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Blogarithm



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So I Read TFiOS

Posted by Sumiki , in Writing, Rants, Not Essays!, Life Jul 17 2014 · 167 views

There's a number of ways to word the first paragraph of this entry, but suffice it to say that I've been a fan of the vlogbrothers since late last year, when I stumbled across their educational videos and then to their main channel. The great thing about the Green brothers' work is that even if you're not watching one of their myriad educational channels, you still end up learning something. They have a passion and excitement about the world that, frankly, few others have.

The fact that people dislike John Green is not something that particularly bothers me - after all, no one will be universally liked or appreciated. Like everyone, he has flaws - but most of the criticisms I saw of him were blatantly untrue slices of Internet hearsay. Reasons given were illegitimate and that made me kind of sad.

But I really had to withhold judgement, I thought, until I had the chance to read one of Green's novels, books which seem to elicit sharply divided opinions. When I had the opportunity to read The Fault in Our Stars, I would have been remiss if I hadn't taken it.

So I did. I read the whole thing in about six non-consecutive hours. (I'm a pretty fast reader.)

The end result was just sort of ... meh.

Regardless of my positive opinions of him as a video blogger and person, I have to say that he's actually a really bland writer. I'm not going to comment on the story itself because one cannot blame the "problematic" aspects of a story on the writer (which is the origin of most legitimate-looking John Green hate)*, but I can comment on the characters.

Green's characters don't have individual voices. Sickly, bookish, introverted Hazel speaks with the same advanced eloquence as the public-high-school-educated Gus. But it's not just there - alcoholic Van Houten is as well-spoken as his continually frustrated assistant Lidewij, and the parents of the main characters - aside from the tear-prone father of Hazel are practically indistinguishable from one another.

I could legitimize Hazel and Van Houten - perhaps Lidewij as well - but the fact that the dialogue of any one character could be given to any other character with only a little bit of recontextualization is not a good sign. Throughout the whole book, not one person spoke in the way that normal people speak.

It was, by extension, impossible for me to feel any kind of sympathy for these characters. Granted, I haven't cried over a fictional character since I was about four years old, but I was kind of thinking that it would change because everyone always goes bananas over John Green's ability to wrench waterworks from the eyes of his readers.

It's not like I was expecting some kind of modern classic from whence quotes would be hewn for books whose publications are four hundred years distant. But for all the hullabaloo of John Green's writing abilities, I would be lying if I said that I wasn't a tad bit disappointed.

* TFiOS, for its shortcomings, does not romanticize cancer, or illness, or disease in general. I've lost two of my grandparents to cancer, and it's not pretty at any age. Given Green's background, which he has talked about extensively, anyone who claims that TFiOS romanticizes disease is hearing it from someone else and/or completely skipped the passages where the characters discuss just how disturbing/dangerous doing so is.



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question

Posted by Sumiki , in BIONICLE/LEGO, BZPower, Other Stuff, Sumiki's Dad, twiggy, Writing May 20 2014 · 197 views

so would anyone read a short comedy about my dad in the bionicle universe


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Representation, Part II

Posted by Sumiki , in BZPower, BIONICLE/LEGO, Rants, Not Essays!, Writing Apr 21 2014 · 319 views

Specifically, with regards to the gender imbalance in modern media:
 
I'd like to see a story where, during the writing process, the characters are completely fleshed out and developed. Genders would be assigned at random at the end by computer generation, so as to avoid any unwanted author-based prejudices.
 
Obviously this example refers to a book, but the same process could go for anything.
 
(I was going to say more, but I think this pretty much speaks for itself.)



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On Representation

Posted by Sumiki , in BIONICLE/LEGO, BZPower, Rants, Not Essays!, Writing Apr 17 2014 · 404 views

BZPower is the only place on the Internet where I feel as if I can truly state what I feel without fear of someone seeing half a sentence and assuming something terrible about what I'm trying to communicate. I take a middle-of-the-road approach and try to see the good in people, and I feel as if BZPower is the only site that won't blow up in my face when it comes to moderate viewpoints.

- - - - - 
 
Well, the latest firestorm of drama hit BZP earlier - this time on representation in media. It's a change of pace from what these flare-ups are normally about, but that doesn't mean that it's not an important and hot-button issue.
 
My three major points are bolded.
 
There is no excuse for not having female characters in modern media.
 

None whatsoever.
 
First, though, let's look at what representation really is.

 
Representation is, for the most part, determined from capitalistic tendencies. Once the media gets in its collective head that the men are the people they should be focusing their energies and spending their money on, the vicious cycle begins. This goes for race as well - I was watching an episode of the brilliant late '90s sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun the other day and the main characters - aliens in the show's narrative - said that they'd chosen to be white because that was the color of everyone on TV. While a throwaway gag in the context of the episode (one which poignantly highlighted the inherent absurdity of racism), it stuck with me.
 
Women make up half of all the people on Earth, so it's much easier to explain a male-dominated media as an offshoot of a patriarchal society. But if we defocus the issue from one of representation of women and into representation as a whole, things get quite a bit dicier. 
 
