Sunday, 19 May 2013

Opinion: The Media on Social Issues

This post was based on a discussion group I ran at my school's Amnesty International group (thanks all who came by the way) . It was exploring the way the media portrayed various social issues, what results were gained from these, and how it could help promote the rights of refugees by looking at four different social movements in the recent years. 

Rape in India: The movement was the heaviest in Delhi, December 2012 after the violent rapes, gang rapes and murders of women and very young girls. This movement is still continuing and fluctuating when new shocking cases arrive. Even liking humour pages such as 'Indian Parent Memes' can give you pictures regarding the movement clogging up your facebook newsfeed. Outside of social media, this movement has had many protests including one to boycott India’s republic day, and is raising awareness and coverage of rapes, and putting pressure on the government for the punishment of rapists. I visited India during January, and although the movement had past its peak it was still in the news, I even found a magazine with pull-out booklet on rape cases which haven't received media coverage. Although it is disgusting, with the rapes of very young girls, people in India are removing 'victim-blaming' and 'she was asking for it' views and there is new tighter legislation on rapes. This issue is only really getting that much attention in India, and with people who have connections to India (like myself), but there is still a way we can help. If we tighten our legislation, and support the victim and punish the rapist, we can set a point of comparison for the Indian government and people, we can spread the word to make sure people have more understanding views. Rape is an issue which is recently getting people up in arms when it has been going on for ages, and all it took was one shock event to gain media coverage. 

Bullying in Australia:  Another issue that’s been going on for ages but had a real moment in the spotlight was bullying. As you may remember, this video from an Australian school went viral in mid 2011, features a smaller kid bullying a larger kid who’s had enough and slams the bully on the ground. This started a lot of news reports and calls for tighter restrictions on bullying in schools, especially for cyberbullying (even though this was physical violence). Everyone seemed shocked that this type of thing was happening while I, and quite a number of students, noted that bullying happens in schools happens regularly and has been doing so for so long that it is likely to have started when schools do. This news even reached the US which is great for awareness for an issue going on under our noses, but it could be misleading if you were not aware that the smaller kid was bullying the larger one for a long time before hand. This video had the effect it did for a number of reasons: it was one of the more extreme cases of bullying, it hit close to home for the Australians, and we all love seeing an underdog standing up for themselves, Although this was very impacting and the media was calling on schools to take action, none of the results of the campaign have stuck around to have a noticeable effect in the current day. 

Kony 2012: You all should remember this from last year, another video that went viral. It has a crazy initial response, everyone sharing the video, changing their profile pictures, taking the pledge, etc. But by the time “Cover the Night” was on Kony 2012 had already lost a lot of momentum. The Kony 2012 campaign worked because: it was regarding something shocking that most people had never heard of, celebrity endorsement, it was a well-made video, but most of all it made people feel that they could make a substantial change by doing simple things like writing a status, buying a wristband and sharing the video, even though they can't really. What actually happened, a few days after people went ahead and looked into the company, Invisible Children and started spreading their findings. People weren’t impressed by the founders holding guns, and people could already see this movement would come to nothing. After the founder was arrested for innapropriate conduct, the whole issue was trivialised and pictures like these spiked in appearance. The negatives of Kony 2012 campaign were: firstly it's 2013 and Joseph Kony is still out there so it obviously didn't work, Invisible Children didn't spend their money wisely, and the founders didn't set the best example and they didn't keep their coverage after their breakthrough. It was great as an awareness campaign and really demonstrated the power of social media, but in terms of actually doing anything, it didn't get there. 

Gay Marriage: This is unlike the other movements I’ve discussed here. Is the LGBT rights movement successful? I think so, although it hasn't been legalised here in Australia, it has been in many other regions of the world, it has been far more accepted here also. This movement has appealed to the younger generations and tried to make them more accepting by applying commonsense and empathy. It has had a different sort of celebrity endorsement as members of the entertainment industry who are also part of the LGBT community have spoken out about it, (Ellen DeGeneres and Neil Patrick Harris spring to mind) and we still think they're pretty cool. Unfortunately peer pressure has also been used, for example, Australia has been pushed into accepting Gay Marriage now that our neighbours across the Tasman, New Zealand, have legalised it, which is a highly under-handed way of getting legislation passed. The LGBT rights movement hasn't used shock tactics like the other ones, it has been a far more gradual process, and in doing so I think it will have a more long-lasting effect.

Refugees: The Australian mainstream media has given a very negative perspective on the refugees. Refugees have been portrayed as 'boat people' and job-stealers, an invasion, and usage of resources and tax-payers; with skewed information that focuses on them being a threat rather than the human rights issues that have caused them to seek asylum.  Some great attempts by the media, such as Go Back to Where you Came From and Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, have shed light the difficult circumstances and journeys that asylum seekers face, but they'd only be seen by an audience which is already accepting of refugees. But is there a way for the mainstream media to present accurate information on refugees effectively? We've discussed how shock tactics do not last long enough to create and impact, so it'd have to be gradual, but we'd keep refugees in the media in a positive light without boring people away from the topic.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Opinion: Overpopulation

This is the first non-review I've posted on my blog, and it should be the first of many (sorry if that disappoints anyone). This is an opinion piece titled Growing Numbers that I entered this in the Whitlam Institute's What Matters? Writing Competition 2013.

I believe overpopulation exacerbates almost all other issues in today’s society. The world’s population reached 7 billion in 2011 and is growing at 4.2 births and 1.8 deaths a second (CIA – The World Factbook). So what does this mean for the world? In basic terms, we have a large growing number of people all sharing Earth’s limited resources, meaning less overall for everyone. But of course it’s far more complicated than that; overpopulation has serious effects on sustainability, poverty, health and wealth distribution.

