Monday, September 22, 2014

Data, Star Trek Next Generation: What Could've Been Done Better

This character doesn't need much of his T.V. show's story to be revealed.  He is an android created by Dr. Soong and his name is Data.  Data is Lieutenant Commander on the Starship Enterprise.  Supposedly Data is emotionless.  He is the quintessential worker: he can take orders with no hard feelings and no questions asked.  Another important part of his character is that he is on a constant quest to feel emotions, to become more human.  This presents a paradox in his character that I will go into deeply.

If Data truly is emotionless he would have no desire to have emotions.  The only way he could be emotionless and seek emotions is if Dr. Soong programmed him so.  This would be a very interesting concept to me.  It would pose the question: can emotions be acquired from a previously emotionless being?  Seeing Data seek out such human qualities as anger, happiness, sadness, anxiety, fear, and love could have been enthralling to me if it were not for the emotion chip.  The emotion chip is a plot device in Star Trek Next Generation that is in a few episodes which opens up a loophole for Data to gain emotions.  Any achievement in assimilating feelings through trial and tribulation is lost if all Data needs to do is insert some new hardware.  It would still be interesting if Dr. Soong was against Data getting hold of this
emotion chip for this very reason.  But in the one episode that the audience gets to see Data meet his creator, Dr. Soong volunteers to insert the emotion chip himself.  Inevitably Data’s evil twin who already has an emotion chip, Lore, foils Data’s and Dr. Soong plans by killing Dr. Soong; and thus Data's quest for human emotions continues.

One other interesting alternative is if Data already has a limited capacity to feel and seeks even more feeling.  An even more interesting alternative is that he really can feel like a normal person and for reasons revealed, but not specified, Data believes it would be detrimental to his job or livelihood to proclaim his human emotions.  Maybe there is a special trust the Federation has in a supposed to be completely loyal and reliable robot that he fears would be lost or hindered if they found out he had an informed opinion.  Proclaiming he’s seeking human emotions would be a cover to whatever little hints of emotions that may slip out from time to time.

I have a hard time telling if the few scripted smiles that spread across Data’s face, his desire and quest for human emotions, his own free will, and the android he built and referred to as “my child” and named Lal are either bad writing or purposeful, ambiguous actions for his character.

In the end Data gets the emotion chip and his quest and my interest in him come to an end as well.  Still, I do believe Data was the most intellectual character in Star Trek Next Generation.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Crona, Soul Eater: What Could've Been Done Better

In the world of Soul Eater, there are many people gifted with unusually strong “soul wavelengths”.  Often these people go down one of two paths: the path of a meister - a weapon wielding fighter - or the path of a weapon itself.  Weapons are particularly unique because the people who choose this path can transform their bodies into a particular weapon that their chosen partners, their meister, can wield.  In the present timeline of the story Soul Eater, approximately 800 years ago, Death himself created the Death’s Weapons and Meisters Academy (DWMA).  The DWMA is a militaristic school that teaches young students to fight off the forces of evil, namely the “kishins”which are weapons and/or their meisters who have strayed from the path of good, specifically by eating human souls.

Crona is the teenaged meister of his weapon, the Demon Sword Ragnorak.  The Demon Sword was melted into the form of “black blood” – a liquid used to amplify the insanity within a person - to be
transferred into Crona’s body by his own mother, Lady Medusa.  Medusa did this to perform experiments on how black blood worked on the mind and how to turn her own son and his weapon into kishins.  After a few chance battles with Crona and Ragnorak against a couple of students of the DWMA (Maka Albarn and Death the Kid), the Academy takes custody of him and hopes to save him and his weapon from becoming kishins.  This doesn’t stop his mother from reaching him in his cell within the DWMA and telling him to do some spying for her.  And this is where my criticism comes in.

Crona is a tall, skinny, and slouched character whose motto is “I don’t know how to deal with this!”   The T.V. show shows Crona always operating under fear: the fear of his belligerent, bully weapon who often beats him, the fear of punishment dealt from his mother, and even just the fear of dealing with reality.

Focusing on one of the oldest story subjects of them all, Soul Eater addresses fear and the madness that becomes of it.  The Demon King Asura, the very first “kishin egg”, fears Death.  This fear of
Death drove him to seek power for his own protection.  He found that the easiest power source to draw from were human souls.  Despite his efforts, Asura was defeated by Lord Death and confined in a seal of his own skin for 800 years.  He eventually is freed by Lady Medusa and her black blood as she and her subjects stormed the DWMA.  The fear that has grown in Asura's soul is so powerful that, after he is released, it emits "madness wavelengths" which drive other people who are subjects to fear and madness to be even more afraid and crazy.

What Crona is to the story of Soul Eater is a symbol of possibilities.  He hasn’t gone too far down the path of the kishin; he is savable.  On the other hand, he is extremely malleable to the will of whoever can scare him the most, namely his mother.

This show attempted a similar formula with other characters (Dr. Frankenstein and Soul Eater) but I don’t think that they hold a candle to Crona.  Dr. Frankenstein is too unsympathetically maniacal and Soul Eater is too strong to succumb to madness; but Crona is an abused, young, and frightened kid.

