Saturday, February 26, 2011

Oscar links

---Natalie Portman cries a lot

---Jeff Bridges' True Grit photo album

---Elizabeth Greenwood considers the boring women of indie film

---Hollywood's British fetish

---the Oscar nominated screenplays of 2011

---Mr. Peel explains why he finds The Social Network the best film of 2010:

"As brilliant as he is, David Fincher may not have been my first pick to handle all this very specific dialogue but he seems to understand every single cadence and how they should go together. He doesn’t dial down his expected visual approach so much as he finds a way to get it to flawlessly work for the film, occasionally taking a moment to linger from one beat to the next like Eduardo dancing across the room at Caribbean night towards Mark or letting the Ivy League atmosphere seep into us during the opening credits. But for the most part he directs his scenes dead ahead, always finding ways to frame those close-ups, reveling in the words that are being said, finding ways to keep Mark Zuckerberg apart from everyone else, always observing, never letting anyone in right from that remarkable opening scene racing through the dialogue at a speed that Howard Hawks and Ben Hecht would have approved of. The rare director these days who seems to know how to make actors talking seems totally cinematic without falling back on tricks like lame handheld nonsense to make it more “real”, his approach is light years more intelligent than that and the preciseness he delivers to each shot seems to matter every step of the way. And just as at times Sorkin decides to sit back and enjoy himself as he does what he does like a duck in water (which is maybe the best way to describe the introduction of Sean Parker as played by Justin Timberlake) the much-discussed Henley Royal Regatta sequence is Fincher taking one chance in this film to do his thing, framing it all in a style that places it all in this miniaturized insular world that still hasn’t been affected by the way the world changing, content to “stay in one place” just as the Winklevoss twins do in everything they do, representing the old school of the country club world of Bush I, not realizing anything has happened until it’s happened. Fincher does a beautifully assured job of directing the movie down to every last shot (hard not to notice that this film marks the second time he’s used a timelapse shot of the Transamerica tower) and the combination of what the two men bring to it all truly does allow the film to go like a streak. All of these elements, to say nothing of that exhilarating score by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross that has had steady play on my ipod for the past several months, make it all a thrill to watch every single moment on each new viewing."

---Tom Shone investigates the members of the Academy

---@nathanielr and the Oscar age preferences

---streetview zombie apocalypse

---50 of the best opening title sequences

---the army brainwashes US Senators for its purposes:

"When Holmes and his four-man team arrived in Afghanistan in November 2009, their mission was to assess the effects of U.S. propaganda on the Taliban and the local Afghan population. But the following month, Holmes began receiving orders from Caldwell’s staff to direct his expertise on a new target: visiting Americans. At first, the orders were administered verbally. According to Holmes, who attended at least a dozen meetings with Caldwell to discuss the operation, the general wanted the IO unit to do the kind of seemingly innocuous work usually delegated to the two dozen members of his public affairs staff: compiling detailed profiles of the VIPs, including their voting records, their likes and dislikes, and their "hot-button issues." In one email to Holmes, Caldwell’s staff also wanted to know how to shape the general’s presentations to the visiting dignitaries, and how best to "refine our messaging."Congressional delegations – known in military jargon as CODELs – are no strangers to spin. U.S. lawmakers routinely take trips to the frontlines in Iraq and Afghanistan, where they receive carefully orchestrated briefings and visit local markets before posing for souvenir photos in helmets and flak jackets. Informally, the trips are a way for generals to lobby congressmen and provide first-hand updates on the war. But what Caldwell was looking for was more than the usual background briefings on senators. According to Holmes, the general wanted the IO team to provide a "deeper analysis of pressure points we could use to leverage the delegation for more funds."The general’s chief of staff also asked Holmes how Caldwell could secretly manipulate the U.S. lawmakers without their knowledge. "How do we get these guys to give us more people?" he demanded. "What do I have to plant inside their heads?"

---rising food prices

---Scott of Go Into the Story shares some Winter's Bone-related clips

---postmodern revolution

---the best web-based film criticism

---trailers for Miral, Meek's Cutoff, and Uncle Boonmee

---the ultimate blogger--Heather Armstrong:

"Is the commercialism turning off readers? Yes and no. Being powerful on the Internet is an odd and contrary state. “Influential” can mean strangers love you, but it is just as likely to mean that they hate you. What it really means is that they read you. And if you infuriate some and have others rising to your defense, all the better. When your fans and your critics tangle in the intimate anonymity of your comments section, that ups your page views and, in turn, your ad rates.

