i went into the theatre thinking this matrix sequel wouldn't be very good, so i set the bar pretty low. from the few different versions of the trailer i saw, the special effects seemed to be too cgi, which for me is like the kiss of death when the cgi is so fake that starts to distract me from actually watching the movie. i'm happy to report that, yes, there were instances of distractingly fake cgi, but they went by quickly and didn't detract from the overall enjoyment of the movie, which i liked, despite being very bored with it for the first half of the story.

matrix: reloaded follows neo and trinity and morpheus (the gang's all back!) as neo tries to find his purpose in life, kind of like the messiah looking for his mission. trinity is worried because neo won't tell her about the recurring nightmares he's been having where she apparently dies in the matrix, dreams that he fears are prophetic. morpheus is busy dealing with zionist bureaucracy back home, against people in the government who don't believe in this messiah and would rather have morpheus and his crew stay put and defend zion from an imminent mechanized invasion.

the thing i noticed right away is how the film takes itself so seriously. the dialogue is heavy in matrix speak, this blend of digital mysticism created by the filmmakers for this universe. there's a tendency for the story to crawl to a halt as characters expound further about neo being "the one" or realizing the "prophecy." that's pretty much the first half of the movie, and some may say perhaps the entire movie. i was pretty bored as my eyes glazed over from the dialogue. the one good thing is because the dialogue is so confusing, it gives the viewer a lot of time to try to figure out what they're saying. this matrix sequel is almost like an art film, very pretty to look at, with just a small amount of story that you kind of have to figure out for yourself, as nothing is really explained to you. perhaps this is a clever studio trick to get repeat customers.

it's definitely a kinder and gentler matrix, if that's even possible. besides the predominance of the love story between neo and trinity (which seems kind of forced by the way, what do they see in each other, except they're both pretty to look at? is it because each has saved the other person's life? i mean, do they have any other common interests? this is not going to be a lasting relationship, i sense trouble up ahead), the violence is also different. the original matrix for me will be forever tainted by the blood of columbine, as apparently it seems the movie was one of the inspirations for the trenchcoat mafias. that whole scene where neo and trinity enter the office building to rescue morpheus and ends up killing all the security guards (who are just innocent bystanders, doing their jobs, who are all going to die because of trinity and neo), in this post-columbine and especially in this post-911 world, that stuff doesn't fly. so watch carefully: the good guys (neo, trinity, morpheus, etc.) never really kill anyone when they fight. also, those that they do fight, they're all well established "bad guys," not just innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire.

matrix: reloaded also reminds me a lot of that classic 80's science fiction movie tron, in that they operate from a virtual world that exists only inside of a machine, and throughout the movie, we meet characters who aren't humans nor agents but specialized programs, existing the matrix to serve a specific function. this sounds a lot like tron, except packaged in glossy 21st century coolness. in the original this wasn't as apparent, but in the sequel it's hard not to see the similarities between the two movies.

about the action, it goes without saying that nobody does the matrix effect better than the matrix people themselves. neo fighting a hundred agent smiths, or the highway chase scene, all very dazzling action sequences, but they didn't blow me away as the first time i saw the matrix. the last movie to truly make me awestrucked with its action sequences was equilibrium, and before that it was probably crouching tiger, hidden dragon. matrix: reloaded didn't hit me in the same way.

major spoiler: the ending was complicated and i'm not sure how many theatre patrons will actually get it without an explanation from someone better versed in understanding the matrix. from what i understand, the messiah is created by the machines, who periodically generate an anomaly to purge the last remaining free humans. the anomaly, this messiah, then picks an equal number of men and women to seed the future generation of humanity, and the cycle starts again. that to me was the cool part of the movie once i started to understand what they were saying amidst the confusing dialogue. that little surprise, how neo is just a tool of the machines, completely made it for the rather lackluster story up to that point. when the movie finally ended on a cliffhanger, it made me want to come back for the third installment.

should you see it? those who are going to see have already decided. people on the fence who haven't seen the original should see the original first before seeing this one, and if you have no interests in science fiction, you could probably skip it and live a happy life not knowing what the matrix was all about.

