Saturday, 31 January 2009

The Matrix Reloaded: Back Thorough the Looking Glass

Hmm: another night in …

And I swear those crisps will eaten, before the sell by date … !

You can tell we’ve little in the way of money, can’t you?   And that everyone else we know is out, busy or ill …

Anyway, Adrian and I near enough decided, last week, that we’d watch the complete set, and chew themes and sequels over.

And both agreed that middle movies always seem to suffer.

It’s always the way, though, isn’t it?   We felt so so: mostly on the basis that the story arc in a trilogy is, after all, only part way through.

Let’s face it, it has to tie off loose ends from part one, and set up part three.

But here’s the plot, in case you’d like a quick look.

And I’m thinking that’s largely the way movies are made, these days, means the middle film of a threesome is going to suffer.

As far as I’ve understood it, the two Matrix sequels were made back to back – much like the two Back to the Future sequels – and some time after the first entry in the respective franchises.

Which, if I’d understood the received wisdom – it certainly seems the case with Back to the Future: Part Two – that the middle child can be a mess.

Saying that, though, I should point out that – again, as far as I know – the Lord of the Rings trilogy was an exception, there.   If I’ve understood things correctly, Peter Jackson and the rest of the Wingnut Productions crew had all three planned from the start.   I can’t imagine it being any other way, frankly.   But that was influenced by the fact that, although Professor Tolkien would’ve preferred it to be published in one volume, the then currant, post-war, paper rationing meant  that The Lord Of The Rings was published in three parts.   That’s influenced how we see it.

It certainly influenced the films’ producers.

But The Matrix Reloaded does carry on with the whole feel of the first entry in the series.

Guns, babes – however you choose to define ‘babes’ – and buried pop-philosophy, if you want to go looking for it.

There’s whole arguments floating around cyberspace about it, too, ranging from whether it’s waving gnosticism at you, to having a messianic bent.   Even if there’s a Buddhist touch to it!   If I find Jewish, Jain or Rastafarian links, I’ll put them up.

I’m wondering where Errol and Mælcum* have got to, now I really need them.

But Matrix franchise as gnostic gospel is an idea worth chewing over.   The little I know of  gnosticism in it’s various forms, does seem to be on screen.

But I should stress that others know a lot more about it than me.   I can see the basic idea, of an ‘evil’  and materialistic demiurge – demon, god, Architect? – creating an ‘evil world’ thats got humanity trapped, and its logical counterpart, of a non material ‘good’ being trying to help us by teaching us how to overcome this – the Oracle and Neo, possibly — and free ourselves.

I was never sure if I could follow all of the details, completely, though.

Given my upbringing, though, I could spot, and instinctively sympathize with a more overtly Christian view of The Matrix Reloaded: although I’m more of an agnostic view of the world.

Certainly I’ve found myself praying, in times of trouble: but whatever higher power’s up there, I could never say for sure, nor do I believe I’ve a right to dictate to you about it.

Hmmm … I’m turning deep in my old age …

Or into an agnostic equivalent of Richards Dawkins …

Either way, I personally incline more to the messianic view of the film, given who I am today.

For one thing, if Neo is The One, then Agent Smith is definitely The Other One.   Which possibly puts Laurence Fishburne as a cyberpunk John the Baptist.   Where that puts Carrie-Anne Moss’ character, considering we were watching “The DaVinci Code”, a few weeks ago …

Either way, the next chance I get, The Matrix Revolutions is due for another spin.   And given I’ve seen speculation about various trips into the underworld, floating around, means I’m probably going to have to look up the relevant parts of  The Golden Bough, aren’t I?

Anyway, enjoy the music, folks.

Could never resist the video for “Close (To The Edit)”, it’s very symbolic.

Of people wondering round railway stations, with chainsaws.

*   Alright, I couldn’t resist a “Neuromancer” reference.   This is a cyberpunk we’re talking about, here.

Friday, 30 January 2009

Open Source Software; A Rough Guide

As a quick thought, I thought I’d best mention Open Source Software, at some point.

The first Mac I got – my aging and long since gone G4 – I got second hand, and came with a then current copy of Ubuntu Linux, possibly one of the best known Open-Source operating systems* around.  It was also – for me, as a home user – very easy to use and interact with.