People of all races, genders, and orientations exist. I mean, there are over seven billion of us now, so even the most minor of minority groups have significant numbers. One would think that what would follow would be representation for every group equal to their number.
 
Unless you've been living under a rock, however, it's clear that it hasn't happened.
 
So ... why?
 
Some point to internalized prejudices. While this could account for some media behavior, I harbor serious reservations that it accounts for all media - and all media are affected by this. What, then, is the most logical explanation?
 
Like I said - by following the money.
 
If you're a member of a group, you're going to want to get a cut of the majority. In America and much of the West, this means white people. If you're the biggest ethnic group, people who want to market stuff to the mainstream will probably market it towards you, because that's where the money lies.
 
If you're a member of a minority group, I think it's only fair to have media representation for you. The culture that led to the situation we're in has to change.

 
When minorities appear, they are often in token form. I shouldn't have to explain why this perpetuates stereotypes, but if we look at this from the broad view that I keep trying to get at, then we see that the smaller the minority, the less of a chance that a character from that minority will appear in media. Why? Again, money. If you're a studio executive and you want to make a movie sell, would you include characters that the perceived "majority" would relate to?
 
Most of them answer "yes," because it's the easy way out. Only now are we started to see the inklings of a fundamental change. The more bits of media that have minorities that are successful, the more that the people who are in charge of the media will see the fundamental error of their ways.
 
Here's another thing to keep in mind here: Representation does not always mean positive representation.

 
Let's take The Big Bang Theory. Among its quartet of protagonists, a trio represent some sort of minority: asexuals, Indians, and Jews. All of which are, at some point, played for laughs - or for whatever the writers think is funny. (It's not funny.)

 
When the most prominent asexual character in modern media is Sheldon Cooper, you know something's gone off the rails somewhere along the line. While gay characters are on the rise, a lot of them are accompanied by harmful stereotypes. Don't even get me started on bisexual erasure and the dearth of pansexual characters.
 
Hypothetically, every movie and book and TV show could change tomorrow to one where women outnumber men, but yet the women are always portrayed with harmful stereotypes. Let's imagine the same with sexual and ethnic minorities. You'd have more representation, but if it's with even more sexism, racism, and homophobia, how is that better? Mathematically speaking, it's actually worse.
 
Let's not support mere representation. Let's support good, positive representation. Let's prove to the media that they don't have to follow where they think the money is, but rather, where the moral thing to do lies.

 
I welcome discussion on these issues, but I am not afraid to defend myself if I see something I wrote taken out of context.


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The Strangest Pieces

Posted by Sumiki , in Writing, Rants, Not Essays!, Music Feb 12 2014 · 170 views

I swear this isn't a music blog.
 
(Okay, it kind of is.)
 
I've listened to a wide swath of different pieces of classical music, and I occasionally come across some things that are just ... well, strange. We're talking off-the-wall levels of goofy here.

-----La Monte Young - Piano Piece for David Tudor #1

This piece doesn't even have a proper score, just a sheet of paper telling the performer to come out onto the stage with a bucket of water and a bale of hay for the piano to drink and eat. Performance consists of either feeding the piano or letting the piano feed itself, and that the music is over once the piano had been fed.

-----Erik Satie - Vexations

Satie's Vexations is a remarkably unassuming piece of sheet music - but inspection reveals a peculiar direction in the corner: if you want to play it 840 times in a row, Satie advises performers to prepare beforehand, "in the deepest silence, by serious immobilities." John Cage - who will appear later in this list - was inspired by the inherent ridiculousness of Vexations and organized its first performance in New York in 1963. It lasted 18 hours and was played by a dozen pianists working in shifts.
 
-----Karlheinz Stockhausen - Helicopter String Quartet

The controversial Stockhausen composed Helicopter String Quartet to be part of one of his massive operatic projects. Each string quartet member is lifted in a different helicopter, and they coordinate their playing in tremolos, with the intended effect of making the helicopters instruments themselves. The piece is by far the most complex string quartet ever written.
 
-----Karlheinz Stockhausen - Fresco
 
Fresco is not composed with the audacity of Helicopter String Quartet, but nonetheless makes this list because of the scandal that marred its only performance to date. Written as background music for four orchestras situated around a hall, the instructions in Fresco irritated the classically-trained performers. Tensions between composer and performers grew wider, and some performers tried to refuse playing it, only to realize that they were contractually obligated to do so. (This didn't deter the concertmaster, who threatened to kill the head conductor.)
 
Remaining performers did so under protest, and the performance was a complete disaster. Performers took to practicing other repertoire instead of following their score as an act of protest, pranksters and hecklers distracted the few that stuck to Stockhausen's instructions, and the performance was halted when somebody cut out the lights on them.
 
-----Erwin Schulhoff - In Futurum

A lot of people are familiar with John Cage's famous "silent piece," 4'33", but it's not here. Few are aware that, while Cage's motives were different, the idea of a completely silent piece was not his own - the first one was composed by the Czech composer Erwin Schulhoff over thirty years before Cage. In Futurum - with its ostensibly crossed hands (the clefs are switched) and irrational time signatures (3/5 and 7/10) - appears as the third movement of his piano collection Fünf Pittoresken. The rest of Schulhoff's works take influence from jazz, making In Futurum all that much more remarkable in its uniqueness.
 
