Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Matrix and the Truth

As you most adequately put, the problem is choice. -The Architect in Matrix Reloaded

All I remember about my experience when I watched the Matrix for the first time was that I liked its action and that it was talking about a concept related to software programs that I found a little difficult to get hold of. I knew I did not understand the movie fully. There was a guy who watched the movie with us who said he understood it, and I marvelled at his ability. Today I know he was lying. Not because he told me - I have never met him since - but because the style of story telling that Matrix has is such that it cannot be understood by watching it for the first time. The style is something that is not only unconventional but also not proper. Have you ever read a story where characters speak about something which is actually explained much later? Probably in some suspense thrillers, but even there, the suspense is carefully created. In Matrix, the narration style cares a damn if people understand it or not. They talk about something in scene-1, and we ignore it because we did not understand it, and then its meaning is revealed in scene-10, by which time we have forgotten what happened in scene-1. When the person leaves the theator he is bewildered. He comes back again, and understands scene-1 and realises he is understanding it more now. He comes back again and understands more, the meanings of more scenes. The movie, he says, grows.

As per the rules of narration, this is not a correct way to tell a story, and more so in a movie where you can't go back unless you are watching it at home in a CD or DVD. But for some strange reason, this style of narration has worked beautifully for Matrix and people who have been even little curious after watching it and "chose" to watch it again are never tired of watching it. We may account the success of Matrix to this, apart from the fact that it has the action scenes that have thrilled the kids and those who did not understand the story. Action is an integral part of that movie. You cannot imagine Matrix without action. Though you can watch Matrix for action alone, but to call Matrix an action movie will be like reading Atlas Shrugged for its suspense or going to the caves of Ajanta-Elora for eroticism.

Not just the narration style but even the story of Matrix is not an ordinary one. That the internet is full of Matrix related forums one of which has talked about the meanng of the name Rama-Kandra and finding out that Rama was the ancient Hindu God who was responsible for the victory of good over evil exemplifies the impact the movie has had on the people. Had the brothers named him Shiva-Kandra, it would have been the Hindu God responsible for destruction.

Its very concept is unique and,I dare say, in a way tries to explain the world logically, and realises that even logic is not sufficient to do so. In a world where programs hack programs (the morally bad men), are deleted when they don't have a purpose (death), and talk of love and karma, one may wonder how exactly the "brain" of "God" may have worked to create our world.
Each character represents a philosophy in itself, an emotion, a ras. Neo is the avatar: the one, come in this world to save the people. All characters alongwith Neo give the air of an epic, the Mahabharta, and like all epics, its end is somewhat tragic: it's the triumph of the positive emotions, philosophies and beliefs of the characters, but also makes us realise that neither of these emotions, philosophies and beliefs are complete in themselves. Neo is all powerful, but even he was here just to solve a purpose. It does not have a single hero. Its villian is also not without morals.

The second and third parts of the movie have received criticism, for the simple reason that they did not answer the questions that were raised- only asked more questions. The brothers are silent, which may be amusing to some and interesting to many. Nevertheless, no one has been able to understand the movie fully, the reason probably being that it is not meant to be understood fully. It has many levels, as one of the actors in the movie says, and very few are able to appreciate all levels. And it does leave many things unexplained and unanswered at all levels. Maybe the answers are there in the movie itself, hidden like those hidden doors in that building. Maybe the brothers wanted people to think about the questions it raised and answer it themselves with their own theories and imaginatons, which sure is happenning and will carry on forever. One may never know. But it sure is a movie that inspires and gives hope, a movie that says anything is possible and proves it. It is one of those things that will survive time: even classics die, but some things are there forever. As someone has said about the movie, "It asks more questions than it answers. Maybe that's what keeps things like the Bible alive." He had said it in critical tone, but I hope he understood fully what he said.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Keeping Programming Fun

When I first started with computers and programming it was my hobby. I had fun coding. But now after 9 hours of programming at work, I have little interest in coming home and working on my personal programming projects. I become upset with this fact. Have I ruined my hobby by turning it into a job?

In your hobby you are answerable to no-one but yourself. Once you start doing it for a living - whether it's programming or photography or cooking or playing the trombone - you must compromise your art to pay the bills. You must work on what the client wants, to their specification, and deliver by their deadline. Ultimately, when someone hates their job, it's those things they hate - not the work itself but the constraints in which the work must be done.

