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Roundup: Ex Machina, thoughtcrimes, Con Man, personal stuff

23 Mar

It’s Monday and after days of being deeply involved with the conference, I need to get back to my writing.  Just a few short things to share:

Ex Machina

I’ve had mixed luck with future tech movies lately. Big Hero 6 was fantastic, Transcendence was a mess, and after reading the reviews, I couldn’t bring myself to see Chappie in the theatre (though William Gibson liked it, so I might have made the wrong choice).  My hopes are high again for Ex Machina, which hits theatres next month:

Thoughtcrimes

Gizmodo just published When Does Online Fantasy Become Criminal Conspiracy? (originally published on EFF). If you don’t know the story behind this, a very high level summary is that a NYC police officer and several other men had graphic online discussions about kidnapping, killing, and eating women. Some of the conversations moved into “plans”, though the men claim they never intended to follow through. The officer was convicted of criminal conspiracy by a jury, but the verdict was thrown out by a district court judge who said, “the nearly yearlong kidnapping conspiracy alleged by the government is one in which no one was ever kidnapped, no attempted kidnapping ever took place, and no real-world, non-Internet-based steps were ever taken to kidnap anyone.”

One of the world-changing qualities of the Internet is that it allows people with similar interests to find each other, not matter who or where they are. I’ve been online for a long time and I’ve had discussions with people whose fantasies were most kindly described as gruesome. Some of them might have been terrible people, but it seemed to me that the majority were processing something that thrilled them in what they perceived to be a safe way. On the other hand, there are people incapable of discerning reality from fantasy. For one awful example, take the current case of the two young girls who tried to kill a friend as an act of devotion to Slender Man (at their age, my best friend and I were building structures to try to harness “pyramid power”; not all tween girls are logical).

I won’t claim to have answers or even suggestions. It’s hard to tell if someone ranting online is full of hot air, serious, or unhinged. If you overheard the same conversation at the next table in a restaurant, you would have context, body language, and tone to shape the decision to roll your eyes or call the cops. Does driving fantasy conversations deeper underground give them more taboo power? Are fantasies less potent if they are discussed with others, or obsessed about in private?  In this era of omnipresent government surveillance I am much more careful about what I type and I don’t think that’s a good thing, but I can’t speak for the effect it has on others.

Con Man

Back to a lighter topic! I can’t imagine that if you’re a fan of the TV series Firefly (too soon), you have missed the news that Alan Tudyk, Nathan Fillion, and PJ Haarsma are making a web series. They’re crowdsourcing Con Man through Indiegogo and now have funding for twelve ten-minute episodes.  Here’s a teaser:

 

What I really wanted to mention was how these guys have shown a real understanding of fan culture. It doesn’t hurt that they’re all charming and funny and that Firefly has a notoriously enthusiastic fanbase. The perks they created have elements that many fans appreciate, like insider information, collectibles, early access, and contact with the stars. I’m a funder at a relatively low level, $25; I wanted to support them and see all the videos, but I didn’t want any physical “stuff”. I laugh at the gifs and videos they’ve released and yes, it’s fun to get a Hang w/ request from Alan Tudyk or PJ Haarsma on my phone.

The first Hang w/ I did, there were fewer than 35 people connected while Alan gave us an update, but with over 33,000 funders so far, the sessions now are crowded and they’ve pushed the technical limits of the service. I’m not the sort of fangirl who goes to great lengths to be near entertainers I admire; I’ve been a background actor in a number of movies and truly enjoyed seeing some of them work (and I will tell the story of having lunch with George Clooney until the day I die), but I don’t go to conventions or lurk outside theatres or hotels. Still, to have Alan sit back on a couch, dogs running in and out of frame, and talk to us about progress on Con Man is much more powerful to me than getting an update video now and then. I haven’t yet watched a Meerkat stream but I’m guessing it gives the same sense of immediacy and intimacy, regardless of how many people are connected. The entertainment industry has changed and I think this is one example where a producer/artist/fan partnership can be better for everyone than the network model.

Personal update

Jakob had his second round of chemotherapy for stage IV stomach cancer last week. The treatment is taking a heavy toll on him, most notably in the pneumonia, hypercalcemia, and anemia he’s fighting now, too. We’re both struggling with the fact that I’ll be there to see him in 8 weeks and our existing vacation plans include reservations for a walk-up flat in a pretty mountain village, far from his doctors. Such lousy timing.

I was forceful in pushing him out of denial yesterday. I couldn’t take any more of his insistence that he would be perfectly capable of doing everything we had planned — which include a long drive, biking, and hiking — when he gets winded from walking across a room and doesn’t know how many more cycles of chemo are planned. I’ll be traveling with my husband for two and a half weeks before meeting Jakob and his health can change dramatically from one day to the next, so I wanted a Plan B. “If we can’t go to ____, then we will _____.” From my point of view, it would be better to have plans we can go beyond than plans that are unreachable, leading to frustration, guilt, and sadness.

Confronting that was very hard for him. This is a damned tragedy, it absolutely is.  He convinced me that he needs the vacation. He’s clinging to it. … [insert sound of heartbreak] … Ok. I understand that.

I never wanted to cancel the trip, but only to have him acknowledge that we might need to change some things because of his condition. Maybe I’ll take the train to a city closer to him and do the driving from there, for example, to make it safer for both of us and less exhausting for him.  He said he’ll be less passive about his health, I’ll try not to stress about the uncertainty, and maybe we will have a burst of luck. We need it.

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Posted by on March 23, 2015 in Culture, In the News, Side Topics, Video

 

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