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Complexity  ·  2946 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: After Brexit Vote, The British Ask Google: 'What is the EU?'  ·  

I was there last summer.

To enter, we walked over the border where our passports received a cursory inspection from the British agents. Then we crossed the runway of the airport which cuts perpendicular across the rock. We were told we could cross at any time, just to watch out for landing passenger jets.

And then we were in, immediately confronted by guy with a barely controlled pit bull that was savaging a plastic road bollard, much to his amusement. Ah, a taste of England.

We were thirsty. We found the least objectionable bar beside the dock where the casino-hotel boat is permanently moored and navigated our way through the crowds of touts offering boat tours to see the dolphins. (The strait is a migratory route.)

And we sat and drank cheap beer and stared at a menu that without irony offered beans on toast and listened to the English news and the English football chatter and the quips of the English barman with his dour, self-deprecating humour and we could have closed our eyes and been on the Thames.

There are other pubs around the rock. They are cut-and-paste copies of the sort of beer stained, urine scented, dilapidated, lackadaisically tended drinking holes you'll find in the East of London except unencumbered by the attentive, enthusiastic staff that operate London pubs thanks to a healthy immigrant community. They serve beer, and chips, and scotch eggs.

The old town is a bit like a seaside village, except filled with jewellery shops, electronics goods stores and off-licenses. It's a huge shopping mecca, thanks to the tax breaks. We walked the town for a couple of hours and had seen it all by then.

I had to be there for an appointment later in the week so we decided to tour. You can tour best in the tiny buses that leave from one central point and take around twenty minutes to reach anywhere on the island.

There's one reasonable beach in the north, which serves a hotel. The water is greasy and laps at the shore with apathy. The view is of the shipping lanes. We got into a conversation with a couple who were planning to move there. He was in IT, she was a nurse. They cited the financial incentives, the weather, the smart money that had established financial trading businesses there. He pointed out that huge international gambling businesses operated out of Gibraltar. He was German, she was English. They seemed like a nice couple.

We like walking. We tried walking along the coast from the beach, despite various military notices warning us not to. After five minutes we found we'd reached the impassable tunnel that allows traffic through the north of the rock. There's no way for pedestrians to pass. We turned back.

We thought we should have high tea. We made our way to the colonial hotel, all painted white, perched overlooking the industrial docks. The interior was sumptuous, subdued, staffed by impeccably dressed elder waiters who treated us with the reverence one expects of an establishment found in 1930's india or any fading colonial outpost upheld by a misty-eyed reverence for the past. We had our high tea. Scones, tiny sandwiches, tea in a silver pot. We rounded it off with gin and tonics.

Then the rock. I'm sure you know the history and the military significance and so on. Perhaps you're aware of the modern business models that house financial trading hardware in parts of it. Archeologically it was the last stronghold of the Neanderthal. That's all interesting reading. We took the funicular to the top, in order to make the "breathtaking" descent down the "historically significant" walking paths and we came to know litter, drifting in the wind, catching in the branches of this purported UNESCO world heritage centre. We came to know the plastic bottles tossed beside the path, the piss-reeking military ruins, the unevocative suchness of the place.

And the apes. The poor apes, blinking at the tourists being shuttled up the narrow, switchback roads in taxis which didn't park but just sat, engines burbling, coughing out leaden fumes, as their passengers rolled out and took selfies, and offered the apes the lumps of food under the dozens of signs asking them not to. They're smart, apes. We watched a feckless couple park beside the road, open their trunk to take out a bit of picnic and offer it to the cute ape making eyes at them as several other, powerful members of the troupe concealed in the trees edged closer, sizing up the situation, stalking the open car.

Three days of this, as I waited for my meeting.

In the end, all done, we walked out, alongside the Spanish workers who commute in by foot every day to run the jewellery shops and staff the hotels, alongside the cars of tourists bringing back as much cheap alcohol as they can pack into the trunks of their cars, waved through by the Spanish border control who took more care examining our passports.

It was as if it had never happened. A strange dream of a capsule of the past. It's worth your visiting if only for someone to tell me I misapprehended the place.

Complexity  ·  3044 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: LEFTIST FASCISTS THREATEN THE LARGEST DEMONSTRATION IN HISTORY  ·  

This is all well and good. However if you really want to create a financially viable proposition to pitch to supporters, you will need to focus on smaller, more digestible texts. Or transition to video.

