Reality, Without Quotes

Matt, Lake Champlain, August 7, 2011

Excerpt from The Visible Man by Chuck Klosterman:

Just watch any husband arguing with his wife about something insignificant; listen to what they say and watch how their residual emotions manifest when the fight is over. It's so formulaic and unsurprising that you woudn't dare re-create it in a movie. All the critics would mock it. They'd all say the screenwriter was a hack who didn't even try. This is why movies have less value than we like to pretend --  movies can't show reality, because honest depictions of reality offend intelligent people. 

The reality I got to see was not "movie reality." The reality I saw was just reality, without quotes. You want to know what I really learned? I learned that most people don't consider time alone as part of their life. Being alone is just a stretch of isolation they want to escape from. I saw a lot of wine-drinking, a lot of compulsive drug use, a lot of sleeping with the television on. It was less festive than I anticipated. My view had always been that I was my most alive when I was totally alone, because that was the only time I could live without fear of how my actions were being scrutinized and interpreted. What I came to realize is that people need their actions to be scrutinized and interpreted in order to feel like what they're doing matters. Singular, solitary moments are like television pilots that never get aired. They don't count. 

Extending Our Reach

Excerpts from Ray Kurzweil’s “Introduction to 9”:

Our emotional intelligence is not just a sideshow to human intelligence, it’s the cutting edge. The ability to be funny, to get the joke, to express a loving sentiment represent the most complex things we do. But these are not mystical attributes. They are forms of intelligence that take also place in our brains. And the complexity of the design of our brains – including our emotional and moral intelligence – is a level of technology that we can master. There are only about 25 million bytes of compressed design information underlying the human brain (that’s the amount of data in the human genome for the brain’s design). That’s what accounts for our ability to create music, art and science, and to have relationships.

Mastering these capabilities is the future of AI. We will want our future AI’s to master emotional intelligence and the movie 9 shows us why. We want our future machines to be like the stitchpunk creations, not like the rampaging machines.

My view of the future is that we will work hand-in-hand with friendly machines, just as we do today. Indeed we will merge with them, and that process has already started, with machines like neural implants for Parkinson’s patients and cochlear implants for the deaf. But my vision of the future is not utopian. While I don’t foresee the end of conflict, future conflict will not simply be man-versus-machine. It will be among different groups of humans amplified in their abilities by their machines, just as we see today.

The stitchpunk creations succeed not despite their emotionalism and bickering with each other, but because of it. We will want our future machines to be emotionally, socially, and morally intelligent because we will become the machines. That is, we will become the rag dolls. We will extend our reach physically, mentally, and emotionally through our technology. This is the only way we can avoid the apocalyptic world that 9 wakes up to.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

“Hold fast to the human inside you, and you will survive.”

The critics aren't exaggerating. It's brilliant. It's the kind of movie that as you're watching, you are immediately aware it will be impossible to forget.

Looking Closely, Seeing Through
A stroke left magazine editor Jean-Dominique “Jean-Do” Bauby locked inside his paralyzed body, forcing him to live primarily in his mind. His only means of communicating was to blink his left eye in response to the alphabet being recited. The details of his story offer a glimpse into some key aspects of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the ability to keep track of the components of sensory experiences as they arise in various combinations, moment-by-moment. The basic building blocks of sensory experience include physical-type sensations in the body, emotional-type sensations in the body, external visual stimuli, mental images, external sounds, and internal sounds and conversations.

The tagline for The Diving Bell and The Butterfly says, “Let your imagination set you free.” The word imagination comes from the Latin imāginārī meaning to form a mental picture to oneself. With his body having become a closed door, Jean-Do’s only escape is through the window of his left eye and his mind. The movie screen becomes the viewer's window into seeing the world from his perspective.

It is through the visual component of the thinking process that we experience memories, plans, and fantasies. In Julian Schnabel’s film, as in the practice of mindfulness, Jean-Do experiences a blurring and merging of his internal (subjective) experience and the external (objective) world.

As Jean-Do reluctantly accepts his physical paralysis with greater and greater degrees of equanimity, his prison gradually becomes a home. Through concentration, clarity, and acceptance, Jean-Do was able to see the world more clearly and, fortunately for us, to patiently communicate his story one letter at a time.


"Your art is too delicate. If you margot2desire the pat on the back too much, then you're not going to be true to the purest form of it. It's a constant struggle not to need the feedback, to try and stay true to your innermost voice. You need to protect it with a strong force field."

-- Nicole Kidman

"As an actress you have to be willing to be bad. margotYou have to be willing to jump off the ledge, which is a lazy metaphor but the best I can do right now. But, you know, a willingness to fall on your face and know that your director is going to catch you. If you don't have that, if you're protecting yourself in your performance, it's not going to be good."

-- Jennifer Jason Leigh

From separate conversations with Michael Cunningham about their new film Margot at the Wedding for Interview Magazine.


We saw this animated short at Studio 35 over the weekend as part of The Animation Show. The Fun With Dick and Jane-inspired illustrations and vocabulary-enhancing labeled nouns create a nostalgic tone that quickly becomes ironic when greed and violence begin to blossom.

(PS We hung around for The Dead Girl written and directed by Karen Moncrieff, a dark, satisfying character-driven study of five women connected by a murder, all of them in search of emotional resuscitation. Great cast, careful direction, difficult with a humanizing payoff.)

Synopsis: A selection of 1950s educational stickers, found in a provincial junkshop twenty years ago, provide the ingredients for this adult fairytale. When a boy and girl find an idol in the stomach of a rabbit, its magical abilities lead to riches, but for how long? A modern mystery film of lost innocence, greed and nature.

"I love the look of the stickers and was excited by the prospect of creating a story from the finite selection of images. Biggest challenge was creating the movement of the protagonists from such a limited source." - Run Wake (writer, director, producer)