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<nettime> Re: The Matrix Reloaded (digest) [guderian, miller]
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<nettime> Re: The Matrix Reloaded (digest) [guderian, miller]

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   Re: <nettime> The Matrix Reloaded                                               
     Carl Guderian <carlg {AT} vermilion-sands.com>                                       

   The Matrix and Buddha's Birthday                                                
     "Paul D. Miller" <anansi1 {AT} earthlink.net>                                        


Date: Wed, 21 May 2003 10:06:34 +0000
From: Carl Guderian <carlg {AT} vermilion-sands.com>
Subject: Re: <nettime> The Matrix Reloaded

And, er, whoever gave away a major part of the plot, could you please
not do that or at least wait until more than a few weeks after the movie
comes out? 



Maybe that invention promised for Matrix Revolutions is a beam aimed at
everyone's "god spot"...

Jesse Hirsh wrote:
> > But, what is most amazing about 'The Matrix Reloaded' is its rhythm, the
> > non-stop *speed* employed throughout the movie. The new matrix is a film
> > that feels like a videogame. It has the aesthetics of a game, but more than
> > that, it tells the story as if it were just that, a videogame.
> well, that's cause it is a video game:
> http://www.enterthematrixgame.com/
> just because you paid, say $12 to see a 2 hour movie. i'd reckon the
> primary market is the $50 multi-platform video game market.
> [...]
> jesse :)

- -- 
I always cry at chemical weddings - Rose E. Cross


Date: Wed, 21 May 2003 17:29:36 -0400
From: "Paul D. Miller" <anansi1 {AT} earthlink.net>
Subject: The Matrix and Buddha's Birthday

it's another one of those rotation scenarios - recycle, remix, 
re-incarnate... of minds and machines, the only different is flava...

the matrix reloaded was pretty tame, but the over arching vision is 
still pretty solid. It was hilarious to see Cornell West querying 
Lawrence Fishbourne as an "elder of Zion" but hey.... who's counting.


The Matrix way of knowledge
 From the Gnostic gospels to the visions of Descartes to the shamanic 
quests of Eastern mystics, the Wachowski brothers' pop opus weaves a 
dense web of philosophical and metaphysical allusions.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -
By Erik Davis

May 21, 2003  |  The most curious feature of Warner Bros' official 
Matrix Web site is not the handful of jaw-dropping "Animatrix" clips, 
but the collection of high-quality philosophical essays by heavy 
hitters like Hubert Dreyfus, Colin McGinn and the cognitive science 
superstar David Chalmers. These essays, which hash out Descartes, 
Mahayana Buddhism and the proverbial "brain in the vat" problem, are 
all the evidence you need that the Wachowski brothers' original 1999 
film has vaulted into that curious category of Big Think mainstream 
sci-fi films -- and that they want the "kickass" sequel to extend the 

No one is surprised when filmmakers like Andrei Tarkovsky or Chris 
Marker or Stanley Kubrick use future shtick for metaphysical 
purposes, but it's another thing for Hollywood action fare -- 
designed to reap big bucks from the popcorn crowd -- to create a 
space of inquiry into philosophical, political and spiritual 
questions, however "comic book" the frame. Movies like "Blade 
Runner," "Robocop," "They Live," "Minority Report" and the "Alien" 
and "Terminator" flicks have managed, sometimes through no fault of 
their own, to edge toward the profound. But the Wachowski brothers 
made it to the top of this heap with the most lucrative sci-fi action 
empire to feed the questioning, and questing, mind.

Now, with demiurgic ambitions matched only by "Lord of the Rings" 
director Peter Jackson, the brothers have unveiled the next chapter 
of their live-action post-apocalyptic anime franchise. As a movie, 
"The Matrix Reloaded" has some serious flaws: Many sequences drag, 
the pacing is jangled and there are far too many dreadlocks. But I 
have no problems with the pretentious, concept-heavy dialogue. Some 
reviewers imply that this metaphysical kitsch detracts from the fun; 
for some of us, it is the fun. At one point in the new film Neo 
returns to the Matrix and wanders through a street market full of 
religious junk: chintzy Mother Maries, head-shop Shiva posters, and 
blinking Jesus plaques. This is the pop carnival of souls where the 
Matrix films rightly take their place -- the flea market of genre 
movies and rumors of God that, for many these days, is the only 
portal left into the meaning of it all. In the words of Philip K. 
Dick, whose spirit (but not tone) hangs over the Matrix, "The symbols 
of the divine initially show up at the trash stratum."