Very few in your target demographic will have the patience to make their way through large blocks of dense text. If you want to plug into the outrage dollar, you'll need to make your message clear, concise and copyable.

Focus on short, attractive titles that inspire both curiosity and anger in your target demographic. The title for this post, for example, is reasonably engaging but could be improved by turning it from a declarative statement (which at best will provoke in your demographic agreement) into an implied question/answer proposition: "Why Leftist Fascists... etc". That simple change will also provoke in your customer-base a desire to click through in order to discover the secret.

You might try the "Ten Reasons Why..." formula, which is almost overplayed these days, yet still provokes a visceral reaction in completists, but this often locks you into generating actual content.

I would suggest you bring your text down both in length and reading comprehension. Shorter texts are a better proposition for sharing and lower grade comprehension targets will get your message across quickly.

You can use tools like these to double check reading comprehension and edit down: https://readability-score.com/

I would tend to offer a strong title, a three paragraph text, and then a strong call to action (i.e. where to send you financial support) and that call should relate to the point you addressed in the text. Rather than the generic "Like what I write" which offers the option for a reader to answer "No", instead have a a double-bind or move forward call. For this article, you could try: "Help Fight Socialist Fascism For $1". Anchor that number in the call to action, then link to a spread of support options which offer higher value. "For only $5 you can..." This is all pretty basic marketing, you can research it yourself.

However the greatest cross-marketing shift you can make is to begin producing video content. I would keep these short, too. Aim in the first instance to produce brief videos that are both single message and echo in sentiment your demographic's emotional pitch. You will be able to calibrate your message by measuring something very simple, say, the thumbs up/thumbs down ratio on the video.

You need to aim for parity - this should indicate your demographic support on one hand and the outrage of others' reactions to your message on the other. Inspiring an irrational emotional response in others will of course have them spread your content in order to revile it. This will eventually bring it back to your target demographic. The more active your Youtube comments section, the more squabbling and infighting you generate, the more buzz you'll have online. There's no such thing as bad publicity, only unused publicity. Think about creating a few puppet accounts to attack yourself, share the content elsewhere and ridicule yourself.

Do remember that in a video you can have a much clearer and more emotive call to action. I'm presuming your main call is to have those whose views you echo send you money. Don't be coy about this part. Hundreds of entirely insincere televangelists have made enormous coin by spending at least half of their allotted broadcast soliciting funding.

The leap into video is tricky. On the one hand you don't want to appear too polished, for fear of alienating the common man from whom you're siphoning funds. On the other hand you don't want to appear completely insane, for fear of people accusing you of post-modern profiteering. It's a fine line and a practiced skill. Study successful televangelists, reality show stars, unconvicted banking magnates etc.

It's great to see enterprise in turbulent times. With a little careful planning you will be able to secure a better revenue stream for yourself within a few months.

STEP ONE – Music

    Youth and youth, don't be rude
    It's time to eat some good food
    For the poor underwealthy
    Need to be healthy
    You know
Hubski is demographically US-centric site so I thought I'd tip a hat to the influence Jamaican history has had on the UK. For this, I will need to make a classic Jamaican dish.

PEAS AND RICE!

Play the music.

STEP TWO – Procure Ingredients

In order to be the inception of the Grubski challenge, I want to do this in eight steps for EightBit but also use only eight ingredients, e'ight?

Here are my eight: Rice, Black Beans (what Jamaicans call peas in peas and rice), Onion, Scallions, Coconut Milk, Garlic, Chilli, Chives.

The music you are listening to is One Step by Max Romeo (Maxwell Livingston Smith) one of the artists that brought reggae to Britain in one of the waves of cultural immigration that introduced a Jamaican diaspora to London. He was banned by the BBC for suggestive lyrics in his hit Wet Dream (which he insisted was a song about a leaky roof – suuuure it was Maxwell) and founded The Upsetters who worked with Lee Scratch Perry and went on to form the Wailers, so he's surely worth a listen. Born in 1944 he left home at 14 and worked on a sugar plantation before being spotted in a talent contest at 18.

Sadly, refined sugar has historically been intertwined with the slave trade and huge fortunes (Tate & Lyle) were built on the labour of slaves. Apart from the karmic debt of pain on your plate implied by sugar, it's terrible for your health. No sugar was used in the creation of this dish.

STEP THREE – Prepare Ingredients

We're going to finely chop our onion and grate or dice our ginger (I prefer fine dicing as I like the crunch of ginger root on the tooth). Drain your black beans, measure your rice, slice your scallions, crush your garlic, shiver your timbers and pass the doobie.

