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John Branch
New York, NY, USA
Copy editor & aspiring playwright in NYC, USA.
Interests: theater, film, photography, fiction, science, science fiction, classical music, popular music, bicycling
Recent Activity
Hard to figure what accounts for the apparent low interest in the Oculus Rift. One possibility: until gamers can get a Rift or a Vive in their hands and use it with a game that exploits it well, they aren't going to be very excited. And non-gamers have even less reason to be excited at this point: we can't yet try a VR headset at a store, many of us have computers that can't drive the headset, and if we did there's still not much we could do with it. This situation reminds me of the dilemma around advanced televisions in the 90s: they had few buyers because there was little programming, and the programming wasn't likely to come until there were more HDTV owners. Obviously that didn't last. Wait two and a half to five years and the VR headset situation will pretty certainly look different—it's just hard to tell how.
The Times's move seems precipitous to me too. One thing I wonder is how many of the Times's subscribers are looking for "a unique sense of empathic connection" to people in "dire humanitarian crises." In years past, claims were made that television would advance our understanding of each other; I think something similar was said about telephone service and/or the telegraph. That you might find it easier to empathize with someone if you're talking to them by phone, seeing them on TV, or seeing them in VR doesn't mean you'll choose to pay them any attention at all.
I'd love to see that. I'm a dance fan, and I'm always curious to see how performance works in SL (though I admit I haven't visited in a while). But I'm not going to be home at the right time, and I probably don't have the needed computing resources anyway. I hope the performance will be documented in some way. Real dancers do that!
Sure, we'll all be 3-D printing in our homes in a few years. And then we'll get Star-Trek-style replicators to synthesize our food, and transporters will take us where we want to go. Probably the most overused word in Wired, and among other techno-utopians, is "will." As in "soon we will all be 3-D printing." I respect the magazine for other reasons, but we should remember this, a Yogi-Berra-ism: prediction is tough, especially about the future.
Also: This is verging on the landscape depicted in Ray Bradbury's story "The Veldt," in which a future family has a VR room for the kids.
I'm ready to see and play in a VR room, but not where _I_ live. Goggles are a lot easier to fit into a small New York apartment than an extra room would be. Or maybe I can convert my existing main room?
Your older reviews are just as useful as current ones. I just looked up this one for a reminder of how "Dust" feels, since I saw it back in the 80s at the American Dance Festival. Thanks again!
Toggle Commented May 20, 2012 on More Paul Taylor @ City Center at Oberon's Grove
Are you kidding me about that shoe: Tory Burch? I know I should be eager to see Ms. Part in that role, but I already know I should be eager to see her do just about anything, whereas Tory Burch's hidden steampunk bad girl is news. Anyway, thanks for the post. (Was directed here by James Wolcott, FYI.)
I can see that some commenters here are eager to have a giant avie, but I'm not. Abandoning the human scale would seem like a loss to me.
I notice no one has yet mentioned Snow Crash. Neal Stephenson cleverly sidestepped, for the most part, the question of how the interface for his Metaverse worked (unless I've forgotten). I always figured it would've required something like what the Kinect has turned out to offer.
I hate to be a grouse about something done with so much care, but the picture just seems problematic to me. My first question (and the only one I'll bother with): Why would a man in a light rain stop in the middle of a puddle and stand there?
It's almost funny that despite Hamlet's declarations such as "I know all the technical reasons why Second Life takes so long to fully display" and others, many of the responses take him to task as if he had said no such thing. I haven't even been in SL lately, but I still like it, and I still have hopes for its future. Surely that future does depend to some degree on what Pathfinder said: "People forget details and explanations. But they never forget how an experience makes them *feel*. "Especially a *first impression* experience." So I applaud this post. On the other hand, I'm glad for some of the technical discussion in the comments. I'm about to venture back into SL to look around a bit, see how the current viewer looks and works, etc., and the reference to the bandwidth setting, at the very least, should be helpful. I'm also glad for the mention from Pussycat Catnap of how to locate an alternate avatar. I've never been that pleased with mine and used to daydream about commissioning one from one of the notable early builders.
The Azul promo is very good looking all right. But it's also so slow to develop, if it does develop, that halfway in I didn't care whether I saw more and paused it. Still, a good testament to what can be done in SL machinima. Some of the camera moves surprised me; one would be easy enough to do with a crane and a dolly in RL, but in SL there aren't any (are there?).
Though I haven't listened to the video excerpt yet, I can suggest an analogy that implies a different future from Hamlet's prediction based on present-day usage. Back in the early 80s, I built an 8-bit microcomputer; my father was amused, since he'd been involved with electronics himself for some time, but didn't see why anyone would ever want one or what they'd use it for (this despite the fact that the startup weekly newspaper I was working for already did its accounting on one). The obvious lesson: a lot of people eventually found uses for computers; it just wasn't clear in the early days how or whether that would happen. Something similar happened with the Internet. To put that part of the story in personal terms too (and to brag, I admit): I mentioned ARPAnet in print back in 1984, routinely visited CBBSs (computerized bulletin board systems) for some years after that, and was using the Internet in the early 90s for work purposes. Again, in the early years it wasn't clear what this set of technologies would lead to. One thing that IS pretty clear is that the later, widespread adoption of computers and of the Internet wasn't predicted by early usage patterns. The same might well prove true for virtual worlds. Let's check again in 15 years.
