Danny MacAskill is essentially an entertainer. That’s how he earns his living. The combination of technicality, discipline & sheer joy of living he displays in this video leaves most popular fiction–100% a form of entertainment–looking sludgy & banal, even in its own terms. Why doesn’t popular fiction encourage writers as entertainingly skilful as this? Because we do not value the skillset itself, only the story it mediates. We long ago separated the skillset out and donated it to literary fiction. Danny MacAskill doesn’t tell a story. He just is. Indeed, by the look of it, he just is the skillset. As a result I cry every time I watch him perform, because the performance is so much more intense than anything I’ve ever made.
Category Archives: predicting the present
Science fiction survives on its metaphors, catching an echo from the human context then rifling current science for an image or chain of images to act as a correlative. The rationales behind this project (including the rationale that it’s all rational, the claim that the project has, or should have, more in common with scientific discourse than poetic, philosophical or political discourse) are less important to the general reader than the excitement of the found image. Science fiction is not read as a form of peer-reviewed publication.
…the Kefahuchi Tract is outside time; if it enters the world it does so in a perpetual present tense. Rather than projecting human meaning into the scheme of things as Kurzweil’s Singularity does – by promising deliverance from decay and death in the manner of monotheistic religion – Harrison’s Tract appears in the form of unsettling epiphanies, which act to disrupt any meaning that human beings may have found or made. Yet the Tract is far from being only a symbol of senselessness, for it suggests the possibility that humans may find a way of living by falling away from the meanings to which they cling. –John Gray on Empty Space, Climbers and Viriconium, in the current issue of New Statesman
Royal Opera House, 1987: Beauty and the Beast has the rhetoric of a Persil ad. All the energy and creative potential of the beast is washed out of him, to the delight of a thoroughly bourgeois audience. He not only comes out white, he comes out wet. He doesn’t dance any more, but primps and smiles about him, and supports the ballerina as she primps and smiles too. Nobody dances any more. The celebration of his taming is brief, vestigial, a tremor: then the ballet ends. He has allowed his raison d’etre to be amputated. He’s had an ontological lobotomy. This may be an artifact of the translation into dance. In the fairy tale the beast loses only his bestiality. Since, in the ballet, his bestiality is represented by dance, and by his best and most vigorous dancing, he loses everything. The other trouble with this medium is that so much of it goes on behind the head of the person sitting in front of you.
“Sometimes as it blows across the Great Brown Waste in summer, the wind will uncover a bit of petrified wood. Mammy Vooley’s head had the shape and the shiny grey look of wood like that. It was provided with one good eye, as if at one time it had grown round a glass marble streaked with milky blue. She bobbed it stiffly right and left to the crowds: who stood to watch her approach; knelt as she passed; and stood up again behind her. Her bearers grunted patiently under the weigh of the pole that bore her up. As they brought her slowly closer it could be seen that her dress–so curved between her bony, strangely-articulated knees that dead leaves, lumps of plaster and crusts of wholemeal bread had gathered in her lap–was russet-orange; and that she wore askew on the top of her head a hank of faded purple hair, wispy and fine like a very old woman’s. Mammy Vooley, celebrating with black banners and young women chanting; Mammy Vooley, Queen of Uroconium, Moderator of the city; as silent as a log of wood.” [The Luck in the Head, 1982, from Viriconium, also in audio download.]
Is this the best physics scene ever?
Escaped neurophilosopher caught after hunt
Paradise Lost tops language abuse list
“Astonishingly, I could tell Harris + Hoole was a chain not an indy”
Safe Effective Clean
Fiscal cliff only E8 claims IMF
Are gadgets paedophilic?
East Midlands’ favourite Swiss “killed”
Another wave of American food
What if world leaders were survivors of the Vendian extinction?
Advanced Savvy Different
The young cannot cope with Hilary Clinton
Town bans twitter distribution of water
New year sees means testing of faceless heroes
What really causes Sheffield?
Forced Entertainment’s The Coming Storm was an extraordinary experience. I watched it on consecutive nights at Battersea Arts, & was so excited–not just by the performance but by the audience’s reaction–that I became incoherent every time I tried to say something about it. A month later I’m still too excited to write anything sensible, so here are some inarticulate notes I took at the time–
Instant control of the space. Characters evolve quickly from their entangled monologues–random, self-involved, confused. Nitpicking pub-style arguments spin up, develop, fade away without issue. Small narratives form & break as the performers undercut one other: their attempts to bulk out each anecdote with music, dance & explicatory material lead to chaos, brief hatreds, sudden violence. Above all, there are interventions: on the surface interruption is a structural device, deeper down it’s a way of life. The men try to outdo one another with avuncularity, baroque lies & unwanted advice; the women go quietly or noisily mad. A man puts on a Freddie Kruger mask & drags a piano about with a piece of rope. The piano whirls & rumbles lethally around the space. Later he tries to hang himself from a clothes rail. He has designed his own electric chair. He tells a story about his dying mother; a woman screams at him, “We agreed that we weren’t going to cheapen memories!” There’s a fight, & another woman urges the audience, “Don’t look at that! If you look at that you’re looking at the wrong thing.” What she wants, really, is that you should look at her. Klaus Kinski enlisted as a possible bus driver. Bits of broken language fall out of monologues & on to the stage: “Eating potatoes can make you aggressive.”
Adam Roberts rounds up the year’s science fiction. Jonathan McCalmont continues his assault on “the hotbed of empty phrases” that is traditional sf criticism. While Tim Maughan explains himself to Sense of Wonder. I like Maughan’s first answer– “the western middle classes … feel like the future – which they were always told would belong to them – is slipping out of their grasp” –because I’m interested in writing the deflation & melancholy of the people he describes. More interested, in a way, than pursuing the “future” that has left them behind. Science fiction has always defined a future as a global trend successfully isolated & described: the futurologist’s future, the cultural analyst’s future. All that interests the sf writer is the wavefront, the shock of the new. Cold, man. Because the future is also the umwelt of those who are left behind & muddle on–accepting this, rejecting that, failing to acknowledge or even detect macroeconomic shifts. In fact that’s really the only actual future, the non-discourse future, the non-speculative, non-theoretical future, the future on the ground. It’s all around, now. One of the many ways science fiction might delimit itself is to write in that direction, rather than always going for the shiny stuff, the Googie of the day. Bruce Sterling meets Anita Brookner & they totally fail to understand one another at the Hotel du Lac.
Dubious & formalised, as in Bilbao’s ex-docks or Sheffield reinvented as an apres-steel boutique: from industry to heritage industry. Wreckage needs to be real. It needs to be free. The central, inevitable & useful thing about a bent & rusty girder sticking up out of an overgrown cooling pond is that it’s a bent & rusty girder sticking up out of an overgrown cooling pond. Anything else is so pathetic: cleaned up, saved from itself (separated from the entropic processes it was always part of) & fit for a place on the mantelpiece in a nice front room. That teaches us something about the sublime in general: ie, really, it’s the Black Spot, the beginning of the end. So try & avoid capturing, recapturing or–especially– “celebrating” it. The urge to convey the authentic glee & terror of the post industrial wasteland is the beginning of the processes of romanticisation, postmodernisation & domestication. From the raw horror of a working blast furnace, through the uncanny of that much rust, to the kitsch. We need to live in the ruins; forget them; then live through them all over again, as whatever the landscape makes of them. Anything else is the media souvenir.