Tag Archives: nanotechnology

Elemental

Everything changes but awareness of a change is, in effect, after the ‘fact’…change is opinion, has to be (fairly) widely recognized before it is official and to quote William Gibson, “While science fiction is sometimes good at predicting things, its seldom good at predicting wha these things might actually do to us.”

I might be author of more doom-and-gloom-from-beneath-the-weight-of-the-oppressiony than anything else; drama over comedy. My classic toppings are science fiction (which I thoroughly research before really writing the script. It took me two years to write the original draft of Blackline, almost eleven months to do the research and reading alone. Which is how I began getting invited to attend Nanotechnology conferences. It was my relentless curiosity and extreme adoration for social trends (and innovations) as well as ethics that found me speaking to a room full of professors at George Mason University in 2011.

Back to my original idea, so yeah, my stuff you can expect the setting to be a near-future where control of the world is in the hands of people with highly questionable ethics. Beneath, the same old issues are right there. Conflicting, arising from different world views and biologies – and war is always ‘on the verge’ of happening (unless it’s on) but the story always with the ‘better’ people fighting to take the world back.

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My scripts and films might kick, blast and crush hope but I don’t take it away; I have a soft spot for it in my grey old heart.  “Apocrypha” is my latest film trilogy and its the closest to fantasy I’ve ever written but it also involves time travelers, dragons, vampires, ninjas and elements of our present-day world like narcotics, skyscrapers and even a form of MP3 players – music is always a key factor in the stuff I write.

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The world today is as dangerous as it is inspiring…the examination of how far we’ve come; Atari to X-Box 360, landlines to blue-tooth ear-pieces so that we can have both hands free while talking with others on cell phones (see: Moore’s Law) … and the reconstructed documentary, formerly about the ethical implications of nanotechnology is more counterpart to Apocrypha than “The Posthuman Condition” was to “Blackline.”

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Technology is arguably the primary ingredients to society’s progress but it’s what we do with it that initiates the next Change. For better worse, the world is approaching another change. We can’t prepare for it in any traditional sense but we can keep an eye out: the first signs will be in the media that has become such a part of everyday life: I consider “Game of Thrones” to be one of the most promising as far as morals, ethics, etc go…it’s about struggle, it’s about sacrifice, it’s about love and hate and all that plus it has dragons but it’s underlying themes about the choices we make are one of my favorite things to sniff out.

It’s four days to the 3rd to final episode of Season Four and anyone who’s read the books has a pretty good idea of what’s gonna happen but we don’t know precisely how it will happen – the show has cut the right parts and characters to leave out, in my opinion. Life is like that show; like any show – we’re always waiting to see what happens next.

And now I’m tired so I would just like to say, I’ve been so very wrong about so many things – some weird bits of architecture in Arlington, Virginia are a good example but that’s another story – but right now, today, at this point, two women that I have never met face to face or spoken with over the phone have given me a kind of hope that could not have existed before the internet as we know it today. Jimena Paris, from Santiago and Ella Valentine, from London.

Some things you never can predict. And it’s always amazing to see how these surprises alter our lives…changing them.

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How/Why “Transcendence” is a good film

“…of course there are people who say that progress is dangerous…” IRON MAN 3

I put a truncated version of this on Forbes.com…I don’t like that I had to leave out things like Kata Mara’s awesome role as head of RIFT (her story about the monkey was quite compelling) …there’s some spoilers in here but I tried to keep it subtle…

 

SIDE A: AGREE “TRANSCENDENCE” COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER


[1] The “be scared of technology” theme is a personal favorite of mine and The Lawnmower Man was one of the most exciting movies I snuck into back when I was however old I was when it was in the theatre. All that I have to say about the connection to the Stephen King short story is that there is none except for the “Birdbath.” SO. “Transcendence” picks up where Lawnmower Man – should have mentioned that was also an underrated movie – left off but it didn’t stick with how society would react to such an advance in technology except for the heavy handed dialogue, “people won’t understand at first; they’ll be afraid”…which wasn’t bad, just executed with some “mmmm” obviousness. I don’t think it was Depp’s performance that hurt this movie.