The Wachowski brothers may be too self-conscious about their divine 
trash, but in the end that's what feels true, or at least 
contemporary, about the Matrix films: their excessive 
self-consciousness about selves and consciousness. The original 
"Matrix" hit home by digitally remastering a time-honored (because 
always timely) conundrum: How do I know that reality is not a total 
illusion? Though this question gives off a cheesy adolescent fizz, 
it's more than a stoned gedanken experiment, like Pinto's speculation 
in "Animal House" that our entire universe might be an atom in some 
all-being's fingernail. The question lies at the heart, at least, of 
Western epistemology, with Descartes.

In order to escape medieval authority and embrace the proud autonomy 
of the rational "I," Descartes battled a "demon of doubt" that 
undermined everything it could, including the reality of the world 
before the philosopher's eyes. Descartes' skepticism, with its sci-fi 
scenarios of false worlds and automatons disguised as human beings, 
initiated a revolution in thinking that, in some sense, ultimately 
leads to the universal machines that sit on our particular desks. The 
Matrix, with its mathematicized objects and Cartesian coordinates, is 
really Descartes' storyboard.

Descartes dreamed great dreams as well -- like the angel who appeared 
to him one September night, proclaiming, "The conquest of nature is 
to be achieved through measure and number." Most of us have such 
veridical dreams on occasion, when visionary Technicolor truths burst 
through the usual REM murk. At the very least, the power of these 
dreams reminds us that the "false reality" problem strikes a far 
deeper note than skepticism alone can sound. Millenniums ago, human 
beings had to face the fact that our minds regularly pass through 
realms very different from the seemingly solid world, however we 
choose to interpret them. In other words, the Matrix problem arises 
from our wetware's capacity, through dreams, drugs or trance, to boot 
up radically different worlds of consciousness. That's why Descartes' 
skepticism still resonates with cultural narratives as different as 
Hindu folklore or Gnostic myth or the Taoist Zhuangzi's famous quip 
(intended with more comedy than I think we now hear): "How do I know 
I am a man dreaming he was a butterfly, and not a butterfly dreaming 
he is a man?"

The Matrix problem becomes particularly unavoidable in the age of 
virtual technologies, which constantly narrate their own totalizing 
dreams of "world-building" and "experience design." Of course, media 
have long sought to create immersive spaces of fictional reality: 
Baroque cathedrals, 19th century panoramas, even, perhaps, the 
Paleolithic caves of Lascaux or Altamira. Today, the accelerating 
perceptual technologies of media are on a collision course with 
cognitive science and its understanding of how the human nervous 
system produces the real-time matrix we take for ordinary space-time. 
So we should not be surprised at the massive popularity of a 
Hollywood slug-fest where dream and reality and virtual technology 
enfold one another. Not only does the film mythologize the game-world 
aspirations of so much popular media, it stimulates the corresponding 
desire to crack through -- and remake -- the construct.

What was particularly savvy about the Wachowskis' comic-book movie 
was that its mirror-shade cool reflected any number of readings -- 
Marxist, Lacanian, utterly stoned. Perhaps most surprising, and 
influential, was its use of religious symbols and viewpoints. Most 
viewers picked up on the Christian elements of the first film, which 
center on Neo's role as a savior figure, but the deep frame of both 
movies is a more esoteric pop stew of Gnostic and Buddhist ideas. The 
Gnostics of antiquity transformed the analogy of Plato's cave into a 
full-blown and harrowing cosmology: We are strangers trapped in a 
strange land, they argued, immortal sparks slumbering in a material 
cosmos fashioned by an evil or ignorant demiurge and his nefarious 
archons. The Buddhist analysis is less personalistic: We are stuck on 
the delusive merry-go-round of samsara, an almost mechanical system 
of causes and conditions that fools us into believing the self and 
the world are substantially real. In both cases, we step toward the 
light not through grace or the remission of sins, but through the 
direct awakening of insight into our condition. Neo must swallow his 
pill and take the ride himself.