The consequences of overpopulation are most obvious in the environment. The Earth only has a finite amount of resources that are available for human use, with such a huge population it’s no wonder there’s not enough to go around. This puts strain on the Earth and it simply cannot supply enough for the increased demand. It’s not so much that everyone’s rations are smaller, they are unevenly distributed: people in Western countries have plenty of food, water, electricity and shelter available to them while people in developing countries have little access to these basic needs. This leads to concentrated poverty, malnutrition and disease in certain communities. Sustainable options always take into account the long term, but people in poverty aren’t likely to live to reap long term benefits, and need their sustenance immediately so they are forced to ruin these assets (Karen Gaia Pitts, Sustainability and Population). This is not always a one way street; a child born in the US will be responsible for 7 times the carbon emissions of a child born in China and 168 times the emissions for a child born in Bangladesh (Centre for Biological Diversity). Some say the Earth has enough natural resources to sustain a population of 10-14 billion, and that may be true for people, but does not take into account the countless flora, fauna and natural land that we would lose in the process.

Aside from sustainability, this skewed the supply and demand ratio caused by overpopulation lowers overall standards of living. There is less land, influence, employment opportunities, healthcare options and material possessions even for those who are comparatively well off. In an attempt to cater for this high demand, many material items are mass-produced in countries which have cheap labour, meaning these workers are largely underpaid, overworked and face immense pressure and often mistreatment to produce items for the rest of the world. Outside these countries there are not enough jobs, with increasing hours for those who are employed. The distribution of wealth is also showing a disturbing trend in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, this polarisation means that eventually those sitting in the middle will get dragged one way or another.

What can we do about it? I’m not suggesting employ anything as drastic as China’s one child policy or the culling of people, there are a number of smaller steps which can reduce the growing human population. Long gone are the days when children were economic answers and even with reduced pregnancy numbers, there will still be enough children to form the next generation. I believe birth control, education and abortion should be promoted globally, parenting has a serious impact on both the parent and the child, because of this we should not force this huge responsibility on those who do not want it. Australia is hardly a big player in this phenomenon, it mainly is an issue in developing countries, and just as they have the most children and face the brunt of the negative effects, they too should receive a concentrated implementation of population control options. 

Friday, 26 April 2013

Review ALL the Books: The Neverending Story

The first non-school book I've read for about a month, but it's great that I'm finally able to read the stuff I want to now. This was a great book to get back into the game, the kind that kept you turning the pages, engaged and getting the warm fuzzies when you finish. This is part of my Review ALL the Books Challenge, for more information on that click here.

General Info:
Title: The Neverending Story
Author: Michael Ende
Date of Completion: 10/4/2013
Rating: 5 stars

Reason for Reading: I'm familiar with the first film (I also had a bit of a crush on the movie's Atreyu when I was about 11), and I've wanted to read the book since I first saw it. 

Summary: Bastian, outcast bookworm comes across a mysterious old book, "The Neverending Story". As he reads he becomes entwined in the world of Fantastica, the realm of imagination, who is suffering decay at the hands of the Nothing. We join Bastian and Atreyu as they seek to restore balance to the dying Fantastica in an amazing adventure.

The Characters:
Bastian - I love bookworms, (seriously my boyfriend's a pretty major one) and that passage explaining what he did next at Coreander's was just so accurate, that I had to like Bastian. He got a bit annoying when he got all "I wanna be the very best, Like no one ever was," but I generally don't like characters when they get arrogant, so this was no exception. 

Atreyu - is a highly respectable character. He's courageous, physically and psychologically strong, selfless, loyal and for the greater good. You really admire and connect with Atreyu, it's hard to believe he's only 10. I guess now that I've put it into words, he sounds like a Gary Stu, but it never felt that way while reading it (trust me, I hate Mary Sues/Gary Stus).

The Childlike Empress & The Old Man of Wandering Mountain - The Childlike Empress although essential and the ruler of Fantastica, she is passive and impartial, loving all her subjects. The Old Man was intriguing in his house's description and his role of recording Fantastica. 

Falkor & Yikka - I love the bond these two have with their riders and their distinct speech patterns. Falkor's ever optimistic, and he sticks by Atreyu's side even though they met by coincidence. Yikka's only half an ass, so she know's things, she's so plain compared to everything else, and she's probably the closest we have to a sarcastic character.

Gmork & Xayide - Gmork's pessimism contrasted with Falkor's optimismand the passage he had about lies (see review for quote) was highly accurate, especially in terms of marketing. He was threatening, motivated and made a good villain. From when we meet Xayide it's pretty obvious she's an antagonist, there's no fooling you, but it's interesting to see the cunning ways she manipulates Bastian and her Seeing Hand is pretty creepy and cool at the same time.

Carl Conrad Coreander & Bastian's Father - I like how Carl's sceptical of the people in the real world but highly believing in fiction and Fantastica. He's probably the closest to a guide we have but he's still a mysterious character that makes you curious about his journey with The Neverending Story. I really like how although Bastian's father comes off as one of the typical absent parents found in YA and Children's novels, he does have an important role in the story. 

Others in Atreyu's Quest - Woah there are so many side characters it's crazy, but they are distinct and memorable, so that's why I've split the Others section. Creatures like Ygramul the Many and Uyulala were interesting concepts. Even Morla, the Gnomics and the messengers were given there own speech patterns and outlooks on the Nothing. Spook City totally creeped me out, and the other creatures like the bark trolls and the wind giants added depth to the world. Every single time it said "that is another story that will be told another time" I was like "NOOOOOO tell me now", every single time: Cairon (Greek mythology reference?), Engywook, Hero Hynreck, Yikka, the list goes on, it was that hooking. I would happily read another book which told these stories for another time (and I doubt I'm alone).

