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Food For Thought

The Global Brain


Although the idea of a Global Brain may sound like something you’d read about in a 21st century science fiction novel, it is in fact a concept that first emerged in the social and biological sciences in the late 19th century, when an increasing number of evolutionary and social theorists began to realize that the entire human system was, in a sense, “behaving.” As scientists began to identify underlying patterns in global human systems – that appeared to be structured and self-organizing, in the same way as are those of any biological organism - scientists hypothesized that our species could, in fact, be understood as a “superorganism” as opposed to a random collection of individuals, families, groups, cities, or nations.

One of the first things to alert scientists to this possibility was the very nature of human, animal, and plant metabolism itself – which is the mechanism by which individual biological organisms process matter and transform it into energy, allowing us to live, reproduce, and function on a daily basis. The metabolic process is a highly complex one, and it is probably safe to say that no one understands it in its entirety. We do know, however, that metabolism consists of eight primary functions or “functional subsystems,” all of which have been identified and discussed by cyberneticist Francis Heylighen in his 2007 paper on the Global Brain:

• Ingestor - i.e., eating, drinking, inhaling
• Converter - i.e., digestive system, lungs
• Distributor - i.e., circulatory system
• Producer - i.e., stem cells
• Extruder - i.e., urine excretion, defecation, exhaling
• Storage - i.e., fat, bones
• Support - i.e., skeleton
• Motor - i.e., muscles

We also know that within our very own global society, we can find an analogous mechanism that perfectly mirrors the metabolic function of biological organisms, and in which we can identify the following “functional sub-systems:”

• Ingestor - i.e., mining, harvesting, pumping
• Converter - i.e., refineries, processing, plants
• Distributor - i.e., transport networks
• Producer - i.e., factories, builders
• Extruder - i.e., sewers, waste disposal, smokestacks
• Storage - i.e., warehouses, containers
• Support - i.e., buildings, bridges
• Motor - i.e., engines, people, animals

If we take the time to look at the world in this light, it is easy to see that human systems - taken together – can easily look like a giant, planetary superorganism.
But, if this is true, then where is the brain in this superorganism?

Most complex multicellular organisms have some type of nervous system, and many have centralized brains that allow them to process information, to learn from past events and experiences, and to non-randomly predict the future. Do we see evidence of this type of activity in the human superorganism? Do human systems, examined globally, display the ability to process information, to learn from past events and experiences, and to non-randomly predict the future?

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, scientists could not identify a global nervous system. And it is no wonder. During this period in human history, our communication systems were quite primitive, with most of us relying on postal services, physical meetings, and landline telephone systems to interact at even the most basic level. Only toward the mid-20th century did computer scientists, evolutionary scientists, physicists, and a few science fiction writers begin to suspect that a global nervous system was developing or emerging. Some came up with the idea that a "noosphere" could explain the organized, behavioral nature of human systems, that evolution was, in fact, pushing us towards a kind of planetary consciousness. Others saw the possibility that a global world knowledge center consisting of all human thought – was in the process of being created.

But what could create such an entity?

Well – the Internet, of course.

With the development and widespread use of the Internet, scientists could finally identify the emergence of a nervous system. From the very beginning, humans have been quick to adapt to its many uses, to rely on the Internet to store, catalogue, and process vast quantities of information – and most importantly, to facilitate communication and data transmission, breaking down more and more physical and geographical limitations as time went on, and in so doing, changing the very way humans relate to one another on a daily basis. Very few would disagree that the Internet, still in its infancy, has already completely transformed our planet and our species. With the advent of the Internet, there is nothing to prevent humans from forming connections, building social groups, and collaborating with one another, regardless of where we are on the planet.

Thank you Internet.

But is this nervous system comparable to the nervous system of a biological organism? Again, the patterns and functions seem eerily similar. In an animal’s nervous system, the following functions can be identified:

• Sensor i.e., sensory organs
• Decoder i.e., perception
• Channel and net i.e., nerves, neurons
• Associator i.e., synaptic learning
• Memory i.e., neural memory
• Decider i.e., higher brain functions
• Effector i.e., nerves activating muscles

In the global nervous system, the following functions can similarly be identified:

• Sensor i.e., reporters, researchers, etc.
• Decoder i.e., experts, politicians, public opinion, etc.
• Channel and net i.e., communication media
• Associator i.e., scientific discovery, social learning, etc.
• Memory i.e., libraries, schools, collective knowledge
• Decider i.e., government, market, voters, etc.
• Effector i.e., executives

All that said, the question remains: Are we in the process of building a Global Brain?

To answer this question, it would be a good idea to back up a little and define what we mean by Global Brain.

