Saturday, May 31, 2003
posted 9:35 AM
Now that it's at least sporadically sunny here, and we're experiencing less need to huddle for warmth around our Apple Studio Monitors, this blog will run the risk of looking like a ghost site. Fair warning. Wear sunscreen.
Looking back on discussion of SP at the time, it's interesting to finally read a more complete backstory:
HOW UN"INDUSTRY" CAN ONE MAN BE?
*This* much, apparently:
And that's...a lot! :-)
HOLY BODY TATTOO
Yep, that's me, in collaboration with Chris Halcrow, creator of William Gibson's Yardshow.
Sunday, May 25, 2003
posted 9:03 AM
In one interview I said that I imagined Cayce looked something like Beth Orton. That was probably the result of having seen a photo of Beth Orton, not long before, and just then having imagined Cayce looking like that. Myself, I usually don't have any very clear sense of the features of my central characters. Visualization of the narrative is crucially important to me, otherwise, but the effort seems to go into physical surroundings, relative movements of characters. I think that it may be that because I necessarily "inhabit" primary characters, I can't see them because I'm "inside" them. I usually have a much clearer image of a minor character, a "walk-on", but if that minor character becomes "a POV", I start to have less of an image, and if the characterization then starts to involve interiority, it gets fuzzier still. It's almost as though, on the mind's screen, these detailed and vivid figures I've worked up have, if I stop to notice, faces blurred by pixel-clouds.
But experience teaches that the reader, in spite of (or more interestingly perhaps, *because of*) this authorial haziness, will complete the circle, close the loop. I do that too, because when I read fiction I form very distinct images of what characters look like.
One exception to this was Rei, the idoru, who for some reason I felt a sort of special obligation to try to visualize more exactly, and couldn't. Then I happened to see the latest issue of DAZED & CONFUSED, with a wonderfully ambiguous model on the cover. Female. Male? Asian? Not? I instantly "cast" this model as the idoru. You can see her (gender became obvious when she did more fashion work in New York) exactly as I first saw her, on the cover of the British edition of IDORU. When I told Penguin, they acquired rights to use the image.
AND THERE ARE TRAGEDIES OF BRANDING
Ever ask yourself "What's in a name?"
Saturday, May 24, 2003
posted 4:18 PM
Fuldog's backgrounder, from Mexico City, on El Presidente's wife, the clown, etc., is exactly the sort of feedback that makes blogging worthwhile. Like, *who (around here, anyway) knew*? Except of course for our man on the ground in the DF -- which is, by the way, the most, well, *cyberpunk*, for want of a better word, place I've ever been. Mexico City is a moment by moment reminder of just how embarrassingly relative the term "dystopian" is. The infrastructure there has been functioning for decades now in what for the cities of El Norte would be conditions of grotesque Burroughsian emergency, but people just keep getting up every day and getting on with their lives. Which I found both impressive and strangely hope-inducing.
Actually there is a better word for the DF ("Federal District", like DC) than "cyberpunk": "Ballardian". When you see Fuldog here, he's checking in from one *extreme* urban environment!
THAT'S WHAT YOU GET FOR EATING ANYTHING AS CUTE AS A MASKED CIVET
Thanks to those who posted to update me on panspermia, etc.
Now I'm leaning toward the theory that the guilty parties in this case had been chowing down on stir-fried civet. "Wok that civet and you've got a global pandemic on your hands." Of course we only hear these voices after the fact.
Friday, May 23, 2003
posted 11:29 AM
I'M NOT REALLY MUCH OF A SCIENCE FICTION WRITER...
Not in the biblical sense, anyway, so help me with this: If the SARS virus, as a much-quoted recent article in The Lancet supposes, is possibly of extraterrestrial origin... How did it evolve to be what it is today: A virus requiring host-species (birds, mammals, and...?)?
If it were proven to be extraterrestrial, would that necessarily imply that somewhere, somewhere seriously elsewhere, there either is or had once been cellular life of a fairly complex sort? Or are there assumed to have been coronavirii around prior to the advent of critters in general? If so, what did they *do*, prior to animals?
SEARCHING "NVA" ON EBAY.DE...
Turns up this truly remarkable necktie:
What was *with* these GDR guys, anyway?
I would encourage any of you who happen to be eBay flaneurs to post anything you might run across that smacks of this level of peculiarity. Maybe start a thread called "Odd, On eBay" or similar.
MEXICAN FIRST LADY IN TV CLOWN DEFENSE
I think I prefer it to the so-called "Matrix" defense:
Thursday, May 22, 2003
posted 9:17 AM
That tie and collar combination wouldn't have worked for me, at that age. Maybe in '77, as irony-wear.
The big surfer dude on the other end of the couch is Chris Carter.
I have been wearing big round Harry Potter frames, BTW, since I recovered from an unfortunate Sixties involvement with those Peter Fonda "aviator" frames (the spectacle-frame equivalent of the mullet). I did briefly have a perfectly round pair, by a Barcelona designer, immortalized on the dustjacket of MONA LISA OVERDRIVE.
