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Why Standard Action is awesome and you should watch it.

A while ago, I posted a review of the web series Standard Action, which officially kicked off its second season Dec. 20th with a full length teaser episode on my tumblr. To celebrate the second season, I’ve decided to post it here, also because that was back when I didn’t have very many followers and I’m not sure if enough people saw it.

This is honestly one of my favorite webseries and it deserves all the attention it gets. I’ve linked the first episode with the series below. At the end of the post, I’ll link the teaser episode, along with a cool poster for the second season.

I have always been impressed with the way that Youtube has allowed everyday filmmakers the ability to create their own work. This is one of them.

Standard Action takes the idea of putting a dysfunctional adventuring party and gives it heart. Instead of going “Look, an Elven Barbarian! Isn’t that funny?”, the show gives the character, well, character, which is something I feel is lacking in shows like this. At the end of the day, it’s one thing to laugh at a subversion of typical fantasy tropes, it’s another thing to genuinely feel for a character.

It is the story of four misfits who are brought together to quite literally save the day. There’s Edda, an adorkable Elven Barbarian, Martin, a angsty Druid that doesn’t like to be outside, Fernando, a Half-Halfling Bard that is trying to be Lawful-Good, and finally, Wendy, an insecure Sorceress.

The shining stars of this show are the characters. Though sometimes the joke falls a little flat, the characters are written with a lot of heart. They are all very human (relatively speaking), and extremely likable (with the exception of Martin at some points, though I’m pretty sure that was intentional).

Though the acting is all very well-done, I feel that the outstanding performer is Joanna Gaskel, who plays Edda. In the video linked above, which is the first episode of the series, Gaskel is by herself monologueing for a good five minutes. I don’t know how many people have judged acting tournaments before, but these kind of performances can be downright painful if the performance itself is lacking. But Gaskell nails it. She never lost my attention the entire time, which is pretty steller.

If there is anything that could be better, it’s the production value. Let’s face it, I could kind of tell that someone of the indoor scenes were probably shot in the director’s house. But even here, the show spins it into their favor. Most of the scenes are shot on location in the forest, which simply makes the whole thing look better. The costumes were very well done, once again, the production team takes any shortcomings and works them into their favor. For example, Martin is wearing Converses the entire time. It’s totally lampshaded and played for laughs late in the season. However, the make-up and prosthetics are pretty well-done.

All in all, this is a very well done, heart-filled story about some adventurers who are trying to do good in the world, or at the very least make it through the day. I am excitedly waiting for the next season, and I hope that I can at least get a couple more people to watch.

First Episode Uploads Jan.8

First Episode Uploads Jan.8

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On Banning Books

On Banning Books

            “Read a few lines and off you go over the cliff. Bang, you’re ready to blow up the world, chop off heads, knock down women and children, destroy authority.” –Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451.

Remember that book Fahrenheit 451? You know, the one by that guy who hated technology. And it was about how when people stop reading books, the entire society will get dumber and we will all eventually just sit around all day and watch TV and just not care about anything, ever? Well… there’s some truth to that.

This does not mean there will literally be an organization that refers to themselves as “firemen” coming to your house to burn your private library. However, everyday there are people crying for books to be taken out of libraries.

Historically, people who try to censor are do it for the best intentions. The book doesn’t agree with their stances on religion (Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species), or it might be uncomfortable sexual themes (Vladimir Nobokov’s Lolita), or it showcases some newer, more progressive social ideas (Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World). When they try to censor, they are not going to damage, they are trying to protect. (Karolides et al)

It is not that I do not think that people have the right to pick and chose what they’re child is aloud to read.  I think it is the parent’s right to decide what it appropriate for their child to read.  If the parent decides that a book assigned by the school is not appropriate for their child, they have the right to bring their concerns to the school and ask for an alternate reading, or for them to take another look at the book if they feel like it is way off the mark of what they consider appropriate for the child’s age level.

That being said, there seems to be a common series of events that happens when a book goes under attack: first, the kid will come home with the book, the parent will take a look at it and deem it inappropriate for their child to read.

Now, here’s the part where the well-meaning parent steps over the line: though the school will typically say that the child can have an alternate assignment to read, which the parent then decides that since they believe that the book is inappropriate for their child, then it is inappropriate for all the children in the grade. And thus, they call for a ban on the book.

As much I understand the mentality of the parents need to protect their child from harmful themes, I never got the logic of “How dare they force my child to read a book I don’t approve of? I’m going to fight this by trying to have a say in what all the other children get to read to stop this infringement of my rights!”

But here’s the thing: most books have passages that sound really bad when you take them out of context. If you only read the questionable parts, then a book about the lives of a poor Southern family carrying their mother to her final resting place then becomes a book about abortion that has curse words every other page. Or a novel commenting on the poor treatment of African-Americans before and after the abolishment of slavery turns into an uncomfortable and offensive pile of filth due to the frequent inclusion of one very powerful word. Or one of the most powerful books against Communism of all time turns into smut because of one chapter.

Here’s all I ask: if you think that a book may not be suitable for your kid, do the rest of us a huge favor: read it first.

No really, if you’re right and it is not something you feel students should be reading, then you can bring your case to the school board intelligently and with a strong argument. If not, well you probably just read a good work of fiction. You win both ways, right?

When these well-meaning parents demand the book to be censored, they are helping no one, least of all themselves. Censorship helps no one, information needs to be spread, ideas need to grow, people need to experience for themselves. All censorship does is stifle ideas, which is something that I don’t think Mr. Bradbury would approve of.

Let me sum it up for you like this: the absolute and best argument against censorship is:

 censored photo

And this is what prompted me to announce this a new series here on Textual Details: The 100 Banned Books Series, in which myself and two other smart, funny people take a look at some of the most banned books in the history of literature.

