diego's weblog: art.media archives
the sopranos finale: masterful
It's been two weeks since the finale of The Sopranos and the brouhaha has nearly died down. After all that's been said, all I can add is that, in my opinion, the finale was masterful. Truly a work of art.
Open endings may not be the hottest thing in a society that craves to be beaten over the head with over-exposition (exhibit 1: most of hollywood's films). Don't get me wrong: I enjoy as much as the next guy a good ol' Die Hard or Armaggeddon, silly movies that are a good pastime.
I won't add to the countless analysis that are out there, some impossibly detailed, that indicate that, yes, Tony was indeed killed. I agree. But that's not the point. Had David Chase shown the killing, it would have had to be a complete Tarantino-style bloodbath to match the expectations around that final sequence, and it would have been completely out of place. The more muted, "just shoot the guy" would have felt disappointing (try to imagine it, it's not that hard).
So, the point? The point is that, even if Tony wasn't shot it'd still have been a good ending. Suppose he rose through the ranks to become the head of all the families? Check Phil Leotardo's fate. Or Johnny Sack's. The last two seasons of the series showed us the ending in technicolor. For these guys, criminals and sociopaths, there was no escape.
And that's what the last ten seconds of darkness were about.
With Journey still ringing in our ears, all the way.
the matrix trilogy on hd dvd
from the shameless-consumer-hat-on dept
The Matrix Revolutions aside (I still think my own matrix "abridged" script was better), the trilogy still deserves a lot of credit for breaking ground in a number of ways for the mainstream of cinema (since most of what makes the movies special had already been invented one way or another, particularly in Anime), and The Matrix remains a pretty good movie, flaws and all. I even have a soft spot for the other two, if only because they have noisy, entertaining chase sequences and some really impressive special effects. And no, I'm not talking about the burly brawl, which already looked fake at standard resolution (hey, perhaps they fixed it!).
Anyway, we'll see how this all looks at 1080p. Some movies (King Kong, Serenity) look amazing. Others (Superman Returns)... eeehh... not so much. All depends on the transfer I think. Color, brightness, digital filters and other obscure settings also play a huge role with HD content, especially HD-DVD/BluRay content.
One disadvantage: the "bonus content" is all on a regular resolution DVD (480p). This includes things like The Animatrix, and it's a shame. At least the Animatrix should be on HD no? Perhaps the movies themselves have some of that shiny picture-in-picture documentaries that I keep seeing trailers of. :-)
For the last two days I've been humming Promenade non-stop, even though I haven't listened to it, or to most of The Unforgettable Fire in a long time. I figured that a way of exorcising whatever obsession has it pegged it to my mind, I could write down the lyrics here, and so it goes:
Earth sky sea and rain
And I, like a firework, explode
In the cracked streets trampled under foot
Slide show sea side town
Hm. That's much better. :)
Just saw the first episode, "First Responders," of CBS's The Unit, created by David Mamet and Shawn Ryan (creator of the still astonishingly good "The Shield").
It was really something.
Favorite quote of the first episode: "You, you and you: panic. The rest of you come with me."
'24' or how I learned to stop worrying and ignore the plot
"I heard your Dad went into a restaurant. Then everyone was a bad guy in the restaurant. So your Dad killed everybody in the restaurant. Then he ate the furniture in the restaurant. Then they had to close the restaurant"
A hypothetical comment from Ralph Wiggum to Kim Bauer.
24 hasn't jumped the shark, it's ran over the shark, taken it home, fried it, and had it for breakfast.
I mean, really. Just how many bad guys are there in the world? With capabilities that at this point almost defy the laws of physics, never mind mere human legalities. Not only these hypothetical bad guys show up everywhere, they do it faster, and better equipped, than everyone else. The plot get crazier and crazier, even without getting Kim chased by cougars, which is saying a lot.
And even so, I find myself unable to stop watching it, with guilty fascination, as if looking at a train wreck in slow-motion, rolling my eyes, literally, every 20 minutes or so, and hoping that we may get to see another one of those great Jack-Bauer-action sequences.
And maybe wait for another cougar to show up... :)
On the plus side, the West Wing had a great season finale.
PS: nothing like a rant to get those blogging juices flowing. :)
I've been listening to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the original radio series, on the iPod(s). Still can't get over the scene where missiles turn into a bowl of petunias and a whale, courtesy of Zaphod's Infinite Improbability Drive.
"[And whereas the whale expressed bewilderment at materializing several miles above the surface of the planet...], the only thing that went through the mind of the bowl of petunias as it fell was 'Oh no, not again.'
The H2G2 movie, as it happens, will be released on April 29 this year. Here's the trailer.
PS: btw, I'm not sure if Douglas Adams gets enough credit as a Science Fiction writer. He should. H2G2 is fantastic as a piece of SF, and we forget that it was written more than 25 years ago.
I'm reading Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies and I come across this paragraph:
Human history at last took off around 50,000 years ago, at the time of what I have termed our Great Leap Forward. The earliest definite signs of that leap come from East African sites with standardized stone tools and the first preserved jewelry (ostrich-shell beads). Similar developments soon appear in the Near East and in southeastern Europe, where abundant artifacts are associated with follu modern skeletons of people termed Cro-Magnons. Thereafter, the garbage preserved at archaeological sites rapidly becomes more and more interesting and leaves no doubt that we are dealing with biologically and behaviorally modern humans.(My emphasis). To the archaeologically or anthropologically inclined of you (you know who you are!), this probably sounds normal. You may even find something to object to in that. But I had never, ever thought of garbage as something that was archaeologically useful. Strangely, I have considered many times what future generations will make of our garbage. But when I thought of artifacts found at excavations, etc, I've always had this weird image of the pristine arrowhead, being brushed carefully out of the sand. Something static. But "a pile of garbage" is... alive in some way. I'm not glorifying the fact that humans are filthy as hell, but rather the messiness of the process that is brought to light but that simple image.
BTW, this book is great, although a bit infuriating in a strange way: As I read it, I can't help but agree with his logic, at almost every step. I want to dissent, damn it! :)
my next question...
"My next question... starts as a question... and then turns into a statement... and then becomes an exclamation... and then sort of degenerates into, um, just random profanity... and noises, ok?"
A reporter on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Jan. 25 2005.LOL. Or as Skinner would say: Oooh, mercy. :)
a few books
I stayed at Russ's place for the last two days of my trip (thanks Russ! :)), and on Sunday morning we wandered around a bit and ended up at a Barnes & Noble. Part of the reason we went there was to see if they had the book Mind Hacks, co-authored by Matt, which I had been babbling about earlier. Matt gave a great talk at EuroFoo on topics covered in the book, including how reading certain things could affect your mood, and after the talk he made another interesting observation: that when breezing through spam and quickly deleting messages, we are actually reading the subject lines to a degree, and that affects our mood. Considering that they aren't precisely upbeat, this can be a factor, at least for brief moments of your day.
Anyway, so we each got a copy and then I got other books as well, including Collapse, Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, both by Jared Diamond, Hitler's Scientists: Science, War, and the Devil's Pact by John Cornwell, and finally iPod & iTunes: the missing manual, which I got mainly because I want to expedite the process of understanding what the iPod can do, extensions people are writing, etc, and I have no doubt that most if not all of this information can be found online, but it's all dispersed and if I can get a good chunk of it in a couple of hours, then all the better.
You could say that all of this plus the iPod was some sort of delayed self-Christmas present. You could also say that I went on a binge. But I prefer the first explanation. :)
PS: Throughout the trip I've been raving about The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, which I read a while ago and is truly fantastic--but I hadn't commented on.
hollywood's laws of physics (and gender)
Last night I was watching Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (on TV, I'm glad I didn't pay for theater tickets or rent it) and I ended up spending the second half of the movie waiting for Wile E. Coyote to show up as a character in the plot (the first half of the movie was spent waiting for the plot itself, which didn't appear). I did come to a few conclusions in the meantime, among them:
Why is it that they have to be just so over the top? The actresses, all of them beautiful, and talented, seem to be having fun, and this is made obvious throughout. Ah-ha. Was that the point of the movie? That the'd enjoy their residuals?
Sigh. One of my favorite movies of all time is Heat. You know why? because it was zero-bullshit. It didn't require me to suspend disbelief from here to Canarsie to buy the plot (Note: movies like MIB, Armaggeddon and ID:4 require suspension of disbelief for entering the theater, so it's okay that they are over the top :)). One of my favorite scenes in Heat is the shootout outside the bank. Cars don't explode (it's pretty difficult to make gas tanks explode, maybe because they've been designed to avoid that). People actually run for cover in the face of M-16 fire. On the opposite end, another favorite is the typical Simpsons scene with a leave falling off a tree, hitting a truck, and making it explode.)
So, comment to Hollywood: read Newton's Principia. You know, 17th-century physics. Einstein not required. If you can't get through it, just remember:
This sounds snobbish, doesn't it. Well, it may sound like that. MI:2 was over the top as well.
How about making women real protagonists, without having to behave as if they were in a casting call for Baywatch? Uh? Is this too revolutionary?
Yes, it may be that what really pissed me off was the beer-commercial aesthetics of the movie. I generally ignore the misanthropic inclinations of Bond movies, although they do piss me off as well. Why is it that they seem to be more of an issue with Charlie's Angels? Not sure. Maybe it's just that with Bond they are more of a sideshow, and Bond himself isn't a prize either (and Bond women are generally players in their own right, rather than directed by the all-knowing all-seeing Charlie), or maybe it's that at least the beer-commercial thing is not a big item.
However, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle isn't something I'd recommend.
Unless you want to see a two-hour long beer commercial.
PS: I also watched Mystery Science Theater 3000 which is a wacky, wacky B-movie that made me laugh out loud in spite of myself. Crazy characters, no plot, and no pretense of one either. Highly recommended.
the lord of the rings: the battle for middle earth-- a review
Long-time readers already know that I'm not much of a gaming fan. I don't even bother with most games, and the only ones I've played with interest have been those of the Doom/Quake series and the C&C series (and Myst too). I didn't play Doom/Quake for that long, probably until I got bored of fragging zombies with BFGs, but C&C games only got repetitive after several months.
Not that I have a lot of time to play games anyway, but over the years they have gone from entertainment to a good way to get everything off my mind for a while, along with books and movies. (Not all entertainment guarantees that--neither do all books or movies or games for that matter. :))
Enter The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle Earth, which I talked about in September, when I found out it was going to be released. It was finally released last week (it was delayed from its original November release date) and I got it on Friday.
First I thought: "Wow". Then "D'Oh" after I was killed.
The "Wow"/"D'Oh" sequence continued for a while, until I figured out how to actually win one game. Aside from a couple of skirmishes, I've been playing the "Good" Campaign (essentially playing the story of the books--there's also the "Evil" campaign in which you control the forces of Sauron).
The game is astonishingly well done. Great interface (the first consistently good use of circular menus I've seen anywhere), well-balanced sides, excellent graphics and sound, plus you get to actually play a story that you know, with the characters you know.
The simulation of combat is great, both on foot and horseback--A high point is to use an army of Rohirrim to run over an incoming band of Orcs. :)
The resource gathering system (a weak point in many RTS games) is good as well, and it fits with the story. Sauron's and Isengard forces, for example, obtain resources by chopping down woods, while the Good guys (Gondor, Rohan) do it by farming. (Tolkien was probably the first Fantasy/SF writer to worry a lot about the ecology/technology balance, and he mostly put technology in the hand of the bad guys).
Aside from the usual armies, there are also "heroes" which are the characters of the books. Heroes have powers that activate with rank (regular soldiers only increase in ability to what they already do). Sometimes they deviate from the story, but that's not a big deal (in Moria, Gandalf can survive against the Balrog, for example). Then, at crucial times, the action is mixed with sections from the movies for what you're doing (say, the arrival of the Elves at Helm's Deep while preparing for the defense). This is getting pretty close to a a mix of RTS with action RPG.
Anyway, if you like wargames (or even Role-Playing Games), you should check this game out (if you like C&C, it's almost guaranteed that you will like this game too--there's even an option to activate a C&C-like input interface).
PS: it is sad that Electronic Arts treats its employees badly. The games these people create are excellent, and they deserve better.
the great playlist meme of '04
Here are the instructions:
Here's my list:
via Erik, Jim.
PS: for the record :), I did skip "duplicate artists." I think it definitely makes sense, considering that for some artists I have hundreds of tracks and others rate only a few, or a few dozen (There I go, trying to "make sense" out of something like this. The bane of logic). I'm surprised to discover that skipping randomly through my entire music collection is oddly addictive...
some the small advantages of living in Dublin
About two years ago I was walking through Dublin and I noticed that the then-new U2 Best of... collection had gone on sale. So I got it (of course). Yesterday I was about to go into town but the terrible weather discouraged me, and I ended up going today, around noon.
Since I appear to be attuned to releases that interest me (or my subconscious knows more than I do and is in charge, take your pick) I happen to wander into town when the new U2 album has just been released, three days before the rest of the world. Eventually I walk up to HMV and go in, get the Collector's Edition of HTDAAB, which contains an extra track on the CD, Fast Cars---a song that made me thought of Arabian, Flamenco, and Indian styles of music, all at the same time (!)---a DVD, and a book with photos and writings by the band. I don't even look at the price, something that happens to me with certain categories of goods which my head apparently refuses to consider from a financial point of view, such as with almost any kind of book--this is why I avoid browsing bookstores, I go in, walk out five minutes later and somehow I've bought a book or two. But I digress...
I put the package in my backpack, and walk out.
And at the door my first thought is: What the...?
Right there, obviously just arriving, are the Macnas U2 heads (Macnas is a performance arts group out of Galway), which first made their appearance in the ZooTV tour. So naturally I got my camera out and snapped a few pictures, such as the one above (click on it to see a larger version), and here are a few more: one, two, three, four. Or, as Bono would say: Uno, dos, tres, catorce!
Anyway, such are some of the advantages of living in Dublin and walking Grafton street now and then... :)
PS: if that isn't enough, the latest survey by The Economist says that Ireland is the best place to live in the world, quality-of-life-wise.
the new U2 album
I just listened to How to dismantle an atomic bomb and it's excellent. The Vertigo single will be released tomorrow, the album on Nov. 22 in the most of the world (including the UK), Nov. 23 in the US. U2Log has the full track listing as well as some more details on the album (It's also at u2.com, but their navigational structure is a external-link-preventing disaster).
Overall ... you get this funny feeling that you've heard this before, somewhere, but of course you haven't, which is one of the U2 trademarks IMO. Some definite whiffs of Electrical Storm, the song released in their second Best of... collection. Also of Always and Summer Rain, songs from one of the Beautiful Day b-sides.
As with most other U2 albums, it starts with a bang (Vertigo) and then mellows out a bit, with bursts of energy in between (such as City of Blinding Lights--which seems to be this album's Where the Streets Have No Name-- and All Because of You), and u2-style love songs, like Miracle Drug and Original of the Species. Then there's Love and Peace or Else not only great rock n' roll, but the political track of the album. Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own feels like a worthy follow-up to Kite from ATYCLB (For example, the line "You're the reason why the opera is in me" is clearly a reference to Bono's father).
One prediction: City of Blinding Lights (which refers to New York City, I think) will sound great live when the tour kicks off next year. I can already imagine an entire stadium singing "Oh, you look so beautiful tonight."
Later: I knew that the beginning of City of Blinding Lights reminded me of something: the beginning of Sweetness Follows from R.E.M.'s Automatic for the People.
the new eminem video
Mosh, from his upcoming album Encore, is online at GNN. A strinking video on its own right, and a potent political message. I wonder if MTV or anyone else will play it though--if they did, I'd expect a pretty strong backlash...
the system of the world saga
A few days ago Salon's Andrew Leonard reviewed Neal Stephenson's System of the World saga, of which I've only read the 'prequel' Cryptonomicon. Will have to make some time to read the rest, now that all the books are out.
quote of the day
"I really like your hair."
Joel (played by Jim Carrey), in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Last Thursday was the first radio broadcast of U2's new single Vertigo, the first cut from their new CD How to dismantle an atomic bomb. More than its share of Punk aesthetics throughout (even in the promo image), and more than a reminder of Out of Control, Gloria and other early U2 songs. More info over at u2.com and u2log.com (exhibit a, exhibit b).
Btw, the song begins: Uno! Dos! Tres! Catorce!. Literary license for counting to four? Or something else? :)
the lord of the rings: the battle for middle-earth
Electronic Arts, who just released the Sims 2, will release The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-Earth in November. Since I'm partial to wargames, the Lord of the Rings, and EA's Westwood division is responsible for the Command and Conquer series, I have a feeling that this game could turn out to be one of those few that don't bore me before reaching the second level. :) The screenshot is a recreation of the escape from Moria within the game--on the website, they have videos of demos of the interface and gameplay with other classic LoTR moments such as the battle of Minas Tirith that look extremely cool.
hey! it's that guy!
Random link of the day: Hey! It's that guy!, which tracks a number of actors and actresses who are (generally) instantly recognizable on screen and yet few can name them. I could identify a good number of those. But when I didn't, clicking on an unfamiliar name and seeing a familiar face is a strange experience. Recommended. :)
homer on small-scale media
"See, Lisa? Instead of one big shot controlling all the media, now there's a thousand freaks xeroxing their worthless opinions."
From ep. 22 season 15, "Fraudcast News"
from the me-too-dept. :)
Don talks about his favorite wargames. While I am always interested in the technology involved in games (which almost invariably involves the most cutting-edge software development of the day) I am not a gaming fan. Or, rather, make that a PC gaming fan. For years I played RPGs (Rolemaster was my favorite) for many years along with strategy and tactical games (such as Warhammer 40,000).
On the PC I played extensively a couple of games (including, of course, Doom) but the one PC games that I keep coming back are those of the Command and Conquer series. The last one I've played is Command and Conquer: Generals (see screenshot, click on it to see a larger image). The online play is good, but unless you have friends online who are willing to actually play for fun instead of playing to advance in the rankings, online battles end up being short-lived affairs where the focus is on "rushing" your opponent before they rush you, which is entertaining for about 30 seconds.