I bought a new pair of predictably Potteresque frames in West Hollywood, last weekend. Periodically I try on newer, more linear styles, but they make me look like a chihuahua.
One of the post-Seventies technologies that's meant the most to me personally is the high-reflex resin lens. My glasses had been as thick as Stephen King's, great tragic ashtrays of highly-reflective, dramatically scratch-prone acrylic (plastic to keep the weight down, else they weigh as much as ashtrays). These guaranteed a certain hall-of-mirrors effect, the wearer's eyes lost down individual Marienbad corridors of endless re-reflection. Then the Japanese invented a plastic impregnated with sub-microscopic iron particles that alter the reflective index. This results in corrective lenses a third the thickness. Shortly thereafter, they introduced non-reflective coatings that did away with the Marienbad look, and then they topped it with scratchproofing that'll stand up to vigorous application of O-grade steel wool. My quality of life changed dramatically. I hope Stephen King has discovered this as well. Probably he has, as I no longer associate him as much with the ashtray look.
S'PORE, IN RETROSPECT
That WIRED article may have managed to convey the now-cliched sense of Singapore as a creepy, anal-retentive city-state, but it didn't go nearly far enough in capturing the sheer underlying dullness of the place. It's a terrible *retail* environment. The endless malls are filled with shops selling exactly the same products, and it's all either the stuff that kicks Cayce into anaphylactic shock or slightly sad local-industry imitations of same. You could easily put together a smarter outfit shopping exclusively in Heathrow.
SHAPE ON GREEN TIE
Well, someone asked. That's a handprint, in orange, woven into a green silk tie. It's an old Gaultier tie that someone gave me because it was too strange for them, and I can't seem to lose it. I've never been foolhardy enough to wear it in Ireland, though, where it would *seem* to mean *something*, though I'm not sure what, and forcefully.
Wednesday, May 21, 2003
posted 7:03 PM
"COMPLEX CULTURAL EDUCATION" REQUIRED TO READ NOVELS
By cultural, I mean the one you didn't even notice you were getting. As opposed to, say, lit classes in high school. I was thinking in global terms, global comparisons. Brazil has the biggest tv network on the planet (or used to, anyway): Globo. Brazil also has a very low literacy-rate. "Culture" in the anthropological sense isn't an add-on (the way European classical music would be an add-on for me) but some sort of perceptual template. If the culture that forms us (assuming cultures do form us) doesn't include prose fiction, prose fiction can only be an add-on. I imagine that if you're reading this, odds are you're from a culture that still includes prose fiction. (Not to say, though, that novels don't in some cases possess the sort of bootstrapping power that my talk claims for film. There are readers, I'm sure, who were "taught" initially in a solo encounter with a single novel.)
Let it *go*, man; it's been *years* already. Go chew some gum.
posted 8:52 AM
SEEMS LIKE IT'S ALWAYS SOMETHING, THESE DAYS
Now Billy Prion's shown up in Alberta. O well. Pass the, uh, I forget, like the red stuff? To put on this hamburner? Yummy.
UP THE LINE
A talk given at the Directors Guild of America’s Digital Day, Los Angeles, May 17, 2003
The story of film begins around a fire, in darkness. Gathered around this fire are primates of a certain species, our ancestors, an animal distinguished by a peculiar ability to recognize patterns.
There is movement in the fire: embers glow and crawl on charcoal. Fire looks like nothing else. It generates light in darkness. It moves. It is alive.
The surrounding forest is dark. Is it the same forest our ancestors know by day? They can’t be sure. At night it is another place, perhaps no place at all. The abode of the dead, of gods and demons and that which walks without a face. It is the self turned inside out. Without form, it is that on which our ancestors project the patterns their interestingly mutated brains generate.
This patterning-reading mutation is crucial to the survival of a species that must ceaselessly hunt, ceaselessly gather. One plant is good to eat; it grows in summer in these lowlands. But if you eat its seedpods, you sicken and die. The big, slow-moving river-animal can be surprised and killed, here in these shallows, but will escape in deeper water.
This function is already so central, in our ancestors, that they discover the outlines of the water-animal in clouds. They see the faces of wolves and of their own dead in the flames. They are already capable of symbolic thought. Spoken language is long since a fact for them but written language has not yet evolved. They scribe crisscross patterns on approximately rectangular bits of ocher, currently the world’s oldest known human art.
They crouch, watching the fire, watching its constant, unpredictable movements, and someone is telling a story. In the watching of the fire and the telling of the tale lie the beginning of what we still call film.
Later, on some other night, uncounted generations up the timeline, their descendants squat deep in caves, places of eternal night -- painting. They paint by the less restless light of reeds and tallow. They paint the wolves and the water-animal, the gods and their dead. They have found ways to take control of certain aspects of the cooking-fire universe. Darkness lives here, in the caves; you needn’t wait for dusk. The reeds and tallow throw a steadier light. Something is being turned inside out, here, for the first time: the pictures in the patterning brain are being projected, rendered. Our more recent ancestors will discover these stone screens, their images still expressing life and movement, and marvel at them, and not so long before the first moving images are projected.