Right now, the idea that a Global Brain may exist in the future is merely a hypothesis, according to which scientists have posited that a higher distributed intelligence may, in fact, be emerging from an otherwise complex network of people, machines, and ideas. According to this hypothesis, a Global Brain would, through our continued collective action and/or consciousness, eventually have the ability to mediate and to regulate all human activity. Now, before we begin comparing the idea of a Global Brain to that of an Orwellian Big Brother, let's remember that the Global Brain is a “distributed” intelligence. Such an entity would not be controlled by any one agent. In fact, the Global Brain's existence would depend exclusively on the behavior and existence of its neurons (i.e., us). Just as your own “global brain” (i.e., you) is produced by the collective behavior of your neural networks, the Global Brain’s behaviour would be dependent on the collective thoughts and wishes of individuals and organizations around the world.

In my opinion, the evolution of a Global Brain is – in the very least - theoretically possible. After all, many technological and system-level trends appear to point towards the emergence of such an entity sometime during this century.

Consider, for example, the following trends:

1. Everyday, humans around the world continue to provide increasing amounts of data to the Internet, including information that we had once considered personal and private.

2. Everyday, humans around the world are spending increasing amounts of time on the Internet.

3. Everyday, humans around the world have increasingly easy and cost-effective access to the Internet.

All of these trends are likely to continue. It is not difficult for most of us to picture a world – in 2030 - when all humans are on the Internet, all the time - sharing, liking, tweeting, hash-tagging, commenting, discussing – generally outsourcing our lives to a medium that has access to all of our personal and collective information. Assuming that these trends will continue, one can easily hypothesize that at some unfixed point in the future, most or perhaps all human interaction will take place there.

Let’s assume, for a moment, that a Global Brain does, in fact, exist – or is in the process of development - and that we are simply the neurons that make up this vast nervous system. Using the analogy of a human brain, we know that a Global Brain could not function if its neurons were not fully connected with it, if its neurons were not engaged in a continuous stream of communication with one another. A Global Brain, after all, could not exist if its neurons were disconnected from it or from one another.

In the last decade, we have seen computers shrink in size and weight, becoming increasingly portable, accessible, and user-friendly. Whether in the form of laptops, tablets, or other mobile devices, we are using computers in more intimate ways. We have come to rely on computers on a daily basis for all kinds of reasons and they, in turn, have become ubiquitous in our lives. In the 1970s, computers could be found only in laboratories, research facilities, and universities. In the 1980s, they invaded the work place. In the 1990s, computers found their way “en masse” into our homes. In the 2000s, they found their way into our pockets in the form of mobile gadgets, portable phones, and listening devices. In this decade, we are already beginning to witness the emergence of "wearable" computers (i.e., Google Glass, Smart Watches). In the 2020s, computers will make our homes, businesses, and transportation grids intelligent, and in the 2030s we will probably begin to allow computers into our own bodies, so that they can interface with our organs, including with our brains.

In this light, it is easy to see that a global nervous system may indeed be coming to life, and that once the Internet is connected to or somehow integrated into our brains, we will have given it the power to mediate everything we do, say, and think, and that we will be able interact with it as seamlessly as we currently do through the medium of spoken and written language.

The Global Brain refers, in short, to the Internet at its full maturity. It will be an intelligent planetary network of people, machines, and ideas – a collective system within which we will probably spend most of our existence. Will it be conscious? Well, WE are conscious. So if all human consciousness on the earth is merged together on one planetary communication medium, my guess is that this will give rise to a meta-consciousness. Evolution, taken to its natural next step, will permit us to create an all-encompassing global consciousness endowed with its own intelligence and its own nervous system, opening doors to innumerable possibilities that could never have existed otherwise.

If you’d like to know more about the Global Brain, come see me at where I am attempting to raise money to fund my research, and where I have included additional information about this very exciting project. I look forward to answering your questions at:

Photo Credit: Istockphoto

Cadell Last is a science writer and evolutionary scientist with a Master’s Degree from the University of Toronto, with experience in the fields of anthropology, biology, cybernetics, and history. He is in the early stages of his doctorate research at the Global Brain Institute in Belgium, working under cyberneticist Francis Heylighen. If you are interested in supporting Cadell’s groundbreaking research, or would like to find out more about it, please visit or contact him directly via Twitter (@cadelllast).