Good for business, but the criticism can feel very personal. Because on a personal Web site, it is. And as Armstrong’s impact grows, so does readers’ anger — and so, too, her creative ways of turning the critics to her advantage. Take the Maytag incident. After getting no satisfaction from her washing-machine company, Armstrong did take to Twitter. Then she fielded frantic, apologetic calls from Maytag and not only got her washing machine fixed but also had a second one donated by a different company to a nearby women’s shelter (that one was a Bosch). She wrote about it all on her blog, and many readers got very angry. “The mommy-blog community was up in arms, because I was wielding my power in an irresponsible way and I would cause people at Maytag to lose their jobs,” she says. “And then there was a discussion about my sense of entitlement and my narcissism. Do I think I can rule the world with my finger on Twitter? And why don’t I ever use my power for good? Or give back to my community?”

The anger, in turn, upped her page views. “Heather was huge,” Jon said. “It was the biggest thing she’d ever done in terms of traffic. Bigger than going on ‘Oprah.’ Bigger than giving birth to Marlo” — the Armstrongs’ second daughter. “I mean, Marlo was good for business, but the hate was better.”

All this came while she was caring for a newborn, and also suffering with a painful case of shingles and distraught over her grandmother’s imminent death. So one morning, after reading, yet again, about the pointiness of her chin, she fought back. She had Jon create a new section of Dooce, with a new and separate ad base, where she posted her hate mail and invited readers to scroll through. As they scrolled, the ad revenue accumulated."

---Jasper Rees on the odd career of Colin Firth

---Salon's Academy Awards for viral videos

---"Women's Stories, Movies, and the Oscars"

---Kim Morgan celebrates Bette Davis and her Oscar

---lastly, "James Franco's Oscars of Apathy"

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Tomorrow File--an essay assignment

I've been developing a new essay assignment concerning the future, and I was wondering if readers of this blog might want to contribute ideas. Here's the start of it:

The Future—An Argumentative Essay Assignment

"I found the material of the actual 21st Century richer, stranger, more multiplex, than any imaginary 21st Century could ever have been. And it could be unpacked with the toolkit of science fiction. I don’t really see how it can be unpacked otherwise, as so much of it is so utterly akin to science fiction, complete with a workaday level of cognitive dissonance we now take utterly for granted.”—William Gibson

For this assignment, you will construct a carefully reasoned argument based on a small topic that concerns the future. It would help if you have had some direct experience with it. Select an issue, problem, or situation that interests you, research the topic at the library, and carefully present a case for your thesis. Include in your argument a plausible scenario as to what will happen several years in the future. Many of the essays will likely take the form of an investigation of a problem for which you will provide a solution.

Possible topics (with related links): cloud computing, the hive mind, the rise of some aspect of social media, resource depletion such as peak oil, changes in smart phone technology, the future of apps, future job skills, stem cell research quandaries, viral culture, the future of internet search, product placement in the media, the ethics of Photoshopping images, future traffic, the future of information technology, extinction of species, data visualization, the overfishing of the oceans, supercities, Google’s vision of augmented humanity, climate change, data overload in the military (and in everyday life), the attention economy, robotics, the ageing population, overpopulation, the internet and privacy, special effects in movies, internet startups, the revolution in Egypt and cybersubversion, hackers, genetic engineering, surrogate parenting, zombies, the acceleration of change, visions of the apocalypse in the media, brain science, artificial intelligence, developments in mortuary science, WikiLeaks, organ transplants, superbugs, terraforming, cyborgs, coolhunters, future garbage, the cyberpunk movement, the digital footprint, surveillance technology, the culture of appropriation, internet piracy, the digital future, the die-off, cyber warfare, food scarcity, dead malls, and sustainability.

