Everyone around me seems to be dropping like flies from some kind of series of viruses. Flu, cold, aches and pains, sore throat, coughs, fever, chills, nausea, headaches vomiting, general malaise. There’s some fear about this being a kind of mini pandemic but I only heard about this in the States.
In social virus news, today I bought two words at a new website called The Big Word Project, a new online experiment by two young, smart dudes. It’s cool. Kind of. They’re selling the universe of known English words, one dollar per letter, via PayPal. What did I buy? Man and Sites. Psychologically, it’s also quite interesting. It’s almost like having a blank slate of top-level domain names and it reminds me of how it must have felt when, in 1993, as was rumored, a woman registered every vegetable dot-com domain at the supermarket one day on Network Solutions. With only 1,600 or so words reserved so far, the Wild West of registrations can be mildly relived.
P.S. As of this writing, the word domain is, amazingly, available. And 37signals already registered “backpack.” Others, large and small, have, too.


I just went outside in the -15 F weather here and looked at the crazy total lunar eclipse occurring until 12:30 a.m. It looks like a red marble, sitting high above the world, half suspended in space near two bright stars. The next total eclipse of the moon will happen in 2010.


My new ENT physician here point blank told me that the entire purpose of human sleep is to dream. I was shocked by the simplification and moved by its beauty. If the Surrealists were right, that we live our days in order to dream at night, then, by the Associative Property (I think), I can extrapolate the good doctor’s statement to say the following: “We live in order to dream.”


There are still some analysts who wonder why the American auto industry is in such dire shape. Approximately half of the answers can be found within the visuals around Ford’s release of its Alton super-SUV truck.
One of the commenters on the related blog post asked, I think jokingly, “Does this come as a hybrid?”


I just watched the freely downloadable film Zeitgeist on my little laptop. It’s a very powerful, if deeply flawed film, that tries to tie together the ritualistic domination of religion, government, and corporations into one fell message: That the future will be theirs if we, as North Americans, don’t wake up. I won’t give away the semi-science fiction ending of the two-hour long semi-documentary. But I will say that the film makes a good case study for us to look at the hard reality of the world and not the one filtered for us by television, the media, the workplace, major corporations, tax and national regimes.
The film, with its retailored conspiracy theories and rehashing of religious history, doesn’t break a lot of new ground, but it does make me ask the bigger question of why we are in the state in which we are.
The film is immensely watchable and it make me really wonder if I should shut off my television for my family for one week or maybe two, look around, and read and love more deeply than ever before. It actively calls for a profound awakening among all of us to look at the world through the lenses of love and natural being rather than war and fear. As banal as that sounds, it reminds me of many of the messages of the early English Romantic poet, William Blake, who I studied and wrote about in college.
Here is just a sampling of quotes from the great Blake:
“The foundation of empire is art and science. Remove them or degrade them, and the empire is no more. Empire follows art and not vice versa as Englishmen suppose.”
“To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour.”
“I must Create a System, or be enslav’d by another Man’s. I will not Reason & Compare; my business is to Create.”
And the most powerful of them all:
“If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.”
If you want to see the movie the Googlopology, it starts here. More info about the movie and its critics can also be found, though, surprisingly, these seem few and far between.

Brand on the Brain.

Tonight, I saw Guy Maddin’s Brand Upon the Brain. As the rappers say, I’m going to break it down because it was perhaps the most coherent and gorgeous aesthetic spectacle I’ve ever seen.
I describe it, yes.
Brand Upon the Brain was performed tonight as part of the annual New Music Festival here at the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra here in Manitoba. The primary visual focus consisted of a huge screen of Maddin’s visual narrative of a guy named Guy who lives in a lighthouse and pines after his sister’s lesbian friend, despite the fact that that friend plays a man, who goes by the name of Chance and who is not as lovely but is more loving than the sister of Guy the character. Chance, who seems miscast at first (and this is my only criticism of the entire event), turns out to be a key figure in the distraught, anxious, and very unhappy young life of the orphan Guy who, as we watch all 12 chapters begin and end, comes back to visit his once and future home, that being this island with a lighthouse not far from the mainland and which feels very, very isolated. The mother, through various kinds of sexual and verbal escape, becomes old and young again while the father goes back to work, even as an old man, a naked resurrected corpse, and a young torturer, not in that order. Meawhile, the pining third-wheel Guy is a romantic witness to the unfolding story, occasionally surrounded by imprisoned orphans of numerous races dressed in white. But the story is the easiest part to tell and, despite the above, it makes sense and holds its own visual logic throughout every Oedipal twist and lesbian turn.
The beauty of the piece came with the three live satellite features of the event. The inimitable, gorgeous, and understated Isabella Rossellini narrated the entire drama. Introduced by the charming and gentle Guy Maddin, Rosselini wore a sleek, black, Italian suit which matched her slicked down, curled-out hair, looking as engaged with the drama as she could possibly be, smiling and then scoffing, waving and then yelling. In front of her, she watched the drama unfold on the monitor and her lines were flawlessly read, nay, formed around the drama. At one point, she screamed and my elation reached new heights.
To her right was a ten-piece orchestra, pulled from the fantastic WSO. Their synchronicity with the silent film poised above them was exacting and lent the entire affair an emotionality that could never be felt via soundtrack, despite the fact the score, by Jason Staczek, was masterful. The conductor, Rei Hotoda, was so fully on, so completely engaged with the towering images that the music, when it wasn’t soaring, blended, perfectly, lovingly, joyfully, and tearfully.
To the very right of the orchestra were the Foley artists; three musician-cum-sound-effect-artists, they played their buckets of water, slamming doors, creaking stairs, screaming babies, rubber chickens, popping bubble wrap, chopped cabbage, crushed celery, electronic horn, smashed cantaloupes, silent clockers, barking foghorns, lapping paper waves, and painted books with panache and sweat-filled attention. Imagine the Blue Man Group quietly orchestrating a return as normal people who loved the symphony, fresh vegetables, and German Expressionism.
This brings me to the next full-on ramble, which is Maddin’s glorious imagery. I’m sitting here in jealous, loving rage at the director because the dude’s captured many of the critical images and moments that I, in my profound hope, would pull into a film that I would make. These include:

  • Lighthouses and rotating periscopic chairs
  • RCA-brand Victor Talking Machine-era voice-scopes
  • Major Tom men, as beautifully rendered as they are evil
  • David Bowiesque Pierrot figures, walking amidst lapping waves
  • Laboratory instruments, framed against a window as continual darkness

Aesthetically, Maddin pulled together the very best yet disparate strands of one hundred and twenty years of cinema into one, single 94-minute film. Black and white throughout, with touches of harrowing and strangled color, the film calls upon every Surrealist, Expressionist, Soviet, and American Avant-Garde visual trope in the very best of ways. It does so with gallows humor and an inherent sorrow for the loss of those forms. The shapes and shades and shorts throughout make more than a nod to the beauty of simplicity and directness of emotional content – they resurrect the innocence of the times when films were made to directly impact, and not just manipulate, our very real feelings for the characters and the scenery in which they thrive and deny and dream.
The scratched and deprecated medium is present throughout, as it is in most of Maddin’s work. It’s as if the visual impoverishment of the film stock helps Maddin enrich our connection with our love for the medium. Interestingly, at certain points during the film, strange digital rectangles flickered across the screen, remnants of the modern medium being broadcast above our heads. I don’t know if these are modern-day effects intended by the artist or they’re reminders of our own media’s mortality.
I do know what it was when Wagner coined Gesamtkunstwerk , the total artwork that fulfills every sense and fills every space. The 1980s saw many fake versions of this in the contemporary art world, what with electronic lights and voices and bright imagery. But Maddin is the true heir to the form and I can only wish that he’ll continue onward.
My thanks to my friends D.C. and L.D. for organizing the evening. After the event, we noted that it will never be the same, this Brand Upon the Brain construction that is now memory. Despite, or rather because of it being a massively historical aesthetic event, it can never be repeated for better or worse. The monstrosity of the entire endeavor moved me terribly.


This seems to be getting picked up a by a lot of people, but I love the way this photo essay drools over the opening of an old, old computer – a 1988 Apple //c.
Check out how nicely packaged the entirety is and how well the images reflect the care Apple put into the creation of this object.
I remember this machine. My dad brought it home from work in 1988 for me to see and experience. Addendum: I think he actually brought home for me the Apple //e – a mild update to that amazing machine that included a monitor with six colors and modicum of games.

Mount Airy.

I know that this is Super Duper Tuesday. Or Super Special Tuesday. Or Stuesday, or whatever. I’m very excited to see how the day turns out and I’m not making any bets.
But I do think that, as much as this race has been unusual, compelling, and complex -what with a racial minority, a woman, a Vietnam vet, a Mormon, and a pastor all competing for the highest office of the American land – this campaign has been very vacuous. What are the true policy initiatives of each of the candidates? Where do they really stand on Iraq, abortion, poverty, and race? Where is there a website that clearly delineates these aspiring pols’ differences, their similarities, their accomplishments on the behalf of those who they represent?
More specifically, I wonder how well did Hillary Clinton do for upstate New York? How did Illinois fare under Obama’s senatorship? Are U.S. soldiers, sailors, and marines better off with McCain’s support of the war and the surge? Are Iraqis better off? How exactly is Romney’s business experience relevant to running a country? Where does Huckabee stand on issues of church and state?
Granted, the debates have been good and illuminate strategy, personality, persuasion, rhetoric, aspirations, ideas, and grace under pressure. They demonstrate that the American media is fully capable of posing good questions about a campaign’s given momentum and turn-out. But where are the issues? Am I wrong to think that this race is more high school than executive office?
Postscript: Obama’s site just gets more and more beautiful everyday. It’s a keeper, done by a real group of professional designers that actually care about their customers and Obama’s audience. If Obama hires designers the way he hires Vice Presidents and cabinet members, the U.S. will be in pretty good shape.