Thursday, May 22, 2003

After a few days of downtime, I make my first summer post. I am still in a bit of shock about the fact that I have already finished my first year of college. Time really does fly. All in all, I had a pretty good year. I played some great frisbee, sung in an awesome a cappella group, made some amazing friends, and formed a band that I can call my very own. There has been nothing in the mail from UNI about financial aid since I have returned home. My mom said it should be here sometime late this week or early next week. Both Hannah and her mom have commented that they think I want to return to Luther because of some offhand comments that I have made, but I really honestly don't know.

Anyway, I have spent the past three days organizing and cleaning my basement, and it is nowhere near being complete. I have to clean my shower and the rest of my bathroom. There is mold growing on the wall. Doesn't that sound fun? After the bathroom is clean, I am going to paint the walls. Blue, I think. My only problem with cleaning the basement is that I have no motivation. It will come to me in time, oh yes. It will come.

I applied for a job at Earl May nursery & garden center on Tuesday, and I called twice yesterday. The lady who answered the phone even said "I'll hive him [the manager] the message that you called." They haven't called back. Jerks. I will call later.

Clay Aiken should have won American Idol. You suck, Reuben.

Some good news! Hannah's brother bought the game Enter the Matrix and is in the process of playing/beating it. I am encouraging him to beat it as fast as possible so I can borrow it when he is done. I only watched him play for a couple of minutes, but what I saw was beautiful. The graphics perfectly imitate the unreal physics of the Matrix, and the bullet-time looks fantastic. I hope to get my hands on the game soon. I left my PS2 power cord in my dorm room when I moved out, so my roommate is mailing it to me. Maybe when I get it I will just rent the game until Hannah's brother is done. I can't contain myself.

Monday, May 19, 2003

I just found a really funny article on Fox News. Read it here. I especially like the use of "sanctimonious twit" and "pretentious charlatan" in the same paragraph. Reminiscent of Shakespeare, he eloquently kicks the verbal crap out of this guy.

Saturday, May 17, 2003

An interesting article from Christianity Today about Christian influences (or lack thereof) in The Matrix and Reloaded.

Speaking Out: Looking for God in The Matrix
Neo's return reminds us that a fallen world full of people is a world worth saving.
by Greg Garrett

In her recent Christianity Today piece on The Matrix, Frederica Mathewes-Green pointed out a heresy at the heart of the movie. The choice being posed in the movie, she noted, is between a worthless physical world and a worth-filled spiritual realm, a world of the real. I think theologically Frederica and I are in agreement: The Matrix doesn't reflect the fact that the earth is full of God's glory, and that we are to glory in it.

But as one of the hyperventilating postmodern Christians looking for meaning in the Matrix films, I can imagine some reasons that author/directors Andy and Larry Wachowski pose the false dilemma they seem to give us.

We should note first that the worlds of the Matrix films—the computer-generated matrix that humans are a part of and the "desert of the real" that we see after the destruction of most of the human race—are actually both human creations, not God's creation. Except for a scene in Reloaded where Neo discovers himself to be sequestered five hundred miles away from the main action at a villain's chateau in the mountains—which strikes me mostly as a plot device to make it harder for Neo to save the day—the matrix we see is strictly urban, a megalopolis of gray concrete based on the so-called height of human civilization.

If there is a flower, a rainbow, or a smidgen of God's creation to be found within the program, I don't recall it. Likewise the "real" world is the ultimate devastated product of human civilization, and unless you find majesty in blasted rock and nuclear winter, I can't see much of an opportunity for the characters in the films to find beauty in much of anything except each other.

In the Matrix movies, we don't really have the chance to see God's world and it's majesty, which works, I think, to the Wachowski Brothers' dramatic purpose: They are streamlining the possibilities of grace and spiritual connection to better fit their story and their messages. Through the symbol of the matrix they encourage us to question our beliefs and to seek enlightenment in a world where too many are willing to accept the world as it seems. At the same time, they also seem to believe that the world as it seems is still very much worth saving. For people of faith, their story covers familiar sacred ground.

The matrix of the films is a world that devours the soul and controls the mind; it literally consumes the human beings in it. The images of people being consumed in order to power that world are among the most powerful and disturbing scenes of the original Matrix. The world of sensation seems so true that most people in that world are unable to break away, to see beyond it to what is real and lasting. They are lost in sleep, in a destructive dreamland that will destroy them. Clearly the idea of the matrix allows for some important spiritual lessons: We take our reality for granted. We tend not to question what we see, hear, and feel. We toil away for purposes that sometimes are counter to our truest selves.

