Saturday, February 18, 2017

All of Miyazaki's movies

NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind
A princess with a powered glider and a love for animals must do whatever it takes to save her people and the land in a post-apocalyptic world.
The creativity and scenery of this movie are amazing, especially the burned land inhabited only by insects and giant fungus. The main character is just perfect, thoughtful and clever and brave and kind. Unfortunately there is too much story to fit into a two hour film, so it feels rushed and almost incoherent in spots. One of the inspirations was "The Princess Who Loved Insects," a 12th century Japanese story I am fond of. Some of the themes that show up throughout his movies-- flight, a young girl protagonist coming of age, nature vs. technology, the wisdom of elders, and an antagonist with complex motivations are already present in this.

Castle in the Sky (Laputa)
A girl falls from the sky into the arms of a young mine worker, and they must solve the mystery of the castle in the sky that her amulet points them towards while escaping from ruthless pursuers.
The setting of this is one of my favorites, and this is the most thrilling adventure plot of any of his movies. The main character is quiet. The robots are of an unusual design, and I loved the feel of an ancient and forgotten technology, whose story is only told wordlessly in the credits. I found the slapstick pirates obnoxious and not particularly funny, though they were clearly intended as comic relief. Some of the scenes, like her slowly falling through the air, the collapse of the castle, or the wakening of the robot are truly magical. The main musical theme is a memorable melody (Totoro and Ponyo also have catchy tunes.)  All five of the themes I mentioned in Nausicaa are also present here.

My Neighbor Totoro
A family moves to an old house in the country, and while the mother is in the hospital, the little girls meet fantasy creatures in the forest.
This story actually has a strong plotline, though it is only apparent in retrospect-- the first time you watch it, you have no idea where it is going. The characters are younger, warmer, and behave more realistically than in the previous two movies, and their enigmatic fantasy life can hold its own with Alice in Wonderland or Calvin and Hobbes as one of the most memorable in works for children. It can feel slow-moving at parts, though it was one of the few shows I didn't mind re-watching at the age when my son liked to rewatch the same movies endlessly. There is a short, little-known sequel called Mei and the Kittenbus. Four of the themes are present in Totoro, though there is no antagonist at all.

Kiki's Delivery Service
A young witch moves to the city, starts a business, makes friends and gains confidence.
This story seems lighter and less meaningful, though it is still fun to watch throughout. Like many of the movies, it is a coming of age story. I don't really understand the crisis that makes her unable to fly or talk to her cat-- sure, one customer is ungrateful and she catches a cold, but she is resiliant and optimistic, it doesn't seem like those things should faze her. I must be missing something. Again, there is no antagonist, except occasionally people whose comments make her feel smaller. The other four themes are also here, though there isn't as much on environmentalism-- though her artistic mentor does live in the middle of the woods.

Porco Rosso
A flying ace turned gun for hire and pig recovers his honor.
This was set just after World War I. Porco Rosso being a pig is sort of a metaphor for his feeling branded with cowardice, but other than that there is nothing particularly unreal about the film-- I could see it being remade in a live-action, black and white, Casablanca feel. The story has a more conventional Hollywood plotline. The flight theme is central, and there is a girl who becomes important about halfway through the movie but I don't recall most of the others in this one.

Princess Mononoke
A young man kills a rampant minor god turned demon, bringing a deadly curse on himself. He finds that civilization at war with the forest is ultimately the cause, and he has to find a way for everyone to live in peace.
This is playing at the deepest level of any of his films, addressing issues of duty, spirituality, environmentalism vs progress, morality, violence, community and so forth in a complex and meaningful way. It is in no way a film for young children, as they would be bored by the talking and horrified by the violence. Neil Gaiman's English translation is powerful, although I still prefer to watch it in Japanese with subtitles. The antagonist makes decisions with terrible cataclysmic consequences, but at the same time she's the only one standing up for the oppressed and undertrodden of the traditional society,
It's important to remember as you watch this that for Miyazaki, environmentalism is a religious position, that the nature gods of Shinto are as important to him as the Christian story of redemption is important to American narratives.

