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Showing posts from August, 2013

A Beautiful Con: The Tree of Life

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The Tree Of Life is a very unusual film.  Not because of the dinosaur.  Well, partly because of the dinosaur.  But mainly because it uses the register of cosmological science fiction – in particular 2001 – to tell what is, it seems, by fairly conventional domestic story : the traumatic loss of a son and brother; father-son conflict; rites of passage in 1950s America; the failures of authoritarian patriarchal masculinity.  The film is presented in an extraordinary way, as a series of moments, often of striking beauty, in which dialogue is generally absent (crucial thematically), time is dislocated on a local, global and cosmological scale (seconds, minutes, years, decades, eons), but a sense of wonderment at (and the wonderment of) life is immanent.
This wonderment, even bewilderment, is carried not only in the extraordinary image-track, but also in the familiar Malick device of the disembodied voice over, in which baffled and self questioning voices express the interiority of key char…

The gift and Twitter (science) fiction

In Jon Ronson's The Psychopath Test, the author uncovers the case of a strange book called Being or Nothingness by Joe K being sent out to unwitting academics, mainly those in fields pertaining to AI. The first chapter of the book narrates Jonson's attempts to get to the bottom of this literary prank, partly through the work of Douglas Hofstadter (author of Godel, Escher, Bach and I Am A Strange Loop) whom Jonson at first suspects, but then discovers had been sent some 70 copies in English and 10 in Swedish of this very book. I won't give away the solution to his odd riddle, though it's pretty prosaic (and is really Jonson's book's Macguffin), but it fascinated me; not only that someone would go to the expense of producing a high-quality item but that they would send them out as gifts to unknown parties. I've thought of buying one - there's a couple on Amazon - but this would be a bit beside the point. I'd love to receive one through the post, thoug…