What we call “media” were originally called “mass media”. technologies allowing the replication of passive experience. As a novelist, I work in the oldest mass medium, the printed word. The book has been largely unchanged for centuries. Working in language expressed as a system of marks on a surface, I can induce extremely complex experiences, but only in an audience elaborately educated to experience this. This platform still possesses certain inherent advantages. I can, for instance, render interiority of character with an ease and specificity denied to a screenwriter. But my audience must be literate, must know what prose fiction is and understand how one accesses it. This requires a complexly cultural education, and a certain socio-economic basis. Not everyone is afforded the luxury of such an education.
But I remember being taken to my first film, either a Disney animation or a Disney nature documentary (I can’t recall which I saw first) and being overwhelmed by the steep yet almost instantaneous learning curve: in that hour, I learned to watch film. Was taught, in effect, by the film itself. I was years away from being able to read my first novel, and would need a lot of pedagogy, to do that. But film itself taught me, in the dark, to view it. I remember it as a sort of violence done to me, as full of terror as it was of delight. But when I emerged from that theater, I knew how to watch film.
What had happened to me was historically the result of an immensely complex technological evolution, encompassing optics, mechanics, photography, audio recording, and much else. Whatever film it was that I first watched, other people around the world were also watching, having approximately the same experience in terms of sensory input. And that film no doubt survives today, in Disney’s back-catalog, as an experience that can still be accessed.
That survival, I think, is part of the key to understanding where the digital may be taking us. In terms of most of our life so far, as a species, it’s not a natural thing to see the dead, or hear their voices. I believe the significance of that is still far from being understood. We can actually see what life, at least in some very basic sense, was like, one hundred years ago. We can watch a silent movie, and not only see people who are long dead, but see people who were in their seventies and eighties in the 1920s, and who therefore bore the affect of their developing years -- i.e., from before the Civil War, and earlier. It is as if in 1956 we had been able to watch silent film of, say, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, or the various revolutions of 1848. When the ramifications of this are really thought about, it becomes awesome in almost a religious sense.
Our ancestors, when they found their way to that first stone screen, were commencing a project so vast that it only now begins to become apparent: the unthinking construction of a species-wide, time-defying, effectively immortal prosthetic memory. Extensions of the human brain and nervous system, capable of surviving the death of the individual -- perhaps even of surviving the death of the species. The start of building what would become civilization, cities, cinema. Vast stone calendars, megalithic machines remembering the need to plant on a given day, to sacrifice on another.
With the advent of the digital, which I would date from, approximately, World War Two, the nature of this project begins to become more apparent, more overt; the texture of these more recent technologies, the grain of them, becomes progressively finer, progressively more divorced from Newtonian mechanics. In terms of scale, they are more akin to the workings of the brain itself.
All us, creators or audience, have participated in the change so far. It’s been something many of us haven’t yet gotten a handle on. We are too much of it to see it. It may be that we never do get a handle on it, as the general rate of technological innovation shows no indication of slowing.
Much of history has been, often to an unrecognized degree, technologically driven. From the extinction of North America’s mega-fauna to the current geopolitical significance of the Middle East, technology has driven change. (That’s spear-hunting technology for the mega-fauna and the internal-combustion engine for the Middle East, by the way.) Very seldom do nations legislate the emergence of new technologies.
The Internet, an unprecedented driver of change, was a complete accident, and that seems more often the way of things. The Internet is the result of the unlikely marriage of a DARPA project and the nascent industry of desktop computing. Had nations better understood the potential of the Internet, I suspect they might well have strangled it in its cradle. Emergent technology is, by its very nature, out of control, and leads to unpredictable outcomes.
As indeed does the emergent realm of the digital. I prefer to view this not as the advent of some new and extraordinary weirdness, but as part of the ongoing manifestation of some very ancient and extraordinary weirdness: our gradual spinning of a sort of extended prosthetic mass nervous-system, out of some urge that was present around the cooking-fires of our earliest human ancestors.
We call film “film” today in much the same way we “dial” phones, the actual dials being long gone. The fact that we do still employ actual film, in the traditional sense, seems an artifact of platform-transition and industrial economics. I tend to take arguments for the innate esthetic superiority of “film”, with the same grain of salt I reserve for arguments for the innate esthetic superiority of vinyl. Whatever the current shortcomings of the digital image, I imagine there will be digital ways around them.
But I need to diverge here into another industry, one that’s already and even more fully feeling the historical impact of the digital: music. Prior to the technology of audio recording, there was relatively little one could do to make serious money with music. Musicians could perform for money, and the printing press had given rise to an industry in sheet music, but great fame, and wealth, tended to be a matter of patronage. The medium of the commercial audio recording changed that, and created industry predicated on an inherent technological monopoly of the means of production. Ordinary citizens could neither make nor manufacture audio recordings. That monopoly has now ended. Some futurists, looking at the individual musician’s role in the realm of the digital, have suggested that we are in fact heading for a new version of the previous situation, one in which patronage (likely corporate, and non-profit) will eventually become a musician’s only potential ticket to relative fame and wealth. The window, then, in which one could become the Beatles, occupy that sort of market position, is seen to have been technologically determined. And technologically finite. The means of production, reproduction and distribution of recorded music, are today entirely digital, and thus are in the hands of whoever might desire them. We get them for free, often without asking for them, as inbuilt peripherals. I bring music up, here, and the impact the digital is having on it, mainly as an example of the unpredictable nature of technologically driven change. It may well be that the digital will eventually negate the underlying business-model of popular musical stardom entirely. If this happens, it will be a change which absolutely no one intended, and few anticipated, and not the result of any one emergent technology, but of a complex interaction between several. You can see the difference if you compare the music industry’s initial outcry against “home taping” with the situation today.
Whatever changes will come for film will be as unpredictable and as ongoing, but issues of intellectual property and piracy may ultimately be the least of them. The music industry’s product is, for want of a better way to put it, a relatively simple, relatively traditional product. Audio recordings just aren’t that technology-heavy. Though there’s one aspect of the digital’s impact on music that’s absolutely central to film: sampling. Sampling music is possible because the end-consumer of the product is now in possession of technologies equal or even superior to the technologies involved in producing that product. Human capital (that is, talent) aside, all the end-consumer-slash-creator lacks today, in comparison to a music-marketing conglomerate, is the funds required to promote product. The business of popular music, today, is now, in some peculiarly new way, entirely about promotion.
Film, I imagine, is in for a different sort of ride up the timeline, primarily owing to the technology-intensive nature of today’s product. Terminator III Unplugged is a contradiction in terms. Hollywood is massively and multiply plugged, and is itself a driver of new technologies. The monopoly on the means of production (at least in terms of creation) can be preserved, in this environment, as the industry itself operates on something very near the cutting edge of emergent technology. For a while, at least.
In terms of the future, however, the history of recorded music suggests that any film made today is being launched up the timeline toward end-user technologies ultimately more intelligent, more capable, than the technologies employed in the creation of that film.
Which is to say that, no matter who you are, nor how pure your artistic intentions, nor what your budget was, your product, somewhere up the line, will eventually find itself at the mercy of people whose ordinary civilian computational capacity outstrips anything anyone has access to today.
Remember the debate around the ethics of colorizing films shot in black-and-white? Colorization, up the line, is a preference setting. Probably the default setting, as shipped from the factory.
I imagine that one of the things our great-grandchildren will find quaintest about us is how we had all these different, function-specific devices. Their fridges will remind them of appointments and the trunks of their cars will, if need be, keep the groceries from thawing. The environment itself will be smart, rather than various function-specific nodes scattered through it. Genuinely ubiquitous computing spreads like warm Vaseline. Genuinely evolved interfaces are transparent, so transparent as to be invisible.
This spreading, melting, flowing together of what once were distinct and separate media, that’s where I imagine we’re headed. Any linear narrative film, for instance, can serve as the armature for what we would think of as a virtual reality, but which Johnny X, eight-year-old end-point consumer, up the line, thinks of as how he looks at stuff. If he discovers, say, Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, he might idly pause to allow his avatar a freestyle Hong Kong kick-fest with the German guards in the prison camp. Just because he can. Because he’s always been able to. He doesn’t think about these things. He probably doesn’t fully understand that that hasn’t always been possible. He doesn’t know that you weren’t always able to explore the sets virtually, see them from any angle, or that you couldn’t open doors and enter rooms that never actually appeared in the original film.
Or maybe, if his attention span wavers, he’ll opt to experience the film as if shot from the POV of that baseball that McQueen keeps tossing.
Somewhere in the countless preferences in Johnny’s system there’s one that puts high-rez, highly expressive dog-heads on all of the characters. He doesn’t know that this setting is based on a once-popular Edwardian folk-motif of poker-playing dogs, but that’s okay; he’s not a history professor, and if he needed to know, the system would tell him. You get complete breed-selection, too, with the dog-head setting, but that was all something he enjoyed more when he was still a little kid.
But later in the afternoon he’s run across something called The Hours, and he’s not much into it at all, but then he wonders how these women would look if he put the dog-heads on them. And actually it’s pretty good, then, with the dog-heads on, so then he opts for the freestyle Hong Kong kick-fest…
And what has happened, here, in this scenario, is that our ancient project, that began back at the fire, has come full circle. The patterns in the heads of the ancestors have come out, over many millennia, and have come to inhabit, atemporally, this nameless, single, non-physical meta-artifact we’ve been constructing. So that they form an extension of Johnny’s being, and he accesses them as such, and takes them utterly for granted, and treats them with no more respect than he would the products of his own idle surmise. But he’s still a child, Johnny, and swims unknowing in this, his culture and the culture of his species. He’ll be educated (likely via this same system he plays with now, in a more pedagogical mode -- and likely, without his knowing, it’s already doing that, in background as it were). It may be that he’ll have to be taught to watch films, in the way that we watch them (or watched them, as I think DVD’s are already changing that, not to mention changing the way you approach making them). He may need something akin to the sort of education that I needed in order to read novels -- to appreciate, as it were, a marginalized but still powerfully viable media-platform.