Other's in Bastian's Quest - Madame Eyola probably made the biggest impression out of the side characters for me, her loving motherly but ever changing nature (pun intended). Grograman was great at explaining the ongoing cyclic chracteristic of Fantastica and he was really lovely, and I feel sorry for his solitude. The Shlamoofs gave you annoyance, the Yskalnari peace and cooperation, Yor mysteriousness. The City of Old Emperors is even more haunting than the Spook City, and it's justifiably the reason for Bastian's turnaround. Other minor characters like Ilwan and Querquerobad are still in my head after weeks. I liked the little reference to Shakespeare, or "Shexper", a cute thought that Fantastica may have inspired his works. 

The Plot: The first third of the book corresponds with the movie, so I was left wondering what direction the remaining 2 thirds would go in. The middle of the book lost my interest, as the first third had a direction, but in this section it's not clear and it's just Bastian making a lot of wishes. It picks itself up gradually though and by the time I was up to the City of Old Emperors, I was hooked again. It definitely redeems itself by the end (not that it got bad in the first place). Although there was a tonne of different events and characters introduced, it all fell into place neatly and only added to the experience instead of clashing.

The Writing: Despite being in third person you really do connect with Bastian and Atreyu. The writing is simple, effective and ageless. There is great description but didn't feel like purple prose. The description of the Nothing was so unique and intriguing, as were the fantastical creatures and buildings introduced. There were 26 Chapters, each one starts with a letter in a full-page illustration, in alphabetical order. The content in Fantastica and Reality were kept separate but flowed together seamlessly. All this is even more impressive when you consider that this is just a translation.

Unrelated Extra: The internet's full of fascinating things. and some totally useless things. The Useless Web will show you the best why-does-this-even-exist sites on there.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Review: Avatar: The Last Airbender

This is my first review on this site that isn't about a book, but it was just so amazing that I just had to review it. I'll keep this in a similar format to how I review my books. Keep in mind I am reviewing the TV show, not the crap movie (especially not that James Cameron one). This show is just so mind-blowingly amazing and I can't recommend it enough, my review is long and since its for a TV show the categories are going to be different. If you want Avatar related discussion with me just comment, unless it is about shipping, I don't particularly want to discuss/argue about that, come on people were all fans of the same show here! Also, Legend of Korra is here, its pretty great but doesn't quite reach the high standards that The Last Airbender set, and I'll miss the original gang.

General Info:
Title: Avatar: The Last Airbender
Creator/Director: Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino
Date of Completion: 19/1/2012
Rating: 5 stars! Must see!

Why I Watched It:  Well, I was 10 (not exaggerating, 7 years ago) when I started watching Avatar when it premiered on TV. Well I loved it, but then it stopped airing where I live (because I don't have Nick and it got taken of ABC). I kept my love for Avatar alive with the first two Playstation 2 games for it (the first game is better). Then about two years after it stopped airing I realised the local library had a copy the first season, and only a few months ago I found out that the library had the whole series on DVD, so I went and reserved the whole thing, and now the great journey has pretty much ended for me, but I now own all the book collections on DVD (best present ever, no?) and I still enjoy them each holidays.

Summary: The unique world of Avatar is split into four nations: Earth, Air, Fire and Water and in each there are benders able to control these elements, but only one person can bend all four elements, the Avatar - the bridge to the spirit world, whose job is to bring peace to the world. Fire Nation waged war against the rest of the world but the current avatar disappeared, 100 years later, Katara , the last waterbender in the Southern Water Tribe, and her brother Sokka find Aang, the new Avatar and the last airbender, trapped in an iceberg. Together they travel around the world to find Aang some teachers for the other 3 elements, so that they can defeat the Fire Lord and end the war. They get into many adventures, meet new friends all the while avoiding Prince Zuko and Princess Azula. This is just like the basic gist of it, I feel like my summary can't convey the plot of Avatar without a) spoiling or b) being essay length, so guys who are unsure it is much more than this.

The Characters:
Aang - When Aang was told that he was the next Avatar, his life at the Southern Air Temple was turned upside down, deciding to run away he and his Sky Bison, Appa, get caught in a storm near the South Pole and unleashing the defense mechanism, the Avatar State he locks himself and Appa in an iceberg, only to be reawakened 100 years later. He finds himself in a new war-stricken world with all of the other airbenders wiped out, and the pressure is on him to master all four elements and defeat the Fire Lord before next summer. Aang is a great hero, he is resourceful, humourous, powerful, brave, a total goofball he values all life and sees the best in people and always tries to help he also surprisingly mature for a 12 yr old. He is no Gary Stu as he worries a fair bit, messes up, is a bit silly and awkward, and sometimes interprets things wrong, but he's so lovable.

Katara - A budding young waterbender chooses to leave behind all she knows (besides her brother) to accompany Aang around the world. She is compassionate, caring, passionate, empathetic, strong-willed, motherly, organised and hates to see people oppressed. On the other hand she is very stubborn, has a temper and a bit too motherly which sometimes makes her annoying and some people hate her because she is annoying, but I don't because really, if she didn't have these annoying qualities she would be a Mary-Sue, and annoying is always better than Mary Sue, unless it is an annoying Mary Sue (I am looking at you, Clary Fray). Also, hair loopies are awesome, why aren't they a fashion trend? (I've tried them)

Sokka - Oh my gosh, guys Sokka is just too funny. He is hilarious using all different types of humour too (because in a lengthy series, if a character is only funny with one type of humour they stop being funny), he uses physical comedy, sarcasm, just plain sillyness, exagerration, cactus juice (high-ness) and more to the max. His voice actor is amazing too, he just brings so much to the character, and his voice is unique especially his awkward Sokka laugh. Seriously, if I met Jack DeSena in real life I would probably hug him, but I actually have no clue what he looks like.  And Sokka isn't just Mr Comic Relief he is a valuable member to the team, he is smart, strategic, and good with weapons (his space sword is pretty neat) and is sometimes the voice of reason who doesn't let their emotions get in the way (sometimes). Really, Avatar would be so much less awesome without him.