-----John Cage - Atlas Eclipticalis

Cage's music ranges from the serene (Dream, In a Landscape) to silence (4'33", 0′00″, One3) to more or less off-the-wall concepts. Atlas Eclipticalis is for any number of instruments playing the music however they wish, with the sheet music consisting of star charts graphed onto music paper. Because of the undefined instruments and the lack of both tempo and dynamic instructions, performances of Atlas Eclipticalis are all remarkably different.
 
-----John Cage - Organ²/ASLSP

A fan of extremes, Cage wrote ASLSP (standing for As Slow As Possible) for piano. The piano version usually takes around an hour to perform ... but the organ edition, owing to the nature of the instrument, can sound indefinitely. It wouldn't be on this list if not for an organ that was built expressly for the purpose of performing the piece - an organ piece that will end in September of the year 2640. But, while slow, it's still - theoretically speaking - not as slow as possible.
 
-----György Ligeti - Poéme Symphonique

Ligeti's music is full of rhythmic variation and unique sonority. Equal parts rhythmic experimentation and avant-garde parody, the score calls for 100 metronomes, all of which are set to different speeds.


-----Leo Ornstein - Suicide in an Airplane

This piece isn't really strange in the ways that the others are, but it honestly has one of the most metal titles of any piece of music I've ever heard of. I've decided to hone my orchestration skills and I've chosen this piece because of its musical depiction of a dogfight and rumbling engines, which is equally well suited to an orchestral sonority.



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Music Since the Twentieth Century

Posted by Sumiki , in Writing, Rants, Not Essays!, Music Feb 11 2014 · 110 views

After my opinions on Mozart and much of the Classical era, I got to thinking about modern classical music, which in this sense means any music written after 1900. I have ... mixed feelings, shall we say.
 
Time for another music history lesson.
 
By the turn of the century, late Romanticism was beginning to die out. Gustav Mahler was writing symphonies of epic proportions, Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy were defining a musical style dubbed "Impressionism" - though Debussy hated the term - and Alexander Scriabin was writing increasingly mystical music based on his own egomaniacal philosophy. These folks, and figures like them, were continuously evolving the musical language that had existed more or less continuously from about 1600, when the Baroque era started. Romanticism was fracturing, and there were sub-groups of composers who sought their own styles, and composers who simply struck out on their own path.
 
As time went by, harmony was extended, and by 1900 the usage of chromatic harmony - a technique whereby harmonies are derived from both pitches within the scale of the music you're working in and from without - was everywhere. In many composer's eyes, these kinds of rich, expanded tonal structures would go on indefinitely, with composers adding to the additions that had been accrued over the years.
 
Other composers thought that there simply was no place to go, that traditional tonality had reached its breaking point, and new rules had to be developed. Scriabin, who started out writing very Chopinesque music, evolved his own brand of harmony derived from fourths, altered dominant chords, and a few stunning examples of bitonality in some of his late preludes. Igor Stravinsky embraced rhythmic drive (and bitonality as well) in The Rite of Spring, which was so groundbreaking that the first performance was marred by a riot in the Parisian audience.
 
Most lasting was the music of the so-called Second Viennese School, headed up by Arnold Schoenberg. Schoenberg's first few opuses show the influence of Mahler and is filled with intense chromaticism - so intense that even those early works - far and away his most accessible pieces - were met with incomprehension at their first performances. Undaunted, Schoenberg veered into extreme atonality, writing pieces such as Pierrot Lunaire. Pierrot made waves not just with its atonality, but for its unique ensemble (known henceforth as the Pierrot Ensemble) and with its half-speaking, half-singing writing for voice.
 
But Schoenberg, for all of his cacophonous music, realized that this kind of free dissonance and atonality - something that composers such as Charles Ives and Leo Ornstein had experimented with - needed some sort of structure to hold it together, just as tonality had held music together before him. To make a long, diagram-necessitating story short, he came up with something called the 12-tone technique, whereby every note was sounded equally through the use of tone rows, which were essentially randomized chromatic scales.


Schoenberg's two major pupils, Anton Webern and Alban Berg, took Schoenberg's techniques and personalized them. Webern idolized Schoenberg and often moved just so he could be near him, and took the 12-tone technique and honed it to a disjointed science. Webern was known for writing exceptionally short pieces, and his piano music is characterized by its brevity, sparseness, and unholy dissonance. He died at the end of World War II after a trigger-happy American soldier saw his cigar and mistook him for an enemy soldier ... but strange composer deaths are a story for another time.
 
Despite the fact that his music was aesthetically terrible, Webern became one of the most important modern composers, for the avant-garde for most of the rest of the century followed his lead to some extent. The 12-tone technique was applied to other areas of music - instruments, dynamics, note lengths - to derive an incredibly strict kind of "total serialism," where the composer writes a few rows and the music more or less writes itself.
 
