Shortly after the Wachowski Brothers released a film called The Matrix in 1999, I got a job on a film shooting in Hendersonville, North Carolina about summer camp and spent a beautiful month and a half in a small cottage reading Ray Kurzweil’s The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence. It was a potent combination – the movie and the book; what the Matrix was doing for me spiritually, Kurzweil’s book seemed to be prepared to manifest on Earth.
Cut to a decade later, where I will be attending my fifth consecutive NAB Show – the largest tech and entertainment media show of its kind in the world – and have the opportunity to see Kurzweil actually speak in person for a power session entitled “The Acceleration of Technology in the 21st Century: the Impact on Media, Communications, and Society.”
Kurzweil will begin the session with a presentation on how information technology is transforming traditional industries, including media and entertainment, into infotech businesses. He will explore how the exponential growth of technology and the influx of new chip-driven tools is upending free enterprise as we know it and paving the way for an unparalleled change in human history. After his presentation, Kurzweil will be joined on the stage by Professor Donald Marinelli for a special discussion highlighting topics that directly impact Hollywood and the entertainment technology arena.
This is precisely what I have been asked to speak about throughout most of my career – the confluence of technology and the arts – so you can imagine how excited I am to hear these two go on about it.
To give you a better idea about Kurzweil’s relevance (besides the fact that he invented speech recognition technology) he has been described as “the restless genius” by The Wall Street Journal and “the ultimate thinking machine” by Forbes and ranked 8th among entrepreneurs in the United States by Inc. magazine. PBS included Kurzweil as one of 16 “revolutionaries who made America,” along with other inventors of the past two centuries. He is a six-time national bestselling author whose works include “The Age of Spiritual Machines” and “The Singularity is Near.” Which reminds me, Kurzweil also recently spearheaded the opening of The Singularity University where he invites the world’s foremost thinkers, doctors and technicians to figure out how to live forever, in harmony, probably with robots. And he is totally serious. And he might even pull it off.
Donald Marinelli is a tenured professor of drama and arts management at Carnegie Mellon University and is also the executive producer of that institution’s Entertainment Technology Center (ETC). The ETC is recognized internationally as Carnegie Mellon’s “Dream Fulfillment Factory.” Its emphasis is on bringing artists and technologists together to work on substantive, real-world projects combining the latest digital media technologies with myriad artistic, educational, and entertainment efforts. Marinelli’s book “The Comet & the Tornado” will be released on April 6th.
This event joins an impressive line-up of previously announced keynote conversations, including Dana Walden and Gary Newman, Chairmen of Twentieth Century Fox Television (TCFTV); and Stan Lee, the iconic comic book visionary who co-created Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk and The Fantastic Four.
“A key theme of this year’s NAB Show is transmedia: developing, integrating and monetizing content for multiplatform distribution,” said Chris Brown, executive vice president, conventions & business operations for NAB Show. “Stan Lee has epitomized the concept of transmedia with his amazing creations, which have been turned into smash hit feature films, television series and innovative digital content.”
Did I already mention how excited I am? This is like Christmas for prognosticators like me, never mind robotics fans. And manifesting dreams. And wanting to live forever. And SEO types. And comic books.
The NAB Show will take place 10-15 April, 2010 in Las Vegas (exhibits open 12 April). It is the world’s largest electronic media show covering filmed entertainment and the development, management and delivery of content across all mediums. Complete details are available at www.nabshow.com.
Crumb – Dir: Terry Zwigoff
This is the film that first made me hyper-conscious of self-imposed, voluntary corporate branding as illustrator Robert Crumb observes that “these days” everyone is walking around wearing t-shirts and clothing advertising one company or another. But the effects of this film cast a far wider net than mere corporate aversion.
Crumb is a complex man from a complex family; his two elder brothers are geniuses in their own right but each is also more mentally disturbed than the next which leads me to wonder, in this case with much greater emphasis than normal, whether it is the the anomalies and deviations from what is considered a “healthy, normal” mind that give rise to great art or whether it is the life of an artist that give rise to mental instability. Of course there is no definitive answer but this film’s utterly deviant subjects underline that the two are hardly mutually exclusive. Required viewing.
In the Realms of the Unreal – The Mystery of Henry Darger – Dir: Jessica Yu
Continuing on this theme of mental instability and visionary creativity, here we have as our subject an ascetic, anti-social man about whom even his lifelong neighbors knew very little.
A janitor and avid church-goer, no one knew, until he was moved to a convalescent home in his final weeks on Earth, that in his single apartment he had written a fifteen-thousand page fantasy novel with profoundly complex and beautiful illustrations wherein all the young girls who were the subjects of his very innocent-spirited magnum opus (and even that is understatement) had penises – more than likely because he didn’t know better. The study of his work is a study of how the mind attempts to heal it wounds – Darger was sent to boarding schools and even a sanitarium in his childhood – all of which he works out in the course of his book.
Rivers and Tides – Dir: Thomas Riedelsheimer
This documentary about nature-artist Andy Goldsworthy will, unequivocally change your life. using only things found in the natural world, he synchronizes himself with the patterns found in the world and ultimately finds a way to render found objects in a manner that pursues and underlines their energy.
Not only is it a fitting introduction to this extraordinary soul, but Fred Frith’s score perfectly punctuates this delicate process throughout.
Highly recommended. Beautiful beyond belief.
Surfwise: The Amazing True Odyssey of the Paskowitz Family – Dir: Doug Pray
Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz is another man who turned his back on the conventions of society and decided to raise his nine children in a dilapidated RV, teaching them what he felt were the true values and virtues of life. An expert surfer, and Stanford-educated physician who was head of the medical association in Hawaii, Paskowitz’ extraordinarily liberal views manifested different results in each of his children. Living on a strict organic food regimen and making do with as little money as possible, this is a study in what it might mean to live virtually off the grid, for better or worse, and whether or not that is any longer possible.
The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill – Dir: Judy Irving
Concerning the life of homeless musician Mark Bittner who befriends a wild flock of stray parrots that live in San Francisco city proper. What begins with a seemingly innocuous birdseed hobby becomes a life unto itself and he transforms into a kind of Francis of Assissi to this displaced, growing flock. He conjectures the flock began as a group of runaway pets that found each other and eventually began breeding in the wild. Mark champions them when public outcries by environmentalists to exterminate them so as to ensure the stability of the local ecosystem take on City Hall. This film teaches a lot more than birdkeeping, however, as it observes what dynamics may unfold when we open our arms and our hearts to realities of the present and the abundance that exists in our ever changing world.
"Keram makes excursions into almost every style of music imaginable here and does it with such flair that these very pleased ears, he could have settled on any of these genres and made just as brilliant a record." - Mark Rheaume, CBC Radio