So how do we fix this? The most important thing we need to realize is that even geeks need a little non-geeky relief some times. Just poke around and try different things. A lot of figuring out what to do with yourself is just experimenting and dabbling in a bit of everything. Most of the time, you'll never want to do that thing again. But occasionally you'll discover something you are genuinely interested in. Doing different things can open up your horizons and give you different perspectives. It will expand your circle of friends to a group larger than just programmers. All of those will help you to enjoy your work more which just might make programming fun again.

You can do so much with life! Go to gym, play some sport, get some exercise. Or see a movie, get into photography, try dating or go travel. Get outdoors, try skiing, mountain biking, off-roading. Or just relax, make dinner, read a book, hang out at a friend’s house. In short, choose ‘life’ over ‘work’.

But if you still want to do programming, do something different. Start programming your side projects in a different language or environment. Do something you're not allowed to do at work. That is, if you're a games programmer, come home and write database-driven analysis engines. Or take the project assigned to you and completed it using new tools and techniques.

Good developers like exploring new technologies and trying new things out. That's how they stay good developers. Smart companies allow for this. Some places, like Google, have formal policies saying that it's ok to spend a certain percentage of your time on personal projects. At others, it's an informal thing. You enjoy learning new things and this change of pace might just be the ticket.

It's the thrill of discovery, mastering something new that you enjoy, and accomplishment that drew you to programming in the first place. You need to get all that back in the mix. The experience won't hurt your career either.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Mind, Soul and Rebirth

To me there seems to be sort of a grandfather's paradox in the concept of a soul, mind and rebirth.

The fact that all of us have a soul (and htat moves to another body) after death, is a central idea of Hinduism. From here the notion of karma arises. Instinctively, I would like to believe that there is a soul, and i probably do. That is what distinguishes us from machines and say plant life. We as humans can never create a being that can think. The fact that we (humans) can think, can be construed as evidence that we are more than just a living biomass of proteins and various other organic material. There is something more transcedental to a person, than what others can see or touch. This is in the end what distinguishes a person, from another person and makes everybody unique.

The paradox is that if we all live after dying in another body, then how come the population is increasing. Does that mean that souls are somehow being multiplied??/? Because say 10000 years ago there would have been just 5000 humans , and now there are around 10 billion. So either there is some reproduction of souls somewhere, or there are people who do not have a soul.............

Hindu literature says that being born a human is the ultimate gift, and that is solely governed by your karma i,e what u did in your previous life. If one was good in his deeds , then he is born a human next time around and if one does bad karma he/she can be born as an insect also. That could be used to explain the paradox in the sense that there are far more animals and insects doing good karma and dying... That is why they are born as humans. And since humans are the dominant species, other species are slowly decreasing in numbers. So there is a possibility, that sum total of all insects, humans, and animals maybe the same. Which is feasible, but it leaves us facing another question... Why is there crime in this world... Earth should have been a utopia, since other species are dying off and so only good karma is happenning. .......

Also one should muse on the fact that who or what did create all these souls??? Most of us refer to that person as God and the scientists sometimes end up calling it the all elusive God's particle, that kickstarted the universe. All i know that the fact that i am thinking of such abstract thoughts, there is more to me than just living flesh and bone... A testament to the fact that there is some metaphysical thing as the soul. I just do not have all the answers right now.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Sunset Boulevard

Talk, Talk and then talk a little more. Never stop talking about yourself.

You dont have a job, talk. You are in debt, keep talking. An old, delusional, suicidal woman's chimp dies and she keeps you as a replacement, please talk away. Even if you are DEAD, don't let that stop you from talking!

But this movie is not all about a man talking about his life (or his death). This movie is actually about ghosts! How the ghost of bad scripts looms over a wannabe Hollywood script writer. How the ghost of long gone stardom looms over an old silent movie actress. And how seeing that psychotic ghost of his ex-wife-cum-employer turns a director a bit crazy too.

So for the three ghosts we present you with three Oscars !!!

The movie should be named "How *Talking* movies KILLED me!!". Takies killed the silent movie starlet, and all the talking in the movie killed me!