beyond westworld

Yul Brynner in 'Westworld' (Crichton 1973)
Yul Brynner always has been one of my all-time favourite actors. So it is hardly surprising that his impersonation of the Gunslinger in Westworld (Crichton 1973) is one of my favourite robots. Marking the naturalistic android to be artificial only by way of the metallic eyes—see above—was a stroke of genius. The sequel Futureworld (Heffron 1976) followed. Unfortunately Brynner returned just for a short dream sequence. Both movies I saw as a kid on television and have them on DVD since long. Just recently I got to know that a television series was produced, set out to carry the story on—Beyond Westworld (Crichton 1980). Five episodes were produced, of which only three went on air. Then the project was cancelled. As of now I couldn’t lay my hands on the series. If somebody knows something …
Detail of a promotional poster for 'Westworld' (Crichton 1973)

CRICHTON, JOHN MICHAEL. 1973. Westworld [motion picture]. Century City: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
CRICHTON, JOHN MICHAEL. 1980. Beyond Westworld [TV series]. Five episodes. New York: CBS.
HEFFRON, RICHARD T. 1976. Futureworld [motion picture]. Los Angeles: American International Pictures.

inverse in time

Vincent Kartheiser as Philippe Weis in 'In Time' (Niccol 2011)
Due to public demand I created the category sartorial and the tag dandyism. For starters I hauled over five according entries from ye ole xirdalium. In detail and with background information, pictures, sequences, diagrams, and movies you now can read the, more or less, full story of the inverse tie knots (in chronological order): merovingian ties, more merovingian ties, the eldredge, eldredge variant, and finally eldredge reloaded.
    This comes in time with In Time (Niccol 2011) still in the cinemas—at least over here in Europe. I thought I had spotted it while seeing the movie just recently. So I hunted for high resolution screenshots. Above is a detail of the best I could find so far. It shows the story’s time-loaning millionaire Philippe Weis (Vincent Kartheiser). Have a close look at his tie knot—looks unusal, doesn’t it? Seems like cyberpunkish villains like Weis and the Merovingian do share similar tastes in tie knots.

NICCOL, ANDREW. 2011. In time [motion picture]. Century City: 20th Century Fox.


'Decommissioned' by Alex Fojtik
This vig[nette] by Alex Fojtik simply is called Decommissioned and once again proofs that it is possible to create poetry out of LEGO bricks. It immediately reminded me of the robot soldier turned gardener in Laputa: Castle in the Sky (Miyazaki 1986):
The robot gardener in 'Laputa: Castle in the Sky' (Miyazaki 1986)
Since 2001 a life-sized replica of one of those robot soldiers can be seen in the rooftop garden of the Studio Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo. Life-sized in his case means five meters tall:
Life-sized statue of a robot soldier from 'Laputa: Castle in the Sky' (Miyazaki 1986) in the rooftop garden of the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo
Life after people, robots after people, technology after people … here’s what I saw at boingboing this week:
Future Fossils
Cory Doctorow writes: ‘The Bughouse Future Fossils series are a set of highly detailed, weathered concrete castings of near-contemporary technology, from DJ turntables to film cameras to Atari joysticks. They’re a nice memento mori—a weighty-but-whimsical reminder of our own technosphere’s doomed frailty. ‘

MIYAZAKI, HAYAO. 1986. Laputa: Castle in the sky [anime]. Tokyo: Toei Company.

graeber’s debt

Detail of the cover of 'Debt: The first 5,000 years' (Graeber 2011)
David Graeber‘s book Debt: The First 5,000 years (2011) just arrived on my desk. Unfortunately at the moment I don’t have the time to sit down and read it in peace. Nevertheless I skimmed through it, read a bit here and there, and then couldn’t help but beginning to read it from the front cover on.
    It won’t be long and Graeber will owe me hours :-)
    There are books with which I do maintain a love-hate relationship. While reading those I constantly do have the impression that there really is something more than worthwhile, original, and important in them. But I have a tremendously hard time to really grasp those ideas I sense. That’s because under pains I have to labor myself through overly complicated prose. Have to struggle with a style which is on the brink of illegibility, sometimes well beyond. In particular I do have in mind Foucault‘s ‘Archaeology of Knowledge’ (1972 [1969]), Saïd‘s ‘Orientalism’ (1978), and Bourdieu‘s ‘The Logic of Practice’ (1990 [1980]). Foucault is the worsed. There can’t be a shadow of a doubt about the quality of the ideas contained. But the style of writing is abysmal.
    Not so with Graeber’s ‘Debt.’ Quite to the contrary. Although the ideas, knowledge, and conclusions Graeber conveys are far from being simple or trivial, his prose is clear as glass and perfectly understandable. Above that ‘Debt’ is an interesting, even thrilling read. Deep insights, perfectly readable for both, the specialized anthropological audience, and the wider public.
    But Graeber can’t be reduced to the role of plebeian tribune. He is the kind of engaged intellectual Sartre and Bourdieu demanded. And his is an engaged anthropology of the kind Thomas Hylland Eriksen demands (2006). Plus, Graeber is a high profile scholar praised by the elder sages. Maurice Bloch wrote about Graeber: ‘His writings on anthropological theory are outstanding. I consider him the best anthropological theorist of his generation from anywhere in the world. I have never made such a strong claim for anybody in any reference I have written.’
    After Margaret Mead and Clifford Geertz it seems that anthropology again has a superstar, being read and being effective far beyond the boundaries of anthropology and academia. Deservedly so.

