"I'm extinct"
October 26, 2022 10:14 AM   Subscribe

A lot of artists know the feeling; we’re belatedly learning how factory workers felt half a century ago, watching themselves be replaced by robots. Tim Kreider's review of the the last stop-motion film: Mad God by Phil Tippett, over thirty years in the making, and an exploration of what it means to be obsolete.

"it took him a while to recognize that his mental health was deteriorating because his normal working methods were hard to distinguish from the symptoms of mental illness. This film is the product of obsession, of love."
posted by mecran01 (30 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Mad God Trailer
posted by Going To Maine at 10:19 AM on October 26, 2022 [3 favorites]

This movie made me very uncomfortable, and I couldn't take my eyes off of it. I don't think I could watch it again, but I think about it all the time.
posted by triage_lazarus at 10:31 AM on October 26, 2022 [2 favorites]

On FanFare.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:37 AM on October 26, 2022 [4 favorites]

"it took him a while to recognize that his mental health was deteriorating because his normal working methods were hard to distinguish from the symptoms of mental illness"

ok, uh, I felt that
posted by mhoye at 10:37 AM on October 26, 2022 [10 favorites]

*Checks Watch*

Is it time yet for a proper societal discussion that already even now, only a few percent of people truly need to work 40 hours per week to produce, manage, and maintain all of the food, goods, infrastructure, culture, and entertainment our society measurably wants? And that it is inevitable that all reasonable demand for all sorts of products, both consumer goods *and* cultural products will be able to be satisfied on a tiny fraction of the potential labor pool?

Unless and until we liberate ourselves from the idea that WORK makes you WORTH anything, and that the vast majority of people have to find a way to put money into their bosses' pockets on a full time basis to be allowed to have a place to live and food to eat, the world is in for a very bad time.

Guess we're not ready for that yet. But our kids are gonna really appreciate the current generations being asleep at the wheel for this, and the climate emergency, and, well..... a whole lot of other things they'll rightly blame their predecessors for.
posted by tclark at 10:39 AM on October 26, 2022 [42 favorites]

A good friend and I have a basic thesis about the 21st century that goes something like this:

Whereas AI-based capitalism will increasingly do the boring and normal stuff we used to call "jobs",

Whereas people are fundamentally drawn to stories and things made by people for people,

Therefore people will increasingly do things that distinguish themselves from the machines,

Therefore the 21st century will be the century of people doing weird stuff.

In my darker moments I recognize that weird as a descriptor doesn't have a valence. Naziism is "weird" by any definition of the word and therefore, sadly, validates the thesis too.

In my brighter moments I am looking forward to a future where the weird, wonderful, and non-monetizable things we create--stories, art, music, athletic feats--end up toppling technological capital through their sheer strangeness.
posted by turbowombat at 10:53 AM on October 26, 2022 [4 favorites]

Mad God Trailer

i watched pink floyd's the wall on acid once - this seems a lot like that, but more
posted by pyramid termite at 11:12 AM on October 26, 2022 [1 favorite]

Shudder has a seven day free trial. Seven free days, and a lifetime of therapy.
Kreider just amuses the heck out of me. This line:

"By now, pretty much any idle dystopian daydream you care to entertain is already in beta;"
posted by mecran01 at 11:48 AM on October 26, 2022 [7 favorites]

I now want to watch Mad God, but I'm stuck on the obsolescence part of this.

Several decades ago, I was obsessed with 3d graphics. I was writing renderers, and figuring out ways to put pixels on screens faster. That obsession led to moving to California to join Pixar's Interactive Group, and when the Interactive Group was dissolved I was given the option of becoming a "Technical Director", or going into the Graphics R&D group.

At the time I saw being a TD as being an interface by which the director used the computer. That dramatically under-valued the role that the TD brings to the process, but is also not entirely wrong. I went with going into Graphics R&D, and after a little while there realized that wasn't my place either.

Anyway, here I am decades later, caught up in a world where everything is layers of abstraction. I'm no longer obsessively counting cycles, figuring out which machine language idioms splat those pixels faster. Hell, I'm no longer trying to remove unnecessary floating point operations from geometry transforms. I have an intuitive feel for how 4x4 matrices work that many people I've run into in computer graphics don't have, and yet here I am with those skills completely unused in my current career path.

I'm about to just trash a whole bunch of books with various really cool math and techniques because I'm never gonna write my own polygon rasterizer again, never gonna worry about finding the surface of an implicit surface.

