Category: Art


Live VJing

Here is some live VJing I did for the International Orchestra of the United Kingdom of Goats @ Waldeck Freakquenz 2014. I used Avenue.

http://bit.ly/29Mgzi0

Sorry for the poor sound quality, there are some things a GoPro can’t do.

 

Hey, we finally edited some of the GoPro material we filmed on our festival, Waldeck Freakquenz.

See our retro gaming café, our Kinect sandbox, bands, enthusiastic Tetris chanting and further awesomeness.

 

JPL Visions of the Future

NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory made a bunch of free propaganda posters for a bright future! If I had to decorate a restaurant or something, I’d choose some of those.You can download the whole thing, about 600 MB, here.

 

Apparently, coloring books for adults are a thing now. We anticipated the trend years ago, when we (the organization crew of our festival Waldeck-Freakquenz) produced a stack of slightly NSFW and silly art, which we wanted to offer for free at our next festival. It’s gotten lost in someone’s files now, but I swear, this year is the year it gets printed.

Anyway, there are all sorts of coloring books now, from animals and gardens to Game of Thrones to Dr Who (expensive) and even magazines like Flow.

This morning I stumbled over a hashtag on twitter, it’s called #ColorOurCollections. Libraries all around the world offer coloring pages, prints and sketches from their archives for free! Special collections libraries and archives around the world are teaming up to provide coloring pages scanned from historic materials all week.  Here are just some highlights:

The New York Academy of Medicine

Bodleian Library

Europeana

Ellis Library

… and lots more. Peruse the hashtags this week, there’s a ton of participants. Have fun!

 

Neil Gaiman’s inspiring speech about making art

Found this on Boingboing. All the best to you in the new year!

Robert Yang makes weird games (or are they?)

You are a man alone in a fitsness studio shower. Two guys walk in, talking, ignoring you. You just stand under the spray wondering what the hell it is this game is all about. Then with a great flourish enters this naked dude with sunglasses, walking up to you, asking you to give him a hand… washing his back. By this time, I have giggled and flushed a bit. Is this some kind of sex sim? You do as well as you can, and then he’s just like “Well, ‘ta for that, see you next time.” The game tells you that you have to wait for a few hours until you can have a go at it again… What the hell just happened?

You just had a game experience created by Robert Yang. It’s called Rinse and repeat. He has made all these other short weird indie games that make profound statements about sex, BDSM and denial like Cobra Club, Hurt me plenty and Stick Shift.

Each is an intricately crafted work full of deliberate detail. Each has a meaning deeper (yet entirely dependent on) its surface, in-your-face interactions. Each packs more significance into its five or so minutes of playing than you will find spread across many an eighty-hour blockbuster game and, taken together, the games present a fascinating oeuvre (a word video game critics rarely have an opportunity to use).

(Brenden Keogh from reverseshot.org)

It questions your expectations as a gamer, influenced by instant gratification the internet has to offer, and you end up weirded out by yourself more than by the actual game. I haven’t looked at all the other games yet (though they sound pretty great:Intimate, Infinite: literary murder / chess / garden simulator!) but if I find myself with five minutes downtime before the Fallout 4 frenzy starts, I’ll definitely check them out.

This list has been on my wall for a year and a half. It’s almost finished.

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I’m sort of embarrassed about it. But since I went through all the trouble I might as well share the results. I’m not even sure what my rating is based on here. Some works I still enjoyed even if they were a little rough around the edges, like “The last enemy” or “Wreckers”. Some were better productions but offended me nonetheless (“The fifth Estate”, blech). So here it is: The best and worst of Cumberbatch, rated by me.* Your mileage may, of course, vary.

Best

1. Parade’s End

Episode 5. Scenes 618

(Pre-)WWI love triangle drama. That was a moving role, sufficient drama for me. Poor Tietjens. If you’re looking for a Downton Abbey replacement, this might be your thing!

2. Star Trek: Into Darkness

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Science fiction with a twist. The new Star Trek movies work for me, and Khan kicks ass.

3. Atonement

atonement-bite

Romance/drama. Creepy as hell, plays a rapist. Moustache! Good movie based on a great novel.

Fun fact: This is the performance that got him the (only) audition for ‘Sherlock’ with Moffat and Vertue.

4. August Osage County

august

Oklahoma family drama. What a production, there is major acting mojo here. Feels like a theatre stage the whole time, intense performances. Kind of an unusual role for him (shy guy).

5. To the ends of the Earth

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Based on a Golding novel, it’s a coming of age story. Period piece, on a ship, with sexy times. Need I say more? Mildly funny at times!

