The FAR is not fighting the coming domination by robots, but heading the line to offer our conquerors whatever they need and (if applicable) desire. We’re handing computers the reigns to our children’s television and our radio DJing. We’re uploading info on our science fiction building blocks and reading habits. We’re going deep on movies that only a machine intelligence could appreciate. It’s the algorithm of life, join the party!
Thanks to Rosy Fingers and scb0212 for contributing this week, may their consciousnesses be uploaded to the mainframe without buffering delays. Send articles throughout the next week to ploughmanplods [at] gmail, post articles from the past week below for discussion, and Have a Happy Friday.
In the new issue of Senses of Cinema, Sofie Cato Maas talks with eclectic filmmaker James Scott about chronicling the post-war British working class and how his perception of the medium have changed over the decades:
As in language, there has got be a continual process of renewal within cinema. This is the process of poetry. Without this process of renewal, as in a marriage or a relationship, cinema can die. Possibly to be replaced by video games, the Eighth art. (In moments of crisis, such as we are now living through, “virtual reality” finds a new definition.) And, as with any form of communication, cinema can also be used to lie, obfuscate, manipulate, influence or destroy. One of the great propaganda films of all time is Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will (1935). It is central to the debate between style and content. Ultimately cinema is a tool, which can be used in the service of progressive issues, or the reverse. Its message is in the hands of the filmmaker. I agree with what you say, it is never impartial. “Balance” is not an attribute of the medium.
Sam Brooks chronicles his mental demise as he immerses himself in children’s television and the algorithm dumps offered by YouTube Kids for The Spinoff:
Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse (Netflix)
Life in the Dreamhouse actually comes highly recommended by an adult friend of mine, Jake. I can see the appeal nearly immediately: it’s basically a sitcom with a one-liner rate that rivals 30 Rock, and the jokes are definitely aimed more at parents, rather than kids. For example, this: “I brought my own PH-testing kit to ensure the chlorine balance is acceptable for my complicated skin condition.” That’s literally the joke. I think it’s hilarious, as an eczema-sufferer. Your children likely won’t. That’s their burden, and not mine.
Thomas & Friends (YouTube)
Thomas the Tank Engine is a pro-capitalist simp, and is not to be trusted.
Speaking of madness, The AV Club‘s oral history of Southland Tales which is 95% Richard Kelly sounding very much like someone who would make Southland Tales:
Maybe there was someone at some point who wanted to cut it out, but anyone who wanted to cut that out of the movie was probably someone at some point who was like, “Can you cut the Justin Timberlake dance number?” I think those are the same kinds of people who were like, “Can you cut the cars fucking?” You know, like clearly someone who just has no business ever watching this movie, should just stay a thousand feet away from this movie for the rest of their life. Just don’t come near this movie. It’s not for you, you know.
Wired‘s Adam Rogers discusses the online debut of The Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction, a project tracing the etymology of sci-fi neologisms:
In just a few minutes of reconnaissance, for example, I learned that the first person to pilot a jet car was not, as I hoped, Buckaroo Banzai, but in fact a character in Bryce Walton’s 1946 short story “Prisoner of the Brain Mistress.” I figured that Han Solo wasn’t the first person to make the jump to “hyperspace,” but I didn’t expect the concept to first come up in 1928, in Kirk Meadowcroft’s story “The Invisible Bubble” in the germinal pulp Amazing Stories. Nor did I expect big names like E. E. “Doc” Smith, Isaac Asimov, Samuel Delaney, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and David Brin to have also used the idea. And let’s say you wanted to go back in time and kill the person who came up with the idea of the grandfather paradox. You’d have to assassinate Hugo Gernsback, arguably the coinventor of the modern iteration of the genre, before he published his essay “The Question of Time-Traveling” in Science Wonder Stories in 1929.
At Jezebel, Joanna Mang pushes back on the trend of publicly denigrating high-school curriculum staples and defines and warns against a subset of culture she terms Book People:
These complaints represent an outsized emphasis on formal education as bestowing all of a person’s ethics, prejudices, and the breadth of their knowledge. But the properly morally-tuned novel taught at the appropriate age and scaffolded with the optimal lesson plan isn’t a bulwark against teenagers becoming racist or hopeless or violent; after all, students leave the classroom and enter the rest of the world, where they’re influenced by their parents, their peers, their experience and the wider culture.[…] Books aren’t holy, and declaring in capitalized, weirdly baroque curse words that you don’t like certain popular or well-regarded ones isn’t particularly scandalous or interesting. They are, after all, just books. Some are great, some are middling, and six of them are by Chelsea Handler.
And finally, on his substack Ironic Sans, David Friedman ponders the possibilities of AI-generated DJ patter to go with algorithm-based song selections. Casey Kasem might be within science’s reach, but his attempt to create a robot Wolfman Jack goes awry:
Hey, baby. Welcome on in here to the Wolfman Jack Show for Tuesday Night. We ain’t fooling around tonight. We’re gonna sock it to you. We’re gonna bowl you over and we’re gonna knock you right on your ass. You watch, the thing is, Wolfman Jack, you’re a major creep, right? I mean, everybody is afraid of you. I’m sitting in a candy store, and I’m afraid to buy anything because they don’t want me to come inside because of you. I’m sitting here with a girlfriend and we wanna see a movie, and I’m afraid to get in because you’re outside. That’s pretty weird, Wolfman Jack. And you are right; it is a pretty creepy show.