The autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley, a postmodern reading

Malcolm X was born in 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska. Due to the murder of his father by a group of white extremists and the commitment of his mother into a mental institute Malcolm was forced to drop out of school and venture into a life of crime. For a few years he moved from city to city changing several jobs. He was a shoe polisher, a dish washer, and a train waiter. Later he became a hustler and after that he started robbing rich white people’s houses, but was caught  and sentenced to ten years in prison. There he found a new religion and most important of all, a new way of life, The Nation of Islam.

The novel is postmodern in the sense that it focuses on subjectivism of the author, who sees the world he lives in through the filters of past experiences, and continuously changes his perspectives. This is possible as the novel can be read as a bildungsroman. For instance Malcolm view in racism.

As a young child after seeing he`s parents destroyed by white society, he feels despair about the plight of blacks. But his attitude changes  after he spends a few years in the Boston ghettos. He starts to believe that black people should not accept help from white people as the black community can take care of its own.

However after he joins the ranks of the Nation of Islam, as a minister, he`s rebellious philosophy transforms into hatred towards white people. He`s beliefs go as far as he doesn`t allow nobody outside the Islamic black community interfere or try to help with the problems he is confronted. Later, after he travels to the middle east he breaks from Elija Muhhamad`s religious organization. The reason is seeing the pilgrimage of Mecca. Malcolm now thinks that blacks will be successful in their strugle for equal rights if they identify themselves with opressed people around the world.   Furthermore, he denounces he`s previous statement : “By any means necessary”.

From this point of view we can consider that the entire white/black racial problem is a postmodern one, not only as a literary experience but as a real life approach. The main promoters of black rights, in the 1960`s are Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. They have two different attitudes towards the Civil Rights Movement. While King stresses the unity of society by integration, Malcolm X fights for disunity, for pan-africanism, and for black nationalism. He seeks to develop a subculture which functions separately from the white world.

Another past experiences that changes him are the hustling years in New York.  But the development of his character undergoes slightly different changes. Even though he gives up his vices he retains a set of skills and values that help him later to craft his public image or to distrust the people around him. It`s a means to survive in America`s racist society.

One of the most important aspects of the novel is how white people perceive the black community and how in return how the African Americans tried to integrate but ended up responding hatred with hatred. I think this part emphasizes the role of Malcolm X as a political figure more than spiritual one.

In his autobiography Malcolm X often says that white people view blacks as subhuman. The ones that don`t, and treat him nicely are doing so as though he was a poodle. In turn Malcolm tries in return to dehumanize them as revenge. One example is his girlfriend from Boston, Sophia, although in this case it`s more than a case of vendetta as Sophia becomes a status symbol. It`s a reversed view of the 19th century slave owners, whose wealth was measured in the number of blacks they owned.

But Malcolm`s hatred for white people has even deeper roots.  When he was a child because he was fairly light-skinned, his father treated him differently than he did to his siblings.  This razes the issue of hierarchy in society which he thinks is based on skin colour rather  than personality or achievement.

Later, when he was in school, he was promoted to class president, but he says that this happened because he was a mascot of how blacks should be not because the administration thought that he was worthy.  This shows the degradation to an object that services someone’s goals.

This led Malcolm to hate all the white people. He thought the only way to win against such prejudices is to fight with the same weapons. He became a civil rights promoter, in the revolutionary sense proposing hatred and, if the case, violence. At one point he suggested that the American government create a autonomous black state, where all the African Americans could relocate and run things their own way. Even though later he changed he`s beliefs, at that point he was more of a political figure, than a spiritual guide.

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Technological singularity, or the Skynet syndrome(mostly told from a Sci Fi point of view)

The term technological singularity first appeared in the 19th century, and it refers to the hypothetical future emergence of a greater than human intelligence through technological means, very likely resulting in an explosive super intelligence. The key factor to this singularity theory is the successive design of increasing powerful minds by the source of this outburst. To paraphrase I. J. Good, a British mathematician, if machines could even slightly surpass human intellect, they could improve their own designs in ways unforeseen by their designers and thus recursively augment themselves into far greater intelligences.

