“The two really bad ideas that are hovering in the modern world that are inhibiting our capacity to draw strength from art – The first idea is that art should be for art’s sake: a ridiculous idea. An idea that art should live in a hermetic bubble and should not try and do anything with this troubled world. I couldn’t disagree more. The other thing we believe is that art shouldn’t explain itself. That artists shouldn’t say what they’re up to. Because if they said it it might destroy the spell and you know we might find it too easy. That’s why a very common feeling when you’re in a museum, let’s admit is, is ‘I don’t know what this is about’, but if we’re serious people we don’t admit to that. But that feeling of puzzlement is structural to contemporary art.”— Alain De Botton from his Atheism 2.0 talk http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Oe6HUgrRlQ
“I’m a paradox. I want to be happy, but I think of things that make me sad. I’m lazy, yet I’m ambitious. I don’t like myself, but I also love who I am. I say I don’t care, but I really do. I crave attention, but reject it when it comes my way. I’m a conflicted contradiction. If I can’t figure myself out, there’s no way anyone else has.”—Unknown (via thatkindofwoman)
CONCIERGE: Bocce Ball Court! GUEST: Empire State Building! CONCIERGE: Unicorn Parade! GUEST: What?! I’m asking for directions to the Empire State Building. CONCIERGE: Oh! I though we were just saying things. I didn’t hear a question.
This week, health authorities in New Zealand announced that the tightly quarantined island nation — the only place I’ve ever been where you get x-rayed on the way into the country as well as leaving it — has experienced its first…
Earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, a peculiar film premiered called Escape From Tomorrow. What sent most people reeling was the movie was somehow filmed under the surveillant eye of The Mouse entirely on location at both of Disney’s parks. As many critics noted, it’s a film that shouldn’t even exist.
The film tells the tale of a man who takes his family to Disney on vacation and after a chance encounter slowly begins to lose his sanity within the hyper-constructed virtual reality of the cartoon park.
As can be seen in the trailer it is twisted and surreal. It turns our conception of Disney as a safe place where everyone is happy and is nothing but joyful and turns it inside out. It’s that same saccharine dream that fuels the nightmare it becomes when its contrasted with the real world.
I have not actually seen the film, only the trailer. What brought my attention to to the film was a review of it on Indiewire by Scott Renshaw. He suggests that what Escape From Tomorrow portrays is exactly how people do Disney Land wrong and by extension do their life wrong. That is, those folks who go there to compensate for their inadequacies or as he puts it, are “incapable of managing the frustration of expectations that don’t match reality.”
Basically what occurs in the movie is we see a man’s life breakdown in the one place where that type of thing is never supposed to happen. Where life is bucolic and serene and nothing sad ever occurs. So when he is confronted with reality within the virtual reality these two worlds clash and cause him to breakdown.
What Renshaw is saying then, is that the problem with these people who do both Disney and their life wrong is that they can’t handle reality so the escape from it, at least temporarily, by escaping to a fantasy world. He juxtaposes his own appreciation of Disney and how he does it right which is to say he is self-conscious of the artificial construction of the theme park as nothing but a spectacle that exists to simply entertain us. It is a show, nothing more and we shouldn’t treat it as a panacea for the grim realities of everyday life. Which is to say, we shouldn’t be going into these places expecting them to change our lives. Just accept them for what they are. Pure fantasy.
He expresses this point thusly:
In interviews, Moore has described himself as someone who visited Orlando’s Disney World multiple times as a child, only spotting “cracks in the veneer” once he visited as an adult with his own wife and kids. So he wrote a movie about the disconnect between a man whose sense of his masculinity is crumbling — his job lost, his wife barely seeming to tolerate him — stuck in a place where visitors are expected to be having the most joyous time of their lives. It’s a skewering of the Disney brand in a way, sure, but it’s more a skewering of a not-quite-realized American Dream rotting the foundations of an idealized Everyfamily, USA — Blue Velvet with mouse ears.
He then goes on to explain his love of Disney:
That idea, however, has virtually nothing to do with why I love Disneyland. Of course the immersive sense of wonder is a show; the drama comes from those who expect the external perfection of the parks to translate into a perfect experience, free from over-tired kids, crushing crowds and long lines. Intentionally or not, Moore turns Escape from Tomorrow into something relatively profound about the way people do Disneyland wrong, as a metaphor for the way they do life wrong — incapable of managing the frustration of expectations that don’t match reality.
Renshaw’s love of the park never transcends just what it is because he has accepted it and the real world as such. The real world as something to be accepted as it is. We can’t, and should not, try to escape from it by believing in something that transcends it. Life, as it is, is not perfect nor is it ideal. Bad things happen and not everything works out. Deal with it or go crazy.
He distills this point perfectly in the final passage of his review:
Coincidentally, I’ll be making my next visit to Disneyland just a few days from now. I won’t be expecting the characters on “It’s a Small World” to turn into demons. But if they do, I’ll deal with it then. Even the Magic Kingdom, like life, can throw you a few curveballs.