I can only trust that Johnny’s entertainment system, and the culture that informs it, will be founded on solid curatorial principles. That there will be an ongoing archaeology of media-product in place to insure that someone or something is always there to categorically state, and if necessary to prove, that The Maltese Falcon was shot in black and white and originally starred Humphrey Bogart.
Because I see Johnny falling asleep now in his darkened bedroom, and atop the heirloom Ikea bureau, the one that belonged to his grandmother, which his mother has recently had restored, there is a freshly-extruded resin action-figure, another instantaneous product of Johnny’s entertainment system.
It is a woman, posed balletically, as if in flight on John Wu wires.
It is Meryl Streep, as she appears in The Hours.
She has the head of a chihuahua.
Tuesday, May 20, 2003
posted 11:57 AM
VANCOUVER AUTHOR IMAGE-BLEEDOVER
Someone just drew my attention to this image of a very perky young Douglas Coupland:
I suspect that somewhere someone has been having a good giggle over this.
Wednesday, May 14, 2003
posted 1:39 PM
SPAM BEFORE THE LORDS
Any culture that can produce a woman actually called "Baroness Strange" has got to be said to seriously have it going on.
Tuesday, May 13, 2003
posted 7:25 PM
ONE-STOP LOG FOR LATE-BREAKING TECHNO-DOOHICKIES
Check out the DoCoMo wrist-phone.
Am putting together a talk for the Directors Guild of America this weekend in LA, not a public event but the content may well wind up here anyway. We'll see.
FIFTY-SOMETHING IN THE CANADIAN PACIFIC SOUTHWEST
Someone asks whether I don't yearn, as I grow older, for a warmer clime?
While this is, technically, anyway, Canada, I'm in the most temperate part, the winters more akin to London than Copenhagen. I'm not actually not all that fond of very warm weather, and will accept most any trade-off to avoid the combination of extreme heat and humidity.
Some things I do somewhat long for, in Vancouver:
A populace with more interesting fashion sense.
A small retail sector demonstrating greater creativity and a willingness to take risks.
More creative entrepreneurial mainstreaming of the city's various ethnic food treats; why should I have to go out of my way to get Singaporean hawker food? (Of course you could argue that I should be grateful that I can get it at all, and I am, but why do they *hide* it?)
A magazine distributor who doesn't bring Fortean Times in a month after they get it in New York.
Saturday, May 10, 2003
posted 9:25 AM
Alas, that's the tragedy of JM as released: it was *full* them, as written and shot, but Sony surgically excised every one they could. They'd have probably cut the Room Service speech if it had been possible.
Ever notice how little sense Dolph Lundgren's Street Preacher character makes? Just this big lunatic who periodically rages onstage and tosses people around?
I'll tell you something you may not believe: Dolph Lungren can actually do *comedy*. I mean, like, who knew? But he can, and did, with great gusto. The nature of his character was anchored in a scene in his church (he's the local Panawave-equivalent) in which he preaches, buck nekkid and skin-studded with creepy nano-gizmos, to a congragation of adoring female NAS victims. He delivers a bombastic, faux-Sterlingesque, literally balls-out *sermon* on the virtues of posthumanity. It came off sort of like Fabio as the Jesus you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley. It *rocked*. Hilarious. So Sony cut it.
They cut it out of fear of offending the religious right. No kidding. They actually told me that. That's the sort of thing I mean when I say the JM you see is not the movie we shot.
[JM as I wrote it, and Longo shot it, is only available as the published screenplay (but quite readily available as that). I only agreed to publish it, in the first place, because I wanted to be in the position to demonstrate the difference between what I wrote, and we shot, and what they released. I doubt there's even a remote possibility of there ever being a restored "director's cut", although the Japanese version of the DVD is a little closer to our intention.]
Friday, May 09, 2003
posted 2:04 PM
NAMECHECKED BY SALAM PAX?
Blimey. That's a really peculiar frisson for yours truly. Though so's the world in general, and Mr. Pax's part of it, currently, way more so than mine.
Make no mistake: Salam Pax is an extremely talented *writer*. The singularity of his position and subject-matter can lead one to overlook this, but I was aware of it as soon as I started reading him, just prior to the war. The fact that English is not his first language actually underscores his gifts of observation and expression; he'll write *around* his own uncertainty of usage, and get it right on the button. (Noting that people in the market can get cut up with knives purchased three minutes earlier, for example.)
