Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Series of Verdicts

We Live in Public: This 15-year-spanning documentary chronicles the gripping prophecies of Joe Harris, the "most famous internet mogul you've never heard of." In 1999, on the brink of the new millennium, Joe, in a fit of experimental genius, converted four New York lofts into a bunker of sorts. Participants who volunteered to live in this bunker were rigorously screened - frighteningly so. They weren't allowed to leave. They slept in cubicles, showered in transparent glass domes, ate together, partied together, shot off rifles at the provided shooting range together. Oh, and everything they did was monitored, close range, by cameras that never strayed. In effect, what Joe created was a real-life Facebook, in which one's actions only counted if they were recorded, viewed, and commented on. The effects, as the film shows, were devastating.

And then Joe begins another project, the likes of which actual technology is only just catching up to, so I won't spoil it here. Let's just say that by documentary's end, we as the audience leave Mr. Harris both awed and horrified - and with his own thought process now three steps ahead of mankind's technological evolution, it's kind of a wonder he's okay living with himself. Everyone should view this film; it's provocative in every sense of the term.

I also couldn't help but make comparisons between Joe's real-life happenings and the events of my own "Smith Experience," in which a remarkably similar situation plays out. I'll admit that I'd heard about this film last fall, but I forbid myself from seeing it until my own creative project was completed out of a fear that I'd inadvertently copy his story. Well... good thing I did! The one plot element of this man's real life experiments that I really hadn't counted on for my own characters was the intoxicating sense of daring and freedom that initially follows the realization one's actions are being broadcast to a mass of unidentified viewers. The men and women of his bunker first lived it up before tearing each other apart. Go figure.

Toy Story 3: I mean, obviously it was genius. I'd also like to add that I think "Day & Night" - the short that maintains Pixar tradition by warming up the audience prior to the film proper - is the best of them I've seen. Can't believe I stood in line for the original Toy Story with my family fifteen years ago at the Mountain View Mall.

[French accent]: Ze time, how she flies.

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh: When I finished Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay - and not before failing to surpass its first 100 pages on two separate occasions - the experience of profound loss I felt was quickly attributed to it being my first week in New Zealand, and that it was rainy and cold out and I had no friends and was so, so, so far away from a Bend summer. In short, I thought the book was excellent, but that the accompanying emotions were more a product of my own circumstances than of Chabon's writing skills.

Well, this one's done gone and proven me wrong. It's also inspired the shit out of me. Apparently Chabon cranked this thing out between 21 and 24 years of age, submitted it for his MFA, thesis project, and then catapulted the puppy right into a publishing house. I really think it's Chabon's quiet insightfulness and accompanying humor that does it for me. He navigates conversations with the best of them, and I just love how real it all sounds. That's not to say, though, that there aren't a few weak areas - and the fact that I'm now able to legitimately SPOT them has me excited. Still, a highly recommended read.

Also, this one brought about the formulation of a new goal: I will have something substantial written and on its way to a prospective agent by the time I turn 24. Just see if I don't.

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