And I miss that. I spend a lot of time these days trying to figure out WTF the people developing AppKit or JavaScript idioms were thinking, a lot of which feels like unnecessary layers of abstraction on top of layers of....

And I think I can draw an analogy straight from "this brush stroke goes right here" vs "let's change the input sentence a little bit and see what that gives us" to my own path of worrying whether LEA was faster than ADD and MUL vs how the framework that some coworker pulled into the project is abstracting out threading in a way that's causing us a deadlock.

I feel a lot of that "in love with a dying art", even if that art was assembly language. I fill the part of my head that used to be obsessively staying up late at night pondering state machines with square dance choreography, of all things.

And I'm reading about how JIT languages are edging in on compiled languages for performance, and thinking about what skills I should be developing for my next act. What's the art I'm trying to express, rather than the craft that gives me joy?

Which loops back around to computer animation and ML generated images and even the local steam power enthusiasts group, and pondering how we fall in love with the craft.
posted by straw at 11:49 AM on October 26, 2022 [44 favorites]

The link in the article to some test footage of the stop-motion version of the kitchen scene in Jurassic Park is really interesting to watch. For the first few seconds, I was like, "oh, yeah, stop motion, you never stop seeing it, it never seems real" but before long I was thinking, "This could have worked."
posted by Well I never at 12:01 PM on October 26, 2022 [7 favorites]

Shepherd and I tried watching it, but it was so relentlessly grim, we couldn't finish it. I mean, mad respect to the project, but it was so brutal that my brain couldn't take it.
posted by Kitteh at 12:12 PM on October 26, 2022 [3 favorites]

One tech writer experimented with using it to compose a “think piece“ for Medium, and found it disturbingly indistinguishable from a human-generated Medium think piece (which raises the questions of 1.) how many Medium pieces are already written by robots and 2.) how much original thought is involved in the typical “think piece”).
Ooh! Ooh! I know the answer to #2!

(God bless Tim Kreider, seriously.)
posted by Tom Hanks Cannot Be Trusted at 12:15 PM on October 26, 2022 [7 favorites]

Metafilter: mad respect to the project, but it was so brutal that my brain couldn't take it.
(are we still allowed to do this?)
posted by mecran01 at 12:27 PM on October 26, 2022 [2 favorites]

We live in brutal times, hooking up the brutal IV is punishing. The times them selves will elucidate, even from your front porch.
posted by Oyéah at 12:55 PM on October 26, 2022 [1 favorite]

Phil Tippet is such a legend in the filmmaking arts world. All his stop motion of the original Star Wars movies is iconic.
There's an interesting "making of" episode for Jurassic Park where they tell the story of how Tippett was hired to animate the dinosaurs and had already begun but then these other computer dudes on the crew came in with this CG T Rex test footage and Spielberg had to give the Dinosaur job to the other guys because it just looked so much more real. At that point Tippett realized his craft was expired in that commercial capacity.
But stop motion will always have charm and soul. I'm glad to see he's getting props for his talent. I haven't seen Mad God but since everyone says it's depressing I probably won't.
posted by Liquidwolf at 12:57 PM on October 26, 2022 [3 favorites]

The tool fan I was is very much into this format and tone. But in 2022?
posted by zenon at 1:21 PM on October 26, 2022

artistry was rendered obsolete by mechanical reproduction and social media long before AI did shit. these kinds of stories almost read like hype pieces for the idea of AI itself
posted by AlbertCalavicci at 1:32 PM on October 26, 2022

Dammit, just as I was establishing an artisan buggy-whip startup...
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:31 PM on October 26, 2022 [3 favorites]

It is very sad, and brutal, but it's an amazing work of art. Crouton-petters be warned, though, it will make you weep for the fate of creatures seemingly made of pocket-lint and earwax
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:39 PM on October 26, 2022 [2 favorites]

You know, cryptography still counts cycles, straw. As one dramatic example, wasm codegen works poorly in LLVM so people hand code wasm for elliptic curve operations
posted by jeffburdges at 4:18 PM on October 26, 2022 [2 favorites]

"All Passes -- Art Alone Endures"
posted by dancestoblue at 5:51 PM on October 26, 2022

Unrelated to the post topic but on the issue of the coming age of full automation, Aaron Benanav has an influential critique of this idea.
posted by derrinyet at 6:08 PM on October 26, 2022

Forty years ago I became a computer typographer, eventually running high-end phototypesetting equipment for a newspaper. I wrote code to create exquisitely shaped editorial text blocks, to create elegant dropcaps, and to generate paste-ready ad copy for the advertising department. The integrity of type design mattered to me, I was proud of my ability to make the Quadex jump through hoops to produce gorgeous text.

