Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A short story I read, and revisiting cyberpunk

Late last month, I read an article on Slashdot about Google turning 7 years old. In the user comments of that article, someone posted a short story that I really enjoyed. Here's a link to the story where it originally appeared:

The Nine Billion Names Of God

Here's an excerpt:
"You know what Google is?"

"Yes," I said. I was running low on patience.

"No, I mean, do you really know? More than just the site?"

Reluctantly, I shook my head.

"You ever meet anyone who worked for them?"

"Don't think so."

"You haven't. Nobody works for them anymore."

I shrugged, and took the man's empty pint. I didn't offer to refill it.

"They're self-contained. It's all automated, in there. It's underground."
The story is a nice bit of sci-fi, and arguably cyberpunk in its presentation. (Amongst other things, it made me think of Darren Aronofsky's Pi)

As a teenager, I used to be impressed by certain authors' romantic portrayals of worn-but-wily heroes struggling to make it in dark and oppressive cyberpunk futures. I don't know if I'm heroic at all, or clever enough to be considered wily, but these days, I really do feel like we live in a world that's pretty close to those dystopian visions. [See the following link for a really nice explanation of cyberpunk: Exploring Dystopia: Cyberpunk]

Even though the word has lost some of its edge in recent years, "cyberpunk" fiction is still something that I am very interested in because it's all about technology and society (and the ways that they co-construct each other), issues of power, and the ways that marginalized outsiders and reluctant insiders alike seek to challenge the status quo (even if it's just a little bit).

Here are some movies I have enjoyed that I consider cyberpunk even though fan-made lists of cyberpunk films don't always include them:

Battle Royale (based on the novel by Koushun Takami)
New Rose Hotel (based on the short story by William Gibson)
Mr. and Mrs. Smith (yes, the one with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie)

While these films don't feature characters sporting cybernetic implants or prosthetics, and the worlds they portray are not as visually dramatic as the one portrayed in Blade Runner, they share certain thematic and stylistic elements that immediately strike me as being cyberpunk in flavor, even though some would disagree with me. Have we become so used to cyberpunk themes in fiction, or has society become so cyberpunk itself, that the label has become superfluous? Just a thought.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Morrissey meets Anime

It's not often that a person can mention Morrissey and anime in the same sentence, and given that I'm a fan of both, I couldn't resist this opportunity.

No, there isn't a Morrissey anime coming out. I'm talking about a brief reference in Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad, an anime TV series about a rock band. The closing credits sequence of that show features a montage of illustrations (of various rock artists), and at least one illustration is a Morrissey/Smiths reference.


Obviously, it's supposed to be the cover of Hatful of Hollow, and "Mo" at the bottom left looks a bit like Moz.


This is another image from the sequence that might be Morrissey. If it's based on a real photograph, I can't figure out which one it's supposed to be, but maybe fans who are more die-hard than I am will figure it out.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Murakami and Nissan introduce Pivo

Japanese pop artist Takashi Murakami has created a new character for Nissan. Here is the press release:

TOKYO (Sept. 30, 2005) - Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., today unveiled Pivo, its imaginative electric car concept, in partnership with renowned Japanese artist Takashi Murakami at the company's Nissan Ginza Gallery in downtown Tokyo.

PivoPivo, which will be on display at this year's Tokyo Motor Show, features an innovative cabin that revolves 360 degrees, eliminating the need to reverse. Thanks to its compact body, the car is also exceptionally easy to maneuver.

The three-seater car comes with a number of user-friendly technologies, including Nissan's Around View Monitor which reduces blind spots by displaying the outside surroundings on screens mounted on the inside of the car's A-pillars located on either side of the windshield. A dash-mounted infrared (IR) commander allows the driver to operate the navigation and stereo systems with simple finger movements without letting go of the steering wheel.

Pivo is powered by Nissan's compact, high-performance lithium-ion battery and its unique Super Motor, resulting in zero emissions.

The gallery space for the Pivo event, which was designed by Murakami, features a futuristic vegetable garden installation, as well as large balloons and illustrations of "Pivo-chan," a character he designed based on the concept car's inspiring image.

Previously, Murakami has collaborated with Louis Vuitton and Roppongi Hills. I am always fascinated to see the way he and his cohorts play around with the boundaries between pop culture, high art, and consumer desire. Also, there's the interesting phenomenon of cute characters being used to market products that are not intended for children. Furthermore, this is another example of the otaku-related trend of technology being anthropomorphized.

Here is a related link: 2005 Nissan Pivo Concept

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

What happened to anime "shrines" on the web?

The topic of changes in fandom, as related to changes in technology used
by fandom, is something that I am trying to address in my dissertation
research. The question of how the anime community online has changed is
one that I asked on a web forum and the AMRC-L a few months ago, and I got some interesting responses. Specifically, I asked:

Are series-specific anime fansites a thing of the past?

I've been using the internet as an anime fan for over 10 years now, and
I've noticed a trend that maybe some of you can comment upon. It seems to
me that fan-produced websites focusing on a single series are less common
than before. Sure, some of the older sites are still around (like mine),
but new sites about single shows seem to be less popular. On the other
hand, forums/communities, review sites, news sites, image boards, blogs,
and other more generalized websites seem to be bigger than ever.

Then again, maybe it's just me. Has anyone else noticed this trend? If so,
why do you think it happened? If not, what are some of the more
well-known/high-quality series-specific sites out there?

(Your comments here or by email are appreciated.)

Related followup post: Counteracting Sameness on the Internet