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Bregman's Vision

Joshua Bregman is the visionary director and writer behind the intelligent, thought provoking, and darkly illuminating short film entitled “Scattered,” starring Simon Norbury, Keaton Makki, and Elisabeth Hopper. Released in the fall of 2012, the film was exhibited at the 2013 Sci-Fi London Film Festival, and at other film festivals around the world. Based on award-winning science fiction author Ken MacLeod’s short story “The Surface of Last Scattering,” the eleven minute film invites the viewer into a near-future set in the year 2030, at a time when almost everything is recognizable, except maybe for a few apparently minor, but terribly important details. Metal, brick, wood, stone, and plastic are plainly visible in the opening scenes, and as the camera pans over the immaculate surface of a diner counter, we see a waitress rolling utensils in white cloth napkins. We shrug it off. After all, cloth napkins aren’t all that unusual in restaurants and diners, we whisper to one another – but we do find ourselves wondering why the waitress refers to a plastic-covered photograph as a “cool device.” Oh well, we say, the film IS set in the future, isn’t it? It’s not inconceivable that printed photographs have gone out of style, now is it? But what’s with that synthetic sweetener the waitress places on the table, that looks remarkably like the shiny capsules we’d find in a bottle of prescription medicine? It seems a far cry from the little pink packages of Sweet’n Low that grace the tables of most eateries these days… In a traditional dystopian narrative, these details would seem unworthy of mention – a necessary pre-condition to creating the setting of a film that takes place in a yet unscripted future. But, as in any enduring artistic endeavor, it is often the calmly restrained and understated integration of these details that gives rise to a viewer’s intuitive response, as she finds herself quietly cobbling together the many tiny fragments of a much larger puzzle. It is this restraint – in detail, in atmosphere, in dialogue, in color – the subtly matched greys, blues, and browns, with just a flicker of purple or red, that draw us in, as if into a cold winter night, causing us at once to shiver and to hold our breath while we wait for the story to unfold. ***** In our interview, Joshua Bregman – who agreed to talk to us about his work, and about his future film projects – described his background as follows: “I grew up in Maryland and went to university at St. John’s College in Santa Fe. I worked off and on in television and film in New York City for ten years before moving to London to complete an MA in Film at Met Film School. I grew up with my mother in a single-parent household, and both my parents are federal civil servants. My interests are science and science fiction, politics, sociology, art and literature.” Josh told me that he started out in the film industry by working on camera crews for MTV and VH1 in New York City: “Afterwards, I worked in post-production at a TV company, and I made educational videos for online use. I also shot a music video for a friend. I then went on to work in political and social issues, documentary mostly, and was focused on that form. I worked as an assistant editor on feature documentaries like Magic Trip and The Armstrong Lie. When I moved to London, I had a chance to work on fiction projects and really loved it. I especially enjoyed working on the performances with the actors. After graduation, I production managed for a few days on indie SF feature Narcopolis, and on a forthcoming SF short called The Leap - and I produced a comedy short that will be released this summer. I also co-wrote a film last year that made the finals in The Sci-Fi London 48 Hour Film Challenge. It was called The Company.” I was curious to find out why Josh had chosen to create a film like Scattered: “I read Ken MacLeod’s story in TRSF, and really loved the father-son relationship, and the themes and metaphors in the story. I’d been thinking a lot about how we deal with our conceptions of the past and future, and Ken’s original story neatly encapsulated a lot of the things I’d had on my mind. I really liked the core relationship in the story, and the discussions and questions it raised about history, memory and our relationship to the past and future. I felt that my personal experience would enable me to direct the father-son relationship in a truthful and compelling way.” Josh explained that the story’s original author was on board with the project, and was happy to contribute: “I showed Ken some script drafts. He was always very encouraging and gave some suggestions about things he thought were working or not.” ***** Josh told me that his choice to create a short film was both a conscious and practical decision: “I felt that the original story, as it was, was a good fit for the short film form. There’s a setup, a reveal and even a bit of an epilogue. We wanted to keep the project under fifteen minutes for festival release. Fortunately the story was very amenable to that time frame.” The film, which took about five months to produce from beginning to end, was the product of a collaborative effort between Josh and producer Victoria Naumova, who has a number of directing and production credits to her name, including documentaries, short films, and talk shows: “The pre-production phase was about two months. The filming itself took about four days. Post-process was another three months of actual work altogether, although it was spread out over a six month period. After I obtained permission to adapt the story, I took the script to Victoria who got the production up on its feet. She did an amazing job getting the cast and most of the crew on board. Scattered was a great experience for me at every level in every phase. I learned a ton about filmmaking and about myself. I made some key mistakes that I won’t make again, and was fortunate enough to work with excellent people.” Josh described the casting process as follows: “We put out a call to agents and casting sites, and held auditions. We looked at about fifteen people for the part of the main character, Conal, and then Keaton Makki came in as the last audition on the last day. We thought we already had someone we wanted, but he really hit it out of the park. He had some ideas that were different than the original conception, and that really added to the character. Since the film is based on Conal’s story, we had further auditions – so that people could try out for the roles of Emma and Keith, and so they could read with Keaton. Elisabeth Hopper and Simon Norbury were great in their parts, and their interactions with Keaton in the scenes felt right.” ***** Raising funds is always of concern to independent filmmakers, so I was really encouraged to hear that Josh and his team had managed to raise the bulk of their budget - $6,600 – on crowd funding platform Indiegogo. I asked Josh to talk about his crowd funding campaign, and to provide some advice to filmmakers who are considering crowd funding their next project: “Our producer provided a portion of our start-up budget and we raised the majority of the total budget from Indiegogo. Our contributors ranged from family and friends to fans of Ken MacLeod’s stories to sci-fi