So this morning I was sitting at my desk, going about my business, when all of a sudden I heard a tiny splash and caught a flicker of something falling behind the Post-It dispenser next to the fish tank. I looked over at the tank, and looked again, harder. No fish was resident. I realized I'd left the lid up when I fed him this morning…
Pescadito, you see, had expressed the ultimate cry for help – he jumped out. Upon swift investigation, I found him lying, sodden and perfectly still, down in the space between the Post-Its and my business card caddy, glaring up at me in sullen misery. I shoved everything out of the way and attempted to scoop him up. He fought my rescue attempts, flapping about as if to say, "Begone! Take your food pellets and dessicated worms and shove them up your ass, and leave me be to drift into the sweet murky ponds of the afterworld - where mosquito larvae hatch fat and sweet for my consumption, and females swarm to my magnificent bubble nests, tearing each other's fins off for the honor of mothering my fry! This life of isolation and bad food is simply too cruel for me to go on!"
Luckily, I was soon able to snag him and deny him the oblivion he sought, and now he's swimming calmly in his tank as if nothing happened. I'm wondering if I should try to get him some counseling…
Ever been to Wil Wheaton's website, wilwheaton.net? I've referred to the site here a time or two, and I've been reading for a while. He's attained a certain level of renown in the geek world for being the rarest of breeds, an actor who authentically embraces computer geekdom. He's a regular on Slashdot and has his very own category tag on Fark.
He's also a really good writer; in fact, he's just published his first book, called "Dancing Barefoot" – sort of a precursor to the larger autobiography he has coming out later in the year. I believe he's started a little publishing storefront, Monolith Press, to self-publish the book. Since he doesn't have a big publishing house to promote the book for him, he mentioned in his blog that he'd welcome assistance from anyone who could help him find out more about how to get a book tour going.
Well, I just happen to have a friend, Maryelizabeth, who co-owns a prominent independent bookstore here in town – Mysterious Galaxy, specializing in sci-fi/fantasy as well as mystery books (give them a visit if you're in town – they're an outstanding resource for books in those genres!) While Wheaton's book is, strictly speaking, not in those genres, his resume certainly fit the bill. So I contacted him and offered to get him in touch with M., which he accepted and I arranged… and the net result is that now not only is Mysterious Galaxy carrying his book, but he's also got a place on a writer's panel at this year's Comic-Con convention. It's mighty cool of M. to hook him up like that. A better demographic - outside of the Star Trek con circuit, that is - would be hard to find. I suspect I've enabled the former Wesley Crusher to earn some great PR, and many sales of books and other WWdN schwag. As a bonus, one of the con's "featured guests" is Steve Jackson, from whom Wil got a great book review that he's been rather giddy about – so now he'll get to thank him in person, as a fellow featured speaker.
So I feel like I did a pretty good deed. The funny part is, I just feel like I've helped out a fellow geek whose journal I read (I read several of them on a regular basis), rather than doing so under the auspices of being a "fan". I liked the things he's been in well enough, but frankly never gave much thought to him one way or the other until I started reading the journal via fark.com about a year ago and found that I liked his writing. There's a "rooting for the underdog" element about supporting a former child actor's efforts to reinvent himself as an author from the ground (or the Net) up. I think it's cool that he's earned the respect of the community with which I most closely identify. He's become sort of the celebrity mascot of the geekosphere at large. Beyond all that, he seems like the type of smart, amiable person whom Bill and I would befriend anyway. So that's why I felt like contributing to his efforts to build his rep as an author. He seems to genuinely appreciate the help. Plus, I'm apparently getting a complimentary WWdN T-shirt out of the deal. Free schwag is always a good thing! =)
Here's a great article by some guy who knows his classic philosophy, explaining some of the possible theological/philosophical underpinnings of the "Matrix" storyline. (Warning: there are spoilers there, as well as in what I have to say below. If you haven't seen it and want to go in fresh, don't read this entry or that article).
God help me, now I actually kind of want to read Baudrillard, and brush up on Gnostic theology. My brain is a little scared - I haven't asked it to do any hard propellor-whirling in a long time... Damn you, Wachowski Brothers, for making philosophy actually seem intriguing!
The W.B.'s are doing pretty much the same thing that Lucas was trying to do with the "Star Wars" series - but with more concerted intellectual effort devoted to creating the backstory, and without being derailed by notions of "making it for the kids" with the likes of Ewoks and f$cking Jar-Jar Binks. Even though they also are not exactly the Masters of Snappy Dialogue, they're still better screenwriters/filmmakers than Lucas is now. He lost the mojo a long time ago in a galaxy not so far away...
