Beating Again/ Falling for Innocence TV Show Review

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As some of you may remember, I recently began my K-drama journey with Descendants of the Sun. As my initial experience was positive and led to such high expectations, I had been on the prowl for another K-drama series to devour. However, my search took longer than expected because a) Netflix’s selection is not that big, or at least I do not know how to navigate it and b) I only looked for k-drama’s on Netflix for convenience’s sake which limited my pool. Enter Beating Again/ Falling for Innocence. The show is referred to on Netflix by the former, but is titled the latter on many other websites. Hence, I’m going with both titles. Anyways, truth be told, I was quite hesitant to begin the drama. I wasn’t a big fan of the general summary plot-line because I felt like the potential for exploitation/ manipulation of characters would be really big. In short, the show was about the male lead undergoing a heart transplant and falling in love with the girlfriend of his donor. In other words, ick. However, since the show was rated so highly and because I had really been craving a K-drama, I just swallowed all my feelings and put on the show. Although it wasn’t quite what I was expecting, it was still pretty good.

The show begins with an introduction to Kang Min Ho, played by Jung Kyung-Ho. He’s shown to be this ruthless and rude businessman. He works for an American multinational corporation, Gold Partners, and part of his job requires taking over bankrupt companies and selling them to others. Through his work, he fires people daily without any regard for them, i.e. he doesn’t care how hard they work or how much they need the job. Due to his callous behaviour, he doesn’t have many friends or really care about acquiring friends. His company sees him as a huge asset and his employees are terrified of him, to the point where they nickname him the ‘serial-killer.’ In other words, he fits the archetype of the ruthless businessman with no care for others. He’s willing to do anything and he just doesn’t give a damn about making money as his motive is something else.

At the same time, we’re introduced to Kim Soon-jung, enacted by Kim So-Yeon. She works as a secretary to the Chairman of a huge beauty company called Hermia. She’s an extremely efficient worker, incredibly loyal to her company, and cares for the well-being of all employees, even those working in the warehouse/ factories (her work is mostly within the headquarters). She’s a super nice woman and seems to enjoy her work. She’s engaged to a police detective, Ma Dong-wook (played by Jin Goo from DOTS!). Childhood sweethearts, the two adore each other and share a loving relationship.

The two leads interact when Min-Ho comes to take over Hermia. His goal is to destroy the company. Soon-jung halts his initial entrance to the company and after learning her name, Min-Ho makes it a goal to punish her/ ruin her life. This is also where his backstory comes out. Apparently, Min-Ho’s father had founded Hermia with the noble goal to have a company that would serve its employees and put them before the boss. However, due to a heart disease, Min-Ho’s father died early. Taking advantage of Min-Ho’s dad’s soft nature, his brother, Kang Hyun-Chul (played by Park Yeong-Gyu), forged some papers, making it seem like Min-Ho’s dad committed fraud and put Hyun-Chul in charge. Hyun-Chul, with the help of other headquarter employees, quickly take over, effectively betraying Min-Ho’s dad on his deathbed. Hyun-Chul also cuts off Min-Ho and his mother, making them penniless. Stunned by the events, Min-Ho’s mom commits suicide, leaving the 10 year-old Min-Ho an orphan. Hyun-Chul doesn’t care and just abandons the boy. Min-Ho swears to be a hard and strong businessman (unlike his father) and to destroy his uncle and Hermia, along with the other employees who betrayed his dad. Hence, he grows up, excels and gains employment with Gold Partner’s. However, in a sad twist, Min-Ho inherits his father’s heart disease, giving him only a few years to live. As a result, Min-Ho rises to the top quickly and acts ruthlessly in order to complete his revenge before he dies. By the time the show starts, Min-Ho is around 35 years old and has only a month left to live. Along with Soon-yung blocking his efforts, he also hates her because her father was one of the employees who betrayed his father and helped Hyun-Chul usurp the company.

As the show continues, we’re also introduced to Hermia’s Director of Legal Affairs,  Lee Joon-Hee, played by Yoon Hyun-Min. Joon-hee is friends with Soon-jung and Dong-wook and managed to rise to the position of Director at such a young age, because he was seen as Hyun-Chul’s lapdog. In other words, Joon-Hee did Hyun-Chul’s dirty legal work. For example, he handled felonies committed by judges, or the family members of judges, in order to get the judges favour’s when it came to handling legal conflicts against Hermia (aka biasing the judges and bribing them). Recognizing that his position as Director would be gone as soon as Hyun-Chul stepped down, Joon-Hee teams up with Gold Partners as a double agent, to bring down Hermia and become its next CEO. Having secretly been in love with Soon-Jung since childhood, he believes that once he becomes a rich and powerful man, he’ll be able to gain her love.

Anyways, in the plot-line, one of Hermia’s products is discovered to have unapproved ingredients, causing the company’s stock to fumble. At which point Min-Ho steps in, claiming that Gold Partners had bought most of the stocks and would shut down the company. Hyun-Chul refuses to give up Hermia and claims that they’ll pay back their investors (they’re bankrupt I think, or at least close to it). Min-Ho agrees, while secretly attempting to sway the investors to his side through secret meetings (as he only has one month to live). He enters Hermia as a Director, in order to ensure that they don’t do further illegal stuff to pay back. He also spitefully takes Soon-jung as his secretary and makes her do a crap load of things and stuff that makes it seems like she’s betraying the company (she’s not). Joon-hee helps Gold Partners secretly but pretends like he’s fighting against them in Hermia. Seeing Soon-jung stressed, Dong-wook finds out about the unapproved ingredient case and begins investigating, despite Soon-jung asking him not to. Meanwhile, Hyun-Chul figures out that Min-Ho only has a month to live and is able to take back all the investors Min-Ho had swayed. Angry that his revenge is falling, Min-ho yells at Soon-jung (thinking she ratted him out) and begins throwing things around in his anger. His heart starts acting up and he collapses into a table and is taken to the hospital by Soon-jung. Meanwhile, Dong-wook figures out who was responsible for the unapproved ingredients case and then gets killed in a hit-and-run case. He’s taken to the hospital and his heart is transferred into Min-ho. Min-ho awakes from his surgery and discovers some new habits/ thoughts of his. For example, he gains sudden urges to suck on lollipops (a habit Dong-wook had, to prevent himself from smoking) and tapping people on their noses (something Dong-wook also did). He also finds himself attracted to Soon-jung and having a greater moral compass. However, he’s also incredibly weirded out and worried by these changes.

The rest of the drama is about what happens to Hermia, how Min-ho changes/ his character development, the relationship between Min-ho and Soon-jung, the love triangle between them and Joon-Hee, and various other small side plots.

