“reconvening, courtroom seventy-four”

I’m sitting on the sixth floor balcony of the downtown law courts, looking out on the waists and necks of Howe street high-rises. A woman’s disembodied voice calls out for court room reconvenings, dissolving inside the empty glass atrium, with the occasional clatter of footsteps and the quiet blur of conversation drifting up from the floors below.

Yesterday’s seminar was loopier than usual – a morass of starting points, links and ideas that we’ll hopefully be able to follow through and make sense of as we move on to Ballard. For next class I’ll try to set a more coherent path for the discussion.  Below are some divergent, digressive things somehow related to yesterday’s seminar – worth looking through:

23 skidoo – short film we opened with, on the post-apocalyptic metropolis; Montreal after the neutron-bomb. Vacant infrastructure, the ‘city without us’, encrypted with memory of its inhabitants.

the lotus eaters – re: vancouver, diaspar

Russia’s Russia in the Black sea…with its very own Black sea.

Dubai’s world

Synechdoche New York is playing next week at the Norm. Also, a lucky Kaufman interview bylife without buildings)

wandering sickness and the gas of peace – visual essay by derek horton. thinking specifically about the title of the piece. The magazine itself is worth looking through as well: a choice essay

Questions of memory and materiality in the City of Diaspar – how much of it is fabricated, re-membered from its own archives?

Is Clark imagining a proto-digital environment? How do elements of spirituality and mysticism relate with the realities of mediated (online) communication?

2 thoughts on ““reconvening, courtroom seventy-four”

  1. Kaitlyn (Kat) Braybrooke

    i really like the writing in the first part of your post.

    i have nothing constructive to add to your thoughts about the class discussion, but on an unrelated note and speaking of the discombobulation our society experiences due to discrepancies between our ‘virtual’ and ‘real’ selves and how we interact… i think we should have a post where we can all share our twitter/flickr/tumblr/delicious/facebook/etc etc links and further entangle our class that way too!

  2. Jonathan Morissette

    Just to tangentially expand on some of the points we were getting ourselves into in discussing the City as Memory, and the questions of stasis and the necessity of change or the deliberate injection of chaos which such a stable civic system might require (for example, I believe we discussed Gerard Genet’s theory of the social value of Carnival and temporary binary reversal). I was reading a random write-up of some new research into the biophysical structure, or cerebral architecture, if we will, of memory and how it operates in the brain, and I was struck by the parallels to how the city is described in City and the Stars. The write up is here and the full paper is available here in the journal Cell, which perhaps we have access to as students. Anyways, money quotes here:

    “At least one percent of all cells in the dentate gyrus are immature at any given time,” explains lead author Brad Aimone, a graduate student in the Computational Neuroscience Program at the University of California, San Diego. “Intuitively we feel that those new brain cells have to be good for something, but nobody really knows what it is.”

    It quickly became clear that overly excitable youngsters [neurons] respond indiscriminately to incoming information. “The circuit in the dentate gyrus is designed to separate incoming memories into distinct events, a process called pattern separation, but immature cells get into the way by blurring the lines,” says Aimone. “And if they keep muddling the picture, there’s almost no point.”

    So the function of these newborn neurons, which by the way we didn’t even know existed until very recently (we used to think all our neurons were established in infancy), in this particular memory structure of the brain, is to disrupt the “process called pattern seperation” and thereby prevent the stasis, which in a sense is itself a death, of our recollection and internal connections to the past. I’m not really able to express this parallel very clearly at this point, but working along the whole micro/macro cosm line with the City standing in for the dynamic machinations of the individual, and science fiction thereby being a grand imagination of the self and our self-conceptions as humans projected on the macro level of the City, these sort of explorations of what the future might be quite quickly become, for me, questions of who we are as human beings, what we are capable of, and what, once we grant our ambiguous ambitious capacities, what it is we might choose to settle on creating.

    Anyways I have long been fascinated by the process of neurogenesis and what the relation is between our hardware and our software, if might make so crude an analogy, and this article just sort of leaped up at me as evidence that the sort of broad socio-philosophical musings Clark is engaged with in the book might have so fundamental a basis.

    This was going to be a comment but perhaps I will venture to make it a post, and include some links I’d come across to flesh it out and redeem my rambling. UBC Blogs is displeased with me, so this comment remains a comment.

    Here is an excellent documentary on Blade Runner featuring extensive interviews with the actors and creators, notably Ridley Scott, discussing the production of the film. And here is a sizable collection of essays, some scholarlier than others, on the film.

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