Friday, May 28, 2010

LOST Tells Us To Put a Cork In It

WARNING: If you have not yet seen the Lost Finale or you think that the show is the most idiotic story ever told please stop reading now.

Whether it's a stingy vending machine or the power source to a mystical island, the secrets of LOST boiled down to my only I.T. advice:

Unplug it.
Plug it back in.
Hope the problem goes away.

This is the hieroglyphic-covered stone that was unplugged and replaced to solve all the problems on LOST.
In "Ab Aeterno" it was described as a cork holding back evil from taking over the world.

In "Across the Sea" the glowing electromagnetic light of the pool surrounding the cork was described as "the source of all life."

Good versus evil.

In some ways it was disappointing that a show with such murky morality ended up being blatantly concerned with a simple, black and white, Star-Wars worldview. But this image of the cork hides a more intriguing depiction of the interdependence between these forces.

What did you expect to happen when the stone cork was removed? I expected more smoky evil to be released. Desmond expected more time travel inducing electromagnetic light to be released. But the actual result when the cork was removed was...nothingness. Nothing came out of the opened hole, the glowing light (which seemed to be the source of the island's magic) disappeared, and both the smoke monster (Locke) and the protector (now Jack) were rendered mortal, enabling them to kill each other.

Removing the cork didn't release either good or evil, they negated each other. This seemed to imply an interdependence. Good is the result of suppressing evil, and evil is defined as the thing that good is keeping at bay, and neither can exist without the other. When good and evil annihilated each other, the island started crumbling because it was a magical place and no more magic could exist without the tension between good and evil.

This is also a statement on storytelling. Story is conflict. A protagonist (or group of protagonists) struggles against an obstacle, but as soon as the conflict is removed (rolled away like the stone in the cave) the story ceases to be. Without this magical tension at the heart of the story, the narrative comes crumbling down around the characters like our island did and the story comes to an end.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Life Out of Life

“To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life.”

Scientists have created the first synthetic life. A single cell of goat pathogen was constructed molecule by molecule inside a lab. To study the degradation of the genome as the cell mutates, the quote above from James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man was encoded into the DNA. Scientists will watch as the phrase mutates.

Now even artificial bacteria is making me feel guilty for never finishing Ulysses.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Subconscious Digital Poetry

You are strolling through a shopping center. The gleaming aluminum and white Apple Store draws you in. You walk toward the light.

Curious about the gadget displayed inder the spotlight of elaborate track lighting, you pick up the iPad to feel the weight of the object in your hands. A stiff anti-theft cable tethers the gadget to a hole in the table, which is conspicuous and clumsy for such a clean, minimal environment.

You imagine the product's potential in your own routine. Would it fit in your messenger bag? Where would it sit on your coffee table? Would you drop it in soapy water if you tried to read it in the bath? You struggle for a functional rationale to buy it. You open up the word processor...and your mind goes blank.

This absence of mind is a close relative to Record Store Amnesia or Video Rental Amnesia (newly erraticated by the netflix vaccine) it's a family of temporary neurological disorders where the interior design of endless nearly identical shapes (DVD cases, record covers, etc) renders the consumer with a complete loss of memory regarding recently desired purchases. In extreme cases, all recollection of current fiscal demands or available funds is also lost, resulting in unwise transactions. If a similar diease breaks out in an Apple Store, the outcome could be catastrophic. The victims would not be be coherant and aware of the repurcussions of their actions until all cardboard boxes are folded into the recycling bin and the carpet is littered with form-fitted styrofoam.

But today in the Apple Store the effect is only enough to momentarily daze. With your fingertips to the touchscreen keyboard and your conscious mind wiped, the amnesia finds it's creative potential.

In a haze of retail zen, your fingers flow freely and independent of rational thought. Newly formed words are slurred by clumsy touch and bounce off of previously abandoned messages, demo templates, and saccarine stock photos. Your fingers dance between staged family vacation models. The resulting document, though never intended to be seen, is an automatic critique of the gadget, a subconscious poetry speaking about consumerism and our relationship to technology.

I have begun to collect these documents. A new found poem will be posted every morning at Please enjoy, and the next time you are in one of these stores feel free to check the iPads to see what you can find. Email your discoveries in PDF form directly to me at and I will share them with the world.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Speaking of Solipsism...

...I invented solipsism in the 5th grade. Apparently some kid named Descartes beat me to it, but he went to a different school on the other side of town. I didn't know about him or his ideas so I still think of the concept as mine. This was in my last post:
It (solipsism syndrome) is also known to occur in some youths who have been brought up on television as a substitute to reality.

