The House of Random Crap
A clearinghouse for my crazed, deviant, trivial, irreverant & occasionally reflective thoughts.

Friday, May 30, 2003  

I'm listening to Linkin Park's sophomore album Meteora, and I have to say it kicks some major ass. Their first album Hybrid Theory really blew me away when I first listened to it, and Meteora is proving to be a strong follow-up effort. I have to say that LP is one of the best metal bands (heavy, speed, or in this case rap) I've come across in the last 10 years. Their soon-to-be-released single Faint is one of the most hard-core head-banging songs I've heard in ages. I put it up there with Metallica's Master of Puppets, Guns & Roses' Welcome to the Jungle and Van Halen's Jump. Makes me feel like I'm a 20-year old college student again. Now if I only had a mosh pit...

Now that I think about it, I could use a night of heavy metal head-banging. I've been feeling a bit frustrated and restless about work lately. I really don't know why. Maybe I'm not doing the types of work that I want to do, which would be the more of the management buyout or private equity transactions. I guess I'm not cut out to be a management consultant. Last weekend, we had our first corporate offsite in Pattaya. It was held at this resort/horse riding academy, which is a bit of a weird combination. I think having a resort attached to a horse riding academy sound like a natural combination, but to have a performing ground flanked by the hotel rooms and the restaurant seems a bit bizarre, in an almost unsanitary way. Nicha really enjoyed the swimming pool, and had the chance to ride a horse and a mountain bike. Unfortunately, I spent most of the weekend scrambling to put together a presentation on recruiting and retaining professionals. Admittedly, our company sessions were very useful and informative, and will ultimately prove to be invaluable as we set the direction of the company for the next year, but frankly, it was just plain exhausting. Since I am allergic to horses, I don't know if sneezing my brains out riding a horse would have been a better alternative that sitting in a conference room, but I would have enjoyed having some quality time with Nicha walking or cycling around the resort grounds, or even getting a little more sleep.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 11:29 PM |

Friday, May 23, 2003  

I don't know why, but I seem endlessly fixated on The Matrix Reloaded. I guess I can't stand being perplexed. For those who saw the film and was similarly confused by the conversation between Neo and the Architect, here is the dialogue from that scene, courtesy of The AntiTrust:

The Architect - Hello, Neo.

Neo - Who are you?

The Architect - I am the Architect. I created the matrix. I've been waiting for you. You have many questions, and although the process has altered your consciousness, you remain irrevocably human. Ergo, some of my answers you will understand, and some of them you will not. Concordantly, while your first question may be the most pertinent, you may or may not realize it is also irrelevant.

Neo - Why am I here?

The Architect - Your life is the sum of a remainder of an unbalanced equation inherent to the programming of the matrix. You are the eventuality of an anomaly, which despite my sincerest efforts I have been unable to eliminate from what is otherwise a harmony of mathematical precision. While it remains a burden to sedulously avoid it, it is not unexpected, and thus not beyond a measure of control. Which has led you, inexorably, here.

Neo - You haven't answered my question.

The Architect - Quite right. Interesting. That was quicker than the others.

*The responses of the other Ones appear on the monitors: "Others? What others? How many? Answer me!"*

The Architect - The matrix is older than you know. I prefer counting from the emergence of one integral anomaly to the emergence of the next, in which case this is the sixth version.

*Again, the responses of the other Ones appear on the monitors: "Five versions? Three? I've been lied too. This is bullshit."*

Neo: There are only two possible explanations: either no one told me, or no one knows.

The Architect - Precisely. As you are undoubtedly gathering, the anomaly's systemic, creating fluctuations in even the most simplistic equations.

*Once again, the responses of the other Ones appear on the monitors: "You can't control me! F*ck you! I'm going to kill you! You can't make me do anything!*

Neo - Choice. The problem is choice.

*The scene cuts to Trinity fighting an agent, and then back to the Architect's room*

The Architect - The first matrix I designed was quite naturally perfect, it was a work of art, flawless, sublime. A triumph equaled only by its monumental failure. The inevitability of its doom is as apparent to me now as a consequence of the imperfection inherent in every human being, thus I redesigned it based on your history to more accurately reflect the varying grotesqueries of your nature. However, I was again frustrated by failure. I have since come to understand that the answer eluded me because it required a lesser mind, or perhaps a mind less bound by the parameters of perfection. Thus, the answer was stumbled upon by another, an intuitive program, initially created to investigate certain aspects of the human psyche. If I am the father of the matrix, she would undoubtedly be its mother.

