Archive for the ‘kafka’ Tag

Coincidence No. 545 – Jackals

I am out running in St Pancras & Islington cemetery, listening to an Audible podcast about writer Robert Harris. He says:

“it’s like coincidences, which happen all the time in life, you can’t have them in fiction, they just don’t work…”

Just before this bit he was talking about how you can write novels about things where we know the ending and gave as his example The Day of the Jackal.

Yesterday I go to my bookshelves to find two things: a crappy entertaining thriller to read again and my copy of Kafka’s complete stories – see Coincidence No. 544. In the pile of crappy thrillers is The Day of the Jackal. It is behind another pile of books and I haven’t set eyes on it in years. I think about reading it (asking myself have I ever got through all of it? maybe I only know the ending from the film) but in the end pick another book set in Berlin in 1963 which appeals to me. And I find the Kafka in an equally obscure spot where two shelves meet and overlap forming a sort of hidden compartment.

Last night I begin both books. The Kafka story I pick out to start with is called Jackals & Arabs and features an old jackal.

When I finish the short Robert Harris podcast I switch to an audiobook I’ve had for a while but not listened to yet – A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. In the opening few minutes it explains the terms Species, Genus and Family. In illustrating the biological Family it mentions, alongside dogs and cats, jackals. 19 minutes in, he explains early man’s position in the middle of the food chain by describing the scene of a giraffe being eaten by hyenas and jackals.

jackal

Coincidence No. 544 – Kafka

The day before yesterday I start reading Kafka’s Last Trial by Benjamin Balint. It is about the court case settling where Franz Kafka’s manuscripts should reside.

Yesterday I see that Facebook has added to People You May Know a certain Beverley Kafka. I don’t know her, it looks like she may be a friend of a friend of my mum.

Today I am walking in East Finchley Cemetery – it is perhaps only the second time I have been in here. (I am writing this in the shade of a spreading old oak.) At the turn to this side of the extensive mid-19C cemetery is the grave of Dorothy Kafka, born 1930, died 1988. The objective of my walk in the cemetery is to find a quiet spot out of the sun to read Kafka’s Last Trial.

I have never met or come across anyone called Kafka before.

Meta more thesis

kafka

Dale Hergistad of Schematic kindly pulled by the Channel to show us some of their recent work. He’s based in the LA office and looks like a (very nice version of a) baddie from a Hollywood movie, one of those peroxide blonde ones (can’t quite pin down which Die Hard or Lethal Weapon or whatever I’m thinking of).

The presentation kicked off with some interesting analysis of our evolving relationships with different size screens – from the personal mobile to the massive public display a couple of hundred feet away – and how this relates to the journey from viewer to user. So far so good. We moved on then to look at a range of implementations and mock-ups of next-generation navigation, mainly TV-based.

Fast forward twenty minutes and these are the notes on my page, reflecting I think something of the culture gap which still exists between the US and UK:

* the navigation’s all well and good but look at the crapola content we’re navigating through
* the interface experience is over-complex
* (with regard to some of the game-type implementations like Battlestar Galactica or whatever it was) people are fiddling while Rome burns – the world is coming apart at the seams while people fiddle with their joysticks
* pretty much every example is driven by buying and consumption
* who the fuck wants to interact with a car advert? haven’t they got better things to do?
* there’s an incredible greed not to miss anything, with screens within screens and the like.

So, nothing to do with Dale personally – he was very generous with his time and clearly enthusiastic about his work – more to do with the kind of project that was being illustrated, I left feeling uninspired and couldn’t get back to my (rather British) neck of the woods quickly enough.

I’m sitting writing this in Prague airport coming home from the Eureka Mobile Awards with Alfie Dennen of Moblog UK. Big Art Mob was one of six finalists. It was pipped at the post by some porno service which gets its average punter to part with $55 a week to interact via their mobiles with Russian girls (live on webcams) whilst playing with their joysticks or whatever. Kafka would have loved the scenario, and he might well have had a word or two to say about the kind of Amerika reflected in the bloated, greedy world implied by the kind of television/media Schematic find themselves engaging with.

As Alfie and I supped a mojito with a TV producer from Cologne last night in the backroom of a Prague cellar guarded by a smileless skinhead, a ‘TV producer’ hot from a shoot of “erotic sports”, my first experience of Prague was shaping up nicely. Alfie and I were fuelled up with dumplings and heavy meat – consumed just before in a restaurant decorated with copulating Czech cartoon couples (4 Cs copyright Alfie’s mum, Head of Stats at Young & Rubicam) – while Alfie’s long lost and newly rediscovered old flatmate Stormin’ Norman was fuelled with something altogether smaller and rounder. He was kindly leading us to the main event but unfortunately got sidetracked by the other pornographers by the exit.

So Alfie and I had to hijack a cab which pulled up beside the awards venue. It happened to be set in a bar adjacent to the Kafka Museum. A huge K stood in the courtyard beside two statues of naked men holding their joysticks and pissing at each other (I hesitated for some reason to snap it for Big Art Mob, I’m not sure whether that was more about aesthetics or light conditions). So a dark surreality was the dominant atmosphere with Das Schloss looming above us.

The Eureka Awards, run by World Telemedia, had a certain Kafkaesque quality about them, like playing a game whose rules nobody has explained, Byzantine, 1,000 Russian sex-workers voting online, bizarre voting patterns worthy of Richard & Judy, Ant & Dec, Blue & Peter, text votes too for no clear purpose, and a panel of journalists expert in joysticks and other mobile stuff. Big Art Mob, an innocent abroad, a naïve player in a dark game of intrigue.

As I walked home over the unlit Charles Bridge, past shadowy lovers and silhouetted lone men, my long black coat was just right for the Third Man atmosphere of the famous landmark and adjacent streets. The meter on the cab home whirled as if possessed – “it’s night” explained the lugubrious driver. As I crossed the hotel lobby two blondes sat by the lifts ready for the simple pleasures. Who the fuck wants to interact with a post-Communist cliche? Is everything driven by buying and consumption these days? Josef – as one letter (G) to another (K) – any advice on how to navigate our way out of this dark, consuming maze?

I headed up to my (rather British) neck of the woods. My Agatha Christie novel (4.50 from Paddington) where the only thing two ladies do is walk around Miss Marples’ garden admiring the planting. Announcement of a two-nil victory to Spurs on Sky News, a crack of light in the dark surreality of this season? (Kafka may not be a bundle of laughs but following Tottenham is only just the right side of waking up as a giant insect).

Image designed by Liv Ducci – Creative Studio – http://www.kafkamovie.com

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