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Direct and to the Point

“I’ve always had a problem with the whole concept of celebrity – it reduces people to things.”

Celebrity is something that Nathan McNamara is starting to get more and more first-hand experience of now.  He laughs:

“It also annoys me because sometimes I’ll meet someone, and I’ll think ‘I just read an interview with you, so now I feel like I already know everything that’s going on with you’.  I’ve learned not to read interviews, actually, otherwise I find myself creating a lot of awkward silences.”

McNamara’s most recent film Rage Not, his first for a major studio, is a tender romance that is earning praise and accolades at every festival where it has been shown.  It was nominated for the prestigious Palme d’Or at Cannes, the first film by an Irish director to receive such an honour in a decade.  It’s easy to see why.

The film follows Liadan, a Sligo girl who comes to Dublin to study, and falls in love with Will, a trendy but thoughtful Dub.  After a Hollywood-esque “meet-cute”, McNamara deconstructs many of the clichés of the film romance, and does it without detriment to the story-telling.  The characters are easy to like, but have enough foibles to be realistic.  The movie is clearly informed by McNamara’s time at Trinity College Dublin

“Well, Trinity is very important to me, and Rage Not draws a lot from the people I met during my time there; the trouser incident actually happened to a friend of mine!  But more than that, I just thought that it’s such a wonderful place to make a film.  You have these magnificent, grand, buildings from the 18th and 19th century that exude gravitas juxtaposed with the more utilitarian buildings of the last century.  That allowed us to have a sort of continuity of location, but still be able to set the tone of different scenes depending on where they were on campus.”

Indeed, Rage Not makes great use of the different locations around the college – idyllic sequences in a garden near the older parts of the college are suffused with warmth and the scent of summer; starker moments are cast against the clinical backdrop of the genetech laboratory where Liadan spends her time as first an undergruaduate, and then as a post-graduate student, and invite the viewer to share in the loneliness and bewilderment that she’s feeling.  These cinematographic flourishes by McNamara’s long-time collaborator Mark Quinlan builds on work they had done in previous films.

“While I was very proud of the work we did on Careful, Boy, I felt like it could have happened in any house in any town in almost any country.  For Rage Not, we needed the characters to be studying the same subject from completely different sides, but still have the opportunity to interact regularly.  Trinity was the obvious choice – it’s where the pioneering work was done on the Simulacra program, and it’s still quite a small community.  Given how familiar I am with where the action occurs, I couldn’t accept anything less than perfection.  I wanted to be able to watch the film myself and feel like I was in the café with with Will and Liadan.  The only way to achieve that, I felt, was to aim for complete verisimilitude in terms of the cinematography.  Mark was brilliant here – he really captured it.  I could almost taste the awful coffee in the café sequence.  I’m incredibly pleased with how this has turned out for us. ”

Rage Not is also notable for featuring a non-human character.  This is not McNamara’s first work to include Sims in the cast, and his insistence on having Sims feature as more than just extras has led to problems finding funding in the past.  McNamara is unapologetic here, though:

“In this case, it was a little easier to sell to the studio – setting the film in Trinity, with the leads studying in the genetech and cognitive engineering departments meant that it was only natural to have Simulacs around.  And I can argue expositional necessity too – explaining heartache to an artifical consciousness, to a new type of being whose experience differs so much from our own allows you to externalise some of the doubts that the characters feel, some of their internal conflict.  I think the fact that Sino gives Liadan advice and she actually takes it will probably annoy the old-fashioned, ‘down-with-this-sort-of-thing’ crowd, but they wouldn’t have gone to see my film anyway.”

McNamara’s point stands – the conversations between Liadan and Sino, her Simulac Teaching Assistant never feel contrived.  These conversations are a touching in their intimacy, and the innocence and naivete of Sino (protrayed here by Simulac Tan T) push Liadan towards an honesty that could be overlooked with a simple voiceover.  Although Sino’s character servers purpose, I get the feeling that McNamara is more pleased with getting a proper, almost human Simulac character into his film.

“Well, it is what it is,” McNamara says with a twinkle in his eye.  “I think it goes back to what I said earlier about celebrity – treating people as things.  When you have a preconceived notion of what someone can or can’t do, what they can or can’t be, then you turn them into a thing.  Opinions are what shape action, and if people have such limited opinions, then they tolerate a more limited range of actions – that’s why turn celebrity mistakes into scandals.  I think that people should be able to live their life free from perturbation, whether or not they are biological.”