6. The last enemy

TheLastEnemyLogo

Total surveillance London middle east love triangle thingie. This could have been a decent series. But it’s still rough around the edges, plot jumps and whatnot. And why does TIA have an accent? It’s a computer. Overall okay! Anyway, you shouldn’t skip this one, because nudity.

7. Wreckers

WRECKERS

Dark British countryside drama. Sort of a bland movie, but interesting atmosphere and actors. Wasn’t too bad!

8. Third Star

third star

James has cancer and his last wish is to visit a particular beach. Bring tissues. Lots of tissues. Erm, for tears.

9. The Imitation Game

imitation game

Alan Turing biopic. Why has this movie not achieved a better ranking with me? All the components are there! I have ambiguous feelings about this movie, kind of like ‘The Fifth Estate’ because I know too much about Turing to sit back and enjoy the ride. But the performance is heartbreaking nonetheless.

10. Starter for 10

Starter-For-10-benedict-cumberbatch-15390979-640-352

Romcom feel good stuff with quizzes. Cute nerdy role!

Still noteworthy for reasons

Stuart: A Life backwards

Journalist writes homeless person’s story. Predictable tear jerker, but again, cute nerdy role. Also, Tom Hardy kills.

alexander-and-stuart-2

Dr. Slippery / Fortysomething

Awkward off-key British comedy. But you get Dr House, the Doctor and Cumberbatch for your troubles. And he looks so young.

latest

Worst (in order of awfulness)

1. The Fifth Estate

the-fifth-estate-poster-poster-1738645030

Supposedly biographical drama of Julian Assange and Wikileaks. I couldn’t watch it to the end because it sucked so much. I’m too well informed about Assange to be able to watch this without going “grr noo” all the time. Sorry.

2. Warhorse

benny-with-mustache

Boy meets horse, horse goes to war, many people die, boy meets horse again. It’s so tacky. Relatively short appearance. Do not recommend unless you’re into soppy Spielberg. Ridiculous moustache.

3. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tinker-Tailor-Soldier-Spy-image-7-600x399

I’ve tried to watch this twice and I still don’t get it. It’s not a bad movie, in fact it may be quite the opposite, but maybe I’m just too stupid or I have to read the novel by John le Carré first. I’ll probably do that and try again sometime. Also, hair.

Update:

It is now 2016 and I have read the 400-page novel. Let me tell you this: Easily accessible is something else. It’s a highly intricate story and le Carré is not being kind to his readers. You have to possess certain spy skillsets  to grasp what’s going on. Spreadsheets for jargon in the “Circus” (MI6) are highly advised.  It’s very subtle.

After I read the book I could appreciate the film more insofar as I could understand what the heck was going on and who was who. But without that, you are lost in the movie. I liked this adaptation insofar as it tries to convey things in a similar style to the book: hardly ever stating anything obvious, and the big reveal is very understated, the waiting and the watching is what it’s all about.

Cumberbatch’s character Peter Guillam stealing the files from the archives was one of my favorite scenes in the book and they adapted it well to the movie. It’s really hard to portray a character screaming internally while trying to act all smooth and cool to the outside. A lot of feelings and fears aren’t explicitly stated but conveyed through internal monologue in the book; so in the movie, there is a lot of silence. Having read the book, I could fill in those gaps and appreciate the (also very much understated) acting. But I stand by my point: As a viewer who has no clue what’s going on, you’re probably not going to enjoy this very much, all these blokes in trench coats staring at each other.

Interesting side fact: In the book, Guillam is hung up on his flute-playing girlfriend Camilla and gets more and more suspicious of her cheating on him, as he gets suspicious of everything he believed in at the Circus potentially being compromised. In the movie, they made him gay. When Smiley tells him that he should assume he is being watched, he breaks up with his S.O. pre-emptively, possibly to protect him? Anyway, it’s heartbreaking.

Spoiler! The secret star of the book is a homosexual love affair between two spies. The ending is not quite so subtle in the movie, though: I thought they could have done without the dramatic gesture of P. shooting H., but hey, what do I know.

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I’m still missing some big ones like ‘Hawking’, ’12 years a slave’ or  ‘Amazing Grace’. If I like them I might change the ranking accordingly. I’ve definitely gone out of my comfort zone and watched movies I would not have watched otherwise. It’s been a fun ride despite cringing through really awkward movies like ‘Four Lions’ or that horrible ‘Van Gogh’ documentary (jeez, I mean, blimey).

I hope this helps with prioritizing!

____

*’Sherlock’ is non-competitive. Obviously.