Neo - The Oracle.

The Architect - Please. As I was saying, she stumbled upon a solution whereby nearly 99.9% of all test subjects accepted the program, as long as they were given a choice, even if they were only aware of the choice at a near unconscious level. While this answer functioned, it was obviously fundamentally flawed, thus creating the otherwise contradictory systemic anomaly, that if left unchecked might threaten the system itself. Ergo, those that refused the program, while a minority, if unchecked, would constitute an escalating probability of disaster.

Neo - This is about Zion.

The Architect - You are here because Zion is about to be destroyed. Its every living inhabitant terminated, its entire existence eradicated.

Neo - Bullshit.

*The responses of the other Ones appear on the monitors: "Bullshit!"*

The Architect - Denial is the most predictable of all human responses. But, rest assured, this will be the sixth time we have destroyed it, and we have become exceedingly efficient at it.

*Scene cuts to Trinity fighting an agent, and then back to the Architects room.*

The Architect - The function of the One is now to return to the source, allowing a temporary dissemination of the code you carry, reinserting the prime program. After which you will be required to select from the matrix 23 individuals, 16 female, 7 male, to rebuild Zion. Failure to comply with this process will result in a cataclysmic system crash killing everyone connected to the matrix, which coupled with the extermination of Zion will ultimately result in the extinction of the entire human race.

Neo - You won't let it happen, you can't. You need human beings to survive.

The Architect - There are levels of survival we are prepared to accept. However, the relevant issue is whether or not you are ready to accept the responsibility for the death of every human being in this world.

*The Architect presses a button on a pen that he is holding, and images of people from all over the matrix appear on the monitors*

The Architect - It is interesting reading your reactions. Your five predecessors were by design based on a similar predication, a contingent affirmation that was meant to create a profound attachment to the rest of your species, facilitating the function of the one. While the others experienced this in a very general way, your experience is far more specific. Vis-a-vis, love.

*Images of Trinity fighting the agent from Neo's dream appear on the monitors*

Neo - Trinity.

The Architect - Apropos, she entered the matrix to save your life at the cost of her own.

Neo - No!

The Architect - Which brings us at last to the moment of truth, wherein the fundamental flaw is ultimately expressed, and the anomaly revealed as both beginning, and end. There are two doors. The door to your right leads to the source, and the salvation of Zion. The door to the left leads back to the matrix, to her, and to the end of your species. As you adequately put, the problem is choice. But we already know what you're going to do, don't we? Already I can see the chain reaction, the chemical precursors that signal the onset of emotion, designed specifically to overwhelm logic, and reason. An emotion that is already blinding you from the simple, and obvious truth: she is going to die, and there is nothing that you can do to stop it.

*Neo walks to the door on his left*

The Architect - Humph. Hope, it is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and your greatest weakness.

Neo - If I were you, I would hope that we don't meet again.

The Architect - We won't.

End Scene

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 4:53 PM |

I ran across this test a few weeks back, but decided to take it again when I saw it on Lisa's site. Again, as before, I'm an evil, evil man. In fact, since the last time I took the test, I've gotten more vile and wretched...

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Fifth Level of Hell!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Very Low
Level 2 (Lustful)High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Very High
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Extreme
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)High
Level 7 (Violent)High
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Very High
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Moderate

Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test

The website describes the 5th Level of Hell as follows:

"The river Styx runs through this level of Hell, and in it are punished the wrathful and the gloomy. The former are forever lashing out at each other in anger, furious and naked, tearing each other piecemeal with their teeth. The latter are gurgling in the black mud, slothful and sullen, withdrawn from the world. Their lamentations bubble to the surface as they try to repeat a doleful hymn, though with unbroken words they cannot say it. Because you lived a cruel, vindictive and hateful life, you meet your fate in the Styx."

Strangely enough, this is an exact description of life in the frat house back in the day...

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 3:10 PM |

Thursday, May 22, 2003  

My rants against Matrix Reloaded continues! From Ernie's House of Whoopass...

