On #metoo

A couple of thoughts on the #metoo conversation. (Also noting: there is lots here I’m not even trying to touch on in this.)

The main effect for me so far has been to make things realer. I’ve known the general statistics for a long time, but statistics are faceless, impersonal, and hard to grasp. While I’ve known some people’s stories, #metoo putting the faces – so many faces – of women I know and like and love, all going through this shit, brought the truth of the statistics home in a new way. One that is horrific, heartbreaking, and enraging; but ultimately useful.

So, thanks to the women (and men) who’ve posted. To be honest, this is one of the best uses of social media I’ve seen. This is a good conversation to have. Many things are wrong in our world and society, and change starts with confronting and accepting truths; and speaking them.

Now that this is so far out in the open, the thing I would venture to suggest making from this moment is a commitment for this to be the last generation who could have this #metoo hashtag be a thing; in fact, for it to be unthinkable in future generations.

Seriously.

Lots of changes are generational. I’m pretty sure no one wants their son to someday become a rapist (or generally shitty and abusive to women), or their daughter to someday be raped (or generally treated shittily and abused by men) – but, if things don’t change, then that’s what’s coming, right?

The pain and damage already done to us and by us is on us to heal and repair. But doing everything we can to prevent this continuing – stopping cycles of abuse; creating a culture with consent, dignity, respect and openness at its heart, for our children to learn and inherit – is also on us.

There’s a hell of a lot of work to be done, together and individually, to raise everyone up to communicate better, treat each other better, and have a far healthier culture around sex. (And this, I think, is an important part of even wider changes needed in our culture, society, economy, and way of being in this world.) It’s a lot, but it’s the kind of thing that a generation can do.

I’ll do my part in that. How about you?

(Oh, and also: Men. Wow. We need to do better. I certainly haven’t been perfect in the past and am ever trying to become more conscious and less of a dick generally in life. But yeah. We need to own what we are doing, have done, and are allowing to be done.)

Review – Alien: Covenant

I think I am mostly writing this down because Brad will want to have a conversation about it and it is in my head right now; and essentially it becomes a vague essay about the creation of meaning rather than a film review. Any film, any artwork, engaged in what happens when we reach the limits of the known is subject to bizarre readings. So it goes. *spoilers ahoy*, in any case. (more…)

Positive effects of blocking Facebook news feed (Filters, part 5)

(Another in a very occasional series across the years about interacting with technology and its effects on the mind, and strategies to deal with information overload: here are parts 1, 2, 3, 4.)

 

A few months back I started using MindTheTime, a Mozilla extension, to track the time I spend online and where.

A bit over a month ago, I started using KillFBFeed to block the Facebook news feed.

Coming up to the end of this month, I now have a full month of data to compare with previous months.

Total internet use this month is down to about 2/3 – 3/4 of what it has been in prior months.

Facebook use this month is down to 1/3 – 1/2 of what it has been in prior months.

A small element of this could be seasonal – midwinter months had slightly heavier internet use – but the change seems significant.

The main reason to block “newsfeed” was to bring an end to mindless internet trawling. This has been a qualified success. I can still access specific lists on facebook to track close friends, and I still use Facebook as an email and events service. One side effect is I am spending more time on my Twitter mutants feed, which is a much higher quality curation of content.

Another intent of the switch was to pop my filter bubble, and especially to escape that rampant 2016-nausea. This appears to have been successful. I caught up with some people at a cafe the other day. When talk turned to a swirl of Trump, I had no idea what the latest godawful details of stuff out of my control were, but everyone else did.

In other news, I am engaging with my own creative projects more.

So, on the whole a successful experiment, and one I will continue. I would recommend similar practices to others.

Rogue One in Star Wars machete order moose canon

[Will contain spoilers for Rogue One and Star Wars in general. Deal with it.]’

So Rogue One has happened. Perhaps the most interesting thing about it, on reflection, is purely meta. While it was the eighth film made in the franchise, it is logically the first to watch. (At least per my personal canon, a version of machete order, which we will explore below.)