Prince Zuko - Has had a pretty harsh life, for trying to help he was scarred and banished by his father, having to capture the Avatar is his only chance to regain his honour. My gosh, the character development with this guy is just BRILLIANT!!! All of the characters grow and develop throughout the series but Zuko has so much character development, I love it (seriously guys, if you want to win me over make sure there is character development and relateability). His character is just so deep, and he has his strengths and weaknesses, his ups and downs and sometimes I just feel so sorry for him. His father has always seen Azula as the better one and his mother (whom he lost) and his uncle Iroh have been his real parents. At first I loved Zuko and Iroh together, not just Zuko alone (see what I did there?), Iroh just balanced Zuko out completely, toward the later parts of the series I adored Zuko on his own, and with his uncle. I'm pretty sure most of the fans, at the end of book 2 were like "Why Zuko?! WHY?!" and in Day of the Black Sun "Yay!". And his speech in the Western Air Temple was just insanely adorkable, and the "Why am I so bad at being good", and it's funny how he thinks he isn't humourless and angry. His voice actor is brilliant, also, Zuko's pretty hot when his hair is all shaggy. I may be a Maiko fan but we all know Zuko's true love is honor. And don't we all just want to go on a life changing field trip with Zuko?

Toph - What a kicka**.  The Blind Bandit was the last episode I ever saw broadcasted on TV, I and I was like "WOW!!! So much bada**, Omg I want to know this girl more!!" and then it stopped. This girl is pro, I love her rebelliousness and how she doesn't let her disability stop her. There's already a word invented for people like her - handicapable! (it was actually invented for Teo but it applies to her too). Her blindness was and aspect that was handled really well. With most disabled characters in literature/screen, everyone is always aware of their disability and treat them differently, and they either fade into the background personality-wise and plot-wise because of their disability (Iggy from Maximum Ride) or are constantly spotlighted and get super-extra powers to make up for their disabilty, but with Toph this doesn't happen and her blindness is still an integral part of her character. The way she uses Earthbending to see is really neat and clever, and it's funny how in the Ember Island Players they make her large buff guy actor see through echolocation. She's pretty funny as well, and its great how she can make fun of her own blindness. On the other hand she can be quite stubborn and pushy. She is the world's greatest Earthbender and she's only twelve. A funny 12 yr old blind little girl, who is a kicka**, whats not to like?

Appa and Momo - Our awesome animal buddies, I shall have more on the awesome animals of the Avatarverse in The World section. Momo's just so cute, playful, curious and hilarious, he's kind of like a animal version of Sokka except he can't speak and he's more into fruit than meat. Appa is strong (physically and mentally), caring, patient, cute and the bond between him and Aang is strong and sweet. I want a flying bison so bad (except I would have nowhere to keep him/her). I have this tendency to just call all flying bison, Appa even though I know not all flying bison are Appa (eg. Me in Appa's Lost Days flashback, Aww look its Appa, SQUEEEE!! Lot's of little Appas, so much cutes!!! So I guess the big one must be the mum?! Kya!! so much cute little Appas!!!, *Aang gives Appa apple*, oh so that ones Appa).  How cute was Appa when he was little?! He wasn't that much taller then Aang (and he was pretty young then).

Princess Azula - The Head of  formidable trio (Ozai's Angels, yes?) who together are practically impossible to beat (even if it is the whole gang fighting them). Azula has always been a fire bending prodigy, able to produce deadly blue fire and lightning. She has always been manipulative, cunning and cruel, and because of this her mother has always seen her as a monster and her father has seen her as the next Fire Lord. She is smart, deadly and always looks out for any advantages for her and uses fear to manipulate others. She was an exceptionally well crafted villain, and I wanted a bit more closure on her after the end. I actually got all teary when I found out her age, I knew she was Zuko's younger sister but she always seemed like she was 17-16, but fourteen guys, is it not sad that a 14 year old ended up like she did? ...and who new she would be such a klutz when it came to the opposite sex.

Mai and Ty Lee - Azula's sidekicks, and friends since childhood. Ty Lees a cheery, super-flexible, optimistic acrobat, who moves fast and can chi-block (pretty dangerous stuff), and Mai on the other hand is a pessimistic, bored teen who is skilled with throwing daggers. Both of these skills Azula begins to pick up from the girls (as seen in Day of the Black Sun). Mai is kind of boring on her own, but the chemistry between her and Zuko is great, they're adorable in the emo, lets-hate-the-world-together way, and they were  childhood sweethearts (come on people "You miscalculated. I love Zuko more than I fear you" "Saving the jerk who dumped me" and "I don't hate you" "I don't hate you either", way cute!). And I can't believe Ty Lee is only 14, just look at her figure people, she's gotta be at least 16.

Ozai - The fatherlord, I mean, firelord (that bit cracks me up). Dude's pretty evil, I mean he wants to take over the world, he scars and banishes his son and makes him fight for his honor, he encourages Azula's manipulative evil side. So pretty much, he causes most of the evil throughout the show, but he's in the shadows of it all, so I don't really have as much to say about him, I wish he was less in the shadows.

