Friday, November 11, 2022

Some random thoughts on VR and the "metaverse"

Stuck at home with COVID (I'd managed to avoid it for 2 and a half years) and reading too much about Twitter and Facebook's general stupidity each day, I felt it was time for me to (needlessly) weigh in on my thoughts about Virtual Reality (VR) and the "metaverse" (god, what an awful name for a pure marketing ploy). And the debut of Meta's Quest Pro 2 (which I have not used and don't plan to) is the perfect time to talk about a couple observations/thoughts about the whole techno-mess of VR/AR.

1) To think that there is enough of a work-purpose for expensive VR headsets seems to misunderstand what many/most people do for work. I sometime think that tech companies think that every human on the planet works for a tech company. I can't imagine that a VR/AR headset will ever be useful in the vast majority of fields. Whether it is brick and mortar retail, education (which I work in), health-care, or many other fields, we need to interact with actual human beings in front of us. If you think that education can be improved with technology and VR classrooms then you really haven't learned anything about what makes education work over the past 300,000+ years. Suffice it to say that VR classrooms are just the next wrong-headed thing like No Child Left Behind's testing accountability implementation was. And in so many other places, we need real people around us. I could go grocery shopping in a robot staffed grocery store, still feel and see the foods with my own senses, but would I ask a VR headset wearing staffer who is in their living room, god-knows-where, to point me in the direction of something in the store? Maybe, but that seems a hell of a lot worse for both parties than just having a staff who actually works in the actual grocery store I'm shopping in for help. It seems like VR technology creates a need for itself and ancillary technology for no real benefit in most scenarios. Most things are just easier to do in the real world with other real people.

2) Why would I want to wear something on my head all day? Maybe it's vain, but that's got to leave some bad "hat hair" when you take it off. And I've worked hard for my voluminous hair!

3) I wear glasses, I need glasses, I need special classes with a unique base curve, which will make it very hard for me to ever use VR comfortably. I don't want contacts and I don't want laser eye surgery. And what about all the various people with a variety of intellectual and physical disabilities for whom access to this technology will be challenging for many reasons?

4) Why would I want a poorly animated cartoon avatar to represent me? Why would I want to look at other people's poorly animated cartoon avatars? Teleconferencing with Zoom/Teams really has been a game changer in efficiency and communication. Love it. Good job technology. I will take a 2D low-res video of an actual human being over an avatar any day for work purposes. Don't forget how much is lost in texting when you don't have body language. I imagine it would be just as bad with avatars. And for those who would say that the technology is in it's infancy and eventually we'll have in-head-gear face-tracking to make your avatar have full non-verbal cues...we already have that, but better, right now with Zoom where we see the actual person's actual face's facial cues!

5) When I used to think about what I would want in a video game, I wanted something truly immersive where I could be who I really wanted and connect with people the way I always dreamed. I think that's been a lot of what has been pitched with the social side of the "metaverse." As I saw representations of that (such as in Sword Art Online, Ready Player One, etc...) I was mildly intrigued. Hell, I loved making my avatar in Second Life. (growing up I always played as the female characters and made female avatars) But then something wonderful happened. I came out of the closet, completed my public transition, and started living my life as who I actually was...IN THE REAL WORLD!!!! (gasp). And in the three years since, as I've built my real life to be what I always wished it was, it turns out I'm not interested in living in an immersive fantasy life. I'm now connecting with REAL PEOPLE the way I want and I'm feeling better than ever. In no way am I trying to minimize what fun others might have with immersive gaming. But I think there has been a subtle undercurrent of "escaping" the awful mundanity of the human condition that has been a lure for VR. Turns out, when we improve our real lives, some of the attractiveness of giving up time in real life for time in VR dissipates. I'd much rather see Meta take that $10 billion they've spent on the Metaverse and instead put it to revolutionizing low-cost universal health care, or clean drinking water around the world, or green energy, or literally any of the useful humanitarian things that technology could have a profoundly powerful affect on (see, I'm not a luddite). Improving actual real people's real lives would be infinitely better than creating an imaginary world for people to live in to escape the real world and all it's social, political, and health ills.