But because Rogue One was the eighth made, it didn’t have anything to set up about the world. So it doesn’t. It assumes the viewer knows what the Force is, what Jedi are, and contains any number of knowing winks for fans. Which makes it kind of fascinating to consider as the first film in the sequence, as if you knew nothing of the world. This is an accidental effect, but makes the film far more interesting.

(I admit I haven’t watched A New Hope since Rogue One, so this is all just musings.)

From this perspective Rogue One becomes a kind of film that Hollywood doesn’t make. One lacking in over exposition of everything for dummies. One letting questions remain unanswered. One which invests in creating depth and then throws it away. A preamble rather than a complete entity. Storytelling that is taking its time.

My personal version of machete order (moose order? moose canon!) is as follows:

Rogue One

Star Wars (A New Hope, episode IV, original theatrical edit)

Empire Strikes Back (episode V, original theatrical edit)

The Phantom Edit (a condensed version of Episodes I, II, and III, into one film, which, while not perfect, is far more watchable than the original versions, manages to omit most of the awfulness, and which I am happy to accept as canon)

Return of the Jedi (episode VI)

The Force Awakens (episode VII)

So this is basically Machete Order (which is worth reading through if you are nerd enough to be reading this and if you haven’t already) with the phantom edit subbed in, and adding the films from the last year as bookends.

Now: consider Rogue One as the starting point for the entire story.

The Force is hinted at, a religion that has power and meaning for some characters, but is never explained. Jedi are mentioned in passing, and their appearance is foreshadowed, but we don’t know what they are. Vader’s final scene in Rogue is a brutal pre-introduction to his entrance in A New Hope. Vader, based on the glimpses from Rogue alone, is a mysterious and monstrous figure.

We are flung into A New Hope with meaningful stakes. Lots of people died to get us this far. The tenuous tangential opening storytelling of A New Hope as we follow the droids becomes an extension of the roundabout introduction of Rogue One. It seems like it is all about these Death Star plans, and the struggle against the Empire, but, really, this is the beginning of Luke Skywalker’s arc, and the story of the Force and the Jedi. (As I have noted before, the prequels failed mostly because they abandoned Luke’s arc – The Force Awakens succeeds essentially because it continues it.) Luke is unaware of all that has gone before, as are all the major players other than Leia.

Everything changes when Obi-Wan starts teaching Luke about the Force. The story takes on a new dimension. It is no longer just the story of a rebellion against the Empire, but a true tale of good vs evil, with far higher stakes.

Hmm. That’s as far as my thinking goes right now.

So, seen in this accidental light, I think Rogue One becomes kinda cool. I guess I’ll find out someday when I watch them all in Moose Canon order. 😉

 

 

On the meaning of President-elect Trump

Well. President-elect Trump. So that happened.

Let’s take a deep breath and begin. This is going to be bad. Okay? Unpredictable, interesting, and even, on occasion, good, in the way that a stopped clock shows the right time twice a day. Enough has already been said about Trump’s character. He is not a good, well-balanced, well rounded person. Civilisation has standards. If civilisation means anything, it means having standards, and Trump does not meet those. He should not be President. He is going to be.

 

So what does it mean? What do we need to remember to understand this situation?

1. Let’s get this out of the way. With the election of Trump, America has effectively abdicated its role as leader of the free world. We cannot look to the USA for leadership because they clearly cannot sort out their internal situation and politics. They cannot run themselves; ergo they can’t run the world.

We have been looking in a de facto way to the USA to provide leadership for years. We can no longer expect leadership from America. We’ve got to grow up and sort things out for ourselves.

Perhaps a bitter pill, but the sooner swallowed, the better.

America has been an empire in decline for a long time and this election just seals it. Their internal problems are now so great they cannot lead the world. They can’t be trusted to. It’s a moral thing. If you can’t sort out your own shit why would we let you try and sort ours?

 

2. Trump is not to blame for the current state of the world.

There is so much that is messed up in our society and way of life. Trump did not cause these things, though he is a mighty symptom and emblem of them.

We (anyone likely to be reading this) are complicit in the way the world is today; and we did not get here overnight. For far too long we have remained idle and comfortable while other people suffered.