Plus, given what's happened to his country, he now has *better material* than he did before the war. Grim to say, but any novelist knows what I mean.
If WIRED was really on their game, they'd parachute Mr. Pax a solar-powered laptop and whatever satellite-cellular rig he'd need to blog daily, *right now*. Then leave him the hell alone, except, possibly, for a simple banner proclaiming "SALAM PAX'S BLOGGING-TACKLE PROVIDED GRATIS BY WIRED MAGAZINE AND [NAMES OF MANUFACTURERS]".
WHILE I'M WAITING FOR THE SPIN-CYCLE TO FINISH ON THESE BUZZ RICKSON'S "SUGAR CANE" CHINOS...
First wash. 10% shrinkage both ways.
Anyway, someone asked:
The jacket in the PR author photo is very dark brown, rather than black, and is by APC, the French (or Tunisian, depending how you look at it) design house.
Favorite poet: Parts of Dylan Thomas. Particularly his "Refusal To Mourn".
The "I Want Room Service" speech: Keanu asked for something a little more projective, for this scene, so I sat up, one night, in the hotel on Avenue Road, writing this speech out, longhand, on a yellow legal pad. Delivered it to the set in the morning. Keanu and and Robert Longo both liked it, so I went back to Vancouver. They went off to Montreal, shortly after, to shoot the under-bridge exteriors. I don't remember when I first saw what they did with it, but I had written it imagining Johnny hissing it petulantly into Jane's face, up close, eyeball to eyeball, and the declamation from atop a gomi-mound threw me for a loop. It took a while to get used to, but eventually it became one of my three or four favorite scene in the film. It's Johnny's infantile self, pure and simple, and the plummetting VW-carcass full of Molatov cocktails is like a wake-up call from a universe rapidly losing its patience with him.
PANAWAVE CULT GURU "CLOSE TO DEATH"
But *look* at that *van*!!
AL QUEDA STEGOPORN
Thursday, May 08, 2003
posted 11:36 PM
SHADOWRUN: GAG ME WITH A SPOON
No relationship. No permission. Nothing. Nary a word exchanged, ever.
Except that the admixture of cyberspace and, spare me, *elves*, has always been more than I could bear to think about.
I've just been ignoring it for years, and hope to continue to.
I do in fact follow the threads here, most of them anyway, and the gnomic remarks above prove it to those who don't.
As does the following: When people are downloading your pirated texts for free, it means you're already pretty widely distributed. I view downloading as a sort of natural, organic tax on reputation.
Buying used copies is ecologically correct and to be encouraged. The list price on a hardcover PATTERN RECOGNITION in Canada is $40. After GST and PST, that would be closer to $50. When people have the courage to shyly tell me they're waiting for the paperback, I'm all the more amazed and flattered at the number of people who buy me in hardcover. I didn't start buying new fiction in hardcover until I was in my thirties and owned a house. And most of the paperbacks I bought, up to that point, I bought used.
HOW BAPTISTS VIEW THE SPEECH OF TEENAGERS
Every five years or so, you need to check in with this.
posted 5:58 PM
IN IAMBIC PENTAMETER
WASHINGTON POST STYLE has a contest in which readers submit instructions for doing various things, their choice, as written by famous authors. Jeff Brechlin of Potomac Falls recently won for the following, for wonderfully obvious reasons:
The Hokey Pokey (as written by W. Shakespeare)
O proud left foot, that ventures quick within
Then soon upon a backward journey lithe.
Anon, once more the gesture, then begin:
Command sinistral pedestal to writhe.
Commence thou then the fervid Hokey-Poke,
A mad gyration, hips in wanton swirl.
To spin! A wilde release from Heavens yoke.
Blessed dervish! Surely canst go, girl.
The Hoke, the poke -- banish now thy doubt
Verily, I say, 'tis what it's all about.
Wednesday, May 07, 2003
posted 10:15 AM
TENTATIVE SUMMER-FALL APPEARANCES
Maybe Bumbershoot in August. In the fall, pretty definitely the Vancouver Writers Festival, then, almost immediately after, the Toronto equivalent.
RAED, APPARENTLY, IS...
HOMEBREW JAPANESE COMPUTER HOUSINGS
These people are just so superbly crazy...
Monday, May 05, 2003
posted 7:53 AM
NOBODY, BUT NOBODY, DOES CULTS LIKE THE JAPANESE
Sunday, May 04, 2003
posted 11:19 PM
CROSS-DRESSING SCHOOLGIRL BANDIT APPREHENDED
Yeah, I know they said on Slashdot that I was boring for listing BBC and CNN as frequently-visited sites, but then I find a gem like this:
Saturday, May 03, 2003
posted 9:05 AM
GOMI NO SENSEI -- NOPE
Mr. Gomi? Mr. *Gomi*?
Friday, May 02, 2003
posted 5:20 PM
BLOGGING VS. WRITING
Inspired, so to speak, by the recent thread on Slashdot:
Blogging seems to me to be as undemanding an activity, however congenial, as "writing" is demanding. Blogging is conversational, literally informal, and seldom even comes close to engaging the compositional gear-train required for even a brief essay, let alone for an extended work of prose fiction.