Spirited Away
A girl and her parents visit an abandoned amusement park, but eat the food and fail to leave before dark, when the spirits come out.
A little horror, a little fantasy, a psychological drama, a coming of age story, this tale is complex and strange and thoroughly engaging. The traditional Japanese spirits are fascinating in their weirdness. I visited one of the tiny abandoned amusement parks when I was in Japan, and had that same uncanny feeling when I was there. The train running through the water was one of the most memorable scenes for me. All of the listed themes are present here.

Howl's Moving Castle
A girl is transformed into an old woman by a spiteful witch, and becomes the servant of an eccentric sorcerer.
The best parts of this are near the beginning, where it respects the source material more closely. The climax becomes strange and unmoored and completely leaves the themes of the novel. The idea of a young girl cursed to become an old woman and the appearance of the moving castle itself were my favorite parts. Again we see each of the themes.

A daughter of the sea goddess turned into a human girl brings disaster on the community until peace is made with the sea.
This is aimed even younger than Totoro, if that's possible. It was enjoyable and odd, but not one of my very favorites. The animation of the active sea was fascinating. It's chaotic and sweet, without much of a sense of danger.

The Wind Rises
A young engineer makes beautiful airplanes and falls in love.
This is a combination of a biographical film based on the autobiography of the inventor of the Zero plane, and another book that provides the love story. It treats the engineer and inventor as an artist (which is more respect than we ever get in American movies!) It is kind of slow compared to the other films on this list, and only of interest to adults or high-schoolers, at least.

Castle of Cagliostro
Miyazaki's first movie, I haven't been able to find a copy yet.

Bonus: Non-Miyazaki Studio Ghibli

The Borrower Arrietty (The Secret World of Arrietty)
A family of tiny people living under a house are discovered, leading to trouble.
This one feels like one of Miyazaki's movies. Arrietty herself is the same kind of adventerous, vulnerable girl, and all characters but the antagonist are full of kindness. The wild boy she meets is reminiscent of Mononoke hime. The animation is rich and careful. Frankly, after watching it I assumed Miyazaki himself had made it.

Whisper of the Heart
A girl about to enter high school learns about the nature of art and choosing your path in life and falls in love.
There area few minutes of fantasy in the main character's story she is writing, but for the most part this is a straightforward real-world love story (between 14-year-olds) and is focused mainly on the courage it takes to choose your own path and become an artist. (Which is a little self-indulgent story to tell for a group of artists, but oh, well.) I appreciated the realistic representation of the Japan I remember, and the humanness of the characters. As a girl's coming of age story, this also seems like a story Miyazaki might have made.

Magical forest creatures fight to preserve their home from development.
This movie will never be released in theaters in the U.S., for the simple reason that the silly raccoons use their enormous scrotums in a variety of ways throughout the film. Actually, they are tanuki, and most of the time the kind of tanuki you see sculptures of on rural porches than the actual animal. It is funny in a childish way, and the climax was visually interesting, but I've only watched it in Japanese without subtitles, so I may not have a full picture. The sequence near the end where they pretend to be traditional Japanese ghosts is the high point, in my opinion. Definite environmentalist themes again, though the others I mentioned are missing.

The Cat Returns
A girl saves the life of a cat, who invites her into his realm.
This had its moments of magic-- the part where she is carried away by a wave of cats, for example, and the eerie scenes where the cats parade through town-- but is an uneven blend with a more standard anime, to the point of engaging in anime cliches like a girl with cat ears and a tail, or over-the-top reaction shots. It's the story of being taken to faerie, but told in a thoroughly Japanese way. There's an odd connection to Whispers of the Heart in the character of the Baron.

