Movie Review By: Mr. Roboto
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Written by: Stanley Kubrick, based on the novel by Anthony Burgess
Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High
Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High
Key Cast Members:
Alex de Large: Malcom McDowell
Frank Alexander: Patrick Magee
Dim: Warren Clarke
Gerogie: James Marcus
Unquestionably, A Clockwork Orange
has to be among the most recognizable names of pre-cyberpunk works, invoking surrealistic images of the old ultra violence, sex done to the William Tell Overture, models of naked girls as tables and beverage dispensers, chemically induced behavior modification, the threat of Karma,… and a bit of Beethoven for good measure. It has often been cited as inspiration for cyberpunk novels, and even Rob Zombie salutes the film in his video for “Never Gonna Stop (The Red Red Kroovy).”
The subject matter, while speculating about 1995 from a 1960’s view, is still surprisingly relevant for 2007. With themes of street gangs, youth against the elderly, and forced behavioral changes against free will, one can swear the movie was more recent.
But can it be called a cyberpunk movie? There’s no question about the “punk,” but in all honesty, it’s a little thin on the “cyber” since there’s no ubiquitous access to information or man-machine fusion, though Alex does undergo a “reprogramming” in a skull-cap wired to machines to monitor his vital functions. The lack of “cyber” isn’t Mr. Kubric’s or Mr. Burgess’s fault, since nobody in the 60’s could have predicted the impact of computer technology when 1995 rolled around. It still doesn’t subtract much from this piece of cinema goodness that many agree is a timeless classic.
So grab a glass of milk mixed with your narcotic of choice, pull up a naked model table, brush up on your Nadsat, and vidi well, little brothers.
The Story: Starting at the Korova Milk Bar, Alex De Large and his “droogs” tear up the streets of a future England city, beating derelicts, fighting other gangs, raising hell on the roads, invading homes, raping women, then returning to the Korova for a nightcap when we learn Alex also has an ear for Beethoven. His fun comes to an end when, during a failed home invasion. Alex kills a woman and is ambushed by his droogs, leaving him for the police to capture, convict of murder, and sentence to forty years in prison.
Two years into his sentence, Alex learns of the Ludovico treatment. He wants to volunteer, but the Prison Chaplain expresses his doubts and tries to talk Alex out of it.
“The question is whether or not this technique really makes a man good. Goodness comes from within. Goodness is chosen. When a man cannot choose, he ceases to be a man.”
When the Minister of The Interior visits, he selects Alex for the Ludovico treatment. The treatment involves Alex being injected with an experimental serum and made to watch videos of violence and rape, where the serum causes unexpected results.
Dr. Brodsky (During Alex’s first “treatment”): “Very soon now, the drug will cause the subject to experience a deathlike paralysis together with deep feelings of terror and helplessness. One of our early test subjects described it as being like death. A sense of stifling or drowning. At this period we have found that the subject will make his most rewarding associations between his catastrophic experience, environment and the violence he sees.”
During one “treatment,” the doctors use Beethoven’s 9th Symphony as the background music while a Nazi propaganda was viewed. Alex objects to the use of the music, but the treatment continues, causing him to become conditioned to the piece.
“Stop it! Stop IT! STOP IT! Stop showing NEW ROSE HOTEL! IT’S NOT CYBERPUNK!!!!!
After the doctors show Alex’s treatment worked, he’s released back into society. That’s when the Universe plays the Karma card…
Whose Pawn Is He Anyway? The theme of free will versus society’s programming is quite dominant with the implications of the Ludovico treatment, but an underlying theme of people being used as pawns for political and personal gain is noticeable, especially when Alex returns to the home of Frank Alexander, whose house he and his droogs invaded and whose wife they raped. At first, Frank only recognizes Alex as the boy who went through the Ludovico program and calls a friend who can use him:
Frank Alexander: “He can be the most potent weapon imaginable to ensure the government is not returned in the election. The government’s big boast, sir, is the way they have dealt with crime: Recruiting young roughs into the police, proposing will-sapping techniques of conditioning. We’ve seen it before in other countries. The thin end of the wedge. Before we know it, we’ll have the full apparatus of totalitarianism. This young boy is a living witness to these diabolical proposals.”
Frank doesn’t realize that Alex is the one who raped his wife until he hears Alex singing “Singing in the Rain” in the bath. He manages to get Alex to drink drug-laced wine to knock him unconscious. When Frank’s co-conspirators arrive, they lock Alex in an upper-floor room while playing Beethoven’s Ninth, causing Alex to attempt suicide. While recovering in the hospital, we see the old amoral Alex return when a nurse shows slides. The Minister of the Interior visits Alex to apologize for the treatment and offer a government job.
Alex used the people he encountered for his own amusement, including his own droogs. After undergoing the treatment, he’s unable to defend himself as those he tormented and attacked gain a measure of revenge on him. Then he’s used as a political pawn.
Conclusion: A Clockwork Orange is a difficult movie to describe. It’s not an easy view with it’s ultraviolence, rampant sex, and drug use, but it makes for an interesting movie nonetheless. It’s a sick, twisted, demented, deviant, weird, and totally fucked-up view of the future. In other words, a real good movie.
To show A Clockwork Orange’s place in history, I’ve edited the AFI 100 years, 100 movies post.
I take a week off to get my head out of a reality distortion field, only to learn I missed something so eerie… check it…
On July 18, Ars Technica reported that a person making bomb hoaxes was busted by the FBI’s use of spyware on the suspect’s computer. The spyware in question is called the “Computer & Internet Protocol Address Verifier” (CIPAV), and was installed on the suspect’s laptop remotely and silently to monitor his activities… like any spyware would be installed.Wired has more details on the malware along with the data the “program” collected.
This isn’t the first time malware was used by law enforcement: In 1999, a key logger was used to snag mobster Nicodemo Scarfo. Recently, an appeals court made a decision on a case where the DEA used key loggers to trap two suspects because they were using PGP and Hushmail (Link to CNET story). The court sided with the DEA citing “probable cause” in the case. The court also added:
“e-mail and Internet users have no expectation of privacy in the To/From addresses of their messages or the IP addresses of the websites they visit because they should know that these messages are sent and these IP addresses are accessed through the equipment of their Internet service provider and other third parties.”
This may not sound like much of a big deal… until you consider that we’re currently under an illegal (and most likely unconstitutional) NSA surveillance program. Now we have our privacy being slowly chipped away in the name of “national security” and “probable cause” while those who are supposed to enforce the law are doing so by violating it.
Security Corrupted? According to a recent survey by CNET, security companies have their anti-malware software set to detect and remove police spyware. The companies were also asked if they had a government or court order to not scan police-malware. Most said no, but McAfee and Microsoft refused to answer the question. Remember: The NSA reportedly “helped” Microsoft to “secure” Vista.
For an anti-malware to ignore any type of malware is dangerous. If a black hat knows what malware is ignored, he can easily use the white-listed program to craft an unstoppable, irremovable menace. As if current malware isn’t enough of a problem, if a security program won’t detect a malware because of a court order, black hats will have a field day raping and hijacking our computers, and we can thank our government for “protecting” us from spam and identity theft.
Looks like we’re on our own with this one, folks.
This post has been filed under News as Cyberpunk
by Mr. Roboto.
Movie Review By: Mr. Roboto
Directed by: Michael Bay
Written by: Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman (screenplay & story), John Rogers (story)
Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Medium
Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes:Very Low
Key Cast Members:
- Sam “Spike” Witwicky: Shia LaBeouf
- Mikaela Banes: Megan Fox
- Defense Secretary John Keller: Jon Voight
- Sector 7 Agent Simmons: John Turturro
- Optimus Prime (Voice): Peter Cullen
SFAM Note - Change to Review: CPR now has a number of people doing reviews here. Inevitably, there will be differences over whether or not we think of something as being cyberpunk or not. In the case of the Transformers, Mr. Roboto feels that it is, but I do not (nor do many who listed comments below). I have changed the categories to reflect this (its being placed in the “It’s Not Cyberpunk” category), but the rest of the review is still Mr. Roboto’s.
Optimus Prime: Freedom is the right of all sentient beings.
