- - Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Geekery gone

“The problem with the Internet, however, is that it lets anyone become [nerdy] about anything instantly. In the ‘80s, you couldn’t get up to speed on an entire genre in a weekend. You had to wait, month to month, for the issues of ‘Watchmen’ to come out. We couldn’t BitTorrent the latest John Woo film or digitally download an entire decade’s worth of grunge or hip hop. …

“But then reflect on the advantages. Waiting for the next issue, movie, or album gave you time to reread, rewatch, reabsorb whatever you loved, so you brought your own idiosyncratic love of that thing to your thought-palace. People who were obsessed with ‘Star Trek’ or the ‘Ender’s Game’ books were all obsessed with the same object, but its light shone differently on each person. Everyone had to create in their mind unanswered questions or what-ifs. What if Leia, not Luke, had become a Jedi? What happens after Rorschach’s journal is found at the end of ‘Watchmen’? What … was ‘The Prisoner’ about?

“None of that’s necessary anymore. When everyone has easy access to their favorite diversions and every diversion comes with a rabbit hole’s worth of extra features and deleted scenes and hidden hacks to tumble down and never emerge from, then we’re all just adding to an ever-swelling, soon-to-erupt volcano of trivia, re-contextualized and forever rebooted. We’re on the brink of Etewaf: Everything That Ever Was — Available Forever.”

Patton Oswalt, writing on “Wake Up, Geek Culture. Time to Die” on Dec. 27 at Wired

Virtual cafe

“Denis Dutton, the founder of Arts & Letters Daily and one of the first people to fully demonstrate the power of the World Wide Web as medium for serious intellectual exchange, has died. …

“Founded in 1998, Arts & Letters Daily was one of the first great aggregator sites, pulling together reviews, essays, studies, op-eds, and more from a vast array of sources that had suddenly become available at the click of a mouse. Only a dozen years on, it’s hard to remember the excitement that such developments brought to those of us (read: all of us) who had been starved for content in ways that we didn’t even understand. …

“And Arts & Letter Daily was where the world went to find common ground and hear a good argument or 10. Denis and his original crew of grad students and other helpers sifted through all the Web had to offer and, day after day, posted interesting material from folks on the right, the left, and, most memorably for those of us at Reason, from that once-small portion of political spectrum reserved for libertarians. … In effect, Denis created the world’s greatest coffee house and magazine rack, a place where interested customers could dawdle all day while reading an endless stream of fascinating material pulled from the far edges of the galaxy.”

Nick Gillespie, writing on “Denis Dutton, Founder of Arts & Letters Daily, RIP,” on Dec. 28 at Reason

It’s magic

“Jacques Tati was one of the most inspired comic writers, directors, and actors of the 20th century, though his sense of humor was so dry and subtle that his movies are often more brilliant than funny. The same can be said of the animated adaptation of Tati’s screenplay ‘The Illusionist,’ in which director Sylvain Chomet (‘The Triplets Of [Belleville]’) follows the travails of a M. Hulot-like magician in the UK in the early ‘60s, as his style of showbiz falls out of favor. The film is episodic, showing illusionist Tatischeff dealing with technical snafus, indifferent audiences, and a new breed of performers more suited to the faster pace and scientific wonders of the space age. …

“But ‘The Illusionist’ isn’t strictly by or about Tati. After the protagonist encounters a wide-eyed fan (reportedly based on one of Tati’s daughters, though there’s some controversy over which one), he works overtime to convince her he still has a little magic left, and the film tries to do the same, in scenes and images that pay direct and indirect homage to the likes of Jacques Demy, Federico Fellini, Max Ophuls, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, and a whole generation of mid-20th-century filmmakers who explored their medium’s capacity for spellcasting.”

Noel Murray, writing on “The Illusionist” on Dec. 24 at the AV Club

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