Can McNamara ever see a time when there are Simulac celebrities?

“That is a punishment I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy!” he says with a laugh.  However if he and film makers like him have their way, actors like Rage Not’s Tan T may be among the first generation of Simulac film stars.

Rage Not is in cinemas across Ireland from Jan 15.


This article reproduced from Friday’s Irish Times with permission

I’m Hatin’ It

It’s the first time I’ve ever lost a job.

And it’s all because of them.

It was a Thursday afternoon when they came in, and things started to go down hill. They came up to my till and just stood silently, staring up at the menu, their dumb faces showing blank expressions. I greeted them like I was supposed to, and waited for them to decide what they wanted, but they just stood there. I was the only till open, and a queue was starting to form, so I wanted to get them moving.

“Excuse me”, I said, “would you order, please? Only there are people waiting”.

One of them looked at me.

“Wait” it said. I think. It’s always so hard to understand their accent.

At this stage there were three or four people waiting behind them, and I was really getting annoyed. “If you’re not ready to order, could you let someone else who is. There are people waiting behind you”. I wasn’t trying to be rude, and I’m not racist – I’ve no problem getting into a taxi, even if the driver is a Black or Chinese.

Again, just “Wait, please”.

I lost it. “Look, you won’t even like this – it’s not for your lot. Why don’t you go down the street and get something that you’ll really like, and let the honest to goodness real people behind you order their food!”. I was shouting by the end. It was then that they asked to see the supervisor. Used an entire sentence too.

I pulled down the customer service screen, and tapped the icon for the duty manager for Dublin South. She was ready for my call, and had actually been about to call me. Apparently the “Automated Incident Response System” had noticed my heart rate rise, and alerted her that there might be a problem. Without even waiting to hear my side of the story, she sided with the Lacks, tripping over herself to apologise to them. Then she gave them a €100 voucher. That was when I knew I was for the high-jump.

They accepted their voucher without saying a word and turned to go, but as they did, one of them looked at me; the one who’d spoken all of three words to me up to this point. Just as it turned to go, the light dimmed in one of its eyes for just a second – the fucking thing winked at me! It’d been trying to piss me off and it’d succeeded, made me look stupid with his enhanced artificial fucking intelligence.

After that, they left. I was called to the back, and listened with my face glazed over as the district manager recited the company policy; I’ve had the words burned into my brain since: “It is the policy of McDonalds Incorporated that Humanoid Simulacra (Simulacs) are to be treated the same as any other customer, as provided for by the Artificial Intelligence Equality Act. Failure to uphold McDonalds standards of customer respect with any customer, Simulac or Human, is grounds for dismissal”. That was it for me. I’d be blacklisted across the whole of the fast-food sector in Dublin.

Bollocks to them anyway, fucking Lacks.

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Adam’s Song

This one is in retribution/retaliation/recompense/restitution for The Speech.

 

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The Space Station Blues

I watched a video today that taught me a number of lessons that I didn’t expect to learn when I woke up this morning.

  1. The ISS is huge.  Like bigger than my house.  It takes Mike Fossum, our narrator and camera-man, quite a while to go from one end to the other.  And then there’s up and down.
  2. The ISS is noisy.  In space, there’s no air, and so there’s nothing to carry vibrations to your ear drums.  However in a gigantic space station, there’s a constant whir of fans recirculating air and keeping things cool.  I recall a school trip where I was sitting next to someone who was flying for the first time.  As the engines roared, and we took off, he asked me with a rather strained look on his face if that noise would stop.  I pointed out that the noise was a combination of the air conditioning and the engines, and if either stopped, he’d be a lot more uncomfortable than he was with the noise.  I imagine living on the ISS would be similar, only instead of crashing, you have slow death by CO2 poisoning.
  3. There is something that I am better at than an astronaut.  While Ron Garan may be better at playing-guitar-in-space than I am, I am reasonably certain that I am better at playing-guitar than he is.  All I need to work on is that getting-to-space thing.  No hassle, right?

Here’s the video.  Honestly, the tour of the ISS is more interesting than the guitar playing.  Still, it’s all good fun!