Alban Berg, on the other hand, experimented with making Schoenberg's ideas accessible. He wrote a masterpiece of a Violin Concerto and an opera, Wozzeck, which half-succeeded in this endeavor. He's considered the easiest atonal composer to listen to. His middle-ground approach makes him an oddball figure on both sides of the fence.

 
But back to Webern, whose techniques had a significant impact. Pierre Boulez took Webern's usage of serial composition to every extreme imaginable, writing music where every imaginable aspect is controlled by rows - pitch, velocity, register, etc. While Boulez has always composed this kind of music, even he realized that total serialization leaves no room for creativity.
 
The Greek composer Iannis Xenakis took off in a different direction. A mathematician and an architect, Xenakis was one of the first composers who took to "Musique Concrete" techniques - sound collages of recorded tape. Aside from his solo percussion pieces, his music is frankly ridiculous, as he wrote music based on mathematical formulas. Similar approaches were taken by Karlheinz Stockhausen, a controversial and influential figure in the sphere of electronic music, and who once wrote a string quartet where every instrument is lifted on a separate helicopter.

 
(Don't ask.)
 
I give all these examples to illustrate one point: since Schoenberg, many composers have taken refuge in music that is of theoretical interest, but not traditional musical interest. Say what you want about Schoenberg, Webern, Boulez, and Xenakis, but their music is aesthetically unpleasing. They thought that there was nothing of strict musical interest left to say, and so they found their own paths.


These paths are now showing themselves to be dead ends. The same strict adherence to predefined sets of rules makes much "modern" music as boring and as aesthetically similar to music of the Classical era.
 
But it's not like all 20th-century composers took to serialism. Alfred Schnittke and György Ligeti were remarkably innovative and wrote significant pieces without adhering to the strict serialism that had gripped much of the classical music cognoscenti. Schnittke likened his departure as getting off an overcrowded train, and Ligeti mercilessly parodied his fellow composers in his Poème Symphonique for 100 metronomes.
 
Other composers, such as Henryk Górecki, Lowell Liebermann, Einojuhani Rautavaara, and John Corigliano have abandoned serialism in favor of a return to late Romanticism, a kind of musical reboot. They all have written music of musical and theoretical interest. Even Krzysztof Penderecki, a noted avant-garde composer who gained fame through his manic pieces for string orchestra (Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima and Polymorphia among them), abandoned that style, saying that we "must go back to Mahler and start over."
 
Suffice it to say that I very much agree with Penderecki.



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Why I Don't Like Mozart

Posted by Sumiki , in Writing, Rants, Not Essays!, Music Feb 08 2014 · 200 views

Let's get this out of the way: I really love classical music, and I kind of know a lot about it. I'm willing to bet that I know more things about music history than anyone else on BZP ... save for perhaps -Windrider-. Dude's a beast when it comes to this sort of stuff.
 
Most people don't really hold opinions on classical music one way or another, and those that do generally see it as monotonous and boring. I've never really held this opinion, but my favorite music has always come later in music history - not with the dissonance and atonality so revered by the composers of the 20th century, but with the Romantic era.
 
I'm using "classical" in a broad sense because I'm really not the world's biggest fan of music from the Classical period. Those who aren't as familiar with this history may be a bit lost at this point, so I'll see if I can't briefly recap some of the details.
 
The Middle Ages and the Renaissance are more or less grouped together in one era of music history. This was a very long era, but there were crucial innovations in harmony, melody, and musical notation. By the high Renaissance, polyphony - multiple melodies at once - was extremely common, and the best composers were able to write motets that used up to 40 distinct voices. Polyphony was music.
 
Around 1600, as musical instruments increased in quality and secular music became a more popular genre, the Baroque era started. Baroque music is often characterized as architecture, and Baroque composers were, as a general rule, ridiculously prolific. (Telemann is still the single most prolific composer in history, and Vivaldi nearly got thrown in an asylum when he interrupted himself at his day job - as a priest - to write down some notes that had occurred to him.)
 
Baroque music still drew on the polyphony of the high Renaissance to a certain extent, but by and large this kind of writing wasn't very common. Most Baroque composers used one or two melodies, with the notable exception of Johann Sebastian Bach. His keyboard music - especially his complex fugues with their finger-breaking polyphony - was considered antiquated, and his sons (he had a whopping 20 kids overall) were considered better composers than he was when he died. His reputation was revived when his works were rediscovered in the mid-1800s, and now, he's the only Baroque composer most people are familiar with.
 
All of which brings us to Classicism, where musical form became a bigger deal. Instrumental sonatas, symphonies, concertos, and string quartets became standard forms, and methods of writing for those ensembles were also standardized to a certain extent. Essentially, if you have a theme or two, you could plug those into sonata form, add a few basic harmonies, and boom, you've got a sonata movement. Simplicity and clarity became the name of the game in the Classical era.
 
