Blog archive May 2003

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23.05.03 / 01

so. let's deal with the big one. matrix reloaded isn't so great. how shall i compare thee? let me count the ways:

1. thinly stretched intellectual/theological meat - predestination vs free will the ruling idea, but slim pickings compared to the density and rigour of the original.

2. which points up that the first film was self-contained and needed no sequel. we're told that a trilogy was planned all along, but seeing reloaded makes me wonder very much.

3. the first film left space for the imagination. in the open ending. and in not showing us zion. we were left to imagine the legendary city as we wished. which brings me to

4. zion was awful. the cliches of script and styling. the tacky and patronising 'ethnic temple' thing. the 'rave' scene. i felt sorry for poor laurence fishburne. he must have known the lines were crap, but he gave it his best shakespearian authority, trying to make it stick. he just about succeeded.

5. that teenager - jar jar binks

6. the much-hyped action scenes - are now so removed from normal human possibilities that they are uninvolving. there is no longer [as in the first film] a sense of human cost and effort, of real danger. we know it can all be done in the computer.

7. neo as superman - a bit too literally i think. especially when he catches trinity.

if he can fly, why does he hang around to fight the agents?

8. the matrix itself - the virtual world - doesn't quite look like our world any more. it looks virtual, it has a no-place quality of abstraction. whereas in the first film it really did seem to be our world. which messed with the heads of the audience so well. this time the fiction never causes you to question the real world. which is another reason why the action scenes don't involve.

ok, so what was right?

1. carrie ann moss as trinity. carrying the film.

2. in conjunction with agent[s] smith.

3. keanu - isn't all that bad really. sure he has no range, but the role seems to fit him.

4. the pilot of the nebuchadnezzar. warm and human, avoided sentimentality

3. the control room in zion, which appeared to have come from a different film [minority report, actually]. now that's what the whole city should have looked like. a heaven filled with light, dazzling, optimistic, seductive. somewhere you wouldn't want dirtied, violated.

incidentally, painting zion white would have made it more economical to light and more psycho/physiologically healthy. that grimy heavy-engineering sci-fi thing is looking dated to me. it's been around for almost 30 years as the ruling vision of the future. starts with 'dark star' in 74, hits the mainstream in star wars, lands on earth with blade runner and cyberpunk in the early 80s. maybe it's time for a rethink, for a film that changes the game again. 1960s white looks due for a comeback.

[i wonder if there is a european/american difference here? i'm always struck by a dark, heavy, almost gothic quality in american cinematic aesthetics. which reflects a definite weightiness and elaboration of american aesthetics and design generally, compared to the european.]

22.05.03 / 01

like most people, i watched the flight of the osiris last night on channel five. but there was something better on BBC2 - a documentary about romania under ceaucescu, with emphasis on the spectacular shows staged in the 70s and 80s as propaganda and to keep the workers busy. *wonderful* stuff. imagine abba were communists. imagine thousands of groovy young peasants in white flares and big hair like cloned osmonds performing synchronised dance routines that spelt out we love you big brother, each letter a hundred persons high. crazy horses waaoow waaoow. even the masses loved it at first.

22:55 13.05.03

In recent months I've often found myself feeling sleepy, on the tube, at my desk, at home. And in that place between sleeping and waking, I've been having flashbacks - waking dreams in effect - of the early 1970s. What distinguishes these flashbacks is their total immersion in the atmosphere of the times. We're used to seeing past eras dragged up for our nostalgic or critical perusal. But normally one sees these things from outside, as it were, in relation to other things that preceded and came after. Whereas when one is living in a period, there is no way out, no detached place or escape from the all-pervading feel of the times, no knowledge of the future. Each time imagines its own future, always wrong, which fills its horizons with dread or anticipation.

What marks the period I am flashing back to - say 72-75 - is its future turning sour. The optimistic future of the 60s darkens. It's still a futuristic future, still Space Age, but the white walls have turned dark brown and closed in. The mood was caught by 'A Clockwork Orange', and by various near-future dystopian dramas on British TV which invariably foresaw Orwellian dictatorships, military coups or the collapse of urban civilisation. The usual stuff of the genre, you might say, but there was a particular pessimism and dread at this time. Partly this was reflecting the real-life state of Britain in the 70s - economic collapse, high inflation, political and social unrest, moral decline, a sense that the country was becoming ungovernable which might in turn invite a right-wing military coup. [David Bowie was able to cause quite a stir in 1976 by looking like a fascist and suggesting that Britain needed a dictator.]