Out and about, I could break down print by font and style. Big chunks of my brain were constantly bubbling over kerning, spacebanding, leading. There were rules and conventions. I felt a part of something ancient and meaningful and was proud of the depth and breadth of my knowledge and skills.

One day I was called into the publisher’s office and curtly informed that I was no longer needed—I was being replaced by Macintosh computers.

Not only was I instantly obsolete, extinct, and meaningless, but long-accepted rules of typography were quickly tossed as everyone moved on to desktop publishing. Everything I’d worked to learn was worthless at a stroke, and I was reminded of this (and continue to be so) daily.

I still feel immense grief and have never fully recovered.
posted by kinnakeet at 5:23 AM on October 27, 2022 [24 favorites]

I still feel immense grief and have never fully recovered.

Honestly, this is horrifying and I am so sorry you had to (and still have to) experience it.
posted by Literaryhero at 5:50 AM on October 27, 2022 [4 favorites]

40 years ago or so, my side gig was to spend mornings in my brother's print shop typesetting on an ibm selectric

i would go over issues of upper and lower case just to pick up pointers and ideas

first, it was decided that someone a few blocks away with a computer could do it better and cheaper - and then there were macintoshes

i still had my motel job, but ... so it goes
posted by pyramid termite at 2:40 PM on October 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

40 years ago or so, my side gig was to spend mornings in my brother's print shop typesetting on an ibm selectric

Here's a short film on the last edition of the NYT typset on linotype machines
‘Farewell etaoin shrdlu’

And a 2014 article about it.
1978 | ‘Farewell, Etaoin Shrdlu’
By David W. Dunlap November 13, 2014

The New York Times has been produced in so many different ways on so many different platforms since 1978 that it would be difficult to count.

It would not be difficult to count the number of ways it was produced before then. Two.

First, there was handset type. Then, beginning in the late 19th century, there was machine-cast type. And that brings us through 127 years of Times history to the night of July 1, 1978; the last time this newspaper was produced in hot type, principally on Linotype machines that cast one line of type at a time from molten lead.

And that brings us to “Farewell, Etaoin Shrdlu,” a documentary made that night by David Loeb Weiss, a proofreader at The Times. Without this film, there would have been no way to convey to posterity what a big-city newspaper composing room looked and sounded like as the metal-and-muscle orchestra played its final staccato symphony.
posted by mikelieman at 4:09 PM on October 27, 2022 [3 favorites]

You know those video yule logs they have sometimes for Christmas? Shudder has a Mad God Ghoul Log for Halloween.

posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:59 PM on October 27, 2022

I can remember meeting newspaper journalists in 2000-ish and them telling me the web was overblown, their jobs not at risk etc.

I knew their jobs were at risk, that massive change was heading towards the media.

But I envied the dignity in their complacency. They were immersed in their trade, had pride in their work and the history of the organisations they worked for.

I felt it was a luxury to not scan the horizon for threats. Because I scanned, I always jumped before I was pushed. Always tried to stay ahead of the employment trends.

I internalised precarity and stayed employed. But precarity is exhausting. It may have been better to stay ignorant of the changing landscape, to wait to be pushed.
posted by Speculatist at 12:38 PM on October 28, 2022 [4 favorites]

Marc Maron's interview with Tippett on the WTF podcast back in June is really good.
posted by neuron at 9:50 AM on October 29, 2022 [2 favorites]

Knowing next to nothing -- as per usual -- about the topic at hand, I was struck by what kittens for breakfast had to say about it on FanFare:
I don't believe that anybody who would spend thirty years crafting a work of art this beautiful and intricate and powerful believes that we're all just bugs crawling around in puke and piss and shit. It's impossible to create a passionate work that is truly nihilistic, just categorically. It's a paradox. I'm not sure I enjoyed this film, and I don't think I'll ever see it again, but I do think it's about as brilliant an art film as I have ever experienced. I genuinely believe that this film will be admired for generations, by audiences all over the world.
...and thinking something about imagining the unimaginable equals Oh, the humanity!
posted by y2karl at 7:27 PM on November 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

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