STEP FOUR – The Fry

In a little oil, brown your onions and ginger for a few minutes – cover the raas clart dish, we've talked about this before, it keeps your onions moist– and then add your dry rice and fry in, allowing it to be covered in oil and flavour. Add your black beans and allow to heat through. Throw in some salt and pepper and your chilli.

STEP FIVE – The Simmer

Now you can measure your cup of coconut milk and a cup of water, stir through, cover and allow to simmer

STEP SIX – Rum

While we're waiting for the rice to cook through, let's pour ourselves a shot of rum; of course. For this particular dish let's use La Negrita, often considered little better than a cooking rum but shut up.

Jamaica was getting along quite happily before the Spanish in 1509 and then the British around 1670 settled there and implicated it in the Atlantic slave trade. Due to its fabled beauty it became a favourite place to jump ship for privateers; meanwhile the 18th century slave-powered cultivation of sugar and coffee made it a valuable jewel in the British crown. It wasn't all plain sailing for the Brits, though, there were over a dozen slave uprisings which saw self-liberated communities establish themselves in the interior of the island.

In the 19th century, some of these 10,000 black freemen were employed in militias to keep the enslaved population in check; for example in the widespread revolt known as the Baptist War. A post-mortem review of this uprising was part of the impetus in the 1830's for an abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire. Thereafter for Jamaica it was a slow struggle towards increasing independence marked 100 years later by the founding of the PNP, the socialist People's National Party, which Max Romeo endorsed and in support of whom he wrote songs. The PNP themselves chose his single Let The Power Fall as their theme song for their 1972 election campaign. (They won.)

How's the rice doing? Looking good? Nice, nice.

As part of the West India Regiment, Jamaicans fought for Britain in WWI making up around 10 of 15 thousand troops. They settled in small numbers in Britain thereafter and went on to fight in WWII, but the largest influx was post-war. Trigged by a hurricane in 1944 but most by the promise of post-war jobs, a wave of immigration through to the late 60's (continuing in smaller numbers thereafter) led to a thriving and vibrant community establishing itself and bringing with it culture, cuisine and music.

One hugely popular genre which took off in the UK was ska. Here's the outrageously attractive Millie Small singing My Boy Lollipop, probably the first breakthrough ska hit in the UK in 1964.

STEP SEVEN – Stir In The Fresh

By now your rice and peas will be fluffy and cooked through, so you can throw in your chopped scallions, your garlic, your chives and any other cheeky spices you have to hand (cumin for me). Stir through a little more, keep the heat low, you're almost ready to serve.

Hugely influential in the UK, Jamaican music brought reggae, influenced Indian bhangra, and fused punk and reggae to produce two-tone – the soundtrack to my eighties – and thereafter trip-hop, jungle, dub-n-bass. All my jams, yo.

What's that, you don't know what two-tone sounds like? Why, here, brave reader, have an earful of this hour-long mix you can enjoy while you're eating your modern peas and rice.

STEP EIGHT - Youth and youth, don't be rude, It's time to eat some good food

Now your rice is ready, I suggest you serve it with something cold and dark; perhaps a Mahon Negra; and some hot sauce for extra kick.

Meanwhile you can wander through the history of Jamaica and the UK on Wikipedia. The influences are profound.

In this dish: one can of black beans, one cup of long grain rice (with one cup of coconut milk and one cup of water), one small onion, a tablespoon of fresh ginger root, a handful of chives, one garlic clove, one scallion (spring onion), one chilli. Serves 2 - 4 MAYBE.

No sugar was harmed in the making of this dish; and know what else? It's totally vegan.

Complexity  ·  3567 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Grubski Challenge #2: The New Green  ·  

Dem carbs.

Complexity  ·  3569 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: The Glock Family Goes Down Guns Blazing  ·  

Complexity  ·  3581 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Grubski Challenge #1: $20 One Dish/Pot Meal  ·  x 2

Let's see if this works...

Couscous is like the universe, say the Sufis; within an infinite substrate lie far separated clusters of sweetness which explode into life when the seeker encounters them.

They say nothing of the sort, of course, but it sounds like something they might say so let's roll with it.

If you happen, say, to own a tagine pot you brought back from Morocco and use as often as you can despite your nephew having broken the base for the coals so you have to use the damn thing over an open flame on a gas range, you can make TRUE couscous.