6) The more things require high-tech interactions, the greater the upfront costs are to every day people. A couple examples: As much as I support (greatly support) the need for greener transportation solutions, what we've seen is that EVs cost a ton more than internal combustion engine vehicles and that makes it harder on low-income individuals to have individual transportation that those with greater economic stability who take owning cars for granted. In a country with piss poor public transit (in part because of how geographically large and spread everything is), EVs are furthering the economic gap. If we look at the evolution of internal combustion cars we see they keep adding more and more features and so the least expensive small cars getting to the point of being barely affordable. I'm glad for the safety innovations of these vehicles,  and I get that supply chain issues etc... but why does a civic cost $28,000 now vs. $15,000 a decade ago? (I made up those numbers - don't yell at me, I'm making a point over here - however in 2009 I bought a Mitsubishi lancer that was 3 years old, had $40,000 miles on it for only $9000 out the door - can't do that anymore). What real value add is there to justify the cost? And again, those cost increases will further divide the haves from the have-nots. Why the car talk? Because as the tech sector pitches ever more expensive "solutions" to problems that don't exist and get fawned over so much that they become the new expectation, we continue to drive economic disenfranchisement and exploit the wealth gap.

VR/"the metaverse" is a solution without a problem. While there may be some very small use cases (robotic surgery), AAA video games, military operations (think drone operators), the vast majority of people just don't need to spend $1500 on something (likely every few years) that doesn't do anything better than the real world already does. Unlike cell phones, VR/"the metaverse" hasn't shown any potential to really replace or improve any existing technology or use cases. To that point, I'll admit I like my cell phone. It's replaced an expensive land-line, a car gps, and made texting a communication medium that I truly value. And that's not to say all the other simply nice conveniences of having a full fledged portable computer in my pocket at all times (a luxury to be sure, but a useful one). (We can talk more about the social and economic implications of cell phones - good and bad - on social equity another time.) VR/"the metaverse" simply doesn't have anything it improves on. It's a fake world, replicating the real world, but worse.

UPDATE 11/12/22: additional thesis: We live in a space, at all times, we are bound by the room or environment we are in. We have, have created, and manipulate things in that environment and we are evolutionarily very well equipped to do so. Why would we need to create an artificial environment to do what we can already do in a real environment? No matter how good technology gets with visual, auditory, olfactory, touch input, it will never improve upon nature. When I think about how I zoom, I have three monitors, one for the zoom, two for working, plus papers and books, and reference manuals all over my desk. I frequently work on one thing while zooming on another (and I am very sensitive to what my camera is seeing and not seeing me do, how would that work if everything is in a virtual world or if I'm having to do things in the real world while also VR-ing with a group? Sounds cumbersome). I also like to thumb through things and add written notes, and no amount of digital books or digital note taking in margins of digital books will ever improve on the real thing for me. So from a work standpoint, I don't see VR/AR as an improvement no matter how refined it gets. I want real things in the real world to touch and see and manipulate. The convenience of zoom plus google docs (or the Microsoft equivalents) have made working with people all over very convenient. I feel like strapping a thing to my head and controllers and whatever else to do what I can already do now is a downgrade (and expensive). So outside of some niche use cases, I just don't see it as an improvement on the actual environment we have and the physical tools we've designed for those environments (pen, paper, books, screens, etc...). END UPDATE

I hope that just like how Twitter's new owner (won't say his name in my blog) is likely to sink Twitter (wipe that bastion of hate off the internet please), I hope the "metaverse" sinks Meta and Facebook. Good riddance if it happens.

🚺

Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Sound Workshop Series 34 Console Manual - Complete Scan

Hi all, this post has nothing to do with my normal anime and manga reviews. I used to be in the music business and worked with an old Sound Workshop Series 34 console

When we mothballed the console, I kept a bunch of channel strips and over the years turned them into rack mount preamps and EQs

Another thing I kept was the full manual. This manual is almost impossible to find anywhere (I couldn't find a complete scan, just bits an pieces). However, I was missing a couple pages. But after much hunting, I was able to find the missing pages and complete an entire scan of the manual for those out there with the console or looking to use the channel strips you can get on ebay from time to time. 