I Am Sofa King Disappointed

I hate to say it, especially since I've spent the last six months salivating at the thought of its very existence but, The Matrix Reloaded well, sucks. And on so many levels. Allow me to name a few.

They sold out. Remember the cool ass early-60's Lincoln Continental with the suicide doors they drove around in the first movie? Cool wasn't it? You're damn right it was. And they didn't pick that car because it was popular or because they were trying to sell it, they just chose a cool ass car to be driven by cool ass people in a cool ass movie. But nooooo, because in Reloaded, our heroes drive a white 2003 Cadillac CTS while being chased by the bad guys in a... that's right... black 2003 Cadillac Escalade EXT. Good guys wear white, bad guys wear black. How fucking passe'? And when Trinity steals a motorcycle in one scene, they make sure to do a nice close up on the bike and hover the camera over the bold faced DUCATI before she peels off. What the fuck? So much for staying true to form.

Marathon battles. Okay, so the fight scenes were one of the high points of the original flick, I wholeheartedly agree. In fact they were so cool and entertaining you were left wanting when they came to a close, kind of like wishing there was just one more swallow left when you finish a glass of water. But the big fight scene between Neo and the hundred or so Agent Smiths was way too fucking long. There's only so many ways you can watch a guy swinging his fists like a fucking madman at the dozens of guys surrounding him before things start to get a little repetitive get a little repetitive get a little repetitive get a little repetitive. Ya follow me?

Needs more cheese. And Morpheus. And Trinity. And Persephone. Morpheus's big scene was when he gives a speech to the surviving inhabitants of Zion in the days before a pending attack from the machines. But he looked more like broke assed Captain Kirk than the smooth motherfucker who asked, "You think that's air you're breathing?" in the first movie. Trinity (who still looks fucking hot in latex, thankfully), fared a little better than he did given she had everyone's attention for the aforementioned motorcycle chase, but was still not seen anywhere near enough. And love scenes with people with holes in their back makes me think of fucking my erector set. Not cool.

Bad guys. Not enough of em. The two albino dudes with dreads who could shift between physical and ethereal form during battle, and were all hyped up in the coming weeks before the movie's release? Way cool. Too bad they had about a grand total of 2 minutes of screen time. And Agent Smith, who was such a menacing villain in the old movie, reminded me of Michael Keaton in Multiplicity, only with a bad suit. He should have been so much more.

You see the original Matrix was a great movie with a great cast and a great plot, with some amazing special effects thrown in to make the movie a trendsetter. The Matrix Reloaded is a commercial about special effects, with acting and a story thrown in as an after thought. I actually got home on Sunday and watched the original Matrix, just so I wouldn't have to sleep with that other piece of shit on my mind. I am, sofa king disappointed.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 6:26 PM |

Tuesday, May 20, 2003  

No sooner did I finish ranting about how convoluted and esoteric the plot of The Matrix Reloaded is I stumble across a reasonable essay attempting to interpret the story, which I reprinted below. It makes a reasonable amount of sense, even though most of the religious, historical, and literary references were beyond even my fairly decent liberal arts education, which only reaffirms my belief that this movie is too pseudo-intellectual, and has rightfully deserves a reputation as the Dennis Miller of action films (not slight intended to Mr. Miller, of whom I'm a big fan).

WARNING: If you haven't seen the film yet and don't want to read any of the spoilers, skip the essay.



by Ken Mondschein

Going into The Matrix: Reloaded, I wasn't worried if the fight scenes or special effects would measure up to the first film—it was the metaphysics that bothered me. The first Matrix was such a neat allegory of Gnostic philosophy, I was more concerned with how the Brothers Wachowski could successfully extend the metaphor into three films than whether they could pull off even more virtuoso examples of cinematic ass-stomping. What was mindblowing about the first movie, after all, wasn't the fight choreography or bullet time, but its brave assertion that the banal, day-to-day reality we live in isn't the real world. In that sense, all the wire-fu was just the candy coating on the red pill the filmmakers were offering to every high school student and cubicle slave in the world. (Though, since I study martial arts myself, I found the idea of kung fu as being metaphorical for something happening in hyper-reality, a la Thibault's mysterious circle, to be pretty darn appealing.)

