I don’t know what this is.
I was taken by his phrase “the committed imagination”. Committed to what, I wondered.
“Committed I suppose to what JG Ballard called ‘the visionary present’, transforming the universe into its imagined equivalent. I mean, realistic writing doesn’t interest me at all, it bores me. I’m always looking for the strange supernovas that flare up, the eccentrics and obsessed… Imagination to me is a faculty I was born with. I started writing at the age of six or seven. In orange and purple inks, just like the inks I use today. I only use coloured inks and I always write everything in exercise books by pen: novels, poetry, essays. I was delighted to find that Francis Bacon used to use green ones… I celebrate writing every day.” Later he remarked that he started each day by holding his pen up to the sun.
Yet there’s an apparent lack of a 1960s ethos today, and the recent riots in Paris were for job security, not freedom of imagination.
“Yes, that’s sad. The years of Thatcher and Blair have created such a grey horizon that youth today has no conception of revolution. It’s the prerogative of youth to rebel but today the belief, or even the recognition of this has disappeared. Jung said the great revolutions begin on an inner plane and surface later, and Yeats said that in dreams begin realities. We need to remember what AndrÃ© Breton said about poetry, that it’s dreaming with your eyes open. That’s what I consider myself doing all day.”
You have a line somewhere about “writers who work without remuneration or overt fame for the good of the imagination”…
I had a real-time strategy dream. It wasnâ€™t much like playing of any actual game, but was instead a series of impressions that might well have been drummed up by spare parts of my brain during an attempt to write about the game in question. Stumbling analysis and comparison with other instances of the genre; ideas about soundscapes and the sense of overall control-fiddliness, all of which was disconnected from any concrete game experience. Mental notes, psychic Post Its on the inner wall of my skull.
As I warbled my way back to consciousness (buoyed by the mewling of a hungry, real-world cat) I struggled to record GUI and what I felt about the general presentation of my oneiric review session.
The game was, I felt, rather too keen on trying to field lots of tiny units, which was a shame since the 3D engine so keenly rendered the little soldiers at close quarters. The mouse control was peculiar too, without intuitive camera panning or zoom functions. It did, however, have an interesting â€˜fly-byâ€™ function, a little like those you see in flight sims.
I’ve not played that many RTS games recently, so I am forced to conclude that all of my mental activity, conscious or otherwise, is now permanently warped by the vocabulary and palette of the videogame. I saw a vehicle registration plate earlier today which I immediately recognised as an Eve Online solar system name. Holy God, give unto me a new brain.
It’s a sweltering July 3006 and I’m just about to sit down to an afternoon of data-dredging. My dredging work is analogous to what people in the 21st century would have called ‘blogging’, only my job isn’t to actually produce any words. I have an emotive compiler to do the sentence construction for me; all I have to do is react to stimuli. I’m simply a set of expert emotional responses.
A recent birthday has left me inundated with splendid gifts. Things I do not deserve. The finest of these could well be the FM3 Buddha Machine.
Itâ€™s a pocket-sized ambient loop player. The electric blue packaging is decorated in inane stylised lilies, and inside are two batteries and a walkman-sized box with a tiny (and tinny) built-in speaker. The Buddha Machine is activated via a roller-volume mechanism, which sets one of the nine ambient loops playing (five dark and evocative, three light and enchanting, one irritating). The loops can be cycled by flipping the switch on one side back and forth. Each loop will play forever, or until the batteries fail. Itâ€™s best listened to in a quiet room through the built-in speaker, since the build quality means that the headphone jack comes with a nasty hiss.
Q: Where did the idea for the Buddha Machine come from?
A: We took the inspiration from a similar device used in Buddhist temples. The device is used to play constant chants to the Buddha and some say it was developed because of the shortage of monks in modern times. I picked up my first one more than 10 years ago and it was a permanent fixture in my bathroom. For years, Zhang and I mused about how cool it would be to make an FM3 release “inside that little box” and then in 2004 we got serious and really did it.
Myself and a close ally tried to buy some Buddha Machines in a store in London recently but Brian Eno had bought their entire stock. We tried to find contact details to complain about the greedy man, but failed.
Boards Of Canadaâ€™s The Campfire Headphase is keeping me sedated in the dull heat of my office. There is some wonderful noise in there, but it also reminds me of coffee tables and holiday magazines. (Its manic counterpoint is currently The Ramonesâ€™ I Wanna Be Sedated on Guitar Hero, as mastered by my part-Ninja girlfriend). Iâ€™m useless at Guitar Hero â€“ something about the continuous demand for feedback causes brain-tremors to occur. I begin to expect that I’ll be the first generation where the real effects of videogames will be felt, and that in our fifties and sixties we will be the horror of the youth as we degenerate from brand-new physical and mental ailments created by surprise side-effects of the videogame boom. So Iâ€™m intermittently composing emails and playing Beyond Good & Evil before heading off travelling again. (I vaguely wish BG&E had been a game about Nietzche going out for long walks and coming up with nihilistic aphorisms).
Iâ€™ve had a week where too much has to be done, and too little has been done. Intense typing sessions, with tens of thousands of characters hammered into word documents and fired off into the void of email address of people I have never met. Frustration sets inâ€¦ or perhaps thatâ€™s just the caffeine doing something unhelpful to my heart.
I went off on a press trip last night, which was graced with the usual incongruous venue and mixture of people both great and small-minded. I canâ€™t talk about the game, or even the event itself (probably), thanks to a piece of paper. Funny how those things work. It was interesting how far some of the people there had travelled for a few minutes of chat, a brace of ales and half an hour of mouse clicking. It wasn’t quite my ’20-minutes in Texas’ experience, but nevertheless a strange way of using time and assets. The obligatory camcorder-carrying German journalist, sweating and smiling in the heat, had travelled since 4:30AM CET. He was doggedly happy to see another game (invisible tail wagging behind him). He had his Star Wars cap. He was okay.
Anyway, having sailed through the railyards of the Midlands to return to Bath Iâ€™m acutely aware of a kind of drugging effect that this slice of the South West has on me. This hive on the Avon valley is so warm and stupefying that I feel obliged to lie down between its beige stones. A big wave of home-feeling hits when the local topography is sighted from a train window. I feel the travelling mind-set packing itself away and I meander homewards, ready for a nice sit down and a cup of tea.
I remember someone at the press event telling me off for not being creative enough. She was right to tell me off. I wonder if Iâ€™ve put too much into this games thing. Or not enough. Hmm.
I recommend taking a look at the trailer for The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello.