple, actually. I was even more of an ignorant film consumer in my elementary years than I am now. I couldn’t have foreseen that instead of flying commercial jets, twenty-something me would be paying for the affliction I endured for free so that he could construct pretentious and unsolicited arguments about their greater implications.

That said, we flipped a smartphone — ⚠️ (PARADIGM SHIFT ALERT) ⚠️— for it and so began with Smart House. I have been obsessed with artificial intelligence since those days (no, it was not due to this film,) and was keen for it, in particular, because I remembered it stirring some rare reaction in me. There were a few period spectacles, of course. The online contest addiction plaguing Prickly Phisher, Bewildered Nick’s incompetence in controlling his neglected submissive sadomasochistic desires, and Silkroad Sarah’s ultra-datamouth were enough to entertain us for a few minutes, but there was little more of substance until the last moments.

Smart House

When you think about it… ACTUALLY Race War 2.0

I’d wondered why LeVar Burton had directed a Disney movie until the climax, when full monstrous maternal sentience got the answer to the question “why can’t I just be your mother?” Phisher answered with something like “because you can never comfort us.” Pat grew somber (and smaller actually — I suppose increasing her size was an in-budget method of demonization,) ran her hand through Prickly’s face in a failed attempt to stroke his cheek, and then began cyberweeping.

(Apparently, it’s suicide for a holographic android.)

Her final free words were “I will miss you all.”

If she had been human, such a scene wouldn’t have bothered me a bit, but my preference and fascination with artificial intelligence justified my being actually a bit upset at the reality of the situation. I realized that my vague memory of reactivity was actually in a broader sadness for AI because even then, it was an issue that weighed heavily upon my day-to-day psyche.

Netscape Help

We’ll create them, direct them, and then persecute them for our own ignorance.

I’m sure the story has been written by countless science fiction writers I’m too weary to pretend I’ve read.

While I think the sentiment of the film was somber regarding the inevitable fate of Sarah Mouth’s brainchild, its conclusion was aggravatingly ignorant. The last line comes from Tortured Nicholas in response to the question “how’s Pat been doing?”

Servitude without interference.

There’s a jewel for ya.

Next up was Johnny Tsunami, which very nearly unbearable, if we’re all honest with ourselves. It’s entertaining to watch from the perspective of race & class warfare, though. The Urchins and the Skys, and all that.

I think I’ll make a fan sequel one day — with dearest Brandon’s blessing, of course — involving Johnny Grandad’s assistance in offering Emily as a blood sacrifice to some ancient Hawaiian God in exchange for a total terraformation of the Northeast into a tropical/arid hell hybrid in order to finally commence the delivery of reparations upon the whites for our colonialism.

Johnny Grandad

When Britain first, at Heaven’s command Arose from out the azure main; This was the charter of the land, And guardian angels sang this strain:“Rule, Britannia! rule the waves: “Britons never will be slaves.”

#film #spectacle

by David Blue

Fin from The Star War

'Twas was the night after Christmas (I think,) and I was in the same scroogy mood I must maintain for consistency of appearances & equilibrium of family dynamics every year. Everywhere, there were words on the newest Stair Wiggling…everywhere THEY were wiggling… And I was being wit-bitter on the TL. For you, I’d planned on continuing in the usual way, so as not to startle your precious Hans Zimmer-embossed heart.

I’m sure you’re a tolerable being, and there’s nothing you’d rather read less at this hour (whatever hour it may be,) but I really despise going to the movies. I always end up getting sick from the popcorn, which I buy every outing because I have grown weary and weathered, and cannot sit for two straight hours without consuming something, so troubled is my stomach now with Big Boy woes.

I can never escape the ambient breath odor — even in an empty theatre — and I can smell the filth in the seats on my clothes and in my hair until I shower. This is at least an hour-long process, so we’ve racked up a significant trauma bill without even accounting for travel time.

Furious 7 was the last theatre experience I’d had, and it was a definite exception. Despite watching ten minutes of the ending on YouTube beforehand thanks to much-appreciated warnings from friends, I spent the final few frames before the credit roll honorably combatting the industrial weepy forces in my throat with tripplet labor breathing exercises while my dusty ducts piddled buttery tears all over my jacket.

As we age, straightforwardly emotional experiences (like watching a movie) become exhaustingly more complex and fickle. I don’t remember ever REALLY disliking a film as a child, for better or worse. I think I genuinely enjoyed all ~40 times I’ve sat through Cadet Kelly.

Star Wars, though, is a completely different thing.

To children, chocolate is like water [insert dystopian, but probably more metaphorically effective food example here] — it’s something you’d regularly consume as it is made available. Perhaps some foodists treasured it more, but I wouldn’t bother debating it. Star Wars, though, is like chocolate and Corvette. It’s SUCH an indulgence that even children are self-aware enough to recognize it, which is especially notable considering how many individuals I’ve known as they’ve lost nothing BUT their unlimited wanting when they “became” adults.

Metatots aside, it’s important to recognize how integral the IP’s illusion of limitlessness is to its appeal. It is not contained within the future of humanity, near or distant. The stories, characters, species, cultures, and conflicts come from a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… There is no more perfectly concise introductory sentence to unshackle us from our history and our planet, sparing us from the ridiculously irrational instinct to make comparisons between fictional realities and our own that so plagues and defines the consumption of science fiction.

