Always outnumbered. Generally overdresssed.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I'll edit this later, I have to go and exercise

I love this clip, in fact I love this film. I may put up the home improvement scene, where Charlie Sheen buys a West Side apartment and, with a team of burly interior designers and Daryl Hannah, does the place up with detachable neo-Georgian cornicing and stencils to the sounds of 'This must be the place'. Aspirational with a capital A.

Also: the hair. As a heavy pomade user myself it's a weird relief to see this. Some say Mark Lamarr, and I always counter with Johnny Otis, but maybe Charlie Sheen in Wall Street is where it's really coming from on a level too deep for me to admit even to myself.

So apart from all that, I was thinking about this video because I recently read William Gibson's Spook Country. It's not a great, or even a very good book. It caused me to wonder whether it's easier to write sci-fi in a merely workmanlike way. The little Philip K. Dick that I've read is as badly written as an unexceptional edition of Razzle, in fact Blade Runner is even better once you realise what a terrible book 'Do Androids Dream Electric Sheep?' is.

Fans of Bladerunner, Through a Scanner Darkly and Total Recall may also notice that they are all essentially the same film - about a man who believes himself to be part of a system, whilst schizophrenically existing within another rebel system. This effect might not be unconnected to Dick's biscuits having been thoroughly flipped taking mind-bending hallucinogens during the 1960s.

Hem...anyway... Sci-fi is all form, no matter. It's a literature of ideas, so things like a plot or writing may be secondary considerations, merely devices that you use to get your hi-tech widgetry airborne.

Spook Country is based on a rather interesting art idea called 'locative art', massive artworks that exist on the internet that are viewed through a special GPS headpiece. Artists use the technology to create site specific installations, for instance, the body of River Phoenix lying dead outside the Viper Rooms - in the actual spot in which he died, or a hotel room full of Monet's lilies.

This is one of the heroine's (her name is Hollis Henry and she seemed to me to be modelled, absurdly, on Justine Frischmann of Elastica) first encounters with locative technology:

"Alberto was digging through a canvas carryall on his lap. He produced a cell phone, married with silver duct tape to some other species of smallish consumer electronics. 'With these, though ... ' he clicked something on one of the conjoined units, opened the phone, and began deftly thumbing its key pad. 'When this is available as a package ... ' He passed it to her. A phone, and something she recognised as a GPS unit, but the latter's casing had been partially cut away, with what felt like more electronics growing out of it, sealed under a silver tape."

At which point the modern reader will be thinking, hang on a minute Alberto, you radical cyber hipster, where's your iPhone? Don't you read Crack Unit? What you're dealing with here is known in real life as Augmented Reality.

So Gibson published Spook Country in 2007 and already he's looking a bit Gordon Gecko. There'd be nothing to stop an advertiser, right now, producing a piece of locative art to hover above Piccadilly Circus, one that was only viewable through certain kinds of mobile handset.

Gibson then goes trundling off into this alternate reality nerd-fest. This stuff, hanging around, in geographical locations and yet in cyberspace, is it any more or less real than, for instance, voodoo, or Catholic mysticism?

I don't know, I don't care that much, what's more interesting is that you can now steal ideas from sci-fi, safe in the knowledge that rate of technological development is so fast that they'll almost certainly be viable in just a couple of year's time.


nicky clarke said...

pomade? Don't you know anything? It's PRODUCT

Ben said...

I can recite the entire Greed is Good speech off by heart, not because I think it's clever - I just love the performance. Michael Douglas is overlooked as a cool aging movie star. The guy produced One Flew Over The Fucking Cuckoo's Nest FFS! When he was in his twenties FFFS!, then he was in The Streets of San Francisco and tons of movies with politics and heart (and the odd Jewel In The Nile Blockbuster). I loved Wall Street, still do, and can't wait for its sequel.

And I think The Matrix fits well in the bullshit plottery of sci-fi. Philosophy for retards.

Gordon Comstock said...

Plus Martin Sheen playing Charlie Sheen's dad in this movie? And being much cooler than him, that is nice touch.

Michael Douglas gets extra points for being married to Catherine Zeta Jones. I wonder if he's still a sex addict? You would be though wouldn't you?

Ben said...

I'd certainly use that as an excuse for the odd jump. "Honey, if you won't give it to me I'm going to have to find Lindsay Lohan."

Gordon Comstock said...

Wow, I really can't wait for my late thirties, they sound great Ben.

Ben said...

1. I was suggesting what MD might say to CZJ.

2. I'm not in my late thirties.

Gordon Comstock said...

1. Yep, I'd gathered that.
2. I was hoping you'd be flattered.

Liam said...

No. Stop that.
As one of the guys who gets given advertiser briefs with these fantastical ideas, I'd say two years for a proof of concept tech demo on youtube which will look awesome but will result in a broken, expensive and ultimately disappointing campaign that will be such an arse for the end user to actually implement that it won't work.

You can kindof do Augmented Reality on a phone now. But your asking people to download a piece of software, install it, go someplace and go 'oh hey - look it's an advert, great'

Advertising creatives :
Do not steal from Sci Fi - stick to stealing from Youtube, movies and each other.

Gordon Comstock said...

Maybe if the thing they saw wasn't an advert, but something actually worth looking at.

I understand your grumpiness tho - having a load of pricks who can manage HTML telling you to push the envelope must be deeply annoying, along the lines of 'push your own fucking envelope'.