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Babylon 5.1
by Rick Norwood

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Ratings are based on a four star system.
One star means that the commercials are more entertaining than the program.
Two stars watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars is good solid entertainment.
Four stars means you never dreamed television could be this good.

When I have no deadlines, I go into a mode I call "Do one thing and then do one thing." By that I mean that I concentrate on what I'm doing, and don't worry about the task just finished or what I may do next. It helps me work three jobs -- writer, publisher, teacher -- and still have time for this column. Because there has not been anything worth watching on television since last issue, I'm going to write one thing and then write one thing.

The Matrix Reloaded I watched The Matrix Reloaded again. I stand by my review. Actually, I watched The Matrix on DVD and then the next day watched Reloaded on the big screen. The dialogue was a little more interesting the second time around -- in particular the long speech by The Architect, which is dense with information about the Matrix universe. I found the special effects a lot less interesting, because I knew that they were pure cream filling with no impact on the plot -- Neo was going to wind up in that room with The Architect because he was destined to do so, and the outcome of the furious battles had nothing to do with it. The Architect gave the Keymaker the information Neo needed to know, and the Architect created the obstacles along the way. As the film makes explicit, Neo has all these powers, but he hasn't a clue. He cries out that he wants to be in control, but a lack of self-knowledge prevents him from acting effectively. So he just does what he is told. The film is explicit about this in several places. I assume that in the third movie, instead of saying "It's up to you," as he did at the end of The Matrix, he will come to know himself, and be able to say, "Now it's up to me." Or not, in which case we'll just have bigger and louder explosions.

I have been taken to task by a few readers for being overly dismissive of the "philosophy of the Matrix", and so I will summarize that "philosophy" in a few words. A) Reality is what we perceive it to be (if it tastes like steak, it is steak) unless we have a higher destiny in which case we give up our fantasy world and struggle with the gritty reality. To paraphrase Mammy Yokum, "Reality is more real than fantasy, because it's uglier." B) The purpose of power is to get more power, but power is an illusion because C) There is no such thing as free will or choice, everything is predestined. But D) if you understand your own motivations (aside: this is the philosophy of Alcoholics Anonymous), then you can change your destiny. E) Love conquerors all.

Four out of five ain't bad. I've never known a real relationship between a man and a women that bore even the faintest resemblance to the relationship between Neo and Trinity.

Comics Revue

In my monthly magazine, Comics Revue, I will be publishing two great science fiction comic strips. The first is Flash Gordon by Harry Harrison, who wrote the strip from 1958-1966. The second is Tarzan by Russ Manning, now appearing in full color in every issue. For more info, go to

Cinefantastique, which is almost unrecognizable now that Frederick Clarke is gone, reviews all of the 2003 science fiction, fantasy, and superhero films up to but not including The Matrix Reloaded and the film that got the most stars (adding up the stars of all the different reviewers) was -- Cowboy Bebop! My reaction? Perfect choice! A faint echo of the day when Cinefantastique was the only movie magazine that refused to gush over blockbusters.

Turns out I was wrong about the ratings. Firefly had HIGHER! ratings than Enterprise or Buffy or Angel. So why wasn't it renewed? My guess is the suits just didn't get it, and the same people who nixed the idea of starting the series with the pilot, instead of ending it with the pilot, nixed the rest of the season. And you know what? They were right. More people, a lot more people, would rather watch women make fools of themselves over an ersatz millionaire. Sometimes I despair for the human race.

Copyright © 2003 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.

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