There's a big difference, of course, on "fantasy" wargames such as C&C and the ones Don mentions, mainly in terms of logistics and resource management, which is the biggest tradeoff games like C&C have to make, i.e., sacrifice realism for "playability". In the real-world, supplies and logistics are as crucial as anything you can do in a battlefield, and historically it's been the case that it is the stretching of the supply lines that has played a major role in defeats or changes in strategy (In fact, if I remember correctly, in the Iraq war last year the forward units of the US Army advanced so far so fast that they outpaced their supply lines, leaving them to cross long distances without enough protection, which created the well-known security problems experienced by the supply convoys).
Anyway, if you like wargames and have never tried C&C, give it a shot (heh). (There even is an OS X version available, but I've tried the demo and it was quite slow -even on my G5 with 1 GB of RAM- so I wouldn't recommend it.) I haven't played C&C: Generals for months now, but if you've played and would like to meet up online, let me know :)--no rushing though! :-)
music for the ages
In an abandoned church in the German town of Halberstadt, the world's longest concert was coming two notes closer to its end Monday: Three years down, 636 to go.Another plus: the composer won't have to deal with art critics once it ends. :)
are you pondering what I'm pondering?
The Slashdot poll today is asking who is Most Likely to Take Over the World. The Brain is third so far, which can only mean that tonight's plan has something to do with pretending to be third in the Slashdot poll but take over the discussion board (as he clearly has) since most people there are discussing his brilliant if oft-foiled (oft-by Pinky) plans.
Brain: What is 'Troz'?
Pinky: Well, that's 'Zort' in a mirror! He-he. TROOZ!
the fog of war
And last night, aside from looking at DNA databases, I watched The Fog of War, a documentary-interview-mix with Robert S. McNamara, former US Secretary of Defense, in which he speaks candidly about tactics, strategy, logistics, World War Two, and, of course, Vietnam. Quite good, if sometimes a little lost in aesthetics rather than substance. There are many good quotes and interesting moments (I'll watch it again soon, I'm sure). One of the things that I found striking was that he quite plainly confirms that Kennedy wanted to "get out" of Vietnam (also mentioned in Oliver Stone's JFK), a notion that, as I understand it, was disputed for a long time after the war ended. He also talks about the Cuban Missile crisis, and the fire-bombing campaign over mainland Japan in early 1945, a campaign that wiped out large areas of Japan's major cities and killed thousands of civilians --the fire-bombing of Tokyo alone caused 100,000 civilian casualties (and that was before Hiroshima and Nagasaki), discussing the "mindset of warfare" and tactical and strategic considerations. And the section of Vietnam inevitably made me think of some recent events.
Something that I didn't know was that McNamara met, during the 90s, with both Fidel Castro and Leaders of the Vietnamese army that was fighting the US, and how that helped him re-examine the situation in hindsight, knowing the facts as seen from the other side. McNamara says that he basically asked Castro whether he would have recommended that the Soviet Union get into a nuclear war with the US over Cuba, to which Castro answered, more or less, "yes, in fact I did recommend that" clearly disregarding the fact that such a conflict would have also destroyed Cuba itself. (McNamara himself says, and it isn't hard to believe, that nuclear holocaust was avoided because of "luck"). With Vietnam, McNamara talks about the basic misunderstanding between the US and the Vietnamese as to each other's motives--the US was fighting a local war in the context of the larger cold war conflict, while the Vietnamese were fighting (in their view) a civil war for independence, and how this lack of understanding ("empathizing with the enemy"), which had proven in his mind crucial to solving the 1962 crisis, quite probably prolonged the war unnecessarily.
Sometimes he refuses to go into more detail, fearing, as he calls it, "controversy." I'd say that what's there already is controversial enough, but it makes me wonder what he isn't saying.
Anyway, not self-contained by any means, but a good addition to history books and other documentaries. Recommended.
[...] the real sound of this novel is the sound of the street a century ago: the noise of centuries of streets echoing over the stones.Indeed.
Too bad I won't have time to participate in some of the events of Rejoyce 2004.
reshooting a movie--in the editing room
An article on how movies that are in trouble try to redeem themselves in the editing room. As an interesting tidbit, there's a mention of Woody Allen's Annie Hall having been originally a murder mystery. I definitely didn't know that!
rain and a movie
Last night Deep Impact was on TV, and while I didn't see it (I prefer the all-out crazyness of Armageddon to the pretend-seriousness of DI) I suddenly remembered that The Day After Tomorrow had opened last friday. So this morning I took a half-day break from work and went to see it. It was entertaining, yes, but in part an empty exercise as well. In recent days there have been comments to the effect that the science of the movie is flat-out wrong--which is surprising considering that many of those commentators say also that we don't know enough--but was most vexing I guess wasn't effects were right or wrong, but how they were not only limited to the northern hemisphere, but also how everything just seemed to be hunky-dory after the population of half the planet had either been killed or dispersed, leaving the North uninhabitable and the South--well, nothing bad at all happened in the South! That more that anything, I think, took the legs out from under the tone of pretend-urgency of the movie.
When I was getting to the office from there it started to rain, and I mean, really rain, and I was soaked and cold in no time. So I just got home, dried out (hopefully fast enough to avoid a cold) had something to eat, and stayed here.
Anyway, I think that I prefered Ice Age, since at least it had that little rat that kept destroying glaciers and mountains when chasing after nuts. :-)
the end of the US TV season
So with this week comes the closing courtain of the US TV Season. Yesterday night was the season finale of 24, which, while reasonably good, still didn't nearly match the first season. Salon has an excellent review (warning, spoilers abound). According to the rumors, Jack Bauer's daughter, Kim, will not be a regular character in the next season. To which I can only say: Finally! If all that's been achieved this year is to get that character off our TV screens, then it's been worth it, virus or no virus. (Oh, and somebody please talk to the CTU people, they've been having trouble lately with keeping a secure environment, what with all the babies and distraught wives... sometimes 24 seemed like an episode of Friends with codeword clearance).
And speaking of Friends... it ended as well, this time for good. Now do we want to guess on the number of people that didn't know how it would end?
The West Wing season finale was last week, with two excellent episodes that reminded me of the quality of the first two seasons. While TWW clearly struggled to regain its footing this year after creator Aaron Sorkin left presumably seeking greener pastures (or something), the last two episodes (and some in between) are an almost complete redemption. The West Wing is possibly one of the best shows in the history of TV and I'd hate to see it butchered. Here's hoping they keep it up starting next September.
A couple of movies I've seen recently that went uncommented-upon in the midst of my no-blog-status.
21 Grams: Very good. Very good. Heavy. But good. Did I mention it was good?
Just watched the trailer for Pixar's new movie The Incredibles. Now that looks good!
controversy and ticket sales
Related to this post (and this one), the New York Times today has an article on the, um, "controversy" surrounding the movie. Funny (but not ha-ha funny) that a crucial element isn't mentioned at all: that Fox might be glad that groups are fighting each other over this movie, creating free publicity and so on, or that maybe they even fostered it a bit. Hm.
one of those really good moments in 'the west wing'
What will be the next thing that challenges us ...?
...that makes us go farther and work harder?
Do you know that when smallpox was eradicated it was considered the greatest single humanitarian achievement of the century?
Surely we can do it again... as we did in a time when our eyes looked towards the heavens, and with our stretched fingers... we touched the face of God."
Jed Bartlet, in Episode 5, Season 1, "The Crackpots and These Women".
ten years after Cobain
Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth remembers Kurt Cobain in the Op-Ed pages of the New York Times, with the aptly titled: "When the Edge Moved to the Middle". I was thinking just yesterday of how disgusted I am of what passes for popular music these days (btw, I'm not saying that it was better in the past, it's just that for some reason I've been more sensitive to it recently. I mean, I cringe to think of, say, the time of Disco). Few songs have any meaning at all. There is no innovation in the music. Then the videos: Visual effects. Photoshop-ed bodies. Sub-second shots. Smile. Click. Smile. Slick. Jump. Smile. Every single time (I'm not kidding) I happen to land on MTV or related I remember Beck's MTV makes me wanna smoke crack.
It's the underground that matters. The subconscious of society. And Nirvana was at the center of one of those few times when the underground went overground, and briefly (so very briefly) took over.
Strangely enough, I wasn't into Nirvana at the time, I re-discovered it on my own, and on my own terms, at the end of the 90s.
So today I'll repeat that Heavier than Heaven is a must-read. I'll listen to favorites like Heart-Shaped Box and Pennyroyal Tea.
I'll listen, and wonder.
random simpsons quote
Mr. Burns (addressing the employees at the power plant):
"Compadres! It is imperative that we crush the freedom fighters before the start of the rainy season!
From Deep Space Homer
best. superheroes. ever.
According to me, that is. :)
I was thinking of mentioning this on Sunday but then it, well, didn't happen, and work consumed me. Now I was taking a break and reading blogs... what else is there to do when it's so cold and windy out there? And, btw, will this cold stop? It's almost April already! Last Saturday not only we had near-zero temperatures, but we also had gale force winds!. But I digress...
So I see that Anne brings up the topic of superheroes, which reminded me of what I was going to write about: my top five favorite superheroes (since I've got High-Fidelity on my mind, and hence top-five lists!), and their best stories. (Note: some images below are clickable).
Who else? But of course, not just Batman-any-batman-batman, but Dark-knight-Batman, creation of Frank Miller's genius, also responsible for other graphic novel classics such as Ronin.
Miller reimagined the legend of Batman in the mid-80s as the Dark Knight: when the story told in Miller's Dark Knight Returns begins, Batman is old (more than 50), and he has been inactive for ten years. Gotham City has grown unruly and anarchic, and few think that Batman actually existed: he has become a legend. At the same time, he has grown bitter, and a lot less tolerant. When he decides to resume his vigilante ways and bring back order to Gotham, it's No more Mr. Nice Guy, but the enemies of the present are not what they used to be (The Joker, for example, is a raving all-out psychopath). This Batman influenced all that came afterwards in all mediums, including Tim Burton's masterpiece at the end of the 80s, and is most definitely not Adam West in tights with Robin prancing around next to him and warning "holy jokes Batman!" (which isn't to say that the movies got, er, "campier" --and crappier--, the further away they moved from Burton's original in time). He's no longer a troubled person that battles crime or being a corporate honcho, now it's clear that there's an underlying element of dangerous psychosis to someone who runs around at night dressed like a flying rodent on state-of-the-art machinery. The deep scars created in his childhood are evident, and they make him more human, and consequently all the greater as a superhero.
Miller followed The Dark Knight Returns with Batman: Year One in which he retells the story of Bruce Wayne as he fumbles his way into superhero-dom, fleshing out the characters to never-seen-before depths.
Miller's DK2, the Dark Knight Strikes Again, is a fantastic piece of art, where Batman has to fight against a Government that has grown in its Fascist tendencies and where do-goodies like Superman have compromised so much with it in the name of "fighting evil" that they have actually become "part of the system", which is controlled by Lex Luthor and Brainiac--and there's only the man in the cape ready to outwit them. (Yes, this is no mere hyperbole). Here Batman becomes as radical as the forces he opposes, and while sometimes Miller stretches it a bit in different dimensions, it's well worth the read. Incidentally, Alan Moore (which I'll mention again below) also added to the Batman story with the classic The Killing Joke, in which he explores the psychology of both Batman and Joker further than most.
V for Vendetta, by Alan Moore is, in my opinion, one of the finest pieces of literature ever written, never mind graphic novels or comics. Moore also created Watchmen (in which superheroes move in the shadows of a world that no longer cares about them and have to deal with very real, down-to-earth problems) and From Hell (and I don't have enough superlatives for these two books, so I won't bother. Suffice it to say that if you like comments and you haven't read them, well, you just should--and while you're at it also read The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Moore as well, which is nothing like the movie).
V has some elements in common with Batman, but there's another reference that is more relevant here and that is Thomas Disch's Camp Concentration (which I mentioned here with Ensayo sobre la ceguera, another book that touches on some similar ideas). In the graphic novel, Britain has become a police state after a nuclear war left most of the world in ruins (though Britan was spared after removing its missile silos), and V emerges from seemingly nowhere to challenge the established order. There are so many ideas on each page that Pynchon comes to mind (just an analogy though, I'm not saying that a graphic novel can approach the depth and complexity of, say, Gravity's Rainbow!).
V is basically an anti-hero, which is what's required for the times (in fact, he takes a similar role to that of Batman in DK2). I don't want to disclose how it ends since the astonishing ending is what 'makes' V, but "Ideas are bulletproof" is one of my favorite statements of all time. :)
3. El Eternauta
One of the (many) things that appeal to me about this story and character is that they are uncommon: there aren't any fancy locales, but the greatness and gritiness of reality, or unbelievable heroics, but the heroism that comes from taking a stand when you have to. It's just a man, and his family, and his friends, fighting against all odds with whatever they have. The everyday, down-to-earth nature of it makes it all the more worthy.
A great story, plus great characters, with El Eternauta as the quintessential image of a someone wanting to relive the good days of the past, and finding, in a very real sense, that you can never escape the present. A masterpiece.
Possibly the wackiest, craziest "superhero" ever created, Lobo never fails to crack me up. Again, he's more of an anti-hero (I seem to have a thing for them no?), but he's shown his tender side every once in a while. The story of Lobo is as crazy as the character: he's the last one of his race, because he killed everyone else on his planet (he was bored by them, and he wanted to be "unique"). He lives in an asteroid in deep space. (The Little Prince, anyone?). With him ("swimming" in space in orbit around the asteroid) live a group of space-dolphins, which are the only living creature he respects and loves. He can survive in space without food, air, water, or a spacesuit for that matter. He only listens to heavy metal music, and only from a particular space-radio station, and he got an implant so that he can hear it 24/7, transmitted directly into his brain anywhere in the galaxy. At the beginning, each drop of blood from Lobo created an exact replica of him. This created major chaos but it really annoyed the original Lobo, which killed most of the them until he fought to the death with the last clone (the problem is that no one knows who won--so maybe it's the Clone that's still out there!). The Legion of Superheroes captured him and through some genetic-engineering thingamagic "disabled" the cloning feature in Lobo--and tried to kill him by dumping an entire mountain on top of him (unsuccessfully I might add). He fought against Superman and it was a draw!
But that's not the end of it. In the Lobo Paramilitary X-mas Special, he squared off against a crazy Santa Claus and his band of armed-to-the-teeth elves (he won). He was killed and went to hell, but he made such a mess there that they sent him to heaven, from which he was (of course) expelled, and since no one wanted him the, um, powers that be decided to re-incarnate him. First as a bunny (but he gets killed again). Then as a wickedly powerful woman (killed again, yes). Then finally as himself again. In The Last Czarnian we see Lobo chased by:
Insane, sure. But lots of fun. :)
And, last but not least...
My favorite character from X-Men (with Jean Grey/Phoenix behind), Wolverine is by now known to all as some guy in a movie that smokes cigars and likes to ride in fast bikes. But (as the movies well show, although I fear that sometimes these subtleties might get a bit lost in the noise) Wolverine/Logan is a pretty screwed up person, generally looking out for himself more than for the greater good (although when forced to choose he's a pretty decent guy). The claws and the Adamantium skeleton are insanely cool, but his self-healing abilities are even better (and there could be no first without the second!).
The psychology of Wolverine is generally overlooked, but fascinating on its own right. Wolverine/Logan is one of the main reasons why I like X-Men in the first place--without him something would definitely be missing from the story (unlike other what would happen if some other major characters where missing).
And, an honorary mention to: The Demon who is as funny as Lobo but (because of a curse) has to speak in verse, The Demon is a spirit banished from (where else?) hell, that inhabits the body of a poor guy that can't do anything to stop it (except take up buddhism!). The series of four books The Demon v. Lobo is truly something to behold.
Wow, I just realized that I've been writing for almost an hour! I guess I needed the break. :)
not sure I understand...
Let me get this straight: Bono saying "fucking" (one word, one time) during a presentation of music awards is retroactively declared to be "indecent and profane". Janet Jackson baring one breast (no nipples) is so "indecent" that not only she ends up apologizing profusely but makes future music shows be censored in real time.
Now, Jackson's "indecency" comes in the half-time show of a game that is one of the most violent in the world, all the while in the previous months news coverage has treated viewers world-wide, at all hours, day or night, to scenes of senseless slaughter, war, and destruction. The attack on Baghdad, one year ago, was broadcast live.
Then I remembered that when Stanley Kubrick's fantastic Eyes Wide Shut came out in the US, much was made in a famous "orgy scene" which was in the end censored (blocking the "offensive images" digitally) to slip by with an 'R' rating (When I came to Europe I could finally see the uncensored movie, I could finally see that what had caused all the trouble were just a few seconds of images that were not meant to be "sexy" at all). But a movie (also good) like "Saving Private Ryan", which depits the horrors of war in graphic detail, has no problem at all in obtaining that same rating. Similarly, the excellent Mulholland Drive by David Lynch contains a single sex scene and less than 5 seconds in which digital effects were also applied to obtain something that would allow the movie to get an 'R' rating.
So, tell me again why does it seem that...
...a live feed of bombs falling on a city, or images of war, conveniently sanitized to avoid seeing the suffering it causes on all sides, are fine, but a woman's breast is indecent?
...interrupting programming to display the gruesome images of the broken bodies of terrorist victims is allright, but saying "fuck" is a big deal?
...there is no problem at all with depicting violent death, torture, and destruction, but the slightest mention of sex fires up the censors?
Yes, the US is currently going a lot further than before (and than most other western countries) in all of this, but let's not kid ourselves: everyone does it.
And I still don't understand.
And yes: blogging frequency has definitely declined for me. Crunch time, since we've got a release in a few days, but I'm sure there will be have-nothing-to-do-with-anything posts (like this very one) as well as the other kind, randomly spaced over the next few days.
mysteries of science
Why animals don't shiver, and how this affects the minimum time required for heating a medium-sized kettle
Recent observations have raised the important question of why animals don't shiver. Is it fear? Is it an ages-old instinct to avoid waste of precious energy and resources? Or is it simply not cold enough?
