Film Saw The Matrix Reloaded yesterday with my brothers in India (in other words I waited so long to see the film, it was out in that country already) and since there is no point in reviewing it at this stage I thought I would just offer some ruminations. This is a spoiler fest for anyone who hasn’t seen it though.

The Opening
Opening the film with a premonition feels like a fairly standard bit of plotting, especially for anyone who’s seen any tv science fiction or fantasy series in the past few decades. It also feels like a way of echoing the opening scene of the first film, whilst at the same time giving the film an action packed way in. The trouble is we’re almost automatically in an exposition scene about the robots trying to break into Zion which only makes sense if you’re seen The Animatrix episode Last Flight of the Osiris, which really should have been tacked onto front of this as a bonus short (I mean who actually saw it before Dreamcatcher) ? Then nothing really happens for about twenty minutes. The Brothers Warchowski play a dangerous game here, as their playing on the fact that people will be prepared to watch this much chatting because ‘hey, it’s The Matrix’. I’ve a feeling when seen with the third film it’ll make more sense.

The Middle
Something the first film lacked and this film misses even more is the sense of The Matrix being a place. They are forever banging on about wanting to win the war and free the humans, but we don’t have a sense of the people living with The Matrix. The Animatrix covers this to some extent but I would like to see this more in the films. You would expect some expression of interest from the populace what with the explosions and such on the freeway and Neo flying about and all of the missing persons (those who are possessed by the agents) would be reported somewhere or talked about or is the clean-up operation that good. In addition, the treatment of the people still hooked up to The Matrix is always interesting. At the start of this film the implication is that the security guards are real people just clocking off work. Does that mean that it’s OK for them to be gun fodder for Trinity and friends? Aren’t they the very people that Neo is fighting for? Taking to it farthest conclusion, the reception scene in the first film is mass murder on a massive scale, the security just defending themselves from the aggressor …

The Ending
What if when they leave The Matrix at the end of the film they’ve actually left The Matrix version six and entered The Matrix version seven, created to resemble their new version of the real world, Zion and all, and that’s why Neo is manifesting powers. And for an even bigger shock, how about that all of the films are in fact taking place in layers of the same Matrix, everything they’re experiencing is a simulation and at the end of The Matrix Revolutions Neo becomes the first to break through into some actual real world?

All of which said. I did love it though ...
Music There isn't anything better than someone treating crap like gold (I should know) so this piece by Pop Matters regarding Joey Blossom Lawrence one and only album Joey Lawrence is very good indeed:
"Nothin' My Love Can't Fix" is great example of the bouncy, happy fun that fills up much of Joey's debut release. The album is crammed with tunes all wonderfully innocent and completely danceable. Joey samples a few different genres, mixing hip-hop and rap with your basic pop melody. Every one of these happy songs has a groovy beat and a lively chorus. It all comes together to create a very cool story about a boy's relationship with his summertime girl.
To cover the blank faces which are probably greeting this post, Blossom was an early nineties Channel 4 import shown in the 6pm slot opposite BBC Two 'Cult' programmes. It was pre-Friends in all kinds of ways (although popular enough to be referenced in the first season of that show), but benefitted from some very good performances and a not entirely god-awful script which touched on some social issues (even if the senimentality did creep in all over the place). Her brother older brother suffered from a drink problem and her dad was a divorce. Everyone remembers particularly Joey Lawrence (Whoa) and Six who would enter into massive monologues which would obsess around a problem (for this think Sir Humphey's verbal games in Yes, Minister). Wierdly, some of the episodes were directed by Bill The Hulk Bixby ...
Who Certainly a bit impressed to see that Big Finish, creators of the new Doctor Who audio content have managed to secure the services of Sir Derek Jacobi to appear as The Doctor in one of their Unbound plays. For the probably unitiated, these are their version of the Marvel Comics What If? series and DC Comics Elsewhere. The first example being 'What if The Doctor never left his home planet?' Myseriously, Jacobi's is going to be something akin to 'What if Doctor Who never quite made it to our TV screens?' which makes no sense at all really. It won't be around until October.

The BBCi Shada wound down last week and was mostly a success. Although the Flash animation was a nice touch, it finally failed to engage and I've a feeling the piece will work much better in an audio release when more emphasis can be heard on Douglas Adams words.

