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My Other Internet is a Tablet

[ Comments Off ]Posted on January 7, 2013 by admin in Popular Media

Monday, January 7th, 2013

Why the web is dead, this website sucks, and why you’ll see me on your Kindle soon.

Not only did they use a hashtag on the cover of the final print edition, probably the only way you can get a copy of the thing is on the Kindle.

I’ve been saying that the internet is dead for a while now, but apparently people only listen when you say this kind of thing if you’re Anil Dash. If you visit that link, please note the irony of the fact that his comment section is handled by a Facebook widget. But really, let’s face it. The web is dead. Google has turned search into an SEO-poisoned gutter of desperate web marketers paying to rank in Google so that Google will pay them for ranking. eBay is a shark-infested cesspool of hustlers and bidbots. And social networking? Puh-LEEZE. No one ever read your tweets anyway, and Facebook has served its only useful purpose, which was letting you re-connect with that long lost flame that previously you could only “Guilt Google” (when you weren’t busy Googlewanking) so you could either hook up, or finally remember why you lost track of each other in the first place. Why am I so adamant that social is dead? Well, about five years ago, while doing a little work I cringeingly called “Social Network Consulting”, I ran into a friend who actually had that printed on her business card! I asked her: “So what does that mean? You charge people to tell them to use Facebook and Twitter?” Our pockets – bulging with consulting fees – bounced as we had a belly laugh. Well guess what. There are now over 180,000 Social Media Experts on Twitter! Presumably, they’re all telling you how great Twitter is. At least they don’t waste entire paragraphs doing it, right? The last possible hope of the web getting interesting again was dangled before us not too long ago with the exciting label user generated content. I have a FEW things to say about THAT one. First of all, all you “users” have proven not only that you’re not capable of producing content worth reading, you don’t even stick to it! Just Google “I haven’t posted in a while”, and not only do you get 820 million results, Google conveniently suggests the more useful “sorry I haven’t posted in a while”. People also became disheartened quickly when they finally produced that book on Blurb or someplace, and even their FRIENDS didn’t by copies. Likewise when their Kickstarter campaign generated 200 bucks instead of the ten grand they had hoped for. Even the website you’re reading this article on sucks! It’s poorly-coded for mobile devices, the articles are too long, and thanks to the content scrapers – who prefer to call themselves “curators” so they don’t feel badly for building entire websites with other people’s original content – it ranks infinitely lower in search engines than it did even a year ago. (Insider secret: we’re shutting down to move to a new platform in the coming months)

But I’m not here to tell you how horrible life will be because of all this, I’m here to tell you how COOL it will be. A few interesting things happened last year. One was Read the rest of this entry »

Enter the Void

[ Comments Off ]Posted on January 26, 2012 by admin in Popular Media

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

If you’ve never died, done hallucinogenic drugs, had an out of body experience, or been in a serious car crash, you may have trouble connecting with the film “Enter the Void”. I’ve done pretty much all of those things, so this may be one of my favorite films in a decade.

Enter The Void on DVDIf you’ve never died, done hallucinogenic drugs, had an out of body experience, or been in a serious car crash, you may have trouble connecting with the film Enter the Void. I’ve done pretty much all of those things, so in spite of rather mixed reviews, this is probably one of my favorite films in years. I don’t know how I didn’t hear about this film when it came out in 2010, but…ah, scratch that. Clocking in at 2 hours and 41 minutes, and being comprised mainly of visually stunning, meandering shots of Tokyo sex clubs, street scenes, car crashes, swirling colors, and neon landscapes that connect a bunch of vignettes that border on pornographic or feature death, drug abuse, sex, and birth, the film didn’t enjoy a very wide release or much promotion in the states. Which is a shame, because I think – with one trivial criticism – it borders on being a cinematic masterpiece, eschewing tired, 120-page-script-driven storytelling to embrace the amazing tools that film puts at one’s fingertips. I would be willing to bet that this is a film that David Lynch would have wished he could have made, which for many, of course, would be a solid argument AGAINST the idea that it might be a masterpiece. In any case, while reading negative reviews one thing you’ll consistently notice is that the reviewer will say incredibly thick-headed, entertainment-biased things about plot development, acting skills, or their frustration with the length or having to view the back of the central character’s head more than they’d like. As a film lover since childhood, reviews like this simply affirm to me that this is indeed a great film; if you’re not pissing someone off, you’re probably doing it wrong. And director Gaspar Noé  does it right in this film, managing to tell a textured, multi-layered story that is only simplistic – or “puerile” as one critic put it – if you’re too stupid or impatient or lazy to grasp what is being explored. The “plot” is launched by the main character Oscar’s introduction to the The Tibetan Book of the Dead as he starts a drug trip, and then is presumably killed. The ensuing two hours are a journey through life, death, base human experience, beauty, love, loss, and more, brilliantly told with little dialogue. Most of the film is a seamlessly connected series of mostly overhead shots as you journey from interior to interior, to the night streets of Tokyo, to strange “other worlds” of light and sound, and to flashback scenes from childhood. Thanks to remarkable implementation of boom shots, helicopter shots, handheld, CGI, lighting effects, and even tilt-shift-like focus effects, it’s impossible to tell – and therefore not disruptive to the flow – when one or another is being utilized. The stunning visuals are lent much of their effectiveness and seamlessness by some of the most brilliant sound design I’ve ever experienced. Arguably one of the most overlooked apects of creating film as art, Enter the Void’s “soundtrack” is on par with films like 2001 in terms of sound as an integrated part of stoytelling, which is probably not a coincidence – apparently Gaspar Noé saw 2001 at the age of seven, inspiring him at that point to become a filmmaker. If you’re interested in the technical aspects of how the film was made, there’s a detailed summary on Wikipedia. But I honestly wouldn’t recommend reading much about the plot, the technique, or the critical reception – I’ve said far too much here. The film just left enough of an impression on me that I had to spread the word. I personally saw the film after seeing nothing more than the image below. I somehow knew instantly that the film had something I needed to experience, and I was not disappointed. If you decide to check it out, just make sure you actually have the time and space to enjoy the film – it’s not for the impatient, and is as long and ponderous as it is brilliant. Read the rest of this entry »