The cosmology the Wachowski Brothers are using here seems to be drawn from Christian Gnostic thought—that the world we know (the matrix, if you will) is fallen and unredeemable, with no spiritual value, while the spiritual world is the sole realm of light and life. There aren't so many Gnostic Christians around these days.

All the same, this is an idea that has plenty of currency in the world—many Hindus, Buddhists, and contemporary Christians see this world as merely an annoying stage to be passed through, of no importance except in a negative sense. And many people—of all faiths and no faith—tend to accept that the world as it is either isn't worth changing or can't be changed, tend to accept the beliefs they're given without challenging them. That's what the character of Neo, played by Keanu Reeves, has done up until the beginning of the first Matrix film. He has been our representative, stranded like us in the web of the world we perceive.

But here's where some different spiritual ideas get introduced, where the notion of the two worlds gets complicated. Neo is told in the first film that he is the One, the savior of both worlds. He's not inclined to believe it, and neither are we, frankly, at least not in the shape of Keanu Reeves. But at last, he does believe, as do we, and at the end of the first Matrix film, Neo accepts his destiny and transcends the boundaries of the physical world. He dies in—and potentially to—that world. Then he comes back to life.

He could pass on to the next world. But like Jesus, he returns to the physical world—in a physical body—because the work of redemption continues there. Neo doesn't leave the matrix, even though he could; to save the people of that world, Neo has to enter it, engage it, just like Jesus came back to our world to wrestle with his hard-headed disciples. If he hadn't sent them out to tell the good news everywhere, they might still be milling around.

And most of us would be lost.

Neo's story leads me to think of the central mystery of our faith, incarnation. This world doesn't simply reveal the presence of God; it has hosted God. Neo's return reminds us that while the matrix may be a fallen world, it is still a world full of people very much worth saving. Our God came into physical form for that very reason, and no matter how much of a mess we make of things—even if, perish the thought, we were to blast our own world into blackened rock—God would still come to bring salvation.

I'd be the first to grant that the Matrix films don't work as a Sunday school lesson (or as tracts or theological texts for any of the many faith traditions referenced by the Wachowski Brothers). They don't pose definitive answers. In function, if not in form, they actually remind me of a Zen koan, one of those head-scratching questions like "What is the sound of one hand clapping?"

That's okay with me. As much as I look for grace and truth in all kinds of stories, Jesus gave me some perfectly good ultimate answers, and I'll happily point the curious toward them. I'm drawn to the Matrix films for other reasons. Most of our popular culture doesn't even rise to the level of competent entertainment; when a popular film like The Matrix seriously considers questions of being, faith, and purpose, when it engages millions of people in thought on those questions, and when it dramatically suggests that answers are out there if you only believe—well, let's just say I'll gladly put down my money to see a movie like that.

Greg Garrett is the author—with Chris Seay—of The Gospel Reloaded: Exploring Spirituality and Faith in the Matrix, and of the novel Free Bird. He teaches fiction writing and film at Baylor University.

The views expressed in Speaking Out do not necessarily reflect those of Christianity Today.

Copyright © 2003 Christianity Today.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

The Matrix: Reloaded – A Review
by Jake Bouma

Let me begin first by saying that this movie was everything I wanted it to be and more. Lots more. So much more, in fact, that my head still hurts twelve hours after the movie ended. Let me also say that I am not going to give the movie a blind review of five stars just because of all the hype surrounding it and my undying loyalty to The Matrix. Some folks may deem it worthy of five stars, and all who do are entitled to their opinion. As did my colleague, Peter, I will break down my review into sections. However, I will add one section: miscellaneous.

Plot: This is the part that made my head hurt. At points in the film I was ridiculously confused, and at other points I think I knew what was going on. I watched the original Matrix movie twice in the day and a half before seeing Reloaded, both to enjoy the awesome experience that is The Matrix (again), and also to make sure that I understood the original plot to the fullest extent. No amount of viewings of the original movie could have prepared me for just how much would transpire in Reloaded. I have been in many conversations already about what things happened in the film, why they happened, and what implications they have. It is literally mind-boggling. This, in my opinion is the first (minor) downfall of the movie. I don’t know how this could be rectified, but I still see it as a problem. Don’t get me wrong, the plot was solid (at least from what I understand thus far), it was just so much. Without a doubt, I will be back to see the movie at least two or three times, and hopefully the plot will make more sense after these viewings.

