Author: Annie J

Think about the animals!

A new study says that by the end of the century, 1 in 6 animals will be extinct. However, this study only considers temperature changes and doesn’t take into account carbon emission or pollution (factors that would speed up this process). And it won’t be as bad in North America or Europe where only 1 in 20 animals will go extinct, so I doubt our government is going to be enforcing any new laws to prevent this outcome. The study says that this pattern of extinction will likely be due to animals attempting to escape rising temperatures and sea levels, but eventually having nowhere to go.

You can read the article here to get more details.

Final Audit

I’ve had one other class where blog posts and comments were a large aspect of the course. I think these posts allowed for deeper discussion that bounced back between classes and online writings. However, the written weekly reviews we had to complete was a new experience for me. I think I’ve mentioned before how I don’t really read all that much, and even when I do, I tend to read things very shallowly. Knowing that I had to write the reviews forced me to think about the story and character dynamics more than I usually would, which I appreciated. I also liked that I didn’t have to necessarily have a positive view on the books that we read and that there was freedom to share any and all feelings we had while reading the assigned books.

When I got time, I did skim over what other people thought about our readings for the week. I will admit that I often enjoyed reading Bobby’s reviews just because his writing style is so lively and has a clear voice (and also because 4 out of 5 times I agreed with what he thought). I found that most of our class generally had the same opinions over the books we read though, so there wasn’t much reason to read the details of each and every review each week.

This course itself wasn’t what I expected. I know I’m going to sound naïve for saying this, but I honestly didn’t think we’d be reading as much as we did. I mean, a book a week is a lot for somebody who doesn’t read too often in the first place! But I generally enjoyed being exposed to [most of] these different novels. I got to find out what I did and didn’t like, and I was actually excited some weeks to go back and tell my friends about some of the discussions we had in class. It obviously wasn’t the best class I’ve had at Temple since I’m not an English major and have little interest in science-y things, but it really wasn’t bad at all for what it was. I think a lot of that has to do with the class atmosphere. We had a good balance of funny, serious, and tense moments, which I think is necessary for any proper class.

Hurricane Fever

I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from Hurricane Fever when I picked it up and started reading. I was very confused when the second chapter switched over to Roo’s character and thought it was going to be switching back and forth between Roo and Zee (boy, was I in for a shock at the end of chapter two). I honestly didn’t think there was enough back-story explained before all of the action started, but perhaps it would’ve helped to read Arctic Rising prior to this work? I also thought it would’ve been extremely helpful if there was a map provided just because I’m a very visual person and have very little knowledge about any of the Caribbean islands. Besides those details, I didn’t find that much enjoyment from this novel.

I’ve read many other books where I felt the written depictions of action scenes are detailed and sufficient enough that I’m able to create a vivid scene in my mind, but this was certainly not the case for Hurricane Fever. The action scenes are very plainly written, in my opinion. I would’ve much rather preferred to view the depicted fight and chase scenes rather than read them, and that has all to do with the author’s writing style. I was bored with the cliché spy-like scenes and dialogue, especially with the corny ways most of these chapters ended. I almost thought that this work was a spoof of other spy and action novels (am I being too harsh yet?). The “twists and turns” of the novel were pretty predictable and overly dramatic. The whole arc of seeking revenge for a murdered family member only to find yourself in the middle of a much larger and more serious situation complete with the rich, powerful villain who truly believes he is helping the world, but is actually just crazed by the murder of his own family member, is so completely unnecessary and not enjoyable at all. The author tries so hard to keep the action scenes engaging and the plotline interesting, but his efforts are futile.

The only parts I slightly enjoyed were Kat’s/Kit’s and Jacinta’s remarks and comments which I found broke tension and were humorous, though I’m not even sure they were intended to be funny. For example, when Kat comments on Roo’s gold bars in his ship: “You have bars of gold in your ship […] who does that?” (167). However, Kat’s character was revealed to be just as cliché as the rest of the novel when her true identity is uncovered, disappointing me yet again. This novel really did just try way too hard to be interesting, and it ended up being corny and poorly written (unless you’re totally into the predictable spy novel type, in which case you should ignore this whole review and all of my biases).

Atwood, I’m Impressed

I was deeply impressed with how engaging and interesting “The Year of the Flood” was from the very first chapter. And it’s not just because the characters of Toby and Ren are round and well developed (not going to lie, I was much more invested in Ren’s storyline than Toby’s), but also because Atwood writes such insightful and intriguing lines so fluidly. One thing in particular that struck me was the idea of writing being a dangerous action. According to the Gardeners, writings can be easily used by enemies to bring harm to yourself, an idea so different from what I’ve been taught all my life: Writings preserve knowledge and foster the development of communities and cultures, creating better futures. Writing has always been taught as a positive thing, but here it’s described as permanent in a negative way because it allows everybody to share knowledge that should only be possessed by few. This is just one excerpt that made me stop reading and think (I’m not much of a reader, so I don’t ponder over books very often).