Overview: Anyone growing up during the mid-80’s must have played with, or at least heard of, Hasbro’s Transformers and watched the animated series that began in 1984. Since then, the Transformers have attained a cult status among nerd types who dreamed of owning a muscle car or heavy duty pick-up that can transform into a kick-ass robot. Now, those fans have a live-action movie to go along with the animated 1986 movie from those heady first-generation days.
I went to see this movie, not expecting cyberpunk themes, but like Optimus Prime and Megatron colliding, BOOM! There they were, though some may say there’s a bit of a stretch for them. Like Alien, there will no doubt be some discussion about the themes and visuals and if the movie qualifies as cyberpunk.
Negative Impact of technology on humanity: Decepticons and the power-hungry Megatron will destroy Earth and the humans for the Allspark, and Megatron even shows his disgust for our species as he flicks a human away during the final battle. Also, the ongoing war between the Autobots and Decepticons could be a metaphoric warning about a possible future “robot war” on Earth.
Keller: We’re facing war against a technological civilization far superior to our own! Our enemy can take any shape! They could be anywhere!
Since America’s technology was based on Megatron, leader of the evil Decepticons, it makes our cyber-present sound like it is the seed of evil, forged by evil, for evil purposes. This origin of our technology causes the Allspark to turn ordinary electronic devices into transformer robots that attack humans.
Fusion of man and machine: There isn’t the deep, philosophical aspects of Blade Runner with this theme, but there are signs of lines between man and machine being crossed somewhere between Earth and Cybertron.
At the car lot, Bobby Bolivia (a cameo by Bernie Mac) tells Spike “A driver don’t pick the cars. Mmm-mm. Cars pick the driver. It’s a mystical bond between man and machine.” Spike and Mikaela interact with the Transformers like they were real, even though they’re just CGI animations added afterwards.
The Transformers themselves act sentient, even human like, with their own personalities. Optimus Prime acts like a real leader, keeping trigger-happy Ironhide in check, sacrificing Bumblebee when he’s captured to get to the Allspark, and even plans to sacrifice himself to protect the humans and destroy the Allspark if needed. There’s even dissension among the Decepticons, especially between Megatron and Starscream in their ongoing power struggle since their animated days.
What isn’t clear is if the Transformers were created by organic beings, or used to be organics, but found a way to transfer themselves into robot bodies, or if the Allspark just created the robotic race as the opening narration suggests. I would find it interesting to hear of the Transformers’ origins (creation or evolution?). Maybe a future “prequel” will deal with that.
Control over society: There doesn’t seem to be an “all-controlling entity” present in the film… until Sector 7 enters the scene.
Sector 7 was created by president Hoover when Captain Archibald Witwicky’s Arctic Circle expedition stumbled upon a frozen Megatron to keep the find secret. They reverse-engineered the Decepticon’s technology to create the technology of modern America and her military.
Story focuses on the underground: Mikaela has a juvenile record, thanks to her father showing her how to steal cars. Not much else here. Moving along…
Ubiquitous Access to information: Early on, the Decepticons try to hack America’s military systems, looking for information on the whereabouts of Megatron and the AllSpark. After Blackout’s attack on America’s Qatar base to access the military nets, the Pentagon tries to decipher the signal used to hack the systems. One of the analysts copies the signal to a memory card and takes it to a hacker friend she knows, who succeeds.
The Decepticon Frenzy, who first appears as a boom-box, furthers the hacking cause aboard Air Force One, and succeeds in obtaining information on Sector 7 and “Project Iceman.” He then uploads a virus that causes military systems worldwide to shut down to aid the Decepticon’s attack.
Autobot Jazz: What’s crackin’ little bitches?
Sam ‘Spike’ Witwicky: Where’d he learn to talk like that?
Optimus Prime: We learned Earth’s language through the World Wide Web.
Also, both sides learn of Spike and Captain Witwicky’s glasses from his posts as Ladiesman217 on eBay.
Cyberpunk visuals and style: The desert battle with Scorponok is probably the most cyberpunk visually, with all the sand and the primitive village hosting a high-tech battle between the Americans and a killer robot. There are scenes inside the Pentagon (a cyber-romanticized version) featuring rooms of computers to gather and analyze data. Many scenes take place at night in locations like junkyards and industrial parks. In the final battle in the city, Spike runs through what looks like a long-abandoned rail station. The scenes inside Hoover Dam could be called steampunk.
