Choicelessness

Comestibles

Posted in art, books, fashion, programming by johnsnavely on March 23, 2008

First, an addendum: The Van Cliburn YouTube competition is for 35 and older only. Double poo! My praise has been redacted.

As reward that I had been planning for a very long time, K and I had dinner last night at TW Food. It was restaurant week in Boston, but their special menu was so abbreviated, that it seemed a travesty not to hit the seven course Winter Grand Tasting. We tapped that. It was the best meal I’ve had in a looong time. Three hours of delicious food and great wines. Awesome.

In other news, Chessgames.com has updated their viewer. Now, while watching a game (like a movie), you can pause and play out different lines of the game yourself, in the position of Byrne or (sigh) Bobby Fischer. I wish more media experiences incorporated the idea of the “choose your own adventure”.

A long time ago, when I worked at AMNH, we recorded a fly-thru in the known universe with cue-points that allowed a user to get off the “spaceship” and look around. (Not the most beautiful thing I’ve ever made, but an interesting experiment.) While this type of thing may be considered a “non-linear” narrative, the novelty of the experience is actually how the user would construct a very linear pathway through the interactive. In fact, the user wants linearity as much as possible in order to organize and understand what they are seeing.

These days we’re brainstorming a project whose main conceptual twist is an audio and video with two seperate narratives. The video is an idealized world; the audio, the purgatory of a mundane life. The problem with fashioning such a “non-linear” (or duo-linear) narrative is that a viewer automatically tries to rectify the two stories into a single understandable story. For example, showing a radio alarm clock, but playing a ringing bell, makes the viewer think that there’s another alarm clock off-screen; not that the audio might tell another story.

Even as it’s foiling my plans, there’s something fascinating about this desire for single, linear, understandable narratives. According to K, Ricoeur has a crapload to say about Time and Narrative. I guess I have some reading to do. In the meantime, here’s a lovely quote that aptly describes what low brow books I am actually reading.

Then, too, narration includes prophecy in its province to the extent that prophecy is narrative in its fashion.
Paul Ricoeur

Continuing my quest to have some sort of aesthetic position on “the future”, I’ve been reading a fair amount of science fiction. Of course, the reading list includes the Hugo-Nebula award winners, but also some pulpy losers from the 60s and 70s. The fonts, graphics, and yep, even the writing are nuts.

A Hugo award winner, for instance Dune (one of my favorite books– and Lynch films– of all time), has one of the traits of a timeless work of art, namely that it is timeless. Reading it today, it is as fresh and unusual as when I read it 15 years ago.

Sci-fi pulp, on the other hand, is of its time, and has many recognizable idiosyncrasies of the culture, time, and place in which it was written. Perhaps this just creates some sort of hot tranny mess, but maybe, when we’re looking to sample styles, the obviousness of these expressions is an asset. (Prada’s gorgeous new look isn’t about the subtle 70’s.)

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