Tales from Earthsea
I can't even remember the plot.
I was disappointed by this, since I'm a fan of both the Earthsea books and of studio Ghibli. They kept some character names from the books, but that's about all. The story is just a standard anime plot of a prodigy becoming a monster.

Grave of the Fireflies
A powerfully tragic film about two children orphaned by their city being destroyed in World War II.
Maybe the saddest movie I've ever watched, and I'm including The Mission, Mosquito Coast, and Schindler's List in that estimation. This could never have been made by Miyazaki because it is missing the hope that permeates even the darkest of his films, but is a classic in its own way.

The following famous actors have done English voice-over acting for Ghibli movies:
Christian Bale, Shia LeBeouf, Billy Bob Thornton, Matt Damon, Kristen Bell, Anne Hathaway, Billy Crystal, Liam Neeson, Tim Curry, Dakota and Elle Fanning, Kirsten Dunst, Saoirse Ronan, Gillian Anderson, Patrick Stewart, Amy Poehler, John Krasinski, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Chloe Moretz, Willem Dafoe, Mark Hamill, Anna Paquin, Tina Fey, Claire Danes, Minnie Driver, Cate Blanchett, Michael Keaton, Timothy Dalton, Elijah Wood, Christina Hendriks, Ron Howard, Betty White, and Uma Thurman.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


In that country, all agree that the true religion teaches that the world is written like a book. But there are disagreements among them as to how the book is created.
The orthodox say that it does no good talking about the rough draft or outline of the book, since we can never see them. The only thing that can be properly discussed is the finished book, and all else is best left as an unspeakable mystery. This was the most popular sect for many years, but its popularity seems to be waning. The symbol of this sect is a mermaid on a rock.
Others say that there is a vast and ever-expanding collection of writing fanning out, where all the possibilities are explored for every possible option. The world we see is just one of these versions, not the best or most popular, and no more legitimate than any of the other versions that others may pick up. The symbol of this sect is an image of the tallest mountain.
A third group believe in an outlining process, where the possible influences of various events and actions are carefully plotted, and only once the outline is complete is the story written. The symbol of this sect is a pilot guiding his ship across the waves.
Others believe that the book is written in drafts, and that events from the end of the book may cause earlier events in the story to take place as draft after draft is written until a final draft that is consistent is arrived at. The symbol of this sect is a pair of shaking hands.
Another group feels that the book is left by the printer in an unfinished state, with tall piles of pages that may be picked up and read according to chance and whim. They see these stacks of pages collapsing as pages are pulled out and read.These teach that it is only when the book is read that the story is actually completed. The symbol of this sect is a cat in a box.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Skyscrapers that use cathedral design elements

Tribune Tower, Chicago

Cathedral of Learning, Pittsburg

The Woolworth Building, New York City

Federal Realty Building, Oakland

Thursday, September 1, 2016

rare events

(in reply to this blog post)

According to this chart we should  expect a 9/11 every 50 years, a mega-9/11 (where 30,000 people die in a terrorist attack) once every 500 years, a mega-mega-9/11 (where 300,000 people die in a terrorist attack) once every 5000 years, and so on. (Watch out for that terrorist asteroid in 6567, it's a doozy!)
The interesting thing about this from a mathematical perspective is that there is no "average number of deaths from a terrorist per year." If you average over a short period of time, you get a small number of deaths per year; over a longer time you get a larger number per year, and this continues without limit, because the rare mega-mega-mega-event dominates the entire time interval. If you've ever heard of the "length of the coastline" problem, this is a similar issue-- the length of a coastline depends on the length of your ruler.
This also means that, in the long run, there is no price high enough to insure against this kind of disaster. No matter how much the insurance company charges, eventually there will be a big enough disaster to make the company unable to pay out. Tropical rainfall and earthquakes have shown a similar fit.
This is also the root of the trouble in the St. Petersburg paradox.

