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Monthly Cultural Round Up: January

So, how long ago was January? Yeah, yeah, let’s just get on with it…


Red Mars Kim Stanley Robinson

So sure, it might turn out that I am the only science fiction fan on this planet who had not read this book, but see, I have caught up now. Anyway, I thought it was a fascinating depiction of the colonisation of Mars. It was a very thoughtful book, and the approach to issues such as terraforming (is it environmental vandalism?), socialisation, and the role of multinational corporations and conglomerates I found genuinely thought-provoking. I found the second half of the book a bit hard going at times, but this is because it is so relentlessly depressing. That does not, however, make it bad. The depictions and characterisations of the various key players were excellent, and I particularly liked the way the switch in the narrative viewpoints demonstrated how frequent it is for people to have different viewpoints and perspectives and understandings of the events around them. Engaging and fascinations, it is definitely a must read for any hard core sci fi-sociology fan.

The Hobbit JRR Tolkien

So, challenged to a Hobbit-off by my 9 yr old, I embarked on the reading of my very beautiful The Annotated Hobbita lovely birthday present from long ago. I used to lust over the book found in a tiny bookshop where my best friend worked for a time, and our other wonderful friend who hung out with us there ended up buying it for me. But that was a long time ago, and enough reminiscing. Needless to say, it has been a long time that I have owned this book, and even longer since I read The Hobbit in full. I am pretty sure I have read The Lord of the Rings twice in the meantime. Thus the humour in The Hobbit is a little surprising, particularly given the large amount of grand seriousness in LOTR. I know that LOTR is not without humour of its own, but it doesn’t infuse the whole book quite as it does The Hobbit. The Hobbit is also a much simpler tale and it is interesting to see the extent that the elves, for instance, have morphed between the two books. I must say I enjoyed The Hobbit quite a lot, and found that it moved quite quickly for the most part, although towards the end it did take a bit of time to come to a resolution. Rather like LOTR, just when you think the main action is done, a whole bunch of other things happen. Well worth revisiting, it is also a relatively quick read, worth catching up on before the film comes out at the end of the year. By the way, I did defeat the 9 yr old in The Hobbit-off.


The Adventures of Tin Tin

Confession: I am not really a Tin Tin fan. I was always an Asterix girl. And I have been known to wince in horror when my small boys demand that I read various Tin Tins aloud. Especially when I get to the cringe-worthy depictions of “orientals” and the like. This didn’t mean I wasn’t interested to see the film, but it gives you a perspective on my view of the film. And actually, I rather enjoyed it. I found it pleasantly entertaining, without being word changing. It also wasn’t offensive. I am no fan of 3D, but I actually found the use of 3D quite good – not just annoying and gimicky, but well and cleverly used, and quite beautifully rendered. There are some fantastic scenes – the car chase and the crane fight in particular, and during these in particular the 3D really shines, as does the clever animation. The story could have been paced up in parts, but, really, it is Tin Tin, so how much can you do. For reasonably inoffensive family entertainment, I think Tin Tin meets the ticket quite well. Just don’t expect anything world-changing.


So I guess I only saw this because I was on a plane. But hey, for a remake it isn’t bad. The young people are pretty and relatively competent in their roles, the dancing and the music are good. It does not stray far from the original with some scenes, particularly the dance ones, being almost shot for shot (not sure how I remember this after all this time). But the changes I don’t quite understand. HOW CAN IT BE FOOTLOOSE WITHOUT THE CAR SURFING SCENE?!? I kept waiting, but it disappointed me… Oh and I think the lead is better looking than Kevin Bacon, in a bland sort of way, but I am not sure he will ever achieve the same cult status.


For all the talk of this being an Oscar contender and Brad Pitt’s performance being outstanding and blah blah, I just didn’t see it. To me this was your stock-standard hero journey – hero takes chance, no one understands!, encounters setback, fights through and YAY wins. No surprises at all and utterly formulaic. You could pretty much predict every twist. With cute father-daughter relationship thrown in for extra pathos (Daddy, will you lose your job? *cue tear). The thing about the film I found most interesting, and also disturbing, was the entire discourse about baseball players which was interestingly taken for granted by the narrative. There was absolutely no compunction about the treatment of these people, because they are people, as tools or chess pieces, which could be traded, sacrificed or just thrown away. In fact the entire film revolves around the idea of treating people just so. Athletes as widgets in a factory process. Slightly horrifying really.

2 responses to “Monthly Cultural Round Up: January

  1. Pingback: A Science Fiction round-up « Flaming Culture

  2. Pingback: From Asimov to Banks: A Science Fiction round-up « This Wheel of Many Parts

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