Sunday, March 28, 2010

Marco Polo Sings a Solo

I recently finished reading John Guare's 1973 play Marco Polo Sings a Solo, and really loved it! It is set in 1999, a future imagined from the 1973 context. It is a very funny, heavily ironic piece.

Guare sets up a nice set of expectations in the play, and really delivers on them. I like the premise that he explores — the idea that there is such an overwhelming desire to explore the self that we forget to let the world "out there" shape us, as we fail to engage with it. I was amazed by the way the play worked with this problem, bringing up such outlandish, crazy scenarios to explore it all.

The future imagined in the text is now, of course, a decade in the past. And the real world 1999 wasn't anything like the 1999 of the play.... at least, not on the surface of it.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Music for the Cyborg

Remember how scared we were of robots back in the 1980s?

Lyrics | Dennis DeYoung - Mr. Roboto lyrics

At least things have changed... we aren't as scared of the Japanese as we used to be.

(even though robotophobia is still around)

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Movies so Bad They're Good

I was just listening to a podcast (look up about camp movies — things so outlandishly bad that they somehow work. The standard example is, of course, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The ridiculous nature of these films makes them able to be so removed from our experience of life (via the fictional world of good film?) that they garner a following, somehow managing to speak to wide segment of the population.

A lot of these campy shows fall in the sci-fi genre. I think that there is something to the genre that makes unbelievability acceptable. The nature of sci-fi is that it is not true to our contemporary living. Instead, it explores the idea of "it's not this way, but what if it was?"

The removal from our daily experience of life distances us from the situation of the story. When this setting is used to explore issues that are, perhaps, too close for comfort, we somehow manage to accept the exploration, whereas we might resist the same exploration in a more "realistic" setting.

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Robotics in Shanghai

I recently stumbled across the Robotics Society of Shanghai. Meetings of the group are pretty irregular, apparently, but it looks like it could be lots of fun!

My oldest godson signed up for robotics as his extracurricular activity at school. It looks like fun! I have several friends in the field, and it is so interesting to hear about the things they are working on. One of my favorites was the study of robots performing dramatic texts onstage. Can you imagine....?

(Actually, I guess if you've, say, seen Abraham Lincoln deliver speeches at Disneyland, you don't have to imagine.)

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

a funny thing happened

My friend sent me this link to a showing of King Lear in Shanghai. I know, I know... this site is where I talk about science fiction, not Shakespeare, and this isn't exactly Hamletmachine (Heiner Müller, in case you're wondering). But still... scroll down a little. Did you see it?

"Han Lei Solo"

I have been learning Chinese for nearly 20 years, but my childhood baptized in Star Wars still has me reading that "Han & Leia Solo." I have to look twice to remember that Han Lei is a Chinese name.

Read more about Hamlet-Machine and Other Texts for the Stage

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Sunday, March 07, 2010

Christina Sng

It was great to get to meet speculative poet Christina Sng a week or so ago. I've not met another speculative poet in person before, and really enjoyed getting to know Christina.

Sng also gave me a copy of her book, The Darkside of Eden. I read it and was very impressed. This is the second of Sng's book I've read, the other being Angelflesh, which was also a great read.

The field of speculative poetry is an exciting, growing one, and I am thrilled to meet Singapore's pioneer poet in the field last weekend.

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