The three major composers of this period were Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig van Beethoven. While many like to group their music together as the "First Viennese School," the music of these three were different. Haydn, speed-writing symphonies for the court orchestra under the Esterházy family, was, as he said "forced to be original," although many of his 100+ symphonies are not particularly innovative, as he had to conform to the musical tastes of both the Esterházys and their guests. His contributions to form have long since outlived him, and due to his productivity and his standardization of forms, he is known as the "Father of the Symphony" and the "Father of the String Quartet." Haydn's contributions to form and the language of Classicism cannot be understated.
 
Beethoven was widely different - while he started out fixed to Classical molds, he experimented with pushing the limits of what said forms could handle even before he realized that he was going deaf. When he came to terms with this, his experimentation led to more innovative and trail-blazing music, dispensing with convention after convention. He replaced the minuet with the scherzo in his later symphonies, looked towards Romanticism with his Sixth Symphony and a great number of his piano sonatas, didn't stick to traditional movement numbers in his late piano sonatas and string quartets, and famously introduced a chorus in the last movement of his Ninth Symphony.
 
Now for Mozart.
 
Mozart was hailed as a child prodigy, composed prolifically, and died at the young age of 35. In that time, he stuck to the already well-defined Classical forms, choosing to do as much within those constraints as he could. However, there really wasn't much more that any composer, no matter how great, could do within those forms - forms that were already well established by Haydn by the time Mozart began composing.
 
Haydn, though his music contains an aesthetic similarity, was creative as a musical troll. His Symphony No. 94 - nicknamed the "Surprise" - was designed to wake up sleepy members of the court with a massive chord following a very soft passage. His Symphony No. 45 - nicknamed the "Farewell" - sent a message to his patrons to let the musicians return home by letting players leave as the last movement progresses. Haydn chose the unusual F# minor as the symphony's home key, and had to get special crooks for his orchestra's horns to play.
 
But Haydn's formal unoriginality is explicable, as we know that he had to compose musically conservative pieces in order to get paid and did quite a bit under those kinds of restrictions. Mozart was, for most of his time as a composer, not hindered by a particular court. He was, more or less, freelance. Financially insecure, Mozart had the opportunity to be an innovator such as Beethoven came to be later, but did not.
 
Mozart, for his part, did write a few brilliant pieces in his later years - his unfinished Requiem, his Clarinet Concerto, and his late symphonies among them - but in his entire oeuvre these masterpieces are relatively few. If you took all of Mozart's works, put them into a list, and then randomized it, chances are you're not going to come out with one of his great works. Most of his pieces have a similar mood, and as mentioned, they nearly always stick to a predetermined form. In this sense, a great many are interchangeable.
 
In the end, this all comes down to my personal preferences and musical tastes. I know that Mozart holds a special place in many people's hearts, but as someone who has listened to a wide swath of his pieces, I really don't see what all of the fuss was - and still is - about.



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J. J. Abrams, George Lucas, and Greg Farshtey

Posted by Sumiki , in Writing, Rants, Not Essays! Feb 04 2014 · 280 views

Long-time Blogarithm viewers may remember a long rant I wrote about the link between Star Wars and BIONICLE with regards to their respective prequels. In it, I made the case that fans of a certain thing have higher expectations and preconceived notions regarding backstory.
 
I thought that it might be time to significantly expand on that train of thought by considering the monstrous job that now lays ahead of J. J. Abrams, a task that is both Herculean and nearly Sisyphean in its proportions.
 
The post-Return of the Jedi world saw the beginning of what would become known as the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Now, the EU is huge - not just with more licenses than you can shake a lightsaber at, but with games and books that delve into the mythology like never before. It's pretty insane how much canon Star Wars material is out there. The fans have been accustomed to the Expanded Universe and the stories that are from the EU are as - in some cases, more - revered than the movies that started it all.
 
Let's face facts: J. J. Abrams will not be able to make a Star Wars movie without contradicting the Expanded Universe. The EU also relies so much on its own internal canon that contradicting one thing would likely cause a domino effect and negate pretty much every EU story that fans have come to love.
 
The so-called "Thrawn Trilogy" is a good example. Set after Return of the Jedi, the Thrawn Trilogy were a series of books by author Timothy Zahn that chronicled the main characters fighting off what remained of the Galactic Empire and fighting an Imperial admiral named Thrawn. It's considered to be one of the definitive EU novels and were considered frontrunners to be turned into Episodes VII, VIII, and IX.
 
Well, as it turns out, they're not going to be made into movies, which means that they - along with quite a lot of the EU - is going down the drain, so to speak.
 
The only way that effigies of J. J. Abrams aren't burned by rabid Star Wars fans is if, hidden behind all of those lens flares, he's actually a genius beyond mortal comprehension. However, I hope no one takes it as an insult if I say that I sincerely doubt that, even when taking into account the existence of Fringe.
 
The common problem is that fandoms generally expect consistently high-quality material from content creators. Star Wars had such a following that the prequels were bound to disappoint, regardless of quality. The pre-A New Hope universe was not nearly as explored before A Phantom Menace as the post-Return of the Jedi universe is right now. (I hope that made sense.)
 