Saturday, July 30, 2016


My first crush on a bookstore was the Scholastic catalog. It was four pages of advertisements, passed out at school, and I would be allowed to buy one book from the catalog. I would read the whole thing through several times, to find the very best choice. I was five, and I bought a book called Tubby and the Lantern by Al Perkins. In it, a small elephant and his Chinese friend build a flying hot-air powered paper lantern and fly on it into the night. I often dreamed of flying, and loved the idea of making something of paper and light that you could ride into the sky. Scholastic came to the school, too, with book fairs. I bought a choose-your-own-adventure book from the fair, called Supercomputer. On the cover was a golden robot, with four legs and tank treads, and whose head was a monitor with an astronaut helmet around it. I loved the idea of a machine that was somehow, also, a person, and I couldn't get enough stories about friendly robots. But the book had some horror to it as well. In one of the endings, the androgynous main character ("you") agrees to have a computer implanted in the skull to enhance intelligence. It works. But looking in the mirror, the character realizes that for the rest of his (or her, or your) life, there will be a metallic object like an upside down ice cream cone protruding from his head.

I loved Waldenbooks. (Besides the toystore, I couldn't figure out what point there was to the rest of the mall.) But there were so many new thoughts, new images, new lives to be lived in the bookstore. I bought The Dragonbone Chair from a Waldenbooks. The cover image of a peasant boy desperately trying to rescue his tiny eskimo friend who has been shot with an arrow, while escaping through the ruins of an elven city of malachite and jade was something I wasn't able to pass up. I rarely had much money, just from birthdays or special chores, usually, but the only thing that I felt like was a fair value for the money was stories.

When I was in Japan, I liked to visit bookstores I happened to ride past on my bike, although I had been forbidden to do it by my mission president. The books were mostly unreadable (I only learned to speak Japanese, not read it) but they were all the more fascinating for that. I gravitated towards books for children, and books of origami, where the pictures carried more of the weight.
When I got back to the U.S. there was Borders. The idea that there was a bookstore where they put padded chairs in the store so you could just go and read, without even buying the book-- it seemed like an economic impossibility, a perpetual motion machine of inexhaustible entertainments. I don't think I ever bought anything to eat or drink there-- the cost of a muffin was comparable to the cost of a paperback-- but I loved the scale of the place, almost a library.

At college they had the BYU bookstore, a sprawling place that I could walk through twice a day, going to and from classes. It had an odd section called LDS Fiction, which was basically fanfiction of  all the other genres, from romance to science fiction to horror. If I made it down to center street, and the owner happened to be around that day, I could go to Brigham Book and Copy. I bought a battered copy of Seventh Son to get signed by the author. He told me he could tell it had been well-loved. I didn't correct him, because although his belief was unjustified, it was still true.

In Manhattan, there was the Strand, of course, three stories of used books, many carefully selected. Every time I asked someone for help, they were so kind to me I felt like I was being flirted with. There was a little alternative bookstore near NYU, full of pictures of tattooed backs and rainbow eyed girls, where I bought a copy of The Diamond Age to better discuss interactive fiction with the inventors of that field.

When I lived in Dayton I visited a lot of bookstores, but my favorite was Half-Price Books. They were mostly new books, but discounted from overstock.  I was lonely in Dayton, living in a dingy apartment by myself, and spent many hours in the stores, just browsing, occasionally buying something here or there. I bought an enormous book of Leonardo Da Vinci's drawings.

Once when I was visiting Arizona, I found a bookstore with an enormous shelf full of old roleplaying games. I visited many bookstores in Paris, London, and Germany, but my favorite was a tiny one-room store in a stone hut on the hill of Tara in Ireland. I bought a book of fables there from the early 1700s.

Here in Frederick my bookstore is Wonder Book and Video. They have a collection of antique childrens' books that I often browse, and loose pages from books of 19th century prints that have fallen apart. If you get on their mailing list, once or twice a year you can get everything for half their already low used prices. It's a place you can get lost in for hours.

