Thursday, January 5, 2017

Top Four Fight Scenes in the Avatar Franchise

If you haven't watched Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, you should do so at your earliest possible convenience.

The former has won several Annie Awards and a Primetime Emmy.  The Last Airbender's ancient, East Asian-influenced world feels expansive and thoughtful, while elements of Hinduism underpin the show's extensive exploration of spirituality. The show is one of the best examples of the hero's journey, with spectacular character development.

The Legend of Korra, also boasting Annies and Primetime Emmys, combines The Last Airbender's heart and action with some of the most nuanced sociopolitical commentary in children's media. That The Legend of Korra accomplishes this despite repeated sabotage (executives seemed determined to send the show to an early grave despite its popularity) and meager funding from Nickelodeon is furthermore impressive. The show is darker and edgier than its predecessor, built for older teens, with mature themes which prompted websites like Forbes to routinely review the show.

Both shows are action-adventures known for martial-arts fighting with natural elements--earth, water, metal, etc. The creators and directors took their time with unique fight scenes which move the story forward with heart-thumping action. These are some of the best fights in the franchise.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Writing is More Than Inspiration

This is a catchy (and graphic) aphorism, but it's false. The quote merely describes inspiration for writing, not the labor of writing itself.

Anybody can have an idea. For particularly creative people, inspiration strikes from anywhere: out of thin air, from a dream, levitating off your refrigerator or a TV show or a broken curtain rod. Granted, good ideas are more difficult to create, but ideas themselves are a dime a dozen.

Artistry and lots of editing separate great writing from mere puddles of inspiration. Every first draft should be fed to a large fire, and every third draft still has a ways to go. Hemingway's quote--if he was the one to say it at all--ignores the writers' craft entirely, which, irony aside, is insulting. It makes good writing look easy.

My novella is currently 5000 words. It started off as a two-page outline which nobody would call good writing. That title belongs to the prose and the emotions and the struggling description.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Backlash Over Black Hermione the Latest Battle in Pop Media Racism

There's been some hullabaloo in the Harry Potter fanbase surrounding Hermione Granger, one of the series' central characters.. J.K. Rowling collaborated on a sequel play, titled "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child," which follows various characters into middle age. The play is set to premiere in London next summer. The buzz surrounds black actress Noma Dumezweni, who will play Hermione. Baffled fans insist Hermione is white and Rowling intended her to be so.

The main actors in "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child."
We cannot dismiss the backlash as anger over misrepresentation of canon, e.g. a male Hermione instead of a female one, since the books never specify Hermione's skin color. The Sorcerer's Stone describes Hermione as buck-toothed with bushy brown hair and brown eyes. The Prisoner of Azkaban says "Hermione [looks] very brown." The book also notes "Hermione's white face" when she is terrified, but this usage of "white" is probably equivalent to "pale with fear" and not an indication of skin color. 86% of Britons are white, so if Hogwarts has the same racial composition as the United Kingdom, Hermione could certainly be white. But the books never specify Hermione's skin color.
Part of the outrage stems from the belief that a character should remain white in every interpretation of the character. Interpretations of characters only have to be canonically correct, not necessarily consistent with other interpretations. Thus although Emma Watson, a white actress, played the character in all eight films, there is no need for the character to be white in all portrayals. Fans of the series should also remember that the Harry Potter films are a different type of adaptation than the stage play, making it even less imperative that the two character representations line up.

A second assumption in the backlash is the default race of characters. We as readers are so accustomed to white heroes that we require a skin color specification to imagine anything else. The appalling lack of racial diversity in fantasy novels perpetuates this tendency: if most fictional characters are white, readers will assume a new character is white as well.
Yet many Harry Potter fans have long portrayed Hermione as a woman of color, and most fans celebrate the casting decision as a victory for black people. The character's struggle against discrimination prompted some readers to read Hermione as a racial minority from the beginning; the character was born to non-magical parents and some Hogwarts students questioned her right to a magical education.
The success of shows with non-white protagonists, such as Nickelodeon's The Legend of Korra and Netflix original series Master of None, demonstrates that characters don't have to be white to be popular. While a minority of Harry Potter fans protest a black interpretation of a beloved character, most fans are unfazed.

This small battle is part of an ongoing fight to make our media reflect ourselves, and, judging from J.K. Rowling's tweet, tolerance won this time.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Positive Disintegration

I've always assumed existential crises are fundamental to some sort of personality growth; apparently a psychologist named Kazimierz Dabrowski beat me to it, developing the Theory of Positive Disintegration in the late 1900s. I've found the theory reassuring since it recognizes the importance of existential concerns to personality/moral developments, here the theory is for your future reference.

Polish psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski created the theory of Positive Disintegration (TPD) during his lifetime. The theory states that conscious, autonomous moral growth drives a person to operate independently of society's prevailing values. It outlines three factors propelling higher personality development and the five stages of this development, emphasizing that not every person can or will shape their personality this way. Unique to TPD is the positive role of anxiety and psychological tension which help an individual's journey of personality customization; most contemporary psychologists see mental breakdowns as obstacles to growth, but Dabrowski recognized their importance to an individual's moral development.

Monday, August 24, 2015

"Paper Towns": Flat, But Enjoyable

Which is scarier than the movie itself.
The latest young adult mystery-romance lacks flavor. In "Paper Towns," directed by Josh Boone, high school senior Quentin (Nat Wolff) gets a dose of serendipity when his crush Margo (Cara Delevigne) suddenly includes him in her nighttime revenge scheme. After she dramatically vanishes the next day, he sets out with his friends to find her. The movie is based on the eponymous John Green novel.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Which Leaveners Make the Best Cookies?

One of my favorite cooking blogs, Averie Cooks, swears cornstarch is the magic bullet for soft, pillowy cookies. The idea makes sense: cornstarch is the main ingredient in pudding mix, which many bakers (including Averie) swear is the secret to soft, chewy cookies. However, when I started adding cornstarch to my cookie leavening, my creations flattened. Maybe the dough is a fan of reverse psychology?

I bake because I'm a huge fan of sweet things, mixing dough, dangerous implements, and experimenting. In True Science Fashion, last June I carried out a leavening test. I made a double batch of dough, divided it into 6 sections, and calculated how much of each leavener I needed to keep the necessary leavener-dough ratio called for in my original recipe. I baked each group at 375°F for 10 minutes, rotated once.

Hull House: a Social Experiment

I wrote this paper on Hull House, a fascinating social work experiment in 1900s Chicago. The settlement house's commitment to ending urban poverty, and the women's commitment to their suffrage rights, really resonated with me. I'm a sucker for people who dramatically change the way humans think or act: Albert Einstein, Dorothea Dix, Carl Jung, Jane Addams.