Saturday, December 11, 2010

Jorge Luis Borges Created the Internet

Buddhist thought refers to something called, “momentariness.” In that thinking, there is nothing that exists for any length of time. Each moment exists separately, so there is no substance or length to things. And each moment is an entirely new reality, which is then seceded by another entirely new(er) reality. The only connection between one thing and the next is that one causes the next. This thinking permeates Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges’ work; which also deals with the idea of hypertextuality, a Postmodern theory of the inter-connectedness of texts. He writes, “Time forks perpetually toward innumerable futures,” meaning, like Buddhist thought, each moment happens then it is gone. But also, in the case of hypertextuality, that moment forks off into countless other moments that are happening (existing) at the same time.

This works in much the same way as pick-a-path books, where the reader would begin the story then make choices about the possible outcomes and be lead to different portions of the book. This is, after all, the same way the internet works. Go to any page and you will be presented with hundreds of choices as to where to go next. Click on an option and you are brought to a new page with hundreds of more options.

In Borges’ text however, he infers that all the paths/choices are on-going even after a choice is made. In other words, there are multiple, alternate realities happening at the same time. He asserts that each time a man is confronted with several alternatives, he simultaneously chooses all of them. Then there are multiple hims existing on alternate planes at the same time.

All of this brings me to an entirely other concept all together, that of Déjà vu, the feeling that what you are presently experiencing has happened before. If all of Borges’ theories hold true, then it could also be argued that when one experiences what has been called Déjà vu, it is not that that person has been in that particular situation before, but that two (or more) existences are occurring at the same time and those two worlds are intermingling; a glitch in the matrix, if you will. Two paths were chosen in the same way, therefore they have become, for one split second, unified. As Keanu would say, “Whoa.”

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The End of Apocalypse

The slow-moving opening sequence of Coppola's Apocalypse Now is a dizzying combination of cinematography, music and images, putting the audience inside the crazed mind of a fucked-up Army Captain, too high and drunk to fight and too embedded in the war culture not to. 

Helicopters float forth and back across the edge of a green-canopied jungle of palm trees, napalm is dropped. Cue the music.  Robby Krieger's slow, mellifluous notes begin the familiar soundtrack; enter Densmore's cymbals. The Lizard King begins, "This is the end..."  Wait a minute Jim, hold on Francis, this is the beginning, right?  
A man's face, large and looming, dissolves in, upside-down with eyes closed; while some strange stone monument does the same on the opposite side of the frame. What are we supposed to do with these images?  Everything I learned tells me to assume the man, as yet unnamed, is dreaming.  Clue 1: closed eyes. Clue 2: dissolves.  If so, are these other images, the napalm explosion, the jungle, the stone head, all within the man's dream?  What about the music?  Does it come from the soundtrack, appropriate non-diegetic music to aide the viewer's experience? Or is that too coming from within this person's mind, an internal diegetic piece of a dream?  Notice that there are no traditional opening credits or titles, telling us the name of the film or who the actors are. (The title of the film actually appears as graffiti toward the end of the film on a rock within Kurtz's compound.)    
The answers will have to wait.  In fact, the questions probably come to few, if any, viewers upon first screening.  It's not until the final sequence, after Willard assassinates Kurtz, that we are once again shown these images.  Then, thinking back, a very large, stone issue appears.  When, in the end, we see the same stone head that dissolves in at the beginning of the film we have to wonder where the image came from.  If the stone head, as most people assume it is, is a statue on the Kurtz compound, then how in tarnation can it appear in Willard's dream/drug induced hallucination at the start of the film?
It is possible that the beginning of the film is, in fact, the end of the story.  These images and sounds we are "introduced" to when we put the DVD on are part of the end of Willard's story and occur after he returns from the mission to kill Kurtz.   
This is a man who is stuck in war.  The sounds and images of the ceiling fan in his hotel room blend with the images and sound of war chopper blades, in and out.  
During quiet parts of this sequence we hear sounds of the jungle: tree frogs/crickets, wind through trees, etc...It's subtle but noticeable.  All sounds which come from Willard's mind.  

During the frenzied, spastic, half-nude dance in the room, he self-destructively punches and breaks the mirror (symbolically destroying his own image), bloodies his right fist and then wipes the bright red blood all over his face and nude body. His jarring, spastic movements almost rhythmically match the chaotic crescendo of the song.  At one point he even seems to mouth one of Jim Morrison's famous grunts as he completes a clumsy tai chi move.  He falls exhausted, the song winds down as well.  This song is playing from inside the maniac mind. 

The images, the sounds, the Doors!  The beginning is the end.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Death and Rebirth of the Television Commercial

It would seem that over the past ten years or so Television advertisers have been taking a hit because of the advent of digital video recorders like TiVo, DVR, and video-on-demand services that allow consumers to skip the sacred 30-second spot like a crack in the sidewalk.  They should be scrambling around in fear for their livelihoods and storing canned goods in their fall-out shelters. Instead though, the advertising agencies, in their infinite relentlessness, are constantly coming up with new and inventive ways to force feed us their product. 

Reality TV is now clogged with product placements, some subtle and clever but others unbearably clunky.  Remember Simon, Paula and Randy's red Coke cups?  And who can forget the trademark Lucky Strike hanging out of the mouth of Amber Portwood's baby on "Teen Mom"?  And like these Reality shows, all programs will soon be loaded with product placement and interlaid commercials, all of our beloved sporting arenas will be named after corporate conglomerates and the products they represent, and most outrageously of all, something that is already going on all over the world, people will be tattooing themselves with advertising  to make a quick buck (the perfect billboard).  Say goodbye to sandwich boards and waving hot dogs in front of car washes and hello to NIKE swish tattoos on the foreheads of babies.

Already, Networks advertise their other shows during currently airing ones. You will be innocently watching the new episode of "The Real Housewives of  Orange County" and an animated hair dryer will blow a little cartooned blurb for an upcoming “Shear Genius” episode onto the bottom right corner of your TV.

Kudos to them for not giving up and instead becoming a smarter ad industry that continues to reinvent themselves.  This is, I suppose, better than having no commercials at all and seeing every channel turn into pay-per-view.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Ice Pirates

A few months ago I purchased a movie that I remembered loving when I was a child.  The plot: In the future water has become the most valuable commodity, space pirates drift around the universe getting into comedic hijinks. They get kidnapped and then sold to a Princess who then recruits them to track down her missing father.  Add in a battle with space herpes, how could you lose?
So I dialed up a popular stuff buying website and bought the DVD for $3 (I'm a buyer, not a renter). It seemed like weeks as I sat at the window, waiting with anticipation for the mailman to deliver this masterpiece.  Finally it arrives.  I rip the package open, leaving a manila and plastic wake from the mailbox to the DVD player.  I dim the lights and sit back as Robert Urich's gigantic, Mike Brady-looking head appears on the start menu.  Special Features, I think you can wait until the space swashbuckling and infantile penis jokes have entertained every ounce of my being.

Ten minutes in I turned the DVD off, went into my room, and cried. Ok, I didn't actually cry.  Could it be true? Could one of my greatest childhood memories of cinematic achievement be that skewed? If so, what other memories that I hold so near and dear to my heart may have happened differently in reality?  Is it only my warped, fictional childhood nostalgia that maintains the charade?

Dear Ice Pirates (Stuart Raffill, 1984), you ruined my life.