Do note the color schemes between the bot sides; The Autobots have brigher colors while the Decepticons have darker, militant paint jobs.
A Long Time Ago, In A Galaxy Far, Far Away… (Oops, wrong movie… My bad.) Optimus Prime narrates the opening of the movie; How the Cube of the Allspark gave life to Cybertron (well, ANY planet it came across), and how the evil Megatron tried to abuse its power. The civil war that erupted practically destroyed Cybertron and all life on it, and the Allspark was lost for thousands of years, until it was discovered on an unknown-to-them planet called Earth.
Captain Archibald Witwicky was leading an expedition to the Arctic Circle when he stumbled upon a frozen Megatron and accidentally activated his guidance system, causing the Decepticon leader to imprint the Captain’s glasses with the location of the Allspark. The glasses are now in the possession of his great-great-grandson, Sam “Spike” Witwickey, who is trying to sell them to buy a car.
Sam and his father, Ron “Sparkplug” Witwickey, eventually buy an old Camaro that helps Sam attract Mikalea Banes, who knows her way around cars thanks to her father.
What could be hotter than a babe who knows her way around cars?
One night the car drives away with Sam in pursuit, believing his car was being stolen. The car arrives at a junkyard and transforms into a robot that transmits a signal into space while Sam watches in disbelief. The next day, the car returns and Sam runs believing the car is stalking him. Sam encounters the Decepticon Barricade, in disguise as a police cruiser, who demands the glasses. Sam’s car transforms to fight the Decepticon off, and then reveals his role as guardian before taking Sam and Mikaela to the arriving Autobots and Optimus Prime, who reveals Sam’s connection to the Allspark.
Sam ‘Spike’ Witwicky: It’s a robot. You know, like a super advanced robot. It’s probably Japanese.
What follows is a race to get to the Allspark, followed by a huge city-wrecking mech battle between the deadly Decepticons and the heroic Autobots and American military, including survivors of Blackout’s attack in Qatar.
Robot Apocalypse? We never see the death and destruction of Cybertron, but it wouldn’t be hard to imagine it based on current human events. With two opposing sides fighting over a valuable resource, whether it’s energy or the Allspark, such Armageddons are always possible whether anyone wants them or not. And with the Transformers’ civil war now being played out on Earth, the humans may become unwilling victims of such an Armageddon, especially if the Decepticons win out.
But what about robots the humans will make? Advances in robotic and computer technology have made “human-like” robots more of a possibility in the near future. Future improvements in artificial intelligence can lead to learning machines, machines that can think and act for themselves, and possibly sentience like the Transformers. At that point, our robots may take sides to be human-friendly or anti-human. That could lead to a robotic civil war that could wipe humanity out and leave the planet unlivable, while the robots take their dispute to the stars, possibly destroying other sentient worlds and life forms.
Fortunately, we’re far from that robotic civil war, and the Autobots do keep Earth protected from Megatron’s lust for power and the Allspark. The final lines in the movie are spoken by Optimus Prime as he sends an invitation to his fellow Autobots:
With the Allspark gone, we cannot return life to our planet. And fate has yielded its reward, a new world to call home. We live among its people now, hiding in plain sight, but watching over them in secret… waiting, protecting. I have witnessed their capacity for courage and though we are worlds apart, like us, there’s more to them than meets the eye. I am Optimus Prime and I send this message to any surviving Autobots taking refuge among the stars. We are here. We are waiting.
Conclusion: While geared for the toy-line fans, Transformers does offer something for cyberpunks to think about, whether it was intended or not. There’s little question that it will be this summer’s blockbuster, but some might question if it belongs in the Parthenon of cyberpunk movies.
All I can say is: Do watch it and see if you also notice the cyberpunk themes as I did. It’s OK, it’s a pretty good robot action movie.