And finally I found this the other day when I was having a clear out. It's a pretty good idea of how to make new Who for TV without pissing off current fans or scaring off new or casual viewers:

A vision for the future of television Doctor Who:

Main Characters: The Doctor, Female companion, The TARDIS
Familiarity. Turn on your average post-Troughton story this is your set up. The companion explores the problem at hand, The Doctor explains and solves it. The average viewer isn’t expecting three ‘teenagers’ and a robot. Better to give depth to one companion than have two or three ciphers.

Six one hour episodes
Clarity, attention span, budget. With judicious and careful editing most tv Who stories could be told in an hour – the audio version of ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ proves this. Yes, it’s nice to see Tom and Lalla running around Paris in ‘City of Death’ but it doesn’t exactly drive the plot forward does it? If Buffy can do it, so can this -- see also Jonathan Creek and Strange.

First episode - Cybermen. Last episode – Daleks (with cliffhanger ending)
Nice and familiar. Monsters, and monsters the public have heard of. Could give the Cybermen the usual redesignt, but keep the Daleks as pepper pots (that’s half their appeal). Daleks in last episode not first so as not to show all your good cards.

In between, The Doctor takes his companion to see the first civilisations (Stonehenge, Ancient Egypt, even earlier) and the end of time (last surviving human, aliens trading the last human DNA remains). Episode set on a strange alien planet, episode on a starship.
The Hartnell era might be a good pattern to follow. So two sci-fi, one quasi-historical, one pure historical. Random order. I’d have the historical as episode two, sci-fi three, then follow in ‘The Time Meddlers’ footsteps and sell the quasi-historical initially as a historical. Then Sci-Fi, then that Dalek story. Returns the show to unpredictability; the TARDIS guidance circuits have malfunctioned so he doesn’t know (and therefore we don’t know) where he’ll end up next (that’s real adventure isn’t it?). Historicals potentially an easier sell now alongside the monster stories.

Ignore continuity references, but don’t contradict anything too much.
Base everything on what the general public probably knows – yes, we know The Doctor is a Timelord, but do we need some boring old episode on Gallifrey to prove the point? Only exposition relating to plot at hand then, and make the stories self contained. No need to keep referring back to ‘the canon’ all the time, but don’t contract it. That way the fans will be content that this isn’t a re-boot, but the fans won’t start turning off in their droves when it becomes clear that they should have seen half a dozen old stories and read four novels to make the story at all comprehensible.

No romance, but lots of flirting.
See Pertwee and Jo Grant; Tom Baker and everyone (apart from Harry); whilst I personally had no problem with ‘that kiss’ this needs to have the original family show appeal.

Family show, but scary enough to need a sofa
Everyone says they hid behind the sofa. Nothing wrong here – scary monsters and cartoon violence. But keep to the model of The Doctor using his mind to outwit his opponents.

And as I said at the end -- 'It’s as easy as that. So what’s taking so long?'
Rings The new scenes for the extended The Two Towers in full. [via Sore Eyes]
Commerce Currently available from me at Ebay. Pink Floyd: The Wall on VHS video.
Celebrating An increase in US style Proms in Glasgow has led to a limosene shortage as kids club together so that they can travel in style:
"Fergus Ferguson, boss of Bishopbriggs-based Hollywood Limousines, said: "We have seven cars at our disposal but even if we had 107 cars, we could not keep everyone happy. "All schools seem to be going the American way and having prom nights but, unfortunately, they are crammed into the one month. If every month was like June, I'd be a millionaire."
But if you became a millionare wouldn't there be an even greater shortage. Swings and roundabouts.
Film Here is the dividing line between a cineaste, film fan and utter geek. What was Orson Wells final film? After decades of bitter attempts to bring his vision to the theatre, what was the last project he brought his considerable talents to? Some people I know will already be bored with the question. For the rest, it was the seminal Transformers: The Movie. If you want proof, here it is. If her knew that, do you think he would have even spent time of day on Citizen Kane? He played the planet eating Unicron in case you're wondering. Now I actually have soft spot for the vehicle/man machines, but I'm having difficulty seeing them work in a live action feature film. Or rather I would except it's being written by Tom DeSanto who also worked on the X-Men films and might actually treat the material with some seriousness. Anyone fancy a power cube?
Books As a final word on the subject, long term readers might find the following interesting:

"My other responsibility is to actually buy the presents for the people who graduate. This is the perfect task for me, since I don't know anyone who likes shopping more than I do. I love doing this, and I love picking out things that are appropriate to the person. I had always hated it that people would get these silly things that they'd never use or want - you know, novelty items purchased at the last minute, or paperweights with a piece of green felt slapped on the bottom."
That's from the final pages of Elizabeth Wurtzel's last book More, Now, Again. Here is something I wrote here in November 2001:
"Oddly, I never seem to have difficulty finding things people will like, or that they can use - it’s simply a case of listening and paying attention throughout the year. My mother is plagued by friends who give her presents which she’ll never use and is told that they never know what to get her - which considering how much she talks about life just shows how little some people pay attention to each other. My dad can be more difficult but I still seem to find something. The same goes for everyone else I buy presents for. It sort of annoys me that people would go out and buy somewhat generic presents for one another, making bee-lines for the ‘Perfect for Mom’ or ‘Perfect for Fathers’ sections of apartment stores, the latter always filled with golfing related products."
The difference between a journalist and a weblogger? It was a bit of a shock after reading three hundred pages of drug abuse to find something I could actually relate to. Perhaps LIzzy and I should start a decent present buyers union. And that is all I have to say about that.
Dating The following is truly one of the most terrifying things I've read this hour, from a survey by New Woman magazine ...
"When the thorny subject of cash came up you had a variety of opinions but seem pretty fair. Most of you said the bill should always be split, while ten per cent said whoever asked for the date should pay, whether that's him or you. A tiny minority (six per cent) reckoned it should always be the man who settled the bill but the other 28 per cent said it should be the one who's better off financially."
This has always struck as the most telling part of the date. I always assumed it was the man's perogrative. Was I wrong. In the past I have to say every time has been completely different and the cause of some stress. Anyone any stories of this actually dooming the relationship?
Film You will leave Nicholas Nickleby feeling pleasantly surprised. As one of Dickens' less known works (by which I mean if someone stopped you in the street and asked you to name one it wouldn't the first thing that dribbles from your lips) I'm sure there aren't that many people my age who will have actually read it. Admittedly when I entered I had no idea what was to come. I expected 'the usual'. Grim smoke filled London streets filled with starving urchins and characters warn away by life fighting again the prosperous. For the first half an hour that's exactly what happens as Nickleby loses his father and finds himself working in a country boarding house filled with hatred and suffering. Despite the slightly jokey opening voiceover you will glance at your watch and wonder how long you've got.

But then our hero makes a very strong, very motivating decision and suddenly everything brightens up and his journey begins. And for some reason the audience is inspired to stay with him as the episodes of his life play out. The trouble with writing a review of a film like this is that the real joy is in the surprises, of story and casting, which need to be kept under wraps for a truly pure experience. This is one of those films you remember watching when you were young in which almost every character is played by someone you've seen before and loved; for real effect, shut your eyes or look down at your popcorn during the credits. I will tell you to look out for the bright pink horse or Tommy from Trainspotting so you can see what kind of a film this is. So go and be pleasantly surprised.
Big Brother You knew it was coming, it is nomination night after all. And as usual Jon is up because they can think of a reason to nominate him. Listen up people. He is only shouting at you because he knows you're going to fail the task again this week because you haven't a bloody clue what you're doing and you won't listen to him even though he knows what he's talking about. It's for your benefit. The alternative is another week of chickpeas. Just vote off Federico everyone.

In other news, it doesn't surprise me at all that Nush is actually making a crack at playing the game (diplomatic with Jon about food / turning it all around when talking to Steph and turning everyone against him / making Sissy stircrazy). She's probably the cleverest of the girls so I'd keep an eye on her tictacs. Does anyone actually admit to being a Justine fan? Watching her outside the house on Big Brother's Little Brother and RI:SE she seems a bit, well, full of her own importance as though everything she says matters, even though, frankly, it doesn't. All excited about the going to the 2 Fast 2 Furious premiere. Look at which film it was ... and who else was there. Still excited?