But the unique underlying near-despair of this period - unlike any other time I've lived through - was caused by the fact that we had had the 60s and affluence, and it was falling around our ears, and no-one knew if it would come again. Maybe that was all we'd ever have - 15 years of prosperity and pop culture, all gone for good. You missed it. Now the oil is running out and Western society is crumbling. We won't all be going to the moon after all.

So, to return to my first point, now we look back and say it was only a phase - a bad phase, but we've had two economic cycles since then and Western society and culture are still booming. But in my half-dreams I find myself back in the period as it was then, without that hindsight. Back in that futuristic No Future. I wish there was a way to capture that atmosphere for you. Watch A Clockwork Orange. Surround yourself with Brutalist concrete and dark brown brick. Shut out the light with smoked glass and mirrors. Make everything slightly shabby, a little less than new. Tell yourself that Bush has only just begun, and that the markets will not rise again in your lifetime. Listen to Pink Floyd.

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time has come, the song is over, thought I'd something more to say

01:50 10.05.03

It's been a great pleasure to meet Steve Taylor again IRL, for a meal Wednesday night and at the CMS 'blah' hosted by Jonny Baker Thursday night. Judging by how Steve handled questioners when severely jetlagged I'd hate to cross swords with him when he's awake! :)

a couple of things came out of the 'blah', which was Steve presenting stuff about emerging church/alt worship for people to discuss.

1. for half the room this was long-familiar uncontroversial territory, and yet there were still people there for whom it's all entirely new. which feels strange, after over a decade of public and occasionally notorious events, writings murders sex scandals etc.

2. one questioner suggested that alt worship was all very white and middle class with its DJs and videos, and how could this be done by rural Maori using their native culture? and Steve pointed out that these 'rural Maori' now saw their 'native culture' as including hip hop, Hollywood and reggae - that they too were part of the global culture and wouldn't thank you for patronising them by assuming otherwise.

and it seemed to us, talking afterwards, that in postmodernity everyone is simultaneously in the global culture, and searching for a tradition to provide what that global culture lacks. but one of the results of the global culture is that it gives access to other people's traditions while dissolving the bonds of our own. so we all, pakeha and maori, african, european and asian, abandon our own traditions with a sigh of relief while grasping enviously at other people's which of course will liberate not enslave us. and then we complain that those others don't take enough care over preserving their traditions for us to sample.

which complaint isn't just the privilege of white westerners looking at 'ethnic cultures' any more - in a postmodern global culture the scrutiny and expectations come back the other way, and in all other directions. only this week an American writer in the Times was lamenting that us Brits aren't preserving those British traditions that Americans so love. we feel disappointed when others turn out to be globalised and boringly contemporary like us - and yet we're insulted when it's suggested that we should be the ones to forego global culture for the sake of historical preservation and cultural diversity.

22:20 07.05.03

The music list's gone a bit 1995. This stuff was the soundtrack to some of the best times of my life. It's still happy music to me. There's a kindness to it. And Teenage Fanclub share with Brian Wilson the ability to make music that sounds like summer regardless of what the song is actually about.

22:55 05.05.03

two more kirchelandschaft pages - how your church could look with that new furniture. kirchelandschaft means 'church landscape' in german - appropriate enough for the landscape furniture, but it's really a play on 'burolandschaft' ['office landscape'] which was the new fashion in open-plan offices during the 1970s.

22:45 05.05.03

today was a public holiday in england so the long weekend is useful for doing things. saturday was haircut - get those expensive blond highlights fixed. sunday i went to see that longboard art exhibition at a bar in spitalfields market. nice graphics but mini-mals not longboards proper.

this board by Banksy is the one i want - suitable for a shitty english surf day with grey sky/brown sea/wind/rain/crap in water. actual fotos of exhib later. today was spring clean day. clean under the bed, wash the scanner, chuck stuff out. but i did get time to put new third place pages up.

22:25 01.05.03

spent this evening trying out the colour blog idea. it didn't work. too much trouble getting text and links to display properly without ruining the look of the sidebars. in the end this format works and looks better than anything else i can come up with within the stylistic parameters of this site. so the only thing carried over is the change of time/date format.

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