I had originally thought this drama to be a comedy and put it on. To my dismay, it’s quite melodramatic. There’s a lot of twists and turns and surprising suspense. That said, there is some comedy in the form of Min-Ho and his secretary/ friend, Oh Woo-Sik, played by Lee Si-eon. Min-Ho is HILARIOUS. There’s a scene where Soon-jung is taken captive by a thug and Min-Ho tries negotiating with the thug. He uses the same technique of distracting thugs using expensive watches that Dong-wook did, to the surprise of the police colleagues who are friends with Soon-jung and a part of the kidnapping situation. However, the thug doesn’t fall for the trick and instead the watch breaks. Min-ho, being Min-ho, FREAKS OUT and starts yelling at the thug about how expensive his watch was, etc. Somehow the thug lets Soon-jung go and gets into an altercation with Min-Ho. Dong-wook’s fighting abilities are somehow transferred to Min-Ho and he dodges and defeats the thug, to his own surprise. Min-Ho literally pauses and goes like, “holy shit, I dodged that!” and then once the thug is on the ground, Min-Ho screams again, takes off his shoe, and begins spanking the thug for ruining his watch (lmfaooo). And then while in the police station for questioning, he begins trying out more fighting moves, feeling cool (LOL). It’s seriously hilarious. His comedic moments literally MAKE the drama in my opinion. He’s amazing.

And the growth journey his character goes throughout the show is wonderful. One of my fears about the show was that his character would completely change to be like Dong-wook and that the reason he’d love Soon-jung is because he had Dong-wook’s heart. But he actually doesn’t change all that much. Sure he adapts some of Dong-wook’s habits and sayings, but he also remains Min-Ho. He remains the smart businessman, he remains the easily excited and angry guy and still acts rudely sometimes. But he also changes. He begins to feel empathy and sympathy. He realizes that the way he was living wasn’t sustainable anymore. He lived with the belief that it didn’t matter he didn’t have any friends or a personal life because he was going to die soon anyway. However, now with a new, prolonged life,  his old ways no longer applied and the loneliness got to him. Similarly, he recognized that in his greed for revenge, he was turning out to be the exact same person his despised uncle was. Also, when it came to his love for Soon-jung, once he realized he had Dong-wook’s heart, he tried to rationally sort out his feelings. He tried to figure out if his feelings toward her were from him (mind) or Dong-wook (heart). However, as his ‘experiment’ keeps failing, he realizes that it doesn’t matter because ultimately, both belong to him and that love is irrational itself. I really liked that message because a) I hadn’t expected it and b) it’s quite true. Love doesn’t always have a definite starting point and that there is no rational way to define love. It’s awkward and confusing and ridiculous and even absurd at times.

I also really enjoyed the relationship Min-Ho had with Dong-wook’s father, the Hermia Factory Chief, Ma Tae-Soek. It was kind of like a surrogate father-son relationship. Tae-soek lost his real son, but gained a new sort-of son, same with Min-ho except vice-versa. Tae-soek also shared an incredibly warm relationship with his ex-daughter-in-law-to-be Soon-jung. In one touching scene, he goes to Soon-jung and tells her to let go of Dong-wook and move on. He makes her understand that life goes on and she can’t shut herself off from love. I just, I found that so moving and sweet. He does the same for Min-ho and gives him ideas on how to woo Soon-jung. The trio had all lost people (Soon-jung was also an orphan) and ended up making their own family of sorts.

On that note, the acting was also really good in this show. Kyung-Ho was ridiculously good in this show. He emoted so well and shined in all of his scenes. He was so good as the ruthless businessman. There’s a scene where Woo-sik asks Min-Ho why he sleeps on the sofa despite being so rich and Min-Ho replies that lying down in the bed aggravates his heart and that he’ll only lie down once he’s dead and finished his revenge. It was kind of chilling how softly and resignedly, but determinedly Kyung-Ho enacted that scene. A very layered performance. And his comedy scenes where hilarious! He’s not afraid to make unattractive faces or anything and as a result, his comedy scenes are so funny! He just acts up so much, you cannot help but laugh at his ridiculousness. Here’s a screen-cap of his antics after a breakup (LOL). And his little bromance with Woo-sik was hilarious as well. The two acted really well across each other. So-Yeon also acts really well as Soon-jung. It’s very easy to see how everyone falls in love with her. I liked how So-Yeon kept her reined in and didn’t make Soon-jung too happy or positive. She felt like a real person, as far as K-dramas go LOL. Plus, she was a really great female lead, you really (or at least I did) root for her to get her happy ending because she deserves it so much. And the side actors/ characters were great as well. Woo-sik’s character actually had his own little love story with one of Dong-wook’s detective friend, Na Ok-Hyun, played by Jo Eun-Ji. Although they regrettably didn’t have that many scenes together, I enjoyed their scenes together immensely! Everyone acted very well!

Along with acting, the soundtrack for this show was really great as well! There’s this ringtone/ song by Toy called “Whenever,” that played a large role in the show as it was the song Dong-wook used to propose to Soon-jung and was the song that Min-ho couldn’t stop listening too after his surgery (I’m in the same boat as Min-ho, it’s so catchy and I can’t stop listening to it!). It was super catchy and worked really well with various scenes. There were also other songs, like this guitar song, that were quite pleasing to the ear and helped amplify situations. Really enjoyed it.

Similarly, the cinamatography was top-notch as well. I’m beginning to think that its a constant of all k-dramas. As I’m still a newbie, I cannot say it for sure. But as my k-drama journey continues, I’ll keep this in mind.

What I didn’t like, however, was part of the storyline. It was actually pretty dark with quite a few deaths and dramatic moments. And the whole Hermia plot was extended too much. I mean, the story does move along pretty fast, but problems keep cropping up. For example, Min-Ho eventually takes over Hermia with the goal of restoring it, but then has to face the exact same strategies he used to bankrupt Hermia. I mean, in theory it sounds like a good idea. And I did enjoy the scene where Min-ho breaks down and feels like Hermia being attacked by Gold Partners again is like his karma. But it just stretched on too long. And to be honest, some of the business stuff was kinda confusing and even boring at times. I would’ve much rather had a more concise business battle, rather than a rehash of similar things. I also was a little confused on how Joon-Hee’s character became the main antagonist. He always had a crush on Soon-jung and believed that if he became rich, he could get her love. Actually, no his turn did make sense, but not the extent he went through. He ended up becoming absolutely ruthless in his quest, and after a while, it just didn’t make sense to me. Why was he going to the extent he was? What was his goal? His original goal was to get Soon-jung but she already said no to him. And then his goal was to make Min-ho go down. But in that goal, he was ready to sacrifice everything? In Min-ho’s case, it made sense because he was going to die so he didn’t have anything to lose. But Joon-Hee was still living. He was being promoted when he was with Gold Partners. Was it just a self-esteem issue? Was it because he needed to justify his dad’s death? I guess what I’m saying is, his turn to the antagonist made sense. But his actions, namely his intent and fervour to destroy the company didn’t quite.