Cross-species and cross-country analysis of Discovery Channel videos as well as other educational paraphernalia has shown that shivering occurs in so-called "higher" species, such as humans, as part of a larger set of extremely advanced survival techniques developed over millions of years, which includes quivering, whimpering, whining, griping, and ticket scalping at the entrance of public events. These advanced survival techniques also express themselves through humans' more nuanced behavior: when confronted with their own wallet, humans will throw a tantrum, get angry, will give vindictive looks as they put the wallet back in their pockets, or will call the police, while most animals simply start chewing said wallet without a care in the world.
It should also be noted that the descendants of the eohippus, well known for their ability to perform amusing acrobatics when in presence of the issue of February 1997 of Science Magazine, do shiver, especially when put inside a large fridge, although the shivering stops after a few hours along with other signs, such as the beating of the heart. Strangely enough, a group of four shivering animals will arrange itself in circular, cuadrangular, or other geometric forms, or, most commonly, randomly, without any training whatsoever!.
One of the measured average distances between oehippus-like creatures thus arranged has been exactly 293.487384 milimeters, which is also, notably, 1/2387.347834 of the distance between the Eiffel tower in Paris and the clock in the townhouse of Springfield, New Jersey, where the experiment was being performed. The incredible significance of this value raises not only the question of how the animals knew how to place themselves exactly (on average) at that distance (293.487384 milimeters) from each other, but also the fantastic precision of the instrument used to obtain that measurement.
And, after years of experiments, no relation has been found between the shivering of animals and how this affects the minimum time required for heating medium-sized kettles, in spite of several laboratory tests where the animals were provided a kettle to make some tea if they wanted to.
Stay tuned for other incredible revelations of Mysteries of Science!
of blogging and "reality"
[via Dave] an article in the Village Voice, in which the writer, Whitney Pastorek, vilifies weblogs for destroying human interaction and forcing her to check websites all day to see what her "friends" are doing.
First, somebody should point Whitney to an RSS reader. It would be faster for her to check feeds, rather than make rounds on her friends' websites.
The piece is funny, but throughout it there's an undercurrent of disgust, as if blogs were against nature in some sense. I suppose carrying around a tiny four-inch brick of batteries and electronics that interrupts you at will is the most natural thing in the world (yes, I'm talking about cellphones--or does Whitney avoid them too?).
Maybe her friends find weblogs to be a good, unobtrusive way to communicate. Maybe her friends, lacking the ability to publish their thoughts on the Village Voice, have found a way to do essentially the same, thus threatening the uniqueness of what she does. (Isn't that article a lot like a weblog entry, btw?). Or maybe there's something deeper going on here.
The origins of this weblog problem for her seem to stem from her perception that weblogs are cutting down on "real" interaction:
These days, I do not even hear about the stupid stuff that's going on—"I got a haircut" or "My apartment burned down"—because the bloggers assume that I have read about it on their blog. Which I have not. And then I wonder why they are not answering their home phone, and immediately assume we are in a fight.
I invite my friends to [literary readings in which she performs], hoping for affirmation and free drinks. How heartbreaking, then, when no one arrives! Phone calls are made: I am sad that you did not come to my event! The bloggers reply, invariably: But I linked to you on my blog! That is just the same as if I showed up in person!(Really? It's different to link to a webpage than go to a place and talk to people? No kidding eh? Truly shocking revelation. Thanks for the tip. And as for: "I do not even hear about the stupid stuff that's going on—'I got a haircut' or 'My apartment burned down'---that's the first time I've seen "my apartment has burned down" in the category of chit-chat, or, as she puts it "stupid stuff").
In my experience weblogs enhance real world interaction, not the other way around. I've gotten into conversations because of what I've read in other weblogs, and people have come up to me to talk about what I said at some point--creating new threads of conversations that might otherwise never have happened (this is more marked with people you don't see as often as you'd like, due to geography, or work, or whatever). And let's not get into how many people I've met, online and off, because of my weblog.
In person, issues can be discussed more in-depth. In fact, weblogs are good for a number of things, but they fail a little bit at some types of conversations since it's easy to miss the context of something that's being said (the source of many weblog "fights"). In person, if someone misses the context of what you just said, you explain yourself better. With weblogs, it baloons. Weblogs, on the other hand, have both an immediacy and a pemanence that makes them good for a number of other things, including long drawn-out conversations where ideas are evolving and being exchanged. In the end, they form a feedback cycle with "real world" interaction that enhances both.
But she still feels weblogs have taken something away, rather than added to it. So I thought about it... what's the only way in which a weblog can cut down on your "real world" interactions? When is it that they stifle conversation? When is it that a weblog allows you to say it all and nothing's left to be said in person?
How about when all your conversations center around superficial crap that can be explained in two words and which dissipates after five minutes?
In other words, if a weblog can really kill off "real world" interactions with your "friends" maybe it's time to think if those "friendships" are anything but meaningless chatter about the weather, haircuts, and pretending to be nice to each other.
Weblogs have made you realize that your life is a sequence of interactions that can be replaced by a few hyperlinks and 500-word entries?
Then maybe it means that to be so easily replaced those interactions were actually just superficial drivel. Deal with it. Or not.
But shooting the messenger isn't going to do you any good.
subtlety in 'the simpsons'
Through a referral chain I found Subtly Simpsons which documents some of the great background references made by the writers. I had caught most of those, but some where new to me. Worth the read.
Recently there have been a couple of things that I can't get out of my head regarding the Simpsons which, while not cultural references, totally crack me up. One is when Moe becomes friends with Maggie and they are spoofing The Godfather saga left and right, and they have to go find Maggie, who followed some mobsters to an Italian restaurant. The following exchange ensues:
Moe: We're going to Little ItalyHeh. The other one is when Homer is trying to prove to himself (and Bart and Lisa) that he's still "cool" and he's trying to explain to this Dad about it:
Homer: You wouldn't understand, Dad, you're not 'with it'.LOL.
that's the spirit!
angels in america
I first heard of Angels in America through this Salon review and it left me intrigued. However, knowing how slowly Irish/UK TV (we get both here in Ireland) moves to get shows, both good and bad, from across the pond, I didn't read the review and then simply forgot about it. Why bother?
But then Channel 4 showed both parts of this six-hour miniseries Saturday and yesterday. It was a surprising experience. These days it's very difficult to walk into a theater or watch a show or anything where you haven't seen previews, opinions, discussions on it, etc. But it happened to me in this case. I had no idea what I was about to see.
What I saw was a great piece of art, funny, sad, and deep, all at the same time. There are moments when the characters turn to poetry mid-conversation and it almost feels (as the Salon review says) as if they're reciting Shakespeare. Al Pacino and Meryl Streep are excellent (as usual) but the other actors are on par with them, except maybe for Mary-Louise Parker, who doesn't quite pull it off. The story ostensibly centers around five gay men and two women whose lives are intertwined one way or another at the start of the AIDS pandemic in Reagan-era US. The writing is intensely political, but it never gets preachy. Magical realism is the order of the day. But there's more than that, for example people just trying to regain their balance in a world that is undergoing a massive tectonic shift, something some of the characters can perceive but not quite put their finger on, dealing with the ghosts of your past and the shadows cast by the future... Anyway, I don't want to ruin it for someone who hasn't seen it :), but if you can, check it out.
the lord of the rings: the return of the king
And so it ends.
I just came back from seeing The Return of The King, and I must say: Wow.
The Two Towers had been (I admit) slightly dissapointing. Too many liberties taken with the story, for my taste. Mostly, I think that the second movie suffered because it didn't end with a massive cliffhanger (as the book does) but rather carried the "cliffhanger moments" into the beginning of RoT. But RoT being what it is, all is forgiven.
The battle of Minas Tirith has to be the best battle scene I've ever seen, and maybe the best ever put on the big screen. When the Rohirrim charged against the hordes massing outside the city I could only hope that it would last just a little longer. Frodo's and Sam's journey from the gates of Mordor to Mount Doom is a bit cut here and there (no encounter with a company of Orcs, for example), but it retains its essence (I can clearly remember the overpowering dread throughout those 60 pages in the third book).
How the tension was maintained across the wide range of things that were happening at the same time was also very impressive. Eowyn's confrontation with the Nazgul was great (although they skimped on the consequences for both her and Merry. Okay, maybe not skimped--ignored :)).
As far as other things that were missing, well, the "Scouring of the Shire" was the single biggest no-show, but I understand why they had to cut it. I can only hope that the "director's cut" on DVD will include it (assuming they filmed it, that is). No mention of the effect of the Ent's drink on Merry and Pippin, and an oversimplification of what the Palantiri did (including no mention of the role Gondor's Palantir had to play in Denethor's madness). The corniest, most off-place moment was Aragorn asking Gandalf "What does your heart tell you?" which made me roll my eyes. Come on! He's a demigod for crying out loud! (a Maiar, like the Balrog, Saruman and Sauron) What is up with this sappy Titanic-like moment? (DiCapio wasn't around, I checked). I guess it made sense dramatically. Anyway. A few oversimplifications here and there, the most notable being at the end, with a simplified version of the fate of The Fellowship ommiting a number of important details (e.g., Sam's ultimate destination, having been a ringbearer if only for a short time, or some more details about the Three Rings of the Elves). But those are small problems compared to the achievement that was putting LoTR on the big screen. I probably count as one of those "die hard readers" that are usually so hard to please.
So. Great, great movie, and a worthy conclusion to the trilogy (movie-wise that is). If you haven't seen it, try go see it in a theater, it's what it deserves. Now, I just have to wait for the box set with all the extended versions and watch it all over again... :-)
movies, movies, movies
Speaking of movies. The worst two movies of 2003 were, by far, SWAT and Tears of the Sun. Both were an incredible disappointment. SWAT is supposed to be a thriller I guess. Tears of the Sun, some kind of adult drama. Both made me laugh more than most comedies (now that I think of it, I'd rate them as best comedies of the year). They are so terrible in so many senses that it's hard to know where to start describing them. At the center of the problem in both cases was the story, then the script, and then it radiated from there. Anyway, avoid them if you can. SWAT might make interesting viewing for late-night TV. Tears of the Sun, with all of its pretentiousness, doesn't even get to that level (which is a major disappointment, since the director was Antoine Fuqua, whose previous movie was the incredibly good Training Day). The Hulk was also a big disappointment. The editing is fantastic though, recreating comic-book feel on the screen--very well done but since the story is pretty bad in the end it just looks like an empty gimmick.
Among movies that left something (or a lot) to be desired (aka the "watchable" category, aka the "meh" category) that I saw were:
Now for good movies I saw last year, more or less in the order I remember them, which is probably a relatively good measure of how much I liked them :) -- many of these can't be compared to each other though:
I'm probably forgetting a few, but that's ok. Btw, many of these movies were actually released in 2002, but they were only released here in Ireland at the beginning of 2003 (e.g., Gangs of New York).
Here's something weird and interesting from this week's Economist: an article on the Voynich manuscript. Quote:
THE Voynich manuscript, once owned by Emperor Rudolph II in 16th-century Bohemia, is filled with drawings of fantastic plants, zodiacal symbols and naked ladies. Far more intriguing than its illustrations, however, is the accompanying text: 234 pages of beautifully formed, yet completely unintelligible script.The other alternatives are, as the article notes, that the manuscript is either in code, or simply a hoax. Nevertheless, my geek-sense flares up when reading about something like this. Oh boy! An entire manuscript to decrypt, and a few centuries old to boot! Does that sound like fun or what?
tony blair and the simpsons
and this from the we-don't-want-you-making-any-comparisons dept:
A few months back I read that Tony Blair was going to guest-star in an upcoming Simpsons episode. As it turns out, the episode is premiering in the US this week, and yesterday The Times of London had a cover story on how 10 Downing Street flexed its lobbying muscles to stop the episode from airing coincidentally with Bush's Sate Visit: The US Visitor Blair didn't want us to see -- yet. Quoted from the article:
DOWNING Street really did try to prevent an oafish American causing trouble on a visit to London.(my emphasis) Heh. Too funny. I wonder if they will avoid the comparisons anyway. I think it's likely, given the astonishing short memory and attention span of the media these days.
funny, funny ad
The screen turns black, and the verses from Bryan Adams' Everything I do (I do it for you) start to sound. Sentences flash on the screen, white letters on black background, one sentence every three seconds or so:
This is Bryan Adams
From an ad on Ireland's TV3, regarding the football match this tuesday.
ain't that the truth :)
"[Welcome] to the twenty-first century. It's pretty much like the twentieth, except that everyone's afraid and the stock market is a lot lower."
Lisa, in The Simpsons' Treehouse of Horrors XIV episode.
the bladerunner soundtrack
Enhance 34 to 46.For some reason, the Bladerunner soundtrack never fails to give me the chills; it's almost unbelievable that it wasn't released for ten years (it came out in conjunction with the Director's Cut in 1993, back when the media conglomerates weren't so good at the multiple medium thing, and were less... well, "conglomerated"). There is something about Vangelis' music together with the pieces of dialogue and the ambient sounds that go with it that puts you immediately there. No images required. Not even closing your eyes. Just listening.
So good it hurts.
I should watch the movie again one of these days. It's been a while since the last time (months even!) :-)
-Do you like our owl?The undertones. The atmosphere. The depth of the story in just a few lines. Must... resist...
The Matrix Revolutions: a review
Okay, I thought I had put the subject to rest (for me) with my parody script, but there was a factor I didn't count on: exposure. The script had tons of reads and links very quickly and I keep getting comments and emails asking questions (generally good-natured, though not always) and I wanted to say what I actually thought about the movie so I could refer people to this and save some time :).
Again, spoiler warning. Don't read what follows if you haven't seen the movie or don't want to know what happens.
Before we begin: to those that liked the movie anyway and are willing to flame others. All the "defenses" of the movie I've seen are like a comment posted to my script by Daniel:
Its easy to make fun of something you don't understand. You did a damn fine job of that.Essentially, the defense boils down to "people that didn't like it are stupid. I am not stupid, hence, unlike you, I understood and appreciated the movie." (I have seen this same theme in a few--very few-- other places. Why assume that people that didn't like aspects (or all) of the movie did not understand it? Personally, I understood Reloaded with only one viewing. Are you telling me this movie is more layered and more deep and complex than Reloaded? And even if it was, saying that everyone's an idiot doesn't really explain anything. Yes, sorry, but unless you actually refute some of what I (or others) say, or unless you offer a clear explanation for some of the ludicrous twists of logic that we have to endure, you are simply clinging on and you are not willing to see the movie for what it is: Just a movie, hollywoodish science-fiction stuff that does not "respect" the basic tenets of science fiction. Saying I (or others) did not understand it is not good enough.
"Ah!" One of these critics might say. "But of course it's just a movie. You are the one who put the burden of proof on them to produce your imagined story-of-the-ages."
Touche, I'd say then. Very, very true.
I think most of the people that were not satisfied with Revolutions were hoping that this would become an all-time SF/Fantasy classic, way up there with the Foundation series and The Lord of the Rings. Most definitely, we put ourselves in that position. But we had good reasons I think, and I'll get back to them in a bit.
What the movie was about
First, for what it's worth, my take on the movie: it's entertaining. Nice picture. Great battle scenes. I think it's worth seeing in a theater, because it's a cinematic experience. Things can be explained. I have no doubt about that (as I make clear below with my own set of explanations).
But... but... it requires too much suspension of disbelief to qualify among the great creations of science fiction. The explanations are not satisfying. Not unlike ID4: Independence Day, or Armaggedon: entertaining, but not self-consistent enough. Sure this one has more twists and turns, and more ideas (not original though as I have mentioned before, the Brothers lifted sequences from Anime, and other classics such as Alien or Bladerunner. I also saw [via Alan] this scene-by-scene comparison of Matrix v. Ghost in The Shell which is very good). The Machine city shots as well as several others reminded me of both Bladerunner and Star Wars. Too much. Waay too much.
The plot would seem to be summarized as follows (given information basically present in the last scene of the Oracle and the Architect). The themes are chaos/order as well as religion. The Oracle is Chaos/Creativity. The Architect is Rationality/Order. The Oracle basically instigated this whole revolution because she wanted to see a new kind of balance emerge (Remember the Architect telling her at the end: "This is a dangerous game you're playing". Although it's not 100% clear how this balance is actually achieved in the end. If the machines let the humans go, don't they lose their power? and so on). Similarly, Neo/Smith are Order/Chaos figures, and it's all framed in terms of a battle of opposites. (Which would theoretically explain why Smith could not survive merging with its opposite at the end). The little girl, Sati, is very possibly a representation of the Matrix itself. If not, it's a program that, because it was "born" within the Matrix, can manipulate it at will but more than Neo could (no more than Smith though, since the hellish climate at the end could easily be attributed to Smith expressing himself after taking over all humans in the world).
The religious themes are back with a vengeance: Sacrifice, Martyrdom, A new world is born after the death of the Chosen One, the Chosen One dies but not really, (note the Machines taking Neo's bodies at the end, as well as the references by The Oracle), etc.
The information given in the second movie amounted to giving us a hint that this is what was happening. That the characters were sort of unwitting players (almost unwitting, since Neo makes it very clear at the end that it's his choice to do what he does) in a game played by the forces of chaos and order, the Gods (in the Platonic sense--there are lots of references to Plato) that play with humanity, a parallel to our "real" world.
Neo can "see" the Matrix both in its "virtual" form and manifested through the appearance of the Matrix in the machines that are plugged/depend on it, like in the machine city, and he can affect it even though he is unplugged. Of course, if he really was a "natural" occurrence of the "choice" flaw in the Matrix, and he is really fully human as they keep saying, then this implies superpowers, but that's ok (within the suspension of disbelief theme). In the end, peace is achieved through balacing of opposites all the way. If you wanted to take the religious analogy further, you could say that there are historical parallels with our own history: First, Christianity and Islam, the age of the Messiahs (the first movie), then deconstructionism, the age of rationality (the second movie) and finally chaos/order or yin/yang, the age of Eastern Philosophy or "new age" beliefs.
Though probably close to the truth, this is just one interpretation of what is basically a Rorsarch test of a movie (I would challenge anyone to come up with one that is substantially different though). In the end, You see ... what you want to see.
