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Goaded on by this review 1 at, I went off to see "The Matrix" this afternoon. Great stuff - somebody's been reading William Gibson! The film was an obvious on-screen realization of his cyberpunk genre (due to bad reviews I stayed away from "Johnny Mnemonic"). Here's a brief quote from the third volume of his "Sprawl trilogy":
"How were they weird?"

"Hoodoos. Thought the matrix was full of mambos 'n' shit. Wanna know something, Moll?"


"They're right." 2

That's his character Finn talking - in the first book (Neuromancer) he's the proprietor of an electronics shop, but when we meet him again in the third he's dead. His personality was stored in computer memory, however, and he lives on as the Oracle, just a speaker grill set into a wall in an alley 'round back from where his store was - people ask him questions and leave offerings. Gibson was calling cyberspace the Matrix back before we even had email - I watched the credits until the end hoping he'd get some mention, but no. The idea of the Matrix in this film is a little different, but the hostile Artificial Intelligences were lifted right out of his books. The movie was filmed in Sydney - I was guessing that was Chicago, from the street names. Now I know what these Hong Kong action flicks are all about. No previews to report - I was late, just saw the last minute of the new "Star Wars." This animated GIF is my homage to the Matrix - something like it was visible in the background inside the Nebuchadnezzar. (Since it was right up at the top of the frame it probably won't be visible in the video's cropped image.)

Cherry trees are blossoming all over - I took a cutting off one in the cinema parking lot, as petals were blowing across the asphalt, recalling how back when we were room-mates on Biltmore Street NW Tim thought cutting a sakura tree was a punishable offense in DC. (Currently there's consternation around the Tidal Basin as several of the famous trees have been felled during high hanami season by a pair of beavers.) Later, in the blustery evening I walked down el Camino for tasty steam-table chow at A Passage to India - weekends they feature a buffet and live music, a sitar and tabla duo. Definitely worth a return visit - love that butter chicken, and the $10 price is right.

Left Behind. Wouldn'ta been familiar were it not for the enlightenment provided in last weekend's This American Life called "Apocalypse - Stories of the End of the World" - it's a series of books from Evangelical Christians about The Rapture. As I was raised a Protestant, this concept is alien to me, since unlike their more fundamentalist brethren most mainstream Christians play down this idea, if not rejecting it outright. But of course with time I've become familiar, initially via exposure to Chick tracts. Sightings of the occasional "In Case Of Rapture..." bumper stickers require some research for the requisite comprehension - my own curiosity is such that I'm one of the very few people who saw the 1991 movie at the cinema.3 But apparently this "Left Behind" series of books is doing well in sales. (They're supposedly guides for those unlucky enough to be unRaptured.) "Feed" provides more information about them in this article by Adam Davidson:

The books are painfully dull and utterly devoid of supernatural imagery. The only thing you find in abundance are tepid chase scenes written by hacks and monotonous moralistic lectures about saving your soul. Every few sentences prove how little the authors understand the world around them.
He contrasts the smug, intolerant tone of these books with an earlier, more compassionate film about the same subject, one I'd never heard of called "A Thief in the Night," from 1972 (apparently the most popular Christian video rental ever). What's most pathetic and irritating about this flavor of Christian zealot is their conceited hubris, their unwavering confidence that their church is the winning team in the interfaith olympics. My feeling is should a Rapture occur, no way would the "Born Again" be rewarded with the entry to Heaven - rather, they'll be judged and found lacking, despite their selectively fastidious (but in reality bogus) piety. Much to their irritation, some consider the AIDS epidemic to be the actual Rapture, with the ascent of the chosen occurring in slow motion.

  pic du jour

Apr 10
© 1999
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1 Hope it reappears - I caught it a few days ago but today it's a 404.

2 end of Chapter 22 of Mona Lisa Overdrive, ©1988

3 And it's an odd one to be sure. The specific thing which drew me in was the description in a review of the hedonistic Patrick Bauchau character as "delightfully reptilian." What's interesting (and no doubt controversial) about the film is its confrontation with the Big Question about the afterlife - if it's so good up there, why stick around down here? I doubt that the movie's very popular with the Evangelical set, but I may be wrong. Early on during my screening there was audience participation, some bozo sitting up front was mumbling "Praise God" and so forth every few minutes, but he eventually shut up - I think the serious tone went over his head and it shut him down.