From Lolita to Animal Farm, from Galileo to Stephen King, and from the Karma Sutra to the Bible itself, every other week there will be a post in the 100 Banned Books Series.  Meanwhile, there will also be more modern posts, starting with Darren Shan’s other famous young adult book series,  The Demonata.  However, first we will have a couple of end of the year countdowns, everybody loves those, right? And finally, next summer I have another surprise in store, but you’ll have to wait until then to find out what it is.

I hope everyone has a Happy New Year, and I hope you will join me for another great year at Textual Details!

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Ironside: A Modern Faery’s Tale by Holly Black

Ironside-A-Modern-Faerys-Tale-214x300 Ironside: A Modern Faery’s Tale by Holly Black

Ironside: A Modern Faery’s Tale is the third and final installment in Holly Black’s urban fantasy trilogy Modern Tales of Faerie series. Holly Black is also the author of The Spiderwick Chronicles.

Though some of the characters in Valiant: A Modern Tale of Faerie make appearances in this book, only Luis, the kid with the ability to see through the faerie’s glamour (which is called True Sight), and his troublemaking brother, Dave, act as major players in the story.

The book starts off with Kaye going to Roiben’s coronation, while Corny goes to find out ways to stay safe from faeries.  He starts off by looking through the library to find reliable information on faeries, and ends up kidnapping a small imp to get information from the source.

Yeah, in case you’re wondering Corny is still really messed-up from the events of Tithe: A Modern Faerie’s Tale. I mean, I don’t blame him for not being totally fine (in fact, I applaud Black for knowing how to write a character who has undergone some pretty serious trauma well), but at the same time I found myself feeling a little scared when seeing how far Corny goes with his revenge on the faeries. In a way, that makes his part of the story really interesting.

Back to the plot: Kaye goes to Roiben’s coronation in the UnSeelie Court. See, Kaye is worried that she is not good enough for Roiben, because she has spent most of her life thinking she was human, and his people would judge him for it.  Which is probably a good thing, because it’s made very clear early on that they do.

During the after-coronation revel, Kaye has a bit too much wine and her fears of being inadequate get the best of her. Some random faeries tell her that the best way to prove your worth to royalty in faerie culture is to declare yourself to them, after which the monarch will give the declarer a task which upon completion, the declarer will become that person’s consort. And so, Kaye declares herself to Roiben.

And Roiben gives her this lovely little task: to find and bring to him a faerie that can lie.

One would think that that wouldn’t be too hard, since the fae are known for their trickery. Well, here’s the thing: faeries by nature are not able to lie. And by that, I mean they are literally unable to lie. I’m pretty sure that this comes from an old legend.

After that disastrous mistake, Kaye meets up with Corny and she tries to move on from Roiben’s obvious rejection by going to her mother’s concert at a local bar. While they’re there, Corny spots a faerie that’s spying on Kaye. He then lures said faerie into the bathroom and tries to torture him into giving him advice against faeries. This doesn’t exactly work, he’s spotted and the angry faerie curses him so that anything Corny touches turns into ash.

And then, after they escape the cops, Kaye and Corny meet Kaye’s mom at her she’s really a changeling that some faeries switched out for her real daughter.

The mom takes it surprisingly well, in that, Ellen just kicks Kaye out instead of attacking her for kidnapping her daughter for what could have been her entire life.

I’ve decided that Kaye is the queen of bad decisions.

And so, by chapter 4, our heroine is homeless and the only person she can truly trust can’t touch anything without it withering away, and frankly isn’t at 100% mentally. Once again, Kaye and Corny get trapped into nefarious faeries plots, and with the help of Luis, a homeless teen with the ability to see the faeries for what they really are, they have to figure out the Seelie Queen’s plot to capture the UnSeelie Court before Roiben gets taken down.

After reading all three of these books, something I’ve noticed is that both Kaye and Val (the protagonist of Valiant: A Modern Tale) both had a tendency to be reactionary heroes for a good first part of the book. As I said in the reviews of the other books, I don’t really see this as a bad thing, as it makes sense considering that both heroines were dealing with forces they could not control. In fact, I would say that this is one of the few times where this worked to its advantage.

Ironside was a nice blend between Tithe and Valiant, keeping the horror and kind of meandering plot of the first book with the more mystery feel of the second book. However, I will say that I felt like the ending wasn’t very satisfying. Yes, the plot was resolved, but it had kind of an ambiguous ending.

Something about me and my personal tastes, I don’t like ambiguous endings.  I like to know exactly what happens to the characters I fell in love with after the book ends.  If that doesn’t bother you, then hey, different tastes, but that’s really my only huge nitpick with this book.

Overall, I thought Ironside: A Modern Faery’s Tale was a well done book, even if I’m not a fan of the ending.

Rating:  7 out of 10.

As for the series as a whole, I think I honestly liked Valiant: A Modern Tale the best. As much as I loved Kaye as a character I could feel myself at times getting frustrated with her as she kept making mistakes and not thinking things through. Val was a smarter and more responsible person and made planned her next move in advance. Though I definitely think that Kaye was a more interesting character, I also feel that Val was a stronger protagonist, in that Val always kept the story moving, while Kaye was easily sidetracked and the plot suffered from it. In addition, Tithe had a good concept, but had a tendency to wander from the plot for periods of time, while Valiant: A Modern Tale was better at keeping the plot at a steady pace.

I recommend the series to anyone who likes a good horror or mystery novel. However, I will once again give a warning that Tithe does have a rape scene in it, so I recommend proceeding with caution when it comes to that book.

Overall Series Rating: 8 out of 10.

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