Thankfully, Reloaded more than allayed my fears, even if it seems that half the reviewers either didn't understand what the Wachowskis were getting at, or else were only paying attention during the highway chase. Watching the movie, I was personally less impressed by the fists of digital fury than by the Brothers' evident familiarity with the Dead Sea Scrolls and the theology of Origen of Alexandria. Seen in the light of the books they're referencing, the movie's plot is brilliant; of course, to the non-initiate, the characters' actions and dialogue seems arbitrary and incomprehensible, and the exposition is just filler between car crashes. It would seem, therefore, that a bit of exegesis of The Matrix: Reloaded is warranted. But be warned: If you haven't seen the movie yet, don't read on. There are some major spoilers.

Much like that other great Keanu Reeves vehicle, Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey, The Matrix: Reloaded centers around the hero's journey into the Underworld. Frazier, in The Golden Bough, notes that it is a prophetess—in this case, the Oracle—who sends the hero off on his journey, from where he returns with special knowledge. And, of course, that's just what Neo does, though it would have been a while lot more amusing if he'd had Alex Winter along. (The Oracle probably isn't entirely benign, by the way, even though she may not consciously intend any harm: She is, after all, the one who sent Neo on the path to the Core.)

Neo's first task is to rescue the Keymaker (Randall Duk Kim, doing his best Rick Moranis impression) from the Merovingian, who is a daemon—in both senses of the word—left over from a previous version of the Matrix. (The Merovingians were the ruling Frankish dynasty; they were succeeded by Charlemagne's family, the Carolingians, and then by the Capetians, who thought they were descended from Christ.) The guy in the health food store where I buy my granola and soy milk thinks that The Merovingian was one of Neo's predecessors, but all the explanation I need, as well as the way I understand his obvious fascination with human pleasures, is found in Genesis 6:4—"There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them. . ." According to various sources, including Kabbalah, this mating of men and angels (here, a computer program from an earlier version of the Martrix) is what produced various monsters, such as the vampires and wraiths that serve the Merovingian. Dante, bringing a Christian sensibility to the proceedings, placed these monsters in his Inferno. Thus, though the Merovingian is sort of an antediluvian remnant of the former world, he's also (as is shown by the fact that his wife is named Persephone) kind of like Hades, the holder of the keys to the underworld. What the Keymaker does, much like the golden bough the Sybil gives Aeneas, is open doors and permit Neo access to the underworld—or, in this case, the Core.

After the requisite battles and explosions, Neo gets into the Core and finds The Architect. Considering that The Architect built the Matrix, you might think that he's God. Of course, he's nothing of the sort. In Gnostic theology, it is Satan, not God, who has created the world in order to imprison humanity. It is also the Architect who is unleashing the Sentinels to destroy Zion; that is, beginning the Battle of Armageddon. It is my prediction that in the third and final film, it will be revealed that there is a power behind the Architect, and that he is the one who sent the One into the Matrix. It is also my prediction that this guy will look a lot like Neo.

The important thing is choosing what to believe from the raft of condescending exposition that the Architect inflicts on Neo. He says, basically, that though ninety-nine percent of humans believe in the illusion of the Matrix, there is that troublesome one percent (comparable to the few awakened Gnostic true believers) who refuse to believe in the created world. This tends to produce massive amounts of instability, and crashes the system. (Not coincidentally, most of the people in Zion seem to be black or Hispanic, which makes perfect sense: If you're a white suburban Matrix resident, driving your Matrix SUV to your Matrix golf club, why doubt the nature of reality?) The solution is that they allow the dissidents to escape to Zion, which they can then periodically destroy. They have also created the Prophecy of the One, who is in fact a device sent by the machines into the "real" world so that his knowledge of humanity may be integrated into the system in order to further perfect the Matrix-illusion, and then allowed to re-start Zion so that the cycle can begin again. The idea of multiple creations and a cycle of created and destroyed worlds is, needless to say, also found in theologies as wildly variant as the Mayan and the Buddhist.