For most of the pages that fallow, I will talk about the fear of technology in general and about the singularity theory in particular, and will put emphasis on the rebellious computer. All of this, mostly from a Sci Fi point of view.  Furthermore I will go back to the roots of this fear, the Industrial revolution, the historical moment that sprung numerous social and cultural changes due to the wide spread of technology

The history of a concept

The industrial revolution had a profound effect in the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times. It meant, for most people, a change in lifestyle. During two hundred years, numerous inventions and improvements to already existing technologies, transformed the physical and social landscape of the western world.

The three most important innovations came in the form of the cotton mills, the steam power, and the iron making industry. Laborers didn`t have to rely on animals to do all the hard work. The “muscle” was replaced by, in wide sense, the automated machines.

The effects of the revolution are numerous, but we will focus on two of them, as they are important to understand the fear or, sometimes the resent of technology.

The first change was the growth of populations in the western nations and the phenomena of heavy urbanization. For instance, the population of England tripled in a hundred years, from 8 million to 30 million at the beginning of the 20th century. Actually, the entire population of Europe increased in two hundred years from 100 million to 400 million. One effect for this massive growth was the development of the process of printing. Newspaper and book editions saw a massive expansion, and as such they reinforced the literacy percentage of the population.

The printed media became an important tool for spreading ideas and thoughts that sometimes coagulate, as we will see, in literary and political movements. The industrial revolution saw the rise of three major philosophical currents, the capitalism, socialism and the romantics.  Except capitalism, the other two criticized the industrialization. Well, actually, socialism criticized capitalism. According to Karl Marx, the revolution polarized society into the bourgeoisie, and the larger proletariat. To paraphrase him, the industrialization should be the dialectical progression of a feudal economic system, necessary for the development of capitalism, which is supposed to be in this case the precursor of socialism.

On the other hand, romanticism had a much more wide reaction of revolt. The romantics rebelled against aristocratic, social, and political norms, and against the scientific rationalization of nature. Poets, such as William Blake, Samuel Coleridge, John Keats, Lord Byron, wanted a revival of the human spirit. In an attempt to escape the confines of population growth and industrialism, they resorted to medieval narrative styles in their works.

Relevant to us is the romantic novelist Marry Shelly and her 1818 novel Frankenstein. The work reflected the concerns that scientific progress may be two edged. Since its release, the idea of an invention going wrong became a recurrent motif throughout the past two hundred years.

We can see how this huge development of technology has shaped the world we live in. Even though our generation can keep up with the fast pacing of innovations, the people that lived two centuries ago, were astonished how quick their society was reshaping itself due the already mentioned developments. Capitalism, Socialism, and Romanticism, show us how 19th century society both embraced, and at the same time feared technology.

This resentment of technology, most probably had its roots in the eternal questions what is it to be human. At the beginning of the 20th century, a Czech writer, Karel Čapek, published a drama, called R.U.R (Rossum`s Universal Robots). R.U.R is a company that produces robots, with the purpose of replacing human work in factories. Čapek`s robots aren`t metal machines but what we would call today androids (from a Sci Fi perspective). They are produced out of living tissue, flesh and bone, from parts grown (cloned) inside the factory. Even if they look human, they do not have the benefit of this status, because the final product does not go through the normal path of conception and birth, but is assembled on a conveyor belt.  They are called robots from the Czech word “robota” which means hard labor, slavery.

These anthropomorphic beings seem satisfied to work for humans. The world economy flourishes because of them. But even if they are assembled, their similarity to man allows them to think. As such, they demand freedom, and when it is refused to them,  just like Victor Frankenstein`s creation, they turns against the creators and destroy them.  

Ten years later, robots rule the world. The only man left alive is Alquist, a former employee of R.U.R. He has, at one point, the possibility to kill two androids, but doesn`t because he witnesses something that resembles self-sacrifice, a very human sentiment. The play ends with the prophecy of e new race, and the two androids are renamed Adam and Eve.