To make a true couscous, you need time. You soak the couscous in water, you prepare the raw ingredients, you layer them into the mix in your tagine pot, you gently simmer everything over coals for hours, you eat it with friends, on a rooftop in Marrakesh, laughing with beautiful, perfect teeth.

But this is the 21st century, drones patrol the skies, the environment is collapsing, Bladerunner was optimism. WE DON'T HAVE TIME FOR THAT SHIT.

Let's do TURBO COUSCOUS.

TO THE BAT SHOP. Or rather, the local Moroccan shop, which has two important things.

1) Fresh, inexpensive ingredients:

2) Arabic bread

Now I don't eat bread but that stuff is delicious and spongey and perfect for soaking up sauces and dipping in dips. It great to have on the table with a bunch of friends tearing off strips. I didn't buy any this evening but let's just imagine I did; it's warm, as it's freshly baked, it smells like heaven and sesame and it's already making you hungry, kay? Kay.

Back in the Bat Kitchen, we are going to start prepping. You can pull this entire meal off in around half an hour. 21st century, remember? First, you need fuel. The last of the Caol Ila.

You also need to be someone who happens to have insane amounts of weird herbs and spices to hand at all times. This is just a selection of the ones we're going to use.

So, first, you discover you happen to have an aubergine to hand and the taste of the whisky makes you reckless. You know it's one pot cooking but what the hell, you decide to cheat. I'm going to cheat. DO SOMETHING.

You roast that aubergine over a naked flame. It's actually illegal to roast aubergines in an oven. They become flavourless, lack smoke and people will shun you. Instead, turn it over an open flame until it becomes blackened on the outside and oozes juices that are going to take a long, long time to scrub out of the metal.

Meanwhile you are finely chopping ingredients. You can use anything you like, really, but these are my staple couscous food groups. Red, green, white and meat; that's two kinds of pepper, onion, halal meat from the afore-visited Moroccan shop and over there beside it a couple of chopped garlic cloves and a couple of chopped chillis.

There in the little bowl are two chopped tomatoes steeped in Modena vinegar. They were actually given to me by a friend, sourced from her garden, but we can count 'em in the price anyway.

Disclaimer: on the whole I'm veg and I'll make this with soaked lentils or lentils and chick peas instead of meat but tonight the whisky is making me wild. If you're going to substitute, just treat the legumes like the meat.

Meanwhile in the DISH OF CHEATING I've thrown three tablespoons of tahini. Add a squirt of lemon juice, some of that chopped garlic and some paprika, blend and you have a paste. A delicious, cheating paste.

Time for a quick change of drinks. The world's tiniest G&T.

Mix the remaining garlic, the chilli, some soya sauce, some cumin with the meat (or lentils) and let it steep. I also added hibiscus paste because awesome. If you can season for the whole day, so much the better, but this is the 21st century so we'll steep it until you start cooking it, dammit.

How's our cheating aubergine doing? Deliciously charred on the outside and squishy on the inside you say? Hello.

Strain the excess juices, crush and mash.

And blend with the delicious paste of cheating from earlier.

That's right, my friends. Baba Ganoush.

Meanwhile, the couscous. Here's 21st century speed couscous: equal parts water and couscous. If you are splendid, like _refugee_ you can use vegetable stock in place of water, which gives the couscous more flavour. You can also drop in half a cube of vegetable stock if that's all you have, but nothing that contains monosodium glutamate or the stars will cry.

Water in the pan, a teaspoon of olive oil, bring to the boil, throw in the the couscous, bring it back to the boil, lid on and heat off. Leave it alone. LEAVE IT.

Now this is supposed to be a single pot dish, thus after a few minutes and once we've fluffed our now yearning, swollen couscous with a fork and another dash of olive oil, let's get it out of the way to leave room to cook the rest...

A perfect time to pause and move on to Jamaican rum.

Onions first, in a tiny dab of butter. Butter is not bad; ask Michael Pollan; it also helps to brown the onion. Keep the lid on! What are you, psychotic? That will keep the onions from drying out.

Add the meat (or lentil) mix and brown through a little, then the rest of the vegetables.

I like to add peas. Keep that filthy canned stuff away from me; best peas are frozen peas.

After a few minutes, you can add a couple of spoons of tahini and a similar amount of pure peanut paste (peanut butter will do if you have nothing else and are willing to be pursued through all the circles of hell by lesser demons for all eternity).