Let me clarify something really quickly. The actual plot of the movie – as in what happens from point A to point B – is not that difficult to comprehend. The perplexing part is the sheer amount of information about the Matrix which is presented.

Action: Best action scenes in a movie. Ever. The fight scenes were ten times more intense than the first movie (yes, it is possible). If you have seen the trailer, you know that Neo fights a hundred Agent Smiths, and if you haven’t seen the trailer, you need to crawl out of the cave you’ve been living in and watch it. Anyway, this was the best fight scene in the history of the world. However, at times during the scene, I was disappointed at how computer-generated Keanu Reeves and some of the Agents looked. I felt like I was watching a video game. This doesn’t mean that it was not action-packed. I have already had debates about this aspect as well, and I don’t know how the problem would be rectified. In fact, I was disappointed with the CG since I downloaded and watched the trailer, especially the part where Neo is spinning around the pole and kicking the crap out of about twenty agents. CG rendering aside, the action in the movie was breathtaking. I can’t even recall how many times my jaw dropped to the floor and my hands clutched the stranger next to me because I was so enthralled with the events transpiring on the screen. Sorry, stranger next to me. Anyway, the masses were expecting some amazing fight scenes in this movie, especially after the breakthrough scenes of the original, and The Matrix: Reloaded delivers. Bigtime.

Characters: The characters overall were pretty good. I especially liked the character of Link. Neo of course was awesome, as well as Trinity. They both kick butt and fight for humanity in trench coats and leather. I was a bit confused as to the role Naiobi played in this film, but I have no doubt that this confusion will be settled in Revolutions. Apparently, she is also the main character in the video game. The acting overall was really good, even for Keanu Reeves. My favorite character is still Agent Smith. I wonder if he has to practice talking like he does, or if that’s how he talks in real life. Who knows. Laurence Fishburne also continues to keep Morpheus supremely cool. No big problems with the characters or acting.

Miscellaneous: Let’s just say that the movie has an “R” rating for a reason, and it is not just violence. I was turned off more than once by the lewdness in the movie. It’s disappointing to me that some of the stuff is even in there, because the movie would still be way cool without it. I would refer to specific lines and/or events, but I don’t want to give any spoilers. Aside from the lewdness, it seemed that there were some superfluous make-out scenes. So much, in fact, that at times the audience actually laughed because it was so ridiculous.

As I said earlier, the movie was amazing, and surpassed all of my expectations. I will undoubtedly see it again many times. Because of the few little flaws, however, I have decided to give the movie four out of five stars.

Note: it has been told to me that Reloaded will make a lot more sense if you watch the Animatrix movies. I haven’t seen them yet, but I will soon. I will post once I have viewed them all.

A review of The Matrix: Reloaded by a dear friend of mine. My own review will be done by tomorrow. I need to digest.

The Matrix Is My Heroin

Okay, folks. I can usually give a one-word summary for a movie like “Whoa” or “Intense” or “Crappy.” But tonight I saw The Matrix: Reloaded, which cannot be contained in one measly word. I promise you no spoilers, people, but I can’t promise you anything else. There are three elements to this Matrix: Action, Plot, and Characters, a critique I will dispense now.

Action: Holy. Painful. Blueballs. Absolutely amazing. You’ve all heard of the “big moments:” Neo fights 100 Agent Smiths. Neo flying. An interstate scene with intense action. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s all true. They were incredible. The interstate scene was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I had to clean my pants at least three times. I really don’t want to comment on anything else, in case of spoiling it, but sweet lord. Pay whatever it takes to see this stuff on the big screen, folks. Just sell your soul if you must – I would, and it’d even be my second time.

Plot: This is where I have to see the movie at LEAST 14 more times. Make sure you’ve seen and completely understand the first movie, guys, cuz that is merely a stepping stool compared to this climbing wall of a plot. I can’t even begin to explain it. Neo is the one. They’re looking for a way to save Zion. Bad stuff goes down. Let’s fight about it. Okay, now let’s talk for 30 minutes about the aftermath of the fight. Let’s get angry about this talk. Let’s relieve our frustration by fighting. Talk about this fighting. So on and so forth.

Wait. I’m complaining? Dang! Fight, yo! More action, the better! But still, the movie does dig really deep into some philosophical issues and such, issues that I will look for next time. Tonight was eye candy, so this section of my review is weak. Just like my knees. For the Matrix.

