The Week Ending…031910

Monday March 15 17:26

Well, it was half SXSW 2010 and half back in the studio with some exciting, hungry activities moving things into the happy quadrant. SXSW was a wonderful swirl of head-exploding conversations. Scott Kraft helped me with the material metaphor for the Nokia 1100 — it’s the Mercedes 200 of mobile communications. Like the Mercedes 200, it’d found in *developing, other-wordly places and used as a workhorse. It just keeps working, in all matter of climates and conditions and is a parts-based ecosystem. It just gets repaired to work again, as a taxi, &c., &c., all over the place.

Nathan Moody and I got in a terrific conversation about film production and genre conventions — something I had been thinking hard on in the lead-up to SXSW as I wanted to bring some new insights on this to the Design Fiction conversations but it turned out to be way too much to toss into a 7 minute presentation. He had some curious film suggestions — I take them all and put them in the queue or cart. One was this film Russian Ark: The Masterworks Edition — a single shot film shot in — and “edited to” — 90 minutes. Which means it was one, long take done with a SteadyCam and a lot of batteries. These sorts of curious production challenges and concepts and genre-bending practices are something I find quite intriguing.

It was fun to have a bit of a chat with Eric Rodenbeck about this idea of the selling of aspiration and how you loose perspective. In the selling of a thing that people think’ll be a fine German touring vehicle, they find the bumps and the misses and the grinding gears and rattling suspension. That sucks. It doesn’t inspire trust from the outset and this got me thinking about a different set of physical material metaphors for that first moment with the new thing/service.

Hanging out with David Merrill from Sifteo was good fun — just to hear how they are going about manufacturing their wonderfully evocative Siftables device. That panel was good fun as well — with Nathan Moody David, Johnny Chung Lee, Michele Parras and Peter Merholz moderating — Beyond the Desktop was the panel name and topic. There were lots of good insights in there, of course. Johnny Lee Cheng had some good ones that reflected on that stupid *Moore’s Law graph that goes dizzingly up-and-to-the-right intersects the capabilities of humans well below it’s precipice — succinctly, most people are satisfied doing email and surfing a web page and fuck-off gigahertz processors do not make that stuff faster/easier. The rise of the modestly kitted netbook indicates this much at least. Intel’s created its own Madoff pyramid-scam bubble, using Moore’s Law as a marketing platform. So annoying.

Monday March 15 14:29

The David Byrne film Ride Rise Roar directed by David Hillman Curtis premiered at SXSW 2010 so I kinda hadta go and see it. It was fantastic, but I’m biased. I personally think it sets a new benchmark for concert/tour documentary, seeing the process through each song, the conversations with the creative folks and so forth were enlightening. I think there was a line in there as there was a conversation with Byrne and a collaborator — I forget who, darnit — where there’s this phrase *Dread and Promise* in reference to the sensitivities of one of his/Eno’s songs. I need to get back to what that was because I’ve been trying to find a way to describe something similar to this — *Hopefully Pessimistic. That tension is productive.

Oh yeah — I almost forgot. One of the highlights of SXSW was in the Film component, which I sort of spent more time with this year. There was a collection of films called “Futurestates” that asked several directors to take a social issue and extrapolate it into the near future. I mean..this kind of stuff is great — it coheres much of what we’re doing here in the studio and in the laboratory and now on the set. We saw a handful, and it looks like everything is available online — I highly recommend taking a look. They’re not all spectacular — Plastic Bag seemed to be a one-liner that went on forever — but they are all compelling and provocative if only in the corners and seams of the stories. All short and all dramatic and all done with a high degree of commitment.

There was a round of emails from my alma mater at UC Santa Cruz that was quite intriguing. We do this once a year — who has done what over the year. It was good fun to put that together as in the past I had been timid about being not traditionally academic but turns out that may be more intriguing than holding down a post somewhere in a rather placid discipline. And there were some history documents found under a desk in a box with some wonderful early-days descriptions of how the department got started, how much people hated the idea and some internal memos from Norman O. Brown and Herbert Marcuse. FTW.

That’s it.