BOURDIEU, PIERRE. 1990 [1980]. The logic of practice. Stanford: Stanford University Press. First published as Le sens pratique. Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit.
ERIKSEN, THOMAS HYLLAND. 2006. Engaging anthropology: A case for a public presence. Oxford, New York: Berg.
FOUCAULT, MICHEL. 1972 [1969]. The archaeology of knowledge. London: Tavistock Publications. First published as L’Archéologie du Savoir. Paris: Gallimard.
GRAEBER, DAVID ROLFE. 2011. Debt: The first 5,000 years. New York: Melville House.
SAÏD, EDWARD WADIE. 1978. Orientalism: Western conceptions of the Orient. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.


HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory
The very first issue of HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory has been published! HAU is ‘an international peer-reviewed, open-access online journal which aims to situate ethnography as the prime heuristic of anthropology, and return it to the forefront of conceptual developments in the discipline.’ The times of being banned from high-end anthropological articles by paywalls, moving walls, and so on, has an end. And the line-up of authors in HAU Vol 1, No 1 is impressive—for example: David Graeber, Marshall Sahlins, Marilyn Strathern, Maurice Godelier in the ‘Translations’ section, E. E. Evans-Pritchard and Julian Pitt-Rivers in the ‘Reprints’ section, …

initially via entry at

what happened?

zeph’s pop culture quiz #6
What happened?
Beneath these bandages is one of the biggest and internationally best known stars Hollywood had. The absolute majority of the audience remembers him for his roles in movies totally different from the one the screencap stems from. Hence the movie is not so well known today. However, he himself regarded his performance in the movie as his best achievement as an actor. So, why is he so heavily bandaged in the picture? What happened to the character he plays?
    Just leave a comment with your educated guess—you can ask for additional hints, too. [Leaving a comment is easy; just click the ‘Leave a comment’ at the end of the post and fill in the form. If it’s the first time you post a comment, it will be held for moderation. But I am constantly checking, and once I’ve approved a comment, your next ones won’t be held, but published immediately by the system.]

UPDATE and solution (05 December 2011):
Title screens of 'Seconds' (Frankenheimer 1966)
Again Alexander Rabitsch solved the riddle in no time. Here’s his answer: ‘Rock Hudson! He got a new face and a new life—but didn’t help much. As he wants to get another chance he gets killed and recycled …’ And here’s Rock Hudson as Antiochus ‘Tony’ Wilson in the movie Seconds by John Frankenheimer (1966), shortly after the bandages are removed, for the first time wondering at his new Self:
Rock Hudson in 'Seconds' (Frankenheimer 1966)
And, close to the end of the movie, on his way to recycling:
Rock Hudson and Jeff Ruby in 'Seconds' (Frankenheimer 1966)
Wikipedia says that ‘Seconds’ is sometimes characterized ‘as a science fiction thriller, but with elements of horror, neo-noir, psychedelia, and drama’—in two words and a danglin’ verb: it’s cyberpunk.

FRANKENHEIMER, JOHN MICHAEL. 1966. Seconds [motion picture]. Los Angeles: Paramount Pictures.

setting minifigs free

A LEGO minifig being freed from its magnet base
Since 2011 the minifigures the LEGO group sells on magnetic bricks (so you can place them on your refrigerator door) are firmly fixed onto their magnetic pedestals. As it seems this has economic and copyright reasons, and the licence holders of franchises like ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ demanded the fixation—just if minifigs had no rights. Last year I bought some magnetic sets in Berlin’s LEGO flagship store. The minifigs were simply connected to the magnetic bricks in the usual LEGO way. Some of the sets I bought this year are fixed ones, which is a big annoyance. Not only to me, but to the whole scene. I tried to remove one fig by heating it up with a hairdryer. To no avail. But there’s a solution: Glued magnet minifig removal. Another tutorial at thebrickblogger teaches removing minifigs from key-chains.
    To me it’s of particular interest how far these practices are driven by afols. On the one hand in terms of research, trial and error, improvisation, innovation, and finally professionalization. On the other hand in terms of effort to document and spread the practices. And of course I want my minifigs to be free.