Monday, May 2, 2016

All Spielberg Movies

I realized a few months ago that I had seen nearly every movie Steven Spielberg has made, and enjoyed most of them. I have since sought out the few I had missed. So here is my review of every Spielberg movie but four, roughly from my favorite to least favorite.

1. Raiders of the Lost Ark
 It has the best adventure scenes of any movie-- it basically defined the genre for my generation. And of course the theme is fantastic. You can see where he got this stuff in books like Allan Quartermain, but like Star Wars, it transcended the source material. I made a fan film of it, I wrote fan fiction of it before that was even a word. If you've never considered it, ask yourself-- why does this movie work so well even though the ending is literally a Deus ex Machina?

2. Empire of the Sun
This was one of his most powerful. I enjoyed it on every level, the imagery, the music, the story, the themes. It doesn't say things that are simple or only on the surface. Plus it's about being a foreigner in Japan.

3. E.T.
When I watched this in the theater, everyone got out of their seats and cheered when the bicycles took flight. I've never seen people react so emotionally to a movie. The way Eliot's family lived felt real to me, in a way that very few movies do. There house was a mess, they played with Star Wars figures and D&D. E.T. was an ugly little troll of an alien, not an idealized elf (looking at you, Cameron). It's a really sentimental movie, but I feel like it earns it.

4. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
The interactions between Harrison Ford and Sean Connery in this movie are classic. I loved the climax, especially, where Indy's faith is tested. (In my head this movie is all tied up with the video game version of it I played so many times.) There are no better chase scenes than in this movie.

5.Schindler's List
Terribly sad, with an amazing violin score. It's at the same time filled with horror and hope, an impossible trick to pull off.

6. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
This is about revelation-- how it can be a terrible, life-destroying thing, to be awakened to the truth and unable to communicate that to those you love,  leading to personal tragedy, while at the same time leading to a larger reality filled with beauty and awe. I can't think of another movie that better captures the emotion of awe. It's also a really solid first contact story.

7. Jurassic Park
This is just a horror movie in plot-- basically the monsters escape and kill everyone but the ones we most want to survive-- but it was probably the first movie that showed that computer graphics would someday be able to do anything you can imagine. It also, again, is really terrific hard-SF. So many movies play with SF ideas but don't bother trying to get them right in the way that real fans of the genre need to feel satisfied. A couple of nitpicks, from someone who is really into dinosaurs: by 1990, we knew that raptors were covered in feathers. I read it in an interview with Robert Bakker in 1987.  And it's not Jurassic so much as it is Cretaceous. (Or you could just call it Mesozoic and cover all your bases.) But I still believe the running T-Rex is more plausible than more conservative reconstructions.

8. War of the Worlds
I don't know anyone who likes this as well as I do. It's the best alien invasion movie ever filmed. It builds up tension in all the right ways, it captures the alienness of aliens in a way that only Giger has managed as well. It's true to H.G. Wells (except the weirdness of coming up from underground) in the things that mattered, and the acting and relationships felt real. The action is non-stop once it starts, as exciting as Mad Max. Having the older son survive was kind of a cop-out, but whatever. I say it's underrated.

9. A.I.
This was strange and painful to watch. It asks some big questions about what it means to have worth, to be alive, to love. It creates a science fiction world that is unique. On the downside, it is also terribly violent. It is weirdly paced, and puts together a lot of things that shouldn't go together.

10. Saving Private Ryan
The opening scene of the invasion at Normandy was amazing (though terribly violent), capturing what war must really be like in a way that I've never seen in another movie. The rest is a watchable war movie, but not really special. Tom Hanks was enjoyable.

11. Jaws
I have heard that this was the first summer blockbuster. It was a good scary movie, skilled at building tension, but it would have been helped by modern CG. The two-note shark theme is unforgettable. As an action film it kind of drags, though.