The triviality of his final point betrays the heft of his initial critique. It’s not just that life throws curveballs when he begins. Life can never achieve the heights that a place like Disneyland convinces us it can, or must, achieve. So we must give up thinking that it should. Be happy if your life doesn’t fall apart rather than unsatisfied if it never become great.
When I first read this review of the film it filled me with frustration. For just as Renshaw perhaps quite rightly characterizes Moore’s portrayal of Disneyland as wrong so to is his experience with the park wrong. However, both are symptomatic of a condition that has been festering in art, entertainment and their appreciation for over 50+ years.
Ever since art began being defined as something that must be archetypal, formally aware and as a mirror of reality rather than something that transcends it we have set up this false dichotomy.
Rather than be sublimated and rendered passive by the escapist fantasies of places like Disneyland or by the films of Hollywood we must cultivate an awareness of the way the world really is. Stop kidding ourselves. Stop pretending to believe in the idyllic worlds of attractive people and perfect suburban lives of big blockbuster entertainment.
Of course, Disneyland has been one of the main metaphors for the erosion of the American Dream. The simulation of it rather than its realization. We believe it has been achieved because we go there to see it being played out. So when we became aware of this fact we sought to immerse ourselves in ‘reality’ instead.
Art after postmodernism appears to have suffered equally to the escapist fantasies of entertainment filmmaking and art by relegating anything too idyllic or utopian to the space of fantasy and entertainment. These things cannot exist so we must stop trying to pursue them. We must not pursue false images.
By rendering art’s job as only being a reflection of the way the world “really is” and entertainment being treated as a lie or virtual reality we have given up any belief in art’s ability to change things only to show.
Thus, be characterizing all fantasy as not inspirational, but escapist and all art being aware of the the way the world really is rather than how it could be, we no longer try to achieve anything more than how things are. There’s no reason to because life is bad. Reality is never more than the mundane.
We must not try to impose upon the world because there is no way to make it better than it already is. Fantasy is bad because it blinds us to the bad things in the world such as racism, sexism, hunger, genocide, etc.
So we have this false dichotomy of fantasy and the real world where never the twain shall meet. It is a cynical way of experiencing the world wherein we don’t look to anything to inspire feelings of how the world could be but only to either hide from it or become more aware of how it’s not perfect.
Accept life or go crazy. Those are your only two options.
Perhaps at one point the problem with escapist entertainment was that it distracted us from the harsh realities of everyday life. We put too much stock in it to hide from our mundane lives at least for a bit. But now art has been rendered impotent. What’s the point of continually reflecting and becoming increasingly more aware?
There was an article that was published on BBC News a couple years ago around the time of Occupy Wall St with the headline, “Does OWS Mark the End of Contemporary Art?” that I felt put the point well. Contemporary art suffers from its own excessively cerebral quality. It’s own awareness of itself as art thus it is rendered mute by anyone who doesn’t understand its intellectual underpinnings. It’s having a never ending conversation with itself. Its pedantic and obscurantist and pretentious.
OWS, on the other hand, was producing posters who’s message was required to be clear and immediately understood. We live in a time where people either have short attention spans or don’t have time to pour over a single work of art. They represented the immediate transmission of information to the masses for the sake of inspiring change. OWS was a political art as art. Even if it didn’t last or ultimately work, it represented the direction art must go in. To believe in something even in the face of reality. To transcend reality for the sake of an ideal however foolish and even if you fail.
Which is the purpose of fantasy. Or entertainment. These are not things that should be escaped but sprinted towards. Not as something achievable but as insurmountable goals that will affect our actions on our way towards them.
The more we become aware of the limitations of life in general the more we “check” our behavior in relation to them. We check our behavior against a fulcrum of what we believe we are capable of achieving. If we stop believing any effort we make can actually affect change, we stop trying. We think to fail is the reality and to succeed is just something that happens in movies. The likelihood of a risk working out is too low so there’s no point in even attempting it. Risks only work out in the movies. We must not take them. We must be realistic. That’s not how the world works.
If you have ten people take a risk and only one of them succeeds then the reality is that 9 people have failed and endangered their own lives and the lives of those around them. To say nothing of the affect that one individual’s success has had on the world at large.
We must stop reflecting upon how the world is and its multiple forms thus emptied of content. Art no longer has to be this cynical intellectual game we play amongst ourselves. But nor can it simply be a canvas or a brushstroke or a computer screen or a performance any longer. We can’t relegate the unreal to base forms of entertainment and decide that the true mission of any practice is to open people’s eyes. It doesn’t work that way. The awareness you are trying to foster is not cultivate through these types of intellectual discussions.
It must be an action underpinned with the belief in something more than what we are. We must transcend life as it is or life as we know it.
""How does the never to be differ from what never was?”"
Because we can still move towards it even if we fail.
Given the challenges to employing transparency as a check on algorithmic power, a new and complementary alternative is emerging. I call it algorithmic accountability reporting. At its core it’s really about reverse engineering—articulating the specifications of a system through a rigorous examination drawing on domain knowledge, observation, and deduction to unearth a model of how that system works.