Season with a splash of vinegar (no, really). Allow the steam to rise, you don't want it to be too liquid, nor too dry. Finally, tip in your couscous, stir nicely, lid on and allow it to sit and steep for a while.

This quantity will serve 4 - 6. Imagine the bread is sitting on the table too. There is the tomato which you can spoon over a full bowl of couscous to add moisture and zesty flavour, there's the harissa which will spice things up if the chillis don't do it for you, there's the illegal baba ganoush which you can either dip with imaginary bread or spoon over the couscous.

And to drink? I like my vodka like I like my post-modern pro-feminist Disney fable reimaginings....

Frozen.

As for the accounting, this is tricky. Already to hand, the couscous, the spices, the tahini. Even the unlawful aubergine lurked in the fridge. The tomatoes were a gift but let's add them in regardless. Everything I bought amounts to around 8 euros BUT! I used half the veg and only a third of the meat which by rough calculation means around 4 - 5 euros. Add a euro for imaginary bread which will also feed four to six, say 50 cents for an aubergine, 10 cents each for the spoons of tahini and pure peanut paste, 25 cents for the lemon I already had, another 25 for a handful of frozen peas and we're looking at maybe 6 - 7 euros (7 - 8 dollars) for the whole thing; $1 to $1.50 a head; which leaves 14 euros for 2 - 3 good bottles of local wine.

COUSCOUS 1 onion 1 green capsicum 1 red capsicum 2 green 'guindillas' (chillis) 2 garlic cloves 1 tbspn hibiscus paste 1 fist sized lump of steak 1 handful fresh / frozen peas 1 cup couscous 2 tbspns tahini 2 tbspns peanut puree Salt / pepper / soy / vinegar / cumin

BABA GANOUSH 1 aubergine 3 tbspns tahini Juice of 1/2 lemon Pinches of salt, paprika 1/2 garlic clove

GARNISH 2 tomatoes Dash of salt, dash of Modena vinegar

Complexity  ·  3599 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Matt Burns: Apple Just Uploaded A U2 Album To Your iPhone And iPad - And Seriously, WTF  ·  

Relax in your spa. Glance down at your Apple watch. Is that the time? Yes, it's U2 time. It's Suntory time. It's time for you. You are time. You are iTime. Sit back and let the warm, soothing bubbles of You caress your portfolio. Let your mind drift. The funding for your third startup app will come, don't worry. No stress. Ignore the internet background radiation of bleating voices cheeping about climate change. There is only one climate to bear in mind right now, the warm, misty froth of the spa. Be in the spa. Be the spa. Rest your hand on your glass. Is the glass half full? iGlass. UGlass. You too? Are you half full? Or are you half empty, a raging screaming void of present moment consumption, sifting the glossy digital catalogues for product after product to dam the flood of horror, hush, it's you time, it's time for you, too, it's time for U2, soothing time, Suntory time. Hear the clink of round ice cubes on expensive crystal, the hiss of bubbles, feel the worries melt away, melt away, we will update your software soon, we will reconfigure your taste, let your mind go blank, work harder, do you believe we know what's best for you? Do you believe? iBelieve, iBelieve.

Complexity  ·  3808 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: The Riddle Begins  ·  x 2

Sun was going down when the last letter arrived. Knew it was coming. Heard the snick of the post box flap. Crunch of the post boy chasing his shadow up the gravel path. All the bills had come earlier in the week. No-one sends me nothing else any more, anyway.

Sat on the mat like a dead bird, that envelope. Didn't want to touch it but I knew I would. Didn't straight away, though. Turned my back on it, headed into the kitchen, took a beer. Drank it looking out across the yard at the silhouettes of the pines. Rain had started up again. Slicked down the dust and the odour of fresh earth rose up at me. Finished the beer, listened to the patter of the raindrops, watched the sky fade. Couldn't put it off any longer.

Sat at the old desk in the corner. Envelope was in a pool of warm, yellow light. Bought that lamp second hand from a library. And the letter opener. Silver. Looked like a dagger. Thought it made me classy. Used it to open all the other envelopes. Thought it would be respectful. Slit the top of the envelope and eased it open. Used the opener to draw the letter out. Left it there, in the middle of the soft glow of the lamplight.