Amazingly, Ubuntu was free; – all I had to pay for was the Mac.

Which surprised me, not being as ‘au fait’ with the various bits and bobs floating around the tech scene, other the past few years.

What I learnt was that open source software is usually given away free, along with the  underlying source code – the program itself.

And, unlike closed source proprietary systems like Mac OS X, or Windoze — which, if I’ve understood what I’ve read of the End User License Agreements, are still technically owned by Apple, or Microsoft, regardless of the fact you own the computer their OS is on — you’re free to give away copies of open source software, or make changes to it, as needed.   You own your copy of an open source operating system, and can happily change it, as needed, and give copies away.   So long as you tell people what you’ve changed, and where you got the original software from, you’re usually ok if I’ve understood things correctly.

Now, there’s pros and cons to to both closed and open source ways of doing things.   And others can take you through that argument, much better than I can.   A very good place to start is at the Free Software Foundation, to give you just one example, or Ubuntu’s home page.   On top of that comedian, author and all round Egghead, Stephen Fry, is rather good at explaining it.   A lot better at it than I am.   I’ve also put a link to the relevant Wikipedia page, here.

But what caught me, and I believe will get the attention of anyone else on a budget, is the word ‘FREE’.

The various open source projects out there don’t want money from you, in other words.   (Although many of them will politely ask for a small, optional donation, though)

It’s not just operating systems, either.   There’s other open source software, too.   Web-browsers, games, office suites, email clients, media players, the list is endless.

I could go on!

But let me cut to the chase, and give you some links to the more popular and better known pieces of open-source stuff.   I’ve already included a link to Ubuntu, earlier.

You can download the Firefox web-browser here.   The security and privacy features on it are very good.

You can download from here.   (It’s a seriously good, and free alternative to MS Office.   Although I’d recommend my fellow Mac user’s to look at NeoOffice, from here, as I’ve found it to be a touch faster and more responsive.)

And you can download the open source media player, vlc, from here.   I tend to use iTunes for most of my music – the playlists functions are better organized, I find – but, for watching video, vlc can handle a lot more formats, and can transcode beautifully.

If you’d like to have a look at others, check out Sourceforge, the directory of open source projects, here.

Now, I love the stuff I can do with me Mac Mini, and I’m hoping to be able to pick a copy of iWork, when my finances allow.

But I will urge all of us on a budget to look at open source projects,  first.

There is a recession on.

And I don’t like spending money, unless I have to, either.

*   Just so you know, an operating system – like Mac OS X, whatever version of Windoze you happen to use, or the various flavours of GNU/Linuxº doing the rounds – is what lets you interact with your computer.   It lets you Operate your Systemª.   It tells the computer what to do when you press a button on the keyboard, move the mouse around, plug something into a USB port, or click on an on-screen icon.

º   That rather cuddly penguin is called Tux, by the way, and is the Linux logo.   It’s the Linux parallel to the little picassotron OS X smiley, or Windoze flag.

ª   Can you spell ‘Electron’?   Of course you can!   Sorry, I can never resist that!!


Just as a quick point.

As you may or may not have gathered, I’m a Terry Pratchett fan. I’ve just caught the trailer for his upcoming documentary about Alzheimers – there’s a link here – and thought people may wish to know about it, It’s scheduled for 9pm, on BBC2, on Wednesday the fourth of February, with the second part a week later. There’s also a couple of links in the sidebar.

Hope that’s of interest.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

The Evening’s Gig

If you’ll excuse me for saying so, I have had a baaaaaad evening.

It started off, tonight, when I thought I’d lost a couple of basic bits of kit: – like the pens, and my mic.

For those of you who’ve seen me in action, you’ll realise that my mic is integral to the whole thing, as are the pens.   People can’t write down answer without one, or hear the questions without the other.   And, as you can see, vital.

So I’ve a big and heartfelt thank you, to Adrian, an old friend and neighbour, for buying in some pens for me, to Sharon, 
the landlady at the Essex, for loaning me a mic, and to the divine Kelly, for suggesting phoning Sharon in the first place.

What makes the whole thing bloody embarrassing, is getting back home, after picking up the mic, from Sharon.

