March 7th, 2014
- Trying out those samples is a bit like consenting to get poked in the eye repeatedly by a robot with a fistful of multi-coloured sticks, but I found it bearable on the short term and despite the fact that I’m a quick reader the upper speed there was definitely quicker than mine.
- Its effectiveness for prolonged use seems highly dubious for a variety of reasons that our good friend Andrew Hickey has already outlined behind closed doors at Mindless HQ – it’s not necessarily faster than some people’s extant reading speed, the stream of flashing red letters seems like a sure route to a headache, and their method of delivery ignores the fact that writing is composed and consumed in units separate from the individual word. Plus there’s also the fact that whole project seems not to take into the account the existence of blinking – I did a genuine lol when Andrew pointed this out to me.
- HOWEVER! I’m actually pretty fascinated by the thing for what it seems to me to be: a way to take in writing that is fundamentally different from the process of “reading” as we currently understand it.
- Without wishing to downplay the many differences between ebooks and their traditional counterparts, Spritz seems to me to be an order apart from both books and their digital equivalents in terms of the experience it suggests.
- The fact that Spritz takes the progression of time out of your hands/rendered it non-collaborative is not just a quirk but a ground-up realignment of the reading process. To state it plainly: Spritz obliterates the idea of the page or paragraph as constructed units, elides the difference between description and dialogue, and renders obsolete any other techniques the author may have used to arrange their chosen words.
- This process echoes and amplifies the experience of reading comics on a smartphone by dictating the amount of time you spend on any given linguistic unit while also limiting the context in which this encounter takes place. In both instances the compositional unity of the page is obscured, but this new(ish) method of reading comics preserves the reader’s input as to the flow and narrative density of time.
- Mister Attack described the experience as being like downloading a file instead of reading and he’s not wrong. There’s a slightly dated Matrix-porn aspect to what we can see of this app, a fetishisation of the idea that you too can learn kung-fu in twenty minutes without ever getting off the couch!
- What Spritz represents is a reduction of writing to communication – the writerly aspects of composition are only effective here inasmuch as they were already striving for the effect of information overload.
- There’s a potential for further reduction implicit in this first one, namely the reduction of language to mere commodity, to be valued purely in terms of the volume in which it is consumed – for extra marks, compare and contrast this with the different values words accrue by virtue of their usefulness to search engines.
- Spritz therefore seems most suited to the brute rush of “necessary” information to my eyes; certainly, anything that requires thought, reflection and inflection would prompt a bracing disengagement from the system. This encompasses both works of fiction and non-fiction, of course – neither having a monopoly on allusion or complexity or forward rushing exposition.
- All of this calls to mind the passages of Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction where he claims that new forms develop to achieve effects that old forms have been straining in vain towards - photography achieved things that realist painting was striving towards just by existing, film made easy effects that Dadaist art and poetry had been thrashing out at in defiance of the traditional values, etc.
- Bearing that idea in mind, is there a possible application of Spritz‘ effects in fiction? Can we imagine it as an extension or fulfilment of any existing forms? I can see an endpoint to/heightening of hysterical realism that would be possible using this form that exceeds the possibilities for reading, but many other styles of writing - from Emily Dickinson to Toni Morrison by way of Alan Garner - would be rendered aggravating or just plain useless here.
- I still don’t actually think this will work, but if it did work what would it do? The immediate possibilities seem depressing – bullshit “e-learning” initiatives, a constant stream of data flickering into your eye at work, “DO YOU SUBMIT TO THIS PROGRAMME?”, etc. Still, eternal optimist that I am I keep coming back to Benjamin and his attempt to imagine a radical potential in cinema. Given his efforts to imagine the automated flow of film being broadcast to a distracted public as a potential engine for communal agitation, the question occurs – is there any such potential in the Spritz app? Given that it has been developed for wankers’ glasses and e-readers and is therefore primarily an enclosed, solitary form of distraction, the most likely answer is “probably not” but I would greatly enjoy being proved wrong on that point, because the idea of there being yet another channel for commercial noise to filter through into my life without it adding much of anything is too fucking tedious to bear.
With thanks to Brother Bobsy, Mister Attack, Andrew “Andre Whickey” Hickey, Ad Mindless, Amypoodle, Cormac, Taters, and Kip Manley, all of whom helped me focus my thoughts on this topic via twitter and email.
March 5th, 2014
Having spent 2011 and 2012 listening to so much new, free hip-hop that I almost lost track of who I was and where I laid my head (in case you were wondering: a man who writes about comics on the internet; Glasgow), I made a decision early at the start of 2013 to cut back a bit. While this means that someone like the Bottie Beast is probably better placed to give you an overview of what’s going on with hip-hop right at this point in 2014, it also means that I’ve had a decent amount of time to really dig into the albums and songs I did check out over the past few years.
With an album like Ab-Soul’s Control System, it’s just as well that I had time to spare because otherwise I might not have got my head around how good it really is.
