creative [kree-ey-tiv]: adjective. Synonyms: clever, cool, innovative, inspired, prolific, stimulating.

criticism [krit-uh-siz-uhm]: noun. The act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything.

30 Jan 2011

Easy A - That 2010 movie

It's a comedy involving high schoolers and classic literature. The literary references aren't Shakespearian (it's actually American literature, mostly The Scarlet Letter and the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - incidentally, two books that I have not read), though, so I can't say it's a Shakespearian teen comedy, but it's pretty close.
Now, there are many things that were very fun about this movie:

  • our main protagonist is witty and hilarious
  • seriously, her parents are also hilarious
  • yes, I actually giggled out loud at many points in the movie - which is actually a pretty rare thing to happen, especially if I'm watching an intentional comedy. So props to that
There were, however, things that I really didn't like about it:
  • firstly, the plot is rather ludicrous - although if you keep in mind that it is entirely from our protagonist's perspective, it makes more sense
  • I mean, seriously, do high schoolers really care about who is allegedly having sex with who? Oh, right - of course they do, it's just one of those thing that I never really got. Yaaay.
  • Most characters aren't very dimensional? They usually have mostly one or two dimensions. But that could be chalked up to the fact that it's all from the protagonist's perspective.
  • And the "best friend"'s attitude towards our protagonist (after the whole scandal thing took off) was infuriating.
So yeah, I enjoyed this movie, even if I found it a bit problematic at times. 

22 Jan 2011

The Red Pyramid - Rick Riordan

This Rick Riordan novel isn't about Percy Jackson or Greek mythology - surprising, right? And it's also a pretty hefty book, with a 514-page long hardcover version - shocking!
It's very good, though; it's all about Carter and Sadie, two first-person narrators and young teenaged siblings whose parents were excellent magicians who followed the Egyptian mythological traditions. And yes, Egyptian mythology and deities are involved - fun!
Everything takes place in the same world as the Percy Jackson series (you can tell by the passing references to the Greek gods), but in different locations. For example, a big chunk of the action takes place in New York City, but in Brooklyn rather than Manhattan, since Manhattan's under the control (or is it jurisdiction? I'm not sure) of gods other than the Egyptian ones. And if that wasn't a reference to Mount Olympus over the Empire State Building, I'm a lemur.
Oh, and I'm thinking that that world is in grave peril a lot of the time. Seriously, it's endangered by Hellenic pandemonium one week, and by Egyptian chaos the next - should I expect some Norse trouble in the near future? (I'd read that.)
In any case, I'll keep an eye out for the next installment of The Kane Chronicles.

The Last Olympian - Rick Riordan

In this fifth and final book of the Percy Jackson & The Olympians series, the war pitting the Olympian gods against Kronos and his allies is in full swing. The legendary (and legendarily powerful) monster Typhon has escaped and is wrecking havoc all across America; Percy finally reads the full Great Prophecy that's been hanging over his head since the first book; and eventually everyone - allies and enemies and everyone in between - converges to Manhattan for the Epic Final Battle.
Of course, since this is a final installment and there's an Epic Final Battle, deaths are a-plenty (which is only to be expected, really).
It was very good; as with the previous installments of this series, I found it hard to put down the book once I'd started it. So yes, I do recommend it; in fact, I'd even recommend reading the entire series. Come on, there's Greek mythology involved!

18 Jan 2011

Delusions of Gender - Cordelia Fine

How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference
As might be inferred from the second title-thing of this book, the entire premise of this very interesting 239-page-long read is that

  • seriously peeps, gender essentialism is sexism; menfolk and womenfolk are not monoliths;
  • the differences between "male" and "female" brains are really pretty tiny, and mostly exaggerated by people who report them (which, btw, includes not only The Media but also the scientists who publish the results in the first place),
  • and in any case, most of these differences (such as different neurotransmitter secretion levels) can be explained due to brain overall size, which makes neurons act slightly differently so that the end result'll be the same;
  • the slight differences between female and male cognitive performance (which are, let me stress this, SLIGHT) can mostly be explained by psychological phenomena and "subject priming", and NOT by any innate biological eternal truth;
  • wow, as a society we put SO MUCH emphasis on gender and sex (as in genital organs, not activities), it's a bit impressive, honestly. But not in a good way.
  • Also, we do not live and grow in a vacuum; we're exposed to messages from the media, explicitly from what people say, and implicitly from how people act and react all the time - it's bound to have an effect on our self-perception and on our own (and children's own growing) psyches.
Or, in my own words:
Men aren't from Mars, women aren't from Venus, all of humanity is from Earth (you buffoons). And people who persist in trying to justify their sexist beliefs with pseudoscientific, neurosexist crap are total assfaces.

Seriously, this book combines neuroscience, psychology and anti-sexism (it is both anti-misogyny and anti-misandry) in a way that's interesting, thought-provoking and funny all at the same time. You really should read it.

Oh, and it's decimal classification number is 612.82, so it's about Applied Science - Medical Science - Human physiology? Or at least, so it is according to my public library.