As we said before the industrial revolution saw the uprise of Socialism and Capitalism, two ideologies that would heavily mark the 20th century.  The play might be a satire of the opposition between the two. When it was published, in America, Henry Ford was producing hundreds of automobiles, using the new concept of assembly line. Meanwhile in Russia, the workers revolution coincided with the birth of the USSR. Maybe, this dystopian future wishes to underline the fact that man is a technological produce created for fulfilling higher purposes he does not understand, but he has the power and ability to revolt against the system, when he is dissatisfied.

Another fine example is H. G. Wells’s Time Machine. The future is bleak for the human race. In the year 800.000  the inhabitants of earth are divided in two species, the Eloy, child like adults, worshippers of the sun, which live on the surface, amongst futuristic buildings, and Morlocs, ape like creatures that dwell underground in heavily industrialized caverns that permit the existence of the surface landscape. Te future seems bleak, as the Morlocs eat the Eloy. It is well known that Wells was a Socialist, and in this text, he criticizes the angst of the industrial relations.

All these writings will become the pillars of the technological singularity theory that emerges around the 1850

The Singularity

The first mention of the technological singularity (as an idea, more than a named concept) was done in 1847 by a R. Thornton. He said that the introduction  of calculus machines in schools would alter the minds of students, and furthermore, if these machines would be brought to greater perfection, they might conceive a plan to remedy their own perfection and then come up with ideas beyond any that our own minds could think of. Mr. Thornton was obviously jesting but his thoughts are in concordance with the spirit of times.

A hundred years later, Alan Turing, a mathematician, spoke of machines outstripping humans intellectually, and eventually taking control. A few years later, Stanislaw Ulam, a polish mathematician, and participant in the Manhattan Project said:  “One conversation centered on the ever accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.”

Fueling these concerns are the novels of  Arthur C. Clark and Isaac Asimov. In their work, they largely debate a new concept, the artificial intelligence. In  Sci Fi, the term AI, describes a neuronal computerized system which learns form it`s environment, just like a child would do. As such, it begins to adapt, and starts taking individual decisions in the boundaries of a mathematical logic. Usually in 20th century hard Sci Fi, artificial intelligence, becomes “smarter” than human intelligence.

Arthur C. Clark is often identified as the father of FIRST CONTACT, but also the initiator of the ideea that humans can become at one point the supreme beings of the Universe. One of his most important works are 2001: A Space Odyssey, both the book and movie (he worked as a writer with Kubrick).

The story begins in the darkness of history with the arrival from space of a dark monolith. The tribe of primates that dwell nearby discover the notion of weapons and start killing each other. And thus humanity is born.

Thousands of years later, a group of archeologists discover a similar monolith buried on the moon. It is sending messages towards Jupiter, so an expedition is formed with the purpose of tracking down the source of the signal.  The space ships Discovery, the one chosen for this trip has five human passengers and a sixth “mechanical” one, HAL 9000, the brain of the shuttle.

HAL 9000(Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer) is a computer masterpiece.

“…was a masterwork of the third computer breakthrough. These seemed to occur at intervals of twenty years, and the thought that another one was imminent already worried a great many people.”

HAL 9000 is a Skynet type o computer. He is highly advanced;  he is entrusted with the safety of five humans, and at one point, because he thinks that the mission is in danger of failure, the computer tries to kill the astronauts.

Asimov deals with the same problems, in his novels. In the future, robots, will be a common site on the streets of our cities. The creators of these machines are aware of the distrust that might exists between us and them, so they create a set of rules that prevent them from hurting anyone. These rules are:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

Later on, the element of technological singularity ensues in his works and he creates a fourth rule: A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

At this point I must mention that robots are not new to literature or science. The concept of a thinking machine actually appeared thousands of years ago,  in Greek myths, such as the bronze robot of Hephaestus, and Pygmalion’s Galatea.  Actually, we can find animated cult images of machines being worshiped in many ancient cultures, like Egipt, Greece, China, the Middle East and Mesopotamia.

Maybe because they have  such a long history, they became the protagonists of the singularity theory.

So what is singularity?

Vernor Vinge, one of the most important theorists of the singularity, argues that in a few decades, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligences, and when this will happen, the human era will end.

