Saturday, May 22, 2010

'It's Kind of a Funny Story' by Ned Vizzini

Lately, I've been a dork with too much free time.

Lets be honest, if a friend heard me say that, they would assure me, 'Oh come on, Ryan, you usually study too much to have too much free time ... and just forget about the other thing, someday someone's going to like you for who you really are.'

I feel sidetracked and mildly depressed.

Anyway, whenever I finish reading a book, I normally search for more information regarding the novel through a combination of Wikipedia,, and Youtube. Usually, I browse through other readers' impressions and reviews; I read through general background information and the writing process; and I watch interview clips and the author's readings on videos, because I'm cool that way. Well yesterday, I spent from 5:00 pm to 3:30 am reading It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini, and I enjoyed every minute of it, but afterward, I lacked the stamina for my several hour routine of finding every little detail there's possible to know about the book and/or author on the internet.

Apparently, Ned Vizzini has a Youtube page, and guess what? I have more subscribers than him. Yeah, he can go on writing amazing books and being a successful novelist, but at this particular moment in time, I have a dozen more strangers watching my random videos compared to his random videos. Plus, I have less uploaded than him; that's right.

I like how I just reiterated my first simple sentence with three heavily supportive paragraphs; I spent roughly eleven hours reading a book on a Friday night and I'm happy that I have more subscribers than a successful young adult novelist, who posts random videos about his dogs on the internet.

I'm being ironical because the book's about a kid with depression, I think.

It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini fully encapsulates the tone and feel of our current generation of teenagers, who feels stressed and inadequate for their daily lives. Craig, the protagonist, narrates how his severe depression eventually leads him to a brief stay at a psychiatric ward, where he meets an assortment of colorful mental patients and he deals with his life and issues.

The writing is crisp with a dry, witty sense of humor and an enduring flow that makes the story believable and engaging. All of the novel's characters feel developed and well-rounded, and the dialog and interactions between characters feels personal and real.

It's a great book; I loved it.

Also, the protagonist seems sad and self-deprecating, but he's hopeful that things will get better; you know who else is like that? Eeyore. I hate people who say Eeyore's pessimistic; he's clearly a optimistic realist since he knows things can't possibly get worse.

1/2 'Jussic Park' by Michael Crichton

I know the one person who reads the blog is going, 'Oh no, not Jurassic Park again.'

For anyone else who happens to stumble on this post, let me say that this isn't an unbiased review. I love Steven Spielberg's film adaptation of Jurassic Park. It's the reason I wanted to become a paleontologist, until I realized they don't make any money. There are very few movies that inspire a generation of children to believe anything is possible, and I haven't seen a movie since the first Jurassic Park that displays the depth and realism of living, breathing dinosaurs.

Yeah, I'm bias, and you know what, Jurassic Park novel? You let me down.

I read reviews of the novel Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton (because I watched the movie seventeen years ago, what are they going to ruin?). And there are avid fans of the book that honestly believe the novel is better than the movie, and I'm okay with it. What makes me cringe is the thought of someone reading the book's four hundred pages, and saying, "Wow, that was a really bad book. I'm glad I didn't spend a few bucks and rent the movie ten years ago."

There was literally a review that said, 'I somehow resisted the Jurassic Park craze whenever it was in theaters, but I finally read the book and I thought it was okay. I'm just glad I got to see what all the hype was about.'

Really, pretentious much?

I want to mention that I only read half of the novel before I was swamped with exams, but I'll probably check it out of the library pretty soon just to finish it. On a lighter note, did you know The Incredible Journey, which was remade into Homeward Bound, was also based on a novel with the same name? I don't know if I need to remind you, but the animals didn't talk in The Incredible Journey so I might read it out of curiosity.

Reviewers mentioned that the Jurassic Park novel goes into more detail and it does, tediously. The underlining suspense of the first one hundred pages relies on the readers inability to presume that John Hammond, the rich billionaire, constructed an island full of dinosaurs, which shouldn't be very suspenseful since the title of the book is Jurassic Park. The characters were more developed since they weren't restricted for a PG audience, but the character's interactions with each other felt wooden. And although they had more dialog and you got to know them better, they were still one dimensional stereotypes. Also, I'm a biology major and they glossed over a lot of the genetics, ibid the novel included more about the science than the movie, but it would have been nice if the mentioned the polymerase chain reaction or used some type of scientific terminologies. Given, I'm not sure if the book was written before PCR.