As the member of the Black Hippy crew who does the most to live up to the back half of that description, Ab-Soul risks being obscured by some of the more traditionally appealing rappers in his posse. Schoolboy Q’s perfectly titled Habits and Contradictions provided an early warning that the current era was going to belong to the TDE crew, and Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d. city received so much praise that it kicked off a discussion about what rap fans mean when they label something a classic.
Still, now that the smoke has started to clear – well, shit, as I type this Q’s Oxymoron is currently setting fire to my speakers but let’s deal with that in a separate post – it’s Control System that’s stayed with me. Ab’s too stoned and too subtle to make an album full of straight bangers, but there’s something about the raw fluidity of his rhymes that just gets to me. The way he can get stuck on a series of punishing homonyms for most of a verse before switching his flow up to effortlessly hit series of breathlessly off-kilter punchlines suggests the movement of a mind that’s still in the process of making itself up. This sits in stark-contrast to Lamar’s ever-more impressive verbal gymnastics: the power of good kid, m.A.A.d. city lies in the fact that it always seems like Kendrick knows what he’s doing, while the genius of Control System is that it makes you feel like you’re thinking these thoughts for the first time every time.
February 27th, 2014
During a heated bit of trolling at Mindless HQ, Brother Bobsy expressed his incredulity that “anyone watches US TV drama expecting it to be somehow better than TJ Hooker (which at least had Shatner and Locklear in it).”
Curious little Mindless that I am, I decided to expose his statements on the overwhelming silliness of American TV drama to the True Facts contained within my might brane…
Properly Good American TV Dramas:
- The Wire - Or ‘How the West Was Won and Where it Got Us’ part 2. Like David Peace’s best work – his GB84 tells part 1 of this story, of course – The Wire ends up feeling even more mythological for its reliance on things ripped from the real. If season five presses its argument home too hard then it’s a testament to the strength of the show that it’s details remain as crooked and cryptic and free even at the point where the system is finally completed.
- The Sopranos - Embodies everything that’s annoying about so much popular serious drama, with its faux cinematic stories about serious men hurting each other (some of them are quite ugly, THEY DO CRIME!) but nevertheless stays far ahead of its peers by allowing visuals, plot lines, and actors as much focus as they demand.
- Mad Men - All the strengths of the Sopranos divorced from the macho genre weaknesses, plus this show deals with the protagonist problem that is inherent to this type of TV show more confidently than some of the reactions might have you believe.
- Twin Peaks - Half of this is admittedly not so good, but the best stuff is still excellent at a lot of things that the rest of the shows on this list have approached only tentatively.
- The first three episodes of the third season of Battlestar Galactica - Watch the first two series so you get the full impact of this story, which represents the point where the American military imagination somehow manages to conceive of itself in the Al Qaeda position. Watch the rest of it if you want: it’s neither as good as it threatens to be nor as bad as its worst episodes might suggest. The board game is still totally amazing though!
- Gilmore Girls - One of the few successful uses of the chatty American dialogue style, probably because it aspires to pseudo-Shakespearean fencing instead of pseudo-Shakespearean posturing. Horrific warning signs such as “quirky,” “offbeat,” and “irreverent” somehow manage to stick without turning everything they touch to shite for a change. Also one of the few American TV shows to display and awareness of and willingness to investigate ideas of class, how money effects relationships, etc. You will all disagree with me about this one but I am not wrong.
- Girls - Generation Vice on autocritique, manages to be both massively cringey and genuinely empathetic at the same time; an exceptionally strong show, if narrow.
- Generation Kill - Girls for boys.
- Breaking Bad - Starts slow but builds to a sustained tension high before tipping all the way over into wonky Batman logic. Limited re-watch potential, but fuck me was it good, awful fun for a while there! (Richard Cooper makes a case for the first four seasons being Properly Good here.)
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Yeah yeah yeah, but fuck it, I don’t even give a toss about Joss Whedon anymore but this is the best adaptation of that Stan Lee/Chris Claremont style of self-aware soap opera to the screen, screw yer Marvel movies and yer Agents of S.H.I.T.E.. Shame the last couple of seasons are a bit duff though, eh?
- The Corner - Somehow manages to be both more didactic and more anecdotal than The Wire, but it’s good even if it does feel like the materials for a modern myth than the real thing.
- Dollhouse - see Plok for the why of this.
- Dexter and True Blood - these shows are both full of high nonsense from the word go, but I’ve actually got more time for the increasingly absurd and unstable True Blood these days. I couldn’t pretend that it was good but it’s a fun train wreck that I can watch without worrying about my girlfriend’s enjoyment levels so we fuck with it every now and then just to make sure everyone’s entertained (basically, she just wants to bone Alcide).
- Treme, Deadwood, Six Feet Under, True Detective, The Shield - actually I’ve seen a bit of SFU but I’d need to watch it again to get a sense for how good it is. Never watched more than a minute of the rest but they have their enthusiasts, so.