Also, I really wasn’t a fan of the way Min-ho behaved around Soon-jung, in terms of physicality. When he hated her, he had the tendency to jerk her around by grabbing her hand or whatever and dragging her to where he wanter her to be. When he fell in love with her, he would often try to hug her forcefully. Soon-jung wasn’t really appreciative of the jerking around and she did get annoyed by it, but she never said anything either. As he was her boss, I guess she thought if she complained, she could get fired. But even after the two get together as a couple, she doesn’t necessarily say anything. And Min-ho is the same. He never apologizes for his forceful handling of her. I just, I really wasn’t a fan of it. It ruined some of their sweeter scenes. For example, when Min-ho realizes that Soon-jung needs to cry and grieve for all that she’s lost, he forcefully hugs her in an effort to get her to release her feelings. She tries pulling back and asserts that she’s fine. But Min-ho just grips her tighter and claims that he needs the reassurance. It’s after that, she finally lets herself go and begins to cry and mourn for everything that went down in her life. I mean, it is a sweet scene. But just the forceful hug sorta ruined some of the sweetness of it.

Similarly, the ending of the show was lukewarm as well. In term of logic, it just sucked horribly. There was no real resolution to the Hermia conflict or Min-ho’s plot. All we got was Min-ho in the hospital, when the screen fading to the sky and then an epilogue where Woo-sick and Ok-Hyun got married with Min-Ho and Soon-jung as the best man and bridesmaid respectively. I wanted a more real resolution. The only reason the ending was somewhat warm (good), was because of the end Min-Ho and Soon-jung scene. It was incredibly cute and saved the ending from being absolutely horrible. But even then, it was an incredibly unsatisfying ending to what was an enjoyable drama.

My rating: watch it for the comicalness that is Min-ho and be prepared to enjoy his character growth, along with witnessing the wonderful acting of Kyung-ho and So-yeon, but remember that this is not a comedy show and so expect a lot of deaths and dark scenes.

The Crown TV Series Review

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It’s difficult for me to start this review today, because I know that my words will not do justice to the show. But I feel like it’s necessary for me to write anyway because failure to write about this show is akin to letting it down as well. So let’s get on with it.

The Crown is a Netflix series that premiered November 2016 and consists of 10 hour-long episodes, at least in the first season. It purports to tell the story of Queen Elizabeth II’s succession to the Crown in 1952 and also details some of the politics surrounding the early years of her reign. Simply put, it is a biography of sorts. As such, it showcases events like the abdication crisis of 1936, the death of George VI, PM Churchill’s resignation, Princess Margaret-Peter Townsend scandal, and the marriage of the Queen and Prince Philip (and the ensuing marital strifes).

In terms of reviewing, I’m going to break it down and not write a whole lot. There is way too much for me to unpack in each individual episode so attempting to analyze the entire series in a single post is absurd. As such, I’ll touch upon a few things.

Firstly, in terms of cinamatography, it’s top-notch. As some of you may know, I’m a really, really visual person. So this means, that not only am I attracted to and enthralled by lavish attention to details in depictions, but I’m also very particular about it as well. To my delight, the series excelled in it. Each scene was laid out in a really great way and directed very well as well. And the accuracy in the clothing worn by the various members of the Royal Family was surreal. As a history buff, I have poured over photographs showcasing the Queen’s early years. Hence, I got really, really excited every time I recognized some of the Queen’s outfits and just how much detail was put into each one. For example, her wedding day look has been matched by the creators, right down to the hairstyle.

Which also brings me to the actors. Queen Elizabeth II was portrayed by Claire Foy who did a tremendous job. Throughout the show, the Crown is referred to as a burden, and Foy did a magnificent job showing how difficult it was to balance being the Crown and being a person, i.e. mother, wife, sister. As the show pointed out, the monarch is not supposed to be an opinionated, loud, entertaining person, it is merely a symbol, an impartial figurehead who unites the people. Foy also has really great chemistry with Matt Smith who plays Prince Philip. There are moments where the two characters don’t even say anything but you can still feel the love or tension between them. Matt also did a phenomenal job playing Prince Philip as the resentful consort. On that note, I really appreciated how the writers did not shy away from showing him as the racist and asshole person he is. Similarly, the supporting Royal Family cast acts really well as well. However, the stand-out performance, in my opinion, was John Lithgow as Sir Winston Churchill. The first time Lithgow appeared on screen, I got chills because it felt like I was really seeing Churchill in the flesh. Which is also quite a feat considering the fact that Lithgow is an American! In the role, he disappears and only Churchill remains; a fabulous performance!

On that note, I think I should also talk about the writer’s, or rather writer, for a second. The show is written by Peter Morgan who also wrote the award-winning film, The Queen. Morgan is a fantastic writer and the subtlety he instills in each episode the the various dialogues is a treat to watch. And the show doesn’t just address the history of the Queen and her family. It also depicts the history of England itself and the political struggles the political parties face, along with the Queen. The script, in my opinion, plays quite a large role in how the show comes across. In other words, the strong script elevates the show and the actors.

And finally, the soundtrack for this show is amazing. I cannot get enough of the main title/ duck shoot song. I’m not quite sure who composed the latter, either Hans Zimmer or Rupert Gregson-Williams, but either way, it’s phenomenal and so versatile. For example, it was used to highlight the changes that were coming in Elizabeth’s life and her steps toward embracing them (i.e. becoming Queen eventually). Yet, the song was also effectively used to highlight the chaos that came after King George VI’s death. Just wonderfully amazing really.

I really enjoyed watching and highly recommend the show. Plus, season 2 has already been confirmed!

My rating: Definitely watch it if you’re a history (and political) buff, anglophile or Royal Family enthusiast!

Empress Book Review

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To be honest, I’m not completely sure what I think about this novel. I have a lot of conflicting ideas and thoughts and so it’s difficult to form a general consensus about it. But since writing always helps me organize my thoughts (well somewhat organize), I’m going to write about it and review it.

Published in 2006, Empress is a fictional biographical novel about the only ever woman Chinese emperor, Empress Wu, written by French-Chinese authoress Shan Sa. Empress Wu was a ruler who officially ruled as Emperor during the Tang Dynasty, or rather her self-created Zhou Dynasty. She was actually the reason I picked up this book — I had heard of her earlier and thought her achievements to be exemplary. However, despite my broad admiration for her, I hadn’t really studied her or her history in depth. I had heard of some of the slander against her but I always figured that the criticisms were false and bourn out of jealousy for such a powerful figure. The fact that she was a woman who managed to reach such heights during such a male dominated era and culture was phenomenal to me. I was curious to see how exactly she reached her position, and the book claimed to reveal just that. Written in first person perspective, the Empress is our lens. As this is a fictional account (because no first-person account of her reign from her perspective endures I believe), I knew some things would be fabricated. However, I also found myself quite taken aback and just how accurate this novel was as well in terms of events. That said, I’m certain that there were more than a few liberties taken as well.