Which brings me to the problems I have with it.
When we walked into theaters four years ago to watch The Matrix, the overriding question was: What is the Matrix?
Coming out of that movie, the sense was that we had an answer: a prison for the mind, the Matrix was a device created by Machines to win a war against Humans, creating yet another war, this one just for freedom from the shackles of a virtual world.
Then came Matrix Reloaded. The question going into the movie then was: How will humans win the war? (Note: How, not If). The answer was, in essence, "There is no spoon." Or rather, "There is no war." The Wachowski Brothers turned everything on its head and destroyed all our preconceptions. The rebels were actually being controlled. Their revolution was a sham. Another lever of control. We were pulled out of the Christian and even Muslim parables of Neo-as-Savior (Muslim because Neo is much more a "Warrior Messiah" like Muhammad, than a Christ-like character of peace and understanding), into a new level of pure science-fiction possibility. Just as the first movie studiously created a fictional reality, the second dedicated itself to proving the first one wrong. Just as the first one required us to suspend disbelief more than once, the second one gave potentially reasonable explanations for everything that was going on. Reloaded, more than anything else, revived the question: What is the Matrix?
And so we start The Matrix Revolutions essentially with the same question as the series begun. We have a lot more information, but there's one big difference. Now we don't trust anything we see. Anything. Every statement is parsed, analyzed. Somewhere deep down, we expect the second movie to be another layer of fabrication as well, and we dread the moment when it might all turn out not to be a fabrication, but the pretense of truth. And we are enticed to pick it apart like few movies before. With all the pretense of "deep meaning", we are told: "this is deep stuff. You have to think damn it!". But then there is no "deep stuff". When analyzed closely, we're left with just bad dialogue, a lot of obvious ideas that are a rehash or outright steal of other things, and a lot of overacting.
Let me go back to a moment when I was walking to the movie theater on Wednesday and I thought about something I had just written:
And what is up with characters not telling others what they've seen? Example: Neo is all cryptic just after meeting the Architect. Why not tell Morpheus the whole thing? Just because he has condemned humanity to extinction? (Supposedly). Or: When Neo stops the Sentinels at the end of Reloaded. He clearly says "I can feel them" to Trinity. Then he stops them. Morpheus arrives. "What happened?" he says. Trinity replies: "I don't know." You don't know? Come on. "He said he could feel them, and then he stopped them." Is it too hard to say that? It's as if characters play the same game between each other as the one they are playing with the audience.The more I thought about this, the more I thought it was a symptom. Consider that twice in Reloaded we are treated to this drivel from Link. He is watching the Matrix. Neo is flying. Suddenly Link goes "What is that?" or "I don't know what it is, but it's moving faster than anything I've ever seen" when we all know that it's Neo flying, when he has already seen him fly. Etc. He does this both in the freeway chase, and at the end when Neo saves Trinity. Sure you might say that as Neo gets more powerful his Matrix-pattern becomes more difficult to discern, but this happens all over the place, like the Trinity/Neo/Morpheus example I mentioned, with the Sentinels, at the end of Reloaded.
Another example is all the "mystery" surrounding the "new" Oracle. Now, I know that they had to come up with something to explain the problem that the original Oracle (Gloria Foster) died while filming was incomplete. I appreciate that. But instead of pointing to something reasonable (for example, they had already hinted at a reason when the Merovingian said in Reloaded that her time was "almost up") the explanation just dissolves into a bunch of generalities that "hint" that something deep happened but it's never fully explained (maybe it's explained in the game Enter The Matrix, I don't know). Why make a mystery out of something that can be explained away easily with a million different reasons? Why not trust the audience? The audience wants to believe, just like Morpheus. :-)
My point is, this is a symptom for writing where the mystery is created by making weird and ambiguous statements, rather than having something true to tell. It's very easy to do. Consider:
Sam stared at the scopes in astonishment. All the screens had suddenly gone blank. The visual showed a flash, growing, where the Sun used to be. Was it...? "Oh my God."Now, I just made that up, so don't start criticizing the writing :) but I'm trying to show that it's really easy to get off explanations by making characters appear dazed and confused. Think about yourself in real life. Whenever something strange happens, you don't just sit there and say "Well, beats me." You use your experience. You talk with others. In this case, it wouldn't be so hard to think that the Sun had just gone supernova. And we get a hint that a character might have an explanation with the "Was it...?" but then he doesn't say anything. Why? You better have a good reason, because if you don't, it's just an empty device that you are using to create suspense, and eventually it wears out.
Just as it does in The Matrix.
And even worse trick to pull is creating the suspense for the answer, and then giving it, but the answer raises yet more questions which are never explained. In my example, the Sun (our star) doesn't have enough mass to go supernova. It physically can't. So once the characters survive, and say "Our readings indicate it was a supernova, Captain". And you leave it at that. Why? Why did the Sun go supernova?
Apparent plot-holes such as the lack of offensive weapons on the Nebucadnezzar (Morpheous' ship) or not using EMPs to defend Zion can be explained, but only raise more questions that force the viewer to extrapolate with no information whatsoever. For example, we could say that the "Neb" didn't have offensive weapons because it was never assigned to be on the offensive, while the Hammer was. But that was really a last minute change. Lock intended to use every ship in the offense. Morpheus bailed out of that at the last minute. So why wasn't it fitted properly? Sure, you could come up with answers. But at this point, we are already well beyond what the story says, we're just inventing reasons, speculation based on speculation. But I think that's not good enough. And Reloaded raised the bar on the whole story by implicitly saying that it was fully self-consistent.
And this is the essence of why we were led to believe there was a cool explanation behind all of this. We were caught by the 'Matrix' created by the Wachowskis you say? We were given a lesson-in-action of how we let ourselves be deceived by appearances you say? Maybe. But if so, if I can see through it so easily, it's a clumsy attempt. And if you're doing that, forcing you to, say, play a PC game just to get part of the story, buy the Animatrix, etc, etc, would imply that all of this relentless franchising of the story is not done by a mega-corporation (Time-Warner), but on purpose by a bunch of guys who don't care about money with too much time on their hands.
Which one is right? Occam's Razor. The simplest explanation tends to be the right one.
Now, I don't have anything against plots that don't fully make sense. In fact, the first Matrix on its own, had so many holes that it was hilarious. But I liked it. I willingly suspended disbelief to enjoy the ride. And a big part of that was that the first movie was not pretentious.
But Reloaded was. Reloaded said to the audience: "See? We've thought about this stuff. There's more levels than you imagine, even though you can't see them all. Here is the depth you sensed in the first movie."
And so we got to Revolutions waiting to see the final twist. But instead of a twist, Revolutions essentially goes back to the original Matrix. Why do I say this?
Think about the three movies. Now imagine you completely remove the second movie. Ignore all that information. Ignore everything that happened in it. Does it change anything?
Be honest. Does it?
No. All the flaws of logic and plot consistency are still there. (In fact, I'd say that just the first and third movies on their own work better, and by "consistency" here I mean J.R.R. Tolkien-level of consistency, not "ID4: Independence Day" level of consistency--though both are valid). But at least there is no pretense that there is something deep behind all this. We are not given lectures on causality or whatever. Things just happen, which is just fine. I can ignore all the flaws of logic in making programs have emotions for some things (e.g., Agent Smith is angry or greedy) but not for others (e.g., The Architect saying that he could never betray a deal he made). I can ignore how weird it is to use humans for power (why not cows? or chipmunks? Oh, right, "because the machines create a symbiotic relationship with their enemy through it"). I can ignore the ludicrous explanations of The Second Rennaisance in which we are told that humans nuked the hell out of Zero-One but nothing happened (Nuclear weapons create electromagnetic pulses of the same type of those we've seen "kill" machines time and again in the movie). I can forget about the fact that first the Hovercrafts "only have EMPs as weapons against the machines" (and this is also the case in Reloaded when Morpheus loses his ship to an attack----but by the third movie they have so much ammo (though not many guns!) that you could film Commando all over again with Keanu taking the role of Schwarzenegger. Or I could forget about the other miriad plot holes, many of which I mentioned in my parody script.
But I can't.
Again, these plot-holes depend on your expectation of the movie. Not on the movie itself. The movie never promised explicitly to match our expectations. But in my opinion, there's a sort of "contract" that happens when you dive into fiction of any kind. For example, in ID4 or Indiana Jones the contract is "shut down your brain for a while and we'll show you a good time". The first Matrix walked a fine line between deepthink and pure entertainment. But the second one, with all of its pretentiousness, did not. The second one cemented the promise of the first one, which was "Look, I know there's tons of philosophical dialog and repetitiveness, but it's all for good reason. Just hold on there." And so the washed-up explanations of the third, basically in line with the first, don't add up. Why? Because all the repetitiveness is to explain something simple, not something complex, and that amounts to telling the viewers: "See, you are too stupid to understand this. So we'll say it over and over again. We will put Neo in the guise of a martyr, bandages and all, so you can see how much he suffers and don't miss the Jesus analogy. We will make you questions words like "Love" by making machines say "they're just words". We will make obvious references to everything under the sun until you can't ignore them."
But I think that people would rather see something that is a) either simple and to the point, or b) something non-obvious that can not be fully expressed, but hinted at.
The Matrix, as it stands, is just a bunch of obvious points driven into our heads with a sledge hammer. And that's not what the "contract" specified. Furthermore, all the ideas have been used before. Nothing new here. It's all one big cop-out. Entertaining? Yes. A Masterpiece? Most definitely not. Treating your audience like idiots is not a very good idea.
As Smith said in the first movie. "[Humans] refused the program. Entire crops were lost."
Don't try and bed the spoon. That's impossible. Instead, realize the truth. There is no spoon. So it is not the spoon that bends. It is only yourself.
Replace the world "spoon," by "rational explanation" or "self-consistent plot" and you're in business with The Matrix.
Phew! Okay this should do for now. :)
In closing, a line from Futurama:
... and so life returned to normal... or as normal as it gets on this primitive dirtball inhabited by psychotic apes.Heh.
the matrix revolutions script (abridged)
Suddenly it was clear to me that the best way to express how I see the movie was through something like this, that would let me have some fun with it. So I sat down and just wrote the thing, in the spirit of the abridged script for Reloaded.
Update (7/11): to address questions on what I really thought about the movie in more detail, as well as my interpretation of what happens in it, I've posted an actual review here.
Warning: This contains major spoilers, essentially the whole plot of the movie. If you don't want to know what happens, don't read it until you've seen it.
Ready? Read on...
The Matrix Revolutions script (abridged) by Diego Doval
They exhange SERIOUS GLANCES. The Medical officer leaves. Laurence Fishburne SHOWS UP.
They go see THE ORACLE.
The Oracle looks DIFFERENT. It's ANOTHER actress.
Keanu Reeves WAKES UP. There's a LITTLE GIRL standing NEXT TO HIM
The little girl's FATHER shows up. Her MOTHER too.
They DO get through them. The upside down FIGHT looks COOL. They reach the MEROVINGIAN.
Something HAPPENS. Carrie-Anne Moss gets the UPPER HAND. Apparently. She points a gun at the Merovingian but has 20 guns POINTED AT HER.
Carrie-Anne RESCUES Keanu from the train station. They are about to LEAVE, and go back to the REAL WORLD.
Keanu WAKES UP in the ship, PLUGGED IN, even though HE WASN'T before, when he showed up at the TRAIN STATION.
Hugo Weaving arrives at the Oracle's apartment. He also surrounds the Seraph and the little girl with more copies of himself, in some other apartment of the same building.
Hugo Weaving doubts for a moment. This seems too easy. But he copies himself into the New New Oracle anyway, and keeps laughing. This PROBABLY has some MEANING.
Keanu retires to think. Bane wakes up.
Bane KILLS the medical officer. Meanwhile, Jada Pinkett Smith and her ship, the Logos, show up.
Keanu emerges from meditation.
The OTHER CAPTAIN looks at the WACHOWSKI BROTHERS, who SHAKE THEIR HEADS.
A huge battle follows. The Sentinels fly around THE DOCK without going further. They MOVE in SWARMS. It looks COOL.
Jada Pinkett Smith is PILOTING. She is an AWESOME pilot. The OTHERS in the ship note this loudly and often in SURPRISE, even though they've KNOWN her for YEARS.
They KEEP the Sentinels at BAY with the guns they never had before. They approach Zion. They do LOSE the RADIO, so they won't be able to tell Zion that it's THEM arriving. Massive suspense builds. EVERYTHING looks VERY COOL.
The SUSPENSE goes NOWHERE. The door mechanism is broken however. The Kid shows up and SAVES THE DAY, releases the mechanism of the door by shooting it up. Link's wife shows up ALSO to HELP HIM.
The gates open. As soon as the Hammer enters the dock, they blow the EMP. All the Sentinels DIE.
More Sentinels ARRIVE. The Humans descend to the LOWEST LEVEL of Zion, but the Sentinels ARE STILL DIGGING. The end approaches.
Keanu is BLIND, his eyes covered with CLOTH.
He STOPS THEM. The bombs explode in MID AIR. It looks COOL. A few Sentinels LATCH onto the BACK of the SHIP as well..
The Hovercraft SHOOTS UP past the cloud cover, and we see THE BEAUTIFUL SKY. Then, like Wile E. Coyote, they REALIZE they can't fly, the ship starts to fall. They have, however, FLOWN PAST the city's defenses, which apparently are only pointed to the outside and can't turn around. The ship FALLS, accelerating rapidly.
They CRASH. Carrie-Anne Moss is IMPALED with some sort of metallic pole which somehow showed up in the COCKPIT.
He KISSES her. She DIES. We are reminded of the Merovingian's Theory of everything being CAUSE and EFFECT.
Keanu Walks off the ship, seeing everything through his Matrix-sense. We see a lot of COOL-LOOKING spidery machines. A bigger machine SHOWS UP floating at the EDGE of a CLIFF and turns a SWARM of smaller machines into a HUMAN FACE. Suddenly the face can TALK, too, even though it obviously has no vocal chords and there's no reason for it to have SPEAKERS.
Keanu GOES INTO THE MATRIX. There are millions of Hugo Weavings. It's RAINING and it looks COOL. In Zion, the Sentinels immediately STAND DOWN, even though Keanu hasn't held up to his part of the bargain yet. Laurence Fishburne APPROACHES one of the Sentinels, who is now CUTELY squirming on the GROUND.
They fight. It looks COOL. They fly. It looks COOL. They fight. It looks COOL. They open up CRATERS on the ground with their IMPACTS and they still survive. It looks REALLY COOL. Keanu looks beaten.
Hugo Weaving COPIES HIMSELF into Keanu. He smiles. Keanu displays NO EMOTION, as usual.
We see Deus Ex Machina doing something with Keanu's BODY, and this might or might not have MEANING. It was a TRAP. Keanu let Hugo Weaving get into him so that he could destroy all the Hugo Weavings through their other-wordly connection to each other. Keanu can do this though he's ALREADY dead.
All the Hugo Weavings EXPLODE. The GOOD guys WIN.
They embrace lovingly, even though Jada Pinkett Smith's boyfriend, shown a second before, is standing two feet behind them, off camera.
We see the Matrix apparently being rebuilt, but we can't be sure. The Deja-Vu effect with the black cat we saw in the FIRST MOVIE shows up AGAIN, though this time it looks COOLER.
The SERAPH and the LITTLE GIRL also appear.
The sun raises.
The little girl SMILES. They are all HAPPY. The sun SHINES.
matrix revolutions: first impression
I hate to be right.
But what's on my mind right now is what Switch says in the first movie when she's about to be unplugged (and killed) by Cypher:
"Not like this. Not like this."
off to see...
...The Matrix Revolutions. But before I go, a few thoughts. I have avoided reading reviews and comments and such, but that doesn't mean I can shut down my brain. :)
The other day I watched The Matrix and a couple of things caught my eye. First, Tank, the operator of the Nebuchadnezzar, survives the final attack at the end of the first movie. But in the second, he's dead. Why? How? Unknown. (Dozer, his brother, died in the first attack. Link, their brother in law, is the operator in Reloaded. I say brother in law though this in never clear--his wife/girlfriend is definitely sister of both Tank and Dozer, so I assume she's not Link's sister too... :-))
The more I hear "Zion", the more I think about "Zero-One", or 01, the machine city shown in The Second Rennaisance. Connection?
The Zion control room, which we see in Reloaded (which I saw again recently), all white and pristine, is actually run as part of a Matrix-like construct. We see the people plugged in for a few seconds... I don't know why I didn't notice that before. Without that information, the whole control room thing feels weird.
The monitor that watches Neo in the first movie, as he is questioned by the agents. It looks like one of the Architect's monitors no? Plus, in one of the trailers of the first movie, there was Neo but in the real world seen through those same monitors. Coincidence?
Unrelated but not much: here's an interesting Wired article about the Wachowski Brothers and their penchant for secrecy.
I have mentioned before how ridiculous the whole "Broadcast a pirate signal to hack into the Matrix" is ... but let's say for a moment that it's reasonable that the Matrix would leave holes open, since the whole point of Zion is that the humans think they're rebelling, when they are not. However. Why do you need to run around in the hovercrafts for that? Whatever happened to setting up antennas and relay stations?
And what is up with characters not telling others what they've seen? Example: Neo is all cryptic just after meeting the Architect. Why not tell Morpheus the whole thing? Just because he has condemned humanity to extinction? (Supposedly). Or: When Neo stops the Sentinels at the end of Reloaded. He clearly says "I can feel them" to Trinity. Then he stops them. Morpheus arrives. "What happened?" he says. Trinity replies: "I don't know." You don't know? Come on. "He said he could feel them, and then he stopped them." Is it too hard to say that? It's as if characters play the same game between each other as the one they are playing with the audience.
A final thought on the whole matrix-within-matrix theory, et. al. Number one, some time ago (when it was clearly speculation--whatever you read these days could easily be the truth and so it is to be avoided :)) I read of other theories being bandied about in which the whole matrix is a prison for machines rather than for humans. Nice try, but this theory has as many holes and any other (starting with the why would humans create a prison for the mind ... for machines... and then... give them consciousness and feeling... and then... make them believe they are human... and then ... try to satisfy their desire to escape by building the Zion-level matrix.... anyway). We could go on with the infinite-matrixes theory for quite a while. About the only thing on which that theory hinges is the Animatrix clip in which humans modify a machine to make it feel like humans. Not a lot. But who knows, everything is possible. It would feel a bit like a cop-out methinks.
