Code 46 takes place in a strange near-future world in which society is confined to a few cities in which citizens are protected from a world wracked by undescribed forces. However, some fraction of the
population has been abandoned to live outside the protected cities in a hot, dusty wasteland, ignored by the rest of society. Meanwhile, a nominally benevolent big brother watches over the protected populace, keeping them safe and in regions where they are fit to live. As the story progresses, we learn that the population inside the cities has shrunk to the point that all couples must be tested to ensure their genes are sufficiently different that they can be allowed to reproduce, and many couples have children via in-vitro methods. Sufficiently advanced technology, refered to as viruses, enables people to read minds, speak languages they otherwise do not know, or develop perfect pitch. In the midst of the developing story there is a cameo of Mick Jones, long ago of the Clash, in a karaoke bar singing “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”
Our hero, played by Tim Robbins, is an insurance adjuster sent to Shanghai to investigate the theft of “papelles,” papers which allow people to travel from one enclave to another if big brother sees fit. Maria, played by Samantha Morton, works for the papelles company and is involved in the theft of papelles. To drive home the work of big brother, a minor character, traveling on papelles supplied by Maria dies when he travels to India from a disease to which the local populace has genetic immunity.
The story opens with an explanation that Code 46 is the emergency when a couple too closely related conceive a child. In the next few scenes we meet our protagonists: William, the insurance adjuster, and Maria. We know from this moment the Code - for we only learn of one - they will violate. We never really learn why William falls for Maria and risks everything, including his loving wife and son. Was William unhappy enclosed in the cities, with his work, or with his family? We see no motivation for any of these possibilities. In the end, the company blames it on a virus. Though the voice-over describes this possibility with scorn, it is as likely as any other explanation of William’s actions.
Unfortunately, the rhythms, troubles, history, and future of the world William and Maria inhabit are only hinted at. In classic science fiction, the world would have been fleshed out at the expense of the life of the characters; this would have been interesting. Delving into the motivations of William and Maria would have been a more standard telling of this story and could have been compelling and heartwrenching. Alas, Code 46 delivers neither, leaving us only to imagine the potentialities implicit and is thus ultimately a dissatisfying tale. There are pieces of this story that feel like the work of Philip K Dick, but in the end the film falls flat.
I just finished reading As The World Burns, an article portraying the efforts of Senators Kerry, Lieberman, and Graham to get climate change legislation through the senate. The portrait Ryan Lizza paints of the three senators is so damning that it sparks a contrarian perspective from me: they can’t really be that bad.
Lizza hits all the cliches of our three senators beginning with each being more interested in the legislation’s effect on their legacies than on its effect on global warming and the nation’s economy. Our journalist goes on to describe Kerry delivering monologues at the start of each meeting, Lieberman demanding whatever made him look good, Graham unable to face up to either his colleagues or constituents, and special guest appearances by McCain - flip-flopping - and President Obama - as a feckless Carter clone.
Perhaps Lizza is giving the audience what it wants, but these guys would never get elected if this was the actual level of their political skill. I would love to put a political article down feeling that I had learned something about the difficultly in reconciling divergent political and philosophical perspectives amongst the governing and the governed in this country, but alas, that isn’t this article.
I’ve put together a short playlist with a mix of tunes performed by Radiohead as well as covers of Radiohead by jazz groups and tunes harmonically inspired by Radiohead.
- Exit Music (For A Film) - Radiohead
- Optimistic - Radiohead
- Nemesis - Aaron Parks
- Airbag - Radiohead
- How to Disappear Completely - Radiohead
- Exit Music (For A Film) - Brad Mehldau
- Everything in Its Right Place - Brad Mehldau
- Yeso - Guillermo Klein
- Let Down - Radiohead
- A Wolf at the Door - Radiohead
The list is a little radiohead-heavy right now but fun. I’d like to find some covers of some of the more rocking Radiohead tracks and not only the beautiful, haunting, harmonically rich tunes - not that I don’t like those as well. Off to Brad Mehldau’s discography.
Some place out there on the web is a Master class where Ethan Iverson of The Bad Plus analyzes Let Down. I couldn’t find it quickly here at work. I’ll let you all search. It’s worth a listen.
They found that not just the lay public but also students in a neuroscience course were susceptible to this distraction. “Brain scans show” has become a code phrase in our household for over-hyped argument based upon untrustworthy evidence of questionable relevance.
Even irrelevant neuroscience information in an explanation of a psychological phenomenon may interfere with people’s abilities to critically consider the underlying logic of this explanation.
Tarragon soda from Arax Market in Watertown
That’s some green soda for you. It’s tasty, though.