3. The Republican Party is more dangerous than Trump.

Tea Party Republicans are the real danger. If Trump hadn’t got the Republican nomination, Ted Cruz would have. He would be a far scarier President. Any other Republican with both houses behind him would be scarier than Trump.

Trump is a wild card. A dude who doesn’t know what he is doing. He started out running a protest vote campaign in the primaries that succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations, and his ego wouldn’t let him quit. He does not want to do the job of being President (eg offering Kasich the Vice Presidency and being in charge of all domestic and foreign policy), or possibly even understand what it entails.

An enormous amount is going to turn on who Trump appoints to advise him, and how well he can be controlled and managed. So far the signs aren’t good.

4. Trump does not have the Republican Party behind him.

This is huge. During the election race, a huge proportion of the Republican establishment turned their backs on Trump. He won’t forget that.

Crucial to remember is that Trump hijacked the Republican Party – a party itself riven between its extremist tea party rump and its old guard. Trump’s agenda is not their agenda. This is going to be one of the most fascinating things to watch play out. In a strange way, Trump and the Republicans become the brake on each other’s excesses.

What this means is that no one is going to get what they want.

5. The President has less power than you think.

Obama said this in an interview late in his second term. The President can make people listen but unless he can get them to agree and cooperate, they have their own power bases, and don’t have to do what he says. Trump is not going to bring people together. He is not a politician or negotiator. He is a billionaire autocrat who makes decisions the consequences from which he is insulated.

6. Trump forces change. Change is always double edged.

Trump forces change. Either he will shake things up radically and get his way, or he will be unable to, in which case the presidency is revealed as irrelevant and powerless, and the powers that be that control the world are shown to be not democratic, which itself demands a revolution from precisely those who supported Trump’s message. (I can actually imagine Trump stepping down in under a year, throwing his toys at not getting his way, calling the whole system corrupt.)

Every action prompts an equal reaction. The fact of Trump forces the left in America to slap itself hard and start engaging with reality in a new way. The fact of Trump forces the rest of the world’s leaders to start leading on the pressing issues of the day, be they wars, climate, or the changing economy.

The fact of President-elect Trump demands a reaction from every sane and responsible human being alive. For we all have power. We just need to own it, reclaim it, and start using it wisely, each and every day. We can and need to do better. And we are many.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Welcome to interesting times. Are you ready to play?

reflections on homelessness

The other night I participated in the 14 Hours Homeless challenge, aimed at raising awareness about homelessness and money for the agencies who work directly with the homeless who pull together to make the event happen. We got to visit a couple of them and see what they do, and hear stories of the difference they make. (Strongest one: the dental work DCM do, sometimes relieving pain that has been ongoing for years. Yikes.)

Then we spent the night outside on cardboard trying to get some sleep.

Big takeaways:

  • homelessness can be ended. Solutions exist. The vision from the agencies at the coalface is of ending homelessness. This is an awesome vision but it will require the government to step in.
  • the strategy is simple and three pronged: stop people becoming homeless in the first place; respond quickly with supports when they do; prevent them from falling back.
  • being homeless can feel like being invisible. The simple act of acknowledging homeless people, and talking to them, makes a huge difference. If you are left wondering what to do when you walk by, be human first.

Personal reflections: man, you don’t get a good night’s sleep sleeping rough. I found the noise more disruptive than the physical discomfort. I was pretty much a zombie after. Doing this for any length of time would be hella rough going. And even though it was a mild night with little wind, when the wind got up around 2am, I sure noticed.

I also figure the circumstances that got you to being on the street – having nowhere to go, no one who would put you up, and no money – would do me in more than the physical side of things. Most of the stories we heard were from people who never expected to end up homeless.

Today saw the release of the results of the Cross Party Homelessness Inquiry, set up when the government refused requests for a select committee into homelessness. Their recommendations are simple and stark: adopt international best practices the government is so far refusing to, namely put homeless people into housing first, then add in the supports. Build more affordable housing. Intervene in the housing speculation market. Create a nationwide strategy on homelessness.

