Oct 29 2005

La Jetée

So I didn’t do any work.

Instead I watched La Jetée, a strange short film directed by Chris Marker. It’s a photomontage telling of a sci-fi romance. The stream of motionless, flickering images is interrupted by only the brief smile of a young woman.

Photomontage isn’t exactly a popular method of telling stories in film, oddly it’s seen more often in games than anywhere else (Bet On Soldier was the last videogame with photomontage I saw, and also an export of France), but in La Jetée the sequence of stills tells a story of aching emotional distance and conceptual travel that seems to benefit from the distancing effect of the black and white images.

It’s sci-fi as psychological landscapes, weird logic and inexplicable conceptual breakdowns. There’s no science to the fiction, just something that jumps away from everydayness. Time travel for the story’s protagonist is a hazy memory made real: the ghosts of old photographs. His past and the potency of his mental images are the focus for the possibility of travel to past and distant future.

The protagonist is a prisoner, a leftover from the present in a post-holocaust future. Paris has been destroyed, presumably by the H-bomb terror that loomed over the Sixities, when this film was made. In the wake of World War 3, the protagonist is forced into time-travel experiments that he will not survive. He travels back and falls in love. It’s as if he were always in love, but in need of something to fix that childhood memory upon, something that only Marker’s weird non-science can deliver: the lost woman of his pre-apocalyptic past.

Ballard calls it “a psychological fable”, and I think that’s probably an accurate description of it. Failing to adhere to any sci-fi conventions, it sits apart from our traditional tellings and retellings of old myths. Like, say, Lost Highway, it’s a film that reminds us that the better part of life follows no proper logic, and offers no desirable conclusions.

The word “dream” is so regularly given positive connotations, but it seems to me that there should be another word, which refers neither to joyous, aspirational dreams nor to dread-filled nightmares; a word for the grey area of unconscious experiences, those streams of images infused with emotion which leave us stunned and oblique to the world in the few seconds after we shake off sleep. La Jetée is that kind of film. Not dreamlike as such, but representative of something chaotic in subconsciousness.

Also remarkably silly in the sequences where the far-far-future people have buttons stuck to their foreheads… but yeah.

La Jetée is the film that inspired Twelve Monkeys. That gives it a weird familiarity: you know the story, since Gilliam and a sweating Bruce Willis have recently exploded it up to Hollywood volumes. It’s almost a shame to have arrived at this film from that angle (although I like Gilliam) but I doubt I’d have seen it at all if Gilliam hadn’t delivered later fame by proxy.

Oct 29 2005

The Downloading Coast

Right now I’m enjoying the installation process for Half-Life 2′s ‘The Lost Coast’ free expansion level, which, part way through the installation process, gives you the option to ‘Play The Lost Coast Now’. What it means, of course, is ‘download the Lost Coast Now, and play it in three to four hours time, you bummer’.

Anyway, since my attempt to procrastinate has failed I had better get back to work.



Really going now.

Ooh, fireworks!

Oct 26 2005

The Sons of Lee Marvin

“I’m not at liberty to divulge information about the organization, other than to tell you that it does exist. I can identify three other members of the organization: Tom Waits, John Lurie, and Richard Bose. You have to have a facial structure such that you could be related to, or be a son of, Lee Marvin. There are no women, obviously, in the organization. We have communiques and secret meetings. Other than that, I can’t talk about it.” -Jim Jarmusch, 1989

Oct 25 2005

Mathematics: Being Kind To Others

Jill Grashof Anderson says she hopes the sculpture will encourage students, faculty, administrators, alumnae, and friends to ponder and appreciate the world of mathematics. “I also hope that all who view the sculpture will begin to grasp the sobering fact that everyone is vulnerable to something terrible happening to them and that we all must learn to live one day at a time, making the very best of what has been given to us.” She adds, “It would be great if everyone who views the Octacube walks away with the feeling that being kind to others is a good way to live.”

Er, yes.

All hail our new false idol: Octocube!

Oct 24 2005

Lime Works

More building photography. Naoya Hatakeyama: Examples from the Lime Works Series, 1991-1994 and Lime Hills, 1986-91.

Oct 23 2005

Right Now

(If anyone knows who made that gif please drop me the link so I can supply accreditation.)

Oct 21 2005


That was odd.

Seems better now. Still something wrong. Will endeavour to fix.

I’m blaming the spambots/sunspots.

Oct 20 2005


Seems like the site is playing up. Certain elements are taking ages to load, for which I apologise. I don’t have time to fiddle about fixing it, but will give it a kicking next week.

Oct 18 2005

Downloaded To A Flock of Pigeons

I’m wondering if I really need to read Charles Stross’ novel Accelerando (freely available online) now that I’ve read Steven Shaviro’s review.

“But for me, the best parts of Accelerando have to do, not with its florid imaginings, but with its presentation of what really cannot be imagined. That is to say: its representation of posthuman artificial intelligences, those whose computing power is not limited by our carbon-based biology. These superhuman entities force the remaining enhanced human beings further and further away from the sun, to Jupiter, then to Saturn, then to the Oort Belt, then finally out of the solar system altogether. There isn’t room for both them and us; once they have simulated and assimilated us, they have no further use for us. It isn’t just that we don’t know what they want; beyond this, it is literally impossible for us to imagine what they might want. The scientific and philosophical reason for this is that these entities possess a higher-order consciousness than we do: “a posthuman can build an internal model of a human-level intelligence that is, well, as cognitively strong as the original. You or I may think we know what makes other people tick, but we’re quite often wrong, whereas real posthumans can actually simulate us, inner states and all, and get it right” (376-377). (So much for “the problem of other minds”).”

Oct 18 2005

Made In Japan

In which it occurs to me that we’ve not mentioned bizarre buildings in ages.

So here are some from Japan. The first of which are a number of weird-looking apartments in Tokyo, designed by veteran architect Shusaku Arakawa.

There’s some more information here. Cheers, Pete.

And as if balancing at the other at the other end of the spectrum:

Which is a new police station in Sapporo. There’s a slideshow of the black box here.