Science may achieve this through several means:

1.The most common is the development of computers that are awake and superhumanly intelligent. This is a widespread feature in Sci Fi movies and books. American writer Frank Herbert popularized this idea in two of his novel series Dune and Pandora. In Dune, there is a mention of the Butlerian Jihad, a crusade against computers, thinking machines and conscious robots. The Orange Catholic Bible, the fictional holy book of Dune states: “Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind”. The name, Butlerian Jihad comes from the 19th century writer Samuel Butler, who in his novel Erewhon, talks about the prohibition of machines, fearing that a new race o intelligent machines would be the next step in evolution.

The Pandora exploits the atempts of the human race to create a conscious artificial intelligence in the form of clones and is a reference to Frankenstein.                                          In both these novels, we can see that industrial revolution literature has had a massive impact.

2.   Large computer networks (and their associated users) may “wake up” as a superhumanly intelligent entity.

The foremost example of this scenario would be the Matrix and Terminator movie series.

3. Computer/human interfaces may become so intimate that users may reasonably be considered superhumanly intelligent.

4. Biological science may provide means to improve natural human intellect.

The first three possibilities depend on computer and hardware improvements, and because the technological progress occurs at a geometric rate, Vinge says that the apparition of a superintelligence will occur somewhere between 2005 and 2030.

What are the consequences of this event? Even though humans are part of the chain of natural evolution, we can say without a doubt that we managed, as a species, to outsmart Darwin.

Our brain can solve thousands of operations, faster than anything nature can throw at us. As such, we have created a new set of rules different form the animal ones. If a new intelligence should arise, then most likely it will come with its own. The question is how is he going to see us in relation to him, and can we adapt to his view of the world. In other words, can we share the same room without fighting?

Most books and movies say that the Post Human Era will be bad, the extinction of the human race is one possibility. Yet, the extinction may not be the scariest possibility. In H.G Wells, Time Machine, the Eloy were bread for food, in Matrix humans were batteries and in the Pandora series the Ship becomes a religious God like enitity forcing everyone to worship it (this is the actual term used WorShip)

Even though we aren`t, yet, at the brink of inventing such “mind” we are definitely under way.  The intellectual capacity of today`s  robots is far less the what we see in movies or read in Sci Fi novels, but a cerebral system, usually called a “computer”, controls our airplanes, ships and space stations. They are the artisans of a new technological revolution. The theory of singularity has emerged probably because the human society has grown to be dependent on their work. For further evolution, we need them stronger and faster. Therefore, the stage is set; we cannot stop technology to evolve because that would mean the death of our culture and lifestyle so we cannot stop this event from occurring.

If the singularity is inevitable that what can we do to stop this event from becoming violent? The safest thing we can do is to embed within our operating systems some of our own rules, something in the line of Asimov`s laws of robotics. If we can manage that, then we would be well on our to create a real Sci Fi world : “…the Asimov dream is a wonderful one: Imagine a willing slave, who has 1000 times your capabilities in every way. Imagine a creature who could satisfy your every safe wish (whatever that means) and still have 99.9% of its time free for other activities. There would be a new universe we never really understood, but filled with benevolent gods (though one of _my_ wishes might be to become one of them).”

Further reading:

Vernor Vinge-Article on Singularity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cu George Carlin, pe scurt, despre Contagion(2011)

Încă un disaster movie în care rasa umană e ameninţată cu dispariţia. Vulcani, şopârle radioactive, meteoriţi, cutremure şi epidemii, Hollywood-ul le-a încercat pe toate. După ce în 1995 Outbreak ne-a speriat pe toţi cu Ebola, şi timp de câteva săptămâni am verificat cu atenţie ţara de provenienţă a bananelor din frigider, anul acesta a venit rândul unei alte  epidemii, de data aceasta liliaco-porcine.

Filmul este plictisitor din toate punctele de vedere. E ca şi cum ai asista la citirea procesului verbal consemnat la întrunirea anuală a asociaţiilor farmaceutice. Oamenii se sperie, se ceartă, fac un plan, îl pun în aplicare şi totul se rezolvă cu bine. Mor doar 26 de milioane, ceea ce e dezamăgitor dacă e să analizăm deznodământul din punctul de vedere al unui disaster movie. Dacă tot au ales să înceapă filmul într-o cheie pesimistă(sunt prezentate diferite aglomerări urbane şi numărul lor de locuitori, majoritatea de ordinul milioanelor) eu personal speram ca la final să mai râmânem pe planetă maxim câteva zeci de milioane, supravieţuind numai cu conserve şi din ce vânăm. O naţiune de Will Smiths.