The idea that the Prophecy—and Zion—were just another means of control is lifted right out of French philosophy. The first movie made use of Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation; this movie seems to be dipping into Foucault and Derrida, who wrote that the systems of power and control are all-pervasive, and language is one of the ways they make their influence felt. The Prophecy is, like all prophecies, speech, and thus language. More importantly, it is a religion, and, as John Zerzan writes, the purpose of a religion is to manipulate signs, that is, words, for the purpose of control. Zion is the longed-for millennial promised land; by keeping the war between good and evil foremost in their hearts, even the freed humans are kept from doubting their own world, from thinking too hard about why things are the way they are.

Understanding why things are the way they are requires an understanding of another holy text: Asimov's Laws of Robotics. The machines, as demonstrated by Smith's need to try to kill Neo even after being "freed," don't have free will. (Likewise, in Gnostic theology, angels and other such divine beings also don't have free will—only humans do.) The bit about the machines needing human bio-energy to survive, as Morpheus (the dreamer) explained in the first movie, is bullshit. The machines keep humanity alive but imprisoned, even after taking over the world, because they were created to serve people. In other words, the machines would like to destroy humanity, but they CAN'T. Instead, they need a human to make the choice.

As the Architect reveals, Neo is not the first One, but rather the sixth. Why the sixth? The answer is that Neo's five previous incarnations represent the Five Books of Moses that make up the Old Testament. Neo (representing Christ, and thus the New Testament) differs from his five predecessors in his capacity to love. In the work of Origen of Alexandria and other Church Fathers, it is love ("eros" in Greek) that compels Christ to come down from the heavens to redeem humanity. Furthermore, "neo" means "new"—as in "New Covenant." In Neo, the machines have finally found the iteration of the One who will make the illogical choice of saving Trinity and dooming humanity. [Note to the theology geeks who've been e-mailing me: I know the difference between eros and agape, but Origen used both terms for reasons I'd have to delve into pre-Socratic philosophy to explain.]

This is the Architect's real purpose in giving Neo a choice between two doors. At once all human and all machine, rather than being a device to refine the Matrix into a more perfect simulation of reality, re-found Zion, and thus continue the endless cycle of death and rebirth—as the Architect says he is—the purpose of the One is to be manipulated into destroying all of humanity. However, not having free will themselves, the machines are not able to comprehend it in others—and thus Neo, being also human, is a bit of a wild card. It is Neo's destiny—as was Christ's in Origen's theology—to break the cycle of death and rebirth, and offer humanity a new future. This is shown by the fact that, by the end of the movie, Neo (and also, incidentally, Smith) gain power over machines in the "real world"—which shows that he has power not only over the first—level simulated world of the Matrix, but also the second-level simulation of Zion.

Miscellaneous touches I liked:

Neo and Trinity are shown making love beneath an arch. In religious iconography, being shown beneath an arch is a traditional sign of divinity. Masaccio's fresco at the right, for instance, shows the Holy Trinity beneath an arch.
The fact that The One comes from the machine world is a brilliant way to write around the fact that Keanu Reeves can't act.
Neo's own gift of prophecy is explainable by the fact that, like the Oracle, he comes from beyond the Matrix—that is, the world—and thus exists outside of time, much like God in St. Augustine's theology.
I saw the movie sitting next to a really cute girl.

Things to be wrapped up in the third movie:

Who's behind The Architect?
Neo will need to make a choice—but what is this choice?
The climactic Battle of Armageddon between Good and Evil will have to take place—but what will happen afterwards?
What's Agent Smith's role in all this? His ability to multiply is reminiscent of the demon Jesus exorcised ("my name is Legion"), but I bet he's going to wind up being an ally of Neo's.
How is Neo able to zap the machines in the "real world"?
How did Tank die?
Will Link live to see Zee again?
Will Niobe leave Jason Lock and go back to Morpheus? [No, she isn't dead—it was the other ship that got blown up.]
Will priestly cassocks become a fashion trend for men?
What pivotal role will be performed by Neo's adoring acolyte?
How will Bane sabotage the human defense of Zion? Will Neo kill him?
What led Morpheus to the Oracle in the first place?
Is the "real world" only another level of simulation, an outer matrix, indicative of matrices upon matrices, onionlike in their layering upon each other?
What're they going to do about the fact that Gloria Foster, who played The Oracle, died? [She had shot most of her scenes for Reloaded, but not for Revolutions.]
Will the Zion-world be revealed to be also fake in the third movie, and will the trilogy end with him leading his followers into the sunlit "real" world?
Will Neo wake up and say, "Bill, dude, you won't believe this bitchin' dream I just had. . ."?