The word from the agencies I encountered at 14HH was that this is doable. Ending homelessness in Wellington by 2020 is their goal. They can’t do it alone, however. We need the government to step up, or elect one that will. Hearteningly the Maori Party have announced they would split with National over this issue.

This is a live ball, but political pressure from the population is now what is required to get movement from the government. Let them know this issue matters. That it is not okay for Kiwis to be living on the streets and the government to do nothing. That’s not how we roll or who we are. We’re a damn lucky country, and we don’t want to become like some other countries where poverty and homelessness are endemic and entrenched.

Oh, and you can still donate to my homelessness fundraising page, which goes to support DCM. As of right now I’m third on the DCM leaderboard, a buck ahead of our departing mayor Celia Wade Brown 😉

 

term of the day: repressive desublimation

“Repressive Desublimation

This concept was suggested by Annalee Newitz, author of Scatter, Adapt And Remember. The idea of repressive desublimation was first developed by by political philosopher Herbert Marcuse in his groundbreaking book Eros and Civilization. Newitz says:

It refers to the kind of soft authoritarianism preferred by wealthy, consumer culture societies that want to repress political dissent. In such societies, pop culture encourages people to desublimate or express their desires, whether those are for sex, drugs or violent video games. At the same time, they’re discouraged from questioning corporate and government authorities. As a result, people feel as if they live in a free society even though they may be under constant surveillance and forced to work at mind-numbing jobs. Basically, consumerism and so-called liberal values distract people from social repression.”

{source}

Star Wars: The Force Awakens – spoiler free review

I saw this on opening day, and had avoided the hype and trailers as much as possible, as I knew I wanted to see it. I wasn’t quite sure why until the night before, when it came to me.

I wanted to know what happens to Luke Skywalker.

Star Wars was always his story. He was the iconic heroic mythic figure of my childhood. And getting to find out what happened next is a lure too tempting to ignore. (In a way, where the prequels went wrong was by misunderstanding this central premise, and trying to make it about Anakin.)

So I was in.

Fundamentally, the first Star Wars was a wonderful imaginative ride. Fill a story sandpit with space ships, laser blasters, non stop pulp adventure, monsters to fight and aliens to meet, and underlying it all a spirituality that can speak to the modern age via the mythology of the Force, with Good and a real temptation of Evil, wizards and swords and magic, and you have something gloriously fun, fertile and special in which to play.

The Force Awakens gives us exactly this.

Where the prequels fucked it up, The Force Awakens gets it about right.

In fact, it is almost slavishly true to the original trilogy. But I think it needed to be after the catastrophe of the prequels; in order to get goodwill from the fans, it needed to communicate that it gets and respects the source material, and from here it can build on that, and evolve and mature the series.

And that is as much as I will say without delving into what happens in any way, other than that I really enjoyed the ride.

reading 2015 part one

Have been very slack at logging reading this year. Does anyone read these or care, anyway? Who knows. But they are useful for me. So here is a recap, glancing through my diary. Feel like I read a lot less than usual this year. I also think I am getting a lot of my mental stimulation from podcasts these days.

 

The Pastel City – M John Harrison

First in the Viriconium series. Oddly angled fantasy, a very different mood and mode, elegiac and austere. Written back in the 70s, maybe? Harrison is a wonderful writer and this is bizarre and neat.

Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know – Ranulph Fiennes

Autobiography of adventurer/explorer/mad bastard Fiennes. What I read of it was entertaining.

Occupational Hazards – Rory Stewart

Scottish dude ends up running a really large province in Iraq under the Coalition Provisional Authority after the US invasion. Really fascinating insight into what trying to run a country and make things better is like when the country is messy and complex, and the area you are in charge of has its own very distinct history and culture from the rest of the country. Things do not go well. Great read.

Think Two Products Ahead – Ben Mack

Really excellent book about marketing and how to think about marketing and communicate what you are doing by a, well, wizard.

8 Tribes: The Hidden Classes of NZ

That book about NZ being made up of 8 tribes. Meh. It was short to skim. Deservedly forgotten.

