Friday, October 31, 2014

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

There are some books that you know you are going to love the moment you lay eyes on them. This is a rare occurrence but when it happens, it is very supernatural. Life of Pi was one of these magical books. I first heard of it from school when some kids had to read it over summer vacation. I've always enjoyed my summer reading books and while I enjoyed All Quiet on the Western Front, I really wished I had been assigned Life of Pi to read before sophomore year. A few years later I bought the book used and let it sit on my bookshelf way longer than I should have. After finally reading it, I'm sorry I waited so long. 
Life of Pi is about a boy named Piscine Patel. When kids make fun of him by calling him "Pissing", he takes a stand and gives himself a nickname: Pi. Three point one four. Pi's father owns a zoo and he himself is a big supporter of zoo's and makes a very valid case for them throughout the book. Pi is also unique in that he is raised Hindu and takes on Christianity and Islam later (though still a young boy). When Pi's family decides to move the zoo to Canada, their ship sinks and Pi is the only survivor on a life boat along with an orangutang, a hyena, a zebra, and a Bengal Tiger named Richard Parker. Pi's sea adventure is what takes up three quarters of this book.
The premise of this story is a very simple one - boy and tiger are stranded in the middle of the ocean and must survive. Critics say it is a book that will make you believe in the power of fiction and there are even some who dare to say this book will make you believe in God. The book carries a very delicate innocence yet also invests in exposing the raw and messy side of faith and life. The author leaves a lot of room by the end for the reader to be involved and decide their own interpretation which I really loved. The book also insists upon making the distinction between humans and animals which is a very interesting idea to read about. The story was well paced and the details were incredible. Pi himself is a wonderful character and I found I could stick behind him no matter what. Martel is an excellent storyteller and author and he kept me heavily invested in the story. 
This was definitely the best book I have read all year thus far. I rate it 5 out of 5 stars and highly recommend it!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Blimey Cow, Fandoms, and Human Complexity

"But at least it's just a kid thing, right? At least people grow out of this behavior when they get older. Adults don't join groups and justify the actions of the members of said groups no matter how insane or even criminal they are. Oh wait, I just described politics. Well kids have fun with your fandoms. Apparently it's just practice for the real thing."

This is how Blimey Cow ends one of their videos from the past month titled "The Fandom Menace (Or: Why I Hate Fandoms)". The video was a bit hard to watch. Not only did many fans and casual viewers hate the video but I myself found it hit very close to home. I'm not a huge fangirl but I won't lie when I say I do many of the things presented in this video, both on the fan side and the outsider. I constantly push Harry Potter on people yet also refuse to watch Dr. Who because of how insane the fans are about it. In a way, I'm glad Blimey Cow brought up the issue of fandoms while also calling me out. They always seem to do that which is why I admire them and have been a long time subscriber.
But the video did more than call people out and make some even feel alienated. It brought up an important truth about fandoms that surrounds the extreme admiration of individual people. This I am glad to say I have put behind me. Sure I still greatly admire certain folks but I no longer obsess unhealthily over them. Blimey Cow dared to go the distance and compared fandoms to politics. This is when the video takes a dark turn and the satire is just so damn good.
How have we failed to recognize this as a culture? Perhaps we did but the thoughts couldn't quite formulate properly in our brains. Perhaps we did but didn't want to admit it. Either way, it has been brought to our attention now in a very uncomfortable way and we must ask - where do we go after watching said video?
I think it is important to see all sides to the connection Blimey Cow made. They connect fandoms to politics but what is it about politics that gives a negative connotation? From my experience, I'd say it is the in-authenticity that bothers people about politics. No politician is ever straight faced with the public it seems. They all skew the truth or hide it. And when it leaks, people freak out. Politicians do bad things because their power allows them to do so and like many people, they may imagine getting caught but don't believe it could possibly happen. How does this connect with fandoms? Well, aside from the quote at the beginning, it allows the said individual who is idolized to get away with much more than a normal person would be allowed. Take Taylor Swift for example. Many of her songs are extremely hateful and could easily come across as bullying and targeting. Yet she is another American sweetheart for some reason. People quote her lyrics biblically and she is not the first nor the last person to be treated as an idol. Even sports stars get special treatment. Take O.J. Simpson for example...I don't think I need to say anything more.
In a way, we are all part of fandoms. We all tend to idolize people for their virtues but fail to see them as...well, people. Flawed people. It isn't the fandom itself that is the problem because fandoms bring people together and allow them to feel accepted. It is the idea of the fandoms that are troubling. The idea that someone has their room covered in One Direction photos so they can kiss the guys to bed and has internet debates about the validity of One Direction song lyrics and watches nothing else but One Direction on the family room television isn't healthy and is also a bit stalker-ish. Those guys aren't perfect and neither is the President (or any politician for that matter), Taylor Swift, O.J. Simpson, or any person in the public eye. I think it is great to celebrate talent and goodness, but we must realize that human complexity is much stronger than the faces people put on for the cameras.