Any suggestions for other topics? Recommendations for books that could be put on reserve at the library? Internet resources, good databases to visit? Thanks for your thoughts.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

digital feudalism links

---Don' You Go Rounin' Roun to Re Ro trailer

---movieman0283's tribute to the best of the 2010 film blogosphere

---the Hitchcock/Truffaut tapes and notes on Truffaut from Alex Cox

---Mike Miliard's "You Are Being Watched":

"To a degree unheard of even five years ago, we live our lives mediated by Firefox browsers and Droid screens. And that means—whether it’s ostensibly protected sensitive data (financial and medical data), ostensibly inconsequential personal data (Flickr photos, YouTube channels, Twitter feeds) or ostensibly depersonalized behavioral data (browsing patterns, search queries, HTTP cookies)—our lives are nowhere near as private as we might presume them to be.

“Precisely because the tech advances have come in so many places, it’s really quite hard to pick any one particular spot that’s the biggest problem,” said Lee Tien, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “They all converge. Because we have a giant personal information superhighway, where all of our information travels around both the government and the business sector, what gets picked up in one place is being transferred to another place. So it all ends up, not necessarily in a central basket, but in a lot of different baskets—where it can always be accessed.”

“Data collection is becoming ubiquitous,” said Jules Polonetsky, co-chair and director of the Future of Privacy Forum, and former chief privacy officer at AOL. “It’s not science fiction anymore to think there are lots of databases that have everything we’ve done: every search we’ve done, every website we’ve visited.”

It might be comforting to think that our online identities are just anonymous strings of ones and zeros, but that’s just not true anymore. So what we used to loosely define as “privacy”—an admittedly amorphous concept—is changing fast. And only recently do consumers, voters, politicians and the media seem to be grasping that fact.

Before, “We had privacy from obscurity,” said David Ardia, another fellow at the Berkman Center, and the director and founder of the Citizen Media Law Project. Now, almost everything worth knowing about almost anyone is online.

“That means it’s searchable, and it’s available forever. And I don’t think we’ve caught up to that change in the way we structure our lives and the way we understand privacy.”

---Winklevii behind the scenes


---David Carr's "At Media Companies, a Nation of Serfs"

---@docudramaqueen's 10 tips for conducting an on-camera interview

---film editor Michael Kahn interview

---The Black Keys send up Tarantino with "Howlin' for You"

---the lyrical and very bloody Dead Island trailer

---Mark Harris contemplates the doom of the film industry:

"For the studios, a good new idea has become just too scary a road to travel. Inception, they will tell you, is an exceptional movie. And movies that need to be exceptional to succeed are bad business. "The scab you're picking at is called execution," says legendary producer Scott Rudin (The Social Network, True Grit). "Studios are hardwired not to bet on execution, and the terrible thing is, they're right. Because in terms of execution, most movies disappoint."

With that in mind, let's look ahead to what's on the menu for this year: four adaptations of comic books. One prequel to an adaptation of a comic book. One sequel to a sequel to a movie based on a toy. One sequel to a sequel to a sequel to a movie based on an amusement-park ride. One prequel to a remake. Two sequels to cartoons. One sequel to a comedy. An adaptation of a children's book. An adaptation of a Saturday-morning cartoon. One sequel with a 4 in the title. Two sequels with a 5 in the title. One sequel that, if it were inclined to use numbers, would have to have a 7 1/2 in the title.1

And no Inception. Now, to be fair, in modern Hollywood, it usually takes two years, not one, for an idea to make its way through the alimentary canal of the system and onto multiplex screens, so we should really be looking at summer 2012 to see the fruit of Nolan's success. So here's what's on tap two summers from now: an adaptation of a comic book. A reboot of an adaptation of a comic book. A sequel to a sequel to an adaptation of a comic book. A sequel to a reboot of an adaptation of a TV show. A sequel to a sequel to a reboot of an adaptation of a comic book. A sequel to a cartoon. A sequel to a sequel to a cartoon. A sequel to a sequel to a sequel to a cartoon. A sequel to a sequel to a sequel to a sequel to a movie based on a young-adult novel. And soon after: Stretch Armstrong. You remember Stretch Armstrong, right? That rubberized doll you could stretch and then stretch again, at least until the sludge inside the doll would dry up and he would become Osteoporosis Armstrong? A toy that offered less narrative interest than bingo?"