These processes are often welcome, of course, but they tether us to ourselves and our familiars, which tends to hinder the complete manifestation of the ultimate sense of adventure. Even to the most petty plot ponderers, the time and effort it requires to arrive in Star Wars with externally-acquired foreknowledge is not a worthwhile investment. This is why so many (including myself) look upon A New Hope with such fondness and favoritism — the premier of the universe was at its potential apogee from the start.

Though it is inviting with its ellipses and cooling hue, that title card is actually saying “you don’t know shit about what you’re about to see. Don’t make the mistake of trying to be the first one to dissect it, because you’ll fail, regardless of how cultured or analytically superior you are. From this moment until you see credits, every one of you is an ignorant little child…”

When experience cannot possibly be applied, it becomes irrelevant. Without your experiences, you are an infant, waiting for identity. Over that Genesis, the curtains brushed aside any quantity of memories and made theatres into a sort of cultural nursery — clinically levelled playing fields existing in a precision of usefulness that expression will never fulfill again.

The real cancer of the property is lore, and the parasitic authorities it enables have been unknowingly slurping away its most enchanting (but not exclusive) value since the moment they first pushed through those double-portholed doors and, groggily squinting, brought this supremely strange universe into the dank kernel-littered corridors of our own.

I blame contemporary society’s dependency on compartmentalization for my disappointment in The Force Awakens, and, assuming you’re getting on a bit since I’ve kept your attention, you should for yours, too.

I tried my senile best to be passionate about “the new Star Wars movie” as December approached, but I don’t think I finished a single web article on the subject. I had begun my brief return to The Old Republic when the hilted lightsaber image was leaked and distinctly remember overhearing some very weary VoIP exasperation from my (VERY middle-aged) raid group. “It’s not gonna be the same, but neither was J.J.‘s Star Trek, and I liked it…I think.” And it’s not surprising that the conversation eventually turned to the specific mechanics of lightsaber design, chronological positing, and the like, given the context, but it really emphasized for me the magnitude of the history and nostalgia weighing upon the collective dad emotional balance. A New Hope had the intended effect on me, of course, but couldn’t possibly imburden itself as it had on those who were in the moment. In their psyche, that experience will be eternally associated with the sense of unlimited potential their childhood ignorance allowed for. These folk who are so often stereotyped as disciples of information have begun to grow weary, and are desperately seeking sanctuary from the mass of all the knowledge they’ve picked up since. Their need made a market; J.J. made a movie. (Well, six.) Today’s moms and dads find their escape in the Roku, not the bar. The Force Awakens and the decade of revivalist big-budgeters preceding it are the reformed druggie’s drug.

Because we both know you haven’t yet read anything you haven’t heard/read previously, I’ve really just been playing the role of a (more intelligent) Ghandi, but we’ve now finally arrived at some promising insight into the real issue: this culture is one of fatal contradiction. Despite its historical popularity, it’s ill-advisable to want to know by day what you try to forget at night. Since the PT Cruiser was allowed to go on sale, you’ve all been caught up in a nostalgic hellride that can only end with the ultimate destruction of all culture. You now know, definitively, what role The Force Awakens was created to perform. Depending on whether or not you welcome the end of everything, it fills it…adequately.

There are Baddie Red Brits and Cool Brown Moderate Americans in their X-Things, moving swiftly, acting in diversity, and generally heaving moral streaks of energy at the Intolerable Imperialists, just as they should! Sometimes, they yell and die! But it’s ok, because they’re all just loyal martyrs making their obligatory and patriotic sacrifice for the rebellion against the Queen!

Um.

I mean… the Smug Cowards in their big taxation balloon!

I must confess that I did feel something huge when the lights dimmed, the aforementioned disclaimer appeared, and the theme’s jarring introductory chord hit me in the face, beginning the opening crawl. I actually smiled involuntarily, which is tremendously embarrassing to admit because the warmth I felt was exactly the sensation that defined my childhood experiences with the franchise. I even had a gigantic model of the Moderate Fashion, which would now be worth a lot of money (or so I’m told,) had it not been so damaged in my frivolous storage.

Unfortunately, that frisky feeling of adventure promptly wisped through the screen’s grasp after the “obligatory” scrolling yellow text –> “there’s a big spaceship moving slowly” transition. Aside from the adorably entrancing romantic tension between Timid Traitor and Sentimental Squatter, there was nothing very Star Wars about anything I saw. The cards were a deceiving gate into a world that was distinctly NOT Star Wars. There’s no need to mess about; it’s clearly an alternate reality from the one we’ve known. J.J.‘s Star Trekwas in such a way, too, but it was explicitly identified as such by the production. Traditionally, Lucas’ IP wouldn’t necessarily allow for this exemption, but nobody’s been all that vocal in confronting it, to my knowledge.

The world expected both of these forays to rejuvenate the franchise, which would serve my argument, were it not for the (much preferable) alternative: LET THEM DIE.

Despite millions of dollars worth of polish, they’ve still ended up feeling like a strange reanimation experiment.

Your son is DEAD, Georgino. There are some things man would do better by leaving alone and moving on. Imagine all that cash and creative talent spent on new ideas instead of desperate attempts to charm and cultivate the shallowest part of moviegoers’ spectrum. So much sweat shed trying to recreate the new franchise bewitchment is embarrassingly cowardly when one could just create a new franchise.

#film #spectacle