Archive for December, 2007

Catch of the Day

December 30, 2007


Camera Obscura

December 30, 2007


Sometimes a picture is worth less than a thousand words…

Ten Reasons Santa’s Elves Suck…And Blow

December 24, 2007

I have my reservations about lists, but since it’s the holiday season, I’ve decided to forgo the righteous indignation and just do something silly. So, here it goes:

10. Those stupid pointy hats.

9. A poor commitment to the cause of the working man — the toymaker’s union local has been very slow in coming to the North Pole.

8. Due to recent increases in demand, the little bastards have started outsourcing to China.

7. They’re really crappy reindeer wranglers. The lead job has now been given to some mutant with a birth defect.

6. The high cost of buckle polish. It takes a mint to keep the little guys looking sharp.

5. Increasing incidences of inappropriate fraternizing with the reindeer. ‘Nuff said.

4. Inflated egos and distorted self-images brought on by the LOTR. Santa’s elves only wish they had anything on Elrond.

3. Corruption and pornography. Miss Claus found the amateur feature “Hot Buttered Elves” in the DVD player last Christmas eve and it traumatized her until spring.

2. Goldbricking and general loafing. There is no need for so many little shiny suited weirdos hanging around the machinery. Jams up the works.

1. They’re elves, man. Elves blow.

So, yeah, have a merry elf-free x-mas. You’re better off without them…

Science and Romanticism

December 20, 2007

Working on some academic gobbledygook on the relationship between romanticism and science I’ve come into close contact with (i.e. am reading) a neat book — a collection of essays by a historian of science David M. Knight focused on the above-mentioned connection. It’s dense history, but there is also something charmingly engaging about his style. You can tell he’s a true scholar — versatile, passionate and poetic. What academics should be, but rarely are. Then again, few of them bother with concepts like romanticism, preferring to assume such terms are silly and irrelevant to the postmodern condition.

Knight, in contrast, takes the notion seriously, teasing out romantic meaning in a domain often portrayed as inured to cultural context. He shows, through thoroughness balanced with panache, how absurd this preconception is. Good stuff.


David M. Knight, Science in the Romantic Era (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1998).

…And Sometimes They’re Just Bluffing

December 19, 2007

An interesting article on science and the scientific endeavor from the New York Times. By way of Arts & Letters Daily.

There’s quite a bit of, ahem, uncertainty about the foundations of science these days. Experiments — some good, some bad, seems to sum it up in my mind. But then again, I was never that great at math.

Blade Runner, Redux

December 11, 2007

We have to stop meeting like this…

My first encounter with the Ridley Scott’s masterpiece Blade Runner (1982) was not too long after the theatrical release — around 1984, I think. I was completely mesmerized. As a young, confused figure half way between a Jim Carroll character and Buck-motherfucking-Rogers in the 25th century it played to my, ahem, “urbane” sensibilities. After all the maudlin space opera of childhood, the neo-noir grittyness of Blade Runner was a perfect complement to the distopias I was encountering in Lovecraft, Burroughs, Dick, Gibson, Sterling, Cadigan, et. al. When I heard the surely somewhat apocryphal fact that William Gibson completely freaked out and had to leave the theater while watching the film because it so closely paralleled his vision in Neuromancer (1984), I could sympathize.

So it was with enthusiasm that I had my latest run-in with the film, a clean new 35mm copy released as Blade Runner: The Final Cut (2007). I’d last seen the piece on the “big screen” in the early 90s, a period I remember as a high point in the alternative film scene in Montreal. Despite the high-level production values, it’s underlying “art house” qualities made it a good fit. Somehow with the director’s cut, the film got better.

This Final Cut (should have called it the Final Cu(l)t…) is the culmination of the project — a point slightly over the apex. The swan song, if you will. But regardless of its iconic status (some consider it one of 100 best films of all time), it continues to play well. Like an old Dutch master (for there are richly Baroque elements in Scott’s vision…) it seems full of life in its still life.

