Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Avatar: The Legend of Korra

I resisted Avatar: The Last Airbender for a very long time. But eventually a friend of mine said "No, you have to watch it and it's streaming on Netflix" so I sat down and started watching it.

I loved it, almost immediately. It was a really well crafted show, but the primary draw was the characters (and the animation but mostly the characters). Aang, Katara, Sokka, Zuko, Toph...they were all so well developed. None of them were one dimensional. So often writers think "my character needs a flaw, let me give them a token flaw like they are clumsy and that'll do it!" but Airbender didn't fall into that at all.

The world was well realized, and fascinating. Nearly everything about it was the perfect example of what American television can be like if we'd let creators be creative.

When I read there was going to be a sequel, I was happy but worried. Few things are improved upon with a sequel. But the new Avatar was an amazing female character. She looked strong, and interesting. If they only did half the job they did on the female characters in Airbender, Korra would be better than most of the women on TV.

The quotes I read as it ramped up to the show's premiere warmed my heart. The creators said they didn't believe the idea that a woman can't be the lead on an action series. Demographics showed that little boys were loving the show and didn't care if Korra was a girl or what, she was cool. I was holding my breath: was somebody going to get it right?

There are a lot of attempts at "strong female characters" (a phrase I hate but can't seem to replace with anything). Sometimes there is success, like Col. Carter in Stargate SG-1 or Donna Noble in Doctor Who. But all too often the character either may as well be a guy because the narrative pays no attention to their gender (which I am not in favor of) or the entire plot of the show is actually the character's journey towards traditional gender roles.

The first episode of Korra was pretty cool. I was on the fence. The second was awesome, and the third even better. But if you're following the show, you know what happened in the fourth: the fandom exploded because there was ROMANCE.

There was plenty of romance and romantic feelings in the original show. But it wasn't really too over done, for the most part. There were a few gag-worthy moments but it was alright.

So far, there is little to make me believe Korra will manage to follow in those footsteps. Everything points to "stupid teenage love story stupidness." That's the technical term. I won't get into details, but I'm holding out hope that it's not going that direction and it's just a fandom overreaction.

When the show isn't doing stupid romantic subplots, the plot is actually fascinating. It's the kind of thing that is reflecting our real world through the fictional one and might make a few people think a little more about their lives. It's doing what all good television (especially fantasy stories) SHOULD do. And to their credit, I have no idea where they're going with this.

The animation is stunning, and most of the side characters are as wonderful as the original show (Tenzin is my hero, much like Iroh was). If they can keep themselves from the quagmire that is the promised love triangle then it'll be another entry in the top ten American cartoons of all time. But if it becomes another teenage love triangle where the girl gets distracted by the boy and gets all insecure because she's not girly enough, then it'll be one of the worst because it will have squandered so vast a potential.

CSI- Season 10

I've been slowly but surely making my way through CSI for a few years now. I can go months between discs while I rent other things (especially now that I'm down to only one disc at a time on Netflix) so it's taking a long time. Last week my husband asked if I'm ever going to finish the show because I've been renting it for so long. It would go a lot faster if it was available for legal streaming somewhere for free/subscription. But there's nowhere that actually has the old show or the episodes I'm on. Which is just stupid. CBS, why are you so dumb?

I'm up to season ten, which means I might actually catch up sometime next year. It also means I'm in the second season of Dr. Langston's run on the show. I thought I would miss Grissam, but by the time he left I was okay with his depature. I wasn't particularly happy about Catherine's beefed up role since I haven't liked her for ages. But I could let Grissam go.

Plus I really like Lawrence Fishburn and I thought his character sounded pretty cool. I was a bit excited for the changing of the guard.

Oh well. I'm so bored by this show right now. I was pretty happy that the show rarely had a "big bad" that carried over throughout episodes. Sometimes a murderer would have a multi-episode arc or somebody would come back. But there was none of this "a serial killer is taunting the team, they'll catch him in the season finale when he almost kills one of them" stuff that is so popular. Not until the Miniature Killer, but that had enough interest and originality that I was okay with it.

Dr. Jekyll is boring. And Langston is boring. I don't know if it's a director thing or something Fishburn chose to do, but he plays everything so mellow that I can't help but think he's nearly emotionless. I know they are hinting that he has some sort of genetic predisposition to murderous rages or something, but that's really not set up well enough for me to even be looking for it to come out.

Besides, they already did the "I have a parent who was crazy and killed somebody" thing with Sarah. Only one genetic murderer per show, please.

I'll keep watching the show, if only because I still love all of the side characters so much. Doc Robbins is really fantastic, and Greg will always be awesome. Plus I'm eager to get to where Catherine leaves to see if it changes things. But overall, I'm generally tired of the show and I'm amazed it's still on the air at this point.