10 Jan 2011

Out of Our Heads - Alva Noë

Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness
In this slim book, philosophy meets neuroscience and it is argued that the mind does not reside in the brain, but rather in the interactions between brain, body and world.
It was interesting.
And the cover art's pretty awesome.

9 Jan 2011

The Alchemyst - Michael Scott

This first book of The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series is pretty good.
It depicts an interesting world that takes place right now, in the beginning of the twenty-first century (cell phones! Laptop computers! iPods!), and that mixes mythologies of various traditions (Egyptian goddesses, Celtic legends, the ever-popular Atlantis trope and the Norse world-tree of Yggdrasill all make an appearance) with the usual YA fantasy novel landmarks: our protagonists, Josh and Sophie, are two fifteen-year-olds twins, they are the Chosen Ones (okay, the prophesied ones), and they have out-of-this-world amazing magical potential. Also, their mentor is Nicholas Flamel, you know, that super-famous French alchemist who also had a mention in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Or Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, if you're American.
I liked it; I think this series has a lot of potential for character growth and complexity, and come on, there's mythology involved! Plus, the cover art's pretty cool. It even looks good on my battered softcover public library's copy!

2 Jan 2011

Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins

Again, this final installment of the Hunger Games trilogy was a true rollercoaster of emotions; I feel drained out. Which is great praise indeed for a novel!
It's only while reading this book that I truly understood that everything takes place in the future, and I thought that Panem's society was very television-centric indeed (seriously, someone could probably build a Master's thesis on the role of media in science-fiction aimed at teenagers, and this series would be a big chunk of that thesis. Along with Westerfeld's Uglies/Pretties/Specials/Extras series. Hey, maybe I should write that thesis? Nah, I like science too much to change fields.).
Anyways, the war that pits the rebelling districts against the Capitol (and more to the point, its creepy president Snow) is well under way, and I think I'll leave at that because I could be so SPOILER-RIFFIC right now it's not even funny.
Oh, and I also love how Katniss (our ass-kicking protagonist) is a more than excellent lead character: she is strong, she is three-dimensional, she undertakes character growth, she has her flaws and weaknesses, and still in the end you can't help but  root for her. Even when she makes what you just KNOW is the wrong decision.
Ok, enough rambling: this book is excellent, a great cap to an amazing series, and I absolutely will re-read this trilogy several times in the future. It's just that awesome.

1 Jan 2011

Skinny Bitch - Rory Freedman & Kim Barnouin

A shiteous book.

What, do you want my reasoning behind my three-word verdict? Ok, here goes:

  • It's based on a flawed premise, right on the first page of the first chapter: "Healthy = skinny. Unhealthy = fat." No, these things aren't equal; if this were an equation, I'd say they've tried to divide by zero somewhere, and only Chuck Norris can divide by zero.
  • "There is nothing in soda that should be put into your body." FALSE. Water's good, and you need sugars because hey, that's your body's energy source. Sure, it doesn't make you skinny, but who - oh, right, the whole point of this book is that skinnyness is what you're reaching for.
    • Also, just BY THE WAY: you don't need to drink eight actual glasses of water a day, you get a huge part of your water through your food anyway. So yes, water drunk in carbonated sugared beverages still counts as water. Proof.
  • Tons of paragraphs are lifted from PeTA propaganda. No kidding here.
  • I don't take issue with profanity (I love it!), but I do take issue with how this text keeps insulting, degrading and verbally bullying its readers. I did not appreciate being called a "lazy shit", a "fat pig", being told that "[I]'ll be fat forever" if I didn't stop drinking coffee or eating acid foods (Dude, I love pickles, sod off), being told to "suck it up" and not take painkillers for my menstrual cramps, or even being told to "drag [my] cankles" to a health food store. All in the first chapter.
    • I really hate the world "cankles". It's like "moist"; it's very creepy.
      • On a sidenote, Blogger's spellcheck doesn't recognize "cankles" as a real word. Hah!
  • Out of the ten chapters that I read (seriously, I just couldn't take any more of it), I got a distinct pro-eating disorder feel from this book, especially pro-anorexia attitudes. 
    • They recommend "periodic repeated fasts", and "the longer the better" (see p. 132)
    • I was especially creeped out when they describe the point where you're so hungry you don't feel your hunger anymore, and they call it feeling "light, clean, pure, and divine." (p. 133)
    • On top of that, they give the reader some bullshit about how during fasting "the aging process is actually being reversed" (p.135). Last time I checked, you didn't turn into Benjamin Button by depriving yourself of sustenance, so FAIL.
It's a loathsome pile of fetidness indeed.

Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins

I started this second installment of the Hunger Games trilogy five hours ago - and I've been (figuratively) glued to its pages ever since.
UNLESS YOU'VE READ IT, in which case you would have an idea. It's amazing, isn't it?
Intrigue, action, violence, a rebellion against the Capitol, personal drama, character growth, present-tense narration, and ALL-AROUND AWESOMENESS; this book has it all. And sprinkles of more.
asdkljfaksofkf; I'm incoherent in my excitement.

I really wish I could be more articulate about every single detail that made me love this book SO FREAKING MUCH, but that would be rather spoilery. And really, you should read the book yourself; you really, really should.