My criticisms for Crona come when he joins the DWMA.  Once Crona became a student of the
DWMA, he lost a lot of his combat skills.  As he very slowly gained control of his fear, the black blood, the insanity amplifier which was his weapon, lost its power.  That makes some sense to me, but I think that any power that the black blood lost should have been replaced by the power of Crona’s newfound self-reliance.  He shouldn’t have become weaker, he should have become stronger.  I also believe his character was a little too one-sided.  As I wrote above, his character revolves around his fear and how it controls him.  When he begins working as a spy of the DWMA for his own mother, I never got the sense that he was operating under anything else than fear.  I think that a little more depth would have benefited his character, like obeying his mother out of genuine love.  Instead of doing his mother’s bidding out of fear alone, I think adding some love and making him question
his ethics would have been a nice touch.  To the show’s credit, it did raise the question if Crona loved his mother when he asked Maka if she loved her mother.  And he did feel very guilty for working as his mother’s spy (as well as afraid of the DWMA); so guilty (and afraid) he ran off and hid in the desert until Maka and Soul tracked him down.  But those were short scenes that ended rather quickly and decisively:  He didn’t love his mother and he wanted to join with the DWMA.

This review was on the T.V. show that was based off of the original manga series written by Atsushi Ohkubo.  I don’t know how relatable the T.V. show is to the books.  Despite my criticisms, Crona was my favorite character of the show.  He’s pathetic and pitiful but he kicks a lot of ass in combat.  It’s a shame that there wasn’t more of him.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Bitney College Prepatory Highschool Poll: Is Church Really Separated from State?

If you have bothered to view some of my previous posts, you should know that my good high school friend and I take polls of as many students and faculty of our school as we can during our half hour lunch break.  This week we decided to hear our peers' opinions on a common political question: is church truly separate from state in America?  (In our opinion, politicians cannot do their work completely independently from their religious or spiritual beliefs, if they have any.  That's not what we're concerned about.)
In 1956, under Eisenhower's campaign, a bill was passed to have "In God We Trust" be the nation's official motto.  Soon afterwards, the line "one nation under God" was inserted into the pledge of allegiance.  This was what originally triggered my friend's and my own interest on this subject.  When discussing this, we realized that even in our judicial system, religious elements exist.  It is assumed in court that you will put your right hand on the Bible and "tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God" as an oath to Him.  (Alternatively, you do have the option to solemnly take an oath to affirm the truth; and the importance of swearing an oath to God has diminished as it doesn't seem to keep people from lying under oath.)  And of course there's the never ending debate on prayer in school.  In the U.S. Constitution, under the 1st Amendment, it states that church must be separate from state.  And since the public school system is funded by tax payers, that makes it a part of the state.  On the other hand, the 1st Amendment protects the right of every person to practice their own religion.  Practicing Islam most often means five prayers a day: at
daybreak, noon, afternoon, sunset, and evening.  Many Muslim students want to be able to pray during school hours and some high schools have reluctantly permitted the students to pray on campus, while Christian prayer is still illegal.  Does this not violate the 1st Amendment, both by giving Muslim students privileges and by breaking "equal protection" for Christians and other religious groups who may wish to pray during school?  Either way, creates controversy: prevent Muslim students from praying and their right to practice their own religion is revoked, or allow them to pray during school and fail to keep church truly separate from state.

With all of this in mind, we set out to find the voices of our classmates':
Sort Of
I Don’t Know
I Don’t Care

When we were taking the poll we did not expect that we'd have to add the last column, I Don't Care.  We had never been given that answer for any of our other polls; but too many people said "I don't care" instead of "yes", "no", "sort of", or even "I don't know" to put it under I Don't Know like we usually do.  A few persons gave us that answer only because they generally don't like being asked such questions (those persons' votes are the ones we usually put under I Don't Know), but plenty others said they did not care about that issue whatsoever because they felt like it did not directly affect them in any way.  A part of me
feels like those persons have a lot of ignorance to think that such a thing as church being separated from the state doesn't affect them.  It made me feel that they take their rights as American citizens for granted.  Of all the answers they could have given us, "I don't care" is one of the worst ones.  It shows their complete lack of interest (and most likely awareness as well) on a subject that I believe should be of great importance to everyone, whether they be religious, spiritual, or atheist.

If you would, leave a comment describing your opinion on the subject.  And if you feel compelled to explain why you do not care about this subject, why it doesn't affect you in any way, that is welcome as well.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What Could've Been Done Better

I will be doing a series of posts, much like the series of posts I did about the Multiverse theory, for the next three weeks.  Per each week I will upload one post.  This series of posts will be about three T.V. show characters that I found most enthralling of their cast in their show, but due to poor writing and/or acting, think could have been done better.  These characters are Crona from Soul Eater, Data from Star Trek Next Generation, and Spike (William the Bloody) from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Specifically, I will be exploring the chronicles of these characters' origins, their importance in the story they're in and what they represent, and why I think they fell short of the value they were supposed to bring.

I do recognize some false facts I have given in prior posts, including the ones in my post about Soul Eater.  I'm not going back and revising previous posts of mine because I do not believe in redoing old work.  Old work is like a mark in history; it's a good reference to use to see how my writing has improved over time.  Plus, if I start redoing old work to make it better, I'll never stop.  This is common sense (or it should be): read what you read on the internet critically and with a grain of salt, especially the information you receive on blog posts (mine of course
included.)  Check with other resources that you think are more reliable to compare their information with mine and see if they match.

One reason why I've chosen this topic to blog about is because even though it requires some given information, it is primarily about my opinion; and that is unassailable.