All of which brings us to Greg Farshtey. BZPower did not grow to have the most members of any LEGO fansite without reason. BIONICLE was big, and BZP's heyday saw a level of traffic and server-busy messages unheard of today, all because of BIONICLE. We appreciated Greg's dedication and his interaction with the community, which is unheard of amongst the content creators of such a large fan base.
 
Nevertheless, voices of dissent emerged, which only became more prevalent in the post-Great Downtime BZP, after Greg disappeared due to his personal life and LEGO's new interactivity policy. Opinions on Greg's writing skills are lukewarm at best, as fans have matured and looked back on Greg's methods of storytelling with more critical eyes. (Time Trap is a great book and I will fight anyone who says otherwise.)
 
Why? Well, we had become accustomed, as a community, to Greg's presence. Without it, I believe that criticism of his writing would have come about much sooner. We, as fandoms are wont to do, came to expect an inhuman level of quality from Greg, as the Star Wars fandom is expecting an inhuman level of quality from Abrams and his gang.

 
After all, Lucas got enough flak for the prequels.


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The Rise and Fall of Artemis Fowl

Posted by Sumiki , in Writing, Rants, Not Essays! Feb 03 2014 · 198 views

Or: Why The Eternity Code was the best Artemis Fowl book
 
Spoiler warning for ... well, the entire thing. I'm not marking individual spoilers; it's been long enough since the last book was released. Also this is really going to be rambling, I can just sense it. Consider yourself warned.

 
Ever since a friend loaned me the first book in the series, I'm a fan of Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl series of books. The characters and re-imagined concepts of Colfer's stories captured my imagination.
 
As I caught up - at that point, The Time Paradox was the most recent book in the series - I'd realized that Colfer was a writer with flaws. With the release of The Atlantis Complex and The Last Guardian, I felt as if Colfer's writing had finally jumped the shark, so to speak. His characters and writing style became caricatures of themselves, with an over-reliance on his own tropes.
 
Mulch Diggums saving everyone, side characters with puns for names, recurrence of Opal Koboi as a villain, character such as Butler or № 1 reduced to becoming one-dimensional characters ... these are all devices that occurred more often as the series progressed, and devices that became especially prevalent in the later books.

 
For this reason, The Eternity Code is by far my favorite book in the entire series, because it's different and it avoids the trope traps that Colfer fell into. Artemis is beaten by Spiro, Butler loses a step after his death and subsequent revival, Opal Koboi isn't the villain, and so on. So many things are different about Eternity, and for that I enjoyed it immensely.
 
Another thing that I enjoyed about Eternity was that it was contained most of the moments where Colfer significantly changed something about the Fowl universe. Artemis's mind was wiped, Butler's physicality was questioned. Thereafter, the events of Eternity were hardly mentioned, save for the change in Butler's physical makeup. After a terrifying and distraught Butler scared the snot out of Arno Blunt in Eternity, I thought that it would be a sea-change for Butler's character, but it was not.
 
But back to the story. In the subsequent book, The Opal Deception - the last book where Koboi's appearance actually retains some semblance of novelty - Commander Root is killed. Root's character is not one I particularly ... ahem rooted for in the first three books. While he had his fair share of touching interactions with Holly Short, Root was mainly painted through other characters, and not always in a positive light. Nevertheless, this newfound willingness to change things - permanently - in Colfer's writing was encouraging. Eternity and now this? What would Colfer do in the next book?
 
The Lost Colony saw Artemis in puberty. The way Colfer handled Artemis's interaction with his love interest/unwitting half-villain Minerva Paradizo was not emphasized, nor was Paradizo even so much as given a shout-out in the final three books. Colfer says that Paradizo had lost interest in Artemis after his exile getting back from Limbo and was in the alps somewhere, but this was in a tweet, if I recall correctly. It would have been nice to get some closure on the plot point in one of the three books, even if it was just a throwaway line. Artemis's feelings were also not addressed in the rest of Colony. Despite this, Colony remains my second-favorite book in the series, for its new characters and addition to the Fowl universe.

 
Alright, time for another complaint. Colfer's writing called for a cast of heroes that always showed up. Characters were never split up for long periods of time. Mulch, Holly, and Butler always showed up with Artemis, and there were few extended, important scenes without the entire gang together. Even when it would have been easier to leave out characters - even the lovable dwarf Mulch - Colfer jams them into scenes. It would have been great to see more times where characters not have someone else to fall back on, which brings me to The Time Paradox.
 
​Paradox pulls out all of the proverbial stops, but even so, Colfer's reliance on getting his protagonists out of jams with Mulch Diggums reappears. It would have been great to see Artemis and Holly have to finagle their way out of sticky situations without the assistance of Mulch or Butler, but again, Colfer didn't take advantage of opportunities.
 
