‘The older I get,’ said Daphne, ‘the more I think people get to look like other people. I never did when I was young but now I can hardly look at a face without thinking how much it looks like someone else.’

May 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

Like Apple a huge number of companies transform unwaged enthusiasm into micro-productivity that, in aggregate, can be folded into profit schemes but could never be paid for as actual wage labor. Valve’s Steam service is building an ecosystem of unwaged user productivity, selling games through its “Early Access” program, essentially allowing game developers to charge players to beta test their games in exchange for the flattering thrill of seeing something before it’s ready.

Coursera has traded on goodwill and charitable idealism to duck expensive overhead costs by using voluntarily donated space while transforming transcription services into student curriculum. Duolingo redirects the desire to learn a language into a business that sells low-cost translations to media companies wanting to syndicate stories into non-English-speaking markets. GitHub has inserted itself into the open source software community by creating a central repository of collaborative coding projects, while charging users to operate private repositories. Google , Facebook, Twitter , have all turned even the most basic acts of daily life into market research micro-labor, and the more personally intertwined we become with each the more productive we become for them.

To a large extent, work has always been a delusional gifting of time and energy to bosses in exchange for the abstract comforts of a purposeful identity in a superstructure of someone else’s making. This arrangement was always transitory, and now that the economies of scale have grown so large that the value of the end product can no longer support the labor necessary for its creation, we find ourselves still desiring of the identity we once derived from serving, a yearning that drives people into charitable forms of giving to for-profit companies while increasingly mistrusting one another. Individuals don’t need help because they’re lazy, uneducated, addicts, or criminals, but companies are always worth contributing to because they do great things for the collective.  read more

FILM: Polly Hudson

“Have you decorated?” “No, Madame, I have moved.”

August 6, 2013 § Leave a comment


This is cinema for the post-theatrical era. And people complained that the film was going to go straight to video. Well, we said: “Let’s make something that’s not for theaters.” It will have a theatrical release. But it’s going to have day-and-date. The whole motif of the derelict movie theaters was there right from the beginning.

Bret has this post-Empire idea. He believes that American artists are now in their post-Empire period. Like the Brits were in the previous century. So we’re making art out of the remains of our empire. The junk that’s left over. And this idea of a film that was crowd-funded, cast online, with one actor from celebrity culture, one actor from adult-film culture, a writer and director who have gotten beaten up in the past—felt like a post-Empire thing. And then everything I was afraid of with Lindsay and James started to become a positive. I was afraid we wouldn’t be taken seriously and people would think it’s a joke. My son and my daughter didn’t want me to do it. This just shows you how conservative young kids are. Because they thought it would be embarrassing and a disaster.

The number-one fact of the new low-budget cinema is that it is no longer impossible to get your film financed, but it is impossible to get anybody to see it. Because there are 10,000 people doing the same thing you’re doing, right now. And which one of those 10,000 films is anybody going to see? Fifteen thousand films get submitted to Sundance, 100 or so get shown, eight get picked up, and two make money. Those are the economics. But Bret and I have some cachet. We were in with four different sub-groups of interested people: people who are interested in me, people who are interested in Bret, people who are interested in Lindsay, and people who are interested in James. Lindsay has four million [Twitter] followers, and James has half a million. Bret has 250,000.

How do you see your career in light of your experience on this film?

I went to the casino, I put it all on red, and it came up red. We got lucky with this one. We got lucky with James, we got lucky with Lindsay. We got lucky with the noise factor. When you’re pitching a movie, that’s the question they ask: is it going to make noise? Are you going to hear this above the din of the avalanche of film productions? And if the idea has noise, then they are interested in it. And this idea had noise. Some of it by design, some of it by luck. That’s why I went to Bret, because if it was the two of us together it was going to make noise.

Obviously, Lindsay didn’t have a problem with James Deen.

Oh yes, she did.  read more

ART: Robert Kushner

I must off to studio and work with a dwarf (very sweet – and he has to wash in a bidet) and your fellow countrymen Mark Hamill and Tennyson (that can’t be right) Ford

January 10, 2013 § Leave a comment


The @dronestream project, conceived as part of NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, is a follow-up to Begley’s Drone+, an iPhone app mapping every drone strike in real-time that was banned by Apple, and draws constant, methodical attention to a hush-hush reality. Wondering just what Begley was hoping to accomplish with what’s now become an extended part-time job, we e-mailed him a few questions.

Why tweet all the reported drone strikes if they’ve already been reported? Where did this idea originate?
The idea came from a conversation with [NYU professor and media theorist] Douglas Rushkoff. In his class, Narrative Lab, we talk a lot about narrativity and the way stories are told on the web. It also came from a love of how Teju Cole uses Twitter; his “small fates” project is so beautiful and devastating at the same time.

When I started reading all the reports of drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia, one thing stood out: the flatness of language. There are words like “militant” and “compound” and “hideout,” which come to mean very little when you read them in such volume. I sincerely didn’t know what the contours of our drone war looked like. So I wanted to dig into the data set about every reported U.S. drone attack and try to surface that information in a new way. (Dronestagram has been a big inspiration in this regard.)

Dronestream turned into more of a journalistic feed, of course — and you’re right to say that the strikes have already been reported. I’m just pulling them from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and inserting them into a different medium.  read more


All those attempts to bring in everything around you are part of a naïve belief that you can recreate the whole world. Well, you can’t. Where would you put it? Next to the whole world?

November 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

For the most part, when the internet acknowledges a sublime other than its own, it does so by sharing free of commentary. The expressions of Sandy’s power that most amazed me were reblogged images: the Jane’s Carousel lit up but surrounded by water, Avenue C transformed into a river, Zach van Schouwen’s version of the first partial-service subway map with affected lines erased. There was a sort of silence about the internet that night. The tweets came as fast as ever, but unembellished. Usually, the internet is a competition to see who can be the most creative with reported material, but during Sandy’s most destructive hours, the internet was content to just report.

I think of the contrast between real photos of Sandy’s destruction and photo-shopped parodies of the many fake photos that went viral. The real photos, shot at night, are dark or poorly lit and often blurry. They are striking because the reality they capture is striking. Often, they show man-made structures—cars, carrousels, subway stations—surrounded by wild water. They make you feel the natural sublime.

The parody photos, on the other hand, revel in the technological sublime. My favorite is the faked photo of the swirling cloud over the statue of liberty, faked-up even more with flying saucers, Godzilla, and the giant marshmallow man from Ghostbusters.  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: cobalt123

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