Opening in theaters on Buddha's birthday, "The Matrix Reloaded" 
clearly places itself in a crypto-religious landscape. There's a ship 
called the Logos, characters like Seraph and Persephone and Neo's 
hushed worship by the multiculti masses of Zion. Neo's mystic powers 
are growing as well: His "second sight," which allows him to see into 
the underlying code inside the Matrix, lets him read energy bodies 
and, in a remarkable fusion of Christ myth and shamanism, resurrect 
Trinity by removing a bullet embedded in her body. But "The Matrix 
Reloaded" would have been lame if it had simply followed its Gnostic 
bodhisattva superhero around as he kicked ass in Jesuit robes. 
Instead, to keep the cognitive sparkle, the Wachowskis altered the 
conceptual maps of the two worlds that Neo moves through: Zion and 
the Matrix.

In the first film, these two worlds had the virtue of simplicity: We 
slipped neatly between the world of the Matrix, with its single 
nefarious agenda, and the revolutionary messianic world of Morpheus' 
ship, the Nebuchadnezzar. But "The Matrix Reloaded" complicates these 
two worlds. Before the Nebuchadnezzar even arrives at Zion, we 
realize that Morpheus -- previously the hierophantic voice of truth 
- -- may simply be crazy, an irrational demagogue, a renegade believer. 
Meanwhile, the Matrix grows far more complex. In the first film we 
sensed a unity of purpose and design behind the agents and their 
urban landscape, but now we confront a Babel of programs: rogue 
self-replicating agents, the power-mad Merovingian, the intuitive 
Oracle, all competing in an open-ended nest of potentially infinite 
regress. As the Oracle admits to Neo, it's a pickle: There's no way 
for him to know what's going on or whom to believe.

The Matrix comes to resemble the multifarious world of shamanism 
rather than the black-and-white world of the Christian afterlife. 
Neo, the otherworldly voyager, encounters a wide variety of beings, 
each with his or her own contradictory raps and agendas, and none 
entirely trustworthy. The architecture of the Matrix has also become 
pickled, an Escheresque Swiss cheese of transdimensional hallways and 
quantum portals. If "The Matrix" was all about screens and mirror 
shades, "The Matrix Reloaded" is all about keys and doors. The keys 
are codes of course, the language of encryption, but they are also 
the keys of magicians navigating through angel-space. And the portals 
we keep passing through remind us that the action lies between the 
worlds, as the conventional cartography of the Matrix melts into the 
metamorphic palaces of dream.

After all, however much you resonate with the cabalistic or Marxist 
metaphors, the Matrix most resembles the shifting virtual worlds that 
our brain conjures nightly. The first glimpse that "The Matrix 
Reloaded" gives us of the Matrix -- when Trinity falls to her 
apparent demise beneath a rain of bullets -- turns out to be a 
recurrent dream in Neo's head. What makes this dream a nightmare is 
not just Trinity's death, but Neo's own inability to intervene in the 
scenario. We've all gotten caught in these hypnagogic snares, where 
you face some horror but cannot move -- encased, as it were, in the 
amber of dream time. What we want in these moments is the secret wish 
whose fulfillment animates these films: the desire to awaken inside 
the phantom world and wrest control from the dream machine.

On this level of psychic control, both Matrix films can be read as 
instruction manuals for lucid dreamers. As the first film suggests, 
the simple knowledge that one is dreaming is not usually enough to 
exert control on the illusory world; instead, one achieves full 
creative action only after a lot of training in the dreaming dojo. 
The first thing that a lot of dreamers do when they first go lucid is 
also one of the first visual pleasures "The Matrix Reloaded" gives 
us: flight. Neo's bat-winged cruise through the moonstruck heavens is 
not just a Superman reference, but also a specific invocation of our 
own dream experience. This is what people don't understand about the 
Wachowskis' special effects, many of which revolve around virtual 
camera moves impossible to generate in the real world. Remember the 
subconscious equation of film: I am the camera. When the Wachowskis 
propel their camera faster than a speeding bullet, when it swoops and 
dives with angelic grace or whips through a frozen moment of 
space-time -- these novel perceptions strike us at first as virtual 
experiences, familiar only through dream time or trance.

Of course, the novelty of these effects wears off fast, and we soon 
assimilate the technique as mere technological rhetoric. "Bullet 
Time" sells beer now; we are not impressed. Our rapidly jaded eyes 
drive the arms race of special effects, a race that suggests that we 
will not be satisfied until we somehow break through and manipulate 
space itself -- a pleasure now increasingly available through 
computer games, like the Wachowskis' own "Enter the Matrix." As in 
lucid dreams, the question is all about control, a control that 
necessarily implies a certain technical disenchantment. We can 
control our dreams when we recognize they are merely dreams, just as 
we can create the "magic" of FX only with the total mathematicization 
of space-time and the images of human bodies.