Music Review By: Mr. Roboto
Artist: The Cassandra Complex (Official Site)
Written by: The Cassandra Complex
Label: Play It Again Sam
1. Nice Work If You Can Get It - 3:36
2. Let’s Go to Europe - 2:18
3. Happy Days (War Is Here Again) - 1:24
4. Jihad Girl - 3:09
5. Sunshine at Midnight - 1:43
6. I Want You - 2:45
7. Sleeper - 4:03
8. Nightfall (Over Ec) - 3:27
9. Into the Heart - 3:37
10. I Believe in Free Everything - 3:26
11. What Turns You On? - 3:13
12. Ugly - 4:53
If you find similarities between this and Billy Idol’s CDs, that’s because there is some eerily close relations to the two: They’re both concept albums, both about cyberpunk, both were inspired by William Gibson’s Neuromancer, and both we’re commercial bombs. Being released three years before Billy’s CD, The Cassandra Complex made the attempt at a cyberpunk album that Mr. Idol could have taken notes from. While band leader Rodney Orpheus thought the concept was a great idea, an artistic clash between himself and the record label may have ruined it:
Overview: (from the Cassandra Complex website about the album)
Cyberpunx was that scariest of all things, a “concept album”; actually it was even worse, it was devised as a ROCK OPERA! I’ve always felt that rock’n'role lyrics are the worst kind of literature, and I wanted to try to write something that had the depth of a novel. So I put together the whole story of Cyberpunx as if it were an opera libretto, then wrote the songs to fit into sections of it.
Briefly, the story is set in a future war between the European Union and the Arab states, and is told through the eyes of one of the protaganists, an orphan boy who grows up in the jungle, becomes a European helicopter pilot, falls in love with a girl from the other (Arab) side, deserts, takes the girl to a space station where he gets her pregnant, gets brain damaged, becomes a hardcore criminal, and ends up as a dying in a hostage situation.
The record company hated the idea, and refused to release it in the form I wanted. After much argument and pressure from them I agreed to let them change the track order, drop some things etc. This was the worst decision I have ever made in my entire life, and I have regretted it ever since. The album as it is now is a bit of a bastardised version of what it should have been. It should have been magnificent, but it’s not. It is still a damn good record however, has some great stuff on it.
Incidentally, some of the tracks from this aborted story appeared on other records: Forests and Fire & Forget appeared on the Finland EP, Why and Lullaby appeared on the War Against Sleep album. Someday I’d like to piece the whole thing together as it was intended to be, including the full original story. And if I ever get the money, I’ll put the opera on the stage. We’ll see…
Typical suits, wouldn’t know art from shit.
It would have been interesting to see what the whole story would have sounded like, and the opera on stage… maybe Billy Idol is thinking the same thing for his CD. Cyberpunx, such as it is, is still an interesting listen even if All Music Guide considers the album “vaguely derivative” and “forgettable,” recommending it for die-hard industrial music fans. Now let’s run this mutha up the flagpole and see if it’s cyberpunk…
Nice Work… If You Can Get It: Track one is a little ditty about a person who murders a wealthy man then hacks his computer to steal his money (Back in car, I load the guy’s computer, ‘Course he keeps his passwords on a smart card Taped under the dash) and flies to Liechtenstein “Spending his money on a diamond mine.” Something many hackers probably dream of.
Let’s Go To Europe: It’s weird hearing this song, knowing it was written in the late 80’s, since the lyrics sound like a slam against modern America (You wrote a constitution and left it unread… Your only source of knowledge is T.V., You censor everything and think you are free). Back then, the US was at war in Iraq while a power-crazed president named George Bush was dictator. Nothing like the US today.
Then again, Europe doesn’t get off easy either (There’s not much to Europe really, it’s so small).
Happy Days (War Is Here Again): What has to be the Bush family anthem, this short instrumental piece sounds almost like a celebration complete with a saxophone.
Jihad Girl: This is where the European helicopter pilot falls for the Arab girl, and when he suffers a mortal wound his thoughts turn to her for strength (Saw my insides in my hands, Survived by force of will, And by the thought of you), probably wishing she was like a robot (Wrap me in your arms of steel).
