Monthly Archives: May 2007

new romance in neuromancer

Good news for those with under-bitten fists. Neuromancer is coming, courtesy of the director that brought you the flimsy Fast/Furious folly, Torque.

Neuromancer is achingly sharp, stylised, ambiguous and largely unfilmable. Or according to the producer, “a good sci-fi adventure … with a sort of love interest as well”. I seriously hope the project falls through and all involved parties have unlikely gardening accidents.

Who knows though, maybe it will surpass the futuristic vision of The Lawnmower Man. Hopefully it will borrow more from the source material anyway (did you ever read the Stephen King short story? Not a computer in it…).

a scanner darkly

Philip K Dick is one of my favourite authors. More than anyone his novels are plumbed for screenplays, often to dire effect (Nicolas Cage in Next).

I recently finished The Man In The High Castle (birthday present, thank you) which I can unreservedly recommend. Major events (the Axis win the war) are presented in a low-key way, without heavy exposition, through the small lives of people. Complete with the classic Philip Dick reality-turned-on-its-head manoeuvres.

In this case no film is on the horizon, surprisingly (though my current read, the bonkers VALIS has the rights acquired).

scanner darklyInstead I recommend you see A Scanner Darkly.

Above all, this is a film true to Philip K Dick’s work. I mean all of his work, and not just the novel. It’s an armour-piercing bullet of paranoia.

Linklater uses the painterly visual effect throughout the film. However the look isn’t just sparkly eye biscuits, as he previously used to lighten the stodgy philosophy of Waking Life. Here, the effect is crucial.

  1. This is a film where almost every character is constantly on drugs. Bad, paranoid drugs. The view shifts and slips uncertainly, without relief. The whole world is always on the verge of sliding off the edge of normality and into something unexpected and frightening.
  2. The ‘scramble suit’, a kind of shifting camouflage. The visual effects here actually make it convincing.

The themes of identity loss, and confusion around what is real are executed skillfully.

I think it’s a film that actually evokes the exhiliration of simply pushing yourself so far out of yourself that your senses are completely subsumed. To break the barrier between conscious and subconscious.

My main criticism is that by the end, very little uncertainty remains. Loose ends are tied.

If only Lynch had done it. Still, a great, underrated film.

scrape sky, suck feet

That’s the US excursion over. Currently sitting in JFK at 7am with 2 hours sleep on the clock – the plan is to try and stay awake til hometime at 9pm this evening (tricky). Hopefully the GBA charge will suffice and I can get a few more hours of Final Fantasy IV in.

The second part of the business trip involved being locked in a ‘conference centre’ for four days and subjected to a barrage of technical and personal development sessions. Some good stuff.

Go and see Grindhouse. There is hilarity, and more shameless foot-worshipping from Quentin Tarantino. I first heard of QT’s fondness for the female foot in EMPIRE magazine; a quick look back over his films makes it pretty inarguable. Actually I have an interesting bit of evidence for the prosecution (via Caitlin, who will add more anecdote in the comments, thank you).

So a couple of years ago she had a job waitressing in one of the larger gentlemen’s clubs in Austin. One night the manager gets a call, and shortly afterward QT shows up with his girlfriend. Assigned to serving (and drinking with) them for the evening, Caitlin notices that our boy has his girlfriend’s feet in his lap the whole time, rubbing away on them like his life depended on it. You must find the defendant guilty, your honour.

sky scraping 1


There are a couple of reasons for me being over here in the US. Random facts follow.

working in a New York office

The main reason I’ve been paid to fly over here is for training, so strictly speaking I don’t have to be in the NYC office. However, I figured it was a timely opportunity to meet some people, sample the working culture and observe some amusing but facile differences.

The office we work in stands shiny and resolute on Park Avenue. Park Avenue is iconic New York: wide streets, yellow cabs, hordes of people, skyscrapers, cwafee, hotdog and pretzel vendors. Inside the building is marble and stone. There are different banks of lifts depending on which floor you want. My colleagues are up near the 40th floor.

The views are amazing. The office I’ve parasitised looks north over Manhattan. The city below is reduced to a vague awareness of car horns and sirens; a distant subterranean dream.

The desk areas are cosy – on this floor rooms are rarely wider than a living room. Fancy Aeron chairs and nice carpets. Our floor is mostly quiet though, many desks are empty and it’s easy to work without other people’s stress osmosing into your day.

In contrast, this afternoon I went down to see the Trading Floor. The traders – a fair mix of gender – each sit in front of a sci-fi bank of five monitors, each of which has an eye-mashing array of coloured numbers and graphs. They have multiple trading keyboards with tiny lights and displays and cryptic buttons. Orders are shouted into headsets. There is hubbub.

pretzelFood and drink is cheap, plentiful and wholesome. I note that everyone is exceptionally cordial and friendly. My colleague tells me, “everyone became more friendly after 9/11″.

I get to do some training around MQ, which is fun now I have some decent material to present. For me, presenting is excellent fun when you know the subject well, but drenched in anxiety when it’s a surprise or incompletely understood. The training I’m getting is really helping here though (post to follow).

I don’t quite get the USA interpretation of privacy in the toilets – sorry, restrooms. What’s with the toilet cubicles? They each have a saloon-style door hanging in mid air, with large gaps below, above and to either side. If I wanted to be surrounded by straining bare-assed men I’d had joined the Navy.

It’s not all shiny of course. My new shoes quickly create a Hindenberg-sized blister on my left little toe. The jetlag kicks your ass for 1-2 days.

Actually, working across timezones is quite weird. It’s difficult collaborating with people who are from the future. Getting out of bed in NYC, you know people back home in the UK are well into their day. You arrive at the office to a barrage of emails. In the afternoon you start to feel like you’re working late, just because you know the UK kids are already off in the pub.

Conversations. The weather. I guess the cliche is that British people talk about the weather a lot. The US population (at least on this coast) are equally obsessed, particularly on the subject of Guessing the Temperature. I’ll have to stick with that for now, as my alternative conversational opener goes, “so yes last night I went out to Studio B in Brooklyn without ID, got pished on vodka and Sprite and watched Zombi and Trans Am torturing their instruments”.

Which doesn’t resonate too well with most of my colleagues.

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