Characters: Definitely good and definitely poor at the same time. Jada Pinkett Smith… whatever, dude. Your part was weak, meaningless, and the glasses really irked me. Moving on to the good characters: Neo. Keanu, you suck at acting, but I laud you for your ability to make it APPEAR like you can act. So the good acting portraying acting is… good? Well, anyway you’re confusing as an actor, but as Neo, you rock my world. Props, kid. Morpheus. Dude. You wielded a Kitana and I’d date you if I were gay. That’s all I gotta say. Trinity. Dude. You ride a motorcycle and I’d date you if I were straight. That’s all I gotta say. Agent Smith. Very confusing role, still not quite understanding it, but it should be good in the next movie. The Twins. Please come back again. You created some amazing battle scenes and the fact you were both twins and never knew which one was fighting was cool. Other characters. Whatever, everyone rocked my world. Well, except for Jada. Go back to your poorly rapping husband, Jada.

Okay, dudes. I really should sleep. This is my review of The Matrix: Reloaded. All in all, I think this movie was incredibly kick ass and definitely deserves at least 3 more serious looks in a theatre. I give it two spoons up.

Peter "Totally Sweet" Ilten

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

And now for something a bit different. A guest blogger.

The Matrix Has Me
An Anticipatory Essay by Jeff Bozeman

When I think about the first time I saw The Matrix, I get very nostalgic. I think I spent more time standing and cheering than actually sitting. I was literally blown away by the dynamic visuals of the movie. It took me back to my childhood when all I would ever watch was the Star Wars Trilogy. Also like the Star Wars Trilogy, the more I watched The Matrix the deeper the movie became to me; once I had gotten past the visual shock. Naturally, the movie became a conversation piece for my friends and I. We watched it countless times, analyzing details and arguing over it. We would make our own movies that were directly inspired by The Matrix. I wasn't the only one either; The Matrix has become a part of pop culture and will continue to be an icon.

I am very excited for The Matrix: Reloaded because it allows for the original Matrix experience to be deepened. The Matrix experience is too big for only one movie - you can tell because you couldn't stop talking about it after you left the theater. Whether or not The Matrix: Reloaded is better than the first movie doesn't matter. The Matrix already has me.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Wake up, Neo...

The Matrix has you...

Follow the white rabbit.

Knock, knock, Neo.

T-minus 30 hours and 08 minutes until The Matrix:Reloaded. I can't even contain myself. I have to go. The Matrix has me.

Friday, May 09, 2003

The Wild ride continues!

For those readers not in the know, "the Minnesota Wild defeated the Vancouver Canucks 4-2 in game seven to advance to the Western Conference Finals. The Wild became the first team in NHL history to battle back from two 3-1 deficits in the same playoff year." - wild.com.

What a great game. You can see all the highlights from the game here. A big thanks to my dear friend Shawn "Twist Up" Kennedy for getting me into hockey these last few weeks. I don't know where I would be without him. I'm not sure how long my hockey phase will last, but no matter the length, I have witnessed some great hockey these last few days and weeks. The Minnestota Wild play in game one of the Western Conference Finals at 2pm central time on ABC this upcoming Saturday. I wish them all the best of luck (as if they need it).

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Holy frisbee, Batman!

I have just watched one of the coolest commercials ever made. The advertisement is for Nike Freestyle, a branch of Nike of which I have never heard. Nevertheless, this short video sure got my attention. You can download it here. Don't worry, I know you are all dying for an in-depth analysis of the entire commercial. I am so ahead of you.