---Hereafter's visual effects

---Rob Horning's thoughts on the production of the self:

"The field of consumption becomes the field of distinction and social recognition as well, and consuming becomes a sort of semiotic labor that absorbs more and more of our natural inclination to do something regarded as socially useful. (And Shop Class as Soulcraft-style retro crafts like carpentry and gardening and Etsy-ism start to register as consumerist hobbies, not “real” production.) Social media supplies the factory and distribution center for this sort of work, as well as the scoreboard in the form of data about just how many people are paying attention to you. We produce content and links to try to “connect” to others, that is, have them regard us as socially necessary the way, say, in the 19th century the village blacksmith was vitally necessary when the horse you were traveling on pulled up lame. (Okay, that was a somewhat far-flung, Downton Abbey-inspired example.) The point is we want to feel useful, and there are fewer opportunities for that in the sphere of production. So consumption becomes production, and the main way that happens is to make what we consume more salient and more socially significant, to have it inflect an ever-shifting language of status signifiers.

This whole set-up, in turn, fuels the view that narcissism and hipsterism are increasing society-wide, since self-production in the mode of marketing copy (developing the personal brand) is more and more what people do, if not for a living, then simply to appear, to be socially relevant."

---A. O. Scott remembers Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

---lastly, Tim Smith analyzes how we watch There Will Be Blood

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Is the afterlife inane? and other questions about Gaspar Noe's Enter the Void

1) With Enter the Void, did writer/director Gaspar Noe intend to make the afterlife inane? After 20-year old Oscar dies when a drug deal goes bad early in the movie, Oscar's spirit (?) point of view (?) drifts about, then floats over the Tokyo cityscape (usually at roughly ceiling level) with invisible wipe cuts as he moves through walls (somewhat like the way Orson Welles used wipe cuts as the camera rose above the opera scene in Citizen Kane). Oscar's spirit also gravitates towards lights like a moth, views himself dead on the bathroom floor, revisits various memories of his brief life, and hangs around his sister, friends, dealers, and former lovers, all of whom are unaware of his presence. Even though the film is beautifully, mesmerizingly photographed, the ghostly hovering gets tiresome after awhile, so Noe jazzes up this somnambulistic tour with strip bars, police interrogations, streaming 3-D tendrilly DMT hallucinations, and voyeuristic visits to a Love Hotel. After much drifting about, Oscar's ghost (?) casts around for a possible reincarnation. What else does he (it?) have to do?

2) In an interview with Noe, James Marsh describes the characters of Enter the Void as "pretty irresponsible," and I agree. Oscar deals drugs in part because a regular job does not appeal to him. When he raises enough money to fly his sister Linda over from the States, he introduces her to shady characters who eventually hire her as a stripper. Given his childhood blood vow to always be with her, couldn't he have thought of something else for her to do? Since Oscar and Linda are so blank, affectless, and passive, it's hard to get worked up over their plight, especially after Oscar's death.

3) How does Enter the Void concern The Tibetan Book of the Dead (which frequently shows up in the movie)? In an interview, Noe makes it clear that he does not believe in an afterlife, although his movie definitely plays with received ideas about just that. As he says:

"I read books on reincarnation and many books about out-of-body experiences. Actually, the movie is not so much about reincarnation. It's more about someone who gets shot while on acid and DMT [Dimethyltryptamine], and trips out about his own death and dreams about his soul escaping from his flesh, because he wants to keep this promise to his sister that he'll never leave her, even after death.

I don't believe in life after death. But I still enjoyed the idea of doing a movie that would portray that collective dream, that collective need. Like flying saucers are a collective need for people who need to believe in flying saucers. You don't need to believe in flying saucers to do a movie about Martians or flying saucers.

You just say, well, it's in literature and books and people need to believe there's something after [death] because otherwise life is too short. It's better to tell people that, don't worry, life is short but you get to have a second chance. You can survive and always rearrange things that happened in your lifetime."

So, in essence, Noe provides the viewer with a nonbeliever's vision of the afterlife. That still begs the question: what's the point of being a ghost? Do the dead suffer from existential angst? Do they then get reincarnated out of boredom?

4) How much does Noe deliberately provoke the viewer, and why? In one interview, Noe appears tickled by the negative attention:

"Some people say, `This should have lasted five minutes. Five minutes was enough.' Or in the newspaper that my father read in Argentina, he was offended because the journalist said, `This was the worst movie ever shown in the Cannes Festival. Everybody agrees, at the Palais, in the streets, in the bar. It’s the worst movie.' I say, `Dad, it’s good news. The worst ever—you realize what the competition is to get the worst movie ever?'”