That said, I think it's narrowed down to two main possibilities.
Everything hinges on one key question. Is Neo human?
If he is not human, then this theory requires a Matrix-within-Matrix. Because otherwise he, as software, could not "operate" in the Zion-World. This theory explains his superpowers quite nicely, etc, and leaves very few holes open (like that ridiculous idea that the machines use humans for power when nuclear power would do just fine---it involves the machines taking a conscious "weird" choice to both subjugate and use their enemy but also become symbiotic with it, but as much as it can be explained, I've never been fully comfortable with it---in the case of Neo-as-software and Matrix-within-Matrix the actual real world is one level above and you could cook up any reasonable explanation for why things are what they are).
If Neo is human, on the other hand... things get ugly. Because, first, the matrix-within-matrix theory loses luster. Why? Consider: if Neo is really a human, then he would need some kind of extra-sensory, mythological superpower to do what he does inside the matrix. Bioengineering to his body to the level that he can manipulate software "with his hands" is utterly ridiculous (of the two options I'd even prefer the "superpower" one). If you change Neo so much that you don't rely on "powers" then he's not human and we're back to what I said in the previous paragraph. If he is human, and those are superpowers of some sort, then there is no need for matrix-within-matrix--already all bets are off. After all, if he has superpowers within the Matrix, why not some weird unexplained connection to the Matrix direct from the real world as well? Or why not explain the direct connection to the matrix through some other sort of weirdness?
So, if Neo is human, then it's all as we've seen, and there is only one Matrix. If he's a program, then Matrix-within-Matrix is necessary. Then again, this is a logical conclusion but the movie doesn't really have to be logical. And so it could easily be wrong. :-)
In other words: even though I'd like the matrix-within-matrix theory to be true, I get the feeling I am in for a dissappointment. Occam's Razor: of all the possible explanations for something, the simplest one tends to be true.
With the stuff I've seen in the trailers, all the "I believe in him, he believes in us, we believe in each other..." which sounds more like practice for verb conjugation than anything else, I'm getting the feeling we've hyped ourselves to expect too much from the Wachowskis. I certainly thought that this could be to the level of internal consistency of The Lord of the Rings or The Foundation Series, or even "smaller" works (in size, not in scope) like Neuromancer, Bladerunner, Alien, or The Diamond Age. This problem of overhyping appears in subtle ways. For example, the story of The Kid, from Animatrix, is completely passed over in Reloaded. This is ridiculous, of course. A work of art has to be self-contained (within a series at least). You go to the additional stories for more information, not to understand what it was all about. For example, the whole thing with the Osiris and its warning was done properly: you get the idea from watching Reloaded but you can learn more by watching The last flight of Osiris. The story of The Kid and possibly some of the stuff that's on Enter the Matrix (the game) are referenced in the movie with no background whatsoever, which is bad because not everyone has the possibility of, say, buying a game, or the time to play it. It's the difference between letting the depth of the story shine through the cracks (something that, for example LoTR does extremely well) and simply inserting references that leave you "uh?" which is easy to do to pretend there is depth, even when there is little or none of it.
Anyway, rant over.
Something I said back in May still applies: "[...] if Revolutions follows closely the tradition of Anime, we should prepare ourselves for an ending that might be ambiguous, even possibly unsatisfying by Hollywood's standards".
More in a few hours!
quote of the day
"At a few hundred kilometers altitude, the Earth fills half your sky, and the band of blue that stretches from Mindanao to Bombay, which your eye encompasses with a single glance, can break your heart with its beauty. Home, you think. Home. This is my world. This is where I come from. Everyone I know, everyone I ever heard of, grew up down there, under that relentless and exquisite blue.
From Contact, by Carl Sagan (1985).
alien: the director's cut
Yesterday it was my intention to see Alien: The Director's Cut, but it was sold out. In any case, I have seen the cut (I own it on DVD--it was released when they came out with the Alien DVD Box set a few years ago). It's pretty good--new transfer, surround sound and an additional scene that shows people being "cocooned" to create the Alien eggs (later, in Aliens, James Cameron would take advantage of the fact that this didn't make the first cut and change the creation of the eggs to be done by an Alien queen, and the people that were "cocooned" were only food for the eggs. In the original, people turn into the eggs. Yuck.) Maybe I'll get to see it next weekend after Revolutions (never underestimate the importance of watching a movie on a big screen with sound that blasts your ears).
Btw, if you were wondering why they re-released Alien now, here's the reason: Fox is coming out with Alien Vs. Predator in the summer of 2004 (Teaser trailer here) and I assume they want to build it up a little (After all, who remembers Alien Resurrection? :)). For those that are wondering if this Alien v. Predator thing is a marketing gimmick, not really. For years now Alien & Predator have battled it out in comics and even video games. I guess it was a matter of time until they made a movie out of it.
an introduction to weblogsDuring the last Dublin webloggers' meeting I was asked the question, "How do I start a weblog?" I began answering, somehow under the impression that it would be a simple answer. But it wasn't. As I went into more detail I realized that I was giving out more information that anyone in their right mind could digest easily. I then decided to write up this short intro so that I could use it in the future. A big part of this for me is an excercise in writing down things that might seem obvious to me (and others) but not so much to those that aren't involved in weblogs yet.
And of course, any corrections, additions and comments are most welcome. A note: this deals only with weblogs, not with newsfeeds, RSS. newsreaders, and such. Hopefully I'll get around to writing another similar introduction sometime in the near future, or to add to this one soon. :)
Update: I have posted part two of this guide here.
So, here it goes...
Intro to the introBefore we begin...
...some terminology: there are words that you will see often with weblogs: client, server, host (or hosting). Some of these words might be familiar or not (and probably they're obvious to everyone!), but just to be 100% sure, here go some definitions as I'll use them trying to avoid taking too much liberty with their actual technical definition
Getting startedFirst of all, what is a weblog?
There are many good descriptions of what weblogs are (and aren't) scattered through the web. Meg's article what we're doing when we blog is a good starting point. One of the oldest descriptions around is Dave's history of weblogs page, and he went further in his recent essay what makes a weblog a weblog. Others interesting essays are Rebecca's weblogs: a history and perspective, and Andrew's deep thinking about weblogs.
Not surprisingly (as you might have noticed from reading the articles/essays linked above), people are have slightly different takes about what exactly constitutes a weblog, but there is a general acceptance that the format in which content is published matters, as well as the style in which the content is created. Additionally weblogs are usually defined by what they generally are, rather than trying to provide an overarching definition.
Here's my own attempt at a short list of common characteristics of weblogs. Weblogs:
What's the difference between weblogs and "classic" homepages? Technically, there isn't a lot of difference. The main difference is in terms of how current they are, how frequently they are updated, and the navigation format in which they are presented (weblogs have a strong component of dates attached to entries). I'd say that homepages are a subset of weblogs. You could easily create a weblog that looked like a homepage (by never updating it!) but not the other way around.
Sometimes weblogs have been billed as "the death of journalism," which I think isn't true. If there are any doubts, you can check out weblogs written by journalists, and compare that to the articles they write. They are qualitatively different. I think there will always be some room for people that make a living reporting, searching for stories, editors that correct what they write, etc. The role of news organization and journalism might change because of weblogs a bit, maybe it will become more clear and focused, but that doesn't mean it will disappear. Weblogs are a different kind of expression, period, and as such they are complementary to everything else that's already out there.
However, the best way to see what weblogs are like is to read them (as opposed to reading about them), and then try one yourself. As I've mentioned, weblogs come in different shapes and sizes. Some people tend to post long essays, some people just write short posts. Some talk about their work, or about their personal life. There are an untold number of weblogs that are simply ways for small groups to share information efficiently within their company's network, to create a "knowledge store" for projects. Some people post links that they find interesting. Some add commentary. Others only comment on other's weblog entries. Some weblogs are deeply personal. Some talk only about politics, or sports. Quite a number of them talk about technology. Some weblogs have huge number of readers. Others only a few dozen. Even others are completely personal and are only read by the person who writes them. Some public weblogs (relatively few) are anonymous, most identify the person. Some are updated many times a day, others once a day, others a few times a week.
You get the idea. :-)
So, some good examples of well-known weblogs (at least within their communities) to read and get an idea of what they're about. Check them out, read them and about the people that create them (alphabetically). Anil, Atrios, Betsy, Burningbird, Dan, Dave, Doc, Esther, Erik, Evan, Glenn,Gnome-Girl, Jason, Jon, Joi, Karlin, Halley, Mark, Meg, Rageboy, Russ. All of these weblogs are, in my opinion, great examples of weblogging in general. You may or may not agree with what they say, you may or may not care, but they are all a good starting point to show what weblogs are and what they make possible.
Those that are more embedded in the weblogging community that might object to presenting such a small list to represent anything, or might put forward different names, so I just want to say: Yes, I agree. But to show different styles of weblogging, and provide some initial pointers, we have to start somewhere. I'll go further on the subject of discovering weblogs below, in the subsection about community.
This all sounds intriguing, but will I like it?
That's a difficult question. :) I guess my answer would be "try it to see if it fits". As mentioned below, weblog software is invariably free to try (at least) and so there is no cost in getting started. My opinion is that some people are more attuned to the concept than others, because they are already sort of weblogging even if they don't describe it as such. For example, if you like to rant about anything, if you keep pestering your friends, family and coworkers about different things that you've seen or read or thought about, or if you regularly launch into diatribes about all and any kinds of topics (e.g. "The emerging threat to African Anthills and their effect on the landscape") then you might be a Natural Born Blogger. :-)
So, again, just try it out. If it doesn't work out, no harm done. It's certainly not for everyone. But you just might discover a cool way of expression and create a new channel to communicate with the people you know, and a way to find new friends and for other people to find about you.
Okay, I'm sold. How do I get started?
First step in starting a weblog is choosing the software you will use. There are many products available.
But before going into them, there are two main categories of software to choose. I'd ask: how much do you know about software, or how much do you want to know? Do you run or maintain your own server? Are you interested in running a private, rather than public, weblog, for say your workgroup, and you don't want to worry (too much) about passwords and such, and can handle yourself technically?
If the answer to any of the questions above is yes, skip this next item and go directly to 'Self-managed weblog software' below. Otherwise, you'll probably be better off with 'End-user software'.
End-user weblog software
Here are some of the most popular products (in alphabetical order). All of them have been around for several years and have been important drivers of the weblog phenomenon (except for TypePad, that launched in mid-2003 but is based on MovableType, which is another popular tool "from the old days"--see below).
Short answer: it depends.
Long answer: it depends. :) That is, it depends on which model you prefer. Blogger is free, LiveJournal has a free and a paid version. Radio and TypePad are not free but offer trial versions. Blogger, LiveJournal and TypePad are fully hosted, while Radio keeps a copy of your content on your PC as well as hosting your content on a public server. All of them are free to try, so looking around for which one you find best is not a bad idea. :)
Self-managed weblog software
Here are some of the most popular products (again, in alphabetical order)
Beyond the first postAre there any rules to posting?
Generally, weblogs being what they are, the answer is no. But there are some things that I personally consider good practice that I could mention:
What about comments to my posts? And what's this 'Trackback' I keep hearing about?
Weblog software usually allows you to activate (or comes by default with) the ability for readers to leave comments to your posts. This is generally useful but you might not want to do it. As usual, it's up to you.
Trackback is something that allows someone who has linked to you to announce explicitly that they have done so, thus avoiding you (and others) having to wade through referrers to find out who is linking to you, and providing more context for the conversation. Some weblogging systems (e.g., TypePad, Radio, MovableType, Manila) support Trackback, but some don't (e.g., Blogger, LiveJournal). Once you have become familiar with weblogs, Trackback is definitely something that you should take a look at to see if you might be interested in using it. Here's a beginner's guide to Trackback from Six Apart, the company behind MovableType and TypePad (that created the Trackback protocol), as well as a good page that explains in detail how Trackback works.
These mechanisms are useful more for the community aspects of weblogs than anything else, and usage of them varies widely from weblog to weblog.
And what about all this 'community' stuff?
Because weblogs are inherently a decentralized medium (that is, there is no single central point of control, or one around which they organize), it's much harder to account for the communities they create and to track their usage. (For example, the actual number of weblogs worldwide is estimated at the moment to be anywhere between 2 and 5 million. Not very precise!). But there are ways to find new weblogs, and here are a few of my favorites.
There are sites like weblogs.com and blo.gs as well as others that are usually notified automatically by weblog software when a new entry is posted. Because of that they are a good way of (randomly) finding new weblogs.
What? This sounds a lot like "the central point" I just said didn't exist. Well, it does and it doesn't. There are directories, but they are not 100% complete because they rely on automatically finding new weblogs (for example, through weblogs.com updates and other means) or through people registering their weblogs with them, and both methods are fallible. Two examples of this are Technorati and Blogstreet. When you go to those sites you'll notice they talk about "ecosystems" to refer to weblogging communities, and that's a pretty accurate word for what they are. Those sites, as others that perform different but related functions (such as Blogshares, or BlogTree), also let you explore communities around your weblog, discover new weblogs, etc. Daypop, Blogdex and blogosphere.us focus a bit more on tracking "trends" within the weblog community (particularly Blogdex). Technorati and Blogstreet do this as well.
A lot (and I mean a lot) of result for search engine queries these days lead to weblog entries on or related to the topic you're looking for. Chances are, those weblogs contain other stuff that you'll find interesting as well. Some good search engines are Google, Teoma, and AllTheWeb.
Targeted directory/community sites
There are sites that center around a particular topic and put together a number of weblogs that are devoted to or usually talk about that topic. For example, Javablogs is a weblog directory for weblogs that have to do with the Java programming language.
Referrers are a mechanism that exists since the early days of the web, but that have acquired new meaning with weblogs. The mechanism is as follows: if you click on a link on a page, the server that is hosting the page you are going to will record both the "hit" on that page, as well as the source for the link. Those statistics are generally analyzed frequently (e.g., once every ten minutes, once every hour) and displayed on a page for your perusal. So if someone posts a link to your weblog and people start clicking on that link to read what you've said (and depending on the weblog software you're running) you will be able to see not only how many people are reaching you through that link, but also who has linked to you, which then helps you discover new opinions, people that have similar interests, etc. Directories like Technorati also track who is linking to your site, and so serve a similar function (but, again, as they are not 100% accurate you might not get the "full picture" just from looking at them).
There are many. :) The best additional example I can think of is some of the community features of LiveJournal and TypePad, which allow you to create groups of friends with whom you prefer to share what you write, etc.
Is blogging dangerous?
Yes. Most definitely. And addictive, too. :-)
Seriously though, while blogging might not be literally dangerous, it is most definitely not free of consequences. We sometimes have a tendency to take ourselves too seriously, or to misinterpret, or to rush to judgement (I wrote about these and other things in rethoric, semantics, and Microsoft). Some people have been fired from their jobs because of their weblogs. Others have lost friends, made enemies, and gotten into huge fights (mostly wars of words, but that nevertheless have impact on both online and offline life). On the bright side, weblogs have been at the core of a large number of positive developments in recent years, mostly technical but also other kinds, have provided comfort and even news when everything else seemed to be collapsing both in large scale (for example, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the US) and for individuals and small communities. People have made scores of new friends, gotten job offerings, and started companies through them.
The number one reason for this is that, contrary to what you might think (and unless you're writing for yourself and not publishing anything anywhere), people will read what you write. It might be a few people. It might be many. It might be your family, your friends, boss, or your company's CEO, or a customer. (Robert Scoble, who works at Microsoft, posted some thoughts on this topic today, here and here). This is easier to see with a private weblog, but I'm always surprised at how easy it is for me to forget that it happens (of course) with public weblogs, all the time.
My opinion is that in weblogs, as in life, whenever you expose part of yourself in any way, whenever you engage in a community, whenever you express yourself, these things tend to happen. :-)
You might have noticed that there are a lot of "do what you think is best" comments interespersed with the text above. This is not a coincidence. Blogs are, above all, expression. Blogs and the web in general allow us to look at many viewpoints easily, cross-reference them, etc. Check things out. Look for second, third, fourth, and n-th opinions (and this definitely includes the contents of this guide!).
You have the power!, or in other words: It's up to you.
24 - day 3, and Tarantino wants Bond
The third season of 24 premiered yesterday in the US. I just watched the preview on the home page. Nice. The same "Indiana Jones" feeling as in the second season: "The first wave of attack will be terror. The last line of defense will be him." Heh! It would appear that in the world of 24 the whole of the intelligence community is either taking a break or corrupt. Good thing we've got Jack to save us! (This time the threat is "global" according to the trailer, that's why the 'us'). I can't wait.
There's also good news and bad news. Bad news first: Jack's daughter, Kim, is definitely back. Good news: she's new a CTU agent. With any luck, she will not last longer than, say, four or five episodes.
Related: I was just thinking how cool it would be if they did a 24 movie. It wouldn't be exactly the same (since you'd lose the element of real time), but Jack Bauer can be the dark side of James Bond, so to speak. Then, I thought: When's the next Bond movie coming out? (The last one, Die another day freaked me out through the first half, I mean, it almost seemed to have a plot! False alarm though, and it was a good Bond movie). So I search. And I find this:
The Kill Bill director told the New York Daily News that he is aiming to get the rights to make a new version of Casino Royale, the first James Bond novel.Oh boy.
