The Weekest Links: tableau, zoo city, the fall


Autumn is being slow this year and the city of Lisbon has been in a climate limbo for the past week or so, sunny and hot, paying the changing season's schedule no mind at all. Today the gray skies finally arrived, brought with them the slight and undefined nostalgia of what October used to feel like. Soon, the rain will start. Staying indoors will require the right props, the right kind of brain-food and visual entertainment - all timely provided by this week's edition, where we'll look at three exquisite items that will make your descent into the windy season a challenging but comfortable ride. Welcome back.


The week of the 14th to the 21st of October 2013




Let's start with the infrastructural components: Tableau is a wired nightstand made from recycled wood. It's connected to the internet and it has a little photo printer inside its drawer. Every once in a while, the drawer's knob lights up and blinks, letting the owner know that it has just printed a photograph found on Twitter. Designed by MIT Media Lab John Kestner, "Tableau acts as a bridge between users of physical and digital media, taking the best parts of both." It's a quiet and beautiful piece.

The internet of things has been described in many ways, often in the context of usability, efficiency, or convenience. As that paradigm evolves and is increasingly deployed, we start to get objects like these, physical interfaces to the information clouds that hold and mediate our daily lives. When done right, these "post-computer products" actually deliver on the promise of a future where things are radically different and yet strangely familiar. Somebody called it the used future.

Tableau works via an API and can therefore be connected to other media networks. Some might argue that Instagram would be a more appropriate pick, but the Facebook-fueled fake-retro filters are exactly the opposite of what this wooden internet-enabled photo printer embodies and stands for. It's not about going back in time. It's about displaying your scars proudly, letting the new blood rush beneath them.




The crime and the magic draw you in, expert hooks in the hands of a writer who is good enough to describe reality in contemporary terms and brave enough to do it using science-fiction as a weapon. Set in Johannesburg, populated by guilty people and powerful animals, Zoo City is the answer to the lack of plausible narratives about our bionic century. The symbiosis of morals and flesh is irresistible.

Lauren Beukes used to be a journalist, and it shows. Her characters move swiftly through the streets and the schemes of a South Africa that is at once frightening and enchanting, haunted, hopeless, advanced. Zinzi December, the protagonist, is a young animalled girl. That means she's irrevocably paired with a sloth, magically attached to the animal because of a violent episode in her past and endowed with a special power to find missing things. The story begins when Zinzi has to do what she usually refuses: find a missing person.

Zoo City has been praised by all the right people, for all the right reasons. For me, it quenched that particular thirst left by cyberpunk's demise, it made me want to believe again in the power of the simple combination of street smarts, pop culture, and a little bit of biotech. That it all came from South Africa was just the cherry on top, the icing on the cupcake of what is now the new normal. Check it out.




The last time I saw Agent Scully she was in Baltimore, being all friendly and complicit with Hannibal Lecter. Next thing you know, she's over in Belfast chasing another serial killer, doing cold and methodical police work, aging amazingly well, and her name is now Stella Gibson - Detective Superintendent from the Metropolitan Police. No wonder celebrities are worshiped on this planet.

The Fall is a good show. It surprises the viewer by taking place in Europe, by letting you see the bad guy's personal life, by having Gillian Anderson in the leading role of a powerful and yet obviously troubled cop. I have only watched three episodes so far, but I can already guess that the chase won't be straightforward. The killer is too focused, too remorseless to slip and get caught without at least a few tragedies taking place. In the meantime, we get to watch Superintendent Gibson spread her professionalism, and her charm, all over her new Irish home.




Whether you're in a lonely new town or in the arms of a significant other, I hope that this week's show has provided some clues on how to cope with the arrival of the cold season, the rainy days, the end of summer. Next week, we'll delve deeper into the heart of winter, with another batch of the best links on the interwebs. Thanks for reading, this is stress.fm - live from Lisbon. Take good care.

Alice Politics