Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wasted Wednesday: Miley Cyrus - Why I don't think she is as crazy as she appears

Allow me to start off this blog by saying that I have never been a fan of Miley Cyrus.  When Hannah Montana was a show, I could not stand her.  It was a combination of me hating the show, hating her singing, and hating that so many people bought into how awesome she was.  Okay, so maybe I was a bit of a hater.  I admit it.  I will now also take the time to say that I saw Miley in the Nicholas Sparks movie, the Last Song, and thought her acting was god awful.  It wasn't until a few years ago when I saw her in a music video titled The Big Bang (Rock Mafia) when I began truly began to see her in a new respect.  The music video told a story and was artistic, plus it wasn't made just to have Miley in it.  She was not the star but a side character and I loved it.  Not long after, I saw a graphic posted online comparing Miley to Taylor Swift.  Curious, I read the post.  I don't remember the exact words, nor do I have the graphic to post in this blog, but the basic point was that people call Taylor Swift an angel even though she writes hate and revenge songs and has been with tons and tons of guys while people calls Miley a slut even though she has been with the same guy and engaged for so and so years.  I know Miley and Liam are broken up (haven't heard much about it to be honest), but this was a post I saw probably over a year ago.  My point is that Miley has always been getting hate and I can be included in that.  But this all comes down to the fact that we don't view celebrities as people - we view them as objects.  Miley is extremely talented and I had come to see that after all those years of despising her.
During the summer of this year, Miley began going a bit crazy.  I am not counting her chopping her hair off or anything like that.  I am talking specifically about her performance at the VMA's (which I still haven't seen by the way) and her Wrecking Ball music video.  It was hard not to know about Miley's performance at the VMA's.  I would check Tumblr and Twitter and there would be tons and tons of posts about her.  It was a tweet by Eugene Cho saying:
"That so many would be outraged by and yet, so apathetic by what's going on in Syria, Congo, & North truly outrageous."
It was a bit of a slap in the face but I hadn't tweeted about Miley or Syria so I felt I could be excused
(and decided to find out what was going on in Syria).   Then the whole Wrecking Ball incident happened.  I watched the music video - it was pretty horrifying - and found that I actually liked the song.  I read some YouTube comments saying that the song seemed to be about her ex-fiance Liam and as the video progressed, Miley stripped herself of clothing revealing not only her body but herself as a broken person as if being hit by a wrecking ball.  The video depicts her vulnerability.  That is one way of looking at it though there are people who will say that is BS.
With all of this Miley stuff going on, I began to think about child stars and wondered why it is always them that go crazy.  Just look at Macaulay Culkin and Lindsay Lohan.  But then there are child stars that are doing okay for themselves like the golden trio Harry Potter actors Dan Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson.  All five of these people grew up with fame yet their fates are far apart and I knew that statistics would not help me with my questions about Miley.  I began to think about what her childhood must have been like - living with a famous father, being destined for talent, having to deal with millions of fans after being on a TV show, having the pressures of being on a TV in general, having her "dating" life advertised to the public for criticism and observation, etc.  I remember when I was fourteen and posting a video of me singing on YouTube.  I am not a good singer but I wouldn't go as far to say I am awful.  I am just okay...but my video did not get any positive feedback.  The only comments I received were saying rude things to me that I prefer not to restate on this blog.  I felt so terrible that I removed the video and have since never done anything of the sort again.  I was upset about reading two or three mean comments.  Imagine being Miley and have millions of negative comments written about you daily.  Yeah, it sounds like it sucks.
I came to the conclusion that Miley was not crazy as people were saying.  Sure she was acting out (because no other sings act out - Lady Gaga, Madonna, Katy Perry, Rihanna, need I say more?) and sure she is another seemingly classic example of broken child stardom - but I don't think that either of those points to her going off the wall.
About a month ago, my thoughts were confirmed when someone posted another graphic - this time quoting Miley about the TV show Breaking Bad.  The comment says:
"America is just so weird in what they think is right and wrong. Like, I was watching 'Breaking Bad' the other day, and they were cooking meth.  I could literally cook meth because of that show. It's a how-to. And then they bleeped out the word 'f***.' And I'm like, really? They killed a guy, and disintegrated his body in acid, but you're not allowed to say 'f***'?"
