Reading Feb 2013

 

Spent a weird week or so unable to find the right book – usually I have an almost preternatural knack of finding the right book to be reading. So I ended up watching a few films, for a change, until the book magic returned. So you get some film reviews too.

Books

Tohunga: Hohepa Kereopa – Paul Moon

Interview based book with an old Tuhoe tohunga about his life, experience, and practices. Really fascinating and grounding insight into the Maori spiritual world-view.

In The Forests of Serre – Patricia McKillip

McKillip is one of my very favourite fantasists. She writes in a fairytale sensibility and mold, but not self aware and post modern, just alive with the richness of story. Think if Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, etc) wrote in English with an English patina of narrative tropes to draw from. Her prose is gorgeous, her tales vivid and unpredictable. This is absolutely delicious, and my favourite of hers so far; a forest full of magic and enchantments, and many twists in the tale. Ending a little flat maybe, or maybe I was tired. Generally wonderful.

Wise Blood – Flannery O’Connor

Woo. This is a weird one. Set in the post-war American south, we follow young fucked up weirdo losers losing their minds as they try to make sense of their world. Really struck me as the Catcher in the Rye which should have been – a truer representation of finding a place in life, and America. Main character founds the Church of Christ without Christ, speaking such gems as “Where you come from is gone, where you were going to weren’t never there, and where you are ain’t no good unless you can get away from it.”

The Sisters Brothers – Patrick DeWitt

Amusing picaresque cowboy noir, set in 1850s America, following two killers on a job. The narrator’s personality, observations, and asides are oddly charming for a psychopathic killer. Read on a recommendation; enjoyable and swift, not quite sure.

Currently on You Are Not a Gadget: A manifesto by Jaron Lanier, in which he is arguing that lots about our current technological design is accidental, badly thought out, and is/will have bad effects on our notion and being of human.

Films

Snow White and Huntsman

Mostly alright until the last 45 minutes. Good atmosphere. Good example of something getting too self aware and post modern (or at least consciously modern) in its treatment of fairytale content.

Cosmopolis

Cronenberg directs based on DeLillo’s novel. The guy from Twilight is a billionaire travelling across town in his limousine having various interactions as the world comes down. Abstract, visceral, very weird.

The Master

Excellent but bizarre film, sort of based on L Ron Hubbard and Scientology, but mostly about Joaquin Phoenix giving a freaking amazing performance as a fucked up sex obsessed alcoholic which he doubtless should win awards for but probably won’t.

(John Dies At The End)

Pretty sure I saw this last month but it is worth mentioning. Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, Bubba Ho Tep) directs an extremely entertaining… hard to describe in a sentence, but awesome film. Dudes acquire a black goo drug which gives access to other dimensions of reality. A ride of mayhem ensues. Huge fun, occasional splatter.

some things that caught my eye lately

 

* Sobering but really sharp take on where 3D printing is actually at, and where it is heading, beyond the hype, in terms of what you will be able to build at home. Hint: your Star Trek replicator ain’t nowhere in sight.

* Meanwhile, scientists are using 3D printers to make stem cells, so who knows, really.

*Update on the Hedges, Chomsky et al case vs the Obama administration over the NDAA (which we first blogged back in October)

If we lose in Hedges v. Obama—and it seems certain that no matter the outcome of the appeal this case will reach the Supreme Court—electoral politics and our rights as citizens will be as empty as those of Nero’s Rome. If we lose, the power of the military to detain citizens, strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely in military prisons will become a terrifying reality. Democrat or Republican. Occupy activist or libertarian. Socialist or tea party stalwart. It does not matter. This is not a partisan fight. Once the state seizes this unchecked power, it will inevitably create a secret, lawless world of indiscriminate violence, terror and gulags. I lived under several military dictatorships during the two decades I was a foreign correspondent. I know the beast.

 Anonymous is also threatening to interrupt the State of the Union address over this.

* Blindspot: hidden biases of good people

* Great Big Ideas: twelve lectures covering most of everything, free online