Iroh - The Great Dragon of the West. This heir lost the throne because his son died under the siege he was conducting and he slowly started to lose his power. Who doesn't love a warlord turned fat, old, tea-loving funny uncle with a flair for wisdom and philosophy. He's wise, gentle, non-judgmental and knows what real honor is. And he wasn't like this all the time, he was almost as bad as his brother but he changed, and he shows everyone that people can change for the better. He is so wise, but it's not overwhelming or anything, and everything he says is right. His personality balances out Zuko's so well too, and he's like the dad Zuko lost, and Zuko's like the son that Iroh lost (feels, feels everywhere).

Suki - is a kick-butt awesome girl, I like her and I wanted to see more of her (I didn't like how Suki was in the opening of Korra, sure she helped end the war but she wasn't as much a part of Team Avatar as the rest ) regardless she is so ninja (did you see her in the Boiling Rock, she was like running on peoples heads, and scaling the walls, kicking some a**, flipping around and 82h3guw&$ it was AWESOME!) and she's smart and determined too. She and Sokka make a great couple, but the creators were hinting at something not-so-kid-friendly in The Southern Raiders, but dang it was hilarious when Zuko walked into the tent instead of Suki, someone should make a gif *hint, hint* of that, so funny!

The White Lotus Society - Our favourite group of old awesome people. At first Pakku was a sexist jerk, but he changed his way - and also Pakku and Kanna :3 old people love is so cute. Jeong Jeong, such an angsty old guy, but he has that whole old wise master who is aware of all the dangers of his art thing down pat. Bumi, so crazy and quirky, he is just so random and weird, its great and he thinks outside the box. Piandao is also awesome, and I like how he was based on Sifu Kisu (martial arts director) and had the wise master style, and how he accepted Sokka even though was a bit quirky, besides if it wasn't for him there would be no space sword **SPOILER AHEAD** I was quite sad when Sokka lost the space sword, but it's not like he could have gone after it because that would mean dropping Toph **END SPOILER**.

Others - Oh heck, this is going to be heaps long, but Avatar has some awesome side characters as well as main characters and they deserve some love too. First up, the Cabbage Merchant, so hilarious, I love that guy (and he has his own statue in Republic City! WOOT!), next Chong, I love the secret tunnel song and his totally spaced-out style, and the Foamy Mouth Guy from Kyoshi Island, I present you with the award for the most enthusiastic (I wonder how many enthusopascals he would get?). Speaking of Kyoshi Island, Avatar Kyoshi is pretty grooving too, I wish we got to see more of her, not that Roku isn't an awesome and wise past life (and Fang's dedication to him is feels). Teo was really sweet and I loved his carefree airbender attitude (Idea for fan pairing, Toph and Teo anyone? There both same age, awesome, sweet, handicapable, cute, and their personalities and ideals don't are pretty similar, and they would have stuff to talk about, wouldn't they be cute together?). Haru and Jet are well-rounded characters considering the amount of time they were present, and they're pretty good-looking too (except when Haru gets that stache) (who knew a guy with such long hair could be so good-looking? Who knew someone with eyebrows like Jet could be so good-looking? Who knew guys with eyebrows like Jet even existed???). Jet's hook-swords are really cool, they win the best weapon in Avatar **SPOILER AHEAD:** I was really disappointed when Jet died, I mean he was starting to change **END SPOILER**. Princess Yue next, she is lovely, really she is, she was sweet, caring, kind, beautiful and she wanted what was best for her people. I like Sokka and Suki a little more, but I would have no problems with Sokka and Yue, but even if Yue hadn't changed I don't believe that the relationship could continue properly, because she probably wouldn't join Sokka on their journeys, because she loves her tribe more. I wish we got some more screen time of her, we only see her like twice after the Seige of the North, it's nice how Sokka still clearly cares for her. June is also totally bada**, she can own a bunch of men while drunk and not drop her drink, and Toph approves of her. Why does Jin have to have a totally cute date with Zuko and then disappear into the Avatarverse never to be seen again? I liked her, and don't you think Korra's mum looks like her? or at least the hair does and Pema's face looks like her too. Guru Pathik is pretty cool too, so wise and calm but still a bit quirky, and wow is he old (older than Bumi is pretty damn old).

The Plot: It's well thought out, adventurous and rich and complex as well. Events and characters that don't seem so significant (and kind of filler-ish) are brought back all the time (therefore rendering them un-fillers). Some episodes were just made of awesome action and adventure-ness (assonance :D) like both Seige of the Norths, both Day of Black Suns, and all four Sozin's Comets, and some are hilarious like Daydreams and Nightmares, Ember Island Players and the Desert and some were intense like Crossroads of Destiny, but most were combinations of all of the above and more. There were plenty of twists and turns throughout so it wasn't predictable, but twists and turns that made sense and added to the story. It had adventure, loss, friendship, bada**ery, betrayal, action, love, humour and all that cool jazz. And if it makes me cry I know it's a good movie/book/tv show, and there were so many times I felt like tearbending in this show and a few moments where I actually did.

The Music: Let's all hug the Track Team, because the music he does for this show is just phenomenal. Also its a long show, and there are so many different pieces of music in there (there is at least, 61 different pieces, as there is a different piece for each title part at the start of the episode and there is a theme for most main characters, even Momo has his own theme) I can't even remember them all, but they all sounded great. Most of the main cast has their own theme music. Also, the few songs that do have vocals are funny too (except for Leaves from the Vine, that was sad) Secret Tunnel, Chakras song, anyone? Also, for the last Agni Kai, that scene was beautiful, instead of the usual and expected flighty battle music/sound effects it is just got this incredible music that really brings out the beauty in the large deadly clashes of blue and orange fire, and gives a sense of calm in the intense battle. I was actual sitting there in awe of the beauty of the brother sister showdown, it's just the opposite of what you expect but it works so well. It was even featured in the Olympics!