Alien Invasion Films 2011: Block, Schlock, and Earthlings In Peril

[ Comments Off ]Posted on November 14, 2011 by admin in Popular Media

Monday, November 14th, 2011

The teen heroes of the last year’s best alien invasion film “Attack The Block” will probably save the Earth, but they’ll have to ask mom first. And thanks to the massive marketing budgets of “Battle: Los Angeles” and “Skyline”, their working-class heroism has gone largely unacknowledged.

attack the block DVDI have a suggestion for the makers of alien invasion schlockbusters Battle: Los Angeles and Skyline. I think they should surrender enough of their grotesquely immense profits to the makers of the REAL winner of the past year’s alien invasion movie invasion – Attack the Block – that it at least breaks even at the box office. I mean, I’m not going to be as mean as Roger Ebert about it, but as excellent as “Saving Private Ryan”, “Blackhawk Down”, and “District 9″ were, there’s no need to spend 70 million bucks chopping them together haphazardly into ANOTHER film, wasting thousands of people-hours of solid acting, dynamic camera work, and expensive consultations with the military, only to turn out a heartless war movie sprinkled sparingly with aliens. And “Skyline” – in spite of its inventive alien visuals and the potential in its “human brains as energy” premise – seemed to share two of the greatest weaknesses of “Battle”. If you’re going to hire a bunch of actors and make them act a bunch, at least let them act like people someone will CARE about. In both films, I think many viewers probably CHEERED the demise of key characters not only because they were fundamentally unlikeable, but also because it meant the movie would end that much sooner. At least in films like “Independence Day” you got to see absurdly gratifying moments like Will Smith dragging the alien through the desert cussing. If you haven’t seen “Attack The Block”, put it on the top of your list. It’s probably one of the most fun alien invasion films since Mars Attacks! It was produced by the same people that brought us “Shaun of the Dead”, and is a gratifying 88 minutes of stylish visuals, amusingly engaging action, and meta-ironic social commentary. All taking place in a single working class flatblock of South London. Hilariously, for the film’s American release, Sony Pictures came close to adding subtitles, concerned that American audiences wouldn’t be able to understand the characters’ South London “Jafaican” accents. Thankfully, they left well enough alone; the street slang banter of the kids as they battle the aliens is about half of the genius of the film. You owe it to yourself to watch “Attack” the next time you’re looking for some humorous adventure in your sci-fi, and we ALL owe it to the film’s creators to at least help them break even. This little flick is a gem. Read the rest of this entry »

Problema – The Film

[ Comments Off ]Posted on October 19, 2011 by admin in Popular Media

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

What has 224 legs, 336 eyes, takes 5 years to mature, and lives for 95 minutes? One of the most thought-provoking films you’ll ever see, Problema.