So enjoy, I present you with the Sound Workshop Series 34 Console manual (and yes, the cover page is fake, designed by me, because I was missing the real one):

Sound Workshop Series 34 Console Manual cover page - clicking opens a link to the pdf scan


🚺

Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Daytime Shooting Star volume 11 (Manga Review)

A teen girl in a cute outfit, has a surprised expression with her hands next to her mouth which is wide open. An adult is seen behind her looking down at her, with a teen boy on her other side looking at the adult.
    "Daytime Shooting Star" Vol. 11 (Viz) would be a lot worse if Suzume wasn't finally starting to really assert herself. In this volume we see her twice, TWICE, reject Shishio, and even take initiative to be upfront and direct with her boyfriend Mamura on top of that. 
    As you all probably know by now, if you've been reading this blog at all, I really like Suzume as a character and I like the overall art of the series. I also love a well done high-school romance shoujo manga. But this series has been all sorts of creepy because the main setup was that she falls for her uncle's friend, Shishio, who is a teacher at her school, and he starts by enabling her feelings, and then falls for her himself, AND then pursues her. And that is gross.
    I won't belabor this point, but I will say it, if you are a teacher/adult, you have no business confessing your feelings of romantic/sexual love for a teenager. Done, Period, End. So Shishio's infatuation and pursuit of Suzume was just wrong. 
    In an earlier volume, it looked like Suzume and Shishio wouldn't ever be really getting together and that Suzume chose the wonderful boy in her class Mamura instead. Suzume was starting to get her head into a good space. But at the end of Volume 10, Shishio goes and openly confesses his feelings for her! A high HIGHSCHOOL STUDENT!!!! Thankfully, this volume opens with her response to that as well as her response to a second attempt by him to tell her his feelings. 
    Sadly, not only is Mamura acutely aware of this going on in the background and naturally hurt by it, but Shishio continues to outright talk to Mamura about his intentions towards Suzume. So now we have an adult, who is pursuing a child for love, more or less teasing/goating/f-ing with another teen about it. If I were Mamura, I would have just reported the asshole and gotten him fired. 
    However, we do see Suzume growing and working hard on behalf of Mamura in this volume and asserting her own path in her life, rather than being at Shishio's whims. That makes this volume better than it could have been. I still wish the whole series was just more about Suzume and Mamura and maybe something they have to overcome (other than a gross adult) to be together (like the brilliant series "Ao Haru Ride" which is much more about their internal barriers and healing), because the whole thing with a lecherous adult is just icky. But I had been promised by other readers that the series would end in a good place, and it seems to be turning that corner. 
    As I said earlier, although the art is a bit simple in the depth of shading/backgrounds/ornamentation, I do like the figure drawing, there is at least some use of screen tones, and it has a good overall look. Couple that with a cute guy/girl combo and the sense that it will end in a good place, and I will keep reading to the end. Are you sticking with it as well? Or is Shishio just too much to put up with?

🚺

Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Kageki Shojo!! Volume 6 (Manga Review)