i went out this morning and saw that the not-so-mysterious recycle bin dumper had already struck my neighborhood, the bins of my fellow neighbors filled to almost full capacity. thinking that i'd be safe, i finally brought out my recycle bin along with a smattering of recycleable trash. after several hours of painting (last coat on the stairwell baseboards, first coat on the upstairs window trims, and final coat on the sashes, the oil paint stains on my arms still not washing off), i came back to my house and realized to my horror that once again i've been victimized by the recycle bin bandit, my box full of discarded cardboard pieces. certainly there has to be some sort of law that forbids others to dump trash into your cans, recycleable or not. next week i'm going to leave a note in my bin (i'm assuming that the trash bandit can read) saying something discreet like, "don't f* dump you s* in my trash!"

i had some project work i had to do for gaylen and tom. i got as far as i could, before i went with bruce (my neighbor and sometimes painter/demolition partner) to the mt.auburn cemetery. today's weather was overcasted with an occasional break in the clouds, temperature in the 60's, perhaps the warmest day out of the rest of the week. bruce was prepared for some serious naturing, he had a pair of binoculars and a peterson field guide to birds. once we got to the cemetery, we made our way to auburn lake, which from years past i know to be a great spot to see birds, especially warblers around this time of the year. this is also a good birding time in general as the leaves have yet to come out completely, so it's still easy to spot birds hiding in the trees. our first "serious" bird that required field guide consultation was a male common yellowthroat, its black mask unmistakeable once we got a fix on it through our lenses. i was unable to get a decent photo as it was quite secretive and hid in the hedges.

we were also able to identify two other kinds of warblers, the black-and-white warbler, it's almost zebra striped pattern tinged with some characteristic yellow, and the yellow-rumped warbler (both male and female), or as we like to them, the "yellow ass warblers" for their unmistakeable yellow rumps. they were of the myrtle variant, the male with an attractive black mask (kind of like the common yellowthroat). the warblers are pretty if you can see them (you definitely need binoculars to catch them), but nothing beats the baltimore orioles in terms of flash, as we saw a trio of male orioles chasing each other around the lake. our last identifiable bird was a male northern flicker, its song sounding similar to a mocking laugh. a van full of female students descended upon auburn lake. we originally thought they were birders as well, but turns out they were RISD students on a cemetery tour looking at the gravestones.

song sparrow


eastern kingbird

baltimore oriole

baltimore oriole

northern flicker

also in the lake were many bullfrogs and painted turtles. the bullfrogs were well camouflaged enough that you wouldn't notice them right away, but if you walked to the lake's edge, they'd quickly hop out to deeper waters. some of the frogs were quite massive, about the size of a game hen (good eating!). the turtles were busy sunning themselves on clumps of water grass. the turtles here seem small, but they don't really have any protected places to sun (like a small island), so they can't get very big. later during the day bruce e-mailed me some frog info. did you know that you can tell the sex of the frog from its "ears"? female frogs have tympanic membranes about the size of their eyes, while male frogs have much larger tympanic membranes. i just think frogs are gross looking, with their evil unblinking amphibian eyes! stop looking at me! and their warty glistening skin!

oh, and there were also flowers in the cemetery. my new favorite fragrant flower is the viburnum, and i finally think that all those flowering trees julie and i saw on our last run are in fact crab apple trees, since there were a whole bunch at mt.auburn that looked just like the ones we saw.




crab apple

flowering dogwood

saucer magnolia




when i got home, did some more project related work, then went to star market to buy some groceries to make french bread pizza. this time i used some kielbasa along with the pepperoni, and a sprinkle of fennel seeds topped with basil leaves. word to the wise: never bake leaves of any kind! they will char and become dust! which is what happened to my basil leaves. the pizzas were so-so, i'll use better bread and tomato sauce next time.

alex stopped by close to 8pm to pick me up to go see matrix: reloaded at the revere cinema. he bought the tickets earlier today for the 10:15pm showing. the place was pretty packed, most people coming to see the same movie we were going to see. after the movie alex gave me a ride back to cambridge.