Another part that impressed me was the depiction of Ren as a young child, it’s so accurate of children everywhere. She’s immersed in an environment which she had no real option to be in and there are many restrictions and rules which must be followed. Children don’t like rules, this is a common fact, which makes her encounter with Amanda so intriguing. She meets this flashy, knowledgeable Pleebrat, a member of the real world, full of danger and excitement. Her deep desire to impress this new character is completely understandable, and I’m not surprised that she even denies being part of the Gardeners when she’s questioned about it. People in general, but children especially, wish to gain acceptance and approval from their peers because they believe it will bring about connections and relationships with others, which is exactly what happened between Amanda and Ren. It’s also a very middle school situation that Amanda and Ren spread this rumor about Burt which gets wildly out of control and escalates very quickly. Atwood does such a wonderful job of depicting childhood habits and showing that despite the occurrences of this time period, these characters are still just kids.

The Windup Girl

The Windup Girl definitely takes a bit of getting into before the action starts to pick up and stories begin to unravel, but reading it is well worth the effort. There are two things that really struck me while reading this novel: How important the changing perspectives is to advance the plot and keep the reader engaged, and how raw the representation of prostitution and pimping is depicted.

Every chapter allows the reader to be exposed to a different character’s perspective. Of course it was a bit confusing at first to get used to being dropped into changing situations ever chapter, but it reminded me of the movie Crash. These characters were seemingly irrelevant to each other, leading their own lives and dealing with their separate problems. But gradually as the story unfolded, the reader could see how their lives overlapped and influenced each other. I thought this was interesting when it was first revealed how Anderson’s and Emiko’s lives had to do with each other. It was especially pleasant to be given little details here and there from one character that regarded another character; it was like filling in the empty spots of a jigsaw puzzle. Admittedly, it was still a bit difficult to keep up with the heavy plot lines at times especially because of the new terminology: Calorie men, white shirts, blister rust, genehacking. Surprisingly, understanding and visualizing most of the qualities of Emiko as a windup girl wasn’t that hard. The only thing I would point out is that a visual on-screen interpretation would be extremely helpful in understanding her mechanical ticks.

Emiko’s story line was by far the most interesting to me. Her life as an exotic performer/prostitute was shown in such a realistic and unapologetic manner that I had no choice but to respect the author for his bravery. I feel as though most artists would be cautious to portray the work and lives of prostitutes for what they are for fear of making the viewer uncomfortable and even guilty. Movies like Pretty Woman depict unrealistic portrayals of the dangerous night work of prostitutes. Its illustration, according to one Newsweek article, suggests to young children that prostitution is a viable career choice that may even bring enjoyment (Burleigh). This is certainly not a message that should be given to anybody. Prostitution is not a choice, it is sex slavery, which is clearly shown through Emiko’s experiences very early on in the novel. Her “performance” (which is quite clearly rape) on stage is humiliating and degrading on many levels. She endures the sexual assault and emotional trauma because she physically has no other choice as she was genetically engineered to please her companions and she economically has no other choice because she is in serious debt to her owner, Raleigh. As if her rape isn’t enough for the reader to cringe, Raleigh very clearly shuts down Emiko’s wishes to leave the establishment by essentially telling her how worthless and undesired she is outside of Japan. This treatment is incredibly harsh and even heartbreaking, but the rawness of the depiction is exactly what people need to see and be exposed to. Prostitution is in no way a pleasant experience and people should not be led to believe anything other than its abusive and traumatizing qualities. I applaud Bacigalupi’s talent and bravery in shining a light on the very serious topic, even if it’s not the main issue being depicted in the story.

 

Burleigh, Nina. “Sex Trafficking and the ‘Pretty Woman’ Fairy Tale.” Newsweek, 23 Mar. 2015. Web. 30 Mar. 2015.

Forty Signs that Frank’s a Creep

This novel certainly had a different perspective than most books about climate change which I appreciated. The multiple points of views helped the reader to understand both the scientific and political aspects of the behind the scenes effort that goes into climate change policies. It really helped that the characters of Anna and Charlie were so realistic and normal. Being a casual couple with two young kids who still maintained their busy work lives was impressive but not totally surprising as it’s something that most parents have to do (though most parents don’t essentially have jobs that entail saving the earth from a climatic catastrophe). From their couple-y nicknames that make you baby barf in your mouth to their constant phone calls expressing their worry and concern, you can’t help but feel the affection in their relationship which strengthens the reader’s bond to the story. These two characters are so realistic that you could probably find a very similar couple on the street in real life. Which brings me to the third main character, Frank, whom I hope nobody could meet in real life.