The Atlantis Complex is perhaps my least favorite Fowl book. I felt as if the series had come to a nice conclusion with Paradox, but the two Opal Kobois in the timeline meant that a continuation was necessary - and another return for a villainess who became a caricature of herself in each consecutive appearance. But Complex doesn't deal with that - instead, Artemis is now seen with a magic-derived mental disorder. Colfer's pro-environmental sentiment - one which I agree with - reached a level of overt preachiness that I found distracting. The only thing that Complex has going for it is its callback to Deception with the death of Commander Vinyáya. But like Root, Vinyáya was never a major character, and the readers were never emotionally attached to her character.
 
For all of the missed opportunities in his characterizations, Colfer's depiction of Artemis's growth and maturity was excellent. The nearly amoral tween crime lord of the early books changed into a more conscious part-time crime lord. While still not the most upright of character, Artemis's machinations begin to nip at his consciousness in Eternity and eventually lead to his annoyance at his younger self in Paradox and then finally to his plan to save the world in Complex.
 
This is getting really rambling now so I think I'll move on and talk a little bit about the continuity of the series. Complex, despite my dislike, was possibly the most continuity-aware book, with the reappearance of Turnball Root after appearing in a short story years earlier. However, many minor plot points that make their appearances in the books - especially towards their respective ends - are thrown away in subsequent books and never mentioned again. This ranges from the aforementioned Minerva Paradizo to the Doodah Day/Mulch Diggums PI firm.
 
I feel like I'm complaining a bit too much about Artemis Fowl to the point where one might think that I'm not actually a fan of it. Yet for its flaws - which I've pointed out here in perhaps the least organized piece of material that I've written in my entire life - I still like the series. I just wish it hadn't petered out towards the end and done more of the things that made The Eternity Code so danged epic.



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Hero Factory, Re-Imagined

Posted by Sumiki , in BIONICLE/LEGO, BZPower, Writing Jan 12 2014 · 176 views

Hey you. Ever wanted to read a story where Hero Factory was rebooted to be gritty and dark and with humans and stuff?
 
Well have I got news for you.

 
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(also go enter that contest)






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He's the lord of all strangeness. - Ignika: Nerd of Life

How awesome is Sumiki on a scale of 1 to 10? - Waffles
42. - Black Six

[He's] the king of wierd, the prince of practicality, the duke of durr! - Daiker

Sumiki is magic. - Cholie

Sumiki says, "Do I creeeeeeep you out?" Yes, he does. - Waffles

Sumiki is a nub. He's cool, but he's still a nub. - Ran Yakumo


"What is a Sumiki?" You may ask. But the answer to that is still unknown, even to the Sumiki itself. - Daiker


LISTEN TO SUMIKI - Cholie


Sumiki is best snickerdoodle. - Takuma Nuva


BZPower = Sumiki + McSmeag + B6. And Hahli Husky. - Vorex


What's a Sumi? Does it taste good? - Janus


I would have thought Sumiki wanted to reincarnate as a farm animal. - Kraggh


EAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH - Kakaru


Sumiki: the horse_ebooks of bzp - VampireBohrok


Everything relates to Sumiki. No really, everything. - Daiker


He's in worse mental condition than I thought. - Obsessionist


I'm just wondering why I'm looking at some cat dancing ... I suppose the answer would simply be "Sumiki." - Brickeens


I was like a beast, screaming through the mind of Sumiki at the speed of sound. I.. I wasn't strong enough to stop myself. What I saw was the end of infinity, through which one can see the beginning of time, and I will never be the same. - Portalfig


I imagine the 13th Doctor will be rather like Sumiki, at the rate we're going. - rahkshi guurahk


I was quite sure Sumiki had another set of arms stashed somewhere. - Bfahome


Note to future self: don’t try to predict Sumiki, he’s unpredictable. - Voltex


Let's be honest, I would totally have picked my main man Sumiki to lead my goose-stepping night killers anyway. We tight like that, yo. - Xaeraz


10/10, would Sumiki again. - Bfahome

     

Sumiki
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Hat Enterprises CEO
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Group: Premier Forum Assistants
Posts: 11000-11100
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Every week, I post a new "Tuesday Tablescrap", a small MOC not worthy of a topic, but something to post and inspire me to build more.

10/25/11 - Duplo Flower
11/1/11 - Slender Man and Masky
11/8/11 - Bizarre Black Spaceship
11/15/11 - 2001 Monolith

11/22/11 - My Little Slizer 50
11/29/11 - Punching Bag
12/6/11 - Thunder and Escorts
12/13/11 - Three Concepts
12/20/11 - Kaxium Alternate
12/27/11 - None (Christmas Break)