Mad Max: Fury Road

It’s been a while since I left a cinema grinning. A good movie! It’s gritty and it will set the tone for Burning Man for years to come. The pace is always just right. As with the first Mad Max movie, the emotional impulse is survive, save the innocent, revenge. Nothing new there but at the same time the movie and the way it tells the old plot in the old setting just feels surprisingly fresh.

Also, it’s so feminist it’s got its own set of memes now.

Hey-Girl-Mad-Max-1

But without being annoying about it. I really like the symbolism (bullets in her crotch, carrying seeds, the older women dealing out death but looking for a place to put the seeds…) You coud easily analyse this in a gender seminar and get interesting results.

IMDB trivia: “The film editor, Margaret Sixel, is director George Miller‘s wife. When she asked her husband why he thought she should do it as she had never edited an action film before, Miller replied, “Because if a guy did it, it would look like every other action movie.” It was shot in sequence, not a lot of CGI (well at least not much as compared to other movies out there).

Yesterday, I saw “Jupiter Ascending” and … oh god, what a train wreck of a movie. Seriously, if you just look at it without sound you might appreciate the concept art but that’s about it. So seeing Mad Max really made me happy and had me at the edge of my seat. Go see it on the big screen … but it will probably age well, and I already look forward to seeing it again in a few years.

“A Shoggoth on the roof. Sounds scrazy, no, certifiably insane, but here in our little village of Arkham, Massaschusetts you might say everyone of us has a Shoggoth on the roof. And I’m not speaking metaphorically.” (opening lines)

“Good heavens, are these human cadavers?” Wait, you didn’t know there is a musical inspired by H.P. Lovecraft? Yes, there is. It’s parody of ‘Fiddler on the roof’ and it’s hilarious. If you are not in a place where you can listen, bookmark it for later. Now.

It was created by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. It’s credited to “He Who (for legal reasons) Must Not Be Named”, see this link to excerpt of the script.

Its performance is apparently cursed (no surprise there), not only due to legal issues.

There are some things that man was not meant to adapt to musical theatre, and A Shoggoth on the Roof has long been regarded as a musical that cannot and must not be produced. The original 1979 attempt to stage it ended in mysterious failure. (cthululives.org)

Do I need to mention I would give my firstborn to see it live? Since that is not going to happen soon, you can get the whole starter combo (CD, libretto, DVD of the Shoggoth on the Roof documentary) here. It’s what I want for Christmas. Now sing along with me: Tentacles! Tentacles!

The Imitation Game

Here just some random thoughts I can’t keep to myself about this movie. Contains spoilers.

Just a quick statement: Though I am not a mathematician, I’ve had this odd fascination with Turing and ciphers. E.g. I adore the ‘Cryptonomicon’ by Neal Stephenson, but for the most part I feel about the technicalities like William Gibson once said about computers in an interview: „My ignorance had allowed me to romanticize them.“* So I won’t go into criticizing the romantic depiction of ‘this is how science works’, others have done that.

I wasn’t expecting a scientifically or historically accurate movie at all. While there are tons of things you could say about inaccuracies, I don’t think it matters much because it’s not supposed to be an accurate documentary. It’s a story based on and inspired by Turing’s life which was truly remarkable. But the movie doesn’t really work so well as a story. I want to focus on two things that piqued me in particular: what I will call nerd tropes and the sexuality issue.**

Franchise audience pleasing

Let’s put Tywin Lannister and Sherlock Holmes in a room and see what happens. And yes, that scene is funny, but what does it achieve? Bringing together two actors who are so clearly known for previous roles. There doesn’t have to be a nod in their direction all the time, and in my opinion it damages the integrity for the performance of the characters at hand.

It could have helped if Turing wouldn’t have been portrayed as painfully shy and narcissistic at once – just pick one. I wouldn’t say that Cumberbatch can’t play a different character than Sherlock. He’s clearly too good an actor for that and his interpretation of Turing living somewhere on the scale of autism is at times convincing. But that interference breaks the integrity of the character in several scenes, not just the one with Charles Dance.