[2] I didn’t like that it took so long to get Johnny Depp ‘digitalized’…the love story and friendships (ties to ‘being human’) could have been laid out faster

[3] I feel like Rebecca Hall was the real star of this movie and didn’t get enough credit, enough praise and the cut that showed in the theatre – hoping for an extended unrated cut on blu-ray – definitely didn’t have room for her to really flex her ability as an actor, even though she was onscreen a lot. I’ve seen her in a few films and I know she has an edge; one that is a perfect blade for this film but she was kinda reduced to an obvious ‘anchor’ for Depp (an overly-over-the-top half of the love story) but I must say that the scene where Paul Bettany finds their bodies was a bad ass poignant moment…definitely felt the throat tighten up a bit. Probably the most “Pfister-via-Nolan” image from the whole movie


[4] Pfister was Director of Photography for Christopher Nolan’s films, making them visual feasts (that tilting hallway fight with Joseph Gordon-Levitt from Inception; Heath Ledger taking of his mask in the opening sequence of The Dark Knight…) that left me wanting more. If what I’ve read is accurate, a big part of Nolan’s style is that he supervises all the footage that gets used – Pfister may have shot the stuff but Nolan was supervising. And that worked out Awesome. But here, I was disappointed with the lack of ‘whoa…!’ visuals…however, Pfister was no doubt occupied with handling all other duties that come with being a director – yet, this point does bother me


[5] Whoever said that “there are no original stories left” – well, that may or may not be true but a lot of my favorite movies found a cool way of mixing and matching story threads and characters I was familiar with in a way that was Cool. All the familiar elements were exactly that in this film.

[6] I would have absolutely injected more large-scale military action: if Depp has access/control over anything connected to a network? I would have used drones, tanks, satellites…RIFT would have been tracked and destroyed, behavior patterns would have been predicted and countered…

That being said…

SIDE B: “TRANSCENDENCE” WAS REALLY GOOD


[1] RIFT – anti-science-flat-earthers (perhaps modeled after the Right-To-Lifers who murdered Dr. Gunn)


[2] Showing the promise of advances in technology – especially Nanotechnology – and then flipping it with the ‘network’ aspect


[3] That moment where the repaired Martin first speaks as Depp…goosebumps and tightening of the jaw


[4] Cillian Murphy has been integral to several of my favorite films – “Sunshine” “Tron: Legacy” “The Dark Knight trilogy”…same goes here, he was great


[5] Morgan Freeman has a dignified air of his own and it was well placed and of the quality I have come to expect from him in this film


[6] Paul Bettany was great


[7] Rebecca Hall…she was razor sharp – one moment I will always remember is when she reads the note from Morgan Freeman’s character


[8] Kata Mara KATE MARA!!! Forget the question of “is she an antagonist or protagonist?”…she has a cause that she has total faith in and she is set in it. She and Depp are the same thing, just the opposite sides of each other. Her scene with Paul Bettany, about the monkey’s brain (nod to the Monkey’s Paw…?) was awesome. I hope to see more of her around. Also, I like her with blonde hair. (I don’t count American Horror Story; she’s better than that)

[9] Paul Bettany’s character arc


[10] The initial attacks against Castor’s ‘hive-nest’ even though they were predictably futile – they served their purpose well, delivering the promise of some large scale action sequences


[11] So much detail: Depp’s simulation of the sounds of knife and fork on plate, that Turing nod at the hotel, the love-is-blinding aspect of Hall’s character, “PINN”…that was almost as funny as the character named RAM in the original Tron


[12] Great attention to the differences and similarities of human and machine…a nearly invisible reminder of so many tech-quotes: () “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” () “The best way to predict the future is to create it”


[13] Wraparound to Hall’s idealized concept of technology being used to improve life as we know it; in Iron Man 3, she had a great moment when she talked with Gweneth Paltrow about Wernher von Braun’s rocket (“the rocket performed perfectly – it just landed on the wrong planet.”…would probably be appropriate to mention Einstein and Oppenheimer here as well

Three last thoughts:

-1- Endlessly amusing that Bettany voices Tony Stark’s AI, JARVIS…and if Age of Ultron plays out the way I think it will – well, it’s official that Bettany is not just doing voice work for Avengers 2, right?

