This video essay examines the philosophical response to moderism and the effects of urbanisation on the human being. In particular, it compares Georg Simmel’s The Metropolis and Mental Life and Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproductions.

FULL TRANSCRIPT

One of the major philosophical concerns for modernists was the effects of urbanisation and industrialisation on the mind of the individual. Georg Simmel observed that it was difficult to maintain our sense of self in the wake of a rapidly changing social and sensory landscape. He identifies the city’s primary element as being a “plurality of stimuli”, which the citydweller would gradually come to suppress (176). Similarly, Walter Benjamin wrote that technological advances have fundamentally changed the way we create and interpret art. As the artists techniques change, so too do their ideas and habits; and moreover, with the ability to reproduce on a mass scale, the relationship between everyday people and art has also been irreversibly altered from what it was in pre-modern times (222). Both men equate the modern individual with a sense of dislocation and detachment, as though some vital part of our selfhood and creative potential has been severed by modernisation. They reveal in their work a tendency to romanticise pre-modern society, referencing the greater cohesion of rural communities and the “aura” present in singular artworks, now dissolved by big city anonymity and mechanical reproduction. However, it could be argued that the sense of loss exemplified by Simmel and Benjamin is more emblematic of how the people in those societies felt, rather than what they were genuinely experiencing. Admittedly, this is a small distinction, but perhaps important, and one that can be explored more objectively from the privileged gaze of the early twenty-first century.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

There are so many amazing lines in George R. R. Martin’s magnum opus, often found in the most unlikely places. I was rereading Arya’s first chapter from A Storm of Swords recently, and was struck by how perfectly one passage captured the characters transforming psyche: “They thought they were hunting her, she knew with all the strange sharp certainty of dreams, but they were wrong. She was hunting them.” It shows how Arya is beginning to externalize all of the violence and abuse she’s been subjected to, and how her psychology is being rewritten by the threat of death that constantly hangs over her head.

But in terms of a quote that summarizes the whole series (or, at least, one of its major themes), I’d have to go with this Tyrion line from ASOS: “It all goes back and back, to our mothers and fathers and theirs before them. We are puppets dancing on the strings of those who came before us, and one day our own children will take up our strings and dance on in our steads.” I think every character in the series is living under the shadow of those who came before them, especially their fathers. Look at how large the figure of Tywin looms in the thoughts and feelings of the Lannister children, even after his death. Whether they want to imitate him, or carry on his legacy, or transcend his cruelty, or drown out his voice with wine, he is a fundamental part of who they are.

Read the rest of this entry »

I watched Ready Player One tonight and had a couple of thoughts, mostly about the book it’s based on. I always found it odd that critics called it a “love letter” to geek culture, when the virtual world Ernest Cline creates seems to be one entirely devoid of creativity. There are no more authors or artists, there are only fans. And the fans have taken ownership over everything. And instead of creating works of their own, they simply pine over and remix the works of the past. It’s a world of perpetual nostalgia and eternal sameness. It’s geek culture as imagined by Joseph McCarthy, in which there are “true” geeks (who can recite the lyrics to every Monty Python sketch) and “false” geeks (who don’t even know how many parsecs the Millennium Falcon made the Kessel Run in).

For Cline’s characters, the value of movies seems to have been reduced to how many facts you could rattle off about it, rather than the emotional or intellectual experience it stirred within you. Who you are no longer refers to an inner self or a set of principles, but rather of what you like, how you pay homage to it, and how much more devoted to it you are than everyone else. It’s a potentially fascinating critique of our own relationship with pop culture, except that Cline shows almost zero interest in exploring these implications. The book is a by-the-numbers YA adventure which revels in pop references and unites geeks against a cartoonishly evil corporation whose main sin is that they aren’t as pop culturally obsessed as our paper-thin heroes.

As for the film, Spielberg admittedly does a better job at probing the troubling aspects of this digital escapism and nostalgia obsession, and the story works far better in a visual format, as the action can be drawn with all the kinetic intensity of a real computer game (one understands the awesome appeal of the virtual reality game). And the avalanche of pop references need only be shown (allowing the viewer to make the connections themselves, if they care to), instead of being laboriously explained and itemised by Cline.

I did get a giddy thrill over the ultimate prize of the film being an “Easter Egg.” I wonder if they planned that. The final boss should have been Zombie Jesus.

 


VASSALS OF KINGSGRAVE: EPISODE 453
[MP3] Download or play this episode directly
[iTunes] Subscribe to us on iTunes
[WordPress] VOK podcast feed
[Forum] Episode Thread

The Vassals venture from the Outback to the dancefloor to the suburban sprawl in search of the cinematic heart of Australia. Join Duncan (Valkyrist), Sarah (Lady Weaver), Dana (Taindana), and David (davidhhh) as they discuss some of their favourite Australian films and mull over the state of the industry.