So yeah, I admit I'm still sold on the Matrix. I don't really care if others were disappointed by "Reloaded" for whatever reason. I've read some damned bitter reviews by fans who hated-Hated-HATED it, who think it's suffered the same fate as the "Star Wars" series by being too CGI-orgiastic and favoring spectacle over substance, or just that there's too much talk, not enough whoop-ass. I can see their points. Maybe I just don't care enough in that I can overlook its flaws and still enjoy what is good about it, and I think there is plenty of good there. Sure, there are some things about the movie that bug me, such as:
• I'm a little annoyed that they're fabricating some plot-development tension between Morpheus and Link and Niobe via a very cliché "torn between two lovers" subplot.
• Speaking of lovers, I think the Neo & Trinity/Zion-Loveshack sex scene I mentioned in the previous entry dragged on way too long - yeah, we get it, they're celebrating their humanity and the ability to sweat profusely, it's nice to see Neo getting some after all he's been through; now let's move on...
• Some of the fight scenes seemed repetitive and gratuitous, although I don't agree that they added nothing to the plot; I don't necessarily think every ass-kicking in the movie needs to signify Major Plot or Character Development any more than every battle in a war needs to be the Big Decisive Battle. I think these scenes were about demonstrating how the power of the characters had changed from the first movie (note that even characters like Trinity and Morpheus can now kick Agent ass instead of just running like hell, underscoring the fact that the power of the Zion rebellion as a whole is reaching critical mass in terms of the Matrix's ability to contain it - which ties in with what the Architect tells Neo about Zion).
• The W.B.'s could definitely take some lessons in engaging, believable character development and dialogue from James Cameron (the "Aliens" and "Abyss" Cameron, that is, not the "Titanic" one). This fact doesn't make "Reloaded" a hell of a lot different from the first movie, though. How many times did people squawk, "He is the ONE!" in the first movie...? Even more times, I suspect, than the phrase "It is your destiny!" was used in the Star Wars series. Many a DVD-watching drinking game has been based on this fact, I'm sure of it.
• The CGI's slip was showing a couple of times, which was distracting and took me out of the moment. Mind you, 95% of the shots were seamless and really of amazing quality in terms of realism of detail and movement. It's worth seeing just to see where they've taken the technology of CGI. Just isn't perfect yet, is all... And it still seems sometimes like the best effects are often still the ones created not by pixel manipulation but by clever traditional FX artists using real props and camera tricks to create the illusion of reality.
• The storyline itself can be hard to follow - in fact, I think almost anyone seriously trying to get the plot will need to see it several times to grasp all the details. There were moments that seemed to be setups for a major plot point but turned out to be disappointingly anticlimactic, like Persephone's kiss and the Oracle's candy. Watch and see, though, how many of these seemingly small distractions pop up again in "Revolutions" and make us say, "Oh, so THAT's why that happened!" (Without doubt we'll be seeing that little red candy again, and will maybe even find out why the Oracle ate hers right away and Neo did not).
• Who built all that machinery that runs Zion? No, really. Think about the scope of it. Certainly lends credence to the theory that Zion is really another Matrix...
So yeah, there are flaws. So what? I still enjoyed it a lot. I have to wonder if at least some of the detractors might, upon either seeing it again or thinking more about what they saw, get past the disconnect between the movie and their expectations of what they wanted to see, and find they actually don't hate it as much as they thought. That's how I usually feel about new records by artists I love, especially if they've shifted musical styles - I have to listen to the new stuff a few times to get beyond the "this isn't what I expected" stage and really know if I like it or not. I hope they give the movie another chance to grow on them, because I have faith that once "Revolutions" comes out, a lot of plot points from "Reloaded" will make more sense and the whole will satisfy at least some of the current naysayers. If not... well, poor fortune. The story's working for me just fine. Bring on #3!
So, as determined in the comments section of the previous entry, the blue fish has an official name now: Master Bluto Wasabi Cap'n Bob Beta.
The frog, too, has been named, albeit not by committee like the fish. Henceforth let him be known in this kingdom as: Freewheelin' Franklin Cap'n Bob Frog.
(Bonus points for anyone who knows where the Freewheelin' Franklin part comes from - and by that I mean, knows without consulting a search engine. The fact that I myself know about F.F. is my brother Thom's fault, from back when he was not the Conquering Hero he is now, but rather just a mere mortal teen delinquent.)
I have yet to name the Chinese Algae eater. Have at it!
We saw "Matrix: Reloaded" today. I liked it. It was nothing more nor less than I expected it to be. The fight/chase scenes were simply amazing; and when you get right down to it, the Matrix series definitely holds its own simply as a solid postmodern sci-fi interpretation of a kung fu movie. So, as long as they're delivering on the action, the plot - with its efforts to address deep metaphysical concepts in tidy soundbites between ass-kickings - is just icing on the cake; and if the icing's a little thin in places and a little clotted in others, well... it's still a tasty treat.
