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By Phil Hall | January 24, 2011

Allen Ginsberg’s landmark poem “Howl” gets a 21st century makeover in Tiffany Shlain’s highly amusing short, which reconfigures the swirling commentary of the beatnik era into today’s considerably less daring digital environment.

The result is an apocalyptic view of technology obsessed souls via the Ginsberg looking glass. Thus, we have “angel headed hipsters burning fast for the ultra-fast heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night.” These “info fix” junkies are the types who are “searching in the imaginary comfort of Facebook friends” and found “Wikipedian angels editing on collective knowledge illuminated.” Chat rooms, Flickr, Pandora, GPS, Bluetooth, YouTube, eBay and Amazon are among the online entities that get fried along the way.

Shlain’s visual approach to the subject mixes together original animation with a buffet of nutty clips from various eras. Some of this doesn’t quite fit – you don’t really expect to find Harold Lloyd turning up twice in a parody of Internet obsession – but it moves so quickly that hiccups are easily overlooked. Peter Coyote narrates the text with an appropriately caffeinated melodrama while Carl Orff’s always-hypnotic “Carmina Burana” booms on the soundtrack. Even better: it is all wrapped up in a compact three minutes.

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