What We See When We Read – Peter Mendelsund

Really interesting book by a designer – so there was lots of wild design as a book – who loves to read, about what goes on in our heads as we read, and how we visualise and imagine and interact with words. Definitely worth a look if that sounds like you.

Capital in the 21st Century – Thomas Piketty

Epic tome about inequality and how it isn’t going to go away, and in fact has and will worsen, because of how our economic system is structured. Compelling argument. Necessary to be familiar with at least the introduction.

Ritual – Malidoma Some

West African shaman describes the function, role and importance of ritual in the life of his people, with some eye-opening stories.

Conversation – Theodore Zeldin

Something short and light about the art of conversation, I think.

The Laughing Monsters – Denis Johnson

Novel, gave up real quick, Johnson is great but wasn’t in the mood.

Prophet – Brandon Graham (comic)

If you want some very very weird sci fi comics, this is your jam. Epic scope, weird, mad, fun. The most Metabarons-esque thing since Metabarons.

The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains – Neil Gaiman

Nice short story with illustrations, sort of the darker side of Gaiman.

Autobiography – Miles Davis

Entertaining ride, didn’t get too far. Jazz guys were a pretty wild crew, back in the day.

Money: Master The Game – Tony Robbins

Pretty exceptional book about managing money and investing. Robbins used his access to the most successful billionaire investors in the world to model what they are doing and put it together in a system. Essential.

I Will Teach You To Be Rich – Ramit Sethi

Irritating smartarse Indian teaches you money management and investment. Very sharp, good material, but annoying.

A God Somewhere – John Arcudi (comic)

Random grab from the library. Neat take on someone actually getting super powers and the guy who remains his best friend through it.

The Wake – Snyder (comic)

Ditto random. Award winning comic. Decent.

Neonomicon – Alan Moore (comic)

Alan Moore turns his genius to modernising Lovecraft. Really fantastic, and easily the darkest and nastiest thing I have read by him. So good.

Ecko Rising – Danie Ware

Random genre novel from the library on a whim. Sort of a sf/fantasy mashup. Shades of Thomas Covenant without the prose ability. A heavily implanted hi-tech assassin wakes up in a fantasy world, doesn’t know what is going on but has some special abilities in the local sense. Fast, fun read.

New Spring – Robert Jordan

Never knew this existed until I found it and read it. A prequel to the Wheel of Time, which I read a bunch of when I was much younger, then gave up on 300 pages into book 6 when nothing had happened for those 300 pages. This prequel features Lan and Moiraine 20 years before the first book, and how they got to where they got to at the start of the first book. It was really fun to reconnect with that world, though man does Jordan go on and on. Like, a hundred pages of this book could have been summarised in a paragraph or twp, but the depth of the world is amazing.

What I Learned Losing A Million Dollars – Jim Paul

Really useful book about when to get out, and how not to lose money, and the inner psychological game of money and investing. Biggest takeaway is this amazing question: if you were not already in your current situation, would you want to get into it?

The White Lama – Alejandro Jodorowsky (comic)

Fun times as Jodo does Tibet.

An Interpretation of Universal History – Ortega y Gasset

This was actually pretty fascinating. Dude takes on Toynbee’s model of history by showing that the Rome Toynbee takes as an exemplar of civilisation never existed on those terms.

Guide to Tranceformation – Richard Bandler

Bandler returns and summarises his life’s work. Best book you could get on NLP.

Ancillary Justice – Ann Leckie

Hugo Award winner? Real good for reasons it is difficult not to give spoilers about. Slowly uncovering just who the main character is and their history is exceptional.

Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace

Read about 4/10 of it, which is an immense amount of this tome. It is incredible and Wallace is obvious genius and deserving of whatever praise is heaped upon him. Still, too long, eh? Gargantuan, genius, very funny, very dark, very empathic. No wonder the poor bugger topped himself. Sort of hope to get back to it someday.

Radical Acceptance – Tara Brach

Skimmed it. Woo Buddhist positive psychology.

Bold – Peter Diamandis

Very very interesting book about accelerating change and exponential technologies and what that means for changing the world via business. We are living in very interesting times.