fans who saw our pitch online.” “I think crowd funding is a great way to go for a first, and possibly second project depending on the funding goals and the network of the filmmaking team. I’m not sure that it’s a sustainable model, though. My main advice would be to plan your budget and timeframe well. Aim high, but stay just on the far side of unreasonable. And get help. If it hadn’t been for the hard work of our producer Victoria Naumova and line producer Sabina Smitham, there is no way that I alone would have been able to devote enough time to both the crowd funding and publicity, and to the film itself. Something would have suffered.” Josh concluded: “Lastly, be sure to follow through. Give your contributors what you promised them. It’s the right thing to do, and it also keeps the ecosystem healthy. Many potential funders are reluctant to contribute because they’ve heard bad stories of unfulfilled promises.” ***** So far, the response to the film has been very positive – but many fans, including myself, are eagerly hoping for a second, longer version of the film, to see what happens to the film’s three intriguing but all-too-human characters: “People are overwhelmingly complimentary and usually comment that they were impressed with the performances, the photography and the design aesthetic of the film. Some people feel that the film was too short and want to see more of the story and what happens subsequently in the lives of the characters! My favorite response was after a screening in Los Angeles when an audience member said, “Well! That was worth an hour of traffic!” The first time I watched Scattered, I was drawn to the intricate details that make up Bregman’s dystopian but ambiguously optimistic future, and by the juxtaposition of these details against the emotionally charged nature of the dialogue. I asked Josh why he had chosen to integrate these elements into his film: “The details like the synthetic sweetener and the cloth napkins were definitely intentional. I wanted to build a world of the future, and show that it was paperless. But it’s always a problem to show something that isn’t there. So I came up with those elements that I thought would be unobtrusive but that would reveal details and create contrast or raise questions for the audience. Having the waitress call the sweetener “synthetic” was another touch that I felt added to the futurism of it. We also had a segment with an electronic cigarette for Keith and a fingerprint scan to pay for the drinks, but they didn’t make it into the final cut.” He continued: “We did also want the environment to contrast with the performances. I wanted the emotional tension in the scenes, but in a more understated way, no shouting or banging on tables and that sort of thing. As the actors are mostly seated throughout the film, this cut down even more on their options for actions that would convey emotions. So the environment had to really not be obtrusive to let the details of the performances remain in the foreground.” “Although we don’t find out in the film if Keith’s actions actually did work to reduce sectarian violence, the grey or mildly dystopian look of the film helped create ambiguity there. Is the world better or not? If we had wanted to create a bright, shiny future for the characters, then the film would have argued more strongly in favor of Keith’s point-of-view. But the film is ultimately based on Conal’s story, and his internal world is clouded. Emma has a bit more natural color in her skin tones. Her jewelry accessories and her performance are brighter, since she brings a hopeful conclusion to an otherwise pretty painful experience.” ***** Josh told me that he and his team encountered two challenges while filming Scattered: “The two biggest challenges were finding an appropriate location and keeping the film cinematically and dramatically interesting with a very dialogue-heavy script. The original story was set in the Glasgow train station, but we couldn’t film there since our shoot coincided with the Olympics. So then we had the idea of an American-style diner. Luckily we managed to find one we could afford. But it took a bit of shoe leather. It was also difficult to structure the script to disclose enough information periodically to keep things interesting, and to keep the viewer wondering what was going on, without giving it away or being on-the-nose.” ***** These days, Josh has his hands full with filmmaking projects, but – given the current state of worldwide political stagnation on pressing social, economic, and environmental issues – we believe that his aspirations - to create provocative films that will have viewers talking about a variety of controversial issues – are incredibly worthwhile: “I’ve just moved to LA and am working on getting set up here. I’m doing second unit for another London-based 48 hour film this weekend. I will be directing a music video next month and working on my feature scripts. My dream project is to continue the precedent set by Scattered and create a Sci-Fi anthology show with stories penned by our most innovative SF authors, and stories that, like Scattered, address the future on our horizon, with strong social and political commentary.” Josh hopes that his work will get people thinking and talking, and that his films will somehow spark some change for the better: “A good friend told me that when he saw it for the first time he enjoyed it, but that he wasn’t struck or particularly bowled over. Then he called me the next week and said, “I’m still thinking about your film!” For me that’s an ideal response. I’d like to make films that have a compelling emotional core that raise questions and get people thinking and pondering. And I love the idea of an experience that holds you in the moment, but then continues to unfold over time, long after the direct experience is over.” “To me that’s what wonder is all about, and what Sci-Fi as a genre can uniquely offer at its best. It is through the experience of wonder that we can become better people and hopefully make our world a bit better. I’d like to get people pondering and wondering, but I prefer to do it by means of a well placed and well timed question, instead of by way of shock or controversy - which I think is a less truthful, although highly entertaining means. So, to the extent that people come away from Scattered in a thoughtful state-of-mind, then I consider it successful.” ***** Josh describes a typical day as follows: “I spend most of my time working on my next project, watching and learning more about film and doing what I can on other people’s projects… Filmmaking takes up most of my day and there aren’t really any days off. But I’m a bit monomaniacal about it and I’m sure there are better ways to balance your life. I should probably mix it up a bit more.” Josh’s provides the following advice to fellow filmmakers: “Start and finish. Starting and finishing are the hardest part. Talk less about the films you’re going to make someday and go make them. Once you’ve started, follow through and finish. Even if you don’t get the film you wanted, you’ll learn more and you’ll have something to show for your efforts at the end of the day. This will make the next one better.” To view "Scattered," please go to ***** Image Credit: All photographs published with Joshua Bregman’s permission

