Elizabeth Gilbert summons the spirit of the creativity genie, getting a rare standing ovation after her talk at the TED conference. Gilbert tries to bottle the essence of the creative process, being especially smart explaining the moments when we lose that bottle—the British idiom “losing your bottle” being useful here.
She explains that courage in creativity is something it’s best to assume we don’t have complete control over: something that runs away, and at a moment’s notice can wash over you as a great wave of momentary genius. The delusion she establishes is useful for anyone familiar with such mental brick walls. The talk is more refined than “blame spirits for your failures”; she is simply saying we must graft, work, sweat, and hope that muse/genius treats us fairly. Watch:
Documentarians Joao Amorim and Daniel Pinchbeck don’t think 2012 will be the end, preferring to tug at its symbolic potential, aligning their vision with a word that has had all life battered of it: Change. Their forthcoming documentary 2012: Time For Change uses the final days of the Mayan calendar as a rallying call; fauxpocalypse is suggested as a catalyst for a global consciousness shift, an opportunity for gurus and celebrities to tell us how stupid we’ve been:
The Mayan calendar runs out before days before Christmas 2012. Pro-tip: Forget the pre-apocalypse supper with the family. Thoreau in the towel and head to the French Southern and Antarctic Islands. These islands are about as far as you can get from Mexico—where the apocalypse will begin, we assume. Leave soon, and avoid years of talk about about global cultures, Gaia, and tipping points; it’s the rhetoric that frightens me much more than snowman, zombie, or monkey apocalyptic scenarios. Book now!
I’m blindly optimistic that something will be done to deal with Climate Change. Ze Frank and crew discover that the apocalypse isn’t so bad in the unaired pilot for their post-apocalypse show, The Remnants.
Rather than fight climate change apocalypse, I first pledge my money to help fund a full series of The Remnants. That’s hope we can believe in—something worthy of being broadcast into space—the final testament to a planet’s unstinting resolve to always see the funny side. —Mike Smith, Feb. 5, 2009
Werner Herzog continues his quest for ecstatic truth in Encounters at The End of the World. The Academy Award nominated documentary shares the lives of people shaken down to Antarctica, interviews matched with choral-led underwater photography. Herzog’s voice and narrative echoes through the film; colorful characters can’t match his God-like pronouncements. It’s an ideal introduction to his work: light-hearted, yet deep and occasionally surreal, revealing that his art, above all, is storytelling and discovering great epiphanies—even if you have to fill in some of the blanks. Whether it’s predominantly fact or fiction is beside the point. Herzog flies far above such archaic and unnecessary distinctions, pushing imagination and dreams so far that such questions fall flat. It’s balanced, stark and perfect for a winter when the last thing you want is a whimsical documentary about penguins. Instead, we have Herzog underwater magic. We for are better for it.
Spending $3,000 on a Lego Star Wars diarama is considered obsession. Not having watched and understood the entire Star Wars series is heretical and exile-worthy. Hearing these Heretics recount the 380 minute trilogy, having watched parts of the story but never evangelicised its holiness, is much more entertaining than the The Phantom Menace.
Though it leads us no closer to an answer to one of the most important questions of our time: What order should they be shown in? And what is the optimal age to introduce your kids to Star Wars? If this kid is anything to go by: ASAP.
Who does a better job of retelling? Can either of them compete with this? (FUNNY STAR WARS SPOILERS EMBEDDED.)
Starship Troopers, in the year it came out, was one of most profound moviegoing disappointments of my life. I was 13, and a little idiot. I sat there blinking up at the screen, feeling dull and confused.
But it wasn’t Neil Patrick Harris dressed up in Nazi SS gear that confused me—that I didn’t even notice; what I couldn’t get was why the acting and writing were so horrible. It felt like the Comic Sans of sci-fi action films—big and bold and very bland. My poor reading skills were outmatched. The genius of such a satiric juggernaut was just too much for my small, fat head to wrap itself around.
OK, so skip over Starship Troopers 2; as far as anyone knows, no one has ever seen it.
No enter Starship Troopers 3: Marauder. If Starship Troopers was a critique of the U.S. reaction to Sept. 11 (remarkable for a movie that came out in 1997, no?), then Marauder, a direct-to-video release written and directed by Ed Neumeier (who wrote the screenplay of the original), is a critique of the years following—of the continuing Iraq War and the stay-the-course mentality that dominated American politics until about, oh, November 2006.
