Monday, November 21, 2016

It Sounds Terrible Because It Will Be

Luddites, billiards and a Brooklyn band, oh, my.

The Bijou was showing Werner Herzog's new documentary about the Internet, "Lo and Behold: Reveries of a Connected World," a subject that would have seduced me - still very much a 20th century woman in many respects - even if I wasn't a devoted documentary dork, which I certainly am.

From the photographs of the long-haired scientists who came up with the Internet concept in 1969 to artificial intelligence concepts beyond my imagination like soccer playing robot cubes that one scientist expects to beat the Brazilian team by 2050 (and also creepily admits, "We love Robot 8," as he cradles the cube as if it were real), Herzog trotted out the obscure and nerdy.

That kind of thing - pure Herzog oddities- carried through the history of the Internet to hackers, Internet addicts trying to be cured and mad scientists working on self-driving cars, assuring us every time a car has an accident, all cars will learn from it and never repeat that mistake.

Really? can I be the only one who doubts this?

On the other hand, gamers helped research scientists solve molecule and helix problems they hadn't been able to, an extraordinary accomplishment only possible thanks to the Internet.

One of the weirdest, by far, was a family whose daughter had been killed in a car crash where a first responder photographed the head of the decapitated girl and made it public online.

Herzog gives us the family posed in a surreal setting with the family's other three daughters sitting catatonic-looking and overly made up in front of their parents (Mom's clearly had lots of plastic surgery and Botox, but also spouts things like, "The Internet is the manifestation of the anti-Christ"), while on the table sit three plates of baked goods, a homey reminder perhaps of this wholesome family's "before" story.

Wait, what?

We see a group of monks, all staring intently at their cell phones and completely un-involved with the world around them. The likelihood of a solar flare knocking out the Internet is a "when" not an "if" and talking heads mull over what might happen to the food supply when the Internet goes down.

Herzog's film posits that it's no longer people that matter, it's the message and we may eventually not even need humans for companionship because we'll be able to get that from A.I. "It sounds terrible, but maybe it's not," one says with little conviction.

So this is what it's come to, he seems to be telling us. Can't live with the Internet, can't live without it.

All I can say is praise be to the Bijou for landing this thought-provoking documentary by a master observer and commentator about a subject that is changing the course of human behavior.

I have little doubt that I am the sole viewer of it who still operates in the 21st century world without a cell phone, but perhaps that only makes the entire subject more relevant for me. I am the constant in a world of sea change.

Dinner followed at Greenleaf's Pool Room, unexpectedly lively with far more games of pool being played than you might expect for a Sunday evening, although it certainly wasn't a night for outdoor activities.

In short order, we plowed through two kinds of deviled eggs, Bumpkins of country ham with pimento cheese and fried chicken skin which were stellar and Spouter Inn with fried oysters, horseradish and smoked tomato that definitely did not fit easily in my mouth while pomegranate lemonade went down easily.

A thick tomato soup followed because this change of weather today has chilled me to the bone and finally, chicken skewers with a piquant slaw with enough heat for my mouth to take notice. I was taking my warmth any way I could get it tonight.

Walking into Gallery 5 moments before a last-minute show was to begin, we had timed it perfectly to catch the lovely ringing guitars and synths of California Death, the post-punk muscularity of Big Bliss from Brooklyn and the pop exuberance of Young Scum, where the drummer put on a headband before their set began because, apparently, he knew there would be sweat.

Did he have to go online to know this or did he figure it out on his own, I had to wonder? Because I'm in complete agreement with Herzog that the Internet was the beginning of the end for deep critical thinking.

And could it be that our President-elect along with the Internet is the manifestation of the anti-Christ? Post-Herzog, I see the jury as still out on that one.

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