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 2:32 PM |

Has it really been almost 3 weeks since my last real post? Time sure flies when work is beating the living crap outta you. I really shouldn't be posting this blog, since I still have several critical projects that need to be done this week, but screw it. I need to spew out some of these random thoughts bouncing around my pea-brain so I get get focused back on work.

I hit some key milestones on our company's flagship deal, which bought me a little downtime, especially since 2 of the other partners are gearing up on their sides of the project. I just finished examining the client's capital structure and ran 2 sets of scenario analysis, as well as come up with some strategic options for their business model. One partner is currently creating a model to estimate product demand, while the other is about to perform an audit of the company's organization and work flows. I will soon be kicking off the second phase of the financial advisory by developing an investor communication strategy. Sometimes the project can be interesting, as we are fortunate to have a very enthusiastic client whose top 3 officers enjoy spending time with us picking our brains and assimilating our advise. Other times, it can be a bit boring, since the project tends to drag avery now and again.

The break didn't offer me much time to relax though. I've been scrambling to catch up on other stuff that I've blown off, like building out our financial analysis infrastructure and developing a knowledge management database (we each get tons and tons of useful data, but we don't have an effective system of storing and sharing it, so I have the fun task of playing librarian). A few small projects came my way that did pique my interest though. The first was to analyze a potential takeover that one of my clients is contemplating. I'm more of a mergers & acquisitions-type banker, so I found this mini-projects one of the more interesting ones I've worked on since I've been with the company. There wasn't a whole lot of data available, so I had to spend a few days fishing around the web trying to find news and numbers on the potential target. I didn't have a l,ot of time either, which meant I was working at a break-neck pace to get a draft together by Saturday. I practically killed myself yesterday trying to expand my analysis and get a final draft to the client. Yes, quite the exciting, thrilling, nail-biting life I lead. Ok ok, so my little drama is about as exciting as watching whales shit, but I had a good time. Frankly, I thought the potential deal looks fantastic. If the client doesn't go forward, I may decide to plow some cash into the stock myself.

What made yesterday so hectic was that as I was scrambling to get this M&A analysis done, one of my partners asked me to also do a quickie analysis of another possible M&A deal. There was only about 2 pages of numbers, which can be both good and bad. On one hand, you can't waste too much time analyzing a small handful of numbers. However, when the numbers are incomplete and the target company's accountant is a major dumbshit that can't work a calculator, it sort of lend itself to really screwy results. Needless to say, I got both done, but felt a lot happier with the results of my first analysis than with my second.

Which means that now, the real fun begins. Our company is holding its first corporate offsite in Pattaya, one of Thailand's more well-known resort towns. Since signicant others are invited, I'm looking forward to spending some time with the wife outside the city. However, we do have 6 hours of professional activities planned, and I have to facilitate a 1 to 2 hour session on how to recruit and retain staff, which has been a major problem for us. So now I have to come up with a presentation that is both informative while at the same time stimulates discussion and brainstorming. I'm a financier, not a human resources consultant!!

