Extant, et cetera

I finished watching the science fiction TV series Extant this morning. I could only watch it through Amazon Prime which meant a 4 day delay between airings and availability – each week in the meantime I had to avoid looking at the online reviews for spoilers, and especially for the comments, which were in some ways the best thing about this series.

It had really good intentions. Many people complained about the pacing (it was kind of slow and boring at times; often when it should have been crackling it felt lethargic), but I went along with that. It seems they introduced too many leads to tidy up, but I’ve never been one to demand total cleanup. One could well ask, what happened to the immortality-seeking billionaire? He just vanished from the story line. Or, sheesh, someone call the police on the terrorist maybe? Or, did the space center blow up with the android kid or not? Nobody seemed terribly concerned about anything, “five days later”. The husband was sort of a pussy with a weird accent. I never liked him. And Halle Berry often seemed completely frozen, as if she went on periodic acting-strikes. How about when they ran away, they went to her dad’s house? Who would ever think of looking there?

And yet, there were plenty of nice litte touches. I enjoyed the mysterious and sometimes creepy little android kid. And I liked “the offstring”, a sort of mini-me Michael Jackson Thriller clonelet with occasionally bright yellow eyes who could make people inhabit physically coherent virtual realities pulled straight out of their memories a la Solaris, and thereby mind-fuck them into doing whatever it was he wanted them to do. Sometimes he seemed to have to “feed” on people’s brains. Other times, not so much. He matured from fetus to twelve year old in a few short weeks, but then stopped aging entirely, as if twelve were a perfectly capable age to stick to. He was pretty cool, messing with people’s deepest darkest desires (to have their dead daughter back again, for example) and then just offing them for no apparent reason (perhaps a double meaning on the term “offspring”). The space station was pretty cool, the artificial limb technology was sweet, the artifical intelligence experiment with the kid had tons of promise, which unfortunately got bogged down in lessons about “humanity”. Seriously,  intelligent machines will have their own realities to experience. I still hold (as I expressed in my story Renegade Robot), that a real AI won’t give a shit about people and will likely inhabit their own spheres, much as we humans have little to do with the world of hummingbirds.

You knew there was going to be a showdown between the half-alien kid and the android kid, and boy did they waste that opportunity. But I guess you can’t get everything you want. The show developed slowly, and at that pace it needed more time, maybe twice as many episodes, but there’s no luxury like that in TV land it seems.

In other notes, my nephew’s wife is a staff writer for the funny and engaging FX sitcom You’re The Worst. I can recommend that for all of the side characters as well as the main ones. There’s some great potential in there, and after its ten episode first season we’re hoping it gets more time too.

I haven’t blogged in a while. I am #stillnotwriting. I’ve been spending most of my little free time and creative energy producing short music pieces (I have a one-minute rule, an idea I got from Caveh Zahedi and his interesting movie In the Bathtub of the World, where he shot a minute of his life every day for a year and cut it down to a 90 minute film). Anyone interested in that can check it out on SoundCloud at Emergency Test Lab 29, and if not I would still highly recommend my playlist there, which currently consists mainly of the great Nu-Cumbia producers El Buho and Chancha via Circuito. I listen to these guys all day long while attempting to program in Scala, my tenth and so-far least favorite programming language. (tenth? really? basic, c, c++, java, ruby, python, perl, php, javascript, scala, yup, tenth).

I haven’t even been reading much lately. Sometimes literature and writing seems so far away. I also have little interest in the worlds of publishing or promotion these days. I did recently re-read my own sci-fi sort-of Unwritten Rules of Impossible Things and enjoyed it. I’m glad I wrote that stuff, glad I put it all online, glad I gave it all away. It’s all in its own context now, experiencing its own realities, I suppose. It doesn’t have much to do with me at this point.  It’s all in the nature of ebb and flow, input and output, it comes and goes. I say, let it come and let it go, and don’t worry about a thing, pretty mama. Chevere?