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The Beaches

by Hanna Rose

Based out of Toronto, Ontario, The Beaches is an alternative rock band made up of four talented young women: Leandra Earl, 19, on keyboard and guitar, drummer Eliza Enman McDaniel, 18, singer and bass player Jordan Miller, 17, and guitarist Kylie Miller, 16. The all-girl band has been described by SXSW as “proud teen pioneers of the new wave of fem-rock” while their music has been hailed as “sassy” and “saw-toothed,” recalling “The Strokes, Elastica, The White Stripes, Metric and The Runaways,” snarling with “romantic defiance, youth rebellion and peer solidarity.” The band, which released their first self-titled EP in 2013, will be releasing their second EP entitled “Heights” on May 5, 2014 – which promises to be yet another incredible expression of the band’s desire to explore themselves as artists: “Our sound is still very rock based but we've added many synth elements. This EP is best described as a cross between Jack White and Muse.” For Kylie and her sister Jordan, both of whom are still in high school, the whole story began when the sisters, who took guitar lessons as kids, started writing their own songs: “Jordan and I began singing and writing together with our guitar teacher James Quinn at a young age. We formed a band with two boys and another girl from our music school in 2008. The boys went their own way, and then we were in need of a drummer. We had gone to school with Eliza, so we asked her to join. In 2010, we became a Disney band called Done With Dolls - until we decided it wasn't for us anymore. The band evolved into The Beaches in 2011. Then, one of the band members decided to quit, so we contacted Leandra to join in 2012. We've been a band for about a year and a half now.” Kylie told me that all of the band’s members developed an interest in music early on: “Eliza's dad is a musician so she grew up always being surrounded by music. Jordan and I were always fascinated with music from a young age. We were placed in guitar lessons at ages six and seven, and that's where this whole thing started. We also learned some vocal music theory in school. Leandra is classically trained. She started playing piano at a really young age too. Jordan, Eliza, and I have taken lessons, but I wouldn't say we are classically trained.” ***** I was especially drawn to one of the band’s songs entitled “Little Pieces,” which can best be described as an electrifying and edgy introspective work that displays a remarkable amount of maturity for such young musicians. Kylie talked about the inspiration behind the song: “Little Pieces is about a person struggling with their mental stability, who's trying to battle their demons.” Kylie went on to describe the band’s music as alternative/synthy rock, and gave me a glimpse into the band’s creative process: “Our music is influenced by so many artists, including Metric, Jack White, Elastica, and David Bowie. The writing process has always been extremely important to us. It's a five-way collaboration between the band members and our music guru James Quinn. Someone will come up with an idea and we will work it out and then usually Jordan will write lyrics afterwards. Jordan, our lead singer, normally takes control of writing the lyrics, but we all collaborate. We write everything together and we like to bounce ideas off one another. Sometimes, we collaborate with other artists. For example, we just did a super fun writing session with Ryan from Mother Mother. We just jammed and hung out. It was really fun.” Kylie told me that the band, which has already toured Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto, and other Canadian locations, as well as Austin TX, and London UK, will be performing at the iconic and extremely well attended Osheaga festival in Montreal in August 2014: “Our booking agent Joel from Feldman and manager Sabira from Three Six Zero got us some awesome gigs there… We are so excited about it.” I asked Kylie to tell me about the band’s best and worst shows: “The best gig was probably at SXSW when we played the headlining slot at Friends on 6th street. The venue was packed and we could feel the whole crowd's energy on stage. The worst one was probably one of the earlier ones when we were just starting out. One time we played to an audience of three people and we knew each person in the crowd.” To prepare themselves for live performances, Kylie explained that all band members warm up and center themselves, and that her sister, vocalist Jordan Miller, meditates. Kylie told me that independent musicians face a considerable number of challenges: “I guess the biggest is that there are so many bands competing for the same thing. Luckily for us, Toronto is a great city with lots of venues so we are kept busy.” Kylie explained that one of the most difficult challenges for an independent artist is achieving balance: “It’s hard to balance the rest of your life with being a musician. It's not a job that you can go home from. It's with you all the time. Being a musician never turns off… However, it is extremely rewarding. Balancing school with music is challenging, but we make it work.” Kylie’s favorite part about being an independent artist? “Being in control of our own music, brand and image is nice.” The band’s future aspirations? “This music is definitely not a side project. We all really believe in it and we hope something big happens. We are all in it for the long run. We hope to tour the world and just keep releasing music that we are proud of.” Of course, Kylie told me that the band members have other interests too: “Jordan is interested in film, Indian food, and fashion. Leandra is interested in running and cats. Eliza’s hobbies would include hanging out with friends and acting like children with Leandra. And I’m interested in art and cooking!” I asked Kylie whether she could ever see herself in a different career, other than music. Her reply: “I would be a sushi eating champion. Jordan would wanna work for VICE. Eliza would probably be a teacher.” Leandra, on the other hand, told me: “As an alternate career I would be a music teacher or a cat whisperer.” Kylie’s advice to musicians who are just starting out: “Listen to your heart and know who you are. Don't let anyone take that away from you. Cliché I know, but it's true.” For more information about The Beaches, please go to: References: Interview. The Beaches. Published by SXSW. Retrieved on April 1, 2014 at ***** Image Credit: The Beaches Music and lyrics copyrighted to The Beaches Featured Song: Little Pieces