Anyways, from a purely reviewer perspective, the book is quite engaging, especially story-wise. It purports to tell the story of Empress Wu and her rise to power and does so by detailing numerous situations and her decisions. For example, there’s quite a few passages where the reader is actually able to read the politics surrounding government and how Wu negotiates and manipulates other around her. And since the politics surrounding situations have actually been kept in annals, they are quite accurate. Empress Wu’s life is indeed fascinating. Writing-wise, the book is decent as well. I heard that this book was originally written in French and then translated to English. I could kinda see that and also not. Whoever translated it, did a really good job because the writing flowed beautifully in english. But there were definitely a few creative grammar liberties taken. I found a few techniques of hers to be quite beautiful and effective. But I also eventually grew tired of the amount of description in the book. It just felt like too much. Yet, at the same time, I also feel like I cannot really hold this against Ms. Sa because 7th Century China was indeed beautiful and only copious amounts of description could probably do it justice. Plus, at least initially, her descriptions contribute to the grandeur of Empress Wu’s surroundings and rise. So I’m mixed on that.

What I’m also mixed upon I suppose, is the character of Empress Wu herself. Or rather, her activities. I suppose I am quite naive because the lifestyle Empress Wu experiences is something I would not have expected or suspected. For example, the book makes mentions of threesomes, incest, and demons. I had expected murders, conspiracies, and political intrigue because that is what history has generally been comprised off, but not the above mentioned things. Which brought me to another query, just how accurate was this book? The problem I have such literature (this has happened before btw, I just never learn LOL), is that I get frustrated at how difficult it is to verify the accuracy of things. I end up enjoying or disliking real-life characters based upon fictional accounts, which themselves manipulate readers by refashioning events, and can never figure out if my feelings are based upon the right information or not. Part of me enjoys this exercise because it functions as a two-way mirror, especially if I have prior knowledge of events. For example, contemporary history says that Empress Wu poisoned her own child in an effort to pin the blame on her husband’s previous wife so she could get rid of them and usurp power. The book, on the other hand, implies that the daughter was poisoned by someone else and that the poisoning became the catalyst for her husband to give her more power. It’s really a matter of perspective. On the other hand, part of me also hates this exercise because its so inherently manipulative and its so difficult to ascertain if the reader’s interpretation of the characters can be considered historically accurate or not. But I also hesitate to completely dislike this book just because of how detailed it is in regards to Imperial China’s architects, fashion, and lifestyle. In conclusion, I have mixed feelings.

My rating: read it to learn more about Imperial China and Empress Wu, but keep an open mind about her character.

The Hound of Death Book Review

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It was never really my intention to grab this book. In fact, I picked it up by mistake, assuming it to be something else, rather than what it is. As some of you may know, my friend (she has her own blog too if you’re interested!) is really into Agatha Christie and so I’ve also been reading some of Ms. Christie’s work. While she doesn’t quite rank as one of my favourite authors, I can always depend on her for a solid read. So when I was at the library looking for some new reading material, I chanced upon the Agatha Christie collection. A lot of her more popular books were already taken and from the remaining books, I found myself drawn to this. The book cover stated it was about supernatural stories. I’ve already raved about one of her supernatural stories, Endless Night, so I figured I’d like this too. However, what I failed to realize, was that this book was actually a collection of short supernatural stories, rather than being one huge story. Now, I’m not really a picky reader, in terms of genres. But I am pretty big on having a cohesive, thoroughly fleshed-out, well written plot. And unfortunately, the short story format doesn’t really allow for that, or at least I think not if I go by this book.

The Hound of Death, contains a selection of stories, ranging from supernatural to simple detective work. Each story is unrelated and about different topics. I actually quite enjoyed some of the stories, but found others to be lacking. As a result, this book took me two weeks to get through, simply because I didn’t really like reading it.

Firstly, the book opens up with a small supernatural mystery called the Hound of Death. It talks about the idea of an alternative reality/ past wherein people had powers, a new religion of sorts, and some dangers of it. In other words, it was actually a really, really interesting beginning to what could have been a fantastic fantasy novel. Unfortunately, as this is a short story, this does not happen. Instead, the mystery is remarked upon and then the story ends. And this was actually my main problem with the book. A lot of the stories just ended like that. Without any further development or any real resolution. I suppose that’s the nature of short stories (and mystery short stories). In any case, I didn’t like it. I just continually felt so incredibly annoyed and peeved whenever the story would just end. This was especially the case in the first story because you could just see the potential it had. And yet, nothing happens. The same thing happened with quite a few other ones.

And this isn’t limited to her more fantastical or supernatural stories because it happens in some of her more detective based stories as well. For example in SOS, a man comes in and unwittingly begins investigating what seems to be a supernatural event but turns out to be a more tangible murder mystery. And as the short story format designates, all of the action happens within a day. I just, I really didn’t like it. I would’ve much preferred longer, more in depth stories than the small short stories. I could just imagine reading this story as its own book, like a general Agatha Christie novel.

That said, I will say that some of the mysteries are interesting to read. They range from comical, to sad, to creepy, to confusing. In some stories, you go from having supernatural occurrences to end up with something not supernatural. While it others, it goes in the opposite direction. And still in others, it remains supernatural from beginning to end. It really is quite interesting. But personally, I still felt quite let down. I think I’m just not really one for short stories. Or at least not one for mystery supernatural short stories.

My rating: Read it if you’re curious about Agatha Christie’s writing talent or like mysterious supernatural short stories, but you can skip it otherwise.

Harry Potter Hogwarts Houses Views

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So I’m a Potterhead. Got into Harry Potter as a kid and have stayed into it ever since. One of my favourite things about the series (like many others I’m betting), is the very concept of being sorted into Houses. I just thought it was so cool to be sorted into houses with people who were similar, or at least shared similar values, and be shown what qualities you exhibited/ valued. So, like other Potterheads, I took as many sorting hat/ house quizzes as possible. When I first took an online quizzes (probably in late 200os, can’t even remember at this point), I’d always get Gryffindor, with the occasional Ravenclaw. When I first took the Pottermore quiz, I surprisingly got Slytherin. When I took another Pottermore quiz, I got Hufflepuff. And finally, I came across a quiz that contained all possible Pottermore questions and sorted you based on the percentage of how much you fit into the Houses (aka the most accurate one). That quiz stated that I was 64% Hufflepuff, 64% Ravenclaw, 62% Slytherin, and 54% Gryffindor. So in other words, I pretty much fit into all the houses (LOL). But, on a more serious note, this entire sorting business got me thinking about each house and their interpretations.

Gryffindor is seen as being the house of heroes, brave people. Ravenclaw’s are seen as being the individualistic scientists. Slytherins are seen as the clever, shrewd, tricksters. And finally Hufflepuff, is commonly seen as the house of leftovers, people who aren’t particularly brilliant. Partly out of ego (I’m a Hufflepuff) and partly out of genuine interest, I ended up googling the houses, the Harry Potter series, rereading the books to see what they said about the houses, and roaming odd chat rooms to see how other people interpreted them. Unsurprisingly, a lot of people held the previously mentioned viewpoints. But other people, those who enjoy nit-picking and analyzing things (people after my own heart!) actually provided in-depth viewpoints that didn’t necessarily agree or even disagree with the previously mentioned viewpoints. I quite enjoyed reading the latter people’s points and hence I’ve decided to write my own version of what I think sorting really does/ means and what each house signifies.