I've been collecting postcards for years. I don't remember when it started, but it became the one souvenir I wanted from each place I went. I also wanted people to send me postcards from their trips.

For a little while in college, I belonged to a postcard community on Livejournal. I loved it, and it was a ton of fun, but I went a bit too gung-ho and spent so much money on postage that I had to stop. Plus, finals rolled around and time got away from me.

But I still asked people to send me stuff, and still picked them up myself.

A few months ago, while I was at an event for my most recent film, I was sitting around and talking to one of the journalists that I had gotten to know. She said that she decided to start sending postcards as a hobby, and that she had set up a webpage for it to get random addresses and try to send a certain number over the course of a year.

Talking to Jacqueline got me excited about postcards again. But for a few months I still only sent them to her, which was great. We started sending cards back and forth from our travels, and I loved stopping at airport gift shops to pick out a card for her every time I went somewhere.

Then she posted about this website called Postcrossing. The idea of it is just that you sign up to send a card to somebody (usually in another country) and when they say that they received it, the site gives your address to a random person to get a card.

In the midst of this, I was cleaning up my house and sorted through this giant box of stationary that I have. I realized I still had silly girly stationary from when I was a kid, stuff I'd never send for anything official now, and probably wouldn't even send to most people.

So a few weeks ago, I signed up for Postcrossing to clear out my inventory of old postcards and I started sending my friends letters on cheesy Lisa Frank paper. It's been a ton of fun, I've gotten a few cards back but getting mail in return wasn't my primary goal, just a nice reward. I've gotten several really awesome cards from all over the world already.

I went through my old box where I store all my mail I've gotten over the years, and I found stacks of letters from pen pals that I met at summer camps, random people from high school that I mailed letters to during the was just this nice feeling, having these letters in my hand. So I decided I was just going to send some more mail.

There's a challenge every year called "A Month of Letters" that I just missed this year. I plan to do it next year, but in the meantime I'm just making a bigger effort to send more mail.

The problem with Facebook games

Who am I kidding, there are a million problems with Facebook games.

But despite the fact that I get annoyed by many aspects of them, there were a couple I actually kind of enjoyed. I really like casual games. I'm especially fond of time management games or simple puzzles like Plants Vs. Zombies. Incidentally, the first time I beat PvZ it was all in one sitting during a bout of insomnia. Good times.

Anyway, here's the biggest stumbling block I have with Facebook games and why I'm pretty much done with them: because the developers can just turn them off if they feel like it.

I realize that this is something that MMORPGers also deal with, and I'm not sure how I'll feel the day that WoW finally gives up the ghost. I think part of me hopes that Blizzard always has a server running somewhere that I can be on.

But the basic thing for me is this: I've been playing some of my games for years now. There's one in particular that I really enjoyed called Restaurant City by Playfish.

The goal of the game was simple, you collected ingredients and combined them to learn recipes. You wanted to get the recipe to level 10. At first, I loved it. I wanted to master all the recipes. You see, I've got this thing where if there's a collecting aspect to a game I will PLAY IT TO DEATH. I'm not allowed to play Pokemon.

Then they started adding new ingredients. Then they made ingredients available for real world money, so they made them all more rare and hard to find. Then they started adding 7-10 new recipes EVERY WEEK. It got to the point where I had an excel spreadsheet that I would update to help me manage my quest to get a meaningless achievement in a casual game. For months I've kind of wanted to break free of it, but felt that I was *SO* close to getting all the recipes! I was at 94% for the longest time, then they added 10 more that all took the rarest ingredient plus 10 that took a new ingredient and well, I was back to 90% in no time. But still, 90%! That's so close!

Well, Playfish solved this problem for me yesterday when they announced that they weren't making enough money off of RC anymore and they were shutting it down. To "celebrate" they were adding eight new recipes, most of which take one of the rarest ingredients.

Last year, they shut down another one of their games called Country Story, right around when I finally started playing it again because they'd fixed some bugs with it and it was fun again. I uninstalled the game the day they announced it because I realized there was absolutely no point to continuing to play and build something that somebody else had the power to just switch off.

For years I've been playing RC, almost daily. It didn't take up a ton of my time, and I enjoyed it so I'm not complaining on that front. But now I realize that it was entirely wasted time because they can just decide that it's not working for them and turn it off. All my progress, all those recipes I did max out, all gone because it was never really real or mine to begin with. Nothing has driven that point home more perfectly.

I'm still debating if I'll do one last push to master all the recipes, but since I think I need 200 flour I don't know what I'll bother. I do know that I've taken all my other Playfish games and I'm prepping to uninstall them. I'm giving stuff away to people who still play and just giving up. Why bother making a character? Why build a "house" or do anything in Sims Social if it will just stop being popular in a year and they'll turn it off to do something else?

I'm just going to go back to playing Plants vs. Zombies, because the stuff I unlock in that will never go away.