As interest grows in understanding the broader impacts of algorithms, this kind of accountability reporting is already happening in some newsrooms, as well as in academic circles. At the Wall Street Journal a team of reporters probed e-commerce platforms to identify instances of potential price discrimination in dynamic and personalized online pricing. By polling different websites they were able to spot several, such as Staples.com, that were adjusting prices dynamically based on the location of the person visiting the site. At the Daily Beast, reporter Michael Keller dove into the iPhone spelling correction feature to help surface patterns of censorship and see which words, like “abortion,” the phone wouldn’t correct if they were misspelled. In my own investigation for Slate, I traced the contours of the editorial criteria embedded in search engine autocomplete algorithms. By collecting hundreds of autocompletions for queries relating to sex and violence I was able to ascertain which terms Google and Bing were blocking or censoring, uncovering mistakes in how these algorithms apply their editorial criteria.
All of these stories share a more or less common method. Algorithms are essentially black boxes, exposing an input and output without betraying any of their inner organs. You can’t see what’s going on inside directly, but if you vary the inputs in enough different ways and pay close attention to the outputs, you can start piecing together some likeness for how the algorithm transforms each input into an output. The black box starts to divulge some secrets.
The ultimate in creepy-yet-inevitable marketing tech has arrived: Supermarket shelves that track the age and gender of passing customers.
Supermarket giant Mondelez International, whose portfolio includes iconic brands like Chips Ahoy, Ritz, and Nabisco, is now testing shelves with integrated Microsoft Kinect sensors that determine the age and gender of passing shoppers. Mondelez says they won’t record individual data on passing supermarket shoppers, but will use the aggregate information to help tailor marketing campaigns. Mark Dajani, Mondelez’s Chief Information Officer, told the Wall Street Journal’s Clint Boulton the experimental shelves were part of a larger push by the global snack manufacturer to integrate sensor tech of the sort found in your smartphone into product research and marketing. Dajani said that other new technologies, such as embedded weight sensors that detect when customers pick up products, could help create precision marketing tools for the supermarket aisle to make sure consumers put chocolate chip cookies in their carts. Microsoft has been aggressively touting the use of Kinect for retailers. While best known as a gaming tool, Kinect’s sensor set allows retailers to inexpensively offer science fiction-like shopping experiences.
Terrifying, but I think this has existed for a while in other countries already?
When I made Brazil in 1984, I was trying to paint a picture of the world I thought we were living in then. The Zero Theorem is a glimpse of the world I think we are living in now.
Pat Rushin’s script intrigued me with the many pertinent questions raised in his funny, philosophic, and touching tale.
For example: What gives meaning to our lives, brings us happiness? Can we ever find solitude in an increasingly connected, constricted world? Is that world under control or simply chaotic?
We’ve tried to make a film that is honest, funny, beautiful, smart and surprising; a simple film about a complex modern man waiting for a call to give meaning to his life; about inescapable relationships and the longing for love; peopled with captivating characters, mouthfuls of wise and witty dialogue; raising questions without offering easy answers. Hopefully, it’s unlike any film you have seen recently; no zombies, no caped crusaders, no aliens or gigantic explosions. Actually, I might have lied about that last item.
Having not worked with a budget this small for several decades, I was forced to work fast and instinctively, pressured only by the lack of time and money. We relied on the freedom to spin on a dime, to make outrageous creative leaps. The results surprised even me. I’m proud to have been part of The Zero Theorem.
Two of the video streamer’s existing features are being combined meaning it will know more about what you want to watch than you do yourself.
By “smarter” they mean the queue will push all those smarter, more difficult films that you *really* want to watch but not until later, after you’ve watched Hoarders, I mean, I swear I’ll watch them eventually, I’m just not in the right mood or state of mind right now, to the bottom of the list.
“We also tend to think that our bodies respond to physical exercise in a mechanical way. We count our calorie intake, the calories we lose on a treadmill, etc. However, merely changing our thoughts about our physical activity seems capable of changing our bodies. Hotel room attendants clean on average 15 rooms per day, each room taking between 20 and 30 minutes to complete. (The physical activity involved meets the Surgeon General’s recommendation of at least 30 minutes of physical exercise per day for a healthy lifestyle.) However, most hotel room attendants believe that they do not get regular exercise; and a lot of them believe that they do not get any exercise at all. Alia Crum and Ellen Langer told hotel room attendants that their work provided the recommended exercise for a healthy lifestyle. This treatment group was monitored for 4 weeks. A control group of hotel room attendants, who were not told that their work provided the recommended exercise, was similarly monitored. People in the treatment group lost weight; their body fat percentages, waist-to-hip ratios, and systolic blood pressures dropped. People in the control group showed no such improvement. These changes occurred despite the fact that the hotel room attendants’ amount of work, amount of exercise outside of work, and diets stayed the same.”—Your Thoughts Can Release Abilities beyond Normal Limits: Scientific American (via wildcat2030)