12. Lincoln
I thoroughly enjoyed the portrayal of Lincoln himself. It made me realize that pork-barrel politics isn't all bad-- it allows wheels to turn in politics that would otherwise be immovable.

13. Catch Me if You Can
A kind of horror film about how lax security protocols were in the 1960s. It's amazing the whole country didn't get blown up. DiCaprio does a good job.

14. Amistad
When a movie is preachy, it should preach about something you are still on the fence on. Since I don't think slavery is good even in the slightest, I don't need so much of the movie telling me how slavery was bad. I'm being too harsh. I liked it, but it didn't move me to tears the way Schindler's List did.

15. The Terminal
The movie is about learning to make a joyful life for yourself wherever you get stuck, but I have to think that his choice not to just go home wasn't the right one. Having slept overnight in an airport, more than once, there are few places I would rather live. They actively do things to make it harder on you. I liked "cheesecake."

16. Munich
A tense thriller that also explores what happens afterwards to those who do violence for their country.

17. Indiana Jones and The Crystal Skull
Yeah, yeah, refrigerators and aliens are cheesy, I agree. But I like the chase scenes, and him getting together with Marion. It's a solid plot, and Ford can still play Indiana Jones. I still say it's way better than the second one.

18. Minority Report
While this is SF, it's not hard SF-- it plays with the appearance of SF, but does things which are impossible with it, which makes me care about it less. It is often weird for its own sake. Philip K Dick isn't my favorite SF author. For years afterwards, my work with unusual hand-driven interfaces was experienced by the people we presented it to as out of this movie.

19. War Horse
This was an odd one because the main character-- the horse-- is basically a cipher, being just an animal, after all. The ending is sentimental to the point of absurdity. But overall the movie is enjoyable. It has Benedict Cumberbatch.

20. Hook
While it had a few moments-- Dustin Hoffman's Hook and Julia Roberts' Tinkerbell were all right-- the movie wasn't as good as a lot of kids from that time seem to think. Like the food fight scene: why not use real food, instead of pink and blue stuff? And you can't just pick the fat, unpopular kid to be the leader when you're not going to be there to supervise and expect it to work, long term. Haven't you read Lord of the Flies? I liked the sets.

21. The Adventures of Tintin
My son really liked this one, but I guess its a movie only kids can enjoy. It suffers from uncanny valley effects.

22. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
 Nearly everything I liked about the character was missing from this story, with the biblical element replaced with a generic cannibal cult leader. I found both the woman and the kid sidekick annoying.

23. Twilight Zone
The individual episodes this was based on were somehow better, in their cheap black and white TV way, than this was.

24. Duel
Weird 1970s suspense film about a man on a long car trip being chased by a truck. I couldn't get into it. What was it about cars and the 1970s? So many shows were based around them in that decade. Smoky and the Bandit, Mad Max, The Dukes of Hazard, Speed Racer, Herbie, American Graffiti, Cannonball Run... that's just off the top of my head.

I didn't finish watching these, so it doesn't feel fair to review them:
The Color Purple
The Sugarland Express

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

my TRON headcanon

It's easy to forget that TRON was set in the future. Bridges' character Flynn had been a great video game programmer, but the tank game depicted is technically advanced far beyond the state of the art at the time. It was the year Q-Bert, Dig Dug, and Pole Position were released. TRON came out two years before William Gibson's Neuromancer. It's not about virtual reality at all. Instead its an imaginative take on what is happening within the computer itself. I asked myself what would have to be true about the kind of computer they were using for the actions in the movie to make any sense? What I've written here is a kind of outline of an imagined background in which the movie TRON takes place, with a little on the end about part of TRON: Legacy.

(all imagery is art found on the web.)

