the machine stops

The Machine Stops is a science fiction short story or novella by E. M. Forster, first published in 1909. Here is the story’s setting as Wikipedia’s plot summary has it:

The story describes a world in which most of the human population has lost the ability to live on the surface of the Earth. Each individual now lives in isolation below ground in a standard ‘cell’, with all bodily and spiritual needs met by the omnipotent, global Machine. Travel is permitted but unpopular and rarely necessary. Communication is made via a kind of instant messaging/video conferencing machine called the speaking apparatus, with which people conduct their only activity, the sharing of ideas and knowledge.

Sounds familiar? Remember: The story was originally published in 1909!
    In 1966 the BBC aired a television adaptation (see above) as the first episode of the second season of the science fiction series Out of the Unknown.’ The episodes listing shows that for the series stories by an impressive roster of New Wave Science Fiction authors were adapted.

FORSTER, EDWARD MORGAN. 1909. The machine stops. The Oxford and Cambridge Review 8.
SAVILLE, PHILIP. 1966. The machine stops [TV series episode]. Out of the Unknown 2(1). London: BBC.
found by SAS—tnx!

call for the dead

Detail of the first edition cover of 'Call for the Dead' (le Carré 1961)

[…] academic excursions into the mystery of human behaviour, disciplined by the practical application of his own deductions. (Le Carré 1961: chpt. 1)
    This part of him was bloodless and inhuman—Smiley in this role was the international mercenary of his trade, amoral and without motive beyond that of personal gratification. (Le Carré 1961: chpt. 1)
    By the strength of his intellect, he forced himself to observe humanity with clinical objectivity, and because he was neither immortal nor infallible he hated and feared the falseness of life. (Le Carré 1961: chpt. 1)
    For four years he had played the part, travelling back and forth between Switzerland, Germany and Sweden. He had never guessed it was possible to be frightened for so long. (Le Carré 1961: chpt. 1)
    The warmth was contraband, smuggled from his bed and hoarded against the wet January night. (Le Carré 1961: chpt. 2)
    A slight, fierce woman in her fifties with hair cut very short and dyed to the colour of nicotine. (Le Carré 1961: chpt. 3)
    ‘My body and I must put up with one another twenty hours a day. […]‘ (Le Carré 1961: chpt. 4)
    And back to the unreality of containing a human tragedy in a three-page report. (Le Carré 1961: chpt. 4)
    […] he would spend the afternoon pursuing Olearius across the Russian continent on his Hansa voyage. (Le Carré 1961: chpt. 5)
    He wanted to explain why it was impossible to understand nineteenth-century Europe without a working knowledge of the naturalistic sciences, […]. (Le Carré 1961: chpt. 6)
    He hated the bed as a drowning man hates the sea. (Le Carré 1961: chpt. 8)
    He used to say that the greatest mistake man ever made was to distinguish between the mind and the body: an order does not exist if it is not obeyed. He used to quote Kleist a great deal: ‘if all eyes were made of green glass, and if all that seems white was really green, who would be the wiser?’ Something like that. (Le Carré 1961: chpt. 11)
    Smiley hugged his greatcoat round him […]. (Le Carré 1961: chpt. 11)
    Mundt had proceeded with the inflexibility of a trained mercenary—efficient, purposeful, narrow. (Le Carré 1961: chpt. 14)
    Oriental dance, where the tiny gestures of hand and foot animate a motionless body. (Le Carré 1961: chpt. 15)
    He was one of those world-builders who seem to do nothing but destroy […]. (Le Carré 1961: chpt. 16)

LE CARRÉ, JOHN [aka CORNWELL, DAVID JOHN MOORE]. 1961. Call for the dead. London: Victor Gollancz Ltd.

cyberpunk listings update

The lists of cyberpunkish artefacts in the menu cyberpunk (see above) still are (and forever will be :-) work in progress, but I heavily updated them. The last days I was down with some kind of flu, hence couldn’t concentrate on harder tasks anyway, and so gave it a go. First I added a lot of movies to the motion pictures list—in fact every single movie Emily E. Auger calls tech noir. In other words: I cannibalized her wonderful book (2011). Next I introduced two subcategories: television and video. In consequence the motion pictures list now only features movies which indeed have been released to the cinemas.