Frank was a strange character to me from beginning to end. For the first half of the book, I kind of understood his analytical viewpoints since he’s a scientist and he can’t help looking at the world through his scientific lens. Though I must admit, his views romantic relationships took his approach way out of my comfort zone. The way he looked through the section of the newspaper filled with people advertising themselves and their romantic needs was pretty weird and personally unsettling. What really took it too far for me was his encounter with the woman on the metro. He actually had the mindset to follow her out of the metro and into the elevator simply because he liked her physical appearance. I don’t know about anybody else reading that part, but that screamed rapist/stalker to me and made me beyond uncomfortable; uncomfortable enough to start verbally expressing my discomfort to my very confused friend who was sitting next to me. It only got worse, though, when he made extended efforts to get in contact with this woman after his elevator encounter. I know that people who have read this novel often praise Robinson’s realistic portrayals of characters and situations, but I hope the character of Frank is far from realistic.

Audit

I didn’t know what to expect from an elective English course, but I can guarantee you that I did not expect it to be this “science-y.” It’s not necessarily a bad thing as I’ve been exposed to some fictional works that have been interesting and entertaining, works that I definitely would not have come across on my own which is pretty cool *cough cough* Parable of the Sower *cough cough*. I would’ve loved to have a book or two less to read for the class itself, but this is an English class and I understand that the amount of reading should be more than average.

The posting aspect of this class has such good intentions, but it’s definitely troublesome. I know my opinions are not nearly as strong and my knowledge not as vast as some others’ in the class which makes it hard to contribute equally. I think this disadvantage is often overlooked because, I’m sure, it would be expected that the class equally contribute and participate. That being said, I think I’ve done a pretty decent job of commenting on other peoples’ posts and reviews. At least, I’ve done what I think I’m capable of without making myself look like a complete fool. To be honest though, I’d prefer a couple of write-ups that were sent directly to the professor; but I think my feelings about this could be due to the fact that there are a couple of really opinionated students who aren’t afraid to voice their opinions, which isn’t a problem (that’s the point of college, to share different opinions and hear differing perspectives). The only issue I’ve come across is that I don’t personally feel comfortable enough with these topics of climate change and even works of literature to share my perspective. Simply put, I don’t think I bring anything valuable to the virtual table. I’m not ashamed to say that. After all, I signed up for this class so that I could learn.

Overall, the blog posts are a fine idea but they’re not for everybody. I think having required comments is smart though because it makes sure that everybody gets a little bit involved in the course.

Dystopia? Religious questioning? POC? Heck yeah!

Octavia Butler’s novel Parable of the Sower is fantastically written and fits very well into the currently popular string of novels and movies centered on older teenagers dealing with societal conflicts. It’s a quick and easy read due to the never-ending action and dramatic twists, making it quite difficult to put down as I experienced. Butler’s writing style easily paints visuals for the reader to follow and remain interested. There were multiple times when I was almost appalled by the graphic nature of her depictions particularly during violent interactions, but I was quickly reminded of the context and gravity of the protagonist’s situation.

The time frame of the novel is not too far off from our own, only about thirty years after it was written in 1993, which is kind of frightening but also reassuring because there’s no way the global economic status could change so drastically in such short notice (right?). Although Lauren’s ways of living are severely different than today’s standards, the mentions of well-known cities and highway routes in California brings the reader back to the realization that these events are happening right here in America. I couldn’t see a clear connection between this novel and global warming until I read the interview at the end of the novel, but there was clearly much religious discussion which I enjoyed reading. Lauren provides some different perspectives of living through her creation of Earthseed, and although I’m a practicing Christian, I saw many of her points as easily applicable to life.

Another large point to mention is the numerous characters of color and of mixed races; Lauren herself is African-American, and there are actually only a handful of white characters depicted in the novel. Race is mentioned many times through the book, specifically when discussing society’s opposition to interracial relationships. This is insanely important in our current society where most main characters are presumably white and the only people of color are supporting or background characters. People of color need to see themselves being represented in novels with strong willed and determined characters, and Parable of the Sower does a wonderful job depicting just this.

Being Blunt Works

The stance of this work is very clear: Our present day civilization has been given the opportunity to change our actions and slow down the process of climate change, but because we are stubborn and ignorant people, we face a devastating future where the human population are close to becoming extinct. I find the approach to this topic as refreshing because of its unique point of view. I immediately noticed that the scientist who is looking towards the past to understand how his current situation came to be isn’t scared to be blunt. He often notes how the world, specifically America in most cases, could have done so much more to prevent sea levels to rise so drastically and create un-livable situations. He even notes how people wanted to be given signs that the climate was changing drastically, and yet when intense hurricanes and snowstorms and rising temperatures became apparent, they were attributed to normal fluctuations of nature (6). The scientist severely blames his current situation on the ability of past important figures to basically sit by and do nothing for the benefit of the environment.