Fair warning: There are about 45 minutes in this movie’s midsection that probably skirt the limits of what even a diehard fan would endure. I suggest you take that time to eat three or four slices of pizza, guzzle a 20-ounce bottle of Wild Cherry Pepsi, and by all means, talk through it. The first 10 minutes and the last 10 will make it all worth it.
Check out this clip from the film, in which the militaristic, previously atheistic government discovers (spoiler alert!) it can use religion to prolong its version of what Stan Goff coined, in an essay about the Bush Administration in 2002, “infinite war.”
For ages 16 and up; some cultural theory recommended. —Matt Robison, Dec. 10, 2008
This vs That. Lobsters vs Godfather II. In this video, some architects, as part of their work with the Counter-Intuitive Comparison Institute of North America, ask us to think about the relative advantages of McDonalds, seahorses, English people. They contend that thing-literacy is important to designing the places we live and understanding why things are as they are. They are utterly convincing.
In terms of really getting down to the nitty-gritty, NCAA inspired brackets force you to choose the best quality, not by abstract criticism but by simple direct comparison! We do it everyday, these guys have just spent a lot of time thinking about it. Democracy or Heated Seats? What is the best thing? A thing that helps create or facilitate other things, or something that just works, everytime? Those crazy architects. —Mike Smith, Dec. 1, 2008
As much as I like video-games, it’s always better to be outside. This trailer for video game CUBE offers the technology that “makes calculators look like the cotton gin.”
It makes a compelling case to avoid the computer, and instead, as I do, try to beat the 50 mph barrier on my racing bike. It’s worth thinking whether video games are broken; CUBE tries to do this.
You are now CUBE, Defender of the polyverse! Collect the diamonds & reach the goal! Every goal leads to another color level… the fun cannot be halted.
Games are fun, but this video may be their essence boiled right down.
This review of Outside from a gamer’s perspective notes, “Outside is remarkably high in sex, violence and challenges to traditional values, despite the strong child-focused marketing it receives,” but ultimately, “Outside is overrated, and many gamers will find themselves forced by friends and family to play it against their will, but it still deserves a high rating.”
Yes, it’s of a coherent and critical review of the world—something philosophers have been struggling to do for millennia; it’s the sort of perspective that’s only possible after months of immersion in a fantasy world. —Mike Smith, Oct. 31, 2008
Until climate change becomes climate changed, until the ice surrounds us, freezes the waves, the surfers, and the sharks in place until spring, we’ll have urban wakeboarding. Badly designed and function-less moats tried to dull the shock of aging concrete towers, but now they provide an impressive location for a photo shoot opportunity when you combine wakeboard and winch. Expect more as climate change renders coastal cities uninhabitable. Oh!, in 50 years time the skyscrapers will just be obstacles for the supersonic jetski races. That is, if we have recreational time as the sea starts to come in. And in. And in. —Mike Smith, Oct. 27, 2008
A human rights PSA delivered in a quasi High School Musical fashion is strangely compelling. There are no colorful songs about the status quo—it’s a boring gray reality of in-school cops, and CCTV—but we can enjoy the same ratio of school-yard hunk to out-cast girl to feelgoodness, and it’s educational!
Next thing you know the Gossip Girl cast members will suggest children have The Talk with their parents about voting for McCain (Yes—it’s below). Triple-points for the Right’s scorecard; they get to tick them off for the satire of the anti-Drug message, they can condemn them for brainwashing America’s youth, and through the inevitable causal connections, palling around with terrorists. Possibly fictional ones. Sex terrorists, perhaps.
Is nothing sacred?! If you’ve cut-it-out and kept-it you should move Gossip Girl a little further to the left of South Park Republicanism on Gawker’s political persuasions infographic—be sure to keep them far to the left of the staunchly conservative 24.
Though, if a plumber did run for office, we’d be up to our necks in strangely persuasive analogies regarding refitting, unclogging the piping in Washington—to which we, in conventional style, would nod, ponder, weigh in unconvincingly, eventually agreeing with his expert analysis and handing over our money. We would only realize two months after the election that dependable, really smart politicians are essential when a country needs saving. Not cowboys…or cowgirls. —Mike Smith, Oct. 20, 2008
Chromeo & Juliet; Wasilla City Council: A Reading; Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too! ; Anyone Else but You; Don't Call It a Bailout; Punk Ghandi, Aragorn's Pax Americana, Palin the White Witch; Nailing It; Kucinich for the Win; The Holocaust Section
The Morning News is an online magazine, published weekdays since 1999