Monday, February 26, 2007

The Golden Age

Giuseppe Tornatore, who shot to fame with the melodramatic Italian film Cinema Paradiso has compiled a collage of foreign films and this small piece was shown at the recently concluded Oscars. Fortunately I had my laptop right in front of me while watching it. Except a few that I missed out due to slow typing, a comprehensive list of the films referenced in the montage are:

Shoe Shine (Vittorio De Sica, 1946)
The Sea Inside (Alejandro Amenabar, 2004)
Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa, 1950)
La Strada (Federico Fellini, 1954)
Day for Night (Francois Truffaut, 1973)

Dersu Uzala (Akira Kurosawa, 1975)
All about my mother (Pedro Almodovar, 1999)
The official story (Luis Puenzo, 1985)
The Tin Drum (Volker Schlondorff, 1979)
No Man's Land (Danis Tanovic, 2001)
Forbidden Games(Rene Clement, 1952)

The discreet charm of the bourgeois (Luis Bunuel, 1972)
War and Peace (Sergei Bondarchuk, 1968)
Fanny and Alexander (Ingmar Bergman, 1982)
Mephisto (Istvan Szabo, 1981)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee, 2002)
Mediterraneo (Gabriele Salvatores, 1991)
The Bicycle Thief (Vittorio De Sica, 1948)
8 1/2 (Federico Fellini, 1963)
Closely Watched Trains (Jiri Menzel, 1966)
Pelle, the conqueror (Bille August, 1987)
Journey of Hope (Xavier Koller, 1990)
Black Orpheus (Marcel Camus, 1959)
Walls of Malapaga (Rene Clement, 1949)
Cinema Paradiso (Giuseppe Tornatore, 1988)
Tsotsi (Gavin Hood, 2005)
Get out your handkerchief (Bertrand Blier, 1978)
Mon oncle (Jacques Tati, 1958)
Antonia's Line (Marleen Gorris, 1995)
Babette’s feast (Gabriel Axel, 1987)

Madame Rosa (Moshe Mizrahi, 1977)
Amarcord (Federico Fellini, 1973)
A man and a woman (Claude Lelouch, 1966)
Nights of Cabiria (Federico Fellini, 1957)
Kolya (Jan Sverak, 1996)
Burnt by the Sun (Nikita Mikhalkov, 1994)
Life is Beautiful (Roberto Benigni, 1997)
The Shop on Main Street (Jan Kadar & Elmar Klos, 1965)
Indochine (Regis Wargnier, 1992)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Together in Electric Dreams

When installing straw (an RSS aggregator for Linux) through apt-get, I saw a library named scroll across the screen. A few clicks later, it turns out bonobo is a component architecture similar to COM for GNOME, only more advanced and also has bindings for Python (towards which I've grown a recent fascination). Anyway, it also reminded me of the artist Bonobo I've been listening to lately, along with Dntel, James Figurine, Lali Puna, Frou Frou and The Postal Service as a part of my foray into electronic music or more accurately indietronica. Technology used to create music. Now I think that technology is most effective when it is unobtrusive, when we reach that level of transcendence where our interface with it is seamless and subconscious. Frequently, this transparency is achieved through repetition and practice. Take for example a TV remote, cell phone, computer keyboard or a gaming joystick. After some time, our minds connect with these things obliviating their presence. It is then that we see through them into the other world. This other world can be three things - our world itself in which case technology just acts as a bridge for communication (cell phones, IM's), a manifested or generated world (gaming, music), or a hybrid of the previous two (Television). Of course, I'm ignoring the technologies that we don't interact with in daily life, but still co-exist in the background - the communication infrastructure, switches, routers, servers, software et cetera. These innovations are mostly non-interactive towards the consumer and hence do not directly affect us. What does influence us is what we interact with and this is where I think a lot of work needs to be done, both from a technological standpoint and from us. From a layman and purely end-user perspective, I guess I'd call these technological breakthroughs satisfactory when I next step into my room and don't see all the wires crisscrossing each other - the ethernet and telephone cables, wires from my desktop, modem, laptop, 5.1 speakers, headphones, ipod charger, cell-phone charger (ad infinitum). The good thing is we've laid out the foundation. Now, all we need to focus on is in removing the barriers, because I think technology fails when it starts to intrude into our lives. I've found out the basic pattern underlying most of my pet peeves - a loud ringing cell-phone, incessant honking in traffic, the (unbearable) noise from a car backing up, the clickety-clackety sounds from a mouse scroll wheel. All these are examples of either improperly designed technology or frequently just misuses of it. It is when technology intrudes that it disturbs. What needs to be understood is this: These devices are only the means, not an end in themselves (I couldn't help but draw the analogy from Kant). The end-user technology (no pun intended) only becomes useful when it appeals to the instinct and not the intellect. Personally I think my iPod shuffle is halfway there already and not attempting to sound anthropomorphic, this post is dedicated to it for giving me countless hours of pure listening pleasure amidst all the modern-day urban chaos.