-2- I have spoken with at least eight or nine people today who said they would wait until Transcendence is on blu-ray to check it out. I am not a film reviewer/critic but it’s difficult to put into words how much I wish this movie got more attention – and more Positive Attention

-3- Whether the opening weekend box office numbers are a reflection of poor marketing or the public’s fear of Artificial Intelligence and/or Nanotechnology, I believe this is a damn important film for people to see. I once said that when it comes time to educate kids about doing drugs, make them watch “Requiem for a Dream” … this is like that, only not nearly as grim and the point is awareness of tech

Do yourself – and potentially, all of us – a favor and See This Film.Image

Building “Blackline” (2 of 2)

The other element to the foundation of “Blackline” was Research. A mind melting quantity of it. All the tech was mind boggling for a guy who never finished high school, even though I was reading Stephen King in 2nd grade. School was just wasn’t my thing….but that’s for another time.

I owe many thanks to many many individuals and institutions…universities as far away as Oxford and as close as George Mason, private research divisions for which I had to sign papers to even get a potential return phone call let alone a meeting which may or may not have led to participation…

But I wanted to drop a few proverbial crumbs…
— BIOLOGICAL IMMORTALITY—
[] 1881 August Weismann proposes that worn out tissues (basically, aging) occur because cell division is finite and that is the primary cause of the decline in organ performance
[] 1921 Alexis Carrel – a Nobel Prize winning surgeon – argued that Weismann was wrong
[] 1965 Leonard Hayflick explains the ‘memory’ of frozen cells; one extrapolation from this argument became (in my opinion) the basis for what we now know as Cryonics…which plays a crucial role in “Blackline”
[] 1974 Macfarlane Burnett coins the term, “Hayflick Limit”….that each mitosis – division of cells – reduces the telomeres on the DNA of cells

So, that leads into the argument that the cells Carrel used were ‘young enough’ to contain pluripotent stem cells which, if supplied with a supporting Telomerase-activation nutrient, would have been capable of staving off replicative senescence – aging – or possibly, reversing it.

Those were a few of the key ingredients to the theory I used in “Blackline” so my characters – the privileged elite anyway – could achieve Biological Immortality. Bullets, disease and knives and getting blown up would still kill you but a Nanotech based formula could – COULD – slow the aging process. I called it “PDL7” … Ponce De Leon was the French dude looking for the fountain of youth. One of them anyway.

“Blackline” is absolutely an action-heavy series – and I wanted, above all, to put my characters through some rather horrific experiences which would – ideally – get the audience to ask themselves about the ethics of biotechnology we are starting to see emerge today. Forget drones and satellites. This is a LOT smaller and more insidious…and in my story, it forces my characters to evolve both emotionally and physically into entities that…well, it’ll be up to the audience to decide if they’re more or less human. Humanity as we know it today is obviously the ‘soapbox’ these questions are being hurled from but it isn’t who listens that matters…it’s what they do with it.

GAME OF THRONES; LORD VARYS: “the contents of a man’s letters are of far more value than the contents of his wallet.”

Is respect borne of fear ‘set’ to become resentment? Must such a conflict result in revolution?

Has our expanded awareness of ourselves as a species amounted to anything if we do nothing with it?

Last note: the ‘elevator pitch’ for “Blackline” is something like, “The Godfather II” meets “Ronin” in the world of “Blade Runner”…but there’s several love stories that are absolutely crucial to events moving forward and coalescing into the story’s progress.