Two high school girls in sailor uniforms stand back to back with joyous and open mouthed expressions, with their inner hands stretched out front and their outside hands over their heads in a performance stance.
    In "Kageki Shojo!!" volume 6 (Seven Seas), the Kouka school first years are finally auditioning for their parts in "Romeo and Juliet." The auditions will be judged by the students, and each group will be randomly selected to audition together so they have had no time to to practice as an ensemble.
    It's a fairly straightforward volume, told in a mixture of scenes of auditions alternating with backstory from several characters, but mostly focusing on our lead, Sarasa Watanabe.  A couple volumes ago, she was told that while her acting is extraordinary, that it is clear she is identically replicating her favorite performances by others, rather than finding her own version of the characters. So the setup for this volume, is really around what she'll do to find her version of Tybalt.
    I'm coming to terms with two things in this series: 1) it isn't going to be a yuri series, or even yuri-light like the anime "Revue Starlight" and 2) that even though I'm more interested in her roomate, Ai, Sarasa will always be this series' focus. I think the faster I come to terms with those two things, the more I can judge this series appropriately.
    So with that in mind, although it's still not my favorite topic for shoujo, it wasn't a bad volume. What I liked was that we learned more about Sarasa's journey before Kouka and also got some increased clarity on her relationship with Akiya. There was also a strong scene with one of the girls defending another girl from bullying in a way that probably wasn't realistic to their ages, but should serve as a lesson for how teen girls SHOULD support each other. It was a direct and sensitive confrontation of some light bullying. Always good to see.
    Our two main Tybalts, Sawa and Sarasa, got extended coverage of their auditions, and the volume concludes with all the characters reactions to finding out whether they got the parts they wanted or not. Those final pages were some of the best in the volume, as we got to see them each express their grief, joy, disappointment, or growth through their reactions to the casting. I'm not going to give anything away, so you'll just have to read it yourself.
    The art continues to be fine. I would describe it as well done, with some nice facial drawings, but not quite my preferred style either, and maybe a bit simple at times. I do find the lack of textures and screen tones makes it a bit more boring than my favorite artists, but technically it has a distinct rhythm to the art. So at least it's recognizably unique to this mangaka and not a generic look. The panels where we "see" the characters the students are portraying as they are acting in this volume are a cut above the normal art in the series. 
    The more I accept this series for what it's going to be, the more I will try not to pick it apart for what it's not. So as a shoujo series about an all-girls acting school, and with the plucky but raw (and apparently straight) Sarasa as our heroine, it's plenty decent. A slightly darker story, with the focus on her roommate Ai and Ai's complex internal life, and if Ai were also lesbian so we could get a true LGBTQ lesbian story (not just a fluffy yuri story - which also have their place) would have made it awesome. But now I know that where I hoped this series would go after the prequel volume's undertones, are not where it's actually going to go. So I'm putting to rest that sadness and I'm going to keep reading "Kageki Shoujo!!" for what it is.

🚺

Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

I'm in a manga and anime dry-spell. Help me!!!!

    I was going back through the last year's worth of blog posts and I realized that a great many of them are pretty negative or wishy-washy about the manga I've been reading. I feel like a complete ass for not liking them. But I'm really struggling lately to find good manga and anime series that hit me the way so many used to. I don't know if what is being released has just shifted away from my tastes or what, but I just can't seem to find much that I like lately. 
    I hope you all don't think that I just rail on these series just to be mean. I also know that just beause I don't like them, doesn't mean you don't like them. That's the great thing about art. Different things hit us differently. But there have been so many manga and anime that I genuinely love and reread/rewatch and I'm not finding as much lately. Help me out by suggesting some series I need to read/watch.
    Caveat, I only read manga I can legally buy in English translations and I only watch anime that I can legally stream/buy. I have Netflix and the free Amazon Prime video, but nothing else, so that certainly hurts my search ability too. 
    What I'm looking for: shoujo and yuri mostly. High quality writing, depth of character, emotional arcs (but I also love some that are just funny and sweet too). Please send suggestions!!!!

    Here are some of my favorites (a non-exclusive list) to give you a reference:

Manga
  • Twinkle Stars
  • Fruits Basket
  • Ao Haru Ride
  • Kimi Ni Todoke
  • Sweet Blue Flowers
  • After the Rain
  • Bloom Into You
  • Ouran High School Host Club
  • Honey and Clover
  • Say I Love You
  • Kare Kano
  • Lovely Complex (Love Com)
  • Wandering Son
  • Kase-san
  • Citrus + (yes, I know it's trash)
  • Blank Canvas
  • Hana-Kimi (even though parts didn't age well)
  • Secret of the Princess
  • Pearl Pink
  • Kisses and White Lily For My Dearest Girl (even though it's got it's problems)
  • Tokyo Tarareba Girls (just started reading, but so far so good)
  • My Lesbian Experience With Lonliness
  • A Silent Voice (although the movie is better)

