Adam Curtis’ new documentary, All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace, drops next Monday (May 23rd) on BBC2. In an interview with Kath Viner in the Guardian, he promises an exploration of the way that power functions in self-organising systems and whether, in fact, systems can self-organise at all in a way that is sustainable.
The documentary’s title comes from a poem of the same name by Richard Brautigan:
I’d like to think (and
the sooner the better!)
of a cybernetic meadow
where mammals and computers
live together in mutually
like pure water
touching clear sky.
I like to think
(right now, please!)
of a cybernetic forest
filled with pines and electronics
where deer stroll peacefully
as if they were flowers
with spinning blossoms.
I like to think
(it has to be!)
of a cybernetic ecology
where we are free of our labors
and joined back to nature,
returned to our mammal brothers and sisters,
and all watched over
by machines of loving grace
Looks like it will almost certainly be worth a watch. Here’s the trailer:
Due to a lack of time and a lack of inspiration, I asked my Berg colleagues to help write my blog entry this week. Inspired by a recent NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, I asked them what they would consider their pop culture “comfort foods”: music, movies, books, TV shows, games, etc that they return to time and again because they are comfortable and familiar, bring you back to a happy place, create a certain feeling in you, etc. NPR’s Linda Holmes described it as things that “we turn to when we get into a cultural rut and want to reawaken our love of the things we love, as it were.”
I can think of so many things that fit in this category for me. Here’s a few:
The Sound of Music (both the film and the soundtrack)
Pride and Prejudice – both the book and the films (both the Colin Firth & Jennifer Ehle version and the Keira Knightley & Matthew Mcfadyen version)
The West Wing
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
U2 – Achtung Baby (brings me right back to my first year at university)
Hem – Eveningland
A House Like a Lotus and A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L’Engle
I’m happy to say that everyone in the studio humoured my request. Here’s what they had to say:
Winnie the Pooh
Midnight Run, must have watched it 50 times. The most re-watchable film of all time.
Also Rhubarb and Custard (As a kid I slept under the animation table at Bob Godfrey Studios on Neal St, still remember Bob doing the voices).
I still return to many of Kieslowski’s films, they were formative in my understanding of film.
Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade
“Can’t buy a thrill” by Steely Dan
Yo La Tengo – Little Honda just for the distortion sound if nothing else
Any video of Sister Rosetta Tharpe I can find
The drum battle where Steve Gadd (he starts at 2.45 in the clip below) launches a stomp attack on Vinnie Colaiuta and Dave Weckl and their supple wrists.
Asimov’s “Robots of Dawn”
Mystery Science Theatre 3000 episodes
Underworld’s “Second Toughest In The Infants”
Once Upon a Time in the West, which has the single best concentrated set piece scene of any film at any period in history. It is beautiful, epic, speaks truth to humans, society, and history, and I can watch it infinitely.
Starship Troopers, the book, and actually any sci-fi stories from the 1940s to the 1970s I can find in second hand shops or Project Gutenberg
‘F-Zero’ / ‘Unirally’ for games
Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder for music
‘C’était un Rendezvous’ for moving image
Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler
And the films: My neighbour Totoro (for the scene at the bus stop)
Bourne Ultimatum (for the scene at Waterloo station)
This nutrigrain ad from a billion years ago, which I don’t think ever got aired but gets better every time you watch it:
So how about you? What are your culture “comfort foods”?
Via Mike Migurski came Xiaoji Chen’s Isochronic Singapore. It’s fascinating to see the city of Singapore expand and contract like a living, breathing thing as average travel times change from hour to hour and day to day.
Chen has been playing with other dynamic maps of Singapore as well:
Finally, via our neighbour and RIG super group member Alex Deschamps-Sonsino, a list of Robots, Cyborgs and Computers in Film and TV. It seems that list hasn’t been updated in at least five years (and therefore actually feels rather short), but for me the best thing about it is it reminded me of something I had completely forgotten about: the TV show Small Wonder. Ah, mid-80s American family sitcoms. Most of them are best forgotten, actually…