At that, though, I thought the storyline was decent and sufficiently engaging. They've added new levels of intrigue to the question of what motivates the creators of the Matrix and what role Neo really plays in the Big Picture. If anything, I think the third movie will be under a lot of scrutiny for its ability to follow through on the philosophical web-spinning of this one and resolve the questions, both practical and theoretical, that have been posed. I liked most of the new characters. The depiction of Zion and its leaders and people suited my expectations. (Although I don't know that, were I a Zionite, I'd respond to a proclamation of my impending doom - albeit a blow softened by Morpheus' oh-so-inspiring "I'm not afraid and neither should you be because... well, we ain't dead yet, right?" speech - by doing a sweaty little Lambada with 5,000 of my closest friends. I obviously lack appreciation for joie de vivre. That being said - the scene itself was fairly hot...). I definitely need to see it another time or two to really try to wrap my brain around plot points like what the Architect tells Neo, and who exactly the Merovingian is and how he fits in to the storyline - and that's all I'll say lest I hatch a spoiler on anyone who hasn't seen it and wants to. To sum it up, it was fun and intriguing and I enjoyed it and I'm not at all disappointed. Whew! The Curse of Sequels has spared the Wachowskis, for now at least.
Hope y'all are enjoying your weekend -
My cubicle shares a wall with that of one of the chicas in my dept ("C"), who likes to listen to a Hispanic pop station all day long. The volume is just loud enough for me to hear the music without actually being able to discipher any of the words (not that I'd understand most of them anyway). The station she listens to seems to have a playlist of, oh, 5 different songs, which they play repeatedly throughout the day. Each of these songs has one section that seems louder than the remainder - usually this part involves either blaring trumpets or the shrill tones of some Chicana Britney Spears. The portion in question will inevitably become stuck on replay in my head for hours to come (or, until the song plays again). Because I can't hear the words, on replay they morph into some melted goo reminiscent of a mentally challenged jazz singer doing scat - "Nay! Nah! Nay! Nay-nonnie-NAY-noo-noo-nah!" Each one, in its own special way, kills me softly each time it plays.
Finally I mentioned the repetition of songs to C, who in her congenitally happy Puerto-Rican way simply laughed and agreed. She said it was the only Hispanic station she could get to tune in, and she needed the noise during the day. This statement is in keeping with the fact that she's - quite self-admittedly - the main source of noise in the dept anyway; I love C to bits, but her chatter is both copious and possessed of all the tonal subtlety of a henhouse being raided by rabid weasels.
Anyway, she said she'd turn her tunes off if they bothered me; but I don't have the heart to ask her to do that. So instead I thought I'd just come here and make myself feel better by bitching about it. I do feel better - but probably that has something to do with the fact that the day's over and the radio's mercifully silent for now. So if you ever hear me humming some Tejanoesque snippet of some sort, please appreciate the pain it causes me, and feel free to smack me gently upside the head in hopes of resetting my internal station to something less torturous... Trust me, you'll be doing me a favor.
Our family has expanded by two as of this weekend - two lovely Beta fish, that is to say. Some friends had a baby shower for which the Dr. Seuss-themed decor included blue and red Betas (for "One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish", of course). At the end of the party they gave them away, and since there weren't a lot of takers I ended up with two, a blue one and a red one with some purply undertones.
The red one has accompanied me to work in a 1-gallon mini-tank - he has a plant and a funky rock-shaped hut in which he likes to hang out. I've named him Pescadito (yeah, that's "little fish" in Español - so what? I doubt he'll have any identity crises over it). He seems to have a fondness for the tight spots in his tank - there's a little gap down between the rock-hut and the side of the tank through which he can only pass if he wriggles hard, but doing so seems almost like a game for him. Now and then he gets excited about something and busts out with a little fishy break-dancing - possibly responding to his reflection in the side of the tank, although he doesn't flare out his gills the way he does if he sees another Beta (or his reflection in a mirror, which is a great way to mess with him).
The blue guy is residing at home in a 2.5 gallon tank with some plants and one of the kings of Argonath keeping watch over him (one of the bookends I got with my LOTR special edition DVD set - geek alert! geek alert!) - since it has a pump and filter, I'm probably going to get him some company by way of a plecostomus and maybe a few neon tetras (apparently Betas only get aggro with other male Betas, but are down with other community fish). He seems pretty even-keeled, and like his red brother he really digs freeze-dried bloodworm snacks. Blue Fish does not have a name yet - we tried "Poisson" and"Sashimi", but neither seemed to fit, so we're open to suggestion if you're feeling clever. Maybe "N'Chips" would work...?
Maybe these will satisfy the yen I've had lately to get another pet... Although there are some half-Siamese half-tabby kittens at the pet store that kind of remind me of Akasha, and Indy could really use some company.... heh We'll see.