Building “Blackline” (1 of 2)

“Blackline” began as a series of mental images I saw in my head throughout several years of hard partying nights clubbing in an area of Washington DC that was not NW. I first saw the word Nanotechnology in a book by William Gibson, “Idoru”

Then September 11th, 2001 happened.

Then the only girl I believed I could spend the rest of my life with died.

And then I got an agent, meetings were set but that fell through quite hard and I got involved with a strikingly pretty girl who closed me off to the world and opened me up to just how fast a downward spiral can occur and how engaging it can be to just give up and give in to dismissal of reality.

So everything shattered and then it was summer 2002 and I began looking at the pieces scattered all around and I saw something else; all of the above and a hell of a lot more began to rearrange and stack up and that’s how “Blackline” started.

It is now a multi-platform scifi-drama set in a world controlled by corporate city-states who wage a different kind of warfare to control the newest biotechnology and shadowy agents fence stolen data. Seven full length screenplays, a cable network series and three video games.

What’s been shot is an extended trailer and a prequel which is made up entirely of material deleted from the 1st screenplay (to get the story moving faster)…that piece is called “Blackline: Michelle” and yeah, even that got severely truncated to save time however, the ‘polite quickie’ cut is on my writer/director/producer/editor/dp demo reel, “polarized entropy”
Attached here are some stills from the production of the extended trailer; we used two aircraft hangars, hotels, office buildings, high-rise conference rooms and a hell of a lot more. And believe you me, it took metric fuckton of talking and paperwork to get it done…

And now there’s enough of it to make a pitch but we’re not there just yet.

NYC photography book (intro essay)

 

My 1st photography collection book is complete – I have two designed but may integrate them into one…but, for your consideration, here’s the introduction essay…

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On October 16th, 2012 at approximately 5pm, I arrived at the Jay Street Metrotech station in Brooklyn. The purpose of my trip was to conduct several key interviews for a documentary film project (then titled, ‘The Posthuman Condition’ and focused on Nanotechnology). The documentary’s subtext-point was to pose ethical questions about genetic engineering as presented in “Blackline” a series of feature films set in a dystopian near-future controlled by corporations.

 

Don Henley had forewarned me about everything changing in a New York minute (a lyric specifically referenced in ‘Blackline’) and I love improvisation but its easy to forget that improvising is what happens when something goes wrong. On the 24th, before catching my train back to Union Station in Washington DC, a five minute meet-and-greet at the documentary film department at HBO turned into a pre-production meeting which lasted for well over an hour. 

 

When I left the HBO headquarters, the rain, which had already been falling for a day or so, was coming down noticeably harder. Also, I missed my train back to DC and had to buy another ticket for the return trip (a problem I was destined to encounter again). When I arrived in DC, it was raining, the Metro was closed and there weren’t any affordable hotel rooms.

 

Thanks to a friend, I was able to spend the night on the ceilinged rooftop terrace of a luxurious hotel overlooking NW Washington DC, watching Dexter on my iPad until the Metro opened at 5am. I slept for a day and when I woke up on October 25th, the world had changed.

 

When I returned to New York for re-shoots in August of 2013, there would still be damage from Sandy. I suppose there always will be – but I also recall a conversation from the 23rd at the bar of the “W” hotel, nursing a third Jack and Coke. Don’t precisely recall how I ended up talking with a business consultant but I do recall that he told me the talk of the incoming hurricane was irrelevant because “this is New York.”

 

I didn’t know exactly what he meant but I believed him. We tapped glasses and he ordered another round and a New York minute had occurred. That was the first time I heard about Hurricane Sandy.

 

Like the city that existed before September 11th, the version of New York I experienced that week is a territory no road – or rail – can reach. Post-Sandy New York can be called stronger or taller but my interpretation is simpler. It isn’t that it’s a city capable of being renewed: it is New. 

 

That’s what New York is to me. 

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Hope you like – here’s a link to preview (and if you wish, to purchase) the book…

http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/invited/4220039/6c94804b58ddf00665861c6ef8d0fc655461a174

Thanks!

Sincerely,

The Bass Meant Dude