“The Choice Is the Universe –or Nothing”

‘We may have differences of opinion as to the value of reaching the Pole. If we apply the utilitarian test, it is all small moment, but so is a poem. And what is polar exploration but an epic endeavour in which all sordidness is left behind, and in which a man, knowing the risks and challenges of failure, ventures his life and his all in a combat against the forces of ignorance? For I deem it beneath dignity of man, having once set out to reach that mathematical point which marks the northern termination of the axis of earth, which stands as a sign of his failure to dominate those millions of square miles of unknown country, to give it up because the night is dark and the road is long. He will not give it up. The polar explorer typifies the outdoor spirit of the race which has lead conquering man across all seas and through all lands, of that thirst for knowing all there is to be known, which has led him to the depths of the ocean, to the tops of the mountains, to dig in musty caves, to analyse the rays of light from distant worlds, to delve into the geologic records of past times. It will carry him to the North Pole, too, and that before many years have past. Any one who supposes anything else of man doesnt know man. His acquaintance with human nature— with the nature of the adventurous races of our zones and times— is limited.’

Walter Wellman, National Geographic, December 1899. Found in The National Geographic Society: 100 Years of Adventure and Discovery

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THE WORLD AND ALL THAT IS IN IT

To attract readers, Grosvenor would have to change the public’s attitude towards geography, which he knew was regarded “one of the dullest of all subjects, something to inflict upon schoolboys and avoid in later life.” The Society’s key to success, a popular approach to geography, was missing.

He began by studying other geographic journals then being published by geographic societies throughout the world. He next turned to those books in which geography played an important part, books that have endured like Charles Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle, Richard Henry Dana Jr.’s Two Years Before the Mast, Joshua Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around the World, and Herodotus’s travels, written 2000 years before. What was there in Herodotus’s History, Grosvenor wrote, “that gave the book such life that it had survived 20 centuries and was still going strong?” What did those geographic books to which readers had returned again and again have in common?

The answer, Grosvenor became convinced, was that “each with an accurate, eyewitness, first hand account. Each contained simple, straightforward writing – writing that sought to make pictures in the readers mind.”

The National Geographic Society: 100 Years of Adventure and Discovery pg. 42

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The Drunken Story Teller

The notion of adapting a work, conceptually, is something that has always intrigued me. So much of our culture consists of reworking of previous material which the internet in particular has thrown into overdrive. This new prominence of alteration, attempts at improvement and straight up copies brings the question of making an adaptation that is interesting. The remake of Star Wars: A New Hope years ago with ASCII or the other remake constituting stitched together of people recreating scenes in 15 second chunks are both interesting from a production standpoint but utterly unengaging as something to watch. So how do you make an adaptation that exists as it’s own enjoyable thing to watch?

There are, in my thinking, two principles that make adaptations work. The first is originality, a faithful adaptation is a bad adaptation, it either exists simply to bring the work into a different medium or to recapture the glory of the past work while putting a token stamp of creativity with different names in the credits. The second principle is surprise, even if your adaptation is faithful as possible having that one element of surprise, casting a previously male character as a female one can alter your interpretation of the whole work which, even if it seems small, can improve the whole product as a result.

For two examples we only have to look at two recent adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. Sherlock is a bad adaptation, it has actors turning out good performances but the scripts are reminiscent of a drunk recalling a story, getting all the plot beats right but forgetting that A. They’ve told you this story before and B. You’re too sober to enjoy their crap. Whereas Elementary while suffering a little from over long series’s enjoys the privilege of being written by a drunk who while telling a story you’ve both heard before A. Knows this and plays with it B. Introduces elements alter the original story in unexpected ways.

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Wolfenstein Animation Central

I’m a well over half way through Wolfenstein: The New Order and I feel that if there’s one element of this game that stands out, beyond any other, it’s the damn animations. I first noticed it when sneaking down a corridor in the first level and a patrolling guard turned his head to look down the corridor as he passed. It didn’t make much of a difference functionally, the A.I. itself seems to be as near-sighted like most first person shooters, but it was that appearance of, well, humanness. In most games the interaction with the environment is that of a robot, pushing past things that it doesn’t think should be there and overall being quite stiff. I’ve been struggling to articulate how to phrase it, the only way that I can is that they act as though the ground is the only real thing and other objects are just solid untouchable barriers. Games have improved on this over time of course, wooden barriers now tend to get shot up, railings vaulted and glass smashed in an attempt to kill the player.

Animations feeling real does a great deal to improve the overall experience, you can have the prettiest skybox in the world but if your character gets stuck on or completely ignores geometry then it’s all buggered. The first game that really impressed me with this was Uncharted 3, a beautiful game but more importantly one where the playable character Nathan Drake reacts to being close to walls, he puts out his hands rather than bumping robotically against them, it’s not perfect and the A.I. in that still has remnants of finding solid objects mere barriers. Nevertheless it helps, it helps to have a world where you and everything else reacts it and that in turn the world reacts right back.

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Extract from Reflections on the Novel

Before broaching our third and final question (“What are the rules one must follow in order to succeed in perfecting the art of the novel?”), we must, it would seem to me, reply to the constant objection if certain melancholy minds who, to give themselves a gloss of morality wherefrom their hearts are often distant, persist in asking; “Of what use are novels?”

Of what use, indeed! hypocritical and perverse men, for you alone ask this ridiculous question: they are useful in portraying you as you are, proud creatures who wish to elude the painter’s brush, since you fear the results, for the novel is – if ’tis possible to express oneself thuswise – the representation of secular customs, and is therefore, for the philosopher who wishes to understand man, as essential as the knowledge of history. For the etching needle of history only depicts man when he reveals himself publicly, and then ’tis no longer he: ambition, pride cover his brow with a mask which portrays us naught but these these two passions, and not the man.

The novelist’s brush, on the contrary, portrays him from within… seizes him when he drops this mask, and the description, which is far more interesting, is at the same time more faithful. This, then, is the usefulness of novels, O you cold censors who dislike the novel: you are like that cripple who was wont to say: and why do artists bother to paint full-length portraits?

-Extract from Reflections on the Novel by the Marquis De Sade

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A Shattered Consciousness

I consume some films, ones that I feel require attention, often as I can in an altered state. I don’t do drugs, not illegal ones anyway, so my method is late, late nights and caffeine. The subsequent result is a feeling of disconnect with the world and that loosened mooring joins more readily to the flashing lights and quiet sounds on the television. The darkness outside helps too, no singing birds or rejuvenating sun. My mind on edge, I’ve been here before, eager to see the dawn one moment and determined to crawl into bed the next. These are the nights that I remember, these are the moments that cling on and won’t get go. To read a book as the sun rises and this frail world spins and that little thread that binds concerns disappears is, to put it simply, magical.

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A Place Beyond My Sanity

Place Beyond the Pines, starts with something like a magic trick, Ryan Gosling goes into the cage on a motorbike after a long uninterrupted shot, therefore Ryan Gosling must be in the cage doing those stunts. Perhaps, the function of the long shot seems plain regardless it serves as an entry point to the characters skill and Gosling’s on the bike.

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