Firstly, I don’t think that sorting actually tells you what trait you exemplify the most. I made this mistake and assumed that if you were sorted into Gryffindor, it was because you were brave. Or if you were sorted into Ravenclaw, it meant that you were smart. However, this is clearly demonstrated to be wrong through the various characters who don’t always live up to their House. A famous example being Petter Pettigrew who sold out his friends out of fear. Rather, I think the sorting hat tells you what trait you value the most and then sorts you based on that. So if you value being in the spotlight for your bravery, then you’re in Gryffindor. If you value being ambitious and want to make something out of yourself, then you’re in Slytherin. It’s about what you value vs. what you demonstrate. You can be brave but not be in Gryffindor (Luna). You can be smart but not in Ravenclaw (Hermione). You can be loyal but not in Hufflepuff (Ron). You can be resourceful and cunning but not in Slytherin (Harry). It’s your values the sorting hat bases your sorting (along with personal preference for houses).

Now let’s get into the houses themselves.

Gryffindors are commonly assumed to be among the best. They’re seen as brave, chivalrous, and bold. They will stand up for others and will do so at their own expense. But they’re also very egoistical, reckless, and self-righteous. They want the glory that comes with being brave. They want the audience to witness their feats. They dive in head-first, without thinking about the consequences. They like the theatrics to show off their skills. They aren’t always concerned about doing the right thing. They’re the risk-takers, the fearless fighters, not afraid to get down and dirty and be absolutely brutal. It’s not about being fair or even. And their moral compass may not even be pointed in the moral direction. But they are noble, or at least attempt to be noble in their own way. They do believe in mercy and forgiveness. They will fight for their causes, even if there is no hope in winning. They are strong-willed, refuse to give up, and will stay till the end (even if their motivations are a little suspect).

Ravenclaws are commonly assumed to be among the brilliant. They’re seen as incredibly smart, creative, logical, and keen learners. They love working out problems or figuring out solutions and crave knowledge. But they’re also arrogant, obsessive and self-absorbed. They’re not interested in making small talk or talking to people seen as “ignorant.” They don’t need an audience as long as they have books or any other sort of knowledge keeping them company. They only like the theatrics for the sake of being able to know them. It’s not about using your knowledge for the good of the world. They will manipulate people if it suits them. They will use pawns rather than fight themselves.  But they are able to be objective. They are able to intuitively sense the underlying politics and motivations that drive people. They are the ones who learn the most from mistakes and try to correct them. They are the visionary inventors who propel our society forward.

Slytherins are commonly assumed to be among the sharpest. They’re seen as ambitious, loyal, and clever. If you scratch their back, they’ll scratch yours. But they’re also sly, willing to bend the rules to reach the top, and not afraid of stepping over others or those who betrayed them. They’re the social climbers. They stand with their own and close the ranks to outsiders. They like the theatrics in order to prove that they have greatness. It’s not about supporting your causes or defending them. They pick and choose their battles, often willing to abandon at any sign of defeat. They’re willing to be deceitful and even dominate others in their quest to achieve greatness. But they are resourceful. They have excellent self- preservation skills and live purposeful lives. They’re the negotiators, able to be diplomatic and work with others for a common goal. They are the leaders willing to do the difficult things to get the show on the road.

Hufflepuffs are commonly assumed to be among the hardest-workers. They’re seen as loyal, just, and honest. Everyone pulls their own weight and does their fair share of work. But they’re also stickler’s for team work, inflexible when it comes to justice, and skeptical. They’re impartial to a fault and refuse to align themselves with anyone until sufficient proofs have been provided. They don’t care for the theatrics, unless purely for enjoyment. It’s not about forgiveness or sympathy. They won’t hesitate to call you out on dishonesty or unfairness. They’ll willingly play the role of the judge, jury, and executioner. Mercy is not one value they hold dear. They prefer the safer path, one that’s been judged to be true with no tricks or discrimination. They value practicality, straight-forwardness and equality. They’ll work tirelessly to achieve the greater good, whatever that good may (or may not) be, without any expectations for recognition.

In sum: The Harry Potter houses/ sorting represent the traits you value the most rather than those you represent and the 4 houses are open to interpretation.

 

 

 

No Tomorrow TV Show Review

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My goal for this blog was to only review things that had finished or when I had completely finished them. So for example, I haven’t reviewed the show X-files on this blog yet, despite being a HUGE fan, because I have still to watch the last movie and the recent revival episodes. Which brings me to this post. I’m breaking tradition (well, it was a burgeoning tradition at least) and reviewing a show that is currently still airing. I’ve decided that I can always write more reviews on the show as it airs, if that makes any sense. So today’s topic of review, is the TV show No Tomorrow.

No Tomorrow actually popped up on my Netflix and seemed curious. I googled it and was surprised to discover that it was actually rated quite highly, both among TV critics and normal viewers. With nothing to lose and a bit to gain (I had been lacking in having a show to watch when bored or eating), I decided to take the plunge and watch it.

Broadly speaking, the show is about a woman named Evie, played by Tori Anderson, who discovers that her dream man is an end-of-days nut. Xavier, played by Joshua Sasse, is convinced that the apocalypse is “nigh” and that in about 8 months, an astroid will hit Earth and the world will end. He claims to have done the math and in an effort to live life to the fullest, before everyone inevitably dies, he lives his days fulfilling his “apocolyst.” Basically, the list contains everything he’s ever wanted to do (which includes both having adventures but also owning up for his past regrets). Although Evie is rightfully initially kinda creeped out by Xavier, she eventually comes around and gets inspired to create her own apocolyst. Which, as she points out, doesn’t necessarily mean that she believes the world is going to end. Along with Evie and Xavier, the show also features an ensemble of unique, funny and great supporting characters.

There’s Hank, played by Jonathan Langdon, who is Evie’s best friend (along with being the best friend of Evie’s ex-boyfriend) and is himself an end-of-days paranoid. Except, his end-of-days theory doesn’t involve an astroid; it involves the Russians bombing the world and the world leaders saving themselves (in a bunker in which Hank is determined to get into). There’s Kareema, played by Sarayu Blue, who is Evie’s co-worker and friend and lives a very exciting life (consisting of partying wildly, having her own pansexuals group, and generally being cool). Kareema, doesn’t believe in the end-of-days either, but she is intrigued by the idea of an apocolyst and starts her own (although her’s contains stuff like helping others LOL). There’s also Evie’s ex-boyfriend Timothy, played by Jesse Rath, who is a published columnist and has a difficult time with getting over Evie and entering the dating pool again. And finally there’s Deidre, played by Amy Pietz, who is Evie’s boss who has a major crush on Hank but has difficulty expressing it because of corporate rules (Hank works in the same place).