Kerouac's ON THE ROAD, cited on Slashdot as a sort of proto-blog (assumed stream-of-consciousness endless-roll-of-paper stuff) has meanwhile been discovered to have been the result of several very careful and deliberate drafts, the teletype roll having apparently been...marketing. (This only emerged fairly recently, as various caches of Kerouac papers began to change hands after epic, glacially-slow legal actions.)
ON THE ROAD is only as satisfying as it is, I would argue, because it does in fact have its own "rules", its own coherent internal structure (though its author having been a Whitmanesque American prose genius no doubt counts for much as well). Kerouac had contemporaries who cranked out equally lengthy, more purely unstructured swathes of personal experience, but most of these found their generally uncelebrated way into either landfill or the Special Collections hoppers of small college libraries. (The most characteristic literary output of "the 60's" probably consisted of these generally unpublished bugcrushers, which were compiled, I would assume from the evidence, by people who never doubted that Kerouac really had sat down with a roll of teletype paper and whacked out ON THE ROAD in one benzedrine-fuelled, angel-headed go.)
One of the reasons, I'm convinced, that I've been able to produce even the few novels I have is that, almost from the start, I largely swore off less formal avenues of literary expression. The culture of SF, particularly, seemed to me to be studded with truly scary examples of talented writers who had chosen to sublimate their energies in SF's native (and relatively ancient) fanzine scene, the geniuses of which (and there arguably were a few) eventually (and perhaps inevitably?) evolved their own equivalents of blogging.
It's the "conversational" aspect, I think, that keeps this kind of writing from really getting off the ground. You see the initial lift into heightened language, into intent, but when the wings begin to wobble (as they invariably will) there's always the option of safe and instantaneous descent back into a fundamentally informal relationship with the reader. There's no risk involved.
Unless, if you're accustomed to playing for higher stakes, it's the risk of some edge being taken off your game.
Thursday, May 01, 2003
posted 11:29 PM
"MY CITY WAS GONE"
I've often said that what happened to my teenage bohemia was the equivalent of having had the Trump Tower built on St. Mark's Place. Actually it's a little less clean-cut, as retail Yorkville, prior to the Summer of Lurve (as seen in that footage) aspired to the then-status of Gerrard "Village", a stretch of Gerrard, on either side of Yonge, that had been Toronto's beat bohemia in the 50's. By the mid-60s, all that was left were a couple of jazz clubs and a few arty antique shops selling whimsical Victoriana of the sort recently made popular by the Beatles. The merchants and club-owners who sought to popularize Yorkville were trying for a more pedestrian-friendly but nonetheless commercial "Village" situation, and banking on the architectural charm of what had originally been a sort of tower hamlet of the city proper. Their agenda was bushwacked by the hippies, though, a year or two after people like the Buffalo Springfield and Joni Mitchell had gotten their start on Yorkville Avenue, in venues like the Riverboat and the Myna Bird. By the time I came along, you couldn't make a buck for the damned kids wandering up and down (my first experience of the Children's Crusade). Real estate values, I'm sure, tanked briefly. Though two years later you could still have bought a perfectly fine brownstone for what you'd pay for a mid-rung BMW today.
When I first met Keanu Reeves, and we found ourselves talking about Toronto, he told me that he had played, as a child, in the excavation for the Four Seasons Hotel, on Yorkville Avenue. I was long gone to Vancouver, by then, but had been shocked, on subsequent visits, by the truly remarkable ferocity with which the ambient zone I remembered had been malled over. In retrospect, this had everything to do with Yorkville "Village" having been, in the first place, a developers' simulacrum of the West Village, briefly invaded, in my day, by a social simulacrum of the East Village.
As the tide of "weekend hippies" washed back out, many of the more organizationally-inclined habitues were sucked up into the astonishingly Ballardian (as in HIGHRISE, it seemed to me) tower of Rochdale College.
The genuine ambients swam down into the twisty, virtually ungentrifiable streets of Kensington Market instead, and away from the Cronenbergian, acid-totalitarian creepiness of Rochdale, and I've regarded Toronto, ever since, as a city somehow uniquely blind to its own psychogeography.