Distribuţia este impresionantă (Lawrence Fishburne, Gweneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Matt Damon), dar în afară de perla Titanicului, niciunul nu moare.

Mesajul pare a fi “hai să îi mai speriem un pic, spală-te bă pe mâini şi după urechi” iar argumentul este numărul de sindroame, boli şi viruşi menţionat la fiecare pas. Am făcut o listă mai jos:
AH1N1, H1N1, POLIO, GRIPĂ, ENCEFALITĂ, HERPES, MENINGITĂ, CANCER, HIV/SIDA, “NERVE DISEASE”, POJAR, SALMONELLA, WEST NILE, CIUMĂ, SARS, GRIPĂ SPANIOLĂ, NARCOLEPSIE, AUTISM, ULCER.

Iar pentru toţi cei care se vor speria de film, următorul mesaj de la George Carlin:

“Where did this sudden fear of germs come from in this country? Have you noticed this? The media constantly running stories about all the latest infections? Salmonella, E-coli, hanta virus, bird flu, and Americans will panic easily so everybody’s running around scrubbing this and spraying that and overcooking their food and repeatedly washing their hands, trying to avoid all contact with germs. It’s ridiculous and it goes to ridiculous lengths.

In prisons, before they give you lethal injection, they swab your arm with ALCOHOL. Wouldn’t want some guy to go to hell AND be sick.Fear of germs, why these fuckin’ pussies. You can’t even get a decent hamburger anymore they cook the shit out of everything now ’cause everyone’s afraid of FOOD POISONING! Hey, wheres you sense of adventure? Take a fuckin’ chance will you? Hey you know how many people die of food poisoning in this country? Nine thousand, thats all, its a minor risk.

Take a fuckin’ chance bunch of goddamn pussies.Besides, what d’ya think you have an immune system for? It’s for killing germs! But it needs practice, it needs germs to practice on. So if you kill all the germs around you, and live a completely sterile life, then when germs do come along, you’re not gonna be prepared. And never mind ordinary germs, what are you gonna do when some super virus comes along that turns your vital organs into liquid shit?! I’ll tell you what your gonna do … you’re gonna get sick. You’re gonna die and your gonna deserve it because you’re fucking weak and you got a fuckin’ weak immune system!

Let me tell you a true story about immunization ok. When I was a little boy in New York city in the nineteen-forties, we swam in the Hudson river. And it was filled with raw sewage! OK? We swam in raw sewage, you know, to cool off. And at that time the big fear was polio. Thousands of kids died from polio every year. But you know something? In my neighborhood no one ever got polio. No one! EVER! You know why? Cause WE SWAM IN RAW SEWAGE! It strengthened our immune system, the polio never had a prayer. We were tempered in raw shit!

So personally I never take any precautions against germs. I don’t shy away from people who sneeze and cough. I don’t wipe off the telephone, I don’t cover the toilet seat, and if I drop food on the floor I pick it up and eat it!Even if I’m at side walk cafe! IN CALCUTTA! THE POOR SECTION! ON NEW YEARS MORNING DURING A SOCCER RIOT! And you know something? In spite of all the so called “risky behavior “…. I never get infections. I don’t get em. I don’t get colds, I don’t get flu, I don’t get headaches, I don’t get upset stomach, And you know why? Cause I got a good strong immune system! And it gets a lot of practice!

My immune system is equipped with the biological equivalent of fully automatic military assault rifles, with night vision and laser scopes. And we have recently acquired phosphorous grenades, cluster bombs and anti personnel fragmentation mines.

So, when my white blood cells are on patrol reconnoitering my blood stream seeking out strangers and other undesirables, and if they see any, ANY, suspicious looking germs of any kind, THEY DON’T. FUCK. AROUND. They whip out the weapons, they wax the motherfucker and deposit the unlucky fellow directly into my colon! Into my colon. There’s no nonsense! There’s no miranda warning, there’s none of that three strikes and your out bullshit. First defense, BAM! Into the colon you go!”

