I’ve been back almost a week. Heck of a trip. San Francisco was brilliant, thanks in no small part to Frances and Alex (as soon as I’ve processed photos of our road trip to Point Reyes they’ll be up), and New York was definitely New York.

(Actually, that in itself is a good thing. I have bad memories of my last trip there, whereas this time I came away going ‘You know, I could live in that city someday’)


Anyway, lots of difficult work to do now I’m back in London, along with at least one short story and two slow-burn projects to begin working on. I actually have a clean slate now – I don’t think any of the film projects I’ve mentioned on here over the last few months are likely to happen – so it’s a good time to have ideas.

Basically, Onwards!

I have thoughts about ‘Her’

And feelings. But Dan’s done such a good job of pointing out that EVERYONE HAS I feel guilty typing most of them. Just one, then…

A moment of non-diegetic clarity, as I watch one of several montages and have to stop myself applauding Spike Jones for lifting the language of luxury technology advertising so precisely. There were about five sequences in Her when you could have overlayed an Apple logo after a neat 90 seconds and no-one would have blinked.

Dan Hon, in one of his rambles emails, speculated we’d soon be encountering Dogme-style design fictions. I think we already have. I’d also argue that the purest expression of those won’t be ‘films’ at all, just demos captured with a fixed camera or Quicktime screencapture or just the actual service itself… but I don’t think that’s really what he means.

The pier at Queenborough

Also, it’d be disingenuous. My camera is smart enough to decide so many things on my behalf that I don’t have to process them afterwards. The blunt application of available technologies can still lead to beauty, and it’s a beauty not far off what you get in BERG’s films or Apple’s ads or, really, Her. I mean, obviously it’s evidently not as high quality, but an approximation of that look is within reach of a lot of people.

If anything, the Dogme thing to do would be to publish them in the ways most people use, the ‘ugly’ ways. Like Matt Ogle wrote the other day, an upload to YouTube mired in artefacts via 3G is good enough for most people.

I wonder if we should be livestreaming at GDS? Sticking a camera in front of someone for the weekly video was a good idea, but now those films are getting more ambitious and creating a higher barrier to entry for other teams to follow.

Maybe the bluntest way to Show The Thing and show that Work Is Being Done Here is to show work being done on the things here.

The politics of the mode of filmmaking Her apes is questionable – at best. It’s a parade of (mostly) white people living lifestyles of privilege, in front of beautiful sunsets. The devices they use are often not built objects, they appear in the world without context and without construction. We know the OS of Her is the product of ‘millions’ of developers, but we never see what must – presumably – be the sweatshops they strive in.

Meanwhile livestreams share the same DNA as CCTV, and if there’s a time to submit the workings of a public body to the scrutiny of machine vision it’s probably now.

Small pieces, colourfully joined

Obviously I loved the Lego movie. It’s not Toy Story good, nor is it Toy Story 3 good, but it’s definitely Toy Story 2 good.

But, also, I’ve read Lego’s brand guidelines. Mixing sets is (or certainly was) a no-no, especially the branded sets. Batman and Lego City, for example, should NEVER CROSS – according to Lego.

That the plot basically revolves around that – pitting naive play against corporate interest and recasting it as a father/son conflict – I found pretty interesting, especially in a family film.

lego movie photo, nabbed off a google image search.


Other people’s hobbies

Bartlett and Whitney

Yesterday I watched two brilliant people do two brilliant things. Alice appeared on ITV, showing off her nail art and bantering with Alan Titchmarsh.

Making Marks

And Marie performed with her band Making Marks at Birthdays in Dalston. All the way from Oslo!

I was thinking afterwards about the spare time I have, and how I’ve either used it to shop (for a flat last year, but Lego most of the rest of the time) or to make things that are sort of part of my professional life (I’m thinking of Paper Science and working with Anne on her films in particular).

I keep sort of hamfistedly making my hobbies part of my worklife, and it usually has an impact on my interest and investment in them (usually positive in the short-term, but negative in the long – comics being, right now, the canonical example of that).

No conclusions, just thinking.

Building for users

Two things from The Brits who Built the Modern World (BBC 4, 13 Feb).

“I was really fired up by the idea of architecture that you can manipulate, and that you can change, and that’s responsive to the users.”

Nicholas Grimshaw talking about what led him to write his final year thesis, a response to the context set by Archigram.

(Or at least appearing to be; there’s stacks of match cutting in the documentary, and it all feels like a pseud’s-‘I love 1996 architects’. Still, an informative an hour despite the arch voiceover and the vaults across time)

(I remember, when I first met him, Matt Jones insisting I explore the work of Archigram. I never got round to doing that, partly because he also insisted I meet James Bridle and Matt Webb, and read Global Frequency, and make Phonogram vs The Fans, and about half a dozen other things (AND that was about a month before meeting Anne… it’s been a powerfully weird five years). But the idea of an architecture practice that dealt in the form of imagination, trouble and ideas instead of buildings is extremely relevant to my interests)


“Buildings don’t arise out of thin air, they’re generated by needs – the needs of people.”

Norman Foster, on how building the Fred. Olsen Lines terminal demanded working with people across the company hierarchy to get a sense of their requirements for a shared space.

(This being one of those moments where working with [user needs] means you see instances of [user needs] leaking into the real world)