Anime
  • Maria-sama Ga Miteru (Maria Watches Over Us)
  • Sweet Blue Flowers
  • Sakura Trick (I will defend this series until the day I die)
  • Ao Haru Ride (Blue Spring Ride)
  • Fruits Basket (original version)
  • Kimi Ni Todoke
  • Chihayafuru
  • Wandering Son
  • Ouran High School Host Club
  • Honey and Clover
  • Nana
  • One Week Friends
  • True Tears (yes, I know it's trash)
  • Orange
  • Love, Chunibyo, and Other Delusions
  • Toradora
  • Kase-san and Morning Glories
  • Citrus (yes, I know it's trash)
  • Someday's Dreamers  II
  • Bloom Into You
  • K-On
  • Ano Hana
  • Anonymous Noise
  • Inu X Boku Secret Service
  • Usagi Drop (don't get me started on the second half of the manga though)
Movies
  • Just about all the Studio Ghibli movies
  • Liz and the Blue Bird
  • A Silent Voice
  • The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
  • Wolf Children
  • Garden of Words
  • Your Name
SO WHAT AM I MISSING?!?!?!!? Please send suggestions in the comments. Thanks!!!!

🚺

Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

How "Thor: Love and Thunder" got the ending wrong (ish)

Thor with his axe standing on the top of a mountain. Natalie Portman's The Mighty Thor is below, side characters from the movie are scattered in the background of the poster
    SPOILER WARNING - if you haven't seen "Thor: Love and Thunder" then you shouldn't read this post because I will spoil the very ending of the movie (that's the point of this post basically).

