Homo Deus – Yuval Noah Harari
Neuropolis – Robert Newman (yes, that one)
Void Star – Zachary Mason
There are a lot of things out there telling us how robots are going to take all of our jobs, and how this is a good thing or a bad thing (good thing = frees humans from the yoke of drudge work; pls give us universal basic income kthx vs. bad thing = the robots will decide we’re entirely expendable and/or liquify our corpses to power their circuitry).
Continue reading “The robots are coming”
So, look, one of these songs came on the sound system in the pub the other day and it set me to thinking1 about what Ric Flair would like to listen to.
(image from buzzfeed)
Continue reading “Ravishing Ric Flair’s Woo Playlist”
OK, so I went on a bit of a Fatboy Slim dive this morning, after doing a little bit of research for this (it’s important to do your research, kids).
Which of course meant watching the video for Right Here, Right Now. Which is obviously awesome.
[Tangent: I have no idea if the “I’m #1” dude was hired for the video and then got onto the album cover or if he was just photographed and someone had to go out and find him for the video.
I think I did know once.]
Anyway, the RHRN video had a link to the Rockafeller Skank video, which I also watched. I remember being so excited the first time I heard this on the radio. Nearly as excited as the guy on the album. Anyway, the video is a lot more dream-like than I remembered. Scenes segue into each other without much narrative logic. Because that’s what you want from a dance music video, isn’t it, narrative logic? But there was one bit that suddenly jumped out at me. The guys with afros have skanked up to this door at a motel; they knock and it’s answered by a dude in a cowboy suit. They all lean back, then the cowboy tosses a coin, which they watch fall to the floor. When it lands, they all start breakdancing.
It’s such an obvious reference to No Country For Old Men. Chigurh will sometimes toss a coin to decide whether or not to kill someone he encounters. (There’s no breakdancing, from what I remember.) And it seems to have been completely missed by the internet. Possibly this is because the book is from 2005, and the video is from 1998. So perhaps what I’m saying is that Cormac McCarthy got his inspiration for Chigurh from Fatboy Slim videos?
Is (eds) the right way to show that Messrs Atkins and Johnson are the editors of this curious little book? Perhaps.
So, a small, slightly damaged codex found in an Oxford Oxfam shop containing the first volume of the diaries of an unnamed resident of Oxford in the 17th century who came into possession of a dodo off of some dutchman. Possibly the last ever living dodo. And he decided to do some experiments on it, in the spirit of the times, to determine dodo’s personality and physical prowess. And then it comes into the hands of our editors, who first try to find who donated it (the diary) to the Oxfam shop. And then decide that it should be shared with the world, with various marginalia to cast some light on parts of the diary that might have otherwise been too recondite.
As wheezes go, this is up with the best of them. However, the “editors” seem a little bit too keen to make sure that everyone knows quite how clever they’ve been in inventing this book within a book. I didn’t mind the innumerable odds and ends “found” inside the book (a receipt for a dog’s train ticket, a stamp from Mauritius, cigarette card, anti-smoking bookmark, etc.) or the digression on pylons, or the editors’ handwritten notes on the editors’ notes (“wrong era, looks American”) that much. But what I did find annoying was the “dreams” of Mr Flay, which just seemed to be a big old flag waved to say “THIS ISN’T REAL. WE MADE IT ALL UP FOR LARKS.”
It’s not like it’s another Hitler diary. Or even Flashman. No one would really mind being fooled by this, and there’s enough really interesting stuff about printing and typography and dodos and Oxford and all sorts to make it worth reading anyway, but why shoot the pretence that it might possibly be real in the head quite so vigorously?
Incidentally, I recently watched Rush, the film about James Hunt and Nikki Lauda. James Hunt, of course, being famous for saying “Sex is the breakfast of champions”. That’s not the case in this book, where the reference is to a certain brand of cereal which used it as a marketing slogan. I am not aware of their views on the phrase being associated with either playboy Formula 1 drivers or books about insanity and the destruction caused by the human race.
Being a Kurt Vonnegut book (I have seen it described as the most Kurt Vonnegut of books) it’s somewhat non-linear, with lots of scenes that don’t make much sense, and characters that do very unusual things for no apparent reason and also has a lot of illustrations. It absolutely hurtles along; I finished it in a day. And despite the surreality of it all, it has moments of stunning clarity, spearing modern humanity for the mad mess it is.
Hild is, or became, St Hilda of Whitby. She starts the book as a tiny, recently orphaned child in a scary world. I enjoyed this a lot, although I wish I had paid more attention to the map at the front. I spent a lot of time frustrated that my 7th century British geography wasn’t any better. This may be partly because my north-east geography is pretty vague anyway. You’ve got your Newcastle, then Durham, and the other bits, right? I also struggled with exactly which group of people were which, and how they related to each other, personally and geographically (see above). Who were the Yffings?
I decided not to look too much of it up until after I finished, and some of what I’ve found has been quite interesting.
What none of the above changes is that the land and way of life for Hild and Edwin and Cian and all the others is immediate and alive in this book, even if the who’s doing what to who doesn’t always make perfect sense (or, more accurately, if you’re not paying attention properly). Hild climbing a tree to watch the flight of the birds. Cian desperate to show off his fighting prowess. Edwin nervously watching his gesiths for signs of disloyalty. And everyone trying to make sure they make it through to next summer, and preferably better off than last time. It’s a stunning piece of work.
[First draft, but I think it only really needs a light polish…]
INT Mission control room, lots of scanners and a big map of the world on one wall, overlaid with the path of a satellite or two in whatever that orbit is called. Let’s have two SCIENTISTS and a GENERAL
SCIENTIST 1: Sir, it appears that China have just launched a satellite.
GENERAL: Do we know what was on it?
SCIENTIST 2: No sir, but state media are claiming it is important for ensuring the security of the Chinese people
GENERAL: What does that mean?
CUT TO shot of Chinese spy satellite; CUT TO CHINESE SCIENTISTS watching footage of troops guarding Fort Knox or whatever. CUT TO another satellite with Chinese writing on dropping out of the sky and landing at Fort Knox. Chinese looking soldiers emerge, overpower the guards, and steal all of the gold, which they take in a convoy of lorries.
INT Pentagon. Various HIGH-RANKING TYPES are arguing. PRESIDENT ERIC LASSARD enters, carrying a goldfish in a bowl, places it on the table.
PRESIDENT LASSARD: Gentlemen, it appears that a very, very bad thing has been done. What are we going to do about it?
ARMY GUY: I say we nuke Shanghai!
PRESIDENT LASSARD: What has Portugal got to do with this?
AIDE: Shanghai is in China, sir.
PRESIDENT LASSARD: Right, yes, of course. Can we nuke China?
AIDE: It would be suicidal, sir. China would surely retaliate in kind, and wipe us off the face of the earth.
PRESIDENT LASSARD: (thinks, looks at fish)
NASA BOSS: The attack came from space, sir. I suggest we send a team into orbit to find the spy satellite and disable it.
PRESIDENT LASSARD: Excellent suggestion!
Everyone starts shouting at once.
PRESIDENT LASSARD: Quiet, gentlemen. I have decided. And so we shall send a team into space, to find out who did this thing, and to stop them from doing it again.
EXT New York Street. CAPTAIN TACKLEBERRY is on patrol. He hears message on the radio about a grocery store robbery, and pulls out a RIDICULOUS GUN and steps out of the car. He then gets another message:
RADIO (HOOKS): Tackleberry, Tackleberry! It’s President Lassard. He wants us to report immediately to Kennedy Space Center!