February 25th, 2014
It must be strange to be in Mogwai, and to read reviews that chastise you for sounding too much and not enough like yourself. It’s a familiar pattern, but then Mogwai are a familiar band these days. Perhaps that’s the problem: when they started out with the ten minute songs and the Blur: Are Shite t-shirts and the Bucky rage they were easier to idolise. Eight albums in, they’re a more difficult journalistic proposition. As comfortable noise merchants, opinionated men who are adamant that their music carries no pre-determined meaning, purveyors of defiantly mainstream art rock, what exactly are we supposed to make of Mogwai in 2014?
These concerns seem relevant in blog posts and in music magazines, but in the context of January’s show at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall they seemed utterly meaningless, even absurd. It’s an observation that’s tired enough to seem trite by now, but Mogwai are one of those bands who you really need to see live in order to fully appreciate. 2010′s Special Moves is an excellent simulation of the band’s live dynamics that doubles as a testament to the quality of their later work, but even played at an absurdly high volume it never threatens to capture Mogwai’s true range.
There’s something in the grain of Mogwai’s live show that’s never quite made it onto their records. It’s in that washed out, trebley guitar sound that starts out sounding like an inner ear itch and then grows until it batters you bodily. The physical impact of this noise would be near-impossible to recreate without the help of plush PAs like the one in the Concert Hall, but you can hear an echo of it Mogwai’s quieter recorded moments – it haunts Happy Songs for Happy People and provides the undercurrent of barely controlled rage in their soundtrack to Douglas Gordon’s Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, for example. You can hear it on Rave Tapes too, but what was merely a whispered rumour on the album version of opener ‘Heard About You Last Night’ is screamed loud enough to ruin hairlines and destroy reputations in concert.
October 31st, 2012
Note 4 – Empty Space: A Haunting
It’s important to read new M. John Harrison novels while on holiday. No other author is able to describe with such alarming clarity the necessity of escaping yourself.
Harrison’s latest novel Empty Space is the conclusion of a trilogy of science fiction novels that started with Light in 2002 and was continued in 2006′s Nova Swing.
Like both of its predecessors, Empty Space presents the reader with a future that dazzles with the romance of a thousand yesterdays: women who’ve chosen to be rebuilt with the “Mona” package, but who base their look on that of Marilyn Monroe; virtual fantasy lives that play out like an episode of Mad Men drained of all sex and drama (until, of course, that sex and drama forces its way on in there); covert action groups who, with their lattes and general sense of boyish intrigue, can’t help but remind you of the sort of spooks you’ve never quite managed to catch out of the corner of your eye; Harrison manages to make all of these fantasies gleam briefly in the pages of this book.
This is an exhausted vision of the future, but it’s still a vision of the future for all that, one that sees past the ever-present apocollapse and on to a possible reality that’s like right now stretched out some more. Whether that seems like a hopeful vision or a dystopian nightmare is very much up to you.
October 18th, 2012
June 17th, 2012
Guest post by Hollistic Tendancies
Finally someone asks the question that needs to be asked. “You guys, are we seriously going to let the guy with the police-sketch face of a rapist tell us what to do?”
The Veep’s daughter comes to visit, and that Selina starts out by describing this as Parental Ground Zero is a good indication of how views this special relationship. “God, today is like the perfect storm,” she snarls when told her daughter will be there in two hours.
“Tell her I’m canceling the lunch that was supposed to prove there is nothing more important than Catherine, because something more important than Catherine has come up.”
She’s quiet; people talk over her and make perfunctory attempts to talk at her which only provide a painful juxtaposition to their immediately switching gears and ignoring her hesitant replies. She’s taking an experimental theater course and wants to get a dog based on a photo that makes Amy say “It looks astonished, like it’s attached to jumper cables or something” because she thinks “it’s cute.”
June 10th, 2012
Guest post by Hollistic Tendancies
“I need you all to make me have not said that. I need you to have make me unsaid it.”
Ah, here in episode 2 of Veep, we The Thick of It fans are in familiar territory: this could have come from the episode where the press conference had to be about nothing.
And yet, this is again very definitely America.
May 25th, 2012
My first thought upon hearing that Armando Iannucci was making a Thick of It-esque show for America was YES! Awesome! Because I love The Thick of It and, even though I’m from there and thus know what it’s like, I love America.
My second thought, of course, was how are they going to fit in all the swearing? There aren’t going to be any “we’ve negotiated for 100 ‘fuck’s per episode” type rules on that side of the pond. Even if it is HBO. The BBC has people on the Today programme say “cock-up” like it’s official government terminology. I don’t think America can compete with that.
Of course this is not the only thing different about America. Here’s how the Veep travels:
Police cars and police motorcycles, sirens blaring, lights flashing, a row of big black bulletproof versions of the strangely bulbous American SUVs that everybody drives. We’re clearly not in the Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship any more!
March 31st, 2012
For those of you who don’t know – probably all of you - some of us Mindless like Mad Men a whole lot, and I think now that the new series is underway it might be time to get my thoughts down about it. The general format of these posts is presently undecided, so it’s difficult to give you an idea of what to expect. Whole screeds, mini essays, round robins with the other Mindless – all are possible. Whatever, these posts will be dense, but hopefully enjoyable if you’re familiar with the show, and, I’m sure, in some cases even if you’re not.