Posts Tagged ‘Book review’

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.

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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.

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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 452
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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


A PODCAST OF ICE AND FIRE: EPISODE 224
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Episode 224 for the week of November 5, 2017. Over four years since the last Guys Night Out, we return with a 4 person panel including Elio from Westeros.org, Aziz from History of Westeros, and Duncan (aka Valkyrist) from Vassals of Kingsgrave.

The guys renew their The Winds of Winter predictions, talk about how being in the fandom has affected their lives, and discuss The Sons of the Dragon. They also share their general views on the state of the TV show and various characters (including the Stannis issue) and fandom theories, before wrapping up with a final aftershow.

Notes: Spoilers for all five books, all other published material, and up to the end of season 5 of HBO’s Game of Thrones.


VASSALS OF KINGSGRAVE: EPISODE 415
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After the trauma of the Red Wedding, the Vassals move back to the Wall for Sam 3, Jon 6 and Jon 7 from A Storm of Swords. These are the events of 17th and 18th, December 299 AL. Your hosts are Dragoncast’s Matt/Varley and Casey/Blue Eyed Queen and Krakencast’s Duncan/Valkyrist and Sarah/LadyWeaver with Bina007 holding the line of insanity somewhere in between!

The podcast is dark and full of spoilers for all published works in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, but not for HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Credits:
Edited by Bina007
Music by Alpine Universe and the Electric Pancakes

redwedding

VASSALS OF KINGSGRAVE: EPISODE 400
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To celebrate their 400th podcast, the curators of VOK break bread in the smoky halls of the Twins and toast a joyous marriage to Edmure Tully and Roslyn Frey.

Join Duncan (Valkyrist), Glen (Dagos_Rivers), Bina (Bina007), Patrick (Ser Patrick the Tall), Zach (Alias), Adam (drownedsnow), Nadia, and Greg (claudiusthefool) for a one-night only performance of Catelyn VII from George R. R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords (aka the “Red Wedding”). And stick around backstage for a postmortem discussion of the chapter.

Warning: Contains spoilers for all published books in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire

02:20 – Full Cast(le) Recording #13: The Hole Where Our Hearts Had Been
33:32 – Catelyn VII (ASOS) Chapter Discussion

Credits:
Edited by Valkyrist


VASSALS OF KINGSGRAVE: EPISODE 389
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Join the Cockneymooters for the 44th edition of the Great ASOIAF Linear Reread. In this episode we cover the events of the 15th to 17th November 299, and the chapters Cat 5, Bran 2 Arya 5 and Arya 6 from A Storm of Swords.

Your hosts are Bina007, Joe, Noah/Pops88 and Tanja/Scilens. We also welcome honorary Cockney For The Night, Matt/Varley and visiting Curator, Duncan/Valkyrist..

The podcast is dark and full of spoilers for all published works in George R R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire but not for HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Credits:
Edited by Bina007
Music by Alpine Universe and The Kinks


BASTARDS OF KINGSGRAVE: EPISODE 72
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The Bastards of Kingsgrave continues their reviews of George R.R. Martin’s earlier works. We have a spoiler filled discussion about George’s first novel, Dying of the Light,  published in 1977. Michael and Greg had a code duello required match after the record  over name pronunciations.


VASSALS OF KINGSGRAVE: EPISODE 379
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Join hosts Nadia, Valkyrist/Duncan, Nymeria/Marie, shadow_baby/Hannah, DrBlood/Sara, Ser Patrick the Tall/Patrick, and Khal Wadege/Michael as they continue the Great Linear Reread with Sansa 2 and Davos 3 from A Storm of Swords.

The next reread will be hosted by Bina and will cover Catelyn 3, Sansa 3 and Davos 4 from ASoS.

This podcast contains spoilers for all published works of the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin, but does not contain spoilers for HBO’s show, Game of Thrones.

Aftershow begins at 1 hr 31m

Credits:
Edited by Nadia