Man’s Search for Meaning – Victor Frankl

Classic book by psychiatrist holocaust survivor about the experience of Auschwitz and what separated those who survived from those who didn’t. Incredible, powerful, stark view into humanity, and what is really important. Essential.

Ancillary Sword – Ann Leckie

Sequel to the above. Still enjoyable but much less interesting since most of what there is to be revealed has been revealed.

Magic and Mystery in Tibet – Alexandra David-Kneale

Woo. If you only read one book on Tibet, this is the one. French woman travels around Tibet in the early 1900s, spending time with hermits and magicians and in monasteries and documenting her experience and the stories people told her. There was some wild and crazy shit happening in Tibet, and credible miraculousness.

6 Months to 6 Figures – Peter Voogd

Sharp, punchy, entrepreneurial book. I rate it.

The Metabarons – Alejandro Jodorowsky (comic)

Jodorowsky’s masterwork, in a number of ways. A lot of what would have gone into Dune made its way into this. Mindfuckingly epic account of a thoroughly unreasonable lineage as they tear the galaxy apart.

Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman

Read a chapter, Gaiman doing storytelling, was not in the mood.

Providence

Moore does Lovecraft in Lovecraft era. Still coming out. Nice.

The Death Cure – James Dashner

Third part of the Maze Runner trilogy. Saw the first movie randomly, the second movie is way better and I recommend it, read this cos I couldn’t be bothered waiting for the third movie. A lot must have changed in the second book to movie adaptation. Anyhow. Decent enough. Very YA.

Beyond the Beautiful Forevers – Katherine Boo

Absolutely extraordinary. Pulitzer prize winning journalist gets to know slum dwellers in Mumbai over several years. Writes up an eventful period of their lives as a novel, essentially nonfiction but written novelistically and based on immense interviews etc. Shattering, profound.

Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself – David Lipsky

Lipsky spent a week interviewing David Foster Wallace on the last leg of the book tour launching Infinite Jest, as Wallace was in the process of going stratospheric. Fascinating as an account of a guy coping with the descent of fame, and as an insight into a remarkable mind. A film of it came out, End of the Tour, haven’t seen it.

Hard To Be A God – Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

Russian SF from way back. Russian observer-scientists go to another planet to document the Renaissance happening in a medieval world… except it doesn’t seem to be happening, if anything, a reversion to barbarism is underway. Great novel. I read it cos I saw the insane, incomprehensible film version at the film festival a year or two ago, and wanted to know what the hell actually happened.

The Magus – John Fowles

The first 3/4 of this are an astonishing novel. The end, well, lost me a bit. But hell, the quality of Fowle’s prose, and the intensity and observation he brings to bear, are exceptional, and the dizzying weirdness of the island and the elaborate charade the narrator is caught up in is unforgettable.

The Three-Body Problem – Cixin Liu

Modern Chinese SF, apparently a bestseller there. Very unique take on first contact and Earth being invaded by aliens, through a very different cultural and historic lens. Recommended.

Killer in the Rain – Raymond Chandler

Early novella from Chandler.

Teaching the Dog to Sing – Jonathan Carroll

Recent novella from Carroll, whom I hadn’t read in years. Alright, I guess.

Harvest – Jim Crace

Multi award winning Irish novel of the end of the era of peasant farming before enclosure. Beautifully written.

Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy

McCarthy’s most intense and darkest vision of the old West. If it was the first thing of his I’d read it would have taken my head off. Incredible evocation of landscape and nature and random brutality and the ugliness of humanity, in astonishing prose.

A Visit From The Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan

Pulitzer prize winning novel, told through a bunch of different tangentially related characters set over many years, about growing up and the changes time wrings. Really well done.

The King’s Justice – Stephen Donaldson

Fantasy novella from a real master of fantasy. Good good shit.

Beasts of No Nation – Uzodinma Uweale

Novel about a child soldier somewhere in Africa caught up in a cycle of senseless violence and destruction. Short and unpleasant. Weirdly similar vibe to Blood Meridian, come to think of it.