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Pretty Rosebud

by Bree Marie

Actress and screenwriter Chuti Tiu has appeared in a number of films, including one of last summer’s most anticipated movies - The Internship, starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. In January 2014, she was awarded Best Actress at Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema for her leading role in Oscar Torre’s film PRETTY ROSEBUD. The film took home a total of five awards, including Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and the coveted Best Film Award. Chuti, who wrote the screenplay for the film, worked alongside her husband - actor and director Oscar Torre - who is most recognizable from his roles in movies like The Hangover III and Libertad. I was fortunate to talk to both Chuti and Oscar about Pretty Rosebud, their careers, their work relationship, and their plans for the future. In our interview, Chuti explained that Pretty Rosebud is steeped in issues that many women have to deal with today: “Most people, regardless of background, feel the pressure to succeed, to please one's parents, to make something of themselves, and that's an especially powerful pressure when [you are] a first-generation American - which I am, and so is Oscar. There's a divide, more like a chasm, between what is considered acceptable behavior by older generations and their children. Things like honesty vs. keeping secrets, freedom vs. obeying rules... I wanted to highlight the combustible pairing of inter-generational conflict - especially between immigrants and their Americanized children - and the complexities of marriage. Another situation I wanted to explore is one I've seen more and more frequently, and that's the challenging situation where a wife is the primary breadwinner, and [where there is] inactivity or a sense of limbo on the part of the husband. Lastly, I wanted to portray how we all pass down patterns of behavior and the issues that come with them.” In Pretty Rosebud, Chuti’s portrayal of the main character - Cissy - is powerful, emotional and revealing. Cissy strives for perfection to please those around her - a theme Chuti and I both agreed is far too common today – which often causes people to be torn between what they are taught they should be, and who they desire to be. Chuti explained: “Striving for perfection is an impossible pursuit. There are many different types of expectations that women face - to get married, have children, juggle a career and family, the list goes on. What happens when a woman doesn't want that? Or “fails” to achieve that? Or changes her mind along the way? The expectations - and limitations - of women are firmly entrenched in society, which can thwart the potential of women and in effect, [of] society as a whole. Women can end up feeling torn between the role they [feel they] are supposed to fulfill and the life they desperately want to live.” ***** Oscar, who made his directorial debut with PRETTY ROSEBUD, took home the Best Director award at Idyllwild this year. He confided that the transition from acting to directing was not an easy one: “Directing is probably the hardest thing I've ever done - and also the most rewarding. My experience as an actor was my film school. I've had the pleasure of working with a lot of good directors, so being on their sets and watching them work was invaluable to me. I went about my work as a director in the same way I go about my work as an actor. I like to prep a lot. That way, when I'm on the set, I have the freedom to deal with the unexpected - which on a film set, you should always expect. I really loved the process of putting together a film, then going out and executing it and seeing my vision come to life, while also getting to work with a team of talented collaborators who are essential to making everything come together.” The first time in a director’s seat can be daunting enough, but this film was particularly close to Oscar’s heart: “I hope [viewers] go away discussing the film - thinking about their own lives. It's the story of a woman who makes a lot of mistakes along the way while discovering who she really is. Life is complicated, and at times, messy... but if we're able to forgive ourselves, we might learn something along the way. I guess loving ourselves despite our imperfections is one of the keys to happiness. I hope [viewers] leave thinking about some of these things.” ***** While Hollywood couples are quite common, the working dynamic between Chuti and Oscar is nothing short of magical. Sure, the awards speak volumes about their talent, but their affection and respect for one another say so much more. When asked about the time they spent together in production, Oscar replied: “When we started, [I really didn’t know] how it would be - working with my wife. The one thing I was sure about was that I had a solid script and a strong lead actress, so the real pressure was for me not to mess up directing the film! I thought that it might be difficult, since any issues that arise on the set might continue at home. The truth was that I couldn't have asked for a more professional actress to work with. She was always ready to go, very prepared and took direction really well. We joke that shooting the film was the only time she ever listened to me. I can't wait to work with her again - which will [be] soon.” Chuti added: “Oscar was amazing to work with! He seamlessly and patiently juggled all of the hats he needed as a director while executing his vision. His preparation astounded me. Every decision he made, from wardrobe choices to camera angles to lighting to blocking to editing, was purposeful and thoroughly thought through. Also, Oscar had such an incredible grasp of the characters and the story. I was amazed from the get-go [to see] how in tune he was with what I was trying to convey in the script. It was such a blissful creative experience, like jumping off a cliff to hang-glide for the first time. Once we jumped, we were in sync, flowing, like we were dancing together. By the way, Oscar doesn't dance. So this is saying a lot.” Oscar quickly pointed out: “I like how eloquently Chuti just said what I was trying to convey. That’s why she’s a writer.” With the success of Pretty Rosebud, and with multiple international premieres coming up this spring, Chuti and Oscar have decided to come together to work on another production entitled MAN/WOMAN. Oscar described the film as follows: “It's a short film that I've had in mind for a while but had not put on paper. On New Year's Eve, I decided to write the script so I could go into 2014 with some momentum. It's a love story about two diametrically different people who meet once a week in a motel room, and in a way, they have a more meaningful relationship than some people who've been together for years. The film also has a few twists that I hope the audience doesn't expect.” While discussing Man/Woman, Chuti gave me a glimpse into the couple’s off-set dynamic, and how it flows into their work together: “It's about relationships. The intricacies and idiosyncrasies of relationships. It’s funny, but Oscar and I talk about that all the time. We love to wax philosophical until the wee hours of the morning like college kids at a slumber party – and it comes out in our films.” ***** Note: Petty Rosebud will have its Canadian premiere at the ReelWorld Film Festival in Toronto on April 3, 2014, where Oscar Torre will be the keynote speaker at the annual ReelSpeak event. There will also be screenings in Salt Lake City on April 17, in Miami on April 24, in Los Angeles on April 30, and later on in May in Chicago and Milwaukee. To top it off, Pretty Rosebud will be screened at the Big Island Film Festival in Hawaii in May 2014. For a full schedule, please go to: To purchase tickets, please go to: For more information about the ReelWorld Film Festival, please go to: ***** Image Credit: Used with Chuti Tiu and Oscar Torre's permission

