Sunday, October 29, 2006

Le Denouement Wins!

This was a good weekend. We headed out of town Thursday afternoon and spent the weekend hanging out with friends and having a genuinely good time. It was a jam-packed weekend that really underlines how little time there is in a day when you try fit everyone in. For those we didn't get a chance to see, we'll be back down next weekend for Mandy's big 30th party, and we're looking really forward to catching up with everyone.

The big rush of the weekend came Friday when we all attended the 7th 24 Hour Film Festival. The top ten films (out of 21 entries) were selected and shown in the enormous theater 1 at Studio 28. For anyone who doesn't know, Theater 1 is the large house in the state of Michigan, seating over 800 people. It's also acts as a kind of Mecca for film geeks (specifically sci-fi geeks). It draws people for all over the state for opening night screenings of films. I've seen more movies in this theater than I can remember, dating back to my earliest movie-going childhood memories. I love this theater.

When you submit a film for the competition, the acadeny doesn't tell anyone whether their film made it to the top ten cut. You have to go to the theater and see if yours was selected. The films are shown in random order, with judges comments between each piece. Until your film shows, you sit in anxious anticipation, hoping the next piece to play is yours.

Ours was shown last. Oh man. When they started screen 8 and 9, I figured we were doomed. Then, after the title card "Film 10" faded out and I saw Mr. Croissant's name appear, I felt such a rush of elation. Everyone cheered and the whole of Theater sat in rapt silence as Jean-Baptiste's brilliance unfolded before us. They even showed me and my friend's little documentary about the film afterward - it was totally gratifying.

So, it was a blast to see something I helped create appear on the enormous screen. It something else altogether to win an award and be asked by my peers to stand before the mighty screen and say a few things on everyone's behalf. It was a very surreal / wonderful moment.

Sadly, director Jean-Baptiste Croissant wouldn't attend the screening, saying something about film festivals being too "Bourgeois." I accepted the award on his behalf, and if things go well, I should be able to reach him at autumn residence in Quebec, Canada. Ah, I love Skype and how it allows me to make free calls. I'll try to record the call and post it. It's one thing thing to see his films, it's another thing altogether to hear the genius speak.

I've included the video at the bottom of the post. It doesn't really do Mr. Baptiste's film justice to see it YouTubeized - but you should get the gist.

Le Denouement


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Singularity - A discussion with Jean-Baptiste Croissant

This past weekend, I had a discussion with famed film director Jean-Baptiste Croissant. While is most famous for the cult film "Le denouement", he is less known for his studies in economics, religion, and philosophy. We struck a chord with the idea of technology changing culture and I mentioned both Chris Andersen's "The Long Tail" and a concept called "The Singularity" that is getting picked up primarily by the speculative fiction crowd. I only mentioned these ideas in passing because A) My voice was so destroyed that I could barley speak and B) I don't know enough about either to carry on a meaningful discussion with a person of such intellect (he was reviewed in the Morlin Monthly!). I bring it up now because in the few days following the discussion, I have come across it again and again. I thought I would post some helpful links for anyone, famed director or not, to look into it if they're interested. I think the idea has some merit, but I'm cautious to jump on the "The singularity will be the greatest thing ever!" bandwagon, despite how much my geek-nerves might tingle at the prospect of augmenting my brain with crazy super-computers.

A simple synopsis from SSS:

"For over a hundred thousand years, the evolved human brain has held a privileged place in the expanse of cognition. Within this century, science may move humanity beyond its boundary of intelligence. This possibility, the singularity, may be a critical event in history, and deserves thoughtful consideration."

1. First, the actual '93 white paper by Vernor Vinge wherein he lays out the idea.
2. The Stanford Singularity Summit (SSS) where top writers, journalists, and hackers gather to discuss the idea.
3. An interview with Cory Doctorow (amazing author of Down and Out In The Magic Kingdom) at the conference.
4. "Nano Comes to Clifford Falls" a great short story / audio podcast featured on EscapePod arguing the pros and cons of the idea (with great commentary by Steve Eley)
5. The Transhumanist Manifesto (reformated into a FAQ) published on the 'World Transhumanist Association' website.
6. And of course, for full-disclosure, a collection of articles that are highly skeptical of the idea.

(On the shoot with Mr. Croissant himself)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

This American Life - PODCAST

Ever since my good friend Josh turned me on to This American Life, I've been trying to convince people to listen in. TAL is an amazing National Public Radio show that, each week, takes a basic theme and tells mini-documentary style stories based on that theme. It's gripping, funny, and incredibly well produced. Being a big fan of documentary, I've gone out of my way to see quite a bit of what's out there. So, I can tell you from experience that This American Life ranks as one of very, very best.

Today they announced that the shows are going to be released free, in podcast form. Each one is about an hour in length and makes for some of the most compelling listening around. If you're at all interested in audio documentary or compelling real-life stories, I would highly recommend subscribing to the feed and listening to some of the episodes.

Here's a link with more information and official press release.

Special K 's new cereal sucks!

I need to eat breakfast everyday, this is just a very obvious thing for me. The other thing that I need is a good source of protein in the morning - to give me an extra boost. Some people rely on coffee, for me it's breakfast.