What little downtime I have had lately has been a lot of fun. Nicha and I have gone out twice this past week for dinner with her friends (I really need to start calling up my friends, since I never see any of them). The first dinner was ok, since I was tired and cranky, but the second was fun. On Saturday, Nicha and I joined 2 of my work colleagues and their respective women to watch Matrix Reloaded. I was distinctly unimpressed. It's not that it was a bad film. It's just that the first film really sets expectations that are difficult to meet, and the Wachowski Brothers failed to deliver. It was a good film, but then again, Godfather 3 was an ok film; hold it up against its predecessors, and it starts to look like crap. The effects were very impressive, but to me, effects should never come before storyline (which is why I hated films like Twister, Perfect Storm, and Gladiator). With the Matrix, I came away thoroughly perplexed. The pleasure of part 1 was that the audience is confused because the movie is such a great mindfuck: is the world as we know it real or just a fantasy? With Reloaded, I was confused because I have no idea what this byzantine story was really about. Morpheus, the Architect, and the french guy (The MerrillLynchian?) kept yapping and espousing and blathering like they had diarrhea of the mouth, and after their fanciful speeches, I kept asking myself "What the hell did he just say?!?". Movies like Memento have confused the hell out of me, but I can remember enough of the dialogue to piece together the message. In the case of Reloaded, I draw a complete blank. I'm all for intellectual films, but push it too far, and you get nothing more than Chinese fortune cookie farce. I think this is what I got on Saturday. I guess it didn't help that the film, tried to introduce too many characters. Before I could even get a handle on many of the thinly introduced additions, the movie kills them off or scuttles them from the screen. Who the living fuck is this goatee guy? He cuts his hands, he's on a recovery table; who the hell?!? Side note: what the hell is up with the whole subplot with Link and his chick? Ok, Tank is dead. I get it. Move on. The whole "I don't want you on the Nebuchenezzer" plot was as boring and trite as the Morpheous-Niobe-Lock love triangle. And what about this 5 minute pre-war techno rave orgy? All of it was wasted screen time. Lastly, there were too many inconsistencies and unanswered questions. The one big thing that irked me was: what was the purpose of having Smith roaming around chasing and fighting Neo? What is his freakin' agenda? Revenge? I tried to figure it out, but his 3 minutes of pre-fight yapping amounted to zero minutes of useful knowledge conveyed. If he's a rogue agent now copying himself like a virus, why aren't the machines taking steps to shut him down? Secondly, how can the Oracle give the rebel humans a package for Neo that can be carried out of the matrix? I find it hard to believe that these guys plugged into these chairs suddenly disconnect and have this envelope in their hands. Am I ranting too much? Yes I am. But believe it or not, I did think it was an ok movie. Maybe once I rent it and see it again, I won't come away so dumbfounded.

After the movie, Nicha and I headed over to Lumpini Park, a beautiful oasis smack dab in the middle of Bangkok's urban sprawl. We walked around a bit, and then decided to rent a row boat and spend some time on the lake. It was fun to row again (haven't been in a row boat since I was in college and rowed on Stow Lake in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park). Nicha learned the basics of rowing, and can't stop raving about the experience. It all part of our new resolve to live more active, outdoorsy lives. I've been trying to convince her for ages to take up golf, and last week she stopped by a golf school to enquire about lessons. She had a chance to hit a few balls and really enjoyed the experience, so we will be taking up lessons after we get back from Pattaya, and we (or at least I am) psyched. I'm also considering taking up rollerblading again, and hope she'll join me.

I also getting very excited about summer, since at the end of it, I'll be visiting the states again. I'm in the process of booking the tickets now. I've accumulated enough miles on Cathay Pacific for a long-haul business class ticket and companion ticket. Since Cathay made some recent upgrades on their long-haul business class, it should be a really comfortable trip. The key date that anchors the whole trip is the wedding of a very good friend of mine from Kellogg, but it does give me a chance to visit my new niece and nephew (there are getting cuter and cuter with every passing day!!), see family and friends, take Nicha around (without her folks! =), catch a few musicals, and attend my first Cal footbal game in over 10 years. Yay! Once I confirm the flights, I'll be booking orchestra seats to see Phantom of the Opera in San Francisco and The Producers in Los Angeles. I've seen Phantom twice already, but always enjoyed the music. I'm anxious to see The Producers; I didn't get a chance to catch the show when I was last in New York, and Janson Alexander and Martin Short headline the L.A cast.

I normally love musicals, but what makes them extra special is that my first real "date" with Nicha was to take her to see "Ragtime" in Chicago, which she absolutely loved, and which was a truly wonderful time for both of us. We also spent one of our last nights together in Chicago watching "Caberet". We haven't had the opprtunity to watch any shows since, so I'm looking forward to taking her again. And speaking of our time together, this Wednesday marks the 4th year anniversary of the day I first told Nicha that I loved her. It's unbelievable how much I've experienced in and changed over the last 4 years. We still remark to each other everyday how lucky we are to have met. What really amazes me is that I've spent much of the last 10 years getting used to the idea that my life and future is completely uncertain, and I have come to accept this uncertainty and found it very exciting, and while my life now is still pretty unstable and uncertain, I have a person who is now the one absolutely certain thing in my life. It's amazing to have that sort of emotional anchor in my life.

Ok, back to work...