Sunshine At Midnight: The pilot and his Arab girl on the space station. Another short instrumental, with a bit of a Twilight Zone vibe to it. It segues smoothly to…
I Want You: Nothing cyberpunk here, just continuing the storyline where the pilot gets the girl pregnant.
Sleeper: Something about this song sounds like something from the Matrix or Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime (Someday the phone will ring, I’ll get my orders, I’ll come awake, And I’ll go home).
Nightfall (Over EC): An apocalyptic-sounding number of war in Europe (Jihad is coming, jihad is coming, The Third World War is coming home).
Into The Heart: A surprisingly guitar driven song with drugs (I snort some coke, It’s in my brain, Makes me feel alive, Makes the world insane) and a bit of violence (I got an Uzi, The only work of art, And on the handgrip, I paint my heart).
I Believe In Free Everything: The final instrumental offers voices lifted from some movies somewhere. Could be the anthem to the Free Software Foundation.
What Turns You On?: A serial killer gets sexually aroused murdering girls. ‘Nuff said. (My name is Ted Bundy… I liked to see the dead, And when I came in them, It’s like Jesus giving head).
Ugly: The hostage situation where the pilot dies (Here come the bullets), but not before he has one last say about the world (Your world is ugly). A rather ominous finale to the album.
Conclusion: With only five of the twelve tracks having confirmed cyberpunk lyrics, I’d have to say the album isn’t cyberpunk. But after learning what planned and how the record execs fucked it up, I’m only more interested in hearing the album as it was originally planned, complete with the storyline.
Hopefully, Rodney Orpheus will re-release Cyberpunx as he intended. As it is, it’s still worth a listen, it’s just not quite cyberpunk enough.
This post has been filed under Cyberpunk Music
by Mr. Roboto.
Early this morning, Bruce Sterling blogged on Wired.com about this relatively new anti-RFID implant group based in Brisbane, Australia called We The People Will Not Be Chipped.
This is how they describe themselves and their mission:
The We the People will not be Chipped - No Verichip Inside Movement, is based on the irrefutable fact, that we believe in mankind’s inalienable human rights that are absolute and can not be debased, nor perverted. Human life can not be degraded to a 16 digit RFID chip number embedded under you skin under any circumstance. By uniting on this common ground, we can send a strong message to the IBM funded Verichip that we the people will not be chipped!
If you or your company/organization would like to get involved with the We the People will not be Chipped - No Verichip Inside Movement , we encourage you to get in contact with us. We are looking for contributors , web designers, artists in all fields , printers, multimedia experts, mailing houses, civil libertarians, financial contributors, and freedom fighters to help us take this message to the masses. We will only be treated like inventory when complacency becomes our drug of choice.
As history has a funny habit of repeating itself. Study World War II closely on how IBM backed the Nazi Regime utilizing the Hollerith Machine . The Hollerith Machine was a punch card system that aided in cataloguing the population. This IBM technology gave the fascist, totalitarian state the much needed technology boost to increase it’s rate of human data processing . The goal was simple, extreme nationalism which called for the unification of all German-speaking peoples and eradicating the enemies of the state namely the Jews and other non-compliant races.
Fast forward to the year 2006 , we have IBM funding the parent company of the Verichip namely Applied Digital Solutions [ADSX] . The VeriChip Corporation is both FDA approved and patented with the owner of patent (#6,400,338) granted recently to VeriChip’s manufacturer, Digital Angel Corporation, with worldwide patents pending.
In the re-active world’s state of affairs, we are seeing world governments tightening measures in regard to identity protection, trumpeting our need to be protected from the forces of evil. As we move into the age of paranoia and fear these ideologies, supported by propaganda campaigns, demand total conformity on the part of the people.
While there has been a sort of revolt by states against RFID being used in the Federal “Real ID” cards, this has to be first such NIMBY group against the implants themselves, although this seems to be more focused on VeriChip’s activities and experiments rather than the idea of such implants as a whole. For those who are looking to become DIY cyborgs, this will cause a conflict of interest as step one is getting RFID implants.
A warning about Big Brother, or just a bunch of Luddite kooks? Either way, this looks like the kind of battle that makes good cyberpunk lore.
This post has been filed under Cyberpunked living
, News as Cyberpunk
by Mr. Roboto.
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