The first thing I saw … ?   Was my mic.   And pens.   Sitting on the armchair, behind a cushion; – where I’d put it, and immediately forgotten about.   As you can imagine, I was just a touch Hacked Off.

What sort of made things worse, was getting out of my front door, and half way to Brentwood station, when I realised I’d left my amp indoors …

Like I say, a TOUCH Hacked Off.

What didn’t help was tonight’s relatively small number of teams.

As a plus, though, Ian and his group – The ‘I Came From Chorley’s’,  – were new tonight, having found my net listing.   Part way down this page.

The other two teams were the AKA 47’s, and Beck and Matt’s team; – calling themselves the BDSM’s, tonight, which put a smile on my face, certainly!

Just as a quick round up, here, the AKA’s came in first, with sixty-one points, the Chorleys, second, with fifty-five, and the BDSM’s with forty-eight.   Which is one of the Bex squad’s better scores.

Before I print up the main questions, by the way little bit of news; – next week’s bonus is worth £17•50.   Unsurprising, with THIS question: – “Ratchapol Pu-Ob-Orm is the real name of whom?”.   The answer’s snooker player James Wattana, so you know!

And, now, that oh-so-sudden Australia round.

Q1) In what year of the fifties did the Blue Ensign become Australia’s official National Flag?

A1) 1951

Q2) Which state allows the commercial cultivation of opium poppies?

A2) Tasmania

Q3) Which edible Australian icon was created in 1923?

A3) Vegemite

Q4) Which Nicole Kidman/Hugh Jackman movie is proving successful, this year?

A4) Australia.”

Q5) Professor Arthur Farnswirth invented what, in 1957; re-usable condoms, the beer can widget, or permanent crease trousers?

A5) Permanent crease trousers

Q6) Qantas is the Worlds 2nd oldest airline; – which European one is the oldest?


Q7) How long is the Great Barrier Reef; – 1000 km, 2000 km, or 3000 km?

A7) 2000 KM

Q8) Who were the first Europeans to find Australia?

A8) The Dutch, in 1606

Q9) Which Australian singer has a huge gay audience?

A9) Kylie Minogue

Q10) Which Australian object is twice as long as the Great Wall of China?

A10) The Dingo Fence

And finally, the main question set; – number five in a series of 19, and functionally identical to King Harold 55, in case it’s looking familiar.


Q1) Which product is ‘… soft, strong and very long’?

A1) Andrex toilet tissue

Q2) In 1935, C. C. McGee invented what kind of meter?

Q2) The Parking meter.

Q3) Where’s the sweat gland of a cow, in it’s nose, it’s tongue, or it’s bottom?

A3) In it’s nose.

Q4) How many pocket does a snooker table have?

A4) Six

Q5) How many milligrams in a gram?

A5) 1000

Q6) Who did Margaret Thatcher follow as Conservative Party Leader?

A6) Edward Heath.

Q7) What’s the only English anagram of the word, ”MADDENING”?


Q8) Which American mammal is known as the ‘Washing Bear’, the grizzly bear, the brown bear, or the Raccoon?

A8) The Raccoon.

Q9) Who was shot, on live TV, on the 24th November 1963?

A9) Lee Harvey Oswald.  (By Jack Ruby.)

Q10) Name the 2nd country to put a man in space.

A10) The USA.


Q11) Where was Gene Kelly Singin’ in 1952?

A11) In The Rain

Q12) In which film did Vivien Leigh play Scarlett O’Hara?

A12) Gone with the Wind

Q13) Which Alfred directed the thrillers “Rebecca” and “Notorious”?

A13) Hitchcock

Q14) What was the name of the car that involved Kenneth More and Dinah Sheridan in the London to Brighton road run?

A14) Genevieve

Q15) Who starred in the Road films with Dorothy Lamour and Bing Crosby?

A15) Bob Hope

Q16) Which film set in Rick’s Cafe starred Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman?

A16) Casablanca

Q17) How did Some Like It in the film with Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe?

A17) Hot

Q18) Which distinguished actor and Lord, played the lead in “Henry V”?

A18) Laurence Olivier

Q19) Which actor Orson starred in “Citizen Kane” and “The Third Man”?

A19) Orson Welles

Q20) What was the series of comedies made in West London studios called?

A20) Ealing


Q21) Marmalade stems from the Portugese word ‘Marmelo’; – but does Marmelo mean mango, citrus, orange or quince?