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Orion’s Sword, and other sky-things

I’m giving a public lecture tomorrow – which sounds awfully formal and grown up; rest assured, it won’t be – at the Knowledge Exchange in Temple Bar.  It should be fun, and hopefully it will be a little educational.

I really liked the idea of the Knowledge Exchange, but I thought that some of the topics of the talks in previous series were a little esoteric.  So I decided that the only way to change that was to step up and do a talk of my own.  I originally wanted to talk about Cloud Computing, pitched at the level that my parents could understand, but getting that cleared by work would have taken a lot of time, and would probably also have killed any enthusiasm I had for the project.  So I’m talking about something else.  Space.  Because space is awesome.  How awesome?  Come along tomorrow and find out.

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Palindromic Scrobble Count

 

It took me three attempts to show that image in the post, by the way.  CS degree put to good use there…

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Leap Card: First Impressions

The Leap Card is Transport for Ireland‘s integrated public transport card for Dublin. It allows you to use Dublin Bus, the Luas and the Dart without having to fish in your pocket for change.  It’s Dublin’s answer to the Oyster card.

I love the Oyster card. It’s ones of the things that excites me about visiting London: I get to make use of this fully integrated system that seems to have been designed by someone with actual common sense; it has made the experience of working with London’s bewildering (compared to Dublin) public transport infrastructure a little less confusing. It has eliminated the old “Will I get a daily travel card or not? How much are bus-fares anyway?” question that I had to deal with every time I took public transport in London.  It also means that you never have to fiddle in your pocket to find change when getting on a bus.  You can only imagine my delight when I found out that something similar was coming for Dublin.

Yesterday morning, I had to head in to the city centre to pick up my bike.  I had no change.  I thought to myself “Aha! This is a perfect excuse to pick up a leap card.”.  So I went to the local newsagent and picked one up.  The woman behind the counter asked “do you know how this works?”.  I said “em, no, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out”. I paid, went outside and hopped on the first bus that came by.  I put my card on the ticket machine and announced my destination.  The driver pressed a button, and then looked bemused.  He said “hold on there a minute, I’ve never used one of these things before.”.  I stood aside and let all the other passengers get sorted out, and then the driver asked me to put my card on the machine again, and he poked a few buttons to see what was what.  It turns out there was no credit on the card to start off with.  That’s fair enough.  I’d gotten change from buying the card, so I paid my fare, and away I went.

I got to the office, and I went online to register my card and top it up. Registering your card means that in the event you lose your card, you don’t lose your credit.  It also means that the operator can track you in a rather Orwellian manner, but fuck that, I love me some convenience.  I applied a €20 top up, and clicked a button saying that I would pick it up by swiping at a red-line Luas stop.  At lunch, I trundled up the road to the Luas stop and put my card in the ticket machine.  It told me that my card was inactive and I should call the helpline.  I did so, and spoke to a lovely guy named John.  Unfortunately, John wasn’t able to help me, but he did arrange a call-back.

Later that day, the call-back came.  I have to go back to the newsagent and get my card activated.  I’m going to do that this morning on the way to work.

So all in all, the only problems I’ve had so far with the Leap Card is that no one knows how to use the fecking thing.  I kinda anticipated some teething problems with the system, but I didn’t expect it to take 24 hours and a return to the point of purchase on my part to get it sorted.  I thought the point of a “Smart” card is that it’s centrally managed, and can be controlled from the back-office.  Once I get thing working, I may share more.

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Meet Eddie…

Hi there. This is Eddie, your new laptop computer, and I’m feeling just great, guys, and I know I’m just going to get a bundle of kicks out of any program you care to run through me.

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Looking Up…

I’ve ordered a new laptop. A beast of a machine that will be able to run ProTools *and* Portal 2 at the same time. This fact is of vital importance.

It’s due for delivery within 10 days… ish. I might be rounding up out of excitement.

Who is That Rock-and-Roll-Looking Motherfucker?

There are some pics from our first gig linked above. Taken by Kev, who also takes a lot of photos of Jaded Sun. We look like hot shit.

Last night, we sounded like hot shit. We tore the place up. We brought the roof down. And then we ran away with the show. It was pretty great. Bet you feel like a dickhead for not being there. It’s ok, I forgive you.

I’m a sexy motherfucker. I’m a BEE, motherfucker!