1/3/12 - Daiker
1/10/12 - None
1/17/12 - Volant
1/24/12 - Nidman's Chute Shoop Shop
1/31/12 - None (Brickshelf down)
2/7/12 - None
2/14/12 - Atomic Lime
2/21/12 - Spearhead
2/28/12 - Glatorian Kahi
3/6/12 - Seeker
3/13/12 - Skyscraper
3/20/12 - Microphone
3/27/12 - Toa Vultraz
4/3/12 - Flammenwerferjüngeres
4/10/12 - Umbrella
4/17/12 - Lime Beetle
4/24/12 - Special - Flame Sculpture
5/1/12 - None (BZPower down)
5/8/12 - Purple Ninja
5/15/12 - The Original Sumiki
5/22/12 - 7/24/12 - None
7/31/12 - Tahu
8/7/12 - None (BrickFair)
8/14/12 - Special - Chess Set
8/21/12 - Heavily Armored Wasp
8/28/12 - Spaceship Drill
9/4/12 - Scuba Vehicle
9/11/12 - Orange Guy
9/18/12 - Strange Flying Thing
9/25/12 - Goblet
10/2/12 - None
10/9/12 - Aim .............................. Down
10/16/12 - Gold Bot
10/23/12 - Teal Mech
10/30/12 - Special - Teal Mech (#2)
11/6/12 - Bits and Pieces
11/13/12 - Two Spaceships
11/20/12 - TARDIS Interior
11/27/12 - Christmas Creep
12/4/12 - Toaraga
12/11/12 - Fireplace
12/18/12 - Abstract Duckling
12/25/12 - None (Christmas)
1/1/13 - Black Bot
1/8/13 - 1/22/13 - None
1/29/13 - Handheld Rhotuka Launcher
2/5/13 - 8/6/13 - None
8/13/13 - The Hinklebot
8/20/12 - Special - Post-Apocalyptic Piyufi

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Formerly known as the Bring Back Teal Club, the Unused Colors Society is a club that serves to promote colors that are little-used or discontinued, such as teal, old purple, or metallic blue.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Leaders:
Sumiki
Waffles

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Members:

ChocolateFrogs

ToM Dracone
xccj
Uzmakikunai
Novek
Nukaya
Overlord
Kaymac
(((DARKNESS)))
lunaticCircuitry
-Toa Lhikevikk-
DeepFriedZombies
Dirk Strider
GUYUGKUYG
Toa Flappy
Lime Paradox
McSpit
RotationalBasis
Mesonak
chunkeh!
Toa Robert
The X
Nuparu574
Dave Strider
Akuna Toa of Sonics
Commander Helios
Popup2: The Camel
~Shadow Kurahk~
Luna
Rho
~System Of A Down~
Kohrak Kal17
Brickeens
Jackson Lake
Thunder on the Mountain
McBobby
Ackar's Follower
Rahkashi
Bitter Cold
Tobi
Vinylstep
Nidman
Doc Scratch
Mendicant Bias
Eyru
Kagha
Darth Eryzeth
Millennium
Tschurtlschnatchen
kopakakid
Toa of Vahi
~Legoman~
noob
Makuta GigaDon
WORT WORT WORT
~Toa Drokonas~
Kwydjybo
Progenitus Worldsoul
Toa Kuhrii Avohkii
-Morgoth-
Bohrok Kal
Toa Neya 2011 Edition
~prisma son of dawn~
Nidhikiandco
.: WoLVeRINe :.
Zokau
DragonxFlutter
Lebon
ChocoLvr13
Uzumakikunai
Dokuma
Carnifex
Xetra
Metrongana
Alternate Velika
HercuLesss
Absol'd
SquishyFrog
Ynot
qUESTIE
SonicBOOM XS
Tavakai
Schnee 1
Brickeens (again!?)
Kakaru
The Great Forgetter
Kylus
Thomas the Tank Engine
Roablin
Aho-Chan
Jonah Falcon
~MatoroIgnika~
Vocals
Oh my miru
Element lord Of Milk.
e=mc^2
Lexuk Toa Of Insanity
Michael J. Caboose
GlatorianJaller
knuckles chaotix
The Bean
Kyronex
Lord Kaitan de Storms
Jaicho
Toa of Dancing
/Got_Your_6/
ZamorBob
Daiker
Toa Arzaki
The Oncoming Storm
Darkrylles
Lego Obsessionist
Toa of Pumpkin
christo1096
Unit#phntk#1
Teal Armada
Toa Zehvor Blackout
Mr. M
Chibinuva
Vohon
Mylo Xyloto
Lord of Ice
Celu
Architect
Rix
.:ENCRYPTION:.
~~Zarkan~~
TornadoToad
Fantasia
Gamzee Makara
Zarayna: The Quiet Light

Paleo

Xaeraz

Vorex: Keeper of Time

Roablin

Toa of Smooth Jazz

fishers64

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Dual Matrix

rahkshi guurahk
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If you learn one thing in life, learn this:

You should never, ever question why demons would possess a soda.

just a heads up - Cthulhu would probably eradicate mankind before bringing back Bionicle
 
so yeah, all I'm saying is, please think twice about this okay

nothing gets democracy flowing like erratic capitalizatION

[the NSA] couldn't say no when I offered them an ostrich farm in exchange

Sumiki -- nice try but we all know Toa Mata Nui stuffs its bra

 


 


 


You have a great understanding of history, but don't forget, war, murder and other poor decisions are also huge characteristics.

Also a long line of really great hats.

Shhh, I'm trying to focus on the negative to justify my dislike of history.

have we mentioned hats

To be fair, I am the one responsible for the invention of Mafia in the 1320s by seventeen bored italians locked in a mine shaft.
 
It's a long story.

 

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