It seems as though some of these predictions are exaggerated for the purpose of selling a story or proving a point, but it’s actually definitely possible. From 2010-20, Northern Europe is expected to see a “6 degree Fahrenheit drop in ten years,” a decrease in rainfall by about 30%, and winds “up to 15% stronger on average” (Schwartz 10). According to the same research, America is expected to have higher sea levels and drier climates, making agricultural life much more difficult to maintain. These conditions will restrict the country from keeping its international relationships in good shape and force it to focus on its internal needs (12). China is also noted to be effected by the change in monsoon season conditions; lack of rain, colder winters, and hotter summers all create decreases in energy and water, which then cause internal famines. Australia is expected to struggle with food supplies as well, though its location in the Southern Hemisphere makes its definite end result questionable (13). Oreskes and Conway take note of these predictions and respond accordingly.

The maps included in the work are extremely helpful in understanding just how much the world has physically changed. Living on Long Island originally, it was a real eye-opener to see the landmass almost non-existent on page 34 of Oreskes’ and Conway’s joint work. The authors also note how China made modifications to its way of living in order to survive the changing climates like restricting births and converting “its economy to non-carbon-based energy sources” (6). They make sure to emphasize how important it was that China made these changes despite no other country following its lead. Interestingly enough, the authors expect the human population of Australia as a whole to be completely non-existent by the year 2393 (33). To completely get rid of a whole continent and country is a large motion, but it definitely does the job of making the reader realize just how much things are going to change because of climate change. It’s also important to realize that the authors don’t give an endless list of suggestions of how circumstances could have differed; instead, they mention how the 20th century scientists and politicians had all the answers and potential solutions that they needed, the politicians were simply not concerned enough with the matter to make any substantial changes. This work is trying to tell readers that they are living in a period where change is still manageable, they just need to take the initiative to convince the people in power that this is a pressing matter that is most definitely going to make severe changes to the way everybody lives.

 

Schwartz, Peter, and Doug Randall. An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security. Web. Oct 2003.

Oreskes, Naomi, and Erik M. Conway. The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future. New York: Columbia University Press, 2014. Print.

A Boring Graphic Novel? How?

If you’re looking for an entertaining story about the environmental disaster that is climate change in a fun and friendly graphic novel format, you will be severely disappointed in “Climate Changed” just as I was. Don’t be fooled by the colorful presentation of the novel, this work could have easily done without the illustrations and would have been eerily similar to an academic journal. I’ll be completely honest when I say that I couldn’t make it past the first 100 pages, and I was barely able to stay awake for that much. If you have no background in or base knowledge of environmental issues, this novel will be a struggle to read.

However, as graphic novel is as much its literary content as its illustrative content, it is necessary to note that the drawings are quite beautiful. The clear talent of the illustrator was the only element which kept my attention. In addition, the integration of black and white photographs with the drawings allows for a reminder that this novel is in fact non-fiction; Philippe Squarzoni is very much trying to educate and warn the reader about the very real issue of global warming. It is almost disappointing that his narrative is too boring to be effective. I wanted so badly to be educated and have my mind be opened to how destructive humans are and how the governments are too greedy to care about how its companies are effecting the atmosphere; perhaps I’m too daft to understand the finer details of the situation.

An Interesting Expectation of the Future

H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine was an interesting read to say the least. Being from the perspective of somebody other than the time traveler gives the reader a sneaking suspicion that this whole story has been fabricated. The tales of the future seem so incredibly bizarre to the point where I had to question several times if he was indeed still talking about our planet Earth. The Elois and Morlocks being descendants of humans? I understand that he traveled hundreds of thousands of years into the future, but I simply could not comprehend the extreme change in atmosphere and human existence. Are we not supposed to be more advanced in technology and intelligence as time goes on?

Perhaps that was the expectation Wells has for our future, that we are eventually destined to succumb to nothing worth boasting about. Our current motivation which is almost entirely built upon trying to “out do” each other is pointless because our lifestyles and thought processes will eventually become so very simple. He also notes the differences of the future on an atmospheric level, though those concepts are only minutely mentioned and are not given great significance. However, if anybody wanted to take the time out to notice the hotter weather and description of the sun, I’m sure somebody could find a significant meaning to it.

Overall, I don’t think anybody would have a problem getting through this book simply because you would want to know if the time traveler’s tale is at all true. My only warning is to be prepared for some certainly strange occurrences as described by the time traveler.