Noir From a Poet Of Love and Violence

26 May 2016

Not exactly about books, but PG has a weakness for noir. Speaking of which, he may have to conduct another festival of Raymond Chandler quotes soon.

From The Wall Street Journal:

There is no noir more profoundly sad than Nicholas Ray’s “In a Lonely Place” (1950), which unfolds with dark lyricism against a backdrop of violence, cynicism and suspicion. One of Ray’s most indelible stories involving characters who lash out in pointless fury—and one of his most personal films—it incorporates melodrama, echoes of Shakespeare, and heart-stopping performances by Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame.

François Truffaut called Ray “the poet of nightfall.” Eric Rohmer wrote, “Just as he is the poet of violence, Nicholas Ray is perhaps the only poet of love; it is the fascination peculiar to both feelings that obsesses him, more than the study of their origins and their close or distant repercussions.” And yet, “In a Lonely Place,” now available in a new release on DVD and Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection, continues to grow in stature, distilling as it does the essence of emotion.

Ray’s film is loosely based on Dorothy B. Hughes’s hypnotic 1947 novel about a psychopathic killer in Los Angeles, Dix Steele. Much was changed in the film, but paranoia and misogyny seep into its more tragic story as if from poisoned soil. A washed-up screenwriter who is accused of murder, Bogart’s Dix is prone to violent outbursts suggesting that he, too, could be dangerous to women.

. . . .

Dix invites Mildred (Martha Stewart), a checkroom girl, home with him to synopsize a trashy novel his friend and agent Mel ( Art Smith) has encouraged him to adapt. The next morning she is found strangled.

“Oh, I didn’t say I was a gentleman. I said I was tired,” Dix snaps, when asked by the police why he didn’t call for a taxi for Mildred.

The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)


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Farewell Mr. Bunting

24 May 2016

The Coming Horror of Virtual Reality

16 May 2016

From The New Yorker:

If  Kitchen, a five-minute virtual-reality demo created by the Japanese studio Capcom, were a short film, few viewers would be moved to panic by its misery of horror-movie clichés. In the demo, which has been making the rounds at tech conferences in recent months, you begin strapped to a chair in a kitchen, the floor around you lumpy with cadavers. After a few beats, one body groans unexpectedly to its feet and, with an ungainly lunge, attempts to free you from your restraints. Then a lank-haired woman of the kind that, if Japanese cinema is to be believed, routinely climb out of dark wells and staticky television screens steps into view behind your oblivious helper. He promptly rejoins his compatriots on the floor. The woman draws close and, with a whipping motion, stabs a knife deep into your thigh. At the movie theatre, such an attack might draw, at best, a swift wince. In V.R., the terror is more palpable: a phantom pain shoots up your leg.

In the past several years, as the nascent medium of virtual reality has come into its own, scientists and creators have begun to explore its potential effects on the human mind. Some are undoubtedly positive—as, for instance, when the technology is used to help war veterans overcome P.T.S.D., or as a means to expand a person’s capacity for compassion. But the immediacy of V.R. has a dark side, too. Several months ago, Michael Madary and Thomas K. Metzinger, researchers from the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, in Germany, published a series of recommendations on the ethical design and implementation of virtual reality. Their appraisal of the medium’s psychological force is both studious and foreboding. “The power of V.R. to induce particular kinds of emotions could be used deliberately to cause suffering,” they write. “Conceivably, the suffering could be so extreme as to be considered torture.” In filmmaking, the director must perform a kind of seduction of dread, leading viewers through an escalating series of psychological states. In the immersive world of V.R., no such dance is required.

“I’m neither a neurologist nor an anthropologist, but that kind of—I don’t know—that, like, deep-lizard stuff in our brains comes alive in virtual reality,” Scott Stephan, a designer at Wevr, a V.R. studio in Los Angeles, told me recently. In Stephan’s game Anamnesis, you play as a fema agent helping to relocate people after a super flu has devastated the city. “The gap between ‘things that happen to my character’ and ‘things that happen to me’ is bridged,” Stephan said. This distinction can transform an experience from merely flinch-inducing to sincerely frightening. “The way I process these scares is not through the eyes of a person using their critical media-viewing faculty but through the eyes of I, the self, with all of the very human, systems-level, subconscious voodoo that comes along with that.” If traditional media—novels, films, radio, even video games—offer the thrill of the roller coaster, the mimicry of peril, V.R. removes the sturdy track and the shoulder restraints. “A book can be put down,” Stephan said. “It’s always clear that the experience is voluntary.” In V.R., he added, there is not even the comforting abstraction of the video-game controller. “Your body becomes profoundly integral. Your body becomes the interface.” In this way, mundane tasks like picking up a cup of coffee or opening a desk drawer—two of the actions on offer in Job Simulator, launched earlier this year—become fascinating. Likewise, fear takes on a new texture. Capcom reports that, after a few minutes with Kitchen, many players tear off their headsets in an attempt to flee the scene.

Link to the rest at The New Yorker and thanks to Julia and others for the tip.

The Gap

13 May 2016

THE GAP by Ira Glass from Daniel Sax on Vimeo.

Pixar – What Makes a Story Relatable

10 May 2016

What Happens to Your Brain When You Read The Same Book to Your Kid Over and Over

8 May 2016

From BookRiot:

There’s a picture book my three year old son loves, it’s called Ten Little Monkeys. On the surface, it’s a cute, repetitive story about ten naughty monkeys that decide to jump on a bed instead of going to sleep as per their mother’s wishes.

I think I’d be perfectly fine with this book if my son didn’t demand it be read to him every night.

Every. Single. Night.

I’ve read this book so many times I have it permanently stamped into the core of my brain like some sort of Clockwork Orange-esque conditioning experiment. I get the rhyme stuck in my head for days, it invades my dreams and I find myself trying to find a deeper meaning to it.

As a result of what very well may be sleep-deprived psychosis (see three year old above) I’ve begun to think of the characters’ backstories and motivations. This helps me cope with reading the same lines over and over again, night after night.

I want to first talk about the father because he doesn’t exist within the story. He’s either at work, stuck in a cubicle at some soulless job that he hates and will never fulfil him as a monkey or he’s a deadbeat and has abandoned the family altogether. Either way, there’s no mention of him whatsoever.

Then we have the mother, she’s doing her best to keep her family afloat. She might work two jobs, she might be a stay at home mom, whatever her situation is, she has the thankless task of keeping her house running while taking care of ten children. She is frayed and on edge, she hasn’t had a night off in what seems like years.

We, the reader, are introduced to her during a particularly challenging evening. Her ten children are refusing to go to bed, they are unruly, loud and a danger to themselves.

What does the mother do to try and stop them from jumping off the bed and bumping their heads? She calls a doctor and asks for advice.

. . . .

I picture the mother standing on her front lawn in a soiled bathrobe and curlers the next morning, yelling at the animal control officers as they arrive. The hardened veteran calms her down, wraps a blanket over her shoulders and gives her a steaming cup of coffee while the other officers enter the house, their nets ready.

Link to the rest at BookRiot


How to End a Movie

26 April 2016

The Bookmobile

20 April 2016

Thanks to Ryan for the tip.

Serial Novels, Charles Dickens and Star Wars

14 April 2016


13 April 2016

Nothing to do with books (PG apologizes if he’s been doing too many of these lately), but delightful.

If you’re at work or the parakeet is asleep, the video does include music.

Ma'agalim – Jane Bordeaux from Uri Lotan on Vimeo.

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