5) Did Noe include all of the titillating provocations to make up for the weaknesses of Enter the Void's story and characterization? In one scene, Oscar's ghost dives into an aborted fetus lying on a tray. While such a fearless point of view has its aesthetic interest, the ultimate effect is that everything in Enter the Void's neon soup attains the same flat, jaded (one can say deadened) anesthetized level.

6) How much does Enter the Void really mean Join Me in My Aimless Nihilistic Stupor?

Friday, February 11, 2011

aggregated links

---Steven Santos' video tribute to McCabe and Mrs. Miller

---Cat S--- One's first episode (while it lasts)

---Douglas Coupland's "dictionary of the near future":

FRANKENTIME What time feels like when you realize that most of your life is spent working with and around a computer and the Internet.

MALFACTORY AVERSION The ability to figure out what it is in life you don’t do well, and then to stop doing it.

ME GOGGLES The inability to accurately perceive oneself as others do.

MEMESPHERE The realm of culturally tangible ideas.

OMNISCIENCE FATIGUE The burnout that comes with being able to know the answer to almost anything online.

POST-HUMAN Whatever it is that we become next.

PROCELERATION The acceleration of acceleration.

PSEUDOALIENATION The inability of humans to create genuinely alienating situations. Anything made by humans is a de facto expression of humanity. Technology cannot be alienating because humans created it. Genuinely alien technologies can be created only by aliens. Technically, a situation one might describe as alienating is, in fact, “humanating.”

---behind the scenes at Pixar

---virtual typewriter

---Lauren Bacall:

The filming of To Have and Have Not was marked by two bombshell experiences for Bacall. The first was her discovery that she was so terrified in front of the camera that she could barely function. No matter what Hawks tried, she couldn’t gather her wits to perform her role as the femme fatale Marie, whom Bogart’s character in the film, Steve, nicknames Slim (in homage to Slim Hawks). She recalls being “ready for a straitjacket [on the first day of shooting]. Howard had planned to do a single scene that day—my first in the picture. I walked to the door of Bogart’s room, said, ‘Anybody got a match?,’ leaned against the door, and Bogart threw me a small box of matches. I lit my cigarette, looking at him, said ‘Thanks,’ threw the matches back to him, and left. Well—we rehearsed it. My hand was shaking. My head was shaking. The cigarette was shaking. I was mortified. The harder I tried to stop, the more I shook. What must Howard be thinking? What must Bogart be thinking? What must the crew be thinking? Oh God, make it stop! I was in such pain.”The only way she could “hold my trembling head still was to keep it down, chin low, almost to the chest, and eyes up at Bogart.” That stance accidentally became Bacall’s signature attitude on-screen, known as The Look.

---a James Dean portfolio

---jewel thieves and the woman with the handbag

---a Super Bowl ad mashup

---the problem with the oil prices and Richard Heinberg's thoughts

---a Catholic app

---Gopnik on how the internet gets inside us:

[William] Powers’s reflections are more family-centered and practical. He recounts, very touchingly, stories of family life broken up by the eternal consultation of smartphones and computer monitors:

"Somebody excuses themselves for a bathroom visit or a glass of water and doesn’t return. Five minutes later, another of us exits on a similarly mundane excuse along the lines of “I have to check something.”. . . Where have all the humans gone? To their screens of course. Where they always go these days. The digital crowd has a way of elbowing its way into everything, to the point where a family can’t sit in a room together for half an hour without somebody, or everybody, peeling off. . . . As I watched the Vanishing Family Trick unfold, and played my own part in it, I sometimes felt as if love itself, or the acts of heart and mind that constitute love, were being leached out of the house by our screens."

---Kill Bill's influences (thanks to @KelliMarshall)

---Saval on the crack-up of California

---Submarine trailer

---The Art of the Title Sequence: Blue Valentine

---Playmobil Joy Division

---lastly, aggregation and Harlan Ellison's thoughts about writers working for free

Sunday, February 6, 2011

"Everything is moving all the time": 10 questions about 127 Hours

1) Why does director Danny Boyle begin and end 127 Hours using triple split-screen techniques to display images of crowds? Was he thinking of the Don DeLillo quote: "The future belongs to crowds"? 127 Hours concerns Aron Ralston's (James Franco) very solitary entrapment within a canyon, his right arm pinned under a rock, and his need to break free. Are all of the crowd scenes meant to be ironic?

