Dreams Are Real #catscatscats by Ryan Barger + Katie Akana)
Thanks, Ali, for drawing my attention to this meticulously choreographed and filmed video of cats playing instruments and licking dinosaurs and so forth. Three minutes wasted, but much better musically than most e.g. Kanye’s new video.
Queen (by @amateursuman)
I’m upset that there is currently no version of ‘Galileo’ online, but this is another quality song by former Amateur Transplant, Suman Biswas. This must be a live recording from his debut solo show this summer up in Edinburgh. His new material seems to have less medical content, but as long as it’s this level of quality, who cares?
John Gray’s philosophical text “Straw Dogs” is thankfully nothing to do with the film, rather it is named after a quote from Lao Tzu. The central premise is that humans give themselves too much credit at being unlike the rest of the animals. We see ourselves as able to make our own futures, and we cannot. We have a belief in progress, which although well-established in secular humanism, has its history in religious tradition. We cannot make our own future and we should stop pretending that we can.
This claim seems awfully pessimistic. We apparently cannot fundamentally alter human nature. I would agree that children are not a tabula rasa and there is such thing as human nature informed by genetics and epigenetics. However, if we so wanted, it would happen. Ethically, scientists should not take newly formed human embryos and substantially alter the genome in massive ways just to see what would happen. Technologically, this is totally possible.
Even if we live in a deterministic universe - Einstein said that God does not play dice - we are still the most powerful known organism that has the power to alter it. We may overstate our power as a species sometimes, but we remain the only species to understand that we exist in an ecosystem.
Gray gives the example of climate change as a mechanism by which the Earth is trying to keep the number of humans down. The more of us there are, the more carbon dioxide we produce, the higher the oceans rise. However, we know that this is a real effect, despite the failure of humanity to work together as of yet to stop Bangladesh becoming a sea. Scientists and policy analysts are working at the problem from all angles: trying to reduce production as well as recapturing.
The quoted prediction from EO Morrison of the world’s population and several billion out of step with current expert opinion. For the population to collapse to one billion over a hundred years would require some pretty drastic action by Mother Earth to kill us all off. While we cannot completely discount the possibility of nuclear war, the water supply being cut off in Central Africa or a deadly pandemic virus wiping out billions of people, it seems more likely than the world will steady up with seven billion of us.
Gray leaps about from idea to idea, touching on writers as diverse as Fernando Pessoa, Thomas de Quincey and Friedrich Nietzsche. However, he will not accept that even the movement from nomadic existence to settled was a step forward for humanity. The realisation that there are drawbacks to change, does not mean that there are not still overall advantages. In the case of settling, less war, more peace and security, and having people live in advanced age.
The idea of human progress has been tarnished by the demise of Marxism, with the prediction of society moving from feudalism to capitalism to socialism proven to be false. However, that does not mean that human society is not moving forward in some respects, despite steps backwards such as social mobility. Life expectancy and health continue to increase in almost all countries of the world, and violence continues to decrease all over, despite an uptick in 2012 owing to civil war in Syria.
“Straw Dogs” is thankfully written in a style which avoids the deliberate obfuscation that many contemporary philosophers rely upon, and that Daniel Dennett rails against. However, it is difficult to agree with many of Gray’s conclusions. The deliberately provocative points are better at starting discussions that concluding them.
Arcade Fire - Reflektor (by ArcadeFireVEVO)
Daft Punk going disco in 2013 was no big surprise. Once they could afford to bring Nile Rodgers into the studio rather than sampling his past work, they could not resist the temptation. Skream going fully disco in ‘Rollercoaster’, even if he had been doing surprise disco sets as far back as 2008, was a bit more unexpected. However, the Arcade Fire? Did not see that coming.
The video is epic. David Bowie, who himself worked with Nile Rodgers on tracks like ‘Let’s Dance’, provides the backing vocals. Win has black make-up on his eyes like a sniper or the uncharacteristic former WWF wrestler Goldust. There is a man made of mirrors, a literal reflector. The band, with their big heads on, gaze into a pool like Narcissus, and later reflect into a disco ball.
Arcade Fire do a bit of a weird dance reminiscent of the ‘Sprawl II' video. The song sounds more like Soulwax's remix of that track than anything else in their back catalogue. 'Reflector' could be a DFA remix, maybe influenced by their last appearance doing back-up vocals, in LCD Soundsystem's farewell film 'Shut Up and Play the Hits’. The saxophone sound echoes the DFA producing the Rapture.
The change of sound is an interesting move for the Arcade Fire, but it is a bit disheartening to have one of the premier ‘guitar’ bands seemingly defecting to ‘dance’. I hope their big heads are not really big and they have not turned into Deadm1ce.
The official video’s relationship to the interactive video is tangential at best. This involves turning your webcam on and linking it up with your mobile phone as you point one at the other. Interesting interactive experience in collaboration with Google.
未来のライター Jii！Jii！Jii！ (by Jii Lighter)
Unquestionably the best advert I’ve seen so far this year is for a Japanese cigarette lighter. This seems to be a USB lighter than plugs into a computer to provide the power to light cigarettes. Do people buy these and have cigarettes right next to their keyboards? They must. Meanwhile, smoking remains an important cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Especially in Japan, I believe that it has the highest rate of adult smoking of any high-income country.