 

NZIFF 2015 in review

Belief: The Possession of Janet Moses

Fascinating and disturbing re-enactment of the accidental murder of a Wainuiomata woman by her Maori family as they tried to lift a curse from her. Even handed doco leaves the reality of things open – the crux really is belief, what we believe to be true, and how that allows us to act – there is no doubt the family genuinely believed what they were doing was for the best. The film is really about putting you in the room with the extended family for five days as they stamp and chant and try to drive the spirit out. Intense, probably essential viewing for New Zealanders, and anyone interested in the clash between traditional/spiritual beliefs and the modern world. (From the director Q&A there is definitely more to the story, but this holds up.) Also works as a straight up horror movie about people going insane.

Victoria

Shot in one take, starting at about four in the morning, as a young women meets some guys at a club and things end up going in a very unexpected direction. Really solid and enjoyable. Big recommendation; try to avoid spoilers.

Inherent Vice

Stoned surfer private investigator in the 1970s takes a shaggy dog trip through the conspiracy haze of the day. Adapted from a Pynchon novel, lots of fun and very well done but not really having a discernable point.

The Colour of Pomegranates

Famous 1969 Russian/Armenian film. A sort of impressionistic/symbolic biography of an artist that unfortunately pretty much plays like the most excessive and pretentious student art film of all time. Punishingly bad with a few striking images.

The Assassin

Chinese period piece about a female assassin in 7th Century or so China. Looked pretty great, didn’t really seem that interested in telling its story, extremely stylish and very enjoyable however.

Alice Cares

Doco about trialling Alice, a robot with AI in it, to hang out with elderly people with dementia both as companionship and to help keep track of their lives for them. As proof of concept, it works. Alice has a realistic face and expressions, and talks well enough and naturally enough and follows up enough that a relatively normal conversation is possible. She can look things up online and remember information and help people do exercises. This is like an early cellphone, in terms of AI, so we are heading in this direction. Still somehow uncanny and discomforting conceptually. You are left wanting there to be more going on in Alice herself, and it is somehow off that there isn’t, once you have bonded with her a little. A necessary glimpse of our changing world and what is coming. Big big recommendation.

10000 Years Later

CGI animation, set 10000 years after present day. More of a kids movie than I expected. The story is trite and the characterisation lacking, but its environmental etc themes are apt. overall, pretty cheeseball with some excellent design. Would recommend watching it with the sound off and your own soundtrack and improvise your own story.

Embrace of the Serpent

Awesome. Mostly black and white film about two explorers, one following the journals of the other, travelling in the jungle in search of ayahuasca, and their encounters with the same shaman across time. The film is based on real accounts, including that of Richard Evans Schultes, who, among other things, introduced magic mushrooms to the West. Gets very surreal. But yeah wonderful and huge recommendation if this sounds remotely your kind of thing.

The Look of Silence

Companion piece to The Act of Killing (which was my film of the year of 2013, and remains the most striking and necessary film I have seen in years), returning to Indonesia and the aftermath of the mass killings of the 1960s. This film follows Adi as he seeks to engage with the men who murdered his brother, among a million others, and offer them forgiveness.

This screening had a Q&A with Joshua Oppenheimer, the director, which was fabulous.

I don’t really know what to say other than these two films are totally necessary and about the highest example of the documentary art, especially in terms of their real world impact; they have opened a dialogue for change within Indonesia that continues to gain momentum.

Tale of Tales

Inconsistent, opulent, byzantine melange of fairy tales with dark and unexpected twists. Totally worth a look, though somehow unsatisfying as a whole.

Cemetery of Splendor

Woo. The way Apichatpong Weerasethakul (director of Uncle Boonme Who Can Remember His Past Lives) blends the mundane and the supermundane is an achievement of the greatest artistry. His films are gentle, meandering and bizarre. So strange and lovely, and quietly unsettling. This one is set in a makeshift hospital with soldiers struck down with a sleeping sickness, and follows a woman volunteering there. Somehow from there we drift into a world with looser boundaries. Goddesses stop by for tea. The openness of Thai culture to the spirit world grounds the weirdness. Glorious and not remotely like anything else in film, I will keep going to this guy’s films. Challenging in unexpected ways.

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