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Archive: 26 October 2005

Post WE05: Matrix Madness

Sunday in Sydney was a day of truly beautiful weather, and after breakfast I accompanied Tantek, Amber, and Derek on a “makeshift Matrix” tour of Sydney.  Amber had done some digging online and found out where a variety of scenes from The Matrix were filmed in Sydney.

Now, you have to understand that Tantek is a major Matrix fan—he’s one of the few people I know who actually liked the sequels, and having discussed it with him, I understand why he did.  As anyone who knows Tantek will be unsurprised to learn, he liked them for some very deep philosophical and intellectual reasons; and yes, he has solid ground on which to base those reasons.  Now consider that Tantek and I are both perfectionists, and that he had a 12″ Powerbook loaded up with his DVD of The Matrix along for the tour.

Yeah.  We geeked out.  Big time.

Thanks to Amber’s research and our obsessive analysis, we established fairly exact shooting locations and angles for:

  • The “Adams Street Bridge” sequence, including exterior shots seen during the car ride after Neo gets picked up.  It turns out that he tried to get out roughly seven feet further on from where he was picked up, despite having ridden in the car for a minute or so.  See Tantek’s posts “Then go to the Adams Street bridge“, “Stop the car“, and You know that road” for pictures and more commentary.
  • The fountain sequence, from the crossing of the street at the beginning of the sequence to the walk through the crowds and the side angles on Morpheus, Neo, and passers-by (including my finding a slice of the Sydney Harbor Bridge just barely visible over a series of green scrims); and, of course, the fountain itself, which is kind of hard to miss.  We think someone should do a flash-mob recreation of the “freeze program” bit and document it.  (Further, we acknowledge that convincing the pigeons to freeze will be a bit of a challenge.)  See also Tantek’s post “Agent training program, part 1“.
  • The exterior shots of the building where Morpheus was being interrogated.  See also Tantek’s post “Agent Training Program part 2, Westin Sydney stairwell, Morpheus interrogation.

We also noted where the urban landscape had changed since shooting.  For example, there’s an entire building missing from the background of the initial Adams Street Bridge shot, and we deduced that construction had just started when they filmed.  You can see the construction fencing in the background, but no girders or walls.  Similarly, the building across the street from the interrogation building has either changed or been replaced; also, none of the lobbies of the building look anything like the lobby where the shootout took place.  I was able to identify the building visible through the window of the interrogation room, but we were unsure of the location of the room itself.

We also determined that it’s incredibly unlikely that the spiral staircase scene where Neo experiences déjà vu was shot in the Sydney Westin.  Several web sites claim that it was, but while we found a number of staircases that had similar tile patterns (only rotated 45 degrees), none of them were even close to being a match with what appears on-screen.  (See Tantek’s post Sydney Westin: Not the Matrix hotel” for more.)  And we seriously plumbed the depths of the Westin, at one point getting onto a guest floor without having the required guest card and, at another, taking a service elevator to the kitchens.  We also found an unlocked, unguarded Ethernet router with a number of open ports.

So that was fun.  On the spot, I dubbed it “urban spelunking”, which is no doubt a completely unoriginal formulation but I was proud of it anyway.

It’s too bad that Google Maps has such low-resolution images for downtown Sydney, or else we could combine screen captures of the movie with some GMaps API magic to create an interactive virtual shooting tour.  Oh well.  Some day that problem will cease to exist.

After a very lovely and enjoyable dinner at Circular Quay, a short wandering tour of the Sydney Opera House, and a few hours’ sleep, it was off to the airport for the long, long flight back to the United States.

[Updated 10 January 2006 to include links to Tantek‘s blog posts.  Also: Hi, Kottke fans!  Nice to have you drop by.]

Post WE05: Manly Jazz

On the Saturday after WE05 concluded, I took the ferry over to Manly Beach with Doug, Kelly, and Erik.  It just so happened that the Manly International Jazz Festival was being held that weekend, and with weather so beautiful and clear, it was impossible to resist heading over.  Once we got there, I kept snickering to myself at all the localized signs; I simply could not resist repeating them in a deep, booming voice: “MANLY T-Shirts!  MANLY Boatshed!  MANLY Frozen Custard!  MANLY Ocean Foods!  C’mon, try some!  It’s MANLY!”

As a result, I got curious about the origin of the name, so I asked a couple of locals.  According to them, the beach got its name because the aborigines who lived there were very manly, and enough so that the invaders gave the cove that name.  This, to me, sounded like the kind of jokey answer you give foreigners to find out how gullible they are, but if that’s the case, then it’s a joke they tell to each other as well.

The first act we caught was a Dixieland quartet that was filling time between stage acts.  I thought they were pretty good, especially considering they were all playing to a single microphone.  Then we saw Peter Ind from the UK, as well as some of his supporting players, The Ozboppers.  At least two of which were from America, but never mind that now.  Mr. Ind was really very good, but I took one look at him, turned to Kelly, and said, “Ladies and gentlemen—Gandalf on the bass.”

Seriously, that’s what it looked like.  I guess he would need a new gig after Sauron’s defeat.

Wandering onward, we stumbled across a small side-street stage where this absolutely incredible singer was belting out some jazz standards.  I was transfixed.  I mean, not only did she have this whole “hot librarian” look going, but her voice was simply unbelievable.  I can’t even properly characterize it, but my best attempt is the smoky expressiveness of Billie Holiday combined with the range of Ella Fitzgerald and the nimbleness of Anita O’Day.