The commercial begins on a beach with a guy throwing a frisbee forehand-style to another guy who proceeds to jump off of a building and catch said frisbee during the jump. Impressive, yes, but if my friends and I had 2 hours and a video camera, we could pull the same stunt and make it look cool, too. This brings me to one of my only problems with the commercial. I didn't notice this the first time, but the video makes cuts from throws to catches, etc., instead of showing a single shot of the whole throw/stunt/maneuver. This lowers the credibility factor somewhat, but other parts of the commercial make up for it. Besides, maybe Nike just wanted to make the commercial more interesting and appealing. Or maybe the freestyle frisbee players suck, so the editors had to make up for their crappy abilities. No, probably not. I digress. The commercial continues with the guy pulling a land-somersault-pass trick that looks cool, not to mention that he throws a "thumber". Next, a guy in orange shorts - we will call him "Baldy" - catches the disc behind his back. It wouldn't be so impressive had he not continued to seamlessly throw a beautiful pass directly after the catch. Enter Stick-dude. I don't know who you think you are, Stick-dude, but you don't deserve to be in this commercial. The only two creatures that deserve to play frisbee are humans and dogs. What was Nike thinking? "I'll bet viewers would be impressed with a CG stick person that can play frisbee!" No. If you're going to make a frisbee commercial, we want to see humans play frisbee. Thank you. Moving on. Red-shirt guy catches the frisbee behind his back (although not as impressively as Baldy. Baldy has probably been playing longer than Red-shirt guy). Red-shirt guy throws it to Baldy, and then my jaw drops to the floor. Baldy keeps the disc spinning using only one finger all while flipping, twisting and jump-kicking himself crazy. Then, out of nowhere, Baldy busts out the "why-don't-I-take-a-spinning-frisbee-and-balance-it-on-my-teeth?" trick. Kids, don't try this at home. There really are no words to describe the amount of respect I hold for Baldy in my heart. That was uber-cool, Baldy. After his sweet move, Baldy throws the disc to Stick-dude, and Stick-dude does some unimpressive moves with it (once again, it is not human). Stick-dude passes it to Red-shirt guy and Red-shirt guy tries unsucessfully to be as cool as Baldy. Sorry man. Keep practicing. Now we return to jumped-off-a-bulding guy, who is suddenly breakdancing on a patio table... and suddenly catches the disc mid-breakdance (thus, he is now dubbed "Breakdancer-man"). Amazing. Breakdancing is hard enough as it is for a suburban white boy such as myself, and then this guy throws in a small dance area and flying objects. Nice work, Breakdancer-man. Once again, Red-shirt guy tries to impress us with his skills; he even shows us that he can kick the disc! Nice try. Baldy can balance the spinning disc on his foot... and his teeth. Stick-guy then makes another crappy cameo, and Red-shirt guy finally pulls a really sweet move. Somehow he rolls the disc from one arm to the other, across his back. Good job, Red-shirt guy. Breakdancer-man then throws the frisbee during another cool breakdance-ish move. I mean really, should we expect any less from Breakdancer-man at this point? I think not. Then, in an act of beautiful irony, the commercial ends by having the disc ripped from Stick-dude's evil stubs by a dog that then completely buries Stick-dude in the sand! Maybe by the end of the commercial's production Nike figured it out. Humans and dogs only.

The whole Nike Freestyle website can be found here. On the site are a couple of other good commercials of the same sort for soccer and basketball. Frisbee still reigns.

If you tried downloading the movie, but it wouldn't play, and you aren't satisfied solely by my beautiful and eloquent review, you can download the Quicktime player here.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Okay, so I am incredibly excited for The Matrix: Reloaded. And why shouldn't I be? The Matrix is without a doubt one of the best ten movies ever made, possibly even in the top five. The first time I saw the original Matrix was at my friend Eric Sinnard's house on a big screen TV in his basement. Do you remember your first time? If someone hadn't spoiled the plot of the movie before you saw it, then the first viewing of the original Matrix is unlike any other experience. Ever. Sure, X-2 raked in like 80 bajillion dollars on its opening weekend, but I believe it is quite obvious that Reloaded is going to blow the X-Men gang out of the water. The thing that is even better about The Matrix is that is essentially came out of nowhere. The original X-Men movie was highly anticipated, but The Matrix was not highly promoted at all. Enough with my babbling. I have watched the trailer for the movie nearly every day since it first appeared on the official website, and I will travel any distance and conquer any enemy to see a midnight showing next week.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Being a music minor certainly has its downfalls. I have to sing in seminar tonight, which is when all of the students who take lessons from the same voice professor get together in a small room, and four or five of the students sing a piece which they have prepared. I will be singing "Amarilli, mia bella" by Giulio Caccini. Seventeenth century Italian art songs aren't exactly my favorite genre of music, but this little ditty manages to tickle my fancy, if you will. Hopefully I can get the Italian memorized before I have to sing. The last thing I want is to look like a moron in front of senior voice-majors.

My name is Jake. I am a college student attending Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and I am studying a major in Religion (Christianity) with a minor in Music. Who knows what I will post on my newly-created blog, not to mention how often. In fact, there is a fairly good chance that this is the last post I will make. I will probably just forget that I created it. There is also a good chance that I will post diligently... we'll just have to see. I don't really know why anyone would want to read this, but it sort of makes me feel special to have my very own blog in which I can post my most intimate secrets and most idiotic ramblings.