ironphoenix (ironphoenix) wrote,

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Recent reading and watching

Things I've read or watched recently:

Dion Fortune--Psychic Self-Defense: A little book of somewhat uncharacteristically hard-headed analysis of how to identify and deal with psychic troubles. A good deal of the book is spent on how to discriminate these from psychological effects, which is excellent, and also on how to discriminate effects caused by malicious attacks from those which are impersonal, rather like the difference betwteen a fire started by arson as opposed to one started by faulty wiring or accident. If you believe you may be afflicted by some psychic effect, this is a book to give to someone you know and trust. One of the points she makes is that for someone inclined towards psychism, neurosis is also quite close, and thinking about psychism (even with the best intentions) can make one more vulnerable to these effects. Thus, and external observer is likely to be both more objective in their evaluation and less likely to be negatively impacted by the analysis itself. My reservations about it have to do with the slant of her perspective: she was a student of a Christian initiation school, and has some of the biases that go with that. "Secrets" are generally revealed only to initiates, for their supposed protection; I have no secrets of this kind, and have not encountered things which would require such treatment. (I favor symbols, arcana and mysteries, whose meanings reveal themselves according to the person's readiness and God's inspiration, over secrets.)

Joe Sacco--Palestine: A graphic novel, only it's non-fiction. Graphic reportage, perhaps. It reads a bit like a reporter's diary as he travels to and in Palestine and Israel, describing the people and their stories without heavy-handed judgements. Very evocative, it presents an image of a society stunted by repression, and the reasons and consequences of that repression, all without theorizing or hand-wringing. Sad, even haunting, this is not an easy read, although the pages seem to turn quickly.

Joe Sacco--Safe Area Gorazde: Another graphic reportage, this time about the UN-declared safe area of the title, in Eastern Bosnia, during the war from '92 to '95. He gives more political context here, including a view of the international and UN game-playing that complicated matters considerably. This book describes a much more brutally violent situation than Palestine. Here, a formerly peaceful society is ripped apart and plunged into a genocidal war by relatively small factions. If Palestine is haunting, this can be the stuff of nightmare: it hints at how close we all could be to the unthinkable.

Stephen King--Wolves of the Calla: The fifth book of seven in the Dark Tower series, this would be a side note if only the resolution of the battle it sets up in such detail weren't so important to the aim of reaching the Tower. Character development abounds here, probably to set the stage for the last two books. Father Callahan, from 'Salem's Lot, enters the story as a major character, which will make torrain happy. Truthfully, I'm not quite finished yet; still about 70 pages of 900-and-some to go. These are all long, lush books, and the off-kilter weirdness of the universe they describe is, at least for me, vividly evocative.

Pan's Labyrinth: A Spanish film, played here with English subtitles, in the great traditions of fairy tales and magic realism. Sad and uplifting, triumphant and tragic, and heroic throughout, this is probably the best modern Weestern fantasy I've seen on film. (I'm not counting The Lord of the Rings because it's classic fantasy, even though the movies (the good ones, not the horrid things of decades ago) are modern. Also, some Japanese and Chinese fantasy movies such as Spirited Away and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon would rival or excel it.) Special effects were used, but not at all excessively; the emphasis was on characters and their interactions with each other in the situation given, not on OMGDeusExMachinaPlotDevice!, or flashy and/or grotesque visuals. Is it all a dream? Almost maybe, and, as with real miracles, it's easy to ignore and put aside the signs that it's not, if one is so inclined. Worth seeing; bring tissues.

Best of the Cannes Advertising Festival: The annual best advertisements from around the globe. My favorites were: a Mexican Red Cross ad, a French ad for the movie channel Canal Plus, a Southeast Asian skin cream ad series1, an ad for Carlton Draught beer, and last but definitely not least, an Argentinian political ad. The grand prix winner, a Sony ad, didn't do much for me, despite being oh-so-artsy and cool.

1: The second half of the video is a repeat, but it's the best I could find with subtitles; sorry!
Tags: books, video
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