Before I go on, I just remembered this: over at Dave's site (I know Dave from the #mobitopia IRC channel) there's a set of RSS feeds for comics. My favorites are Dilbert and Calvin and Hobbes. Very cool.
the sound of music
No, it's not about the movie :)
The last couple of days I've been working a lot and as usual I fall into patterns. Patterns allow me to forget about whatever (example, food) since you do them sort of automatically when the time comes and it's one thing less to think about. A good example: I can listen to music most of the time while I'm coding except when I have to figure out a relatively complex set of correlations and events between classes. I've been counting and it's usually when more than 20 objects are involved in the event loop, reacting to each other, when I have to stop humming to the music for a while until I get my bearings again (Example: an event is stopped by the user, the panel has to update, notify its listeners, the listeners react and trigger other listeners and stop or start threads and so on). Weird. Anyway. Even when I am listening to music, I need to be listening to music that I already know very well, well enough so that it doesn't distract me), something along the lines of being able to hum along to the song unconsciously while I am debugging an algorithm or things of that nature. The only exception to these two rules is Beethoven or Mozart, which for some reason have no interference whatsoever with my brain activity when I'm thinking but still let me enjoy the music.
The result of this is that through different periods I end up listening to the same few playlists over and over. I imagine that if a neighbor can hear they must think I'm nuts, since I probably listen to the same song maybe three or four times a day. My current two favorite playlists are:
One: The Hard Rock/Hip Hop/Rap/Grunge playlist
In closing (?) :-) a verse from Public Enemy's He got game that feels as it fits here for a number of reasons:
It might sound a little somethin'
But damn the game if it don't mean nothin'
What is game? Who got game? Where's the game
--In life behind the game behind the game?
I got game
she's got game
we got game
they got game
he got game,
It might feel good
it might sound a little somethin'
but fuck the game if it ain't sayin' nothin'
and speaking of kill bill...
...the music is incredible. I mean, amazingly good and even when it's corny, it's corny in a Tarantino kind of way, where it's not corny anymore. (So I guess it's not really corny). Which is not surprising because Tarantino has repeatedly said that he finds the music that defines the movie, rather than the other way around. (This, adding to what I mentioned yesterday).
Right now there's a documentary on TV on Kill Bill (such a coincidence!) where Tarantino is saying something that is really important for stories in general. He says "I gotta know the mythology. You, as the viewer, don't have to know it, but you have to know I know it." I have always thought that this is a crucial element in fiction of any kind, and that the best works are always those were you can just feel the depth of information, stuff that you can't see or are not told but that you know it's there and that it gives consistency to the story. Examples of are many, from The Lord of the Rings, to Ulysses, to, yes, The Matrix (although who knows, the Matrix might still explain absolutely everything in Revolutions... but that would be a mistake IMO).
And, by the way. The scene where the Bride fights maybe 50 or whatever bad guys. Isn't it really really close to the scene in Matrix Reloaded where Neo fights off 100 Agent Smiths? Isn't it a cool that two entirely different, entirely unrelated movies would reflect exactly the same concept in exactly the same way using exactly the same ideas, with very much the same cinematics, (Eastern fighting techniques basically), at exactly the same time? Of course there are some parallels with reality today. But that's not it. Not all. Great minds think alike! :-)
the way of the weasel
I've been perusing Scott Adams' Dilbert and the way of the Weasel over the weekend. It's really good. Right off the beginning, he is out to improve his definition of the world from the excellent The Dilbert Principle:
Over time, I became more certain that my theory was incomplete. I racked my brain and came up with a new and improved theory that explains not just management, but, dare I say, humanity:And:
kill bill vol. 1
In the mid-90s I went to the theater with a friend to see a movie by a-then unknown director called Quentin Tarantino. We had chosen the movie at random, a couple of days after opening night, without knowing what we were walking into. It was, of course, Reservoir Dogs, and I had never seen anything like it. The 70's retro-style, the great dialogue (like that unforgettable discussion of the meaning of Madonna's 'Like a Virgin'), the characters.... for me, an instant classic.
Then came Pulp Fiction, which not only rebooted John Travolta's career but also provided a boost to Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman. Pulp Fiction was similar (somehow) but better than Reservoir Dogs. Way better.
Jackie Brown was also immensely enjoyable (it's still a favorite of mine) but it was more subdued, with less edge. I started to wonder if Tarantino had somehow lost it a little.
Enter Kill Bill.
Kill Bill is, more than a movie: it's an incredible cinematic experience. It has a beginning with a punch that rivals that of Pulp Fiction, and it only gets better from there. The mix of styles and techniques, black-and-white footage when the Bride is enraged (or in fear), Anime (and great Anime too) to tell the story of a Japanese-Chinese-American character in her youth, reinforcing the fantasy/legend aspects, well....
And, is it violent? Yes, of course it is. I mean, come on, it's a Tarantino movie. But a lot of the violence is so cartoonish that it doesn't really count (and cartoonish but in a good way, not cartoonish like the violence in Schwarzenegger's Commando which was also incredibly stupid and pointless). People who don't like violence at all though will be well advised to steer clear of this movie (a couple of women behind us stood up and left mid-picture--I can't help but wonder what exactly did they think they were walking into). This isn't good or bad, you just have to be into that sort of thing to appreciate it, kinda like you have to be into Kung Fu movies to appreciate them. It's not bad. It's not good. It just is. And as far as I'm concerned, it is great.
I sound like a zealot, don't I? Well, I really, really liked it. Really, really. Really. Even the opening titles where excellent.
I can't wait for Volume 2! And unlike the (remote) doubts surrounding the potential screwups in Matrix Revolutions, there's no question that I'm going to like that one. :-)
So watching Matrix Reloaded again was great (I had seen it once in the theater only). Many things seemed to fit much better, and there was none of the sense of unease that was there when I watched the first one (along with the amazement of course, with the brain going a mile a minute trying to figure out what the hell was going on). The freeway chase becomes a lot more spectacular in a second (and third!) viewings too. All in all, the movie becomes a lot better a second time around.
The DVD has some additional features but it's mostly garbage, except for two things: some of the "making of" stuff that deals with how things were done, how the movies + game + animatrix was done all in parallel, and the making of the freeway chase. We're so used to thinking that everything is done digitally that when we see amazing stuff on the screen it's not shocking anymore (not too much at any rate). Well, the freeway chase was actually done on a freeway they built for the movie (1.5 miles long), with mainly characters and additional traffic added digitally. But whenever a car blows up or starts flipping in mid-air, it's all real. The training for the fighting scenes was pretty impressive too--the main members of the cast had to train for eight months and then rehearse each sequence of coreography. Amazing.
Regarding plot-lines: two things became clear this time around, that both add to and clarify my previous musings.
One is that, assuming the Architect is not lying through his teeth, then this cycle is indeed different, since he says that previous Neos had chosen to save Zion and this time Neo chooses to save Trinity instead (it would also seem that the Neo/Trinity love affair didn't happen in earlier cycles, with Neo's attitude in them being more of a Messiah-kind of thing. Whether Smith is also a new occurrence or not... that's also up for grabs.
The second element that I thought was interesting is that listening to the Architect's explanation more closely, it's cool to note that "the anomaly" that created systemic instability within earlier versions of The Matrix was fixed by giving people a subconscious choice: accept the reality of the Matrix (fake) or not. 99% did accept it (some social commentary there too :)). The 1% that didn't had to be "rerouted" and controlled through Zion, the profecy, the rebellion, etc., ending with the rise of The One and the "reabsorption" of the Anomaly into the Source. Which means that the Matrix-within-Matrix theory would seem to gain more credibility.
Of course, if the Architect is lying, then this is the way it's always been in previous cycles, with the One thinking he's just doomed humanity to extinction and with the rest of the story to play out. This is possible, but doubtful.
A final point of interest is that Neo's conversation with The Oracle, which when I saw it seemed grandiose and unnecessarily overdone at the same time, actually does make a lot of sense (although I'd probably chosen a less convoluted way of saying the same thing).
Throughout their dialogue, (and aside from the end of their conversation, which is all about giving directions to the Keymaker) the Oracle essentially is telling Neo how the theory of space-time works when you mix it with human consciousness.
No, I'm not nuts. Just bear with me for a minute.
The Oracle keeps saying things like: "You're not here to find out what your choice is. You have already made the choice. You're here to find out why you made that choice."
In space-time, everything happens all at once. Space-time is four-dimensional, and just like we recognize the three spatial dimensions to already "exist" the fourth dimension (time!) already exists as well along its entire "axis". From our subjective experience, however, we see time differently since we experience reality through its axis, rather than any of the other axes of space. So we tend to think of time as "happening"--but that's just a trick of our consciousness. All time has already "happened," the moment the Universe showed up. (Currently physics understands spacetime as not present before the Big Bang, where the Universe was contained in a singularity). Given that, it's clear that every choice has already been made and every situation has already played out (a bit mindboggling isn't it). This does not preclude free will (or, more generically, choice). The choice existed in that moment when time was created. All choices at once. But from our personal, subjective experience, we still have to live through each moment and come to the point where we face each choice, that is we understand why we made that choice. The Oracle then (like Neo, who now has "the sight") simply sees the choices that have already been made, but can't tell you why they were made (since that's subjective to each person).
What is even more interesting about all this is the implication it has on Neo's "power" to see the future. In our real world, the only way you can see the future is if you're (somehow) outside of spacetime (which allows you to jump at any point on any axis). So far that seems to be impossible, at least until we find a way to manipulate wormholes (aka Einstein-Rosen bridges). But, in a simulated system like the Matrix, there's no reason for time to proceed normally (except to prevent people from going mad that is). Just like the laws of physics are simulated, the passage of time can be simulated as well. The whole of the simulation run (so to speak) can be done quickly, then allowing each person's senses to catch up and "understand the why" (there's a bit of a Platonic dissonance between mind and body going on there too--not too surprising since the references to Plato's The cave are pretty obvious). Then the ability of the Oracle and Neo to see the future is simply explained as accessing the main data banks of the Matrix for that particular point in time, which has yet to play out. No mysticism or magic required.
reading the matrix tea-leaves
So I thought I'd write down a few wild, ridiculously early speculative comments, going back to all what was discussed following my review of Reloaded. Since this is based on about 3 minutes of video, I don't expect my speculations to be too accurate, but what the hell.
First, a couple of complaints. It seems that overbearing language is still an overriding necessity. The trailer has this set of sequences where everyone says things like "I believe in him. He believes in us. I don't believe in The One. I believe in him. We have to believe." And on and on and on, in quick succession. Jeez, I get the point, enough already with the belief. Is this a movie, or a new religion?
Then there is a short scene where Neo is having a nice chat with what seems to be a personification of the Matrix itself, telling "it" that Agent Smith is out of control. Looks bad. Baad bad bad bad. What is up with the Matrix antropomorphising itself? The whole idea of Matrix-like concepts is that these systems are meta-human-conscious, and as such not only they exist on a different plane so to speak, but also cannot relate to the human mind. Plus, this whole notion of a piece of software running around "out of control" within a system as refined as the Matrix is patently ridiculous (and besides, the Matrix needs a puny human to find out that there's a problem?). I wonder how, or even if, they are going to explain that. Maybe they'll say that the Matrix subcontracted systems development to Microsoft, and there was a buffer overflow in port 25 or something of the sort... but come on, even msblaster was stopped, wasn't it? Should we be looking forward to Norton Antivirus--The Matrix Edition?
Another thing that is apparent is that the Oracle is gone. Or rather, there's a different actress in her place. Younger. Similar-looking. I knew that the actress that played the Oracle in the first two movies had, sadly, died mid-shooting of the sequels, but I wasn't sure if she had finished her role in the story. It seems she didn't. I'd bet the new Oracle is supposed to be the old Oracle except younger, through some twist of plot... I mean, fate. As far as other characters are concerned, it appears that the Merovingian is back, and it has an ace hidden somewhere. Which would fit with the speculation that it was a Neo in a previous iteration of the Matrix...
Third, and more importantly, it seems to me that that the matrix-within-matrix theory is a more than likely plot-twist. Characters in the trailers for Revolutions never say "Matrix" and "Real World" (as in the previous two movies, particularly in the first). Now they speak of "Two Worlds" (big difference). Plus, there's a new effect similar to the "Matrix view of the world" (that coolish classic-CRT-green) and this one is in tones of yellow. Example: this is a frame in which Neo is sitting on a chair surrounded by Agent Smith copies, as seen with the now classic inside-the-Matrix perception:
And these are two frames, the first one is apparently what Neo sees in the "real" world when he looks closely at the man who was "infected" by Agent Smith at the end of Reloaded and the second is Neo walking through... well, a corridor of some sort :):
So the "real world Matrix" is yellowish? Hmmm...
Another item of note is yet more "borrowing" of concepts from Anime, with the concept of robotic body armors that looks a lot like that of Macross (aka Robotech):
Regardless. It will definitely be entertaining, we just have to hope the story doesn't screw up the experience (I am optimistic).
Now to wait until November 5...
Steven Soderbergh (and George Clooney) come out with a new HBO series, K Street:
In "K Street," a half-hour show that makes its debut on Sept. 14, HBO is aiming for something that Steven Soderbergh, a co-executive producer, calls "real-time fiction." The show will depict a make-believe firm of lobbyists and consultants, but will blend in real politicians, lawmakers and issues to give an insiderish flavor of how Washington wheels, deals, logrolls, backscratches and backstabs.Wow. Hopefully they'll show it here in Ireland at some point. It takes a while sometimes, for example, I still haven't seen The Wire, which is apparently excellent.
the last of futurama
Futurama is no more. Long live Futurama.
when art finds us
I watched Steven Soderbergh's Solaris tonight. Quite amazing what happens when we're on the exact same frequency of a certain piece of art. Good art changes every time, since we change, but every once in a while I feel as if I'm on exactly the same frequency, and everything gets... amplified. It's more common with music, since it's more immediate I think... "this is what I feel like listening to now" is a common experience. Movies, books, paintings, anything remotely visual, is harder for obvious reasons, so it's quite amazing when this happens, and even more when it happens unexpectedly, and considering that the timing has to be exact... Somehow the movie's non-personal elements, that is, the atmosphere, the visuals, the soundtrack, reflected how I felt very accurately, even as it differed from the mental image I had created based on the book (which I read in a Spanish translation of the original Polish years ago) and probably precisely because of how it differed, not always in bad ways.
I know, I know. Riddle me this, right? No, no riddles. Just lack of ability to explain further without going on for twenty thousand words.
So, back to the movie: Maybe a bit too introspective, and slightly claustrophobic in that sense (though that could be just me at this particular moment) but very good nevertheless. Soderbergh has achieved a true reinterpretation, rather than a simple adaptation--though I did miss the Ocean as a main character in the story. I know I'm just catching up now, but between Solaris and Avalon these past couple of weeks have been good on the SF front. And with Revolutions now only three months away...
the rocky horror picture show
No... not the movie... but this bizarre morbid voyeurism that the media seems to love so much (and, hey, if it sells, the public can't be far behind no?)... Every newspaper in the world. Every news channel. Magazines. The Internet. I mean, is it ever enough?
They say: Poll: was the Pentagon right in releasing the pictures?
They say: by the way, these images are gruesome and might affect your sensitivity. Keep out of reach of children.
who needs all those teraflops...
The "Matrix-effect" done on the cheap. Hilarious.
woody's quote of the day
Tina: Guilty? What the hell is that? They see something better and they grab it! Who's got time for guilt?
from Broadway Danny Rose (1984)
neal stephenson's USENIX keynote
Scott Rosenberg on Neal Stephenson's recent USENIX keynote:
Some fascinating notes on a Neal Stephenson lecture about his approach to writing, with parallels to programming: "A good writer (and a good programmer) does not work by distilling good ideas from a large pool of bad and good ones, but by producing few if any bad ideas in the first place. It is important to give ideas time to mature [in the subconsciousness] so only good ideas percolate to the conscious level."
This is most definitely how it works for me. I am rarely able to create a lot of ideas and then improve them incrementally; I might spend a lot of time doing (apparently) nothing and then write everything down, something that just seems to work (both for programming and writing). All of this closely linked to that state of mind we call flow. Stephenson apparently didn't mention much about editing though, which is also crucial, and it exists in both cases (though, for programming, we call it debugging). Editing/debugging is not part of the creative process per se, but an important component in polishing up details, clarifying concepts, or removing small inconsistencies that are always introduced in the process of transfering thought "down" to any medium.
the best movie you've never heard of
A few weeks ago I was talking with Patroklos, a fellow NTRGer, about Matrix Reloaded, when he said, "have you seen Avalon?"
I said: Avalon?
Patroklos then proceeded not only to tell me about it ("It's The Matrix as it should have been" was one of the things he said), but also helped me procure a copy. :-)
And finally yesterday (or, more accurately, early this morning) I had some time to sit down and watch it.
So what is Avalon? It's a fantastic science-fiction movie that is, as far as I'm concerned, a worthy heir to the kind of cinema defined by 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Bladerunner, although probably slightly more introspective than those two. Created by a (largely) Japanese crew, a well-known director of Anime who nevertheless opted for live-action, shot in Poland, with Polish actors, with dialog in Polish.
The director is Mamoru Oshii, who also directed Ghost in the Shell, one of the best Anime movies ever made (There is an official a website for the movie, with minimal information and a good trailer). As the movie begins, we get the following introduction:
The near future. Some people deal with their disillusionment by seeking out illusions of their own - in an illegal virtual reality war game. Its simulated thrills and deaths are compulsive and addictive. Some players, working in teams called 'parties' even earn their living from the game.
The game has its dangers. Sometimes it can leave a player brain-dead, needing constant medical care. Such victims are called 'unreturned'. The game is named after the legendary island where the souls of departed heroes come to rest: Avalon.
The comparisons with Matrix are inevitable but a bit regrettable. It's a different, and in many ways, better approach to the subject. The special effects don't get in the way. There is no grandstanding on the part of the characters, no overarching proclamations, and no explanations in the Hollywood style (as in most Anime, or as in Bladerunner and 2001). No need for a character like "The Architect" in Reloaded, in fact, a character like that would be completely out of place in Avalon.
In a sense, Avalon reminds me of ExistenZ, the David Cronenberg film that was released in 1999 close to The Matrix. More introspective, less in-your-face pyrotechnics that left you with more questions, and a greater sense of unease.
