Saturday, August 22, 2009

It Would Appar That Aliens Are Cool Again

Aliens... yawn... Aliens make time travel look like like an exciting science fiction trope. There was, of course, a time when extraterrestrial life was cutting edge. Back in the days of Giordano Bruno and the fledgling heliocentrism movement. By the late 19th / early 20th century, they were the shit. „A Trip to the Moon“, the first sci-fi film ever made, had aliens in it. Good times those, people actually believed there might be alien life in this solar system. Maybe Jupiter, maybe Mars? From there on – via Foo Fighters and Nazi flying saucers, Lovecraft’s cosmic horror – aliens had their heyday. Come the sixties, and that heyday is over. What remains is a mined out, camped up cultural milestone; by the time the so-called annals of pop culture get there, the party is long over.

Sure, aliens still get a reboot every five years or so, in accordance with l’esprit du temps, and sometimes to good effect! Sexy, black, penis-shaped killer aliens – why not, man! A creepy old timer with glowing fingertips, surely a child-molester – somewhat less enticing. And then there’s the nineties, with what must have seamed like the ultimate incarnation. Suspiciously missing from the ever more complex mythos of the X-Files, at least in their traditional, physical form, were the aliens themselves. What we’re left with is an incorporeal presence, one of paranoia. And not only towards the machine of state, mind you, that other machine as well. Take a good hard look at this lifeless universe: Voyager leaves our solar system, inhospitable giant balls of gas in it’s wake, The Mars Rover relays us series of desolate stone curvatures. Belief in a sentient life form out there, somewhere in the known universe, let alone our own solar system, is the providence of the naive and the wacky. Wake up, man, every planet we reach is dead.

An entire decade follows suit. The 21st has been a decidedly alien-less century, thus far.

Thus far indeed, hombre, because here comes „District 9“, in a flash of an ion cannon, impact lasers firmly clenched in both mandibles. It is only fitting that the faces of these bad-ass new aliens should appear pixellated, as if they were on COPS or something. This time around, they are very much corporeal, almost obscene. Imagine the shock of that much discussed scene from otherwise forgettable „Signs“, where an alien walks into someone’s home recording. Imagine an entire movie based around that, with the ghetto factor turned up to 11. Chitinous plated, bug-eyed aliens, huddled around a garbage can fire, hooded sweatshirts and all. These are alien refugees, the very concept of an alien, fleeing from the collapsed political climate of it’s home world - 20th century science fiction.

In order to blend in, they’re going to need a veneer of racial parable. A socio-critical angle, if you will, which, in „District 9“ remains decidedly stylistic. You will not get preached about apartheid just because the aliens happen to be stranded over Johannesburg. What you will get, is an awesome gun. Or 40 awesome guns and an expensive book’s worth of concept art, as „District 9“ is one the best designed movies in recent memory.

It is only after all the layers of mysticism are stripped back from these crustacean monsters, that they become interesting again. And the „prawns“ of „District 9“ are captivating indeed. What the film achieves, through raw security cam footage, mock documentary style segments, and some more traditional action scenes – all mixed up with little regard for consistency – is the words „alien weaponry“ sounding as sexy as they should. Science fiction fans will shriek in excitement as an alien language appears in rasters on salvaged old robot's-head monitors, somewhere in an illegal underground bunker. Pronounced in clicking sounds, the same crustacean language appears to be modelled after the click syllables of Earth’s most ancient hunter’s tribes. Not accidentally, seeing as these tribes are as black as the night. Not much unlike the film’s aliens. While instead of Will Smith, the human protagonist is a white dutch corporation functionary called – I kid you not – Wikus van der Merwe. The performance is stellar, beyond anything you’d expect from an action film. I call for immediate superstardom for one Sharlto Copley.

What is not a rarity, though, is the (go see it, now! I’m, warning you! I mean it, stop reading this and see it now!) one-dimensional mercenary bad guys. And while they do give „District 9“ one of it’s best scenes, that other worn out science fiction trope – the evil corporation – has undergone little development. 9/10

Thursday, August 13, 2009

(Youtube Events Archive No2)

(In this end-of-summer slowdown, ZA/UM archives it's 2nd patch of Youtube Events. Just making room for The New on our sidebar, you know. Have a glance, kick back, whatever.)