Firstly, I actually really like the diversity in the show. It could definitely be more diversified through the inclusion of more people of colour, but in general, it’s actually nice to see. You have three white characters and then three people of colour (Hank is black, Kareema is South Asian I think and Timothy is mixed). And the best part, in my opinion, is that their race doesn’t significantly alter their characters. In other words, their characters are completely normal and not stereotyped; you can easily imagine them being a different ethnicity. Often, I find that when shows include people of colour, the characters are stereotyped to an extent. So for example, within The Big Bang Theory, you have Raj, who is stereotyped as Indian through the usage of an exaggerated Indian accent and shown as having the least luck with women. Similarly, in Glee, the token black girl (Mercedes) was characterized as being sassy while the asian characters (Tina and Mike) were depicted as nerds. These stereotypes are harmful, annoying, and over-used. Not all Indians have an accent or have trouble with dates. Not all black girls are sassy and not all asians are nerds. People of colour are people, normal people like everyone and No Tomorrow makes that clear.

On that note, the characters themselves are pretty interesting and dimensional, for the most part. Evie is incredibly relatable. A nice girl trying to get through life, but who also keeps strict boundaries for herself. For example, she doesn’t party often, doesn’t interrupt people and sticks to the status quo. However, through the help of Xavier and her apocolyst, she grows and learns to let go of some of her boundaries while keeping others and recognizing their importance. In other words, she doesn’t completely change herself for or because of Xavier. She does it for herself, through a little pushing from other characters sometimes. Similarly, Xavier isn’t just some maniac, free-spirited, fun loving guy. He’s more grounded than that. He realizes that the world sees him as crazy and that not all of his ideas are really great ideas. That said, due to the limited amount of screen time for the other supporting characters, their characters do have the tendency to come across as one-dimensional at times. For example, Evie’s boss Deidre sort of fits into the box of the intimidating boss lady who struggles to be vulnerable; key word being ‘sort-of.’ Similarly, Timothy comes across as a sort of typical insecure geek at times. He writes for a tech magazine and is a published columnist but still struggles when it comes to asking girls out. Although, I do think it’s necessary to point out that he’s only like that sometimes. In other words, he doesn’t always easily fit into the mould of an insecure geek and actually goes out and does other stuff as well. Kareema and Hank fall into similar categories as well. The characters are pretty dimensional, but suffer from a lack of screen time in developing their dimensionality (is that even a word LOL?). Yet, they are still understandable and enjoyable to watch

And finally, I quite enjoy the story. It definitely has it’s cliche romantic-comedy moments, but it also goes in other unexpected directions. For example, after being broken up, Evie and Timothy end up matching on a soul-mate app. Both of them wonder if this is a sign. In other sitcoms, you can easily expect to see three scenarios: 1. Evie and Timothy take this as a sign and end up together again 2. Timothy rejects Evie which makes her reconsider their relationship 3. Evie rejects Timothy again which sends him downwards. All three are common tropes I’ve witnessed in other shows. However, they don’t happen in the show. Instead, the show subverts a cliche moment and then undergoes a different one. In other words, it has some cliche moments but not others.

On the whole, I’m quite enjoying watching this show. The only thing that sucks, is that currently only 5 episodes have aired and hence the story and characters are still developing. Well actually, the latter isn’t that bad at all. It’s just the limited amount of episodes that sucks. I’m very excited for the show to resume and for more episodes to be produced and to see what happens next!

My rating: go watch it for a fun, light hearted romantic comedy with a twist!

The Invisible Library Book Review

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Although this book was published in 2015, my library only acquired it in, or at least displayed it, in the middle of 2016. Right away, the beautiful navy and gold cover caught my eye. However, it was actually the small blurb on the back cover that convinced me that this was a book I had to read, at all costs. In essence, the book is about a young woman named Irene, who is actually “a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all the different realities.” I don’t know about you all, but growing up, there were two careers I was really drawn towards: being a spy (hey Charlie’s Angels) and being a librarian (a dream almost every book lover has had — like forreal). Although I recognize that there’s no hope of me achieving either of those careers, it’s been difficult to discard that dream. And then comes along this book, that literally speaks to me in my soul (AKA gets my dream). Unfortunately, my need to read this book had to wait a while because other people were faster than me and borrowed it from the library before I could. Anywho, I finally got my hands on it this week and I’m super ready and excited to review it.

The book starts with an introduction to Irene. We see her on a book retrieving mission and get to understand what it is that she does, i.e. understand what her job entails. We’re also introduced to the Library; albeit this introduction is short and shallow. The book then moves onto the real adventure, i.e. another book retrieving adventure. After finishing her initial book job, Irene arrives back to the Library only to find out that she’s been given a new mission and a new protege, Kai. As the book is mainly from her POV, we don’t really know too much about Kai, aside from what Irene knows, which itself isn’t that much. Kai claims to be from an alternate reality and has been studying to become a Librarian (Irene’s official position is junior Librarian) for five years. He’s been itching to go on real fieldwork but he’s also quite mysterious when it comes to his past and behaviours. Regardless, Irene and Kai travel to another reality to retrieve the book they were assigned. However, when they get to the alternate dimension, it turns out that the book has already been stolen and that there’s also a lot of other people out to get it. So the two have their work cut out for them. That’s the basic, very, very basic gist of the story. Of course a lot of shit happens, but I’m refraining from writing it all down because I’d like it to be a nice surprise for readers when they read the book. That said, I will discuss some of the other aspects of the book, namely the characters and story.

Irene, as I’ve already mentioned, is the main character in this book. She’s actually pretty awesome. She’s very smart, witty, cool, nice, and an all around chill person. Basically, she’s everything you’d want your protagonist to be. But I’d also argue that she’s far more complex and quite relatable. For one thing, while she’s not completely confident about her abilities, she does in fact have confidence in them. She knows what she can do and she works hard on maintaining her abilities and acquiring new ones. She’s not a passive character at all. I also quite enjoyed her thought processes. In one passage, she remarks upon the trying position of being a leader. Usually, (even in books), people assume that being a leader means that you are in control of the situation, that you are confident in your abilities and those of your team, that you have an idea or two of what you’re doing, that you believe in your decisions and have knowledge to back them up. But in reality, it’s often the opposite. Having been in leadership positions, I have first hand felt the insecurity and fear that crops up when you have to make decisions or lead a group of people. Often times, you’re not even sure if the decision you’re taking is the right one. And there’s also the difficulty of trying to pretend like you know everything will be alright. Plus, whenever something goes wrong (something always does LOL), it’s on your head alone. It’s not the easiest job in the world. Or as Irene puts it, “A leader’s job was a crock of shit” (129). As the sentence also implies, Irene’s way of thinking is both fresh and relatable. Another characteristic of hers I really liked, was her way of dealing with her former commander, Bradamant. Bradamant is not the nicest of characters and when on missions with younger students, she tended to take all the credit and blame the students for any mistakes. Irene experienced this first hand so obviously she had some resentment toward Bradamant. But, as some of you can probably relate, resentment doesn’t necessarily mean hatred or indifference. And this is exactly what Irene experiences and remarks upon. When Brandamant is in danger, Irene cares, even if she doesn’t understand why she does. After all, the woman basically tried to ruin Irene’s career and yet Irene tries to help her even if she doesn’t want to (heart vs. mind). I found that instance just so understandable and relatable, having gone through such conundrums myself. Human emotions are so complex and being able to see them and understand them through the lens of fictional characters, is just something else. For me, it really helps me appreciate the complexity and the absurdity of our feelings. Irene was a really well thought-out character.

