Archive for February, 2010

Symphony Of Science – The Poetry Of Reality

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

John Boswell at Symphony Of Science has released another wonderful music video featuring Carl Sagan and 11 other scientific minds celebrating how science changes our point of view of the world and universe we live in – or, as Richard Dawkins croons: “Science is the poetry of reality.”

Well done, Mr. Boswell. Keep ‘em coming.


Temple Grandin – TED Talk

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Temple Grandin talks at the recent TED conference about how the world needs all kinds of minds. Fascinating stuff.

We inevitably seek to shape, categorize, reform and alter the way our kids (and ourselves) think, behave and interact with the world. We do this because we want our kids (and ourselves) to be perceived as normal, to fit in, to be a part of the world instead of being apart from it.

I am all too aware of the role bipolar behaviour influences the arts. Autism, in all its many forms, has often been regarded as a strange dysfunction or aberration of the brain instead of as a possible evolutionary step for our species. Doubtless if the grand scientific minds of the 1800′s were to see how most of behave today we’d all be locked up in Bedlam.

While some forms of brain difference are manifestly disabling there are many many traits of the human mind that allow some of us to become an Einstein, Newton, Gould, Rainman, or even Temple Grandin.

I’m no flippin’ expert – I only have my own experience to bring to bear upon this – and I don’t want to go all Jerry Mander and Neil Postman on you but I suspect the rise in autistic symptoms within our younger population may indeed be in response to the overwhelming deluge of unmediated information. Unlike Postman and Mander, I don’t see this as a bad thing – it just is – and, as in times past, the brain will find a way to survive, to protect itself and ultimately thrive.

I don’t know. I just think she gave a really cool talk. Lemme go think about it.


P. S. Although Postman and Mander can come across as intensely pessimistic luddites they do have some good thoughts on the media cesspool we are drowning in. I remember reading Mander’s The Four Arguments For The Elimination Of Television when I was working for Henson on Fraggle Rock. During a break in shooting I was half-in / half-out of this round foam blob creature that ate Doozers and poring through the pages when Jim asked me: “What are you reading?”. I gleefully held up the book and he snorted: “That’s a bit inflammatory, don’t you think?” to which I replied: “Not if you keep paying my salary!”

Anyway – there’s a really good piece by Mander that is more recent over at the Lapis Magazine site. It’s called The Homogenization Of Global Consciousness: Media, Telecommunications & Culture. Give it a read and then let me know how easy you sleep at night.

I’d really love to see him and Kevin Kelly go at it.

Slitscan Brain Melting Video Mash-Uppery

Friday, February 12th, 2010

The title of this article is as bizarre as the video itself. I found this over on Bruce Sterling’s blog Beyond The Beyond and it is a wondrously brain melting bit of video wizardry that dissects and reassembles the images and sound of the formerly linear presentation of media – much like the Yooouuutube site I blogged about earlier.

That it uses one of my favourites and the best movie musical of all time – “Singin’ In The Rain” – only helps but it also serves to reinforce the ideas behind the technique since it incorporates dance and music. Have a lookey-loo and I’ll rant at ya after you’ve had your head opened up just a little bit.

Now at first blush this might seem like just a weird and trippy gimmick – and it could certainly remain as such. But consider the choices made in the creation of this little gem – it’s not arbitrary work. The repetition of the lyrics, the overlapping layers of the melody, the attendant visuals that are given focus at the requisite moment(s) in time – it’s just fucking brilliant. Check out their otherwork.

And not just as a mashup. The images and sounds drip like rain water upon a pane of glass. This is poetry, folks.

At the risk of hauling out the old adage poetry in motion – it is just that. Regardless of whether the content is repurposed or original, this is a stunning example of where our culture is heading.

I hear you say: “What the fuck are you on about, Robbo?”

Fair enough. Just this:

We are emerging from a culture that has been dominated by visuals – motion visuals. The moving image has become the lingua franca of the past century – it defines us and it defines our world. The power once held by a painted image, a photograph or a sound bite has long ago relinquished its hold upon the minds of our culture – and in its place is the moving image.

Technological and market forces decreed that such images would always come from a combined creative and business elite – a one-way and top-down conversation. The democratization of this technology is allowing the once passive viewer to speak back to those once hierarchal images – to craft a response in a myriad of forms – to redefine our culture by adopting the language of moving pictures and transforming them into poetry. We also get to speak to each other in this way – transforming the culture further by adopting the methods of what was once voices from above to our own voices from within.


Giambattista Vico postulated – back in the early 1700′s – a recurring cycle of three ages of culture: The Poetic, The Mnemotic & The Vulgar. It doesn’t take a great mind to look about and realize what age we are currently wallowing our way through. Vulgar doesn’t even begin to describe it.

But it is a cycle.

The wheel turns – slowly, yes – but it does turn.

And thus we enter an age where the content of our former culture becomes transformed into the poetic. McLuhan oft stated the content of new media was the media of old. This is but one of the reasons why fighting to retain public access to common culture is important. Our voices stem from our ability to speak of what once was by using the voices of that recent time past.

Blah blah blah blah blah blah.

I easily foresee a culture that speaks like the video above. Songs, stories, music, dance, narrative, marketing, instruction – the whole gamut of human communication – parlayed through what now would be perceived as an incoherent too-well-stirred pot of media.

We shall speak in video.

And this speech will not merely be regarded as art or a sub-culture of hipster dialect, Daddio – it will be how we converse.

Just as easily as I type – and you read – these words.

Welcome to the future.

Say what?


P.S. This reminds me of the work of Graham Smith, who I used to hang out with a bit in the early ’80′s when he was at OCA creating his photography based work Skinned and messing around with early experiments in video and cludgey virtual reality simulations. He’s currently deep into the telepresence and immersive video world but still crafting very compelling images.