A21) Quince

Q22) Which brothers starred in the film “Duck Soup”?

A22) The Marx Brothers

Q23) What is a lift for food in a restaurant known as?

A23) A Dumb waiter

Q24) Which is “…probably the best lager in the world”?

A24) Carlsberg.

Q25) In which year did Rowntree’s Fruit Gums first go on sale -1893, 1903 or 1913?

A25) 1893

Q26) What’s the world’s most widely planted red wine grape; – shiraz, pinot noir, or grenache?

A26) Grenache.

Q27) Which republic is Europe’s biggest exporter of bananas?

A27) Ireland.

Q28) Shirley Conran once said that “Life’s too short to stuff a …” what; – chicken, mushroom, or aubergine?

A28) Mushroom

Q29) Cinnamon comes from which part of the tree?

A29) The Bark.

Q30) In the term ‘costermonger,’ what fruit does the word coster refer to?

A30) An apple.


Q31) Which British archaeologist located the tomb ofTutankhamun?

A31) Howard Carter

Q32) In which English county is Stonehenge?

A32) Wiltshire

Q33) What were the scroll-shaped tablets called in which the names of ancient Egyptian pharaohs were inscribed; – cartouches, carborettors, or carbuncles?

A33) Cartouches

Q34) Who, according to tradition, was the first Christian emperor of Rome?

A34) Constantine

Q35) Which style of classical column was decorated with carvings representing acanthus leaves; – corinthian, ionic, or doric?

A35) Corinthian

Q36) Which Mediterranean island was the scene of a volcanic explosion that destroyed the Minoan civilisation around 1450 BC; – Santorini, Minos, or Crete?

A36) Santorini (otherwise known as Thira)

Q37) What is the English name for the Roman town of Camulodunum?

A37) Colchester

Q38) In French history, who was the Dauphin?

A38) The Crown Prince.

Q39) In which year of the 60’s was the Berlin Wall constructed?

A39) 1961

Q40) Jumping Badger was the real name of which Native American leader?

A40) Sitting Bull.


Q41) Which country won 17 of the 29 available Track & Field gold medals, in the 1972 Olympics?

A41) The USA.

Q42) Prince Charles, and Camilla Parker Bowles 1st met during the 70’s, at what sort of sporting event?

A42) A polo match

Q43) Soccer’s offside rule was 1st introduced in which century?

A43) The Nineteenth.  (In 1866, to be picky.)

Q44) Which golfer was also known as the Golden Bear?

A44) Jack Nicklaus.

Q45) Which Frankie had seven wins in 1 day?

A45) Frankie Dettori.

Q46) Teofilo Stevenson represented which country at the 1972 Olympics?

A46) Cuba.

Q47) In which year was Anna Kournikova’s 1st professional tennis tournament?

A47) 1998

Q48) The ‘Golden Gloves’ championship features in which sport?

A48) Boxing.

Q49) Which London side was the 1st to be relegated twice from the Premiership League?

A49) Crystal Palace.

Q50) Soccer’s offside rule was 1st introduced in which century?

A50) The Nineteenth.  (In 1866, to be picky.)


Q51) What is the capital city of Barbados?

A51) Bridgetown.

Q52) CFC’s famously damage the ozone layer.   But which component chemical does the most damage, chlorine, fluorine, or the carbon?

A52) Chlorine

Q53) Which member of the Monty Python team wrote the stage musical, “Spamalot”?

A53) Eric Idle.

Q54) Parpardelle, and Stracci, are types of what food?

A54) Pasta.

Q55) In the Old Testament, the wife of whom was turned into a pillar of salt?

A55) Lot

Q56) What is the longest word, in English, that contains no vowels?

A56) Rhythms.

Q57) Which novelist wrote “The Mayor of Casterbridge”?

A57) Thomas Hardy.

Q58) What metal is used as the filament of a standard lightbulb?

A58) Tungsten.

Q59) What cartoon strip replaced “Striker,” in The Sun?

A59) The Premier.

Q60) On what date does Bastille Day fall?

A60) July 14th.

Now just in case you’re wondering why that is, well … I’ll do a quick explanation, in the morning.

I’m dog tired, and I’ve had a baaaad night.