January Cultural Round Up

So I have decided as an exciting new feature to give a quick overview at the end of each month of those things cultural which have taken up my attention over the last month. We thus commence with January.

Books

The Master and Margarita Mikhail Bulgakov

In a word, Russian. There is something about the first half of books that requires that the plot really doesn’t move along much – I’ll never forget the endless wanderings around the streets for the first half of Crime and Punishment. Anyhow, I did enjoy the second half and clearly it is fascinating as a product of its social time and place.

The Resurrectionist James Bradley

Have not finished yet, but it is darkly seductive, drawing one in and leaving one dreamily wanting more just like the opium Gabriel finds himself taking. And whoever thought that short chapters made a book easier to put down at night. I find myself reading well past my bedtime, figuring just one, short chapter more can’t take very long…can it?

Cinema

Avatar

Well, I have said my piece on Avatar elsewhere to some extent. Beautiful to look at but empty at its heart. And I am sorry, but a “best Film” should really be a bit more than aesthetically pleasing – I generally demand an actual script and some less by-the-numbers acting.

Sherlock Holmes

Strong auteurial influence – it had never occurred to me to think of Watson as a bit of a geezer before. However, rather an enjoyable romp, though I think it might have been better if the central characters were renamed – really, anything other than Holmes and Watson.

The Princess and the Frog

Classic Disney in the classicist sense. Old school animation, American Dream rags-to-riches storyline…Admittedly the “princess” is a poor girl with a dream (Cinderella anyone) and the Prince is a lay about – but let’s face, he is transformed by love and hard work and she is transformed by marriage, so there we go. Nonetheless, not too bad, and I will even guiltily admit I got a little tear at one point – must have been dust in my eye.

Television

The Wire  – Season 2

The charisma of Jimmy McNulty insidiously creeps under one’s guard, and suddenly one finds oneself with a full blown case of TV boyfriend! So far, season 2 is showing itself to be as intriguing as season 1, full of moral dilemmas and perspectives and a demonstration that some of our notions about crime and morality are not as black and white as they could be. Situation, opportunity and grinding poverty are all keys to the story.

Dollhouse – season 1

It occurs to me that this series was just a big chance for Joss to do what he loved to do in Buffy and Angel – make his characters be someone else. Better mid season than its shaky start, I still long for it to be a bit better. The mid season episodes are improved though by Eliza getting to play Eliza, which has always been her strongest suit.

Games

Lego Star Wars  for the Wii

It must be said that the interstitial moments of Lego Star Wars really make you want to get to the end of the level. Wait, so does the frustration of having to do the same annoying thing over a few times… Having never really played one of these types of games before I was somewhat addicted for the first half of the month – and I can see Zelda purchases in my future.

Music

This month was dominated by the Big Day Out which we journeyed all the way to Adelaide to attend. The best discoveries for the day: my mild interest in The Decemberists was heightened by seeing them perform live and Peaches, let’s just say her show is totally, rockingly, insane. For my full run down of the Big Day Out, see here.

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100 science fiction women #28: Margarita Nikolaevna

Ok, so I have been inattentive. but here I am now. And my list for the day is again from city of tongues (thanks James) and is 100 Top Science Fiction/Fantasy books. While there are a number of my very favourite books on the list, like The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin and The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson, I think that the list is more a reflection of the writer’s 100 favourite books, leaving out as it does a number of significant authors and featuring so many books by the same author. But who said lists need to be objective? And it does provide further food for rumination. Tonight’s edition of this list involves a book I had been meaning to read for years, and have just finished, and so to….

Margarita Nikolaevna The Master and Margarita Mikhail Bulgakov

You know you are reading Russian literature when the eponymous Margarita doesn’t appear until the second half of the book (and the Master appears hardly at all). But discussion of the nature of literature aside, Margarita represents an interesting character in this book, as one of the few characters the Devil on his visit to Moscow does not treat extremely badly. Margarita is unhappy, separated from her love and lover, the Master, living in a marriage which, will financially beneficial and to, it would seem, a pleasant enough (but non-appearing) character, does not involve love. She is driven by love for the Master and her desire to be reunited with him, but even though this overrides her actions, she is willing to use the opportunity to ask for anything to beg the Devil to end the eternal torment of a dead ghost who is haunted by the child she killed. Margarita understands the desperation which drove this young woman to her crime, and asks the right question – what of the man who made her pregnant and left her abandoned – is he made to suffer as she does. Willing to embrace adventure if it leads her from her unfulfilling life and towards the Master, she rides a broom naked and invisible through the streets of Moscow. Full of passion she destroys the house of the critic who broke the will of the Master, overcome by rage and yet her compassion stills her hand when she sees the fear she creates in a young boy. She is unafraid of the strangeness and possible danger of her role as the hostess for the Devil, and will take on the pain and discomfort involved to meet the Master again.

Margarita’s breath was taken away, and she was about to utter the cherished words prepared in her soul, when she suddenly turned pale, opened her mouth and stared: “Freida!…Freida, Frieda!” someone’s importunate, imploring voice cried in her ears, “my name is Frieda.”