Sunday, 27 November 2016

'A Fact Remains a Fact, And Will Not Be Dismissed Without Some Explanation': Analysis of Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita (1967)

Dogma is enemy of truth. To believe reality cannot be so, when reality is so, is delusion; to call this delusion rationalism is parodic. In The Master and Margarita, Bulgakov drops a walking refutation into Moscow, he drops the devil among atheists. Do they accept, or even consider, what their reason and senses should tell them? No, they fall back on dogmatic materialism. The literary establishment will not consider the devil, or God, or magic, or any speck of the old religion. To contrast this denial of truth, Bulgakov gives a model of artistic creation of truth, in the Master’s story.

On an ordinary evening in Soviet Russia, the devil comes to Moscow. Posing as Professor Woland, a scholar of black magic, Satan and his coterie of demons performs a farce, with Soviet literary world his stage and the Muscovite upper-crust his unwitting players. Between these satires, the audience reads the eponymous Master’s unpublished manuscript, a retelling of Christ’s final days, from Pilate’s perspective. 

Sunday, 20 November 2016

I Came for LSD, But Only Got Sugar: A Review of 'Dr Strange' (2016 film)

Dr Strange was never going to be ground-breaking film. Guardians of the Galaxy proved B-list characters could sell, and Inception pre-empted many of Dr Strange’s trippier elements. While not excellent, Dr Strange is decent, with a tad more visual flourish than other MCU movies.  

Self-centred and brilliant Dr Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a neurosurgeon driven more by prestige than altruism. When a car crash cripples his hands, his career ends. After Western medicine fails to save him, he treks to Kathmandu, to Kamar-Taj, an order headed by the mystical Ancient One, said to cure any ailment. While he does not heal, he learns their sorcery. All is not well, though. A renegade pupil, Kaecilius, summons threats from the edge of reality. Dr Strange holds the fate of the world in his hands.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

More Happy and Bashful, than Dopey and Sleepy: A Review of 'Snow White with the Red Hair' Season 1 (2015 anime)

[Contains Spoilers for the First Season]

When Yona of the Dawn soured, Snow White with the Red Hair fell to the bottom of my queue. Shallow as I feel admitting it, Snow White suffered guilt by association, being another medieval fantasy about a red-haired heroine. Shock-horror, however, for Snow White is a competent – nay, a good show. Forgoing the epic ambitions of fantasies such as Yona, Snow White breezes along with small, but well-written, conflicts.

When the vain and lascivious Prince Raji chooses an aspiring herbalist, Shirayuki, as his concubine, she gets the hell out of that country. On her flight she runs into Zen, the second prince of the neighbouring kingdom, who cows Raji into retreat, and whisks Shirayuki to his homeland. In her new home, Shirayuki follows her dream to be herbalist, and develops her friendship with the prince. 

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Hold the Phone, Hacking's How Old?: A Recommendation of Secrets of the Little Blue Box, by Ron Rosenbaum

Sorry! Still busy, so I’ll just leave this quick recommendation.

You may read The Secrets of the Little Blue Box because ‘it inspired Steve Jobs’, but trust me, it's more than its legacy. 

Writing in the 70s, Ron Rosenbaum interviews a group of proto-hackers, whose game is not personal computers, but telephones. You know those high-frequency tones you heard on landlines? Those weren’t just decoration; that was the phone instructing the operating computer. A tone of such-and-such a frequency meant ‘1’, of this-and-that frequency ‘2’, and so on. Some clever clogs realised that if the system responded to these frequencies, then surely it shouldn't matter what the frequencies came from. A whistle, maybe. A programmed blue box.

What follows is an underground society of blind proto-computer whizzes, code names like ‘Captain Crunch’, free phone calls and phone-tapping, and ‘phone phreaks’ sticking it to the Man, AKA the phone company.

At only fifty or so pages, it’s a worthwhile diversion. If you want to learn about the surprisingly old origins of hacking, check it out.