    I had the chance to watch "Thor: Love and Thunder" on Thursday night (it was a nice surprise, after work, and after electrolysis, I went to the mall and then a movie with my daughter and niece and stayed out late even though I had work the next morning! Look at me livin' it up!). 
    Please note that I am not a Marvel fan. Growing up in the 80s and 90s, I was a DC comics fan, never a Marvel fan. And I will still admit that overall I like DC movies better even though they have mostly been trash lately (I did prefer the Snyder Cut of the Justice League much more - but not in the same toxic way as the fandom that demanded it's release). I think I have only seen the following Marvel movies: Iron Man 1 and 2, Captain America 1 and 2, Guardians of the Galaxy 1 and 2 (love em), Thor - all 4! Love me some Chris Hemsworth; Natalie Portman for the win! And I think I saw the first Avengers movie. I've also seen many of the non-Disney Marvel movies like the Sam Raimi Spiderman trilogy, the X-men triology, some of the First Class movies, and the two Andrew Garfield Spiderman movies. But given that there are like thousands more, it's fair to say that I don't really know (or care) much about the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I say that so you better understand where I'm coming from with what I am about to say. 
    FINAL SPOILER REMINDER - I will ruin the ending of Thor 4 if you haven't seen it yet. YOU'VE BEEN WARNED
    Aside from being a fan of Chris and Natalie, I like that the Thor movies have more or less been able to be enjoyed outside of the main Marvel continuity (obviously they are linked, but they stand on their own pretty well). I'm not going to review "Thor: Love and Thunder" here, but overall I liked it a lot, although I thought Chris's overacting in the first half was just a bit over the top (but forgivable). I really enjoyed that it blended camp with high-quality moviemaking in a way that most campy movies don't. I also loved how Stormbreaker was anthropomorphized and the very brief moment when the camera is framed on Chris and we just see Stormbreaker starting to come in from camera right in a nod to it's jealousy was so perfectly animated. The pace of Stormbreaker's movement, the only slight entrance into the frame, it shows just how powerful animation can be when executed well. It completely expresses emotion from an inanimate object! Definitely my favorite moment in the movie (I looked and I couldn't find a GIF and could only find phone caps of foreign language ones on youtube). So I'm not going to review the movie more than this, but suffice it to say I enjoyed it a lot (and found myself genuinely laughing out loud constantly at it's very dry humor).
    What I do want to talk about is the ending. And I want to talk about it from a literary standpoint, which is why I prefaced all this with the fact that I'm not a Marvel movie fan. I am not going to talk about how the ending that DID happen might have been necessary for the future things it sets up in the MCU (because I don't care about the MCU). I DO want to talk about why the ending didn't quite achieve as much as it could have from a literary standpoint and what I (and my daughter and niece independently) thought the better ending would have been if connections to future projects weren't part of the equation (and it is worth noting that I am okay with the fact that movie executives have to make money. So I am not blaming them that this was the ending they chose because I get that they need to keep this enterprise going. I just get to talk about what I wish it had been if that wasn't part of their need set).
    Here's the actual ending: Gorr, who lost his daughter, begged for help from a god who laughed at him, slaughtered that god, then starts slaughtering all gods in an attempt to find "Eternity" who will grant his wish, actually makes it to the eternal and basically defeats both Thors to get there. But there is a final moment when Chris Thor could stop him, but that means leaving Natalie Thor to die alone. And so Chris Thor decides to be with Natalie even though he knows that part of Gorr's wish will be to destroy all gods and so Chris Thor will end up dying with Natalie Thor. The Thors urge him to "choose love." It's unclear if Gorr's original wish was to kill all gods, bring back his daughter, or both, but it is implied that his original wish might have been just to kill all gods. But instead, seeing the love between the Thors, Gorr choses to bring back his daughter and leave the gods alive. However, although Chris Thor is left alive, Natalie Thor still dies of her cancer. Then Chris Thor adopts Gorr's daughter as Gorr dies from the influence of the sword (or whatever) and Thor mourns the loss of Natalie by becoming a good father to Gorr's daughter. (Which is an admittedly sweat/funny scene and the young actress who plays Gorr's daughter is brilliant).
    This is a perfectly fine ending, satisfying enough, and apparently done to fit with the larger marvel continuity if the end credit's scene is any indication. But it could have been even better if we don't care about the MCU's journey, and only care about quality writing. Here's how and why:
    It comes down to the journey Gorr takes and who Gorr is in his core being. The movie starts with Gorr and his daughters as the last survivors in an environmental wasteland. He is doing everything he can to keep her alive, sheltering her with his body from the elements, but she passes away. He buries her and cries over her body, and lays himself on top to die. But then he hears that god killing sword calling to him. Gorr stumbles on the oasis, finds his god, makes his case, and his god laughs at him. The sword comes to his hand and he kills the god who cares so little for the pain and suffering of Gorr. Gorr's feeling in that moment is completely understandable and the sword is drawn to him because of that emotion. It is then explained that the sword will continue corrupting him and it helps us understand why Gorr goes from being momentarily enraged at his unsympathetic god, to wanting all gods dead - a dramatic personality shift from the loving father. 
    But Gorr is fundamentally depicted, at all times in the movie really, as a sympathetic villain. His pain comes from the unnecessary death of his daughter. He is a devoted father. And his pain was laughed at by the one being who could help. Then the sword further messes him up. So this is a perfect set-up for a redemptive ending. Not to excuse the deaths Gorr has caused, but to resolve his journey and restore him to the devoted father, and presumably kind person, he originally was. 
    And in many ways, that's what the movie does. He stops killing gods and he brings his daughter back to life. He choses love. But he could have chosen love in an even bigger way. A way that is restorative and reparative, rather than somewhat selfish. Framed another way, the actual ending has Gorr allow one more god to die (Natalie Thor) and brings back his dead child who will now be a fatherless orphan. 
    What if, and here's the point of this belabored blog post, Gorr sees Chris Thor's willingness to die with Natalie Thor rather than stopping Gorr and so Gorr choses to use his wish not on himself (bringing back his already dead daughter) but instead to preserve Natalie Thor's life. What if he saves a god and saves their love showing that he has truly come full circle and remembering what his love meant to him and that he has the power in that moment to give that to another pair? 
    Chris Thor, when given the opportunity to finally stop Gorr, recognizes that doing so means that Natalie Thor will die alone. By going to Natalie Thor, Chris Thor is signing his and every other god's death warrant, but believes that being there in Natalie Thor's final moments, that intimate kindness, is more important. In watching this self-less act of kindness and love towards Natalie, Gorr is urged to chose love. Again, it is unclear if his original wish would have been ONLY to kill all the gods and he switches it to bring his daughter back, or if both were part of the original wish and he just leaves the god death part out. I suppose the stronger interpretation of the actual ending has him using his wish for vengeance alone and killing all the gods, but the Thors' love for each other convinces him to instead grant life in the form of his daughter. I just think that being self-less and choosing love and life in the form of Natalie Thor living rather than expending it on his own desire for his daughter to come back from the dead would have been even more redemptive. It also, as I said above, would have been reparative: he had killed all these gods, and now he can grant a god life. Instead, he spends it on his daughter while allowing another god to die. 
    So what do you think? Would it have been worth sacrificing future MCU plans to have Gorr save Natalie Thor instead of resurrecting his own daughter?
    
