Archive for the ‘tv’ Category

Our Lady of the Tombs

May 18, 2008

Nothomb‘s novel Acide Sulfurique is trying hard to be as close as possible to abstraction, leaving almost any concrete description of events behind the curtain. The reader’s imagination is not supposed to complete the missing parts, for the abstraction is the essence here, a skeleton to be perceived and experienced in its bear form.

The story is, therefore, deliberately simple: a reality show named “Concentration”, representing a Nazi concentration camp. The Kapos are elected in an American Idol style of filtering, while the prisoners are randomly abducted from the streets. From this point on it’s a chain of almost pure concepts: animals’ wagons stuffed with people of all ages; numbers tattooed on the prisoners’ hands; dehumanization; starvation; rape; death. Added to these concepts are omni-present cameras that capture every possible audio-visual signals. Materials are edited, and then there’s the daily night show. In the society of the spectacle the rating is great, but when it starts to stagnate “interactivity” is introduced into the show, the audience being asked to participate in the daily “death selections” (performed so far by the Kapos) by means of sending SMSes with the prisoners’ alpha-numeric IDs whose life are to be taken. Remind you – anything in this camp, on this show, is real.

And although intuition warns that this kind of book is about to fall into the banality trap, the opposite happens. Because no description – but the evocation of the above concepts – is provided, banality is avoided. Moreover, the fact that the book is mainly structure, allows Nothomb to introduce a surprisingly powerful technique – an effectively shocking one – which turns you, the reader, into as hideous collaborator as those disgusting-yet-all-human audience of the concentration show.

Our lady of the tombs gives you, reader, a choice: you can restore your human simulacra by closing the book and not reading it further, the equivalent of shutting down the TV set. Or you could keep on reading and see yourself turning, in real-time, into a disgusting voyeur of a hideous reality. And as she’s aware of the weakness of the human nature, she gives not one but two chances for redemption.

Personally, I obeyed the 2nd call, closed the book and intended to not reading it further. Personally, I failed, the cheap curiosity taking over my previous act of honor. Just like anyone else in Nothomb’s book, I couldn’t resist watching.

Rest some of the questions raised by the form:

Can this really happen? (Of course it can – it already did!)

Yes, but can it really happen today? Well, ask yourself the following questions:

1. If such a show exist, how many people will watch it? [“unfortunately many will“]
2. In our “participation age”, with all its technological mediums of mass collaboration and of induced transparency – how many will actively participate in the executions by sending SMSes, or by Twittering their candidates for the daily death selections? [Many will. Some others will think about it, but will refrain from actively pushing the voting buttons]

But wait! There’s no need to actively push the buttons any longer! They no longer need your vote; they can do with your twittered thought! All you need is to think the alpha-numeric IDs of your candidates and your thought will be automatically encoded then transmitted into the show’s Twitter channel.

That’s a great solution, for after all even God blames no one for just thinking!

Acide sulfurique (Sulphuric Acid) by Amélie Nothomb

Reality or Nothing

January 15, 2007

Emma: We can break into this man’s synapses. Imagine the wonder of it all. And if we wear our VR helmets we will live for hours at a time in the real past, the authentic past – and and – (Her voice, her expression change; a small shadow falls) and perhaps escape.

Fyodor (Quietly): Escape from what, Emma?



Dennis Potter, Cold Lazarus

Cold Lazarus is the second part of Karaoke/Cold Lazarus, both being the last TV drama done by the late and formidable Dennis Potter (The singing detective and many other masterpieces).

I find Karaoke & Cold Lazarus to be Potter’s best achievement.

Karaoke is the story of an author, who is writing his last script; last – because at the end of Karaoke, he’ll be dead, just like Potter. While walking around in the city, the author encounters, or thinks he encounters, the characters he invented for that last script, an impossible event that drives him crazy, in particular because he is deeply in love with his heroine.
This is a most poetic, sensitive, imaginative, adorable, and definitely one of a kind TV piece. When I saw it, some ten years ago, j’etais époustouflé.

Cold Lazarus happens in the future. Somehow, the head of this author has been frozen, and now scientists, financially supported by the biggest media mogul (or goggul) at the time, are trying to replay the memories buried in this head. The media mogul dreams about the rating of that TV show.

Personally, I think that our digitization, our turning into real-time, digital objects, especially via web2.0 technologies and concepts, bares the dangers, the potential, of becoming the head of cold Lazarus, and it will not take long before media moguls will start to exploit our virtual selves for entertainment purposes.

But of course, this is shallow. Potter takes the story further, by questioning reality itself, presenting multiple layers of possible realities: the script, the head of the author, physical reality, virtual reality etc.

In Cold Lazarus, there’s a group of rebels who’d like to destroy the lab, the head, the virtuality and go back to physical reality. They are called RON (Reality or Nothing). Of course, they are as clueless as anybody else about what reality is.


FoucaultPticon, Draft#1

December 15, 2006

McLuhan Tv set should be inside too.