That was me; a latchkey kid raised by ancient re-runs. My most beloved nannies were the original Star Trek, the Outer Limits, and above all others the original Twilight Zone. I learned from a very early age to question reality at every turn. I expected my perception of the world to dissolve weekly and reassemble according to a different logic. Rod Serling's perception-twisting tales taught me to keep my eyes peeled for clues in the shadows of obscured truths via his episode "Eye of the Beholder", and to listen for sinister double meanings and conspiratous wordplay that could save my life in a situation like "To Serve Man's" revelatory, "It's a cookbook!" moment.

I was always suspicious that the blue sky was a back lot matte painting and that Rod Serling could step into frame at any moment to demolish my constructed reality with a few heavy-handed closing remarks.

In the fifth grade I had a standing challenge on the playground: one hundred bucks(read as "infinite wealth") to the person that could prove to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that they existed and weren't just a figment of my imagination.

The most common and convincing answer I received was a quick jab to the nose.

I'll end here with a one-two punch of Serling's shifting realities. Enjoy.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Cosmonaut Box

Romain Charles and Diego Urbina are the first of a crew of six selected by the Russian space program to be sealed inside a shipping container for 18 months. The purpose of this experiment is to simulate the physical and psychological effects of a trip to Mars and back.

One of the major concerns they are studying is Solipsism Syndrome, which can cause people in extreme isolation to believe that nothing outside their own mind exists. Solipsism syndrome was the subject of the Twilight Zone's 1959 pilot episode, "Where is Everybody?" and has been on the space program's mind for a very long time. The following is a description taken from Nasa's Recommendations for Space Settlement Design.

Some environments are conducive to the state of mind in which a person feels that everything is a dream and is not real. This state of mind occurs, for example, in the Arctic winter when it is night 24 hr a day. It is also known to occur in some youths who have been brought up on television as a substitute to reality.

Solipsism is a philosophical theory that everything is in the imagination, and there is no reality outside one's own brain. As a philosophical theory it is interesting because is is internally consistent and, therefore, cannot be disproved. But as a psychological state, it is highly uncomfortable. The whole of life becomes a long dream from which an individual can never wake up. Each person is trapped in a nightmare. Even friends are not real, they are a part of the dream. A person feels very lonely and detached, and eventually becomes apathetic and indifferent.

In the small town of Lund, Sweden, the winter days have 6 hr of daylight and 18 hr of darkness. Most of the time people live under artificial light, so that life acquires a special quality. Outdoors, there is no landscape to see; only street corners lit by lamps. These street corners look like theater stages, detached from one another. There is no connectedness or depth in the universe and it acquires a very unreal quality as though the whole world is imagination. Ingmar Bergman's film "Wild Strawberries" expresses this feeling very well.

This state of mind can be easily produced in an environment where everything is artificial, where everything is like a theater stage, where every wish can be fulfilled by a push-button, and where there is nothing beyond the theater stage and beyond an individual's control.

When scientists reference Bergman films in government documents we have proof that the phenomenon is a bizarre nexus of reality and dreamlike fantasy.

I'm really excited about this experiment and I'm hoping that Fox TV acquires the rights to edit the scientific footage into an extreme Big Brother reality show. More than that, I salute these brave men for sacrificing years of their life and (potentially) their own sanity to answering this important question: "What happens when someone believes that the world around them is fake when they know that the mission that put them in that state is fake?"
Does this accelerate the losing-it process?
Do the two illusions cancel each other out making the fake mission seem real?
Perhaps the cosmonauts will end their mission like Arnold Shwartzenegger in Total Recall, stepping out of their capsule into the illusory orange dust of a rocky Martian mountain peak while their body lies trapped in a metal contraption on some other world.
The other option is that confining six strangers in a tight space for a time period longer than many starter marriages might end like this:

Fox producers should take note.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

War Games

When did the army start using pixelated camouflage? Was this to make real combat seem psychologically more like videogames?

Monday, May 10, 2010


Artists, writers and musicians do not reveal hidden truths about the universe; we create meaning in a meaningless universe. This means that we either have the most important jobs on the planet or we are complete frauds for misrepresenting reality.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Möbius Strip

The Möbius Strip is a powerful symbol because it is the simplest possible form to expose the limits of our comprehension.

If you've never made one and played with it yourself, then please take the time to do so now. Pull a clean sheet from the office fax machine, cut a thin strip, flip one end 180 degrees and tape it into a loop and then just stare at it. Trace it's one side and one edge for the rest of the day. It will be mildly mesmerizing.

At least we are better off than chickens, who cannot even fathom the straight line.