I didn't need the last letter to know what to do. Since the first had arrived, they had begun their work on me. I was caught up in the mystery. A puzzle to solve. Tried comparing the scripts on some of them. Tried translating the fragments of dead writing trapped within their shapes. Looked up map locations, sought out newspapers in local library records. When I had enough, I even tried to put them together like a jigsaw.

All distraction.

Like a magician teasing the eye with a flourish whilst the mechanics of the illusion are worked beyond the corner of the victim's eye, the trick is seducing the mark to look the wrong way.

Then it was too late. Wormed their way into my mind, they had. Realised, just too late. Laid them out across the desk, in the end. They sat there. Couple of letters from the end. A sentence. Real short. Plain. An instruction.

Bookshelf beside the desk. Filled with smart books. Can't read them any more. Letters are too small. Too many. And these letters don't want anything else inside my head. Sit huddled in there like strange birds in a nest, mouths open. Hungry.

Second to last letter arrived. Put it in its place. Already guessed what the letters said but they made me wait for the last of them. Spent that time gathering the tools. Laid them out beside the desk. Sharp knife, length of rope, gloves, needles. So on. All that my improvisation. Many roads lead to the same place.

There they sit, in the pool of light. They are my world, now. Dusk around the house. Inside the house. Won't be back.

Tools are packed in the bag, now. My mind is the letters. Don't need to see them any more. They are me. One final thing, before I turn out the lamp forever.

Collect a handful of envelopes.

Complexity  ·  3812 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Chrome/Firefox Extension Idea  ·  x 3

I loathe Upworthy with an irrational burning rage which spills over to scald all similar sites with similar names: Viralnova, ClickTwitcher, CynicalSpread, EpidemiLOLery...

The seething repulsion begins at first apprehension of the headlines which are now parodies of themselves. The subtle analyses of the psychology of 'creating the gap' driving think-pieces in The New Yorker, which we can all dissect over cocktails and electronic cigarettes, neatly sidesteps the pre-existing conditions of the headlines which are that they are cynical travesties of informational presentation; textual versions of prancing little man-whores with tight arses, eager and breathless with promise and mystery; heavy-lidded, raven-haired, inconceivably buxom sirens, pursing their lips and mouthing something you can't quite catch unless you lean in.

They're the textual equivalent of the sexualisation of advertising except instead of exploiting our hard-wired libido they leverage our natural curiosity and, in exactly the same way, they might work but they leave us feeling hollow and exploited. Even when, defeated, we click...

Then the bastard JS popover, with its facile messages. Isn't it nice to live in a world in which people live in a nice world? Don't you agree that good things are good? Yes, is the opposite of no, yes? An interaction created by bastards in a bastard's attempt to condition you to agree to something meaningless, placed there by bastards whose bastard misunderstanding of some poor bastard's psychological assertion in some bastard paper cited out of context somewhere has taken the irritating technology of JS popovers and blended them with the irritating pop psychological preenings of post-intellectual internet echo chamber researchers into a kind of festival of bastards, celebrated in pastel shades with rounded corners and drop shadow, appearing at some carefully calculated moment – no doubt specified by bastards in a bastard formula somewhere which links irritation with operant conditioning – just after one arrives on the bastard page that one is trying to read in the first place, like a idiot Cerberus the dog guarding the entrance to Hades.

For the final destination is a kind of content hell.

What happens next doesn't amaze me. What she did doesn't warm my heart. It may, had I stumbled across it organically. Instead I approach these lost, howling damned souls first stained by disappointment that one of my peers posted link, then grey with self-loathing that its street-corner gyrations actually worked upon me and seduced me into clicking, then insulted by the obfuscating inanity of the popup and finally ending up at a piss-poor bit of marketing someone spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to make look like an amateur video. Even when a genuinely interesting piece of content makes it through, I hate it before I've even clicked play.

In a sense, the transactional miasma of social networking exploitation surrounding what might have brought tiny shoots of delight to the frozen winter soil of my heart instead just makes my eyes sting and water.

Or maybe that's just me.

Here's the Chrome extension I'd like. First, it assesses the content of my page and identifies all Upworthy links – and their cousins – and collapses or otherwise removes their containers.

Then it would identify key moments in human history where these bastards sat in their bright, airy offices in front of their 27 inch iMac screens nursing their Fairtrade Organic imported coffee and having the first inklings of their ideas to revolutionise content sharing.

Then it would open a portal through n-dimensional spacetime and allow me to travel there.

And it would give me a length of lead piping.

What would happen next would astound you.