Sadly, Avalon hasn't been released yet, neither in theaters or on DVDs in English (although there are DVD versions in Polish of course, as well as others with Japanese and subtitled in some European languages, such as German). Apparently Miramax has acquired the distribution rights to it, so there could be a release soon. I'm not holding my breath though... I guess that with all the Matrix-related hype it would be difficult to release Avalon and not see it swallowed by it, or compared unfavorably to it by critics that would deride the ambiguous ending or the introspective nature of the movie. This is sad though: The Matrix didn't invent anything in terms of visual style, or in terms of story. All those themes already existed, obviously in literature, but also in movies and Anime. As I've mentioned before, there are many, many, many, "similarities" both in terms of visuals and in terms of story between Matrix and Anime classics such as Akira and Ghost in the Shell, and maybe this fact is what drove Oshii to give his own live-action take on the genre.
Anyway, an instant classic. I'll be eagerly awaiting a theatrical or DVD release. :-)
woody's quote of the day
Alvy's Mother (to the Doctor): He's been depressed. All of a sudden, he can't do anything.
from Annie Hall (1977)
blogs in the workspace
The New York Times reports that weblogs are good for communication. Wow! Amazing!
film is dead - not!
Salon: Film's not dead, damn it!:
[...] Remarkably few people have bothered to ask cinematographers -- the people who should know best -- what the technology's current strengths and limitations are. People like George Lucas like to think they're on the vanguard of these new methods and modes of filmmaking. But it probably hasn't occurred to most moviegoers that the "Film is dead" movement may be more strongly driven by forces in the marketplace than by artistic considerations.Related note: I always think about how little widespread appreciation (beyond the Oscar or Golden Globe nods, that is) the makers certain crucial elements of movies get. Like cinematography. Like music. Anyway :) a good article on the hype and reality of digital technologies for cinema, and how the confusion between creation, post-production, and projection has muddled the argument.
woody's quote of the day
Doctor: When did the changes being to happen automatically?
from Zelig (1982).
reloaded on IMAX
A while ago I read somewhere that a technology was under development to convert standard 35 mm (or 72 mm) film for IMAX projection. The first movie to be converted was Apollo 13. Now it seems that Matrix Reloaded has been converted too, and will be showing in London starting today. There is an IMAX theatre here in Dublin, in Parnell St., but I've never seen it open. Oh, well.
Matrix Reloaded -- the abridged script
woody's quote of the day
What does money got to do with it? I've got enough for a year ... if I live like Mahatma Gandhi. My accountant says that I did this on a very bad time. My stocks are down, I'm cash poor, or something. I've got no cash flow. I'm not liquid... something is not flowing. I don't know, but those people got a language of their own those guys.From Manhattan (1979). (Audio .au, 160 KB)
woody's quote of the day
There's an old joke: Two elderly women are at a Catskills mountain resort, and one of 'em says: "Boy, the food at this place is really terrible." The other one says, "Yeah, I know, and such small portions!" Well, that's essentially how I feel about life. Full of loneliness and misery and suffering and unhappiness, and it's all over much too quickly.From Annie Hall (1977)
decentralized media, contd.
And--what do you know. Today William Gibson (only two days ago I was commenting on the excellent Pattern Recognition...) has an op-ed in the New York Times that is about other ramifications of this topic: The Road to Oceania. Quote:
Orwell knew the power of the press, our first mass medium, and at the BBC he'd witnessed the first electronic medium (radio) as it was brought to bear on wartime public opinion. He died before broadcast television had fully come into its own, but had he lived I doubt that anything about it would have much surprised him. The media of "1984" are broadcast technology imagined in the service of a totalitarian state, and no different from the media of Saddam Hussein's Iraq or of North Korea today — technologically backward societies in which information is still mostly broadcast. Indeed, today, reliance on broadcasting is the very definition of a technologically backward society.While his article is more tilted towards privacy, the discussion on decentralized media meshes with it. Ramifications can probably be found for most things, although information dissemination and privacy are the most pressing matters at the moment (only until we've gotten used to the new situation though :)), and this is a consequence of Media being not just an ever-growing part of life but, in some cases, or for some people, more important than life itself. And if you don't think that's possible, consider how media (before, during, and after the Iraq war) has affected people's lives beyond their involvement, even beyond their knowledge.
pattern recognition v2
I've finished reading it. Left the last 25 pages or so for pre-sleep time, although now, having read them, past that theoretical pre-sleep time (miscalculated actually, since I rarely go to sleep before early AM), I'm uncertain if I'll actually get to sleep tonight, with the sea of words that's taken over my head.
Will take some time to process. Off for now.
Yes, the book. By William Gibson. Which I received as a gift from Dylan and Tracey (can't thank them enough for it), and my copy is signed by the man himself.
I haven't finished it yet. I started it Saturday and to say that I couldn't read more than a sentence without fainting would be exaggerating, but not by much. JFC. Didn't get past page 50. Left it on the bed next to the pillows.
Today I was working on cactus database access optimization, and juggling different algorithms in my head, and I needed a break. Allow the subconscious to do its parsing. The book was there. Waiting. I started reading again maybe three hours ago. I can't stop now. Screw dinner.
It's definitely his best work since Neuromancer. Not that other books, say, Idoru, or All Tomorrow's Parties are inferior, it's just that this one is so right on the mark, and so surprising in how Gibson's voice shows us the present that it's nothing short of astonishing. His two-page description of 9/11 is the best one I've read, fiction or non-fiction (as much as a real event can be fictionalized, you understand), by a mile. Two miles. Whatever.
I'm posting this, by the way, as a sort of therapy, some reason to pull me out of that book, of the trance in which it has enveloped me, for a few minutes, and walk around the house, do whatever. Some way to reclaim the "real world" a collection of feelings and sounds that has receded into something possibly more distant and certainly less lyrical than the quasi-reality of the book.
Even if at the end Cayce discovers that the footage is being created by a disgruntled teenager from Singapore and applying the watermark by way of a Russian mafia ex-boyfriend, I won't care. Page 300 or so, and it's already way up there with Gravity's Rainbow, Ulysses, and, of course, Neuromancer.
Okay. Okay. Breathe deep. Back to it...
next u2 album for march 2004 - maybe
According to this information, the next U2 album might be called "Solar" and it could be released on March 8, 2004. I guess we'll have to wait. The image of the poster is almost certainly bogus, since I had that exact same image as a screensaver a few years back (I got it from a NASA archive I think, and here is a similar image found after a search in google images), and it's unlikely they will do something with zero artwork (The fonts on the poster are suspicious too). Original rumours put the album's release before the end of this year... so who knows. Btw, U2Log has some more rumours on the album here. Anyway. Back to waiting. :-)
socrates was a hacker
I enjoy philosophy immensely, and yesterday my parents gave me as a present a book called The Great Philosophers edited by Ray Monk and Frederic Raphael, which is excellent (I have to say I picked it :-)). It has essays on the most influentials philosophers in history: Socrates, Plato, Descartes, Spinoza, Hume, Russell, Heidegger, and so on, even Turing. Each essay balances their philosophy with their life as well... The first one (appropriately enough) is on Socrates. Had he lived today he would definitely have been a hacker, (I mean hacker, btw, in the original sense of the word --not a cracker, or a phreaker, etc) as the following excerpt shows:
His friends told stories about how strange he was. After dinner one night [...] a young man who had been on military service with Socrates recounted how Socrates hadSound familiar? :-))started wrestling with a problem or other about sunrise one morning, and stood there lost in thought, and when the answer wouldn't come he still stood there thinking and refused to give it up. Time went on, and by about midday the troops... began telling each other how Socrates had been standing there thinking ever since daybreak. And at last, toward nightfall, some of the Ionians brought out their bedding after supper... partly to see whether he was going to stay there all night. Well, there he stood till morning, and then at sunrise he said his prayers to the sun and went away.Another friend described how, on the way to the dinner party at which the above story is told, Socrates fell 'into a fit of abstraction and began to lag behind'. Socrates then lurked in a neighbour's porch to continue thinking. 'It's quite a habit of his, you know: off he goes and there he stands, no matter where it is.' His other regular habits did not include washing; even his best friends admitted that it was unusual to see him freshlyl bathed and with his shoes on. He was shabby and unkempt, never had any money or cared where his next meal was coming from. [During his trial] he admitted to the court that 'I have never lived an ordinary quiet life. I did not care for the things that most people care about -- making money, having a comfortable home, high military or civil rank, and all the other activities... which go on in our city.' But Socrates did not think that any of these trappings of a conventionally successful life were bad in themselves. Neither was he an ascetic in the ordinary sense of the term. He never preached abstinence (he could, said his friends, drink any of them under the table, though he was never seen to be drunk), nor did he urge others to live as simply as he did. A hard and preoccupied man, he was just too busy to pay much attention to such things as clothing, food or money.
the world is a complicated place
From one of my favorite comic strips, Calvin and Hobbes:
Calvin is talking to his dad.
Yesterday (or early today, to be more precise) I watched Donnie Darko. Overall: Wow (Here is the Salon review, with which I agree in all counts). It's an excellent, excellent movie, that evokes a few other movies in how it treats its characters, not as cardboard cuts or stereotypes, but as real people (even though the movie is basically slightly surrealist science fiction, which puts a strain on the "real people" part). The main other movie it evokes is Rushmore and parts of the excellent Election (although election is much more cynical in its satire). Elements of classics such as Fight Club or American Beauty (in the sense of honest looks at US society, "growing up" and so on) abound. And it centers around one of my favorite subjects, time travel. In all, really well done. For me, an instant classic.
radiohead's new album
Time has an article this week on Radiohead's new album, Hail to the Thief subtitled "How Radiohead learned to stop worrying and enjoy being the best band in the world". I don't know if 'the best', but definitely way, way up there. :) An interesting read.
what does it take to destroy something good?
So, of course, the move is natural. From Ally McBeal to 24.
Yes. Exactly. This has to be a joke.
What follows is a couple of quotes from the article. They don't contain spoilers that I can see (I have seen Season 2 up to about 7 episodes from the end I think), but be warned nevertheless.
[..] Kelly [sic] revealed some changes he has already considered for the program as well as some other eye-raising decisions he has already made.WHAT?!? A courtroom drama? Kim Bauer an agent? Kim Bauer can barely make a move without requiring her diapers changed. At least bring Jeniffer Garner, from "Alias". And Nina in a cabaret? Musical numbers?
As I said, this has to be a joke. Considering that the article is to shoddily written that it incorrectly refers to David Kelley as David Kelly everywhere but in the title, it's a big possibility. If it's this is true, however, we can safely say that the adrenaline-pumping days of '24' are over.
Yesterday I commented that I had seen Animatrix. I didn't want to comment then to let it settle a bit in my head, but here go my impressions now...
Animatrix is quite simply one of the best animated features I've seen in years. It crosses through several genres of animation (Anime, Ultra-realistic, etc.) and the storylines are generally excellent. This collection of short stories proves conclusively, if there was any doubt, the strong influence that Anime in particular has had on The Matrix series, as I was mentioning a couple of days ago.
Here's a breakdown of all the nine Animatrix episodes:
Animatrix is already partly out as four free episodes, but there are nine in the can. I've just seen all nine, and they are very, very good. Will have to get that DVD when it comes out next week.
the language police
"The Older Person and the Water": That's the title given to Hemingway's "The Old Man and The Sea" in some of the US's school textbooks. That's probably the worst example, but there are many more. Read and be amazed.
the cinematic roots of The Matrix
I was thinking about this as I went to see Matrix Reloaded and then again after I saw it, as I wrote my comments on it. My view of the special effects in Reloaded in particular changed since I wrote that review, when I remembered something that I had forgotten: that The Matrix is, at its core, Live Anime. I got carried away by the "hollywoodish action" feeling of The Matrix; when the first movie came out in 1999 not many expected it to be the massive hit it was. But it was a hit, and the rules changed: whatever the Wachowski brothers had planned for the series now also had to match the expectations of people regarding hit movies, something they probably didn't want to do (if you want to see how "mainstream" the brothers are, watch their previous movie, Bound). Unless you're James Cameron or Steven Spielberg, who seem to have the pulse on superhit audience expectations, it's probably better to stick to your guns, which seems to be what the brothers did in Reloaded. Things are perceived differently when you apply different expectations to them, that's not a surprise. My feelings towards the visual/cinematic style of Reloaded had been shifting since I saw the movie. In the end, I think most of the problems of the movie can be traced to apparent timing problems, some scenes that are too long, etc, which might have more to do with Reloaded and Revolutions being shot as one movie and then split in half, rather than as two. I've read that the Wachowski wanted to release Revolutions only a month after Reloaded but the studio would have none of it. That would probably have made a lot more sense, and maybe take the edge off all the unresolved threads in the second movie.
By the way, if I appear to be obsessive about this, it's because I am. :) Not about The Matrix in particular, but about storytelling in general, particularly for SF movies, which are the hardest to get right; the analysis I did of Minority Report in July last year comes to mind.
Ghost in the shell has so much imagery that echoes in The Matrix as well that it's difficult to know where to start comparing. From people with plugs all over their bodies back into a computer system (I know this is a common science fiction theme, but in the aesthetics are remarkably similar), to sentient software run amok in the real and virtual world, the connections are pervasive. There are other parallels, not just with Anime but with Manga (Japanese print comics) and comic books in general as well (Trinity's attire keeps reminding me of Catwoman, for example), which are much more complex in terms of story than people generally think (witness the richness of the story of the X-Men series of movies, which is basically watered-down content from the comic book stories).
Anyway, in the end what I mean is that put in the right context, The Matrix series is even better than in looks in close inspection. And, if Revolutions follows closely the tradition of Anime, we should prepare ourselves for an ending that might be ambiguous, even possibly unsatisfying by Hollywood's standards, as it would be if for example it was revealed that Neo was a piece of software, just like the Agents are (as I've mentioned before). Already Reloaded makes you feel a bit stupid because everything that you thought was true isn't, which I'm sure adds to the feeling of unease towards the movie. If the Wachowski brothers haven't bowed down to pressure (from the studio, the audiences, and so on) they will at least deliver a consistent vision of their own, and that's what art is about. They already have enough money to not have to care about box office receipts. Now they only have to show that they can break out of Hollywood's own crap-producing money-grabbing sequel cycle.
and speaking of Matrix Reloaded...
there is no spoon: a review of Matrix Reloaded
Okay, I've seen it. Did I like it?
Well, it's ... complicated. :)
I had a window of time today at noon, so I just got up and went to the theater. Got there early, snatched a row-ten-center seat, and waited.
Then the movie began. An action sequence! Oh, boy! Bullet-time, shooting... and shooting... and more shooting... okay, okay, we've seen the bullets fly, now please move on...
Still more shooting.
Is this another trailer? I thought. It wasn't.
Finally that one ended, change of scenery and so on.
Carrie-Anne Moss looks at Keanu Reeves across a rusted metal table and says, softly: "Do you want to talk?"
I laughed. It's Keanu Reeves there, Carrie-Anne! He has the conversational abilities of a dead racoon!
She didn't hear me. She kept trying to talk to him. Oh well.
Before I go on, there is something I want to clarify: while the effects in the movie are "ok" (as I feared, there can be "too much of a good thing"), the cinematography is fine, and so on, I'm holding off on forming an opinion on story yet. It seemed to be going badly but then at the end we witness a couple of twists that can not only explain all the strange things that happened before, they can also easily redeem the entire series if taken to proper conclusions in The Matrix Revolutions. Depending on how it ends, it could be a masterpiece, or not.
If you are going to see it, make sure to wait until after the end of the credits: there's a trailer for Matrix Revolutions which isn't available anywhere else yet.
Spoiler Warning: I'm talking about a lot of the "surprises" in Reloaded below, so continue reading only if you have seen the movie, or if you don't mind knowing a bit more than you're supposed to.
One thing that I found hilarious was the continued metaphysical arguments the characters engage in, particularly in the presence of Neo. These dialogue-sections follow a pattern similar to this:
Neo: Why am I here?While it can be amusing to follow some of the logical and philosophical implications of what's said (for example, when the Oracle tells Neo that he's there "to understand the choices he's already made, rather than to make them" we are being told that in The Matrix fate is not only a reality, it's part of the program) and to think about all the discourses on causality, reality, and so on, they can be a bit trying at times; for some reason they feel a bit (just a bit) phony. Maybe it's Keanu's zero-reaction face. Or maybe it's just that there seems to be little point to them, except...
Except that there might be a reason for all of this metaphysical discussion and clue-chasing.
We had seen increasing signs that Neo wasn't so special, we've seen the phantom-Twins, the enigmatic bodyguard of the Oracle, the Oracle herself, the Keymaker that says little except "this is what I'm supposed to do", the self-replicating Agent Smith, and, of course, The Architect.
The action in the movie as it progresses feels more and more scripted. That is, as time passes it becomes more difficult to believe that this is really happening. Agent Smith is out of control. The Oracle runs around without much problem. The Phantom-Twins seem more powerful than any Agents, and suddenly Morpheus can fight off an agent, at least for a while. In the meantime, we are treated to a list of enigmatic pronouncements and complex statements about reality. Credibility is more and more strained. And then the Merovingian that tells Neo that he has "survived all the others".
The others? But wasn't the story that there had been one guy that had freed the first humans from the Matrix? And that Neo is the next one?
At this point it helps to consider some of the apparent holes in the logic of the first Matrix movie, and this one. For example:
Until we meet "The Architect."
Ah. Here it was. The dialog was a bit heavy as before, but suddenly we had something new: a revelation. The Architect's explanation clears up a lot of the questions.
It goes like this: In the Matrix there will always be a small amount of people that will reject the "virtual" world imposed on them. Given time, they might compromise the system. So, instead of trying to squash them, the Architect simply built an escape for them. He gave them a cause, and the prophecy to chase. He gave them enemies. Then every once in a while, he used a new Neo (or One) gather them all in a sense, eliminate them, and then start again. Zion is reborn, sponsored by The Matrix!. The threat is contained, properly channeled. The Matrix wins, and the humans always think that they are just about to. We learn this has already happened six times in the past, which means, suddenly, that everything we know from Morpheus about the real world and so on is a lie. The year is not 2199. But if that's not the truth then...
The unknown this time could be Agent Smith, who is now replicating itself. Or it could be part of the cycle...