01:24 – Australian Cinema
22:19 – Wake in Fright (Ted Kotcheff, 1971)
55:20 – The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert (Stephan Elliott, 1994)
1:25:26 – Strictly Ballroom (Baz Luhrmann, 1992)
1:44:17 – The Babadook (Jennifer Kent, 2014)

Warning: Contains #SPOILERS# for all four films

Credits:
Edited by Valkyrist
Audio clips owned by NLT Productions, PolyGram, M&A Productions and Causeway Films


VASSALS OF KINGSGRAVE: EPISODE 452
[MP3] Download or play this episode directly
[iTunes] Subscribe to us on iTunes
[WordPress] VOK podcast feed
[Forum] Episode Thread

In this episode Bina007 has an audio reunion with some of the Krakens she met during her recent trip to Australia for the Ashes. Michael/Khal Wadege covers the Prologue from A Feast For Crows; Duncan/Valkyrist covers Brienne 1 from A Feast For Crows; and podcast newbie Leigh/ChaoticNeutral1882 covers the final Tyrion chapter from A Storm Of Swords. The gang are also joined by the Western Australians Sarah/Lady Weaver and Dana/Taindana.

Beware! This podcast is dark and full of spoilers for all published works in the A Song Of Ice and Fire series including very briefly TWOW preview chapters. It does not spoil the show.

Credits:
Edited by Bina007
Music by Alpine Universe

This is a dramatic reading of Robb’s speech to Dino about the reason the Shkeen (and his beloved Lya) are surrendering their bodies to the Greeshka. It is taken the novella A Song for Lya, by George R. R. Martin.


VASSALS OF KINGSGRAVE: EPISODE 446
[MP3] Download or play this episode directly
[iTunes] Subscribe to us on iTunes
[WordPress] VOK podcast feed
[Forum] Episode Thread

The Vassals return once more to the pixelated roundtable to offer wise council and exchange valuable cheat codes. Join Duncan (Valkyrist), Zach (Alias), Katie (Lady Griffin), Bing (Shoeshiner), Paul (SerDinnerRoll), and Kevin (Gaiden) as they chat video games and gush over some of their favourite titles of all time.

01:14 – Recently Played
11:37 – Favourite Games (Round #3)
1:00:48 – Favourite Games (Round #4)
1:52:24 – Favourite Games (Round #5)
2:14:43 – Upcoming Games

Credits:
Edited by Valkyrist
Audio Clips owned by Valve and Toby Fox

A poem written by Irish poet W. B. Yeats in 1919. It uses Christian imagery regarding the Apocalypse and Second Coming allegorically to describe the atmosphere of post-war Europe.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Read the rest of this entry »


VASSALS OF KINGSGRAVE: EPISODE 439
[MP3] Download or play this episode directly
[iTunes] Subscribe to us on iTunes
[WordPress] VOK podcast feed
[Forum] Episode Thread

Join the Vassals for a spoiler-filed discussion of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Did you love this movie? Hate it? Can’t decide? Tell us what you think. It’s certainly been a hot topic this past week.

Your hosts include Adam (drownedsnow), Paul (SerDinnerRoll), Michal (inkasrain), Katie (Lady Griffin), Patrick (Ser Patrick the Tall), Duncan (Valkyrist), Amber (Amberrocks), Bina (Bina007), and Hannah (Shadowbaby). The Aftershow begins at 2:51:00.

Credits:
Edited by drownedsnow


VASSALS OF KINGSGRAVE: EPISODE 435
[MP3] Download or play this episode directly
[iTunes] Subscribe to us on iTunes
[WordPress] VOK podcast feed
[Forum] Episode Thread

The Vassals convene for another video game roundtable.  This time around Vassals Duncan (Valkyrist), Bing (shoeshiner), Katie (LadyGriffin), and Zach (Alias) gather to talk about some of their favorite video games in the year of 2017. They also share some of the biggest games they are anticipating in the coming year.

0:45 – Introduction
7:15 – XCOM 2: War of the Chosen
14:40 – Persona 5
23:10 – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
49:05 – Divinity Original Sin 2
1:02:40 – Night in the Woods
1:12:25 – Mass Effect: Andromeda
1:21:45 – Most Anticipated Games of 2018
1:35:35 – Aftershow

While there will be minor spoilers for the various games discussed, this podcast is largely spoiler-free. 

Credits:
Edited by Alias