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Glenn MacDonald is some kind of genius, or so I contend, and some day I hope to grow up to write as well as he does: TWAS 460: Mandy Moore (and the iTunes Music Store).

p.s. It has a lot more to do with the store than Moore. Safe read for pop-music cynics.
~ scott @ 3:36 PM [link]

I'm reading Neal Stephenson's massive novel Quicksilver and really enjoying it. Everything about it is epic, and he seems to have deliberately given himself space for a grand scope and obsessive detail all in one. It's not an action story, the plot is slowly evolving and takes many casual digressions, but the man knows how to write and his characters are real and I think it's fascinating to explore all the topics that he's interested in enough to write about. A good writer is by definition a good thinker, right?

I can see why some of the Snowcrash/Cryptonomicon faithful are jumping ship, as the trend of the reviews at Amazon seems to suggest; this is the same writer, but a very different approach and subject. Actually, the "good, but not for everyone" opinion is the one I'd adhere to so far, but isn't that the case for anything that's actually good, as opposed to just generic enough that no one objects?

I like the focus on Alchemy, and the revelation that it was an ongoing pursuit with what evolved into our modern notion of Science; almost like the Neaderthal competing with Homo Sapiens and losing out. Especially that Newton and others of extreme prominence in the science area were also seriously exploring alchemy, and that this was downplayed by later scientists and scholars who couldn't comfortably reconcile the two. History is written by the winners, no matter what the subject is, I guess.

The idea of Alchemy reminds me of making pots - a modern day version. If ceramics ain't alchemy, then I don't know what is. Stephenson's descriptions of the Society members working in the lab, furnaces and tools and vials of strange materials... that's it!

Apparently though, the three parts are each separate and feature different characters, so I'm just scratching the surface thus far. Future reports forthcoming.
~ scott @ 10:39 AM [link]
The Matrix Revisited

So I'm aware that I never returned to the topic of the Matrix triliogy after seeing the third movie a few weeks back, and I think this falloff in enthusiasm for the topic mirrors my feelings about the conclusion -- not greatly disastified or dissapointed, per se, but just sort of like the whole thing slowed to a stop of it's own volition and requires extra motivation to getting it rolling again.

As my previous post of predictions and etcetera would suggest, I could easily make a list of things that didn't live up to my hopes. But I won't -- that's just carping. Criticism shouldn't take the place of creative contribution.

I will say that my primary grudge lives at the meta level, the place where the intent and aesthetic of the film was decided, and that I can't understand why many of these decisions were made by people who I'd come to expect so much more from.
It includes these issues:

1. The philosophical depth of the series ends early on in Revolutions and is never mentioned again. Almost as if these scences were cut from the end in favor of action sequences or (horrors!) were seen as disposable. This undercuts their worth and purpose in the first two films.

2. Ditto with the action inside the matrix. Unlike the first two films, Revolutions takes place almost entirely outside the virtual world, so that it loses the tension and ying/yang between the two worlds that was so compelling.

3. This results in a movie too similar to so many others, especially with its heavy reliance on action, long long long fight scenes, and special effects. Even when these were good, which is less often than previously, they make the whole thing feel like an amped up Starship Troopers, not the final installment of something infinitely better. this is baaaaad.

4. Many of the big questions from Reloaded (see my previous post) were resolved too quickly (such as if Zion is real) or seemingly never even considered. A real missed opportunity to keep some of the intellectual suspense alive. Even more critical given #3 above, since the formulaic action movie stuff was a predictable as dirt.

The real consequence of the letdown in Revolutions is that as the conclusion of all that had come before, it dilutes the significance of the previous films. That's exactly what I, and I suspect so many others, were fearful of and I think it goes beyond the usual problem of just heightened expectations. Certainly it's a lot to expect a creative work to continue at such a high level, or conclude in a way that satisfies the most viewers; but it's also the responsibilty of the people who succeeded so well and created those expectations in the first place. It's hard not to see the trilogy in a much-diminished way now, and that's sad because it's so typical of hollywood sequels. Way too pedestrian a finish for something that started so brilliantly.

~ scott @ 11:05 AM [link]