The World: Have all the points for world building! a) it was engaging, b) it was unique, c) it made sense and d) it was really well researched. I love things which are well researched, Avatar: The Last Airbender world takes elements from Chinese, Tibetan, Japanese, Indian, Thai, Malaysian, Greek cultures and many more and fits them into the show smoothly. The combination animals are so quirky and unique (no part-lions or part-horses here). Bending, I don't know how the genetics behind it work, but Bryke have nailed having elemental powers down, I also like how they have restrictions on them as well as extensions (eg. ice and healing for waterbenders). Each nation is given their own full-on culture including food, customs, geography, clothing, history, mythology, political systems and architecture. It's these little things that keep me interested in series' when I come back.

The Visuals: This is probably the let-down, and it's not even that bad. It's just got the anime look, which may be a little worse than your average anime, but for me it really can't take away from the wide array of amazing things in this show, so this show shouldn't be skipped out on because of it's kid-friendly anime look because it is so much more. The landscapes are gorgeous though, and the character design is great. The visuals for Zuko are all good. The Legend of Korra improves and fixes up on animation while still retaining its look.

Other: Look at this amazing tribute if you aren't convinced or already love the show

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Review ALL the Books: The Crystal Cave

I'm pretty disappointed with this. Studying a book I don't like in English is one of the most effective ways to make me like the book even less, because you get to pick it apart, and have to deal with in my opinion unjustified praise. Needless to say, I won't be read the sequels. This is for my Review ALL the Books Challenge 2013, for more information on that view here.

General Info:
Title: The Crystal Cave
Author: Mary Stewart
Date of Completion: 22/3/2013
Rating: 2 stars

Reason for Reading: This was read for English in my year 12 Fantasy unit, and of all the amazing fantasy books there are, I wish we weren't stuck with this one.

Summary: We follow Merlin, the bastard child of a princess, as he learns the purpose behind his Sight, learns of his past and future and grows into manhood. A background story before the great Arthurian legend even starts, told from a different perspective. 

The Characters:
Merlin - His personality seemed very bland, despite him being the narrator it's probably due to the unusual use of perspective (see The Writing). He's a shy then confident, intelligent, magical powers, dark, good-looking enough for a girl, quiet, misunderstood boy; like I've seen it all before and better written too.

Ambrosius - This guy has no faults, and he should considering he's a main character. We had to look for strengths and weaknesses in each character, but we couldn't for Ambrosius. But I do like his fairly unique defining characteristic of using every single person for their strengths.

Uther & Ygraine - Uther's written in a way that you do feel the appropriate emotions to him, but he's not a deep character. Ygraine surprisingly shows more depth than most characters, especially considering she's introduced in Book 5 and she is essentially a pawn. She's calculating, sure of herself, selfish, and although her only positive is being for the greater good, she's very concise. And she gets the only decent treatment out of the women in this novel. 

Cadal & Cerdic - They both play the role of the faithful servant. While they were caring, loyal, smart and likeable, Cadal is too much of a pushover.
Merlin: Imma go live in a cave now coz that's what wise magician dudes do
Cadal: Ok, I shall live in cave with you and do your bidding

Niniane - Merlin's mother is strong-willed, loving and clever, but no-one gives her the credit she deserves. She had the Sight too, did we look into that, of course not, all we get is Merlin saying "she had the Sight but she only used it for love and other dumb woman stuff" (not direct quote), like what? how the crap would you know Merlin?! Unless you used your Sight to look into her Sight, woah Sightception.

Galapas & Belasius - blend into one, and they really could have done with some exploring, I wasn't even sure if Galapas had the Sight or not by the end of the novel, and how did he get into the cave? what did he use his skills for before tutoring Merlin? (Issue on Belasius in Plot).

Others - Surprisingly, Dinias had a character, even Ulfin did, which is weird considering how minor they are. Merlin's grandfather, Camlach and Vortigern were built up as possible big threats but they were never built on. Gorlois was there a fair bit, but I don't get his character too much, it was just "he is good guy, but we must get conception of Arthur so he is obstacle". Who the hell were Ralf and Bithrael anyway? They were just thrown in at the end and amongst all the confusion, so you're not sure where they came from. The way women are portrayed in The Crystal Cave really bugged my friend and I, especially considering the author's a woman, and it made us get our feminism on. I've already had a look at Ygraine and Niniane, but Keri was really badly written, like "ooh I'm lovely, nek minute, I'm a spiteful shallow ho". Dinias' 'slut' grr I really didn't like that labelling on her, sure she wanted sex, but you could see Dinias wanted sex too hitting on all the prostitutes at the pub, at least his 'slut' was committed, whereas Dinias and Keri weren't but you don't see them getting such a bad rap. The Saxon Queen really could have been explored but it was like "she's there, she's not good, she's Saxon, she has big boobies, and that is all". 