 

Popcorn Maker Video – To Stay in Christchurch

I’ve been working with Mozilla‘s new Popcorn Video project to create a videomix, including a music video I shot of Darren Tatom performing his song ‘Stay’ at the Gap Filler Pallet Pavilion on Durham Street in Christchurch, along with some photos and accompanying text of the city at the time of the concert. You can make your own popcorn video by playing with it here 

To watch To Stay in Christchurch (the embed code doesn’t seem to work, at least not in wordpress)

Self-Publishing in Music History

The book ‘How Music Works‘ by David Byrne has many, many interesting things to say. Highly Recommended and I’ll get around to a more complete review later, but here’s one of those fascinating bits of history I didn’t know. The earliest recording devices, from Edison and Victor, were used for home recording. You could press your own records on wax discs in the comfort of your own home, and people did!

“The early phonographs were like YouTube – everyone was swapping homemade audio recordings. Composers were even recording their playing and then playing along with themselves. Soon enough that function was taken away. I would be inclined to believe that this anti-participatory, non-egalitarian move by the manufacturers might have been urged by the newly emerging recording companies, who would have claimed that they weren’t being evil but simply wanted to market ‘quality’ recordings that would elevate the musical taste of their customers and the nation as a whole. Victor and Edison had even ‘signed’ a number of artists, and naturally wanted you to buy their recordings, not make your own. The battle between amateurs and ‘professionals’ isn’t new; it has been fought (and often lost) many times over.”

How little different that is from self-publishing, where the traditional publishers ‘own’ the ‘quality’ authors and the rest are merely scrap on the heap!

moving on

reading David Byrne’s chapter about performance in his book How Music Works, he talks about how the audience always wants to hear their favorite hits from the past, while the musician wants to play his new stuff. the artist gets tired of touring and wants to create. after all, this is why he is an artist. for painters and sculptors and writers who create permanent pieces, those favorite hits are always with them, always available to the audience like musician’s record album. for those artists, what’s done is done and it’s time to move on. I wonder if, on their versions of tours, they get sick of answering the same questions about the same old pieces. no doubt. the next thing is always the most interesting to the artist. in some ways the old stuff is just like dead matter. it belongs to the past.

The Artist in Context

This interesting interview with David Byrne (of Talking Heads fame) has been on my mind the past few days. He discusses the myth of the lone artist off creating eternal works in isolation, and how, rather, every artist creates only within layers of context. These layers can be viewed from different perspectives; you can zoom in (as it were) or zoom out to these different viewpoints. You can zoom in to the artist’s current surroundings and milieu, zoom out a bit to their localized era (the ‘spirit of their age’), zoom out some more for more historical perspectives (gender, race, politics, age) and even further for more general insights into the human condition, animal being and so on. Even when you zoom in all the way on the artist in isolation, he (or she) is in fact teeming with influences from within and without, such as thoughts flitting around, emotions from circumstances past and present. As an artist develops their work, the events of every day life intervene and make their presence felt. Each piece, whether it’s of music, writing, painting, or drama, carries with it all these layers of context. Byrne also emphasizes physical context – how the acoustics of a place influence the music that is created there, how the light in a studio influences the colors a painter uses. Very interesting stuff.

The idea was driven home even further by my reading of Patti Smith’s memoir, “Just Kids”. The name-dropping in this book is jaw-dropping (but being one of those names herself makes it justified). She brought her raw self into the circles she found herself in (New York City, 1969-1970’s, Chelsea Hotel) but her raw self was shaped and molded by many powerful influences. You find yourself wishing it had been your own damn raw self that had also been dropped into that blender of space and time and that yours too had turned out so outrageously! Yet it’s not merely accident, not merely luck. You – whoever and whenever and wherever you are – also have to align yourself, and also on many levels. You have to align within yourself (be and accept who you truly are) and where and when you are. Go where you ought to be and do what you ought to be doing. Are there people who can actually do this? If so, they are some lucky bastards.