And now for something completely different!
2K Boston are working hard on the follow up to their 2007 first person RPG "Bioshock". In this spanking new gameplay demonstration you will get to see some beautiful art-deco style design, smooth, colorful graphics and yes, WATER! It is the year 2009 and rendering water in computer gaming is no longer a distant dream. I highly recommend you put this on full screen and wait it until the player goes underwater. For those who want better-than-youtube video quality, this here is a link the video at


(Eelnev hoiatus: kannata see minut aega ootamist alguses ära, it is well worth your time)
Radiohead? Päris pretensioonikas! Radioheadi kaverlugu vana-masina-muusikaga? Say it aint so! Sa võid sellise asja galeriisse panna, ta mängiks seda ühte lugu üle ja üle, galeriimutt on ammu hulluks läinud aga mina, ma ei lahkuks sealt enne uste sulgemist, ka siis paluks viite minutit veel. Ainult viit veel! Ma kõnniksin ettevaatlikult masinate vahelt, kiidaksin tublit kõvakettakoori (vaata kui täpselt nad Yorke'i tämbrit teevad! Kui armas? Nii armas!). Ma silitaksin hellalt ZX Spectrumi mustast plastikust korpust, sa kuuled kuidas sügaval ta südames, mürgirohelisel trükkplaadielektroskeemil mängivad kiibid rütmi. Vana kollakaks tõmbunud maatriksprinter toksib kui trükimasinal trumme ja skänner pole kunagi enne nii kirglikult tausta undanud (ma tean seda öelda, minu skänner pole iialgi nõnda kaunilt laulnud!).
Vaata seda, väikestel masinatel pole veel varem nii suuri ja ilusaid ideid olnud.


To kick off ZA/UM's brand new patch of flashy Youtube events, is this heroic Slavic rocker here. As previously heard on about any given park bench in the world, (likelyhood increases with proximity to St. Petersburg) this atmospheric post-punk number made me appreciate itself all over again by way of a rare TV live presentation.
So what's different, in comparison to 1988's original version? Not much, the song is even more angular, even more minimal in it's arrangement and there's even more reverb on Tsoi's vocals. Even more reverb? Is that even physically possible? It seems it is, yes.
Let me tell you, how they made the human voice - recorded in a dry, padded studio room - sound as if it had this huge, cathederal echo. How they did it in Soviet Russia, I mean. Nowadays there's some blinking lights on an expensive little digital box somewhere, but not back then! Back then there was DER DDR ECHO-APPARAT. This feat of East German audio engineering was literally the size of a room. With a submarine handle on the door. Turn handle left for more echo! In a surreal way it seems that gargantuan box actually had an echo of the voice bouncing somewhere inside it. I want you to imagine that machine, lying around, all moth-bitten in some MosFilm garage, as you listen to this song.
The song itself is, of course, as post punk as post punk gets. Which kinda pisses me off. Remeber that huge post punk revival thing that raged on for 8 years or so? Where every band from Franz Ferdinand to The Killers was suddenly all into, like, Joy Division and stuff? Where even a film about Marie Antoinette had post punk music in it? Well, dear Western music press, how come you forgot to mention perhaps the most famous post punk band in the FUCKING world!? Here is your chance to redeem yourselves! Wonder at the divine angular shapes of "Zvezda´s" rhythm guitar, suck on it's dry, mechanical drums, played up-right for precision and cool, and above all - drench yourselves in Tsoi's sepulcheral echo! For added post punk pleasure, check out the video! It's immensely cool tricolor effect dwarfs even The Cure's "Live at Orange", while Tsoi's hair is nothing less than epochal!

Uku Masing 100

Kohutav Kole Sitt
11. augustil oli Uku Masingu sajas sünniaastapäev ja selleks puhuks lisan siia ühe tema maali ning seni raamatuis avaldamata luuletuse. Maali nimi on Lend.

Tuhande tullitanud haavalehe vahelt
sinililled on silmanud meid.
Ega nad rõõmustanud.
Aga meile on antud, mida väärt meie pole
heledate kaskedega hommikul
kylma õhkuval nõlvakul.
Nemad on need sõnad, mis takerdanud suhu,
nemad on need naerud, mis võinuksid
muuta meid ennast, kui mitte maailma,
nemad on teod, mida meie ei teinud.
Kõik nad on tänavu tõusnud kokku kui unised haldjad
meile vaatama näkku siniselt,
et jahmume,
kuigi tunneme, et nad kurvadki pole,
ammugi tigedad,
aga nad pyhivad silmi,
oh, mitte tukusegaseid, ulmasõgedaid,
mitte ootamast väsinuid.
Nemad nutsid eile õhtul
sest kahju neil oli kõigest, mis me võinuks olla
tulles neid vaatama
ja nyyd on neil häbi, et meie mõistame viimaks,
kuidas neil on häbi meie pärast
suvise surmani.