The Plot: was mediocre at best, and here's why. All the important parts happen in Book 5: The Coming of the Bear, and the build-up (the rest of the novel) wasn't well done, more in The Writing section. And this great important overarching goal is **SPOILERS AHEAD:**essentially to get the lusty Uther laid, sure it brings about Arthur's conception**END SPOILER**. Another problem is that many characters die, which is fine, but every single death (but one) is off-screen and probably the only ones that are given justice is Cerdic **SPOILER AHEAD:**and Cadal **END SPOILER**; it's always by the time Merlin comes back the character is already dead, seriously I could list them: **SPOILERS AHEAD:**The King, Cerdic, Camlach, Galapas, Niniane, Ambrosius, Belasius, Gorlois (hopefully that is all) **END SPOILERs**This links in with the previous problem, some things seem very important when you read them and are never brought back in the novel. For example, Belasius' religious ritual, it was written very detailed and the characters all make a big deal about it, then after the chapter it's not mention. Again with Camlach, he's written as a threat you think it's going to be like Simba running away then returning to Pride Rock to fight his uncle Scar and reclaim the throne, but no, **SPOILERS AHEAD:** Camlach's dead the next time you hear of him, lame **END SPOILERS**

The Writing: despite what the English material says, a lot of the events in the novel have little effect/build up on the overarching goal of the novel, and therefore the ending feels incredibly rushed because all the important stuff is happening then. For Book 1: The Dove and a bit more the writing had an extremely imbalanced detail:actual-stuff-happening ratio, I don't care about your dumb lizard Merlin, there's 400 pages to go and you need to get on with it. Book 4: The Red Dragon, I kind of phased over, and the war stuff was not written engagingly at all. Since a lot of the novel didn't fill either of the criterion: build-up for the actual plot or engaging writing, and it was a long novel I felt a so much of it could have been cut out. 1st Person usually helps me get engaged but the book was just so dragged out and boring the perspective couldn't have much effect on that. It was also a confusing 1st person perspective as it was Merlin when he is really old narrating his life from when he was six to early-twenties, so that added to my lack of connection. The romance was horrible, and falls into my subcategoy 'and then suddenly boobs' (along with previous English text The Gathering), it's as bad as it sounds and I won't say anymore on that.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Review ALL the Books: Sunshine to the Sunless

3.5 stars actually. The premise was good and I did enjoy reading it, but it wasn't up to the same standard that my 4 star books were. This is my 4th review for my Review ALL the Books Challenge 2013, for more info on that visit here.

General Info:
Title: Sunshine to the Sunless
Author: Gareth Thompson
Date of Completion: 31/1/2012
Rating: 3.5 stars

Reason for Reading: This book is for some reason in my possession, probably a cheap deal at a book fair.

Summary: Andrew Kindness witnesses a terrible tragedy on the shoreline near his home in Cumbria. Six years later, the events of that day still haunt him. His only solace is his scret hobby, crossbreeding daffodils. But when Angie, the perfect girl in the year above, takes an interest in his passion for flowers, Andrew risks everything to become close to her. And in doing so, he slowly finds the strength to overcome the ghosts of the past and face the future with hope.

The Characters:
Andrew - He was a good enough guy, but I didn't feel as connected to him as I would to most 1st person protagonists. However, self-discovery is a great characterisation tool and it was used well throughout the novel.

Angie - Look, she was idolised by our 1st person protagonist, and for me unless that character's idolisation feels justified, they come of more negative to me. At least she made mistakes, and she wasn't all preachy/perfection. 

The Dowders - Malcom was a kind of lame villain. The whole big bad guy with tons of street influence and a sort of gang could really work well, but it wasn't pulled off and Malky just came off like a old gasbag pushover. Diana, I know she was meant to come off as shallow and dumb, and it worked, but it just reflected on the author's characterisation abilities for wanting to have a horrible girlfriend to make Angie look better. 

Andrew's Parents - I found The Razzler's lifestyle far too unrealistic for a middle-class man living with a child in the first place, and if someone was really living in such conditions why Andrew would continue to live in the same house, so the revelation of his illness didn't do much for me. His Mum was less present so there's less to talk about.

Others - The addition of Andrew's grandfather was great and heartwarming, and his characterisation probably brought more to the story than anyone else. To be honest, the others weren't fleshed out well to remember them 2 months later, I only remember Terry and Abayakurti but not much to comment on there.

The Plot: Like I mentioned the premise was really promising, and if there was better planning, writing and characterisation it would have been great. Getting over traumatic events and learning to be yourself is something I enjoy in books/films/TV etc. The main reason Andrew didn't want to reveal his passion for Daffodils out was because he was afraid of being teased, but once he does get it out the threat completely vanishes. Angie's role was as the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, so I'm really glad she retains her autonomy and **SPOILERS AHEAD:** and start dating Andrew at the end **END SPOILERS**because that would have screwed her development and made her pretty lame. The ending was really heartwarming and all, but it seemed too good to be true, I mean everyone but Malky gets a happy future, Andrew even loses his FA Cup ears.

The Writing:
Is mostly decent, I do like the description they give to the landscapes and the sceneries, there are however some issues. First, Angie is always described as leggy, it would be fine if it was a few times, but she's described a lot throughout the novel, and leggy is always the word used, like we got it the first time. Second, Andrew is not able to say penis, seriously you are a 15 year old male, you have dabbled in questionable sex drive herbs, and say you'll take any girl you're given, but you can't say 'penis' or even dick or something. I cannot take you seriously if you say "I fumbled down my trouser zip for my thingy." (p36) or "But the thought of getting out my whatsit anywhere near Angie was making me need to go even more." (p179), seriously, my thingy?! are we still in primary school and unable to say the names of our own anatomy?! Third, at the end of (and maybe throughout) the novel, instead of saying "Angie and I" it says "me and Angie" once each page from 244-246, it may of been a characterisation thing from Andrew's perspective, showing that he is still not grown up, but it just came off as carelessness on the author/editor's part.

Quote: “Granddad once told me that to truly love this life, you need to know its darkest corners. But if you can bring a bit of sunshine to the sunless, it can only be for the good. I mean, what else are we really here for on this earth? Think about it some day, when the spring mornings look so golden and green.” 