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 11:48 AM |

Monday, May 05, 2003  

From the Twenty Questions blog site:

1. What's the best birthday present you've ever had? Surprise party thrown by my closest college friends my senior year
2. What do you eat for breakfast? It changes every day
3. What's your favourite piece of jewellery? My wedding ring (my only piece of jewelry, really, not counting stuff like cuff links or tie pins)
4. What's the best book you've ever read? Way too many books to choose (besides, that would be like asking to choose my favorite child)
5. Which gadget couldn't you do without? My laptop
6. Which website can you recommend to me? Fark (
7. Do you have any allergies? Cat & horse hair
8. Are you left or right handed? Right-handed
9. Do you have any piercings? Used to (both ears, college days)
10. What's your favourite painting/print? Vermeer's "Girl with a Pearl Earring"
11. What was the last thing you ate? My Snickers/Oreo/Ice Cream Torte (homemade recipe)
12. Where in the world would you like to be right now? In Southern California visiting my new niece and nephew
13. Do you collect anything? If so, what? I used to collect comic books. I'm too poor these days to collect anything other than bills =(
14. What type of books do you prefer reading ( e.g. romance )? All kinds (Sci-fi, classics, non-fiction, current events, text books, graphic name it, I read it)
15. Do you have a daily newspaper? Which one? Bangkok Post and Asian Wall Street Journal
16. Do you use tissues or linen handkerchiefs? Both
17. What's your oldest possession? I have greeting cards given to my parents congratulating them on my birth.
18. Do you use a fountain pen or a ballpoint pen? Ballpoint
19. Do you have any pets? Nope
20. Do you have any phobias? I fear heights and despise lizards

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 12:15 AM |

Friday, May 02, 2003  

My 5-day weekend is here! And none to soon, either. I really need to take a breather from work (though I will no doubt tinker with some of the training modules I'm developing). Yesterday, Nicha and I worked out for the first time in weeks. We normally hit California Fitness two or three times a week, but Nicha was a wee bit paranoid about SARS, and since Cal Fitness is heavily attended by expats, she saw it as a potential hotbed of disease. Anyways, we are both badly out of shape, so she called it quits on the elliptical stair climber after only 10 minutes, and me after 20 (we normally do 30-40 minutes). We spent another 40 minutes on the weights, by which time we were positively shredded.

We then headed out to the Greyhound Cafe, a chain of upscale, trendy restaurants/bars, for a lunch of beef & Italian sausage lasagna and rosemary chicken salad, both of which were excellent. We then headed ove to Siam Discovery Center, a local shopping mall, to browse around for a few hours. In the late afternoon, we met up with a co-worker of mine and caught the opening day of X2: X-Men United. What can I say? It kicked some major ass. For a guy that didn't grow up with the comics, Bryan Singer did such a faithful and fantastic adaptation of the series and the character. He did take some artistic liberties for the sake of bringing the X-Men to the screen, but in no way do his changes detract from the movie. As a long time X-men comic fan, I give the movie my enthusiastic 2 thumbs up. Wolverine and Magneto are far move violent and vicious this time around, more in line with their comic book depictions. I enjoyed seeing more focus on Jean Grey and Storm's powers, the cameos of some familiar characters (Colossus, Kitty Pryde, Siryn, Hank McCoy), and Alan Cumming's performance (and the special effects) of Nightcrawler were unbelievable. I may have to see the film again. After the movie, we walked over to Outback, where I indulged in my first cut of prime rib in a long time. It was ok, but the need to get some horseradish in the place.

Before I sign off, here is my recipe for clam dip, as promised:

One 8 oz package of cream cheese (Philly Light works well)
One 6.5 oz can of chopped Atlantic Ocean clams, drained
2 tablespoons of clam juice from the canned clams
Half cup of mayonnaise
Dash of worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons of blended herbs: fresh chopped parsley and onions, chives, cayenne, and others (sage, rosemary, thyme)

Drain the clams, saving 2 tablespoons of clam juice. Chop the clams into fine pieces. In a saucepan over low heat (or in microwave on low), soften cream cheese with clam juice until creamy. Remove from heat. Blend in mayo, clams, herbs, and worcestershire. Coll in refridgerator at least a half hour before serving. Serve with crackers, chips or veggies.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 10:58 AM |
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