What I also quite enjoyed, was that despite being the main character, Irene was not always the one solving the entire mystery or noticing strange things. Okay well, disclaimer: she does end up solving the end of the mystery, but the blanks and other parts of it are filled in by others. One character who played such a role, was detective Vale. Unlike Irene and Kai, Vale was actually a resident of the alternative reality the two characters journeyed to. He gets entangled into their affairs as the story goes on and actually does quite a bet of deductive work. The author’s biography stated that the author was into Sherlock Holmes as a child, and I think Vale’s character is a reflection of that. He’s very perceptive and notices minute details. If anything, I’d have to say that at times, he was actually a better investigator than Irene as she had the tendency to get lost in her thoughts and forget to surveil her surroundings. Vale’s character also sort of functioned as proxy for readers as he often posed questions about the Library and the general book world to Irene. It is through his questions and reasoning that we get a glimpse into the workings of the library (along with Irene’s thoughts). While I did appreciate that, for me, Vale also sort of fell short as a character. I’m not quite sure if this was Genevieve Cogman’s goal, but Vale came across as your stock, oldish/middle aged English detective. He came from a reasonably well-off family but pursued detective-hood (?), has a nice house with lots of books, is friends with the police, is very knowledgeable about the seedy underbelly of his alternative dimension, and is often on guard. Maybe I’ve been reading too many Hercule Poirot (Agatha Christie) books or watching too much Elementary (hello Sherlock Holmes), but Vale just came across as so stereotypical. Mind you, it’s not a terrible thing. It’s just sort of predictable. But part of me wonders if this was done purposefully. I mean, this is a book about libraries and books and it would be pretty much in character (LOL) to introduce and use the trope of the typical detective. I mean, Irene even remarks upon her affinity for detective novels and characters when thinking about Vale. So maybe it was just Genevieve Cogman being ironic? Not sure but just something to think about I guess.

On the topic of predictable, we also have Kai functioning as the arch-type sidekick to Irene. Whenever she needs help, he’s there to lend a hand. She bounces ideas off him. He challenges her with his ideas (though they aren’t always right LOL). He’s referred to as her assistant in the back book blurb and he just functions as that. Although he’s also sort of mysterious (actually, it’s not that mysterious because Irene, being a sharp little cookie she is, manages to uncover his secret pretty quickly so when the truth does come out, she’s not that shocked and nor is the reader), he’s also quite predictable. But again, just like there was nothing wrong with Vale being predictable, there’s nothing wrong with Kai being predictable. And to be honest, I quite enjoyed having Kai around. A lot of the times, at least with mystery, adventure novels (at least some of the more popular ones), the main character is usually a boy who is a dynamic hero with some other sidekicks, or the main character is a girl who transforms from a damsel in distress to a warrior through the help of some other characters. But here, the main character is a woman, who is self assured, confident, and smart. She’s able to figure out things on her own and can save herself. Instead, the male protagonist functions as a side kick, who learns from her and even gets saved by her. He respects her and her mind and understands her authority. I just, I found it a nice change and quite inspiring as well. We need more women protagonists like Irene; smart, complex, and flawed.

Now coming to the story. If you haven’t been able to glean from my review, the world building in this novel is complicated. Briefly put, the Library exists in this timeless (?) dimension with doors leading to other alternate realities. These other alternative realities are all different realities of Earth, but they have different laws governing them. For example, there were worlds that combined magic and technology (aka Cyborgs and other machinery). There were worlds that focused strictly on magics like necromancy, spells, and gargoyles. There were worlds without any magic (aka our version of Earth). And then among the various possibilities that existed, there were worlds that were “chaos-infested” which meant that the balance between magic and natural order tipped toward magic resulting in the creation and sustenance of supernatural beings (vampires, fairy folk, werewolves) and magic alongside other non-magical humans. Sometimes, these parallel dimensions also had different histories, resulting in different historical events. So for example, in the alternative London Irene and Kai travel to, India functions as a trader partner to the British rather than being colonized by them. So basically, a very complicated premise, well depending on how you see it. Personally, I quite enjoyed the world building as I’m a huge fan of fantasy. But at the same time, I was definitely a little confused at times when it came to trying to understand this new world/ dimension idea. Maybe I just need things to be a little bit more spelled out for me.

However, despite the complicated world, I really enjoyed the sense of adventure that the novel presented. As mentioned earlier, the novel, in essence, is about the adventure Irene and Kai go on in order to complete their mission of retrieving the book they were assigned. I had a lot of fun reading the book (and imagining myself as a professional book spy LOL). And it also helps that Genevieve Cogman is a pretty good writer. I was able to imagine quite a few scenes very easily and I very much enjoyed how her writing steered clear of overly complicated descriptions (it was already complicated enough LOL!) and stuck to describing things in an easy-to-imagine manner. Particularly, I quite enjoyed how she didn’t really ascribe her characters to a specific race (or maybe that might just be my ignorance?). It really helped me imagine the characters any way I wanted and helped me get into the skin of Irene (although the fact that she was described as being 5’9 kinda made me sad haha). And finally, I’m a huge fact of the fan that Genevieve Cogman plans on making this a series and continue fleshing out the characters she introduced in this book (or at least I hope for the latter!). I’m really excited to see how she gets back to this world and what new adventures await the two/ trio, along with how the other mysteries posed near the end of the book get solved!

My rating: definitely read it if you love books, like adventure, enjoy mystery novels, and want to be inspired by  a cool female protagonist!

Views on Liberal Arts Degrees

Okay, so firstly, sorry for the long absence. Well, actually, it wasn’t that long but it feels pretty long. I’ve missed blogging but due to a lack of time, lack of inspiration, and general over-abundance of writer’s block, I haven’t been able to write anything worth sharing. I’m attempting to remedy this by just diving in and forcing myself to post. So without further ado, let’s get into this.

