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Monthly Cultural Round Up: September

Another month has come around so quickly, and the Christmas decorations are well and truly in the shops. Life suddenly got very busy when the election was decided, so the cultural intake has been a little bit on the light side, but not completely absent. So here we go.

Books

Cobweb Neal Stephenson and Fredrick George So I had been meaning to read this book for years, but, in typical fashion has seen it once in a bookstore, not bought it, then never seen it again. However, friendship came to the rescue and I borrowed it. As a big big Neal Stephenson fan in general, and a lover of Interface, I was a little disappointed in Cobweb. It had many of the elements of Stephenson’s work with the intricate web of relationships and interactions, the sardonic humour and believable yet outrageous scenario, but somehow I found it just didn’t quite gel as well as his best works. it is hard to quite put my finger on what it was, but while most of the elements were good, somehow the sum of the parts were in fact more than the whole.

Films

Scott Pilgrim Vs the World Because I am no longer the person with my finger on the pulse of the whole movie industry I once was (oh, those were the days, reading Variety for work purposes…any, I digress), I didn’t really know a great deal about this film when I went to see it, but it seemed like a good idea. So I enjoyed it and had a few giggles and, interestingly, the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. I thought it used its little quirky bits well, without becoming obsessively gimicky, and had a nice combination of clever humour, and totally stupid humour. One has to laugh, a lot, at the depiction of Veganism as the source of super powers. It managed to avoid pretension, and, best of all, had a totally awesome soundtrack. That was worth the price of admission alone.

Kea Festival – NZ short films I have always had a fondness for short films which are well done – unlike short stories, but that is a completely different story. There is something about the way that a short film can capture an idea, or present a vignette which is clever and magical. Especially when they don’t try too hard to be a mini feature film. I guess it is about embracing the form. There were some excellent examples amongst this group of films – the very first, short film which showed a lake in NZ really captured what I am talking about. So too did This is Her: it used the form brilliantly, although you could critique it from a feminist perspective – placing the blame on women for relationship breakdowns and leaving men as bystanders in the dramas of their own lives. I was also really taken by O Tamaiti even though it did move rather more into the mini-feature film territory. I was less excited by The Six Dollar Fifty Man, but I guess nothing pleases everyone all the time – too much hand held camera work for me. Some of the 100% Pure New Zealand short films were just a little too much like advertisements, but I guess that was what they were trying to be, so I can’t really complain too much!

Television

Jericho season 1 I had been meaning to watch this for a long time and finally got around to dragging out the DVDs. It starts really well and has such an interesting premise and the approach to how a small community reacts to the crisis of a nuclear war is very interesting. The early part of the season, with the sense of isolation and the search to find a new social order are really interesting. Unfortunately some of the mid  season got a bit too distracted by personal dramas and side plots. The end of the season didn’t feel too satisfactory and some of the motivations involved were a bit unclear. It will be interesting to see whether season 2 clears any of it up. So worth watching, but not the most outstanding television ever.

Internet

The Guild This was a recommendation from Twitter, and naomieve in particular. So I watched an episode…and was totally addicted. Starring and written by Felicia Day, it is 4 seasons of 7 minute episodes which are very funny and rather silly but totally entertaining. Although I am not a player of MMOs, as a RL, old skool D&D player, many of the ideas, concepts, characters and obsessions are completely familiar. I am now just sad I have exhausted all episodes… And if you want to catch up, try here.

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