As most know, it’s adapted from the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) and carries a vintage c-punk patina. There are tech-culture conspiracies spiraling off this film like curious quantum particles ejected from an accelerator. It’s the original article — the “myopic” (“I only do eyes…”) model for the early 21st century. Sure, parts of it are dated in our eye-candy-coated world, but the totality stands up, like a solidly built corporate arcology. Coca-Cola is still around, isn’t it?

Certainly not a must see for those who aren’t fans, but if you ever liked this film, it bears one more encounter in the current incarnation. The Los Angeles of 2019 looks sharper and meaner, becoming more of a character than ever — only refining the noir quality. The change is subtle, but the dull glow and beautiful juxtaposition persists. As does the allure.

This Little Piggy is a Mutant

December 9, 2007

For the advancement of biomedical research and perhaps also in a unreported quest to produce the perfect Christmas ham — my alma mater has seen fit to clone pigs. I’m a fan of Babe too, but this pushes the bounds of necessity. Do we really “need” to clone pigs, or is this just some procedural publicity stunt? Look everybody, we can clone stuff! Neat!

Reading the fine print of the article and discovering that 17 pigs were cloned but only 10 remain because the research group decided to dissect 7 “copies” for the sake of medical curiosity (and to make sure they weren’t horrible mutants…) makes my anti-vivisectionist hackles go up. I mean, I ate bacon and ham today, but this sort of morbid Frankenporker stuff is a bit much. Qui bono? To push the porcine final frontier of medical research (you know, like Pigs…in…Space) when basic health care is sometimes still a hurdle? Hubris, plain and simple.

Curious to reflect on this minor science news story within the larger framework of the Global Day of Action on Climate Change. Superficially unrelated, there is a sense in which these two stories are symptomatic of the same problem — a basic perception that the natural world is all just a giant science project. These challenges — of environmental catastrophe and our ethically unlimited techno-scientific enterprise — are essentially linked. Like sausages.

Besides, cloning pigs? Really? So we can do what — create Homer Simpson’s ideal “magical animal”? Or determine the environmental factors that distinguish a Snowball from a Napoleon? Seems pretty ham-fisted to me.

The Death of Love

December 5, 2007

Heart wrenching title, n’est pas? Perhaps even better in French. La mort de l’amour. Yup, better. Melodramatic, but workable.

Describes a quality of things these days. Deadened by life and thoroughly lacking in the sense of love. A certain kind of love, but also maybe all love. Who is it that said “love is beauty”? Or wait a minute, that’s truth, not love. What’s the difference, anyway? There are a lot of question marks in this paragraph — is this a test?

You fail. Moreover, I fail. Fail to see the beauty in things these days — and in that way, also fail to love. I know someone is out there yelling back at me “start by seeing the beauty within!” Alas, there’s the rub. This is more of a question of perception, something hinted at in my dream, perhaps.

It’s the beauty of surrounding that I seek, and yet everywhere I find cold, stark, unfeeling space. Many comrades of the net in recent days have dutifully snapped digital images of a snow-encrusted Montreal, as if to mediate somehow palliates the natural uneasiness of winter. I note nobody ever places themselves out there like a little speck, evoking classic Quebeçois landscapes (by the likes of Jean Paul Lemieux) featuring humble and huddled humans amid a mass of snow and ice. That’s more revealing of the true nature of winter — l’hiver; the mon pays c’est l’hiver winter — the traumatized collective psyche of this part of the world. That doesn’t usually come up until February — there’s still novelty now…

It’s more than just winter in Montreal. It’s the beauty of a pretty girl, an elegant thought, a sumptuous meal. All seem lacking. Anhedonia rearing it’s ugly head. And certainly the devastating familiarity of winter in this town isn’t helping a bit. I feel like I gotta get out of dodge.

But will the grim reaper of Eros follow me, like a mariner’s albatross, hooked around my neck because the universe makes it so? Is this a feeling one can flee? Perhaps not.

Is the answer in the problem? Maybe the problem is the answer. Maybe I’m starting to sound like Heraclitus on a bender. Whatever, I’m just going to go eat a diet of worms.

Or, instead, find a pretty girl to share an elegant thought with over a sumptuous meal…


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