So given this information, at the very minimum we now know that this whole idea of Neo as the savior is not true. He's a pre-programmed pawn. The question for the third movie is, will he be able to break out from that? Or is it even part of the cycle that he breaks out?
There's another, even more intriguing possibility: that the "real world" of Zion, is actually within the Matrix itself. This is all hypothetical, my own speculation, but along these lines is where I think that the story could really become something. The potential is there. Let me explain.
Consider: we already know that The Matrix has been "managing" Neo and the rebels for several cycles, to control them enough so that they think they are winning and they don't take over the Matrix. If it was the Matrix itself that "created" the first Neo, then why put humans out in the real world? Why not just make them think they've been "extracted"? So then the "real world" of Zion is just another Matrix enclosing the "normal" Matrix. The first is for "rebels", "anomalies" that don't accept the program. The second is for accepting humans.
This theory can be supported by that last scene where Neo stops the sentinels with a gesture, just as he would do inside the Matrix, and by the fact that Agent Smith has also shown up in "the real world". There is one more reason why this theory could be correct.
Consider: all the "special beings" we've seen in the Matrix, such as the Keymaker, Agent Smith, The Twins, and so on, are all software. Because of that, they can see and manipulate the structure of the Matrix. But if they are all software...
Then Neo is software too!
It sounds reasonable: the Matrix creates him, and in fact he has appeared several times already as we saw in the end. He behaves like other "software", in that, although very powerful he is still limited, for example, the Twins can de-materialize, Neo can't. If Neo is software from the "upper" level of the Matrix, the "Matrix for rebels", when he plugs into the lower level of the Matrix he can manipulate its reality. But at the end of Reloaded we see that maybe he has learned to manipulate the upper level of reality as well. (And is this part of the cycle the Matrix has planned?) If so there might be a chance of actually cracking through to the surface, the actual reality (for what it's worth).
All of this explanation has the additional bonus that it "cancels out" the seemingly illogical stuff that happened before. Does Neo's path feel contrived? Of course, it was planned by the Matrix. Does it feel at times that the Matrix is not putting up much resistance? Of course, it needs Neo to succeed, but not that easily. Is Morpheus a zealot? Sure, he was probably programmed to be one :)
Okay, and now for even more wild speculation: why would the Matrix go to all this trouble? If you watch Animatrix you see that the machines, at the beginning, were actually benevolent, trying to be at peace with humans. It was humans who rejected them, and started the war. Now look at the Oracle in Reloaded, talking about how the only way this will work is if both machines and man work together. Could it be that this whole thing is a really, really convoluted way of making humans see what they should do? Mmmm...
Anyway, while speculation is all well and good, I have no idea what might happen. The trailer for Revolutions didn't say much of anything, so I'm in the dark. But I think that it's clear that, properly done, the story could work well. And there could be many endings that work well, such as "the cycle begins again..." or "they actually escape" or... The title for the next movie is plural, "Revolutions", which could be a reference to the past revolutions (the cycle?), or that there are multiple revolutions that will happen along this section of the cycle.
In summary, I'm reserving my final opinion until I've seen the next movie. Everything could change: it's all in place. The elements for a masterpiece in science fiction are there. So are the elements for a major disaster in the history of storytelling. I am optimistic, but we'll see.
We only have to wait until November...
reloaded needs reloading
I haven't seen The Matrix Reloaded yet (it opened today in Ireland and the UK), but adding to my own err... concerns about the movie comes Dylan, who didn't like it, and points to this other review that doesn't paint it in a good light either, and Erik seems to agree. I've been thinking about writing a longer piece about Matrix, I'll probably do it before I see Reloaded, based on the first movie and what I've seen on the trailers for the second. Need to get it out of my system I guess, and it will be good for comparison later after I've actually seen Reloaded. :)
So the US Media (besides Salon, that is) has finally picked up (more or less) the Private Lynch story: after not reporting the first claim that the rescue was staged, CNN now is publishing the Pentagon's denials (I haven't seen any reports whatsoever on this on any other US media outlet; then again I probably missed it. I can't believe not one of them published anything.
The BBC said that it had proof; now would be a good time to see it no?
Russ gets interviewed for another Wired article --congrats!-- and then posts the interview in an interesting exercise of "media on media" with some good comments. I don't agree with some of what Russ says regarding ways to "fix" the Google-weblogs relationship . Google indexes billions of pages. What might appear to be an obvious fix --e.g. "look at which part of the web is changing constantly and then change the algorithm appropriately"-- is likely not easy to do at all when dealing with Google's scale. Detecting weblogs is IMO much harder than it sounds--there are many parts of the web that aren't weblogs, that are "deep-linked", and that get updated often, say, for example, review/comments sites, little known news sites and so on. Marking servers manually as "to be ignored" is clearly not an option. And an automatic option, even with a 1% "failure detection rate" still means that they would be unfairly tagging millions of pages--and invite a flood of complaints. I do agree with Russ in that it's very likely Google will go after using weblogs for improve or modify search in some way; after all that's one of the reasons they have publicized for purchasing Blogger earlier this year!
Btw, Isn't it cool that we can have so much fun with this rumor mill? :)
In other news: Karlin talks about this BBC scoop on the possibility that the media-ballyhooed rescue of private Lynch in Iraq was staged (and here is a Salong article about it). Wow. I wonder, if this is true, how does it happen? Does some Colonel somewhere say "Sergeant, get a media event organized for this rescue", "Sir, yes sir!". Are the soldiers blind enough that they can go around following orders like that with no problems, then even receiving commendations and so on for a fight that didn't happen? I'd bet it doesn't feel too good. Weird anyway. I'll be interested in seeing what happens with this...
lying for a living
The New York Times: Times Reporter Who Resigned Leaves Long Trail of Deception, on the cover story of today's paper. Great to see that kind of openness to tell what had happened--for a moment I felt as if I was reading a weblog of the newspaper.
It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Neo!
Matrix Reloaded is being released worldwide these next few days (it opens here in Ireland on May 23rd). Time has it as a cover story this week, and from what I read and the stills that you can see in the article, it appears that the new film will be heavily tilted towards action--and little else, something echoed in this slashdot thread regarding the first published review of the movie. If it's true, part of the story will be lost. However, we should remember that Matrix Revolutions is not far behind (November) and as the end of the trilogy that movie will have to be a bit (at least a bit) more "contemplative". The Lord of the Rings, for example, managed that well (keeping the third book still tense, but winding it down slowly, and with a major final battle to boot).
Also: couple of days ago I read this article that talks about what The Matrix meant culturally when it was released in 1999--very good.
In any case, let's not forget what the sage Morpheus told us once, as we were about to enter that fabled rabbit hole:
No one can be told what The Matrix is--you have to see it for yourself.
how good is 'bowling for columbine'?
I've heard many, many good comments about Michael Moore's documentary Bowling for Columbine in which he examines the 'gun culture' of the US, and tries to find reasons why the US has a higher rate of gun homicides than any other country in the world. However, I missed it when it got released here in Ireland, so now I'm waiting for the DVD.
In the meantime, I found two sites (here and here) that debunk several, if not all, the premises on which the documentary was built. Since I haven't seen the movie I can't really comment, but one thing I find interesting about this "debunking" is that it should be easy to verify; I mean, just watch the movie and these things should be obvious. For example, the splicing of different Charlton Heston speeches mentioned in the first article should be clear since it appears that he is wearing two different suits in a segment that implies the sequence is linear. The spinsanity piece (second link) is particularly interesting to me since they are non-partisan and have attacked spin in the left as much as in the right.
One thing I do find interesting is that, if true, Moore (an avowed lefty) is engaging in little more than what other people (particularly in the right, although no one is clean of this) have been doing more of recently: bending the truth or 'connecting dots' of dubious precedence. The White House in particular has been heavily engaged in this in the past few months when trying to shore up support for action in Iraq. Unless they are so extreme that they are disgusting, I respect (although I might disagree) almost any position, as long as the person/group espousing them is honest and consistent (or makes it clear when they've made a mistake--anyone can change their mind). But consider for example this quote from Bush's speech yesterday at an aircraft carrier, declaring the end of armed conflict (although not the end of the war--if they did that, under the Geneva convention they'd also have to release the estimated 6,000 POWs currently under Coalition control, which would be, shall we say, inconvenient). Bush
[...] spoke in emotional terms not only about the troops who toppled Mr. Hussein but also about the Sept. 11 attacks, melding the battle against terrorism with the battle against Iraq. "We have not forgotten the victims of Sept. 11th, the last phone calls, the cold murder of children, the searches in the rubble," he said. "With those attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States. And war is what they got."I find it awful that the tragedy of Sept. 11 is used for this purpose. US intelligence agencies themselves identified the hijackers mainly as Saudis (12 of them) and the operation to be organized by Saudis. Today, as was widely reported before the war began (take, for example, this article), almost half of US citizens believe that Iraq was either heavily involved or somewhat involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. There are no facts whatsoever that point in that direction. The Bush Administration itself identified Al-Qaeda as the main culprit, and, when linking Iraq and Al-Qaeda in the UN in February, Collin Powell talked much more about the risk of Iraq's weapons falling in the hands of terrorists than on the apparent links (which, tenous or not, he argued as being recent).
Both Moore (if he did what is claimed with his documentary) and the Bush Administration (if they are, as it appears, encouraging overtly or covertly the spread of things that aren't true) could be say to be voicing things in a way that reinforces what they truly believe in. I guess it goes back to the question: "Would you be willing to lie (or at least not tell the whole truth) to advance a 'cause' you truly believe in"?
As far as I'm concerned, the answer is no. In more mundane situations, gray areas are more commons, but for these ethical/moral/philosophical questions, when you are affecting millions of people with your message, making your case truthfully and honestly is a major element that determines true success.
Okay, I veered off into a rant there, this is a contentious subject and the particulars of each case are not what matters for what I'm trying to say. My point is: whether you're on the left or on the right, and specially for ideological debates, what counts is being honest. Everyone is entitled to their point of view, voicing their opinions and so on, but manipulating perceptions through half-truths and fabrications always ends up creating more problems than in solves. It doesn't matter if you think your cause is just: in these situations, the end rarely justifies the means.
Chewbacca will be back!
According to this CNN article, Chewbacca will be back in Star Wars Episode III. I wonder if, without Han Solo, Chewie would indeed be reduced, as Leia put it in Episode IV, to a "walking carpet."
It would be good nevertheless: the more characters there are, the less Jar Jar Binks there can be. :-)
gibson ending his weblog
"I do know from doing it that it's not something I can do when I'm actually working. Somehow the ecology of writing novels wouldn’t be able to exist if I'm in daily contact. The watched pot never boils." He adds: "I have to go do whatever it is I do, to find the next novel. Writing novels is pretty solitary, and blogging is very social."I couldn't agree more. I have found that when I'm writing (and deep into code as well--but coding+blogging is easier to manage) I always blog less. However, I think that he is a bit mistaken about what a blog has to be. His blog entries are excellent, they read like short stories. There doesn't seem to be a big difference between his "writing" mode and his "blogging" mode, which is probably quite draining for him. I sort of automatically distance myself from the blog when I'm writing--maybe not ideal, but it's not as if I really control it. The entries become sparser, less... err.. "full of life", they dim down. The blog doesn't end--it just changes tone/direction for a bit. The energy is going elsewhere. I think that this happens to everyone who blogs with different degrees: sometimes the blog slows down a bit, or becomes less inspired, and sometimes you're firing on all cylinders. Like in life. :)
Karlin interviews William Gibson
Karlin has posted some thoughts on an interview she did today with him. The text of the interview will run in the Irish time around the end of this week. Must get it! I am definitely going to read Pattern Recognition, his new book, once the work surrounding the beta release subsides. As I've said before, I think that Gibson is one of the best writers ever, and not science fiction writers, but writers, period. Very cool.
TimesTalk: An interview with Bono
An interview with Bono from the New York Times' TimesTalk.
Speaking of U2, Daniel sent me an email in response to an entry a few days ago in which I mentioned Stay (Faraway, So Close!) mentioning this cool entry related to it, U2's music, and other things.
And... on the interview I linked to above, Bono talks about the new album. When they released Best of 1990-2000 last year there was talk of a new album being released this summer. Almost there!
PS: btw, this is my 1000th blog entry. :-)
The Daily Show online
John Stewart's show
Salon has a review of John Stewart's fake news show on Comedy Central. Quote:
Stewart and company [...] can articulate their derision for the state of American public life without demanding that we admire their maverick élan. In fact, "The Daily Show" regularly advances the notion that self-satisfied white guys might sometimes be part of the problem and not just the blameless (yet rakish!) casualties of moral crusaders run amok. The show specializes in satires of bogus experts: No matter what the subject at hand, for example, Stephen Colbert is introduced as the show's "senior analyst." He's the senior U.N. analyst, senior media analyst, senior theater analyst, senior death analyst (commenting on a Texas execution), etc. He can always be counted on to speak utter drivel with unflappable authority.LOL!
Too bad I can't don't have satellite or something of the sort.
the real face of war
An article on media control and the war.
a random touch of the oscars
Yes, it's close to 4 am (!), and I've just finished running some tests on a new fix for spaces. I'm going to sleep, but for some reason I turn on the TV for a moment, not that I expect that I'll find anything, and there is U2 going into the initial chords of The Hands that Built America I think, WTF? (This tends to happen to me for some reason. Walk into a bar, hear a U2 song, things like that). Then I realize it's the Oscars! Had seen no mention in the media about them in a while and with so many things going on I had completely forgotten that they even existed. (And rightly so).
Anyway, Bono gave one of the best vocal performances I've heard him give in a while. Amazing. It moved me. I wasn't the only one I guess. At the end of the song, they focused on Daniel Day Lewis, who had tears in his eyes. He's an excellent actor, but they seemed real.
So, unexpectedly heard a really good version of a really good song and now I'm going to sleep. For a while. :-)
Through Boing Boing I found the Raging Platypus blog, which (in title and initial content at least) is a spoof on the sneaky "viral marketing" 7UP campaing for its new drink Raging Cow (no, I'm not gonna link to it).
Raging platypus also has a hilarious FAQ. Sure, for all I know this could actually be a real product, and it the author's blog. Or it could just be a blog with a clever "delivery system". I don't care. Hats off to the Plat: It made me laugh. :-)
North Korea and movies
A truly bizarre story about a South Korean filmmaker that was kidnapped by the North... to make movies for them. Life is always stranger than fiction.
don't go there
From Wired news:
Despite being asked not to, people went there anyway. They came, they saw, some of them pondered and then, with a quick click, they opted to send the website to its death.Very cool. However I think he underestimated the response, only a hundred hits seems quite low. But it probably wouldn't have mattered anyway.
games and performance art
A New York Times article on the unlikely marriage of the TV series 'Friends' with Quake. Choice quotes:
n a coming episode of the television show "Friends," here's what might happen. Ross arrives and starts to whine. Suddenly an armor-clad warrior rushes in and with a blast from a space-age weapon reduces Ross to a pile of twitching viscera. But the show must go on, so Ross pulls himself together and rises to complete his sniveling soliloquy. Just as he finishes, he is slaughtered again. Call this episode "The One Where Ross Is Repeatedly Annihilated by a Plasma Rifle."Quite funny.
conservatives in US Media
An interesting article from Salon's editor in chief, David Talbot. Salon does feel like a voice in the wilderness. In light of their current financial problems (which aren't new by the way) one can only hope that it will survive.
I was reading about David Cronenberg's new movie, Spider (starring Ralph Fiennes), when I came across this paragraph:
For the guy across the aisle from me at a Times Square theater for "Crash," in 1997, the sadomasochism was OK, the open-wound sex and disability fetishism was not a problem, the "autoeroticism," ha ha, was fine and dandy. But when James Spader and Elias Koteas embarked on some same-sex probing in the back seat of a 1963 Lincoln Continental (the precise model in which John F. Kennedy was assassinated, naturally), he was out of there. He was a large man, and he unfolded himself to his full height and girth to address the audience as he stood up. "No, no!" he said. "Nuh-uh! I ain't sitting here for that."This is exactly what I saw when I watched Crash at a theater. I could tell from their sighs and oomphs that many in the didn't care about (or like, or appreciate, or even see) the deep, dense web of correlations between technology, sex and death that the film exposed through the actions of that merry group of twisted sociopaths. And yet the people endured it. Right up to the point in which Spader's and Koteas's character get it on, when many decided to leave. To me that was immensely hypocritical, I thought 'So all the other stuff was fine, but this is not?' and 'This is Cronenberg. What the hell did they expect?'. Although sometimes Cronenberg can make you cringe a bit too much, he always (certainly in all his movies after the early 80's) makes you think. Art (specially good art) will inevitably provoke a profound reaction of some sort. It goes to the core of what we are. If it doesn't, IMO, it's not art.
I can't wait to see Spider. From what they talk about in the article/interview, it seems its themes follow the lines of Memento in that it explores the relationship between memory and identity in some unsettling ways, from a different perspective, into the territory of the artist (or failed artist) as a central character, and how art is communicated:
Here's the point: It's a subjective movie. You are seeing it from Spider's point of view. So he doesn't explain stuff that's obvious to him. When he's confused, we the audience are also confused. When he's hallucinating, we are hallucinating. And the nature of hallucination is that it feels real. The main hallucination in the film is the only one that I thought was necessary.Exactly how it should be.
Speaking of movies... some movies I saw recently:
editing -- or lie?
Via an entry from Scott, I found out about an ongoing discussion regarding an email sent by Laurie Garret (Who wrote The coming plague, an excellent book on which I commented last year) to her friends reporting 'candindly' (to say the least) about what she saw and heard at the World Economic Forum at Davos. The main problem seems to be that Garret wasn't willing to actually publish the contents of the email--or that's what it appears since she was apparently outraged that what she said was being made public, rather than the text itself. As Scott puts it:
I'm sure it was upsetting to Garrett to find that words she intended for a small group got broadcast online. I don't envy her. But I think what irked a lot of people on the Net was the feeling they got that the story she told her friends was very different from the one she was likely to tell readers of her "official" work.Indeed.
Copyright © Diego Doval 2002-2007.
Movable Type 4.37