Peter Greenaway is wrong

Peter Greenaway lecture: “New Possibilities: Cinema is Dead, Long Live Cinema”

Is Peter Greenaway correct in both his assessment and prescription for cinema? No. His call for a new cinema is like saying we need a new kind of painting, one that does away with brushes, with the canvass and its tyrannically limiting edges, with paint, with the subject, with even the typical displaying of paintings. We did that, remember? It didn’t work that well; what we generally got was academic, “meaningful” meaninglessness. I understand each of the four cinematic tyrannies Greenaway decries (people have been decrying them for decades), but I think Greenaway is wrong, not in his observations per se, but in his approach. Greenaway’s approach is very much within a Cartesian/Enlightenment Project vein. He is mired in the analytical, in particulars, in a world without ultimate, normative positions. In fact, one can easily say his entire talk, though fascinating and entertaining, is a kind of extended opinion piece delivered with pomposity and dry humor, but no more.

This is not to say that his ideas are not insightful or helpful. They are, and he certainly is a filmmaker who is exploring cinema and its possibilities more than some filmmakers today. However, the real need, the real requirement regarding cinema (and any artform), is not to begin with an examination of the particulars and the technologies of the form, or even the history or the form, but with the question: What is Man? This is the great lost question of our age. Instead, what we get with Greenaway, as evidenced in his various examples of his own work, are ever more complicated, lengthy, and virtually un-watchable mashups of techno-cinema musings (no matter how philosophical they may appear) providing ever more information, ever more detail, ever more cinema-of-attractions juxtapositionings, but less and less essential humanity. In short, Peter Greenaway’s message is ontologically and teleologically dead; an empty and vain promise. Greenaway’s position is, before he even begins, one of hopelessness–and he revels in being the ring master.

Still, and from an entirely different direction, I will proclaim: Long live cinema!

>John Zerzan: On Modernity & the Technosphere*

>John Zerzan lives in Eugene, Oregon. He is an author, speaker, and the host of AnarchyRadio. I have only recent discovered Zerzan, but I like a lot of where he is coming from.

Here is a lecture from Binghamton University on April 2, 2008.

* Grabbed from Essential Dissent. Discovered by way of Jesus Radicals.

>The Crisis Now: Harman & Harvey on our (re)current economic troubles

>Given our current economic crisis (haven’t we been here before?) maybe this would be a good time to see what the communists have to say.

Here is Chris Harman speaking on how we got into this stinking mess:

Harman references several times the talk given by David Harvey. Here is Harvey:

I have to say I like a lot of what they say (in fact I think they are often spot on), but at times they come across a little too simplistic and a little too much like they are preaching to the choir (but Harman is a hoot, ain’t he). This is where some good reading will help. This last weekend I spent about ten hours on American Airlines reading Das Capital. It’s both great and a slog. Many pages left to get through that beast. Then on to other books and more perspectives. Bye for now comrades.

>my new obsession (add it to the list)

>I want an Alleweder.

This is a human powered vehicle – in other words one pedals to make it go. The chassis is aluminum. The first one was designed and handbuilt in the 1980s. Since then several models have been developed, including one with a carbon fiber chassis. They are built in Europe, but kits can be ordered to build one yourself. Unfortunately, they are far too expensive for my budget, but I can dream can’t I?

I would smile too if I had an Alleweder.

>Being changed by the digital: A brief consideration of chess before & after computers

>There is something truly beautiful about human creativity and intuition. We can see that beauty in the way chess was played a hundred or more years ago. But today the game of chess is dominated by the use of computers, not merely to play games but to analyze them. Chess aficionados and serious players constantly use chess ‘engines’ to analyze games. Computers are changing the way we play chess, but is that a good thing? Are we losing the beauty of the game? Can we see correlations in other areas of life? Are we dominated too much by technology?

I am interested in this topic not merely for myself, but also for my kids. To what degree should I steer them away from technology and to what degree should I make sure they know, use, and understand technology? I don’t want to to be a Luddite, but I don’t want my kids to be dominated by technology.

Here is a wonderful analysis of both the impact of technology on chess/life and a classic game from chess’ romantic era (19th century):

What a beautiful game. Known as “The Evergreen” this game shows two humans matching wits and daring in a game of strategy and tactics that, in the end, is a kind of work of art. And yes, many of the most famous games of chess have names – another great aspect of chess.

Note: The analysis in the video is by a chess player known in cyberspace as kingcrusher. His real name is Tryfon Gavriel and he is the main force behind He has analyzed many chess games like this on youtube.

>The Mother of All Demos

>Here are some things that I use and rely on in both my personal life and my work:

  • Email
  • Hypertext
  • Computer mouse
  • Interactive text
  • Video conferencing
  • Teleconferencing
  • …and geographically dispersed teams connected by these technologies

Any one of these technologies is remarkable. If someone did a presentation that demonstrated any one for the first time it would be a seminal presentation. But what about a presentation that demonstrated all of them for the first time? That would certainly be the Mother of All Demos.

For you computer geeks, tech heads, and inventors, here is the Mother of All Demos:

This presentation was given by the brilliant Douglas Engelbart in 1968! Learn more about this early technology here. I find this stuff to be fascinating.