We rented Equilibrium on DVD last night. I was expecting it to be a shite Matrix rip-off, but I ended up quite enjoying it. The storyline is basically Farenheit 451 meets This Perfect Day. Orwellian hell. Instead of Christ, Marx, Wood and Wei, there's "Father" repeating his message on every TV screen, and every citizen has to take their "Equlibrium" medication daily, to free them from emotion and sensory experience: the reasoning being that these base human experiences were the reason for the wars and murders and atrocities of the past. Instead of book-burning, there's burning of anything luxurious or "sensory": paintings, trinkets, ornaments, records, books of poetry. The hero is a high priest-style policeman who learns to "feel", and ends up rebelling against the system.
The movie explores aspects of feeling and sensory experience that we probably take for granted and don't think about. There's a particularly poignant scene where the hero, who's off his medication, is walking up a wide set of stairs amidst a throng of people trudging along, and for the first time, he starts looking around him and taking notice of - sensing - his surroundings. Ahead of him, he sees an old woman (obviously not taking her druks either), who removes her glove and allows her hand to run along a railing. The power of the scene, apart from the revelatory experience the hero has, is that this scene could probably be played out in any of a million modern cities today. It's a metaphor for own lives, I guess: how often are we so caught up that we don't appreciate the simple things that make us human?
The Matrix-esque fighting has an interesting hook: a style of fighting called gun-kata, where the student is taught to anticipate gunfire patterns based on tons of statistical analysis blahdy-blah. Net effect: the ability for one "cleric" to take on roomfuls of machine-gun toting opponents and blitz the lot of them. Suspend disbelief for a bit, and it makes for incredibly cool fight scenes. Well worth the watch just for that.
Given that I've never read F451 (and saw the movie back in the 80s), I think finding a copy of the book and the movie are going to be my next project.
Apart from that, I spent too much time tinkering with computer games that wouldn't work. I managed to get Wing Commander: Prophecy going (sort of). Boy... I bought this game in 2000 or earlier, and I'd never gotten around to installing it. My Logitech Wingman joystick, bought in 2002 when I could scarcely afford it, got used for the first time since the weekend I bought it. Sad, man, sad. As for my WC woes, it seems Sound Blasters are the culprit: the cinematics skip and are unwatchable. I might end up hijacking Ronwen's machine to play it properly including narrative, but in the meantime I spent the day getting my ass whupped in the Wing Commander training simulator.
We popped into Cresta so I could return the second faulty copy of the Black Sabbath CD I bought a while back (note to self: don't buy locally-produced CDs, you should know this by now), and ended up popping into the Manhattan Grill for dinner. *Burp*
Oh yes, during the week, I also finished reading Masters of Doom: a biography of John Carmack and John Romero, the two personalities behind id Software and classics like Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake. A good read, even though I stumbled across an interview at a gaming site, where other id founders reckon the book is a bit sensationalist. Either way, I enjoyed it. What's especially cool about this book, is that unlike many of the annals-of-geek-history stories from the 70s and 80s (which I'm a big sucker for), this book's history is something I can relate to, because I lived through it :-) I remember spending hours playing the original Wolfenstein 3D, as a student. I remember myself and colleagues playing networked Doom after hours at KPMG. I remember playing the original Quake (the sound of the zombies' flesh blobs landing splat is indelibly imprinted in my synapses). Nowadays we take these things for granted, but jeez, back then these games were making the impossible happen. First-person shooters, where you were part of the action? Realistic 3D graphics? Fighting your buddies across a network? These were mind-blowing things once.
As always, the book paints a picture that many would see as geek nirvana: the obscenely hard work doing absolutely awesome stuff, the genius that brought these things to life, and the rewards that followed - but at the same time, it tells the story of how reality always comes knocking: the politics, the personal issues, the fallibility. Inspiring, and sobering at the same time.