Also, the Australian version was almost sued this week by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission for airing a racist joke. Not because of the joke itself, but because the 'comedian' didn't get a warning from Big Brother because it didn't break the rules ... welcome to the not so real world ...
Film Having just watched the sublime The Animatrix, it's interesting to read that this isn't the only use of shorts of late to hype a new film. Even 2 Fast 2 Furious has one. Depressing.
Music As a fan of wierd cover versions, can't wait to hear Alanis Morissette's version of Let's Do It, Let's Fall In Love. Or see Kevin Kline play Cole Porter for that matter.
TV Bruce Forsyth to present final episode of this series of Have I Got News For You. Expect a jokey round featuring playing cards as a satirical look at politicians or royal salaries or some such.
Quiz How dodgy are you? I'm in the clear. Safe and boring. [via Chris]
Books Sometimes you want to write something, it's just bursting out of you and you want everyone to read it. That's half the point of a weblog I suppose, it's ego publishing, it's putting your words up on a screen and hoping that someone might like it. You might have noticed that I haven't posted so many reviews of late; it's because it became clear that I wasn't actually saying anything new compared to other online journalists. That I might as well be saying This is Good or This is Bad. There are only so many ways of describing the style of an actor or a director so I end up banging on about structure, which is touch dull sometimes.

So I'm experimenting with something new. I'm attempting to write the review in the style of the thing. When I looked at Adaptation the other week, I wrote myself into the review much as Charlie Kaufman wrote himself into his film. Yesterday I reviewed the two Elizabeth Wurtzel books Prozac Nation and More, Now, Again imagining the book to be the person telling me her story and allowing me to also talk about how I've been feeling the past few weeks in her kind of confessional style. I wanted to keep it as vague as possible, but it hadn't occured to me some people hadn't read the books. So if anyone thought it was actually about real events, sorry. Whilst I've always fantasised about being married to a writer being able to read the work before anyone else as I go to work so she can work, it's not happened yet.

If it has peaked anyone's interest as a companion I thought I would offer these links to some Elizabeth Wurtzel material:

Essays Vashti [from Bold Type] and Why I Love Britney [from The Guardian]

Extracts Self Harming from Prozac Nation; from Bitch, The Introduction, Movies, With photos and also a section from the companion volume The Bitch Rules. From More, Now, Again she talks about Florida and

Readings In case you wondered what she sounded like, here she is reading excerpts from Bitch, her short story Alex from the anthology Full Frontal and excerpts from her latest book Radical Sanity.

Interviews With Bold Type, Oxford Student, CNN, The Boston Pheonix on the publication of Bitch. With CNN, iVenus, Entertainment Tonight and USA Today on the publication of More, Now, Again.

Also a comment from her editor Betsy Lerner, A Life In Dust Jackets, a Modern Humorist parody and The Guardian's Digested Read of Now, More, Again

Please keep me occupied
I’m, out on my own
Please keep me occupied
I’ve thrown it all away
And I can’t tell you it’s not true
I had someone that would do
More than I could ask for
-- The Bush, The Tree and Me
“More than I could ask for”

I met Elizabeth in Manchester in a music shop of all places. She looked up at me with these lost eyes and I just felt like I needed to take her with me. I’d heard about her, from friends, and they liked her for various obscure reasons and as I held her in my hand I too fell under her spell and wanted to know all about her.

Before then I’d been in the company of a group of science fiction writers. The relationship, while exciting and original had eventually become strained. Like all friendships and relationships all of the unexpected moments that had seemed golden to begin with were finally beginning to irritate me until the end when I didn’t know if I was enjoying the experience or just felt like should be there in case I missed anything important. The inconsistencies were too large and I needed a change, I needed to discover new things, ideas and experiences in the real world.

So I sat in the cinema with Elizabeth and she began to explain about her childhood, about how her parents had split up when she was very young, how her father had largely not been there for her and how her mother had compensated by being enough for the two of them. She described how her mum was more of a best friend than anything else and how for years it had been lovely. There had always been a niggling feeling that something was missing, the little things began to mount up and she found she couldn’t cope with who she was and what was happening to her. She was so full of promise.

