poem for no one 01.11.2008, 8:08 AM
posted by ben vershbow
Just came across something lovely. Video for "Jed's Other Poem (Beautiful Ground)" by the now disbanded Grandaddy from their great album The Sophtware Slump (2000). Jed is a character who weaves in and out of the album, a forlorn humanoid robot made of junk parts who eventually dies, leaving behind a few mournful poems.
Creator Stewart Smith: "I programmed this entirely in Applesoft BASIC on a vintage 1979 Apple ][+ with 48K of RAM -- a computer so old it has no hard drive, mouse up/down arrow keys, and only types in capitals. First open-source music video, code available on website. Cinematography by Jeff Bernier." A nice detail of the story is that this was originally a fan vid but was eventually adopted as the "official" video for the song.
Thanks to Alex Itin for the link!
Chris Gribble on January 11, 2008 8:43 AM:
Beautiful Thank you. It's wet and grey in England and this has made my lunch hour.
jeff drouin on January 11, 2008 3:07 PM:
That video got me thinking about the poetics of the screen. I haven't beheld an Apple ][+ since I was in fourth grade (1985-6). Not only was it nostalgically moving to see that screen (I could smell the "common area" between classrooms again, where the computer lived), but seeing it termed "vintage" was strange to me. So much of the recent technology culture of 20- and 30-something creatives involves a 'going back to the basics.' The way that hipster culture fetishizes mundane objects of the 1970s and 80s (lunchboxes, plastic chairs, plastic toys, old tape players) would seem to fit this return to childhood for the possibilities of now.
Another example is this music video made of dice, which I first saw at Sebestian Mary's blog. The dice function simultaneously as building blocks and pixels, creating a kind of classroom aesthetic to complement a pop song. I suppose it's the "building block" nature of the digital culture we grew up in that underlies the blocks/pixel thinking of 20- and 30-something creatives.
Ron Packard on January 13, 2008 8:20 PM:
Excellent video! This proves the computer is still useful. It would be nice if it could just surf the net ;)
ben vershbow on January 14, 2008 12:10 PM:
Yes, see also Michel Gondry's White Stripes video made of animated Lego bricks.
I have a soft spot for that Grandaddy album (which both totally rocks and is eerily gorgeous) and find the Smith video to be a great complement, but I have a more pessimistic read on the general impulse that I think you correctly identify in this aesthetic toward a return to childhood. I don't see the possibilities of now, but rather a wistful dig through the old toy chest -? an avoidance of the world.
The ultimate exemplar of this, though he's not working with the digital primitives thing per se, is probably Wes Anderson. His films are beautifully ornate -? fetishistically cluttered with peculiar childhood relics and school room bric-a-brac -? but totally hermetic. His younger characters are stunted, refusing to grow up. His world-weary older characters are a crude adolescent's sketch of adult disillusionment. In their expression of this world view, the films are highly effective. But their maker seems terrified of the world.
sebastian mary on January 15, 2008 8:57 AM:
Different medium, same thing at work. I'm not sure I'd necessarily read this as some weird refusal to grow up or notice the world. There's probably something in there about a sense of lost digital innocence (ie 'once upon a time technology promised utopia, now we have networked surveillance and identity fraud...' type thing) but I'd argue that it's just a fairly mundane function of geek culture now being old enough to actually have a past to reference. Fashions usually revive within the time-gap needed for a generation to emerge who doesn't remember the clothing crimes that happened last time round; surely this is something similar.
On the subject of early geek culture, it's worth taking a look at ad-exec-turned-writer-and-activist Indra Sinha's 1999 novel The Cybergypsies, a thinly-fictionalised account of his addiction to fantasy roleplaying in early bulletin board systems. It's a weird and compelling narrative: it takes place partly in networked, consensually-created fantasy worlds, gets progressively more disorienting as it advances, and manages to convey effectively that sneaking sense of reality gently unravelling and percolating unwanted serendipities into 'real life' that often results from too much time spent online.
Brett Bobley on June 13, 2008 9:29 PM:
Back in 1984, I used my Apple ][+ to create a music video for Public Image Ltd's "The Order of Death." My video was also programmed completely in Applesoft BASIC. I still have the computer, but I have no idea where that floppy disk might have gone to. Need to dig around for that. Another digital preservation nightmare....
bowerbird on June 19, 2008 3:25 AM:
i love that video to pieces every time i see it...
every single bit of it, especially the source code.