If you know me, you know that I love cereal. I know I've got a good kind of cereal when it tastes great in a bowl with some Silk (or milk). I know I've got a great kind of cereal when you can eat it dry, right from the box. I eat all kinds of cereal, and I will try anything once...thus what leads to my rant.

It seems that Special K has a new cereal called Special K Protein Plus. Special K, which I like to eat, with added protein - needless to say I was sold. I was very eager to try some this morning when I woke up. As I poured it from the box, I grabbed a couple of flakes, popped them in my mouth and began to chew. BLEEEHHHH!!! I stared down at the bowl for a couple of seconds. It doesn't look like Special K, but I finally resolved that this was just a cereal that I would not be able to eat for a snack in the middle of the day.

I poured the Silk on and dove it. Oh my!!! Yuck!!! What is this cardboard, no flavor, hard as a brick cereal suckiness that I have in my mouth. GROSS!!!! I am thoroughly disgusted now, but as I no longer have time to get anything else I dumped some honey on it and choked it down.

This post is not only about me ranting, or having the opportunity to use the work suckiness. In fact, I wanted to get this out on the internet with the hopes that no one else would be subjected to such a horror of a breakfast.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


Two quick things:

1. I never posted the link to the Jaron Lanier article in Discover I mentioned in the Sept 25th post. It's a good summary of what I was saying (or trying to say) about the reductionist trend in culture, espeically surrounding geeks. It's also an argument against the idea that we can reduce all human interaction, thought, and existence to information, so that it will neatly follow the classical world. I like the article because I mostly agree with him, and it has a cool wit about it. Check it out.

2. I was listening to Coast to Coast this afternoon while testing an application. A subject was consciousness so they had an anestiaologist for a guest. In the fourth hour, when they take calls, a listener had this to say about a recent Roger Waters concert. I agree that there was a communal feeling about the event, but I wouldn't go as far as to say it was the single most amazing experienece ever. I just thought it coincedntal and interesting. Here's the clip.

(I love that the artist drew Homer with only three fingers)

Monday, October 02, 2006

What is there to explain?

(It's obviously Christopher Walken floating in outer space.)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Oh by the way...

Which one's Pink?

I can finally check off a major item on my list of "Life's To-Dos." Friday night I saw Pink Floyd lead man Roger Waters perform, among other things, the entirety of The Dark Side of the Moon. The weather turned cold and rainy as the weekend approached and it was raining and in the low 50s when we got into Chicago. Mandy and I went to a local sushi bar and had a great dinner while we waited for the concert to start and the rest of our friends (Chad, Megan, and Josh). The rain stopped and a very cold breeze started up as we headed out to the concert area, parked, and waited by the gate. When everyone else showed up, we headed in, found a spot high up on a hill and beheld the genius of Floyd play the greats.

It was really surreal. I've been to a bunch of concerts (I actually saw REM and Wilco at the same venue with my sister, bro-in-law, Josh, and Jon several years back) and I can say I've been to a concert quite like this. For starters, the concert was outdoors and it was freezing. Up to this point I've been fortunant enough to be holding lawn seat tickets on days when it was sunny and warm. This was freezing. Second, and most important, is the concerts I go to are always being held by people who are still actively creating music. When I go to see The Lips, Coldplay, or Sigur Ros it's because they've recently come out with a new album and they're touring to help support it. Even a Steely Dan concert Jon and I attended was performed to support the album "Two Against Nature" (which won the Grammy for album of the year). Steely Dan was a band that was around during Floyd's prime, but they're still producing music. I've never been to a show where the exclusive purpose of attending is to hear the studio versions of the songs that are, in most cases, decades old. To his credit, Waters did perform a new song, but it seemed really out of place. He wasn't fooling anyone, let along himself. Everyone was there to hear Pink Floyd songs and that was it.

I'm glad I saw him, but in a strange way it wasn't because of the music. In fact it's difficult for me to even hear the music. I've heard Dark Side so many times, both for personal pleasure and for business (I used to run laser light shows), it's difficult for me to even hear the music anymore. I've heard it so many times that it blends into the ambiance as a kind of sonic background radiation.

The concert experience was an affirmation of love for the man who helped create the albums that first opened my eyes to wonders of music. Before I fell in love with Pink Floyd, I never really enjoyed music. I tolerated or laughed at it, but I never "got it." I never could get why anyone would want to venture into different genres or look forward to album releases - ideas that are now so prominent in my life, it would be hard for young me and old me to have a meaningful conversation about music. I primarily listened to Weird Al and the Moody Blues and loathed the radio.

For me and many others, The Dark Side of the Moon was the album that finally gave me a reason to explore music. Pink Floyd stands, and will forever stand, on a musical plateau not great than, but apart from other bands. While my interests have changed, and I have found bands that are, in different ways, better my respect for the band remains untouched. They will always be the greatest band, not because the music is better, but because of the profound effect they made on my life.

Despite the cold and the distance from the stage, it felt good to pay my respects to the man who played a large part in shaping my musical interests. And judging from the thousands of people joining me on the cold hilltop, I wasn't alone.

("The time has come, the song is over, thought I'd something more to say...")

Don't forget Beck and The Killers have new CDs coming out on Tuesday!