The film began and although I wanted to know more, things were going wrong in Chicago. Even though that was my main reason for being there, I found myself resenting the film for interrupting us. So although I’d planned to stay in the cinema for the whole day I instead rushed for the train so that I could know more. By now Elizabeth was talking about how her issues really manifesting themselves at the age of eleven when she started cutting herself and I knew that her story wasn’t going to be an easy one. I missed the times at University and beyond when people would tell me their problems so that we could look for solutions together and although everything she was telling was in the past I just needed to know.

And so our relationship continued in an ad-hoc way. We’d meet on buses, in lunch hours and sometimes at work and her confessional would continue apace but as time went on I wondered whose catharsis this actually was. I’d had a fairly simple life in comparison. At college I hadn’t dabbled in drugs (or alcohol really), or gone at it with her wild sexual abandon, and in some ways it felt as though she was explaining all of this to point up how much more of a complex character she was in comparison to me and the rest of us. As though you hadn’t lived if your problems weren’t as massive or magnified as hers.

On the day of the election when she joined me in the polling booth. As the pensioners drifted through to put their cross in the box (or get cross with the box) Elizabeth was describing a disastrous trip to Europe and London in particular, and being in a bookshop, everything getting on top her and falling apart. I stepped away. I stopped listening. It was too much. I mean really, why was she telling me this?!? I resolved not to continue, to let her be, for her to wallow in her own problems.

Ten minutes later I already knew the reaction of the guy she had been with and how they proceeded to travel around the rest of England, even Ipswich, but hadn’t enjoyed any of it, because of the company and her horrendously deteriorated mental being. She hadn’t wanted to be there. She hadn’t wanted to be any place. By now I felt myself just wrapped up her words, as though her problems had become my problems to the extent that by the end of the day I had forgotten to vote, even though I was working inches away from the ballot box.

She was depressed and couldn’t deal with anything, not even her mother’s sickness. I lay in bed that night needing to know if she had worked it out. “In a strange way, I had fallen in love with my depression.” She said, “I loved it because it was all I had. I thought the depression was the part of my character which had made me worthwhile.” I realized that in a strange way I had fallen in love with Elizabeth and her story. It was one way traffic of course, room only on the edges and between her words for my problems of vague loneliness and slight pangs of failure. And I had a grim determination to see it through to end, try and understand her suicide attempt within the context of her need to try everything she could and hope that she would let the Prozac do it’s work in making her feel better, more positive.

Then she brightened up. The depression lifted. Elizabeth used words she hadn’t used before like ‘contentedness’. Everything was OK. I could let her go. Her story ended that night and I could get on with my life, the work and the weblogging.

I’m consumed by the chill of solitary.
-- Alanis Morissette
“All I really want”

The following morning something was missing. Her story had ended in 1994, during my second year at University. What had happened since then, where had she been, who had she been with up until the time I found her on that rainy day? So I sought her out again, and she began anew, and within moments all of the optimism had gone. Her depression had faded to be replaced by something else.

”I crush up my pills and snort them like dust. They are my sugar. They are the sweetness in the days that have none. They drip through me like tupelo honey. Then they are gone. Then I need more. I always need more.” She was addicted to Ritalin a drug she had been prescribed because of a trouble focusing which had graduated from being a mostly harmless additive in pill form to something a bit more dangerous. She described how she had wanted the feeling to hit more ferociously and how she began to snort. And then when she ran out of that and couldn’t work out how to get any more from her psychologist she decided that she might as well use cocaine anyway. It’s an example of how for some of us nothing is completely ended, things always continue, that if anyone says that all their problems are solved by religion of whatever that the underlying cause endures.

It was the context within which this was happening that drew me in this time because it seemed to be talking to me. She had moved to Florida to work on her new book about strong women and all but shut herself off from the world. She was existing for the single purpose of turning out pages. She says she wasn’t lonely, that she wanted to be left alone, and I found it difficult to believe her, if only because it felt so similar to my own situation of working for five days and finding that I had nothing at the weekend. That after years of having friends and going places and doing things everything had been stripped away. That finally I was a lonely person and that I was finding it distinctly difficult get myself out of a pattern. I would meet people, get their telephone numbers, but when it came to actually planning to call them, a wall would go up with titanium bars six inches thick. More than that I’d wonder why I was the one would have to do the inviting; wasn’t I special enough for people to actually decide that they would want to see me? Her drug abuse was spinning out of control; she was missing important appointments and losing the respect of her colleagues. We both needed help, the difference was she could get help.

