Tuesday, August 17, 2010

If only to make myself amiable

Jane Austen knows the way into my heart. Her words present a world so unlike my own; a world of candor and status and courtship. The stories Jane Austen tells are blatantly romantic but it's romance that no one in today's society has the privilege of experiencing. In Jane's time there was so much at stake when it came to love and marriage. One's fortune and happiness could be determined by a fortuitous match. And the likelihood of such a match was determined either on status economically or on the wit, beauty and accomplishments of the young woman in question.

But to me, there is something overwhelmingly romantic about the act of courting in the late eighteenth, early nineteenth century. A man was an actual, legitimate gentleman. He had class and was learned and had decorum. A gentleman would gently woo a lady and ask the permission of her father before requesting her hand. It was just so lovely.

In today's society I cannot think of many men as estimable as Mr. Darcy. Oh yes. Pride and Prejudice remains to be one of my favorite love stories but I'm not here to comment on that presently. Though no male lead has ever captured my heart so completely as Fitzwilliam Darcy. No, today I want to talk about Mansfield Park.

I have been slowly reading through the works of Miss Austen and Mansfield Park was my latest completion. All the pieces of Austen's world - the class system, the gentry, the decorum - were all quite present and Fanny Price is an incredibly amiable character. She's such a sweet girl, if not a little too overrun by the desire to appeal solely to what is expected of her. Throughout the story her fear of speaking out of turn keeps her from reflecting on the true character of many to those who could gain and avoid pain through her insight as well as from fulfilling the desire of her own heart. It's characters like Fanny Price that makes me somewhat heartened that I live in the twenty-first century as opposed to Austen's time. Not all women were as lively and headstrong as Elizabeth Bennet. A great too many were meek and well mannered just like Miss Fanny Price.

Regardless of my issues with Price's withdrawal from outspokenness, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It held all my favorite parts of a world long since past with the proper degrees of scandal. A married woman running off with another man is just as scandalous today. Though an elopement is not nearly as bad as it would have been in 1815. Despite her desire to conform with the wishes of those around her, Fanny holds onto her upright morals and avoids the one man whose character she knows is completely foul in order to hold out for the one she truly loves. In this I know her to be admirable.

Until next time,


Friday, August 6, 2010

Resist the Feed

"When the logo’s finished, then we will unveil it. Seven billion people instantly enlightened. Everyone’s rebranded. All the fighting’s over. Say goodbye to conflict. That design’s rejected. There’s no longer language. Only recognition. There’s no longer country. Only corporate colors. Color makes us hungry. Hunger makes us human. Everyone can see it. Everything’s connected." - Neil Cicierega

Imagine a world in which Corporate colors only flew. Where they controlled everything, including education, the food you ate, even the air you breathe. In this world, the earth is dying; overcome by pollution and consumerism. People are in danger and getting sick from the putrid quality of the earth. Their skin is peeling and oozing lesions are growing on their skin. There are riots all over the world and it's our fault. The end draws near and we never did anything to stop it. Technology wins.

This is the setting for M. T. Anderson's novel Feed, in which the planet Earth is in its prime technologically with feeds implanted in nearly every human's skull. The feed allows people to basically have wikipedia inside their mind, as well as a wide array of advertisements. It's kind of like google in your head, ads and all. With that kind of information at their fingertips, humanity shirks their responsibilties to education and the planet and basically allow horrible atrocities to occur through ignorance.

This scares the hell out of me. People, especially in today's society, rely heavily on media influence. We're all on Facebook and MySpace and YouTube. I go on Google multiple times each day. We're flooded by images on the news. We spend hours poring over television shows and movies. But how many of us pick up a book? How many write diligently and thoughtfully? How many have intriguing and pleasant conversations with the people they care about? Not enough. We're all so wrapped up in our own little worlds that we forget there are other people out there and bigger problems than forgetting to update our facebook status.

Now, I'm not knocking technology. I am a big advocate of it. Facebook and YouTube are excellent resources for getting out information and communicating. The YouTube community is one of the tightest knit groups I have ever seen. Certain people really advocate doing good and helping reduce suck in the world, like the Vlogbrothers Hank and John Green. I love the Vlogbrothers. What they and people like them are doing is important. It's a mix of community, comedy, and awareness. I admire their efforts ardently. The entire Nerdfighter community, which I consider myself a member (HOO HAH!) is vital.

However, it worries me that not all people are as clever or brilliant or necessarily as ethical as John and Hank. I worry that people will rely too heavily on technology and through this will be cheated out of important information. Certain things are not meant to be forgotten. This planet of ours is beautiful and awe inspiring but we have to take care of it. I don't want the downfall of Earth and human society to be because of our negligence.

It's never too late to look toward helping the future.

Wow, this entry was really preachy. I sort of apologize, but I sort of don't. Feed, while overwhelmingly interesting and compelling, sort of really freaked me out. And it makes me think. A lot. I want to do something to avert a future like that. I want to resist the feed.

Monday, August 2, 2010


Don't try to deny it. You love it. You thrive on it. It's the best around.

It's the reason you read fantasy novels, obsess over Tolkien and Harry Potter, and honestly, sometimes feel uncomfortable with reality.

Because fiction isn't real and it is unattainable and that makes it better. You always want what you can't have.

But enough of the second person, when I say you, you know I mean I.

I love magic. Now I'm not talking guy pulling a rabbit out of his hat magic. I'm talking YOU SHALL NOT PASS badass Gandalf, Harry Potter versus Voldemort death match magic. The magic that composes the world of my favorite literary escapes. More than once I have secretly sighed and wished, man, if only I had gotten my Hogwarts letter.

And if you're scoffing and saying, as if, you honestly don't know what you're missing.

There's something liberating about the magical realm. It's so simple and seductive. There's some sort of problem which our hero or heroine must solve through magical means and sleuth-like ingenuity. Brilliant.

But what if you could get it? What if Hogwarts was real. And on top of that so was Narnia, and Middle Earth and they were ATTAINABLE. You could go there. Anyone could, if they only knew the way, could get the right tools, or get in with the right people.

Such a dilemma is presented in the novel The Magicians by Lev Grossman. As an avid lover of fantasy, I was wary of this novel. I'll openly admit that I thrive off of young adult literature. It's enjoyable. But this was adult fantasy. It was quite good. First of all, Mr. Grossman writes in a relatable and pleasant prose that is both edgy and hilarious. Secondly, Grossman approaches concepts and ideas that children's literature wouldn't dare. After all, our stories are usually happy endings. The good guys win and our hero lives. There are some casualties along the way but all in all there is a clearly defined victory. In Quentin Coldwater's world this is not necessarily true. What if true power only consumed you? What if your heart's desire actually destroyed you? What if, after all, magic wasn't all it was cracked up to be?

Intriguing, yes?

I recommend this book highly. It's funny, heart-warming, dark and seductive all at the same time. Quite compelling stuff.

Until next time,