Nerd tropes

But why does the script not stick to that particular interpretation, but throws in all other types of ‘this is what we expect someone intelligent to do’-tropes in there? OCD („carrots and peas mustn’t touch“), arrogance („I’m a genius and I know it“), stuttering, isolation, mobbing victim, not eating („I don’t like sandwiches“… hello Sherlock), trying to tell a joke but failing („I don’t get why people never say what they really mean“… hello Sheldon). Another really good example for this is another Cumberbatch performance in ‘The last enemy’: Also a mathematical genius, also highly intelligent, also has quirks. In one of the opening scenes of the series the character, Stephen Ezzard, is seen frantically washing his hands on an airplane. The purpose of the scene is to establish his status as ‘that quirky guy’. OCD is never relevant to the plot, it can be turned off and on again at will (that would be so convenient in real life). It’s a best of nerd tropes without thinking about that many of these traits cancel each other out. It becomes annoying, and it makes all these characters kind of look the same. So, dear script writers, make a choice which quirks your genius has and stick with it, don’t just pile them all on. Next:

The gay thing

How does the movie deal with that? Some reviewers said could imagine two approaches:

There are two ways, I think, that one could go about making a story of Alan Turing and his key role in inventing the computer as a means of cracking a Nazi code during the Second World War. One way would be to go all-in on the psychological aspect, and take it for granted that Turing’s closeted homosexuality was haunting him and driving him in his quest to uncover the secrets of his nation’s enemies, thus making his eventual punishment by the British government for his “gross indecency” even more ironically cruel. The other would be to discard personal matters altogether, and make a purely process-driven story, in which Turing and his colleagues are nothing but the human vessels for acts of research and insight, and the act of breaking the code is itself the protagonist, with all the people reduced to the status of window dressing.

The actual Turing biopic that exists in the world, The Imitation Game, tries to combine these methods in a hybrid that does not work much at all. (http://antagonie.blogspot.de/2014/12/ever-read-cryptonomicon-you-should.html)

Combining these two approaches would have been possible, but I agree that they do not work together very well in this movie. Making the movie without adressing the ‘problem’** would not have been right because they’d get all kinds of shitstorms about that, and rightly so. It wouldn’t have been ok, it would have seemed like they tried to cover it up. Some people say you shouldn’t focus on Turings sexuality because his work was more important. In 2015 that might be a valid opinion, but mid-last-century that was not a option. Though the investigation of his suicide remains shrouded in myth, it was a horrible time to openly be anything but heteronormative and people fucked up his life badly. So it definitely needs to be dealt with in a biography.

But is it just me, or is the movie avoiding this? The flashbacks to the boy love are a bit like bad fan fiction: „Yes, I loved only once and then he died.“ And the romantic Christopher/Bombe naming thing never happened. Bit much, isn’t it? My point is: The movie puts the issue of portrayal of same-sex affection conveniently in the past and the ‘future’. When the issue comes up in the present storyline, it’s focused on marrying Joan and the „hmm I’m afraid I can’t deliver“-speech or on blackmailing (for dramatization and liberties taken with that Cairncross story-line see here). While everyone at Bletchley probably worked a lot and there was no time for office romances, it’s weird that neither of the timelines ever shows anything sexual. In 1951 (it was actually 1952) there is a shot of his unnamed lover sitting in the police station, and we hear the word penis spoken out loud, and that’s it.

Is it just a really clever statement of the implications of being gay in a time where you had to stay in the closet or be prosecuted that you never see anything physical? Or is it so as not to offend any homophobics in the cinema, because noone can be suffered to see men having sex on screen? It’s not supposed to be ‘Brokeback Mountain’, but still, it felt off to me.

In conclusion

Great theme and lots of capable actors not put to very good use.

On the plus side: It was a nice idea to make the main theme the Turing test. While all this constructed heroism around Turing is sort of over the top, it’s good to get a perspective at how crappy people who achieved tons when it mattered can be treated and cast off. Pardons issued decades later can’t make up for past injustice, but it’s a step in the right direction.

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* „On the most basic level, computers in my books are simply a metaphor for human memory: I’m interested in the hows and whys of memory, the ways it defines who and what we are, in how easily memory is subject to revision. When I was writing Neuromancer, it was wonderful to be able to tie a lot of these interests into the computer metaphor. It wasn’t until I could finally afford a computer of my own that I found out there’s a drive mechanism inside — this little thing that spins around. I’d been expecting an exotic crystalline thing, a cyberspace deck or something, and what I got was a little piece of a Victorian engine that made noises like a scratchy old record player. That noise took away some of the mystique for me; it made computers less sexy. My ignorance had allowed me to romanticize them.“

(Interview with Larry McCaffery in Storming the Reality Studio : A Casebook of Cyberpunk and Postmodern Science Fiction, Duke University Press (December 1991) http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/William_Gibson)

** Disclaimer: I use the words ‘problem’ and ‘issue’ not because I think homosexuality is a problem, but it is problematic insofar as some people unfortunately still think it is and the movie industry still has its own problems in dealing with their audience’s problems. Wow, I really used the word problem a lot in that sentence. Anyway, go LGBTOW.

Update: Congratulations to Graham Moore! Stay weird, stay different.

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