A LITTLE X-CLARIFICATION
Both episodes were co-written with Tom Maddox, with Chris Carter making his accustomed final pass on each one (which invariably, in my experience, helped). The difference, though, was that KILL SWITCH was shot here in Vancouver, with the original local production team at the very top of their form. X-F episodes were, at that point, priced at around a million per, the most expensive individual episodes in the history of US episodic television. And that million USD translated into way more in our local pesos, plus the crew had started out getting optimum looks for way less. I was delighted with everything except Visigoth's eye-makeup. By the time FIRST PERSON SHOOTER was written, X-F had moved back to Los Angeles, but the truly excellent Vancouver crew were busy here with HARSH REALM, Chris Carter's ambitious and highly promising but astonishingly short-lived third series, which was subsequently strangled in the cradle by the network. By the time FPS was ready to shoot, Chris (I'm guessing) had a serious chip on his shoulder re the recent killing off of HARSH REALM, and worked part of this out on the network by making sure that FPS, at around three million, was an astonishingly pricey episode. The gaming set alone cost more than most low-budget features. Somehow, though, this expansion of budget resulted in a more generic feel. KILL SWITCH was more fun, both to write and to see shot. (I was working out some ideas for HARSH REALM episodes, and was deeply disappointed when the series was cut. Writing for a show shot in your home town is huge fun.)
posted 5:20 AM
EXIT PR PROMO TUNNEL
Back in Vancouver, where it's 4:11am. So somebody must have reverse soul-delay (though I never find it as interestingly altered a state, coming this way). My absence, blogwise, probably had more to do with a sense of returning to civilian life than it did with access. Both hotels had 24-hour hot-and-cold running access, but I found myself more interested in going out and experiencing sense of place than coming back to report same. The hotel in London actually had a Dell laptop leashed to an easychair in the lobby, always on; best arrangement of its kind I've seen.
The PR tour is now officially over, though I still hope to make up the missed date in Toronto at some point.
THAT CBC ARCHIVAL FOOTAGE
Yep, that is indeed me, though nothing I'm saying there, at such painful length, is even remotely genuine. They were offering $500 for someone to monologue about the summer of lurve, etc., and I was (1) somewhat articulate, and (2) wanted desperately to get my ass out of Yorkville (the local Haight equivalent, then, though if you look at the place today you'd have a hard time imagining it). In a universe where a furnished bedsit on Isabella Street (comfortably far from the site of this taping) rented for $25 per week, $500 was serious money. That isn't my girlfriend, by the way, but another media-opportunist, someone who smelled CBC money and welded her unshowered hip to mine as soon as she saw the cameras. They paid her, too, though not as much, as she didn't have a speaking part. So there are multiple layers of irony, in this ancient footage. I'm not, in spite of what they say, from Vancouver; I'm from Virginia and rightly anxious not to be recognized as such. I'm thoroughly fed up with the particular Children's Crusade being examined here, and want nothing more than a ticket out of it. My love-beaded sweetheart is someone I only know well enough to cordially dislike.
What this experience did for me, I recall, other than provide a fresh bankroll for my Excellent Adventure, was to instill a basic distrust of television news: you could go on CBC television and lie through your teeth, and badly. I hadn't known that. Somehow I'd assumed that they'd have someone checking for veracity.
Historical CBC fashion note: The guys who shot this were actually *in uniform*. The producers wore carefully-pressed gray flannel slacks, navy blazers with gold buttons and scrambled-egg CBC *crests* on their breast-pockets, white shirts, ties (probably the CBC Old School stripe) while the cameramen and technicians wore crisp khakis and CBC-logo golf jackets. The technicians would probably have gotten in trouble if they'd worn bluejeans instead of khakis, and the producers would never even have thought of doing it.
If the subculture depicted (or quasi-depicted) in this footage seems utterly silly to you, you might consider that CBC television crews, today, probably don't have dress-codes. The Sixties, so called, did change a few things, and sometimes, definitely, for the better.
As to whether I could have imagined some future technology dredging this up and stapling it to my public persona, yes, indeed, I probably could have, and I suspect I may have vaguely dreaded exactly that. I do know that I was slightly uneasy, years later, when they re-ran this footage and a friend recognized me, and uneasier still, further on, post-authorhood, when someone at CBC figured out that that was in fact me. In the meantime, though, I guess I've gotten used to it. And all things considered, I'd say it was definitely the right thing to do, as it paid for the luxury of my very own bed, a bare lightbulb, and second-hand Pan SF paperbacks. Things a boy needed.
SADIE DOING MOLLY
Diehard Molly-casters might take a look at Paul Anderson's first film, SHOPPING, which features an interestingly Mollyesque turn by Sadie Frost. Anderson told me, when he gave me a cassette of the film, that he'd been thinking of Molly as he developed this character, and that he'd sent Frost off to a movement instructor, in Paris, to be taught "to walk like a man". (SHOPPING, mind you, isn't a film you'd be likely to rent otherwise. A micro-budget first feature about ram-raiding teenagers, the best thing it has going for it is this one odd but definitely special effect -- Sadie Frost walking like a man you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley). I haven't seen it for years, now, but I remember thinking at the time that Frost was easily the closest thing I'd seen to my own idea of Molly. Sad to say, she's likely a little too old for the part now. Sadder still, Anderson told me (I hope I'm remembering this correctly) that Frost's father was a martial-arts expert of some kind, and that she was already a very convincing scrapper. Saddest of all, she actually came within *this* much of signing on as the Molly-analog in JOHNNY MNEMONIC, but then didn't. I'd had fingers and toes crossed, but it didn't happen.