She checked into rehab, I didn’t have that luxury, no place to go and say “Hello my name is … and I’m predominantly a lonely person right now …” I wallowed in my own problems, the routine of the day and for once she was just an adjunct, fitting in between my margins. She would sit on my desk as I worked looking at me, sit on the bus seat next to me as I drifted through solitary day trips not giving me the company I needed, unable to say the things I wanted her to say. That she was there provided some comfort, because no matter how difficult my problems seemed, hers would always be ten times worse.

Elizabeth condensed the time she spent in Silver Hill, the four months, into four of my days. She carefully portrayed or caricatured her group mates and I got to know them through her eyes. She was getting involved with yet another man, and it wasn’t going to turn out well, and she’d known that deep down it would happen the same way all over again. I realized that part of my problem was that I had been disappointed too many times before, either with myself or my friends. Whenever I had been me, the behaviour, ideas, opinions and stories had been at right angles to theirs. Or something they did would caused the judgmental chip in my brain to crack. I expected so much of people and far too often I’d been disappointed. Like the times as a teenager when I’d rationalized that I really didn’t have a chance with which ever girl I had a crush on that week, now I’d decided that it wasn’t worth making an effort to get make friends close at hand because at some point I’d say or do something or they might and it would go sour and I’d obsess over what had happened. The times when I thought I was good company, when I thought I was making people feel good about themselves and me, the jury was saying no.

I desperately wanted Elizabeth to become the perfect substitute, for her to be teaching me something, but as she drifted through her story of rehab, all I thought about was wanting to go back in time to a place early enough that I could save her. I’d done it before; I arrogantly remembered the time at university when a couple I’d liked had been having difficulties and somehow, something I said one night in a launderette to the girl had kept them together. I wanted to be able to turn around to the younger Elizabeth, give her a hug and tell her it would be alright. Then again, if her real friends hadn’t been able to break through her exterior, how could a time traveling stranger hope to? For a brief moment I was nostalgic for my science fiction companions and wondered if make believe really was a less painful way to go. I kept all this to myself as she finished rehab and it looked like she would be OK.

It wasn’t OK. The night Elizabeth left the house she met an old friend and was back on drugs. In hindsight she knows now that it was supposed to be a way for her to convince herself of her own invincibility, that cocaine didn’t rule her life, that she could get up the following morning and the need would be gone and a clean life would ensue. Deep down I knew that wouldn’t be the case and sure enough over the next few days I found out that post-rehab her drug abuse was even more acute and embarrassing because she had been through the programme, was telling people that she was cleanwhen she hadn’t been. Her tone was vaguely apologetic and I knew I should be disappointed. Our time together now was rapidly getting shorter though and I’d become so attached that I couldn’t. She was here to tell the tale, and I’d be there to the end.

Even as she described the pregnancy and abortion which would be the trigger for her redemption. When I was at school we’d been given a graph, the verticle axis marked with zenith at the top, nadir at the bottom and asked to plot the life of a Shakespearean tragic hero over the period of a play. I imagined that maths paper in my head and noticed that peaks and troughs of this woman’s life looked somewhat like the beating of a heat hooked up to a medical monitoring machine, the blood of life gushing in and pumping out.

And so the other night, Elizabeth left again, and it felt like forever. It was as abrupt as the last time. She was back in recovery, but this time she devoted herself to it, like the book she had been so desperate to finish writing. She said things like “if you already know what your response will be before you’ve heard what it is the other person has said, you are not listening.” She understood what the drugs and depression had made her into, that without either she was a worthwhile person, able to contribute. For the first time in ages it felt right. I could let her go.

One day
It will happen
One day, one day
It will all make sense.
-- Bjork,
“One Day”

Here is how the story began. I met Elizabeth in Manchester. I fell in love with her and her life. I wanted to know it all. Realised when writing about it I had a problem. Realised that the only way to face it was head on. Let her wash over me, cleansing me. And when she’d gone I knew what had happened and what I needed to do.