Sunday, May 18, 2003

a reloaded weekend

The big weekend activity was moving. I'm now back on my old stomping grounds: Home Park, Atlanta, GA. Referred to critically as 'off-campus student dwellings', the area is probably frowned upon by connoisseurs of fine eclectic living. However, despite the drawbacks, this is where my friends are, and it's also a good vantage point, close to the essential stores, with none of the hangups of suburbia (unless you value your privacy and resent seeing people).

The moves (thanks to an old friend) were two-fold, and the whole process could succinctly be described as car loaded, The Matrix: Reloaded, car reloaded. Somewhere between the first load and the mindblowing ultimately entertaining (how long ago was it that I was willing to go back into the theatre and watch the same movie again?) there was also a food stop at Chat Pati, for some kachori-dahi chaat and dhoklas. Very very filling, although I still balk as I compared these prices with the prices in India (yes, I know I'm not supposed to be doing that anymore, but this is desi food --- HOW expensive must it get?).

The loading and moving process was an empirical illustration of a solution to the question "Just how much stuff can you stuff into a given car while staying within legal and safe limits?". But there are better things to discuss.

The Matrix: Reloaded After a 4-year wait, the sequel to The Matrix has been worth all the patience and speculation (for me). Opinions have been divided, but I was relieved to see the film grow to be more than a simple melange of fabulous action set pieces. It has its share of them though: all the moves from the old movie, an almost never-ending nail-biting car chase on the freeway (all that wreckage put paid to any glimmer of hope on the car-buying front!), explosions galore. Couple of notes: Was Mifune a nod to Kurosawa's favourite actor Toshiro Mifune? One of the songs on the soundtrack was "Mona Lisa Overdrive" -- a reference to William Gibson's book, perhaps (quite apt too). While the first movie was a reference-laden, highly-influenced comic book on speed, this one extends the impression into video game world, right down to the music and the action sequences. While the Wachowskis must be commended for attempting to insert some relief in the proceedings with a gathering at Zion, and Neo meeting the architect of the Matrix some of the soft aspects of the movie seem woefully abrasive: Counterpointing the Zion gathering is an overlong intimate sequence between Neo and Trinity, which could have played well if the leads had played out as travel-weary hungry people in love. Larry Fishburne wins himself a scene where he towers over the congregation of Zion and delivers lines of motivation, but comes across bordering on a convincing performance as a ham roast. Neo repays Trinity's life-giving kiss from the first movie, in a moment that is too incredulous to forgive. But I'm still keen on the final edition in the trilogy. The ideas in the series aren't new, and the presentation is simple enough, in keeping with mainstream demands. But the Wachowski brothers love movies, and it seems to show. And it's a fun ride from start to end. So why complain? Want a more complex involving exploration of alternative universes and realities, go read some Philip K. Dick. [SFX info]

GEEK Update: Took some time to dig this up and verify it, but here's a dose of reality to fellow system administrators: Thanks to the Wachowskis, Trinity (Moss) actually hacks authentically in the movie. Although the screen is visible only for a split second, other people caught it too, and there are pictures on Fyodor/nmap's home page. Whipping up Nmap (v2.54beta2), Trinity manages to find a vulnerable SSH server and then proceeds to employ a 2001 exploit (SSH1 CRC32) to get in. more pictures are up for relish. I've used nmap in the past (a long while ago, actually), and it's a tool I'd recommend to sysadmins and people keen on protocol stack intricacies. This also brings up issues of time (how far ahead/current in time are the events of the movie set?). Rock on!

Addendum: Before I lose my train of thought, another note: this movie (and the series, as a whole) works as a wonderful information visualization experiment for the console-based tasks and activities of hackers. Neo's struggle against the many Agents Smith, the Matrix, the Matrix-within-the-Matrix (or was it?), the Oracle as an 'intuitive programmer' (aka an "intelligent" program -- AI's resurgence). This would add an extra dimension to the moment when we see Trinity hacking into the server (see above): the actual act of hacking depicted within a visualization of myriad hacking activities.

The evening was peppered with scattered fragments from Pran Jaaye Par Shaan Na Jaaye, an expressionist, Brechtian, Firodiya-esque, serio-comic spoof/satire on Mumbai chawl life and conflicts (with the unavoidable mean builder) that also derives a lot from the traditions of street plays. Debutante Sanjay Jha takes a Mahesh Manjrekar's script and sets it loose. Veteran Marathi TV actors, film stars, character actors and new faces take turns switching between easy performances and hilt-top hamming to embelish this movie quoting rib-tickler all the way. It's not perfect, but it's a great way to spend the evening (CAUTIONARY ADVISORY: Foul language never came in so thick, so little ones may stay away). GROUSE: What moron decided to bleep out some of the cusses? Haven't they realised that every time you bleep out something, you draw more attention to it, making it more deleterious than simply leaving it in there? NOTE: There's an extremely bold scene, where a troubled caring housewife (Divya Dutta) who runs three daytime house-cleaning jobs gets only one chance to express her grievances: when her drunk husband is making love to her -- and he snores off after having his way with her, while she continues to voice her issues. One among several serious drops in this chawlorama, which makes a strong claim as a successor to the greatest (IMHO) black comedy in Hindi (dare I say 'Indian'?) cinema, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro.

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