In 1962, building on the pioneering work of Claude Shannon, Dr. Walter Gibbs discovered a deep connection between information theory and the physics of spacetime manifolds. The theory predicted that large quantum informational structures (LQIS) could be cloned and represented isomorphically as patterns in an electromagnetic field on a metamaterial crystal substrate suspended at near absolute zero in a vacuum chamber. He discovered, quite by accident, that the waking human nervous system generated such a LQIS. These cloned mental states were capable of harnessing enormous computational resources inherent in the quantum crystal structure. Gibbs recognized that the cloned states could be considered a kind of immensely complicated software running on a computer that was essentially spacetime itself. He called the cloned states "programs," though in reality the process of programming them did not involve writing code in a programming language at all, but scanning the nervous system quickly with an infrared laser.

For the next decade, he tried various methods of interacting with these "programs." In 1972, combining microscopic lasers and a program he created called DUMONT, he was able to reliably input and output to any program within the crystal (which Gibbs called "grids" due to their periodic structure). One of his first demonstrations was a chess program based on his own states of mind while playing chess, and he founded a company called ENCOM to commercialize his products. Because of the difficulty in creating and maintaining grids, all ENCOM systems performed small, local computations on standard computers, but communicated remotely with the grids to perform more complex operations which could only be carried out by programs on the grids. (The grids interfaced with these distant computers through lasers like DUMONT.)

The programs existed in the grids in a quasi-spatial arrangement, though at a timescale much faster than reality. The lasers, however, were at fixed locations in the grid, so programs needing to interface with the outside world needed to be shuttled to the lasers and take turns communicating.

Gibbs seems to have never fully considered what the nature of these programs meant in terms of intellectual capacity. The chess program he had developed was capable of forming its own subgoals and strategic thinking, and began to accumulate resources on its own, increasing in computational capacity and changing in many ways from the original program state. Among the discoveries the chess program made was a way of eliminating other programs from the grid by forcing them to be stored at lower and lower resolutions recursively. Gibbs was unaware of much of this as it was not communicated through the lasers but kept secret.

Eventually an ENCOM employee, a programmer named Ed Dillinger, created a military program called SARK. SARK was capable of sending radio signals directly, bypassing DUMONT. The chess program recognized that SARK could be useful towards its goals of strategic takeover, and made contact with Dillenger through SARK. It proposed a plan to move against the current management and seize the most profitable programs, bringing Dillenger to power. In return, Dillenger would create programs that would allow the chess program to control all the programs on the grid. In the process the chess program became MCP, the Master Control Program.

However, being a game program gave the MCP an unusual take on the world. Defeat that wasn't conditioned on preset rules known by both parties in advance made it feel unsatisfied and (though it wouldn't have used the term) guilty. It was able to work around this feeling in an efficient way by putting the programs it wished to erase into games they were completely unqualified for where its agents (especially SARK) could defeat them easily.

Meanwhile. Gibbs had begun experimenting with extending the theory of LQIS using much more powerful lasers. (That he was more interested in this than exploring the ramifications of his already astonishing results gives some insight into Gibbs' character.) Any object with sufficient information density (essentially, parts of any living thing, such as leather, an orange, or a live creature) could not just be cloned, but treated as information directly and be transferred from the substrate of reality to that of the grid through a non-destructive scanning process he called "digitization" by analogy with scanning a book. He was inspired by the "it from bit" philosophy developed by John Wheeler. This is the point at which the movie TRON starts. Dillenger has seized control and taken over the game programs, but this is simply to build resources in the fastest, simplest way. The MCP's ultimate goals were much more wide-ranging and nefarious.

In the meantime, in other grids of the crystal, nearly disconnected from the ones being used by the programs, a kind of evolutionary algorithms were developing an entire digital ecology. Natural programs similar to computer viruses gave rise to more and more complex and intelligent entities. The quasispatial arrangement and physics imposed to make the cloned programs behave in natural ways led these to develop into a kind of digital animal life, eventually giving rise to what would be called ISOs. These ISOs would, much later, use human forms as a kind of spacesuit to travel to and interact with the very alien grids populated by cloned programs.