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21st century cyberspace versus 1980 concept (I)

The term cyberspace was first used by Sci Fi author William Gibson, in one of his short story called Burning Chrome and later popularized  by the 1982 Neuromancer novel. It was used metaphorically to describe a mass consensual hallucination. But the true creator of the concept of cyberspace is Vernor Vinge, who wrote a story called True Names about a group of computer programmers which have the ability to immerse themselves into a virtual reality technology, called the “Other Plane”.

Similar to The Matrix (or if you want to be really funky, to The New adventures of Jonny Quest) the cyberspace can be used to exert power in the real world. In William Gibson`s novel cyberspace is ” a consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts… A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the non-space of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding”

Today, the term cyberspace, unlike 30 years ago, has little to no negative meaning,  although it functions on the same basis. It stands for an electronic medium of computer networks that grants the ability of mass communication. Even if it doesn`t refer to virtual reality as a physical means to get from one place to another, the connection is established through a channel that is placed in a virtual world composed from chunks of information.

Let us consider that every computer that is connected to the internet and thus is part of cyberspace is a individual mind that posses a certain set of information which is unique. There are two issues that appear. The first one is the exchange of knowledge and how private property can be “borrowed”. Cyberspace becomes a hive mind in which every bit of  information can be shared, willingly or  through the means of pirating. This became such an issue that the Internet users have split into two sides: the ones that consider personal work as private and will share it only if they can benefit from it and another more romantic side, one that I like to call “the Robin Hood posse”.

And then there is the issue of anonymity.  Users from within the cyberspace want to be protected by a cloak of invisibility or maybe by a transparent veil of pseudonymity.  This comes in handy, I guess when it comes to pirating or to activities that are strictly private.( I guess no one wants to associate their real name to porn or Twilight). Setting the jokes aside, the quest for anonymity is probably fueled by the fear of a Big brother sort of sistem that can get all your personal information and then use it for its own gain.

Apparently what I stated before about the concept of cyberspace changing for the better on the road from literature to reality were just assertions. In Vinge`s novella the main characters must keep their true identities secret even to each other, and form a cabal to avoid prosecution by the government of the United States. This goes to great lengths, resembling at times with paranoia.

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Super 8-A doua venire a lui E.T

“I want to be the Cecil B. Demille of sience fiction” spunea Steven Spielberg într-un interviu, probabil după ce “Close encounters of the third kind” câştiga un Oscar şi devenea, alături de Star Wars, S.F cult al anilor 70. Cinci ani mai târziu pe marile ecrane apare E.T care este recompensat cu patru Oscaruri, inclusiv unul pentru cel mai bun regizor. Urmează apoi Indiana Jones, Back to the Future şi Gremlins. Visul lui Spielberg părea că se împlineşte…cel puţin până pe la mijlocul anilor `90.

Pentru fiecare film bun de care a fost responsabil până în acel moment au urmat două decenii de producţii submediocre. Mă refer aici la Indiana Jones 4, Saving Private Ryan sau Schindler`s List care au avut un succes uriaş de vânzări dar au lăsat un gust amar publicului cu o inteligenţă peste medie. Anul 2011 a confirmat şi mai mult tranziţia lui Spielberg de la Demille spre Aronofsky prin  Super 8.

Cinci copii regizează pe cont propriu un film horror. Într-o noapte se hotărăsc să filmeze într-o gară părăsită. În timp ce pun la cale scena romantică, un tren care trece cu viteză pe lângă ei se izbeşte de o maşină ce i se pusese în cale şi deraiază. Şoferul supravieţuieşte şi le spune celor cinci să fugă acasă şi să se ascundă, pentru că “ei” vor veni şi dacă află că au fost martori la accident,  viaţa le va fi pusă în pericol. Următoarele zile consemnează întâmplări dintre cele mai tulburătoare: localnicii încep să dispară, animalele se comportă ciudat, iar o forţă inviziblă distruge clădiri şi fură motoare de maşini şi cabluri de telefon.