2) Does Danny Boyle include all of the 127 Hours' razzle dazzle film technique to mask the fact that there is fundamentally very little movement once Aron gets pinned? At one point, he mentions to two lady acquaintances, that "everything is moving all the time" in the canyon, which proves ironic once the rock falls on his arm. If 127 Hours had been shot in black and white in a neorealist style, much of the movie could be in one shot. As it is, Boyle appears to operate under one rule of thumb: never let the audience get bored.

3) When Aron imagines standing outside and looking in the window of the Scooby-Doo party, did Boyle mean to allude to the Little Tramp doing much the same in The Gold Rush (1925)?

4) Why do the recent award-winning based-on-a-true-story films such as 127 Hours and The Fighter include so many people filming and videotaping themselves? Aron records his every activity with his camera and his camcorder. In The Fighter, we see an HBO film crew shoot a documentary about Dicky's crack addiction when we are not watching TV cameramen film Mickey enter the ring. Do all of these meta-cinematic moments somehow make these movies seem more real?

5) Aron's erstwhile girlfriend Rana (Clemence Poesy) tells him "You're going to be so lonely, Aron." And, lo, the rock proves her right, but isn't he also right to get away from the mass conformist crowd?

6) Since the real Aron's survival experience, he has gone on to write a book about the tale, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, which has become an international best-seller. He now gives talks where people pass out during his descriptions of severing the arm. How does he feel about the way the media obliges him to return, over and over again, to his ordeal of solitude and deprivation? How much has Ralston's subsequent media circus resembled the one in Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole (1951)?

7) Why is it that Aron needs to be trapped under a rock for several days to wake up to the deeper truths, the "supreme selfishness" of his loner "hard hero"life?

8) Isn't Aron's desire to have solitary adventures the exact kind of self-reliance that cinema would have celebrated in the old days?

9) As Aron reconsiders his reckless ways, leaving home to go canyoneering near Moab, Utah without telling anyone where he is going, he imagines his family assembled around a sofa. Later, after he cuts off his arm, we see them again, en masse, the family of man smiling in the sun. Is Danny Boyle making an allusion to the awkward happy surviving crowd scenes at the end of Schindler's List?

10) Since when did Boyle become such an Oscar-courting affirmer of family values? As Aron sorrowfully admits that he's not been the best son to his parents, I missed the more subversive voice of Rent-boy in Boyle's Trainspotting (1996):

"Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a f---ing big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a three-piece suit on hire purchase in a range of f---ing fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the f--- you are on Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing f---ing junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, f---ed up brats you spawned to replace yourselves. Choose your future. Choose life... But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose somethin' else."

Friday, February 4, 2011

panopticon links

---Andrew Keen considers the future of privacy:

"Zuckerberg's ideas on "sharing" could have been invented by Kafka. Just as Josef K unwittingly shared all his known and unknown information with the authorities, so we are now all sharing our most intimate spiritual, economic and medical information with all the myriad "free" social-media services, products and platforms. And, given that the dominant business model of all this social-media economy is advertising sales, it is inevitable that all this data will end up in the hands of our corporate advertising "friends". That's why Facebook, a six-year-old, barely profitable new-media company with little proprietary technology of its own, was valued recently at about $50 billion. Zuckerberg is taking Bentham's ideas to their ultimate conclusion, and the result is a panopticon in which privacy is relegated like an historical artefact. Facebook even has the audacity, in good Benthamite fashion, to be developing a "Gross Happiness Index" which will supposedly quantify and thus own global sentiment, making the social network the central bank of our new public socio-informational economy.

Today's digital social network is a trap. Today's cult of the social, peddled by an unholy alliance of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and communitarian idealists, is rooted in a misunderstanding of the human condition. The truth is that we aren't naturally social beings. Instead, as Vermeer reminds us in The Woman in Blue, human happiness is really about being left alone. On Liberty, the 1859 essay by Bentham's godson and former acolyte, John Stuart Mill, remains a classic defence of individual rights in the age of the industrial network and its tyranny of the majority. Today, as we struggle to make sense of the impact of the internet revolution, we need an equivalent On Digital Liberty to protect the right to privacy in the social-media age. Tapscott and Williams believe that the age of networked intelligence will be equal to the Renaissance in its significance. But what if they are wrong? What if the digital revolution, because of its disregard for the right of individual privacy, becomes a new dark ages? And what if all that is left of individual privacy by the end of the 21st century exists in museums alongside Vermeer's Woman in Blue? Then what?"