I've only watched the first two or three episodes of Breaking Bad and so far, I am not hooked but repulsed and wracking my brains wondering, why is this beloved again?  Hearing Miley's quote was a bit refreshing but also had a good point about America and this weird way in which we make sense of things.  Miley is spot on with her quote.  Why is it that we can have shows about illegal drugs that teach people how to make the drugs and yes the F-word is bleeped out.  Seriously?
My point is - I don't think Miley is as crazy as everyone thinks.  It seems like she is maybe trying to tell us something in the only way she knows how - by performing and acting.  That was how she was raised.  I have no doubt that she has a good head on her shoulders but I hope that she knows how much her actions are influencing the youth of America and I pray that she is able to deal with her issues and not worry about what the media says about her.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Reading: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

The fourth installment in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, marks a change in the atmosphere in J.K. Rowling's style of writing.  No longer is Harry considered a child's fantasy book series but rather a distinguished young adult series.  The big difference between this fourth book and it's predecessors is the length.  Being a hefty 734 pages, this book took a step up from it's usual 300-400 pages.  The style of writing improved as well.
Alright...time for my background story with this book.  I received this book as a gift for Christmas from my aunt when I was 11.  I do not have that original hardcover...I sold it on Ebay.  The reason I sold it is because my copy was, for some reason, smaller than the typical publications.  It turns out, it must have been a very rare copy though I don't think it was worth a lot.  Never the less, I kinda wish I had kept it.  Anyway, there isn't much for me to say about this book except that I read it when I was 12.  I remember reading the first chapter on the bus to school and being really confused but it was a good kind of confused because it meant that this book was distinguished and that I was reading a more mature text.  Ironically, I now consider the first chapter of this book to be one of my favorite chapters in the entire series.
Goblet of Fire takes the Potter series in a brand new, exciting and mature direction.  There is much more depth to the book than the previous three, brand new characters and story-lines, and at the same time, readers still have the same element of mystery and humor that they have come to know and love.  Rowling has a great way of dropping hints and foreshadowing throughout her writing.  This book is very special because it is literally the center of the series - it is the moment when the books change from adventures at Hogwarts to darkness and evil.  It is a nice look at the psychology behind why we do what we do - whether it be Ron's jealousy of Harry's fame and Hermione dating Victor Krum, Cedric's want to help Harry after Harry helped him, Fudge's choice to not believe Voldemort
has returned, or Voldemort's choice to choose Harry's blood over a random person's when he returns.  Another great aspect to this book is the introduction of S.P.E.W!  Hermione's call to act for the house elves is arguably (next to Dumbledore's Army in book 5) the biggest call to action that has inspired young readers to also act for what is right.
While Goblet of Fire is an excellent fourth novel, it has it's inconsistencies.  Many are specific events and I am not going to sit here and write them all out but they are there.  It is no secret that Rowling felt rushed when writing this novel and it has been said that she still is not satisfied with it.  Regardless, this novel is still hands down the best thus far and I am giving it 5 out of 5 stars.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Reading: Harry Potter for Nerds edited by Travis Prinzi

Ever since being a guest on MuggleNet Academia this past June, my world has dived head first into Potter mania.  I recently reread all seven books for a sixth time and have been able to convince my friend to read the series along with me though how much she enjoys it, I will leave it to the imagination.  I have become a regular listener to the MuggleNet podcast called Alohomora!, a global reread of the Potter books, and I continue to listen to MuggleNet Academia.  The things I have learned and discovered in these past five months is nothing short of remarkable.  I can't say that I look at Harry Potter in the same way that I did at the start of 2013.  I now have a much greater love the for complexities of the characters, J.K. Rowling's wonderfully circular crafting of the series, and the beautiful names, spells, and places that come from the Latin language.
It was during one of my listens to MuggleNet Academia that I heard of Travis Prinzi, a Harry Potter academic.  An entire episode was dedicated to Prinzi's new book - Harry Potter for Nerds.  On the episode, hosts Keith Hawk and John Granger discussed Prinzi's new book of essays and what to expect from it.  After listening to the podcast, I drove home from work and ordered Harry Potter for Nerds on Amazon. 