Complexity  ·  3985 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: A Closer Look: Primer  ·  

I don't know if I loved it or hated it but rather was fascinated by it. My partner, a screenwriter with 10 years in development, hated it to the point of becoming vocal in the first ten minutes and having to stop the film. All her criticism was spot on: who are these people? Why is their dialogue so oblique? Why are they all dressed alike? Isn't that an obstacle to us differentiating their characters? What are they doing? What do they want? Why has it taken so long for them to articulate their goals? And on.

I think part of my fascination stems from the context of the film: made by someone who, for better or worse, had no formal education in film-making and taught himself everything from scratch, someone who reverse engineered film in such an innocent way that he thought you shot two character reverse setups by shooting a line of dialogue, turning the camera around and then shooting the next line.

That it was even completed amazes me. Yet I can't help thinking that, in the same way that talented outsiders using unorthodox methodology in Carruth's other field - mathematics - sometimes bring baffling but brilliant proofs that extend the field, so some film-makers offer highly individual craft; yes and theme and tone.

To me it felt like a SF story from the era just after the Golden Age, when regular short story magazines were publishing contemplative works just verging on soft/slipstream ideas. That its fans present it as a puzzle to be solved, or that after sufficient viewings one will 'get it' I feel does it an injustice. He could have saved himself his 8000 dollars (and InFocus their investment to bring it up to spec) by writing a short story but I don't think that was the point.

Watching a film with a well engineered revelation (e.g. Fight Club) allows one to watch it a second time in an informed state which throws all the scenes into a new light once the previous assumptions have evaporated. I love that construction. It's neat, it's closed, I get it. I don't think Primer is that kind of a film at all and that its writer/director has a science background misleads a lot of people into thinking its necessarily a hard SF story with an intellectual approach. It seems to me that its effects upon an audience are distinct in the same way some of Lynch's films refrain from offering the audience a position from which to view, assess and sympathise with characters in a disorientating and disturbing situation and instead attempt to elicit those sensations directly.

My fascination with the film, as I say, is bound up with Carruth's approach. Should it be? Should the film not stand alone? Yes, it should, if it were simply a story told in pictures in words. Yet if he is working like Lynch and others (and based on his other works I would argue that he probably is) then the themes he explores and the methodology he uses to do so are inseparable. His films seem to be films. They juxtapose images to give a sense of narrative and meaning. Yet there is always a sense that something incomprehensible is happening to the characters. It is beyond their comprehension, but in observing that all we can feel is superior to them, or pity them, whereas if we move into a state of things being beyond our own comprehension, we share that feeling. Like the entity in Solaris which seems to be familiar but slowly, horrifically, reveals itself to be alien and incomprehensible, I resonated with the disorientating splintering of reality that might very well result in a game of time travelling one-upmanship. Philip K Dick achieved similar results in his writing by bringing the effects of the story world into the domain of the text.

After his abortive CGI heavy second attempt, Carruth's third production Upstream Color seems to offer a more assured experiment in the tantalising enticement of the ever out of reach of understanding. Rather than Primer's hard SF narrative which calls for hard analysis, it's a tale of the erosion of will and personality and a dissolution of individuality and understanding. Again, one could watch the film as a spectator, follow the plight of the protagonists and leave feeling dissatisfied or choose to watch in a different mode and allow the discomfort, the unnerving alien sensation of what looks like a film but is not quite a film to affect one's mood.

Again, I didn't like it, I didn't hate it, I didn't understand it in the comfortable, educated way that I like to understand and subsequently dismiss it; but it fascinated. Both films are flawed, both I think fall short of their vision, Primer much more so due to time and budgetary constraints and as a first project. Yet seeing what he's doing, and hearing him in interview, it's clear he's not a fool, not stumbling around blindly.

Do we aim to 'understand' a piece of music? Is that the goal of all film-making, to create a puzzle that divides an audience into those who by education or hard work get it, and leaves others lacking? I don't think so. Perhaps some films in some genres work in that way. Others, the majority, function on an emotional level and are to be experienced. Some film-makers work in such a way. That they are not presented as art projects and projected in a museum just makes their gambit more subtle and more risky. There are also very few of them around as, I would imagine, trying to get them through a profit focussed studio system is much harder. Maybe that's why Lynch turned to digital video. Maybe that's why Carruth has distributed his latest film himself.

I could be wrong. He could be a hack who got lucky. Yet I got something from those films, something which I didn't get from a bunch of other recent releases.