Other: The cover is really nice, it's very pretty and poetic looking, I especially like the font used for the title

Unrelated Extra: The catchiest song in existence, which may or may not also be my ringtone, Sadi Gali from the film Tanu Weds Manu (which I have not seen)

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Review ALL the Books: The Fault in our Stars

 This is my 4th book in my Review ALL the Books Challenge (more info here). It's better than Looking For Alaska.I've heard this is John Green's best, but I’m not getting the thing that apparently a ton of people are getting out of his books, it could be his Youtube fame clouding judgement (I haven't seen his youtube stuff) and many say his work is formulaic so I don't plan on reading anything else by him besides An Abundance of Katherines.I have mainly positive mixed feelings: I never felt close to tears from it, despite its fair share of sadness, I didn't find it life-changing or even close to the best-book-ever vibe from it, however it was a very quotable book, which I do enjoy. 

General Info:
Title: The Fault in Our Stars
Author: John Green
Date of Completion: 12/2/2012
Rating: 4.5 stars

Reason for Reading: Hype/raving reviews from friends and everyone, and unmet expectations of Looking for Alaska.

Summary: Hazel Grace Lancaster, a cancer patient, has had her death delayed temporarily by a machine. She has no idea how long this miracle of medication will last her, when at sixteen she gets a fresh new perspective on life.  Augustus Waters is a cancer babe who together with Hazel, falls in love, explores legacy, health and mortality. Basically, it's a thought provoking love story between two teenage cancer victims.

Hazel - Engaging, fun, understandable and mostly realistic (she had her pretentious, philosophical moments :/). There were a few times where she reminded me of Alaska Young, which made me nervous, but overall she deviated from that :) It was a good choice to have the story narrated from her perspective so I'll have a bit more on her in the Writing section.

Augustus - So he's once again a dangerously hot guy (which is agreed on by the protagonist's friends) and wise, and a little bit too close to the Gary Stu for comfort. But he never did anything that was creepy, but was deemed ok/romantic by the protagonist so that's great. His nerdiness over The Price of Dawn and The Imperial Affliction was really adorable and fun, and it's exactly the kind of thing I want to see from fictional love-interests everywhere. But urgh his cigarette metaphor was exactly the kind of pretentious philosophy I didn't want from John Green (or other realistic YA novels for that matter), even if you do have that crazy metaphor you don't go out when you are friggin' dying to buy some cigarettes that you will never smoke! >:(
I think this quote's got him pegged: " 'Augustus Waters was a self-aggrandizing bastard. But we forgive him. We forgive him not because he had a heart as figuratively good as his literal one sucked, or because he knew more about how to hold a cigarette than any nonsmoker in history, or because he got eighteen years when he should've gotten more.'
'Seventeen,' Gus corrected.
'I'm assuming you've got some time, you interupting bastard.
'I'm telling you,' Isaac continued, 'Augustus Waters talked so much that he'd interupt you at his own funeral. And he was pretentious: Sweet Jesus Christ, that kid never took a piss without pondering the abundant metaphorical resonances of human waste production. And he was vain: I do not believe I have ever met a more physically attractive person who was more acutely aware of his own physical attractiveness.
'But I will say this: When the scientists of the future show up at my house with robot eyes and they tell me to try them on, I will tell the scientists to screw off, because I do not want to see a world without him.' "

Peter Van Houten - He was characterised in such a way that the annoyance that Hazel and Augustus feel towards him was completely justified and you too felt that annoyance at him even though you were the reader. 

The Parents The characterisation of both Hazel and Augustus' parents made them feel homely and really gave you respect for them and their supportive parenting. They broke the stereotype of the absent parents/dad in YA novels, and Hazel's dad also breaks some gender stereotypes.

Others - Hazel's friends weren't really fleshed out. Kaitlyn was a stereotypical popular girl friend who was in the scene with parties, dating and that world that our protagonist can never be part of. Isaac despite having more development kinda became the pity-party mutual friends who gets the crap deal (breaking up with girlfriend, losing sight) justifying any whining while the two friends he introduced to each other are exploring "A Whole New World, A whole new fantastic point of view..." together. 

Plot: It claims to be different to the ‘SickLit’ genre, but in doing so I think it becomes more similar to one. I mean they mock the whole cancer perks thing, but the major event is one. It doesn’t follow the general novel plot-structure, which although refreshing, is disorientating. The romance was amazingly sweet although a bit rushed, but it's just so okay guys. There’s a semi-climax about 2/3s in, and the ending felt a bit hurried, but when you think about it, that’s the way it was planned. 

Writing: Hazel’s perspective easy to relate to and has good humour. Overall the writing is great. However I think philosophy is fine, and it’s pretty interesting to think about those things, but too much in a YA realistic fiction novel can be annoying, and from the two John Green books I've read, there’s heaps of crazy philosophy/life lessons spouting from two 'ordinary' teenagers. Is it because they’re ‘cancer kids’? because they are smart? because they just don’t like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? I don’t get it.

Quotes: Ermahgerd look at all of them, there's so many. This one describes the love story, the other ones are just awesome quotable things: “There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There's .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. A writer we used to like taught us that. There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I'm likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for Augustus Waters than he got. But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn't trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I'm grateful.” 

“That's the thing about demands to be felt.” 

“You don't get to choose if you get hurt in this world...but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices.” 

“The marks humans leave are too often scars.” 

“Without pain, how could we know joy?' This is an old argument in the field of thinking about suffering and its stupidity and lack of sophistication could be plumbed for centuries but suffice it to say that the existence of broccoli does not, in any way, affect the taste of chocolate.” 

“We’re as likely to hurt the universe as we are to help it, and we’re not likely to do either.”