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Welcome To The Fishbowl

by Brian Petti

I am not a celebrity, nor do I have any ambition to become one. Of course, I’d like to become a wildly successful playwright whose plays are continuously showing around the world 24/7. But how many of those can you name who aren’t Neil Simon? Mostly I try to do good work and take that wherever it leads me. I bring up the topic because three celebrities have made the front page of the tabloids lately, three men whose work I’ve appreciated for many, many years. “Trust the art, not the artist” is a motto I like to live by, especially in this age when celebrity and talent rarely cross paths. Honestly I care about the product, and I have very little patience for the cult of personality surrounding most actors, directors, singers, and writers. To say I 'know' someone because of a character they’ve played or a novel they’ve written is at best delusional and at worst dangerously misguided. Yet we all seem to know so much about the people who entertain us, and there seems to be an unending desire to consume more and more, to lay them bare and swallow them up whole and, ultimately, bring them down a peg. The three men I’m speaking of are Philip Seymour Hoffman, Woody Allen and most recently Alec Baldwin. Very different men with very different talents, united in my mind by the fact that I almost always found them interesting to watch and supremely good at what they did. One of them is dead of a drug overdose, another has had his reputation forever tainted, and the other is so fed up with the paparazzi merry-go-round that he has declared an end to his public life. I don’t pretend to know what demons drove Hoffman, or what Woody did or didn’t do, or whether Baldwin really used an anti-gay slur when he was chasing a persistent reporter. I wasn’t there. I don’t know any of the parties involved. What I do know is that an AWFUL LOT of people who also weren’t there have an AWFUL LOT of opinions about what happened. And in the reactionary fishbowl we call America, what we think happened and what really happened are often confused. We get our messages in quick flashing headlines and tweets, encapsulated in one hundred and forty words or less. The sources of these messages have become less and less reliable, and more and more determined to capture our attention. Reporting has become scandal mongering, and it’s only getting worse. I recently watched a documentary called “All The President’s Men Revisited.” The film tells the story of Watergate reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, about whom the classic 1976 movie “All the President’s Men” was made. The story of how these two men methodically and rationally connected the dots to a conspiracy that ultimately led to the resignation of a President is riveting stuff. But what stands out for my purposes here is how careful they were. Woodward and Bernstein knew the consequences of what they were doing, and so they (and their editor) insisted on obtaining two sources for every item of news, and they made judgments about the veracity of those sources. In other words, they acted in a sober, responsible manner. Their goal was to figure out the truth behind the Watergate break-in and to reveal who knew about it, and when. The documentary interviewed a current day editor and asked him what would happen if the Watergate story broke today. He said the news would be tweeted around the world immediately, and that everyone would instantly assume the worst about the Republican President’s motives. All the parties involved would immediately take on a bunker mentality and make sure they got their stories straight. There would be a spinned response to the reporting and an effort by those involved to deny that there was further information to leak. All this would happen in the space of a day, and ultimately the in-depth reporting that Woodward and Bernstein did over several months with phone calls and interviews would never happen. Is this what journalism has evolved into? Is ‘first’ more important than ‘thorough’ or even ‘factual’? The answer to this question, of course, is yes. In the age of instant pictures on cell phones and instant videos on YouTube and instant messages on Twitter, instant news is what we seem to crave. Where it comes from and how it is procured are immaterial. If someone makes an unsubstantiated claim, that’s news. If someone posts an opinion about, oh, anything they feel like having an opinion about, that’s news. Innuendo? That’s now called ‘speculation’ and it doesn’t need to be corroborated. And if a reporter sticks a camera in the face of a celebrity’s child, jostles his wife, and then films the celebrity flipping out, guess what? He’s made news. I know the impulse is to say, “Boo-hoo. Poor rich celebrities who have to deal with autograph hounds and paparazzi. Cry me a river.” OK, I get that. But how far does that go? Would you want people writing stories about your drug habit, and how you’ve left your children fatherless? Would you want people dredging up a case of your alleged sexual misconduct that was dismissed by the police fifteen years ago? Would you want someone whose only motive is to besmirch your character to publicly label you a homophobe? Like I said, I wasn’t there and I don’t know what really happened. But I know that the sources for ‘news,’ especially when it comes to people in the public eye, have become ever more questionable. Their motives are suspect and their methods are borderline illegal (and over-the-line immoral). And the scariest thing is that no one seems to mind. For the record, although I have seen the horrifying effects of drug addiction up close, I think the only people who can stand in judgment of Hoffman are his family. And although I am a staunch supporter of victims’ rights and abhor the use of homosexual slurs, I don’t think Woody Allen molested anybody and I don’t believe Alec Baldwin is homophobic. Just my opinion, I know, and aren’t we more than cluttered up with those? I like to base my opinion on the lack of reliable sources. I think we’re cluttered up with those too. ***** Image Credit: Warner Bros and Wildwood Enterprises, DVD Cover

