Artificial dissemination

Sunday, November 24, 2002, 00:00

The Matrix is one of those films that tap into, as it were, the theory that it’s really machines that run the world, and that we are only “pigments” of their imagination.

That is what my children were trying to explain the other day; apparently the real date of today is about a hundred years hence (is that why the Millennium Bug failed to materialise?).

Out there, babies are being harvested and placed in pods until they die, whence they provide nutrition for humans (shades of Soylent Green). Their energy, in turn, serves to animate (for want of a better word) the aforesaid machines.

We are, though we may not know it, plugged into sockets that work by suctioning off from, rather than providing energy to, the sorry excuse for the human race we have become.

It’s just like the third Galactic Fleet battleship in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, which is called Suicidal Insanity. Or is it all just a dream?

One would perhaps not be forgiven for assuming that the multitude of gifts offered in sundry magazines by the people at Max+ were already present in the studio, waiting to be claimed.

Is it too much to ask what has happened to them, and whether those people who spent countless amounts of money on postage can ever hope to find out whether they will get any joy, or at least the knowledge that the stamps were put to good use (i.e., collected for the Missions)?

In the book I have just mentioned, there are these “peril-sensitive glasses” that put photochromatic, polarised lenses to shame. Each time danger threatens to disrupt the mental and physical equilibrium of a Galaxy inhabitant, the spectacle lenses automatically turn black, on the premise that what you ignore will just go away.

The people who hand you nearly blank bits of paper with an admonition not to miss the next Xarabank must know something I don’t; rather than a festive air, the bits of white become a dreary grey when trodden on by the thousands of people going in and out of Valletta daily.

I am old enough to remember the furore that Il-Madonna Tac-Coqqa had caused way back when it was broadcast on television (the latter-day version raised nary an eyebrow in comparison – but perhaps this happened because the group dynamics with the first set of actors was infinitely better).

At the time, self-styled pundits mounted soapboxes at every possible opportunity to denounce the “inherent wickedness” which today is taken as read even when a serial is supposed to be “funny”. As dear Guzè himself would say, rolling his eyes to heaven, O tempora, o mores!

In any case, Guzè Diacono is no more, and this means that the text will soon become eligible for Matsec material, perhaps as a sort of late apology. The least ‘they’ Ghaqda Letterarja Maltija could do is to have it read on Campus FM, as was the case with Is-Surmast.

Even here, however, we have had totally different bits of information thrown at us by different mediums, perhaps according to their Mission Statement. Super One told us that he was 90 years old in a headline, and immediately following that, he was said to be 92 years old in the information clip; the opportunity was taken to mention his namesakes in the literary world. The sister paper to this said he was a week shy of 90; the official announcement in the obituary slot on Radju Malta said he was 89.

Speaking of teleserials, every so often there are news items that tell of how particular episodes of foreign series are shot on location here. Now wouldn’t it be a great idea if every time this happens, the co-ordinators and everyone involved make sure we get to see the finished product (even though we may not make heads or tails of it since it would of course be one single episode), dubbed into Maltese?

Just a thought: the logistics could be taken care of by those who ‘have nothing to do’ because other people are doing it for them. It would help them shake off the boredom, and justify their wage packet.

There was a joke going around that one would be better off watching advertisements, rather than programmes, because they were less likely to be cut off in mid-sentence – although these days even that is not a safe bet.

Heaven knows that around this time last year Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela, had tried literally to capture an audience by interrupting soap operas and baseball games midstream to make his speeches.

What might be worth doing, on the other hand, is keeping one’s eyes and ears glued to the television set during the newfangled hundred and one Dalmatian spots galore about this, that and the other.

No doubt, the people who commissioned them are likewise sitting, rapt with attention, just in case they are edited by one millisecond by those who have an axe to grind with the entity that would have commissioned them (does the word still hold when no payment is obtaining?) and the power to do so in the first place.

In his short essay Viewer’s Lament, John Steinbeck simulates a complaint that he never gets to see any ‘great’ or even ‘good’ television because he always chances on the cartoons, old Western pictures and Lassie.

“…I see forests of aerials, the darkened rooms from which conversation, reading and even one level of consciousness have disappeared, and I am angry that I cannot seem to take part in it. Our children are going to be all right because they can’t remember how it was before. To them television is a way of life, as natural as breathing, albeit a little asthmatically…” Indeed.

And, every time there is a survey, or awards are handed out, the results are twined into such a mesh that, on reading about them, one wonders whether the information stems from the same set of figures published in any other sector of the media. Tanja Cilia


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