Whatever happened to Matthew Santoro‘s movie project ‘Offline’ (co-written by Liam O’Donnell)? The official website is gone and the production status is marked as ‘unknown’ at IMDb. Seems that the only thing left is the gorgeous trailer (see above—watch it in HD and fullscreen) spooking around the Net. In a post at screenrant the movie’s synopsis from the vanished website is preserved, plus a comment by Santoro himself:

I’ve been bleeding over this thing for the past year and it’s so great to hear this kind of response… This kind of thing really means a lot to me. I don’t think people realize that there are parts of this project that I literally filmed in my apartment using cardboard boxes, cheap hardware store lights, and a half-broken fog machine. I built the costumes using model parts and superglue. Most of the time my actors where doubling as crew even my dad (Charlie Santoro) who was playing that scary guy with the silver hair. I did whatever I needed to do in order to get the job done, and that’s all that mattered to me.


cyberpunkish artefacts listings

In the navigation menu above cyberpunk has appeared as a new element. Here is what the new element and its dropdown menu are all about:
    On the pages assembled in this menu I am collecting motion pictures, literature, comics, and computer games which can be called cyberpunk or cyberpunkish. A cultural artefact out of this categories qualifies, and is added to the respective list, if it comprises a sufficiently critical mass composed of peculiar core themes, æsthetics, settings, and protagonists.
    At the thematic core there are the reciprocal effects between state-of-the-art technology and culture, society, the individual, and even humanity in general. The focus may be on digital electronics in all its guises and fictional interpolations, more often than not computer- and network-technology, but also on bio- and genetic technologies, and nanotechnology. It hardly occurs that technologies are rendered downright negative, rather fundamentally ambivalent.
    In respect to the individual the motif of invasive technologies, up to human-machine fusion, is central. No matter if these technologies are mechanical, electromechanical, electronic, chemical, psychological, or consisting of combinations of these. Then artificial intelligence up to sentient systems, and synthetic humans, both genetically engineered ones and robotic androids. The motifs inevitably culminate to the basic anthropological question ‘What is human?’
    In the same context the portrayal of omnipresent information technologies, up to fully immersive virtual realities and the cybernetic vision of uploading human minds into computer systems, powerfully poses one of the most basic philosophical questions possible: ‘What is real?’
    In respect to society the topos of totalitarian regimes is a prominent one. Those may be nation states, but oftentimes are transnational, megalomaniacal corporations. They may exert societal and social control by heavily relying on ubiquitous and networked surveillance technology—thereby impairing civic rights. Results are dramatically stratified societies with embedded gated communities where the elites live highly privileged. Thus a whole array of contemporary and relevant ethical and political questions is addressed.
    The core themes are reflected in, or transported by specific settings, protagonists, æsthetics, and strategies of representation and narration.
    The stories oftentimes are set within gigantomaniacal metropolitan landscapes. Both on the levels of the street and the cityscape legacy to Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis’ (1927) and Ridley Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’ (1982). Sceneries of urban decay on the one hand, and high-tech glitz interiors and exteriors on the other hand are tropes illustrating the tier society. The visual appearance of architectural and other artefacts depict retrofitted futures, blending downright futuristic designs with neo-gothic, 19th century, victorian, or even baroque styles.
    In the case of movies and computer games the visuals are complemented by industrial music or soundscapes à la Vangelis—but I am still very much at sea in respect to the sound design.
    Fittingly the time frames are recognizable near futures, maybe dystopian or even post-apocalyptic, and alternate histories.
    The protagonists usually are outsiders, outcasts, underdogs, loners, and anti-heroes. Here the influence of hardboiled detective fiction and film noir is very clear-cut. This influence also is manifest in conventions and strategies of representation and narration
    Mind that the lists, and this heuristic text, are very much work in progress. The plan behind all that is my attempt to show that what I call, conceptually following Foucault, the ‘cyberpunk discourse’ gathers ever more momentum, on a global scale is more influential than ever, and hence has to be included if we strive to understand our contemporary world.
    I am continually designing, drafting, and rejecting tables, diagrams, and variables in order to get everything into the mold of a coherent argument that will make sense.
    Although the lists are far from being complete in any way, I thought that others might enjoy them, too. So I put them online. Plus, the basis of my line of argumentation only can be a substantial, representative, and structured collection of data. So, if you got any ideas what should be added to the lists, don’t hesitate and let me know.