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Let's End All Bullying

by Megan Haste

Many people are under the illusion that bullying only happens amongst people of the same age group. This, however, is not the case. In fact, it couldn’t be farther from the truth. Regularly, young people are subject to bullying by adults – and since adults are seen as authority figures, these situations often go unnoticed. Often, the bullying is mistaken for the assertion of authority. So what happens when the bullying reaches a stage when it starts to affect a young person’s physical and mental health? What happens when the bullying becomes detrimental to a child’s everyday life? It is often assumed that the young person is simply unruly and resents being controlled, so to speak, by an authority figure. The young person may be treated as a liar, and punished for actions that he or she may have carried out in self-defense. He or she may be told to sit down and to be quiet, whilst the adult continues with the bullying, taunting the young person in an attempt to provoke a response. This may spark a vicious cycle. When the young person finally reacts to the adult’s provocation, he or she is punished once again. So why doesn’t anyone do anything about this? This is a classic case in which the bullying itself is not seen - and in which the victim’s reaction is not only seen, but condemned. Are people reluctant to open their eyes to the behaviour of the bully? Or is the bully so skilled at providing such an excellent display of manipulation? I don’t know. I just know that young people are suffering as a result. We encourage our children and young people to speak out when they’re being bullied, but we shun them when they speak out about bullying by an adult. When they try to defend themselves, they’re told that they have no respect for authority. This is an enormous leap backwards. We are teaching the bullies and bullied alike that when you’re an adult, bullying people becomes okay. We make our young people suffer incessantly - and for what, exactly? We then go on to ask questions such as ‘Why do so many of our young people resort to self injury?’ and ‘Why is suicide amongst young people on the rise?’ Do we ever consider the possibility that society is to blame? That we drive our teens to hurt themselves by teaching them that they can’t turn anywhere else? In more and more cases, we are throwing our young people into the deep end, and yelling SWIM! without giving them any prior lessons. Then, we find ourselves wondering why they drown. Isn’t it time to wake up to the facts, and start helping our teens? Suicide and self-harm are on the rise, and it’s time to start looking at why. If we don’t, then I promise you, we’ll have a nation of adults bearing the scars of a childhood of bullying. Not only are we not recognizing that bullying across differing peer groups is an issue, we’re not offering any support for the victims. We have to change our ways, and we have to do so fast. ***** Image Credit: istockphoto

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Aaron Schwartz

Fascinating. Thanks, The People Project.

10 days ago

Eduardo Ribeiro Alves

I like (very much!)

10 days ago

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