---a right to be forgotten

---Tom Carson attempts to explain the career of Nicolas Cage

---"Everything is a Remix" Part 2

---the making of Little White Lies in London

---@CoolerCinema's and @onlythecinema's thoughts on the Coen brothers' True Grit via The Conversations:

"But while the Coens aren't reverent about death and disfigurement, we should be careful not to imply that they're entirely flippant about it. Because while the Coens have a reputation for dark humor, their true gift is their ability to let dark humor and genuine ghastliness (be it physical or emotional) coexist in the same frame. The best example of this, I've always thought, is the scene in Fargo when the two hired hoods show up at the Lundegaard residence to kidnap Jerry's wife Jean. We know that the men have no intention of hurting Jean, and further that they have nothing against her; it's Jerry's plan, and they're just the muscle. But Jean has no clue that these masked men aren't as cold-blooded as they appear, or that one of them (Steve Buscemi's Carl) is, in the parlance of True Grit, a nincompoop. So Jean runs around her house screaming hysterically. And while the Coens create humor out of that scene, they don't, in my opinion, overlook Jean's fear. Her histrionics are amusing, but they're also totally justified. The Coens urge us to laugh at the spectacle while also feeling sympathetic for the victim. And inTrue Grit we get something of the same: the guy in the bear outfit is quintessentially Coensian—dark and peculiar—but even amidst all that oddity it's hard not to feel for the dead guy on the back of the horse, who went from being hanged in a tree, to being ungracefully cut down, to being sold for parts. Perhaps he had a daughter, too. Perhaps he had grit."

---@filmstudiesff celebrates Werner Herzog

---Stanley Kubrick's signature shots

---A. O. Scott remembers Solaris

---Devin Friedman explores the "viral me":

"Rapportive, Rahul explains, is an application that inserts the social layer into every e-mail you receive. "Imagine if, whenever anybody e-mailed you, you could open the e-mail and instantly see their photograph, their occupation—what they do, their recent tweets, their activities on Facebook. Let me show you what that would look like." Rahul opens up a message on Gmail, and on the right flank, instead of ads, you can see data from Rapportive: a photograph of the sender and a summary of information about him from whatever social-media platform the sender uses—LinkedIn, Mixcloud, etc. "We just raised a million dollars to build that."

I ask him why one would want all that information about whoever happens to e-mail you. "Lots of reasons," he says. "Imagine you want to hire someone: I've had a number of e-mails from people saying, 'It's very interesting looking at the social lives of people who are applying for jobs.' Because seeing someone's recent tweets is actually more valuable than reading someone's résumé. So that's the new economy. That's the new world of personal interactions. And Rapportive exposes that, and we believe in it."

How do you get all that information about people?

"We're all spewing a lot of information out into the Web; some of us know about it and some of us don't. Rapportive is collecting all of that and putting it into one place. We're very careful not to find anything that you couldn't find in half an hour of Googling. We just save you that half an hour."

---James MacDowell's "What We Don't See, and What We Think It Means: Ellipsis and Occlusion in Rear Window"

---Steve Job's zen business techniques:

"Jobs's immersion in Zen and passion for design almost certainly exposed him to the concept of ma, a central pillar of traditional Japanese aesthetics. Like many idioms relating to the intimate aspects of how a culture sees the world, it's nearly impossible to accurately explain -- it's variously translated as "void," "space" or "interval" -- but it essentially describes how emptiness interacts with form, and how absence shapes substance. If someone were to ask you what makes a ring a meaningful object -- the circle of metal it consists of, or the emptiness that that metal encompasses? -- and you were to respond "both," you've gotten as close to ma as the clumsy instrument of English allows."

---intriguing trailers: Hanna, Incendies, and Peep World

---the doodles of famous authors (via @ebertchicago)

---John Patrick Leary's "Detroitism"

---behind the scenes of The Social Network, Black Swan, Cold Weather, and Deliverance

---for the love of film noir by @FerdyonFilms

---what inspires Guillermo del Toro

---lastly, Jonathan Rosenbaum's "The Death of Hulot"