🚺

Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (Book Review)

A teen girl with orange hair, eating oranges, an overall surrealistic cover. Rolling green hills, a cottage, and a cross in the background
    
"Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit" by Jeanette Winterson (published in 1985) was a surprise find in my home library. I simply don't remember purchasing it. And so when I was looking for a "downstairs" book to read, I chose to read it without even knowing what it was about (Downstairs = on the couch, Upstairs = in bed - I often read two books simultaneously). I now completely understand why I bought it, and while not quite a masterpiece, it is well worth your reading.
    "Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit" is a short novel about a girl, growing up in a very Pentecostal English community and her growing awakening as a young lesbian. That in itself would probably be reason for me to read it, but of course, my main goal when reading a book is to love the language itself. 
    And there was much to love. As a first novel, Winterson displays an ambition in both her storytelling and structure. Much of the prose is straightforward, but in a beautiful way. Not ornate by any stretch but neither boring nor perfunctory. Hers is a voice I'd like to read more of. 
    The story itself, and in some ways there is both a lot of story and very little, is semi-autobiographical (I believe). It is a fast read in both the length of the novel and the briskness of the pacing, jumping forward in time as it sees fit. Ultimately it is what it skips over that proves it's greatest weakness as a novel.
    The Jeannette of the story is adopted by a very devote missionizing mother. Her adoptive father is only vaguely in both their lives, apparently with no ill-will intended, he just simply couldn't possibly compete for space around her mother, for whom the entire novel orbits. Her mother in many ways is the center of the community's fervent faith. And as young Jeannette so calmly, so naturally, begins first one, and then a second relationship with a female friend, the town looks to her mother for how to address such a "demon" as her once promising daughter has become. And between their faith and Jeannette, there is really never a choice as to who will win in the end. For this is the real world, and not a fairy tale.
    That for me, is the one spot this otherwise beautifully rendered book falters. The book's ending (by no means the character's end) simply comes up too fast and too scattered. Just the right amount of time is spent through the first portions of the book. Each scene, each time period, each description is exactly what it needs to be and nothing more. 
    But then the book ends so fast, abruptly, and with a large time jump with little in the way of justification for a particular reunion and how that reunion plays out. Clearly so much has happened, so many things have changed (but obviously not enough), and yet we aren't privy to those developments. That lack of overtness can work to an author's advantage. Don't bother wasting the time or real estate on unnecessary details and back story and exposition when it's not needed. But when the meat of the journey is removed, it leaves a hole. From the climax to the resolution, there is almost nothing provided. It felt as though the book was missing 60 or 70 pages between the two. 
    That structure certainly didn't ruin the book for me. There was too much beauty and interest in it, too much to recommend it. But I want to know what happened between that climax (I'm so trying not to spoil too much for you), and the end passages. However, Winterson has another biographical book, more of a memoir, and I plan on reading that as well. Maybe I'll find some of what was missing in "Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit" in there, to piece together the gap in the fictional Jeanette's story with the real one's. 
    Do read this book though. It's quiet, calm exploration of Jeanette's growing feelings and understanding of herself intersecting with the fervent religious beliefs of her community and her own maturing understanding of her god, as possibly distinct from theirs, is quite compelling.

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Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

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