This book was just as excellent as I expected it to be.  The content was so unique and unlike I had ever heard.  This book, I believe, is one of many (and many more to come) that ultimately prove that Harry Potter is a book series worth studying in academia and worth reading.  The series is a modern day classic.  Essays in this book include Is There Hope for Slytherin House?, There and Back Again: The Chiastic Structure of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter Series, Muggle Studies 101, Technological Anarchism, Merlin's Pants!: The World of Wizard Insult, Cracking the Planetary Code, and more!  Those essays I just listed are all fantastic and so are the others in the book.  I can't give this book enough praise.  The essays were well written by a diverse group of individuals, each united by their love of this book series.  I recommend the book to any lover of literature and especially to those Harry Potter fans that want to study these books on a higher, academia level.  I give it 5 out of 5 stars!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Reading: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - the third book in the seven book series of the Boy Who Lived.  In Harry's third year at Hogwarts, he learns of an escaped convict named Sirius Black who is out to kill no one other than Harry himself.  But that is not what scares Harry the most this year.  Hogwarts is playing host to the dementors, guards of Azkaban prison.  Whenever they draw near to a person they cause the person to feel as if every happy memory has disappeared from their life and for Harry the affects are much worse since his childhood is not filled with many happy memories.  Through the midst of all the darkness, neither Harry nor any of his friends realize that among them lives a traitor in hiding who may be the key to discovering a puzzle piece in the murder of James and Lily Potter, Harry's parents.
As usual with these books I would like to start out with a bit of background I have with this book.  I read the book when I was 12 in sixth grade.  I really enjoyed the book at the time, particularly the chapter titled Hermione's Secret.  I still own the same copy I read from all those years ago.  It was a hardcover copy.  I loved the cover art as a kid, particularly the green lettering of the title.
Prisoner of Azkaban is yet again another fantastic sequel by J.K. Rowling.  The way she crafts the mystery in the novel while also creating Harry as a realistic teenage boy is nothing short of brilliant.  In my opinion, Prisoner of Azkaban is the most poetic of the books - the second being Deathly Hallows. This book begins the theme of Harry's search for a father.  We see many beautiful one on one conversation scenes between Harry and Professor Lupin.  Another beautiful set of scenes are the ones where Harry is either confronted with the dementors or when he is fighting them.  The writing was just so well done and moving.  Well done J.K.R.!  Another thing I love about this book is that it is the first time we get Ron and Hermione love tension.  I love the relationship Rowling creates between these two and I love that she had is all planned before we even knew it ourselves!

   “‘Why?  Why do they affect me like that?  Am I just – ?’‘It has nothing to do with weakness,’ said Professor Lupin sharply, as though he had read Harry’s mind.  ‘The dementors affect you worse than the others because there are horrors in your past that the others don’t have.’  A ray of wintery sunlight fell across the classroom, illuminating Lupin’s gray hairs and the lines on his young face.” 
As with all Harry Potter books, the ending contains a lot of dialogue where people explain themselves
which is extremely unrealistic but Rowling creates good reason for the dialogue.  These books are masterfully written and well thought out though I seriously wonder if Rowling could have somehow avoided these easy way out explanations at the end.  It is not just in this book they occur.  It is in all of the books.  I think these attribute to the fact that I had absolutely no clue what was going on by the end as a kid and it is also why these books need to be read more than once.
Okay, you know I want to give this 5 out of 5 stars but I am actually going to give it 4 out of 5 stars for the simple reason of what I stated above.  The first two books were Rowling's debut but this is her third book and while I get it is a children's book, that does not give anyone an excuse to cop out of writing a good ending.  I do not mean the ending of this book was not good but, as mostly all the Harry Potter books end, it had the lengthy explanation and then it was suddenly "okay, another year gone.  See ya next year guys!"  By the third book, Rowling's writing definitely improves but the endings always stay the same.  This will be the only time I count it against her.  As you know, I think the books only get better and better and I truly believe they deserve five star ratings. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Reading: More or Less by Jeff Shinabarger

Choosing a lifestyle of excessive generosity is the subtitle of this book, More or Less by Jeff Shinabarger.  I found this book on a website called NoiseTrade and it was available for free audiobook download so I took advantage of the opportunity.  Of course, audiobooks are not my favorite form of entertainment but this one I can honestly say I enjoyed immensely.  The book dares to ask a question all of us need to ask ourselves at one point or another - what is enough?
As Americans, we live the life of luxury.  We have everything available to us.  We can afford to upgrade our phone before the contract expires just so we can have the newest and coolest version of things.  We can afford to throw away our left over food so we can have a fresh meal the next time we are hungry.  Shinabarger dares the reader to go on a few social experiments while also presenting a few of his own personal stories of social experimenting and shows us why we need to appreciate what we have and how we can learn to live with enough instead of excess.