I had often thought that it may be a bit indulgent for a writer to want to go away somewhere to write--if you can't do it at home, you're going to have trouble, I figured. And I still sort of think that way, but now I can see a very good reason for wanting to go to a place that can stimulate the imagination, particularly one that pertains to one's subject. And I can only say "Yes!" to the line "The chamber that most wants to be haunted ... is the writer’s imagination."
Toggle Commented Mar 18, 2011 on #NewPlay Writing and Haunted Houses at New Play Blog
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Ah, very nice. What a wonderful series of concerts. I feel privileged in having gotten to attend one of them (thanks again for that). May have been the best night, though judging from your descriptions of the other performances it'd be hard to judge.
Toggle Commented Mar 9, 2011 on Big space, big ideas at Monotonous Forest
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How about that Friday-night Tune-In Festival performance at the Armory? Have you found a way to describe it yet?
Toggle Commented Mar 9, 2011 on The intrepid sextet at Monotonous Forest
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Amy Freed has the literacy of an English major and the cultural and historical sensitivity of an American Studies major, but she's also thoroughly grounded in the theater (not surprising considering her own training and her family background--her mother taught voice in the SMU theater program I attended). My somewhat limited experience may have left me ignorant of someone else, but in my view Freed's combination of qualities makes her virtually unique among contemporary American playwrights. I'm very glad to hear she's workshopping a new play, and I can only say I hope I get to see it someday. Incidentally, the Metropolitan Opera is currently performing Nixon in China, with music by John Adams to a libretto by Alice Goodman, that has some similarities to the kind of thing Freed is able to accomplish in the theater: it takes a multifaceted approach--public, personal, even internal--to an important historical event, Nixon's 1972 visit to China. Probably she'll have no time to see it, but I hope she realizes she's not alone in trying to dramatize for a live audience events and characters of cultural significance. I look forward to learning more about Right to the Top via this blog. Thanks for this account and the later one.
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Regarding Andi, I wondered how she had managed to be at home just about every time Will or anyone else went to her apartment (was there an exception? I don't recall), yet when Katharine went to the safe address on Mott Street to which her husband sent her via his DVD message, Andi managed to be there. This questions something the episode simply expects us to accept, but I couldn't help thinking it curious. Glad to see the gunshot mentioned in the original post just got corrected. I was afraid the occasional sound dropouts of my cable service had cost me something important. The man who bumped Katharine was shown, very quickly, dumping a syringe into a trash can a few steps away from her, so yes it must've been one of those fast-acting lethal drugs you surmised. I find much to anticipate in a future season, so I certainly hope there is one.
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There are also those eternal options available at home: a well-made drink, a DVD, then time with a book. Which is probably what I'll do, after a play reading this afternoon and an early-evening cocktail for three July birthdays including myself. (Yes, still celebrating my birthday!)
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Now that Hamlet mentions it, drawing from Mitch Wagner, I can see one or two points of comparison. The scene in which Cobb meets Ariadne in a dream--which she doesn't realize is a dream until he tells her--depicts first him, then her (if I recall right), altering the originally real-looking streets of Paris in fantastic ways. The results resemble some things I've heard about people building in SL. (I don't think I'm giving away anything with that description; parts of the scene have been shown in ads.) There's another moment, involving a walk on an Escher-like staircase, that reminds me of something Escher-like in SL (Relativity House, which I think Hamlet blogged about). That's the most obvious resemblance for me. But this didn't occur to me while watching the film. Unlike Mitch Wagner, I see nothing very dreamlike about the movie, with the possible exception of the train barging through city traffic (which has also been shown in ads). Sooner or later, dreams usually involve something surreal, oddly out of place; I just awoke from a nap in which I dreamed something peculiar. As the _New Yorker_ magazine review observed, Luis Buñual employed dreams to fantastic effect in some of his films, but Christopher Nolan seems a literalist, despite his fondness for grand or momentarily mind-bending vistas. His script bends over backwards to ground everything that happens in some kind of explanation; even when it looks dreamlike (the suspended-gravity sequence) it's never surreal but instead rational. By the way, apart from that suspended sequence, I don't recall anything to justify Mitch Wagner's statement that people can fly in _Inception_, and in that scene no one really had the power to fly--it was explained rationally. Nonetheless, I think _Inception_ must be seen, because otherwise you won't know what other people are talking about. No doubt takeoffs and parodies are even now in the works, if not already out there on YouTube or in a TV skit. Nolan's reference to _The Thirteenth Floor_ touches on the movie that I think best compares to _Inception_, in at least one sense: multiple levels of reality.
Thursday night? As in Thursday, June 10? Guess I missed it. Would love to have heard the eight pitched car horns, the overture for doorbells, and everything else. Was out of town when it was performed, else I'm pretty sure I would've been there.
Toggle Commented Jun 17, 2010 on "Macabre" redux at Monotonous Forest
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Stimulating as usual. Thanks to Mr. Berlin. I still haven't read the Booth School of Business study that David Brooks cited, and I may be misunderstanding even the summary that Brooks and Berlin have provided. That said, it still seems possible to me that the Internet is, on the whole, relatively neutral, i.e., that it neither encourages nor discourages the echo chamber, just as, on the whole, bookstores are neutral, and books and magazines themselves are neutral, and TV is neutral, and a world wired with telephones is neutral. I seem to recall predictions that TV would make it possible for diverse peoples to understand one another better; I believe the same prediction was made (unlikely as it sounds now) for telephones. Cass Sunstein's inversion of that prediction for the Internet, as well as the Internet-optimist predictions by SBJ and others, may all be canards. But I can see that this isn't SBJ's main point.
John Branch is now following stevenberlinjohnson
Apr 23, 2010