Once there was a Hitch

The Hitch is gone. Christopher Hitchens – author, journalist, debater, atheist hero – has died from his esophageal cancer at the age of 62.

A relatively short life, but Hitch lived (at least to an outsider like me) a full and productive one. His death came as I was in the process of reading his book God is Not Great, with his autobiography Hitch 22 waiting next in line. Someone said that the man wrote more than most people read in their life time, and that is probably true.

Still, 62 years. That’s exactly double my age. When I’m that age, I hope to still have aspirations and dreams, and the energy and time to realize them. There is little doubt Hitchens still had the energy, but he ran out of time.

I’d like to think that death belongs to the grey and frail. That death is the territory of those who’ve not known their own fire for years, of those who stumble on their thoughts and memories. We expect the end of our lives to be a foggy marsh it takes long to wander into, each passing year taking us further into the mist where we ultimately succumb to the treacherous morass.

No. Death belongs to those who die, no matter how young or spirited.

Here are two videos with clips of Hitchens speaking, displaying his razor sharp wit in debates, speeches and interviews. I am saddened that there will be no more of this.

Credits

…and as the movie ends and the closing credits appear, the names scrolling by are less real to you than the characters in the film. Like the rest of the audience, they are avatars. Non-player characters. Vague backdrops to the dreams, visions and hopes that populate your aching head.

Why I love the troll

Last weekend I posted the following on Facebook:

“Tonights “Troll i Eske”: Drive. Masterful direction, great photography, subtle acting and gripping story. All resulting in a very suspenseful and emotionally powerful movie. Go see it!”

Oh yeah, it was a good movie alright. If you don’t feel inclined to take my word for it, know that Roger Ebert liked it too. But hang on. “Troll i eske”? Well, it’s Norwegian for Troll in a box. OK. But who is the troll, and why is she hiding in a box?

Troll i eske is simply the greatest thing cinema in Oslo has to offer, and if you happen to live there, have any interest in movies at all but have never met the troll – know that you are missing out!

This is how it works. Every now and then there is a Troll i eske-showing at Cinemateket. You don’t know which film they’ll show, what genre it belongs to, or where it comes from. All you know is that it’ll be a high quality movie that hasn’t premiered yet. You buy the ticket, and until the moment the projector starts, the troll is still hiding in her box.  And I love it.

So what’s so bloody great about it?

The excitement

Going to a cinema is still something special, no matter how expensive your equipment is back home. It’s different from lying down in your sofa, popping in a dvd and fast forwarding through the trailers. It’s a bit like going to a show or a play. You are part of an audience, all waiting to experience something larger than life. And when you don’t know what you are about to experience – only that it’s going to be great – then the ritual gets exciting.

The organizers at Cinemateket have yet to disappoint in their selection, so at this point I simply trust that Troll in eske is a guarantee for a quality movie.

The unexpected

My last few visits have given me a relationship drama, a silly comedy and a dramatic thriller.

Two of those I wouldn’t have gone to see at the cinema if it had not been for Troll i eske, and it’s quite likely I would never have gotten to see them at all. There are genres that normally don’t do a very good job at attracting my attention, which is too bad because there are of course many excellent films to be found in most genres.

Thanks to the troll, I get to see great movies that I otherwise would have missed.

The snobbery

You get to tell people that you have already seen that hot new movie, even before it has had its premiere. You’re so great you get to see movies well before mere mortals get the chance. You are first with the latest and greatest in the world of cinema.

The purity

Take the movie Drive as an example. Whatever you do, don’t head over to Youtube to watch the trailer. It gives away far too many key scenes, plot points and spoils much of the character progression.

Before the movie began, having just sat down in the comfy seats at Cinemateket, I had no idea the movie even existed. I am completly convinced that I had a much richer movie experience not knowing all I would have known about characters and events had I seen the trailer.

Not knowing what movie you will see means you probably haven’t checked it out online beforehand. Going to see a movie that haven’t had its premiere yet hopefully means you haven’t been bombarded with trailers. It all helps in having a pure, untainted cinema experience.

The respect

People who talk. People who text. People who chew their candy and sip their drinks far too loudly. People who get up and stand in the way of the screen like lemmings as soon as the credits start rolling.

The Troll i eske audience is not completely void of these people, but there are far fewer of them than in the average multiplex crowd. A common quality of Cinemateket-goers is that they respect the cinema as an institution. Ultimately, that results in a more pleasent movie experience.

Got your attention? Here’s the link to Cinemateket. Become a member (cheaper tickets), have fun and give my regards to the troll. I look forward to meeting her again!

Backlog of games

Currently not having my own place or even most of my things, I got no hardware to play games on. Well, I got my trusty netbook (which I use to type these words), but it even struggles making video calls over Skype.

I did get it to run Half-Life 1 with a decent framerate, though. But it ended up just being a nice experiment. I’m not going to spend my evenings replaying games I have already spent too many hours with. Perhaps someone reading this could give some suggestions on good, modern games that works well on a netbook? I’d appreciate it.

As I don’t have my desktop, or my Xbox 360, my games backlog grows and grows. I did get to play a bit of Deus Ex: Human Revolution during a weekend in Oslo, and I can’t wait to get back to it. I love deep, open game worlds, and that game seems to scratch that itch. Of course, not being able to play it just makes the itch worse.

Here’s my current backlog:
– Deus Ex: Human Revolution
– Risen
– The Witcher 2
– Bulletstorm
– Dead Island

Just those games could easily swallow a couple hundred hours (especially the RPGs). And that list only contains games I really do want to play – my Steam list of games I own but have yet to play is far longer. Games I don’t necessarily want to play, but need to play.

That is the plight of the game designer.

We’re all zuckers

Waiter. There’s a social media in my soup.

And in my bread. In my drink. Looking closer, even the salt cellar is contaminated. But the waiter just smiles, telling me that it’s a service. Reminding me that it’s free.

Well, I’m about to look for a better restaurant.

I’ve always felt that Facebook is a mess. Poorly structured GUI, poorly communicated functionality, and poorly respected privacy. Changing constantly. It’s just not transparent, in so many ways.

But I use it, because everyone’s there and it’s a way to keep in contact with people and have some idea of what’s happening in the lives of acquaintances and relatives.

But that’s also all I want from it. Facebook, for me, is a tool – not a way of life. Already having serious issues trying to present me with an overwhelming amount of information (mostly noise), it now wants to tie more and more external services to it. Did you know that person X listened to song Y 34 minutes ago? Thanks Facebook and Spotify! I wasn’t encumbered enough with information overload as it was.

You can no longer register a Spotify account without having a Facebook account. How bizarre is that? Spotify itself has tried to convince me to integrate it with Facebook a number of times. I don’t think it’s healthy to be on the recipient end of all this data.

Every time I log into Skype it opens “Skype Home”, showing me the latest Skype status updates from my contacts. It too wants me to connect it to Facebook, so that it can show me the Facebook stream. Why? If I want the Facebook stream I go to Facebook.

Netflix, Hulu, IMDb, Flixter and many more are currently being integrated with the big F. And this is only the beginning, of course. Facebook wants to be the center of your life.

I don’t want you to know what music I’m listening to as I write this. I don’t want you to know what I’m reading just before I go to sleep. What I watch, where I go, who I meet – it’s my private life and I have no interest to broadcast my every move to the world.

Yes, I guess I can remove a lot of the bothersome junk from Facebook. Again. But I can’t get Facebook out of Spotify or Skype.

Hi Sweden. It’s been a while

Since a bit over a month and a half, I’m back in Sweden. Kind of. I’m writing this from my flat in Oslo.

Me and Lena had thought about moving to Sweden for some time, and one of the reasons I decided to take the plunge now was the opportunity to join Machinegames. A fairly new studio in central Uppsala, founded by industry veterans. Two stylish floors of very talented and experienced artists, designers, engineers and other crazies. To get the chance to work with what I see as one of the best teams in the games industry makes me very pleased. I can do good work here.

Uppsala. It means “oops” in german, but it’s no mistake. This time I trusted my intuition.

I spend many of my weekends in Oslo. My girlfriend and most of my things are still in the old apartment, and will remain there until late October (Lena is currently busy as one of the coordinators of the Film fra Sør movie festival). Then, when the festival is over and we have the keys, we will move into our own place in downtown Uppsala. But for now this is the state of things, so I tend to fly a lot to Oslo.

It feels like coming home. Because it is. Kind of. How confusing.

I’m currently sharing a flat with someone in Uppsala. It’s easy on the wallet until me and Lena live together again, and I haven’t had to worry about a bed, cutlery and all that. Still. I used to say that I never wanted to live in any kind of collective, and I still stand by that statement. It’s just not for me.

But it will do until October. Then I have a proper home again.

My iPrecious!

God damn it, not again!

I want something. Somewhing gigahertzy and gigabytic.