As I stated in my previous book review, I have been super busy and have not come to this blog in almost two months.  I listened to this audiobook about three months ago.  Yeah, not a good choice on my part to wait this long to write the review.  Not only that but because I listened to the book instead of actually reading it, I have not really gotten the full experience in my opinion because I forget it much easier.  Therefore, I will do my best in rating this book though I can definitely say I know I enjoyed it and will probably come back to read it sometime in the future.
There was one particular moment in the book that really inspired me and I would like to share it in this review.  Shinabarger and his wife decided that for one month they would not buy any food from the grocery store and eat only what was in their pantry.  They completed this experiment, and gained some weight in the process, but completed it none the less and they still had some food left by the end.  I was amazed and also jarred because just hearing about this experiment sort of woke me up and reminded me how lucky I am and how much I have. 
While the book is written by a Christian author, it is NOT a Christian book.  If you are familiar with my blog, you must know that I hate when things are described as Christian.  Christian is not an adjective.  You can't call a sweater Christian or a CD Christian.  You can't say - that painting of angels believes Jesus died for our sins.  It doesn't make sense.  Anyway...this book is secular.  It presents a universal truth that everyone can agree with, whether they are Christian or atheist or Buddhist or Jewish.  Christians are moved to do good things through Jesus, but the book does not make this claim.  I did not pick up on this small detail until I read a review of the book on GoodReads.  It is a valid point though I think as Christians we are called to unite with those who do not agree with us and therefore unite our faith with the secular. 
This book was excellent.  It is not a literary book by any means.  It is a book that challenges the reader and while literary books do challenge us, this just takes a different approach.  I will give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Reading: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the second book in the Harry Potter series.  Viewed as the best stand alone mystery in the entire saga, Chamber of Secrets follows Harry at his second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  During Harry's summer holidays, a house-elf named Dobby comes to warn him not to go back to school because terrible things are apparently going to occur.  Harry ignores Dobby's wishes and goes back to school anyway where students are soon attacked by a mysterious culprit.  Someone is going around the school and petrifying the students, turning them to unmovable beings.  Harry is determined to solve this mystery before someone is killed.
Before I formally begin this review, allow me to apologize for my long absence from this blog.  Between work, Harry Potter book group, reading and NaNoWriMo, I have been super busy. 
Now, allow me to give you a bit of my personal history with this book.  Chamber of Secrets is the first Harry Potter book I ever bought.  Before buying it, I viewed Harry Potter as a stupid book series and had no interest in reading it.  My love of books got the better of me though when I was in a Toys-R-Us and there was a Harry Potter book section.  Since they did not have the first book in paperback (I did not like hardcover as a kid), my parents bought me the second book in paperback which I still own today.  I do not have many strong memories of reading the book though I do remember looking through it, after I bought it, in my front yard during a summer evening and I also remember bringing it to school with me and showing my friends that I was on Ch.3, The Burrow.
The second book of the Harry Potter series does not disappoint.  While the writing is pretty much on
the same scale as the first book, the reader gets a bit more insight into Harry's dislike of fame and Harry's search for identity.  The mystery in the book is indeed the best of all the book's in my opinion...besides the overall mystery that consists throughout the series.  Harry, Ron, and Hermione must search for clues and ultimately find them through rule breaking, being in the right place at the right time, and each others natural abilities and talents.  Another thing that sets this book apart from it's siblings is that it is arguably the most comical - mainly because of the character, Professor Lockhart.  Lockhart's silly and conceited mannerisms are nothing short of hilarious and add a very dry humor to the serious tone of the book.  This book also contains my all time favorite quote from the series, as you can see on your right, said by one of my favorite characters, Albus Dumbledore.  "It is our choices, Harry, that show us who we truly are, far more than our abilities."  One of the reasons I love these books is that they not only teach me but they confront me and force me to think about my own life and choices.  Of course, many books do the same thing but I believe it was Harry Potter that first got me thinking this particular way about literature.
Chamber of Secrets is a great sequel to Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone and is indeed better than the first though not the best in the series.  As you will notice when I review the later books, I believe they get better and better as Harry ages.  This book still fits as a children's book though I think the humor will go over children's heads and the dark material will cause nightmares.  The mystery is a so-good-you-can't-put-the-book-down mystery and Rowling does an excellent job of supplying the reader with enough clues and yet still surprise us by the end.  As expected, I will give this book 5 out of 5 stars.