Steadily Better

“There’s no rule that says you get steadily better.”

~ Margaret Atwood, from Bad Writing

George Saunders, from the documentary: My sense is that it has a lot more to do with the ways that someone is naturally charming. You know, so if you fall in love with somebody and they’re leaving town and you have two days to somehow change their mind, in that kind of life or death situation you bring forth certain traits of your personality. In my case, I would be telling jokes and I would be talking fast and I would be trying real hard to anticipate her reason for leaving and undercut them in a real energetic way. Those are all things that I would do in prose as well. I would definitely try to anticipate the reader’s objection to the story and build in a defense. I would try to be funny; I would try to be fast. So for me, the big breakthrough moment for me, was when I said to myself, ‘The reader is a person who you need to charm. You better bring your good shit. Because they don’t have time to wait around for you to work through your Hemingway phase.’

The Emotion is the Obstacle

“One of the things I’ve always been taught as a drama student was not to play the emotion. That doesn’t mean to say you don’t express it, you don’t have it, you don’t find it. The emotion is the obstacle. The person doesn’t want to be unhappy, and the unhappiness is the obstacle that gets in the way.”

~ Colin Firth, from “He Wears a Revealing Sort of Restraint,” by Sarah Lyall, New York Times, December 2, 2009

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 Hardest Cut

VULTURE: What’s the hardest cut you’ve ever had to make?

DARREN ARONOFSKY: The hardest was while making this movie, actually. We had a scene near the end with Mickey in front of the mirror, where he’s talking and he just went to some incredibly deep, dark place. Seriously, it was possibly the finest piece of acting I’ve ever seen in my life. It was absolutely intense. And I had to cut it. It would have totally upset the balance of the film — it was that powerful. It was heartbreaking.

From “…on Mickey Rourke and the Benefits of Having a Small Music Budget,” New York Magazine (12.17.08)


You Can’t Know

“It’s an important part of my personality that I continually adjudicate, but I never reach a verdict…You can’t know exactly what’s going on in your neighbor’s house or in his head or his heart. You can make suppositions, you can make assumptions, but you always have to factor in that you can’t know.”

~ John Patrick Shanley, from “‘Doubt’ and Doubts of a Workingman,” David Carr, New York Times (12.04.08)


That Feeling that Comes From Giving

"Imagine I gave you a hundred rupees, and I gave your sister a hundred rupees and told you to buy whatever you want. You buy a shirt, she buys a dress. But how would you feel if she opens her bag and you see that she bought you a shirt, and you bought her a dress. You'd still have a shirt, but that feeling - that feeling that comes from giving. No one understands that anymore."

~ Nana Patekar, from The Pool, directed by Chris Smith

Man on Wire

“To me it’s so simple that life should be lived on the edge of life. You have to exercise in rebellion, to refuse to taper yourself to rules, to refuse your own success, to refuse to repeat yourself to see every day, every year, every idea as a true challenge and then you are going to live your life on a tight rope.”

~ Phillippe Petit

Curious Case

Here is the first trailer (in Spanish) for David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button about a man (Brad Pitt) who ages in reverse. The film, which also features Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton, is based on a short story written in 1922 by F. Scott Fitzgerald who said, "This story was inspired by a remark of Mark Twain’s to the effect that it was a pity that the best part of life came at the beginning and the worst part at the end."

The film is scheduled to be released around Christmas 2008. The music used in the trailer is Aquarium from Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens.

The Band's Visit

"Stranded in the Israeli desert, the eight Egyptian members of the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra look a bit like a joke in search of a punch line. If The Band’s Visit were any other kind of film — a little more pat, say, and rather less knowing — these eight souls might quickly transform into mere props in a small-scale sermon about Middle East man’s humanity to Middle East man, minus the politics of course...[Israeli writer and director] Kolirin, it emerges, is wrenching comedy out of intense melancholia."

-- Manohla Dargis, "Strangers in a Land That’s Not So Strange," The New York Times (12/7/07)