I care very little for computers and gadgets these days. There’s rarely anything new that impresses me. It was different 10-15 years ago, when the world of electronics provided revolutions every year. Just getting a faster processor, more memory or a more powerful graphics card was revolutionary in its own way. Today, such an upgrade would only be barely noticable, despite the fact that my current rig is over 3 years old. We’ve just gotten to a place that’s good enough.

But every once in a while, I get hooked on the idea of some piece of hardware. And this time, it’s Apple providing the magic, with the iPad. Yes yes. Shiny. We wants it. We needs it!

I guess I’m kind of late to the game, but I want a tablet. Yes, I crave a tablet, but I certainly don’t need one. It just seems so nice and smooth and futuristic and Star Trek. I know. Don’t look at me like that.

What started it this time was the Asus EEE Transformer. A cool tablet that docks with a keyboard and transforms into a netbook. Really cool design, really cool tech. The problem is that the Transformer’s OS, Android, isn’t anywhere near the state of polish or speed it needs to be.

So it’s iPad. Sweet, magical iPad. If you have ever used one, you know what I mean. Oh, but I struggle to come up with good reasons why I’d need one. I cant motivate a purchase. Or can I? So expensive.

Look at Picard in that picture. I can count 8 tablets! He must be the happiest man alive!

Perhaps I should take up cocaine instead.

The attack

Today my city of Oslo was attacked. A bombing, and a massacre, and a wave of sadness and fear washed over the country.

It’s so easy to think that this automatically changes the fabric of the nation, but no – the effects of today’s tragedy are up to each and every one of us to decide. We mustn’t let violence change what Oslo or Norway is. Fear must not be allowed to dictate our lives, our politics or our solidarity. As prime minister Jens Stoltenberg said tonight, the answer to this attack must be more democracy, and more openess.

Beautiful from a distance: Melancholia

If you have ever wondered how it feels to be clinically depressed, ever thought about what’s wrong with all those broken people, you should see Lars von Trier’s Melancholia. As the world goes under, you too will feel relieved that the pain ends.

Perhaps it doesn’t sound like it, but that’s a positive review of the movie. Von Trier has managed to explore that seemingly neverending state of deep melancholy to such depths that the movie takes you there. It’s up to you if you’ve got the stomach to join him for the journey. If you do, it’s a beautiful and fascinating one.

And no, that the movie ends with the destruction of our planet is not a spoiler – it’s the premise. It’s established already in the first beautiful minutes of the movie, making sure that you know that this is not a thriller, there’s nothing to save the leading characters in the third act, there’s absolutely no hope. It’s not about anything like that. It’s about Melancholia. And it’s about melancholia.

Melancholia is a giant planet heading towards earth, threatening to collide with it and completely annihilate all life. And, in all its beauty and terror, it’s a metaphor for depression.

The first part of the movie deals with Justine (Kirsten Dunst), a young woman falling into depression. She’s getting married, but she’s not really there. She goes through the motions, because she knows they’re expected from her. She knows how a human is supposed to act and how a human is supposed to feel in a situation like a wedding. Joyful. Energetic. Giving. Recieving. But she feels none of it, and the necessity of the charade only pulls her closer to the abyss.

The latter part of the movie sees the focus shift more unto the events surrounding the approaching planet. Here the exploration of melancholy shifts into one of metaphors, and this allows us to watch other characters deal with Melancholia the planet. Depending on who they were before, and how they viewed themselves, they react in ways that differ greatly from Justine’s. It’s not necessarily the “strongest” that manages to cope with it the best. When the strong has lost their strength, they have nothing.

At first some characters believe it will merely pass us by at a safe distance, and studies it as a wondrous thing. As it slowly moves above the horizon, it’s revealed to be a majestic sight shining a cool, serene light on our world. But they will all soon learn that Melancholia is beautiful from a distance, but earth shattering up close.

It’s a film full of metaphors, but it’s not a puzzle to be solved. One should not view it from an analytical point of view, but rather an intuitive one. It is to be seen not with your head but with your gut. The movie embodies depression, from the descent into it in the first act, to the deepest chasms of despair in the second and finally to the ascent in the third.

One can wonder what the point is with a movie like this, beyond pure cinematic pleasure. I think the answer is that there’s quite a bit to learn and understand from it, as a window into Lars von Trier’s and many others’ own experiences with depression.

Of course, depression lies to you. It paints everything monochrome, making it almost impossible to see anything but the grimy dark. Well, maybe happiness lies to you as well, despite feeling so good. Illusions of the benignity of the malignant are dangerous. Then perhaps the wisest path is the middle one. Truth without disruption. Peace without excess. Stillness.