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January 2000

In this issue:    Welcome Back   Musings on the 20th Century   A new cartoon   What is the Matrix?   Spam Sale   Relativity: Part 2   and   Captain Blood.
The Twenty Year Cycle: A film review of "The Matrix"

A few years ago I had a discussion with a friend regarding the nature of popular trends and the tendency for some trends to reappear in future generations. My associate, a former member of a hard core rock band [called the Angry Thalidomide Babies, then ATB, and finally The Sons of Ismail and now a Ph'd neuroscientist, believed that all popular trends in music and fashion tended to repeat as a twenty year cycle. As evidence of this hypothesis please note the interest in I970's fashion wear and disco music. Now as we approach the year 2000, we are approaching I980 in the retro-cycle and we should soon see the emergence of a retread New Wave movement. Well the popularity of the new movie "The Matrix" signals the return of the new wave in its hair styles, black fashion attire, and ultra cool shades. Throw in some special effects; fight scenes, and way cool posturing [formerly known as Vogue or GQ aloof posing twenty years ago] and you have the beacon that the New New-Wave is here. The millennium is so sublime I "gotta" lose my emotion and pose with micro-pout neoclassical Greek mannequin superiority. This film was made to plug you into a new generation of cheap to shoot schlock about cyberspace and sell copious quantities of FedEx postal service, Nokia cell phones, Duracell batteries, etc...  
Warning Achtung  
I am about to give away the entire plot of this film in order to show you the deep conspiracy that exists in the Land of Milk and Honey [Los Angeles for the Biblically challenged.] Keanu Reeves [formerly of Bill and Ted fame] plays a character that works by day as your typical Dilbert cubicle bound programmer and by night a software criminal known as NEO. 
You are also introduced to a svelte sad faced mega killer female character named Trinity bust you wait, the Biblical allusions keep flying.]  
What Neo doesn't realise is his take on reality is an illusion. All of his conscious life has been inside of a gigantic computer network - AKA The Matrix. This idea of having a mental existence inside a computer dates back to a 1978 Doctor Who [TV show that started in 1963 and ended in 1989??] episode where the Time Lord Doctor has to fight another Time Lord in the Matrix. A place where all your dreams and FEARS can come true. 
The long and the short of this is Neo wakes up from his computer generated reality to discover that the world has had an environmental catastrophe - Global Winter induced by humans. That he is just living like billions of other people as batteries in pods that are very similar to sensory deprivation tanks. He is rescued by some resistance fighters that want to save humanity from the Artificial Intelligence that created the pods as an energy source. Of course Neo is THE ONE ... sorry it has a happy ending. 
There are many good points to this picture, but I'll only dwell on the negative since there is such a high public love of this:film. 
There are three major flaws with this film:  
1. The central premise of using humans as batteries would not work due to two principles - the second law of thermodynamics [i.e., law of conservation of energy]. If you don't understand this, get a physics text and watch the movie, it will be more educational than the Discovery channel.  
2. Why do people wear black leather and plastic clothing? It really looks cool but are you ever easy to spot in a crowd. Stealth? Not...  
3. This :film is a training film for the general populace. You watch this movie and you will be lectured about what cyberspace and the matrix is. You will learn about neuro-electronic interface and other cool speculative tech. However, the reason the film people want you to love the concept of the Matrix is money. In the future they will be able to make a lot of cheap movies that happen in the Matrix, but just look like normal every day reality. Put some nudity, fight scenes, black leather, computer animation [no studio required] and you could shoot the whole thing in Kanata. What with the Canadian peso and so many young people desperate for work, you could make a lot of cheap movies and a "LOTTA" money selling schlocky second rate philosophical pudding to the masses.  
Is this a dream or reality - can you tell the difference?  

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