AUGER, EMILY E. 2011. Tech-noir film: A theory of the development of popular genres. Bristol, Chicago: Intellect.

bricks and games

truly transmedial to and fro
This is a moc [my own creation] interpretation by afol [adult fan of LEGO] m_o_n_k_e_y of the Vic Viper. This fighter spaceship is a signature element of the Gradius games, a series of scrolling shooters by Konami. The first game of the series was released in 1985, the latest in 2011. So over the course of a quarter of a century versions of the ship appear in more than two dozen computer games for different platforms.
    Within the LEGO scene the Vic Viper has a massive and very productive fandom, originally inspired by the late Nate ‘nnenn‘ Nielson. November, or, more correctly in this context: Nnovvember is the month of the Vic Viper. Here is pasukaru76‘s 2011 compilation of 255 Vic Viper interpretations by 135 builders:
Nnovvember 2011
Last year there were 193 Vic Vipers by 88 builders. Clicking through to Flickr you can view the posters in their original size and have a detailled look on every ship.
    But spillovers between computer games and the LEGO universe happen both ways—meanwhile with the fanbase directly involved. LEGO CUUSOO is an online idea collection system asking fans ‘to submit and vote for their favourite ideas for new LEGO products.’ If a submitted idea gets a specific numbers of supporters, the idea will be reviewed by a committee at The LEGO Group ‘composed of designers, product managers, and other key team members.’ If the idea passes the committee it will be made into an official product. As I understand it, CUUSOO, which is still in beta, first was launched in Japan: ‘It took our first launch, the Shinkai 6500, 420 days to reach 1,000 votes in Japan. Hayabusa took 57 days to 1,000.’ On the international launch the critical number was raised to 10,000. As you might know the indie game Minecraft has a substantial fanbase … the LEGO Minecraft project reached 10,000 supporters on CUUSOO within 48 hours.
    There’s yet more to and fro. Here’s a trailer for a computer game made into an animated movie by means of LEGO bricks and minifigures:

Just like to make the confusion of media and categories, the transgression of boundaries, perfect, the stop-motion movie is featured and distributed by Although ‘machinima‘ means ‘the use of real-time 3D computer graphics rendering engines to create a cinematic production. Most often, video games are used to generate the computer animation.’


cyberanthropology reviews

Now that some reviews of my book Cyberanthropology have seen the light of day, it makes sense to begin to collect them [naturally they’re all in German]:
    The Titel-Magazin was first with Ein Buch mit System! (27 September 2011). As short as enthusiastic—and it is very short.
    Next came Karl-Heinz Kohl’s review in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: Völkerkunde war gestern, Cyberanthropology ist heute (16 November 2011). Unfortunately behind a paywall on the FAZ-server, but has the full text of the review online (and posted a short notice).
    On 30 November 2011 SWR2 radio aired a review by Martin Zähringer. You can listen to it [2.0 MB | .mp3] or read it [30.4 KB | .pdf].
    And just yesterday Martin Lorber posted a review on EA’s Blog für digitale Spielkultur: Buchvorstellung: Cyberanthropology von Alexander Knorr.
    Boris Uehlinger’s review of Cyberanthropology in Buch & Maus 1/2012: 36.

ACKERMANN, ANDREAS. 2012. Knorr, Alexander: Cyberanthropology [book review]. Anthropos 107 [2012/2]: 632-633.
PISSIN, ANNIKA. 2014. Book review: Cyberanthropology. Digital China 16 January 2014.

tri knot

The above was uploaded to YouTube by McGreyling on 22 September 2010 and shows how to tie a before unknown inverse tie knot. Like Edeity’s knot, Henry Hu’s Hen Tie, and Lord Whimsy’s Merovingian it is of size 11. In the video McGreyling doesn’t stick to the convention of having the tie’s wide blade hanging to the right (from the wearer’s point of view). So, for sequencing I mirrored the movements in the video. In Fink-Mao notation McGreyling’s knot reads like this:
    Ri Co Ri Lo Ci Ro Li Co TRi Lo TCi [ET]
    In order to get the nice pattern atop the knot, McGreyling does two through-the-loop movements, marked by T—the [ET] means ‘Eldredge Tuckaway,’ the method Jeffrey Eldredge devised to get rid of the excess narrow end in a clean fashion.
    McGreyling hasn’t named the knot, but asked for ideas for a name. Well, we could christen it ‘Trinity.’ That way we would stay within the Matrix-universe of tie knots … from the ‘Merovingian’ to ‘Trinity.’ But my favourite name would be the ‘Tri Knot.’

via comment by Alexander Rabitsch—tnx

who’s bad?

zeph’s pop culture quiz #7
Who's Bad?
What’s the name of the villain?
    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 (13 December 2011):
Frankly, I have no idea how he’s doing it—Alexander Rabitsch again posted the correct answer in an instant: The villain is Fantômas in the movie of the same name (Hunebelle 1964). During the final chase of the movie Commissioner Juve (Louis de Funès) and the journalist Fandor (Jean Marais) at a filling station highjack the above pictured BMW 507 and continue speeding after Fantômas (played by Jean Marais, too). But the master villain in the end escapes by means of his own submarine. Here you can see him giving orders to the submarine’s skipper:
Fantomas addressing the skipper of his submarine

HUNEBELLE, ANDRÉ. 1964. Fantômas [motion picture]. Paris: Gaumont.

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.