The Matrix films are not neo-Luddite propaganda; the Wachowski 
brothers recognize that technology accompanies all our dreams. Early 
in the film, an insomniac Neo wanders through the depths of Zion as 
Councilor Hamann draws his attention to an irony only implicit in the 
first film: The good guys also depend utterly on machines. In their 
stilted chat, Neo differentiates between the Matrix and Zion's 
technological infrastructure, a steam-punk space of Tesla-coil arc 
lights and corroded "Modern Times" gears that looks back to the 
organic textures of the last century. Neo implies that Zion is free 
because humans have control. But this 19th century romance only 
raises the question Hamann asks him: "What is control?"

This question is not just the nut of the movie. It is the central 
koan of our cybernetic civilization and its ever more intricate 
symbiosis with algorithms, control systems and the kind of 
self-replicating bots suggested by Agent Smith. All the 
representatives of the Matrix, even the Oracle, continually suggest 
that conscious human agency is not what it's cracked up to be. During 
his first balletic bash with Neo, Smith, though now apparently a 
"free agent" like Neo, insists that everything is determined by its 
purpose. He does not use the term as Morpheus later does, to suggest 
destiny or a higher calling. Instead, he means a techno-Darwinian 
logic, a programmed calculus of success. His is the voice of the 
evolutionary psychologist, who delights in deconstructing our most 
spirited social actions in terms of the base advantage they confer. 
This is also the perspective of the Merovingian, who comes off as a 
curious hybrid between "Jesus Christ Superstar's" Herod and Pilate. 
With the aphrodisiac piece of pie he feeds a future fuck-bunny, the 
Merovingian raises the distinct glandular possibility that "decision" 
is simply the story the brain tells itself about the neural cascades 
of electrochemical reactions that underlie behavior. Code rules: 
Despite appearances, we are out of control.

As mythographers, the Wachowski brothers realize that the cybernetic 
problem of control reboots the hoary old struggle between freedom and 
fate. Morpheus, for example, is convinced that everything is 
proceeding according to cosmic plan, but his increasingly tedious 
speechifying about destiny and prophecy weirdly mirrors Agent Smith's 
grim talk of mechanical purpose. What, then, is the proper rejoinder 
to determinism? The Oracle tells Neo that "You are here to understand 
why you made the choice, not to make the choice." I take this to mean 
that, to an awakened one, events and decisions have always already 
occurred, but that understanding and compassion can still dissolve 
their karmic hold.

OK, enough already. It's silly to squeeze too many meanings from a 
cyber-chopsocky flick; as in the anime tradition the Wachowskis draw 
from, metaphysical puzzles are more for atmosphere than answers. I 
won't even get into Neo's final chat with the Architect, although I 
suspect that all the talk of anomalies and contingent affirmations 
won't really add up in the end. But adding up is not really the point 
(unless you are talking about adding up the merchandise sold to fans 
who want to spend as much time as possible in the Wachowskis' 
endlessly nested construct). Like the overly complex plots of film 
noir, which ultimately serve only to increase the vibe of 
claustrophobic paranoia, "The Matrix Reloaded's" fractured chatter is 
in service of an old Gnostic hunch: There is a crack in the cosmic 
machine, and we are the crack.

As I left the theater after watching the new film, I was handed a 
slick little flier. "Take the Red Pill," it said. "Join the 
Resistance." At first I thought it was a Christian tract, but it was 
Not in Our Name's clever attempt at a wake-up call for a very sleepy 
nation. Here are the truths the tract's authors offered: slaughtered 
Iraqis, Orwellian homeland security, deportations and military 
tribunals, endless war and repression. But they also saw a light at 
the end of the rabbit hole. "Another world is possible and we pledge 
to make it real," they said. "Join us." They listed some numbers, and 
I impulsively looked around for the nearest public phone, as if I 
were Clark Kent, or Neo trying to slip back out of the Matrix. I 
didn't see one. They're not easy to find these days.


"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe 
they are free...."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

wildstyle access: www.djspooky.com

Paul D. Miller a.k.a. Dj Spooky that Subliminal Kid

Office Mailing Address:

Subliminal Kid Inc.
101 W. 23rd St. #2463
New York, NY 10011

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