It turned out we were listening to Elana Stone, who continued to transfix me and everyone around her through a few more numbers.  Afterward, I bought a CD (“In The Garden of Wild Things”, which she signed for me) and tried not to be too much of a gushing fanboy.  If Ms. Stone doesn’t become a major star, it will be a crime, although a part of me thinks that she was born several decades too late.  Had she been singing in the 1930s and 1940s, she would have been a sensation; her name would be up with those I mentioned previously.  I have this fear that her voice won’t have as big an audience as it should in the 21st Century.  At the same time, I very much hope that fear is misplaced.

The ferry ride back to Sydney was illuminated by a perfect (if cloudless) sunset and a dusky gloaming sky behind the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and marred by a terribly assembled Elvis impersonator and his even scruffier companion singing a number of Western ballads rather gratingly off-key, and twice nearly brained me with their guitar’s tuning pegs.  Even without the contrast with Ms. Stone, they would have been bad; so soon after hearing her, they were just short of abominable.  I’d have said something, except they appeared to be rather soused, and I try not to tangle with pickled Elvis impersonators unless there’s life and limb at stake.  It’s just one of my little guidelines in life.

Fortunately, the remainder of the evening was redeemed by a fine dinner overlooking Darling Harbour with assorted speakers and conference staff, great conversation about web design work and Australia going late into the night, and a leisurely walk back to the hotel with a friend.

Overall, a lovely day.

Web Essentials 05 Wrap-up

So, having been back from Australia for most of a month and having posted about other stuff in the meantime, what would make more sense than writing up some thoughts on the trip?  I mean, other than giving an ocelot a bath in a tub full of kippers?

Okay, don’t go there.

For this post, I’ll concentrate on Web Essentials 05 itself.  With all due respect and apologies to the other conference organizers in my life, the WE05 attendees were flat-out amazing.  I have not encountered a group of conference attendees as enthusiastic and focused in many years.  I have hopes that the folks who come to An Event Apart will rival them, but honestly, the bar’s been set pretty high.  I might be tempted to say that the lack of wifi access in the conference hall helped them stay focused, but the focus remained during breaks, when wifi was (mostly) available.  They were there to learn from the speakers and from each other, and the collective determination to get as much as possible out of the whole experience bordered on fanatic.  It was thoroughly awesome.

Just in case you hadn’t heard (ha!), the main-hall presentations were recorded and made available as podcasts.  You can go to the WE05 podcasts page and grab whichever ones strike your fancy.  Some of the talks have slides you can download, although mine don’t, since most of what I did was intensely visual and hands-on in nature, and I skipped around in my slides quite a bit.

Even if you’re uninterested in 45-minute talks with no visual component, you should totally grab the remixes: WE05 Upbeat Remix and WE05 Deep Remix.  They’re about two to three minutes each, with some fun / meaningful audio snippets taken straight out of the talks (different snippets for each remix) and laid over some techno music by Mr. John Allsopp.  Cripes, is there anything he can’t do?

Now all we need is for someone to create a music video for the remixes.  Who’s up for it?  There are a bunch of photos from the conference that could be used, both those tagged WE05 by attendees and the official Web Essentials photo stream  And if you need filler material for that grungy-shaky-blurry-throbbing text overlay effect all the kids love, don’t forget about the large number of tagged posts.

Anyway, I was pleased with my presentations, even if they weren’t as deep and meaningful as, well, just about every other international speaker’s.  When Doug Bowman managed to invoke the fight against poverty, the future of change, and Malcolm X in the same talk, I really started to feel like a pretty minor spear carrier.  (“Yeah, Doug just blew everyone’s mind with the infinite horizon of riches and wonder that our profession can enable.  Check out my super-cool use of position: absolute!”)

At least I didn’t have my Q&A period interrupted by an evacuation alarm.

For me, one of the most personally affecting aspects of the whole conference was talking with Lisa Herrod, who is fluent in Auslan and familiar with ASL.  The fact that we both knew at least basic ASL signs came in handy when we ended up at a King’s Cross club with a bunch of other attendees.  The music was, of course, so loud that one could hardly hear oneself speak, let alone anyone else.  At one point, Lisa looked over at me from a distance of four or five meters and signed “like” with a questioning look, perhaps picking up on my detachment.  I indicated mixed feelings, and she signed “OK?”  I indicated I was.  Reassured, she turned back to what she’d been doing.  Very handy, that.  Although our ears were effectively useless, we could very clearly converse.

Earlier on, Lisa and I had compared notes on differences between Auslan and ASL, which are substantial, and she told me about the origins of each (Auslan grew out of British signing, whereas ASL owes a large debt to old French signing systems) as well as the fascinating story of Martha’s Vineyard, where everyone in its early history knew a localized sign language due to the original settlers being mostly deaf.  It was in talking with Lisa that I came to realize I’ve developed a passion for signing and its history.  It’s a gift that Carolyn has given me, simply by entering and changing my life.  It isn’t her only gift to me, nor the last.  I’m just glad to have seen it for what it is, and thankful to Lisa for helping me see it.

Similarly, I’m thankful to John and Maxine for getting me to WE05 in the first place, and to the WE05 staff and attendees for making it a truly great experience.  I hope I’ll get to come back and do some more spear-carrying in the future.

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