Like any bias book/movie review, I rented the movie after two hundred pages and I believe the critics underestimate the alterations from the books as improvements. Steven Spielberg is infamously known for overly sentimental movies such as E.T. and War of the Worlds, but it seemed appropriate and almost necessary for him to eject more emotion between the characters from the adults' interactions with the children to the concern of the grandfather's worry over his grandchildren; it felt needed for the viewers to empathize and relate to the characters on a level beyond, 'dude, that would suck to be them.' Also, the film's pacing was more enjoyable than the novel. If you haven't seen the movie, the first ten minutes might not make a whole lot of sense. It's okay, it's a two hour movie; you'll get over it. The novel takes one hundred pages to get on the island, and a lot of it was an unnecessary attempt to climax on the character's arrival. Lastly, the premise of dinosaurs attacking people just works better as a movie. It's such a simple story that requires cinematic flare to make it something amazing, something grand and unconceivable right in front of your eyes, dinosaurs towering over ant-like people and a T-rex roaring overhead. It's something made for movies.

Yeah, it's rare, but the movie's better than the book.

'Ender's Game' by Orson Scott Card

I read this book awhile ago, but I haven't wrote a review/summery. It's probably easier to write about a book in hindsight because if you liked it, the memorable parts stay with you and everything else fades away.

It's a good book, a very good book; it might be the best science fiction novel I've ever read, and if you know me, you'd know how little that means. The story follows the development of Ender, the protagonist, from his childhood to his exponential maturity into the world's greatest commander. As you might know, Ender's Game is the first in a twelve book series, but the novel can easily stand alone as its own futuristic adventure with a satisfying resolution. The narrative was quick and concise, and the pacing was riveting with suspense and intrigue.

I had a few minor grips, and I'm sure it's just me since I usually don't read science fiction. A few of the characters felt one dimensional, but maybe that's why there are twelve books in the series. Lastly, I'm lame, but whenever I read ... anything, I expect there to be some type of love interest between the protagonist and another lead character. I know its usually just tacked on and it wouldn't have contributed to the story, but its weird without it.

I recommend it.

Is it bad that every time they mentioned the aliens' army I thought of Halo?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Response to video

I have to study for an exam tomorrow and two final exams at the end of the week, but over the past two weeks there’s been an increased interest in the video involving the girl who committed suicide; it’s had over eighteen hundred views over the past seven days.

Normally an increase in views is a good thing, but it’s different with this particular video because its popularity may have different implications. I hope you guys are alright.

When I originally finished the video, I debated whether to post it. It took about two weeks to make the video, and during that time I was so concerned about whether I could capture that universal moment in time that we’ve all experienced, a time of bleakness. We’ve all been through a time where we’ve felt alone and detached from our accomplishments and potential, and we just feel like failures. We wonder whether it’s worth continuing.

I was so concerned about whether I could capture the essence of self-loathing depression that I never really stopped to think whether I should. I didn’t consciously stop to think of the implications that it would have on the viewers of the video.

If it’s not explicitly implied, I do not encourage suicide.

People will have their own interpretations of the video, but I believe it’s about a brash decision influenced by loneliness and depression. When I was growing up, I was always told that suicide was selfish because if you died then you’d make everyone you loved burdened and depressed. And while it’s true, I’ve always thought it was selfish to say, “Don’t kill yourself because then I’d be sad.”

Suicide is bad for you. No matter how bad things get, you have the potential to do anything, whether it’s changing the world to rectifying past regrets. Your life is valuable; you’re not alone; and you make a difference. Whether we know it or not, we affect people. Life isn’t a road we walk alone, but a web where we’re all connected. You have the ability to touch lives, and more importantly, you have the chance to be happy.

Everyone goes through spouts of depression, but at some point, somewhere in everyone’s past, everyone has been happy. Sometimes life needs to be lived moment by moment, it comes and goes in waves, but you need to be alive to have your chances at affecting others and experiencing happiness.

Just hang in there; you’re worth it.

That came out mushier than I wanted it to be, but you get the point.