Aerial view of the shoot of Problema
An aerial view of the “set” of Problema

What would happen if you rounded up thought-provoking questions from people all over the world, then gathered about a hundred thoughtful people together in a huge circle, pointed cameras at them, and asked the questions one by one? Well, a cacophonous murmur would probably ensue, until you edited the results into some kind of cohesive whole, as director Ralf Schmerberg did with his epic film project Problema. The project was inspired by the Dropping Knowledge project, a global information sharing and media project founded in 2003. On a single day in September, 2006, over a hundred individuals – artists, scientists, writers, business people, and other thinkers – took their place around a huge circle in Berlin’s Bebelplatz. This was a powerfully symbolic choice – the Bebelplatz was the location of the infamous Nazi book burnings of 1933. With digital cameras pointed at each guest, hosts Willem Dafoe and Hafsat Abiola (founder of Nigeria’s Kudirat Initiative for Democracy) asked 17 of 100 questions that had been selected from the thousands that were submitted worldwide via the Dropping Knowledge project. The guests then responded in their own time, with the cameras all running continuously, all framing the guests in a tight headshot. Guest Wim Wenders – director of the film Wings of Desire – astutely pointed out the similarity between the resulting murmur and the way the angels in his film had no choice but to hear the thoughts of humans everywhere, which created much of the lush sonic backdrop of Wings of Desire. Schmerberg – Problema’s director – managed to capture much of this live feeling of the event by interspersing compelling, sometimes tear-inducing images with a lively mixture of both concise, eyes-at-the-camera answers, and almost out-take-like moments of verité in which the attendees fumbled with their thoughts or spoke in asides to the guests sitting next to them. The result is a thought-provoking documentary unlike any you’ve seen before. If you’re a caring person who lives in the so-called “First World”, a question like “Does our wealth depend on the Third World being poor?” might make you think “Well of course, and it’s a shameful tragedy”.  But you’ll suddenly be forced to ponder things like what a bogus concept the “Third World” is in the first place, or how much freedom you have if you live in a powerful western capitalist country, when a sophisticated, educated person from Colombia points out that he for instance is only able to visit a place like Berlin because of a four day visa connected with the making of the film. He otherwise is barred from our “first world” as a second-rate global citizen who “has no right to enter our paradise” as he puts it. Although you may find Problema quite watchable on your own, you might find it a lot more interesting if you watch it with some intelligent friends, so you can discuss the world of questions it is likely to raise in your heart and your head. To view the film as a particapatory event, the Problema website offers a screening  page that allows you to publicize the event, but you can just download it and watch it with friends if you like – it’s free, provided in multiple file formats, and can be downloaded by bittorrent or as a direct file.

Why Am I Writing eBooks When I Don’t Even Own A Kindle?

[ Comments Off ]Posted on October 16, 2011 by admin in Popular Media

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

The publishing world is going through a massive paradigm shift. Just in time to confuse the hell out of me.

This might have SOMETHING to do with it.

Me and eBooks go way back. Not quite as far back as the first time I used the wrong first-person pronoun on purpose, but at least back to about 1992, when I worked in one of the coolest bookstores ever: AfterWords, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It was a store that mostly sold remainders, quality reprints, and small press stuff that was hard to find. One day while pricing a huge stack of of the hardcover version of I’m Only One Man, Regis Philbin’s biography, I casually mentioned something about how I’d just read in Wired magazine about the still-only-imagined eBook, and what a cool idea I thought it was. It took me a moment to notice the sudden silence around me. I looked up to find myself being stabbed through with a dagger-like look in the five eyes of my co-workers (one had just injured their eye and was wearing an eye-patch). The look in their eyes made it clear that they were collectively pondering the idea of paper-cutting me to death. “What, what, WHAT?”, I said. But I knew that it was just the book lover in them all that was causing this reaction. It was like suddenly I was the fireman from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and I was there to burn all their books. As much as I agreed with them about the feel and smell of a comforting bound book, they really just didn’t seem to care about the number of trees left in the world, the idea that you could carry every book you’ve ever owned in a notebook-size device, or the idea that it would never wear out, and could be highlighted repeatedly without devaluing it. Well, we’ve come a long way since then. So far that not only is AfterWords long-since defunct, but even the corporate monsters that destroyed them are dying. This has not impacted my reading habits a lot, in spite of the fact that I don’t own a Kindle or an iPad. Although I have to say the Kindle Fire is very tempting, and who doesn’t want an iPad? Well, me, for the moment. But in any case, if I really want to read a particular book, I buy it or get it from the library. And far and away I do more short-form reading on the web. But this whole traditional book vs. eBook issue just became of critical importance to me. Why? Because I have a more or less finished book that I’m getting ready to peddle, and I just co-authored another book with a development partner. We’re developing a series of personal transformation products (we also maintain a sort of sandbox site called TheWellnessAddict.com) which will include a variety of books. So we submitted this first co-authored book to a publisher where my partner has been published before, and as we did so, Read the rest of this entry »

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