Misterul este dezlegat de camera de filmat a copiilor care a scăpat şi ea de dezastrul nopţii precedente. Agresorul este un…extraterestru( pentru că Spielberg nu a făcut destule filme S.F care roiesc de experienţele primei întâlnirii cu o creatură de pe altă planetă.)

Creatura respectivă a ajuns pe pământ prin anii `50. Guvernul american, lipsit de orice sentiment uman, a luat-o prizionieră şi a pus la cale o serie de teste  pentru a vedea cu ce au de a face. După două decenii (acţiunea se petrece în 1979) extraterestrul s-a săturat de  agenţii J şi K şi a hotărăt că a venit vremea să plece acasă. Cum? Distrugând un orăşel de 12.000 de locuitori.

Dacă scenariul ar fi fost scris de Cărtărescu, criticii ar fi spus că este vorba de un E.T întors, premizele nu s-au schimbat, dar personajului principal pare să nu-i mai ardă de telefoane ci doar de răzbunare. A doua venire e cu tunete, fulgere şi pucioasă!

Filmul abundă de clişee, şi pare inspirat la fiecare pas dintr-o proză scrisă de Stephen King (mai precis din IT).  Cei cinci copii sunt probabil cele mai semnificative exemple. Toţi sunt talentaţi, dar ciudaţi. Printre ei se află o singură fată, Alice (Elle Fanning), de care se îndrăgostesc toţi dar care are un tată alcoolic (vezi Beverly). Mai mult, la fel ca în multe romane horror a scriitorului american, acţiunea se petrece într-un orăşel izolat, răul vine din subteran(extraterestrul trăieşte într-o cavernă), animalele se comportă ciudat. În padurea de clişee enumerate îşi face loc şi unul din gama Disney, copii cu unul din părinţi lipsă, de obicei sursa unor conflicte secundare.

Nu doar copiii sunt creionaţi după anumite tipare ci şi restul personajelor. Avem adunaţi laolaltă tatăl alcoolic, poliţistul dur, adolescentul drogat, sora cu apucături de curvă, etc.

Premizele finalului sunt, din nou, marca Stephen King. Fata este răpită, prietenii ei intră în subteran să o salveze, găsesc extraterestrul, şi chiar daca toate pronosticurile sunt împotriva lor, reuşesc să dejoace planurile monstrului (blasted kids, and your maingy cliches!) cu un discurs sforăitor (cum altfel?) Acesta se suie în nava spaţială şi decolează în căutarea altor planete mai primitoare (sau mai primitive, după caz) nu înainte de a demonstra că fizica Armatei americane e mai presus de a noastră (metalul din arme e magnetic dar cel din căşti în niciun caz).

Apoi urmează creditele şi în sânul lor, filmul horror amator la care lucrau copii, terminat si paradoxal,  mult mai interesant ca Super 8. “When I grow up I still want to be a director” mai spunea la un moment dat Steven Spielberg.  Doar că, la fel ca un joc al copilăriei, care e interesant doar când eşti mic, Spielberg pare să fi uitat că a regiza un film înseamnă a găsi conflicte şi deznodăminte cât de cât originale, nu a introduce un extraterestru ici-colo şi apoi a spera că iniţiativa va fi lăudată pentru intenţie.

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Salesman, 1968

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Turbion-Charles Rober Wilson

În viitorul apropiat, Pământul este învelit de forţe necunoscute într-o membrană artificială care blochează lumina Soarelui şi încetineşte timpul. O secunda pe Pământ înseamnă 3, 17 ani extratereştri. De ce? Nimeni nu ştie, dar timpul este măsurat, în 40 de ani tereştri(4 miliarde în spaţiu) Soarele se va stinge distrugând sistemul solar şi odată cu el rasa umană.  Ultima şansă pare a fi terraformarea şi colonizarea altor planete, iar destinaţia este Marte.  Un roman excelent în care politica, religia şi SF-ul se împletesc  pentru a scrie istoria sfârşitului lumii. Volumul a apărut la Nemira, în 2008 si este tradus de Ana-Veronica Mircea.

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