Today, I’m gonna talk about college degrees and my views on them; specifically liberal arts degrees. Liberal arts degrees, for those of you who don’t know, are degrees that fall under the humanities (philosophy, literature), social sciences (political science, geography), and formal sciences (math, statistics) categories. In other words, it encompasses a broad variety of subjects. Yet, despite this large variety, liberal arts degrees are constantly being shafted when it comes to reputation. In other words, compared to the many other degrees you can earn, liberal arts degrees are looked down upon. I remember while growing up, many parents would often talk about how liberal arts degrees were useless. The common complaints were always that a) they didn’t equip you with a job b) you didn’t really learn any specialized skills c) they were easy so by virtue of that, they were useless. Yet, despite these criticisms, I actually never really listened to them. My interests were always geared toward subjects that fell into the liberal arts arena. So when I went off to college, predictably, I went into the liberal arts stream.

My time in college was pretty fun. I really enjoyed what I learned and I ended up making some good friends. But even during my time there, the talk about how liberal arts degrees are useless remained behind me like a shadow. School faculties, at least the one at my college, are incredibly competitive. Each faculty likes to think that they’re better than the others. And often, this led to faculties trying to rip the other down (in jest usually LOL). In the case of liberal arts then, the other faculties always repeated what I’d heard as a young girl (no job, no skills, too easy). So no matter how much I tried to ignore the sayings, they were always there. As I’ve now graduated and actually experienced just what a liberal arts degree entails, I feel like I’m pretty well equipped to write on them. And as this is my blog, I also feel pretty confident in posting my views on them. On that note, I always have trouble talking about things that are personal and as this is a subject I feel quite personal about, this post, at least from this point onward, will probably be structured quite haphazardly. So I apologize in advance.

Firstly, it is kinda difficult to find a job with a liberal arts degree. Especially when you compare a liberal arts degree to a more practical discipline. For example, a person who trained as an accountant or plumber would perhaps more readily find employment than a person who studied geography. But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t find jobs with a liberal arts degree. I’ve noticed, regardless of study, a lot of jobs are dependant upon networking, or knowing the right people. This is especially consequential when it comes to liberal arts degrees. The fact of the matter is that tons of people take liberal arts degrees. Literally, in my college alone, liberal arts made up the largest faculty. Because it was so diverse in its course list, liberal arts majors tended to be in the thousands. And when you have so many people who compete for the same jobs, there’s bound to be difficulty. But, I don’t think this means that liberal arts degrees don’t equip you with jobs. Sure, the jobs might not be waiting for you as soon as you graduate, but there are jobs. Also, on the other hand, liberal arts co-ops literally equip you with jobs. So many of my friends have been able to land great positions that work well with their liberal arts degree through their co-op work and experience. And sometimes, you don’t even need the co-op. As mentioned before, networking is incredibly important when it comes to employment. Many of my friends, just be virtue of having volunteered and making themselves known to their supervisors, have been able to score great positions in various companies. So I think the criticism that liberal arts degrees don’t equip you with jobs isn’t necessarily accurate. I think it’s a gross over-inflation of the issue. I think a more relevant criticism would be that liberal arts degrees don’t always stress the importance of networking when it comes to employment. I remember in my undergrad, we were always told that there were an abundance of jobs we could pursue. And it’s true, there are many career paths you can take with a liberal arts degree. But we weren’t told exactly how to get to those chose (i.e. network). And so when students graduated without exactly learning how to network, they probably struggled to understand why they didn’t land jobs right away (which is probably where the first criticism came from).

Secondly, liberal arts majors do learn specialized skills. Our specialized skills might not exactly be practical things like doing surgery or repairing a heater, but we do learn some skills nonetheless. One of the skills I learned, was the art of writing. I don’t think many people realize just how nuanced the english language and writing in general is. A single word can literally change what a paragraph is saying. Which relates to another thing my fellow liberal arts majors and I were taught: how to analyze passages for nuances. Analyzing things is one of my favourite hobbies (which is another reason why I review things), because it often feels like uncovering a mystery. You can take apart anything a person has written and look for the subliminal clues or messages. This is especially prevalent in mystery stories and Shakespeare’s writings (his sonnets feel like a mind-fuck!). And finally, we’re taught to research. Researching may seem like an ordinary thing anyone can do. And actually, it is an ordinary thing anyone can do. But we’re taught to be thorough and quicker than the average person. Which perhaps may not seem like much, but definitely adds up when it comes to writing under a deadline or in the public eye. And these three skills are just typical liberal arts degree skills. The various majors actually specialize in far more different things. For example, in philosophy, you’re able to critically think about the most abstract ideas, which is an incredibly useful skill when it comes to businesses. And although these specialized skills probably seem like things the general population already possesses, it’s actually not true. You’d be surprised at the number of people who cannot logically follow an argument or express their thoughts in a few succinct words. Communication skills are an incredibly important skills set to possess and liberal arts degrees teach them to the point of mastery. So liberal arts degrees do teach specialized skills. If anything, I think a more relevant criticism would be on the mastery of these skills. Unlike in other disciplines where everyone has to reach a certain level of skill proficiency, liberal arts majors tend to have a lower standards. For example, to be a surgeon, you need to have good surgical skills to even qualify. Yet, when it comes to liberal arts degrees, you just need not to fail in order to graduate. This results in a disparity among graduates, where some possess superior specialized skills whereas others possess a minimal amount. And I mean, I kinda get that the whole example isn’t necessarily relevant as surgery is more important that writing and communication skills. But I still think that there should at least be a higher standard.

Which brings us to my last point, the difficulty level of a liberal arts degree. Because of the sheer variety of a liberal arts degree, it’s incredibly dependant on interpretation. How you interpret something is the backbone of how you understand something, how you write about it, and how you think about it. So when it comes to the difficulty level of a liberal arts degree, it’s dependant on interpretation and how well you can communicate that. As such, it’s also a very relative issue. Some people can find liberal arts degrees to be very easy while other can find them very difficult, depending on what their strengths and weaknesses are. From my experience, it’s easy to pass and get mediocre grades under liberal arts majors, but incredibly difficult to excel. And this goes back to what I said earlier about standards and interpretation. Unlike in other practical courses where there is an explicit right or wrong answer, liberal arts degrees focus more on what could the answer be. In other words, the best right answer is the one that interprets logically and manages to defend its interpretation through excellent communication skills. Whereas a less right answer, but a right one nonetheless, is the one that interprets somewhat logically and manages to somewhat defend its interpretation. And a wrong answer, is one that interprets incorrectly and fails to defend its interpretation. As you can probably surmise, failing in liberal arts degree is a pretty rare phenomenon because even someone with the most rudimentary communication skills can pass through having the right interpretation and vice versa. So I’m at odds with the criticism that claims that liberal arts degrees are easy. Just because failure is a rare option, I don’t think that it means that completing a liberal arts degree is easy. Even if you look at it from the technical side of things, it’s not necessarily that effortless. During exam season, students are expected to write 3000 or 10 page research essays for each class they take, all due within the span of a week. Which can mean that you have to write five essays all due within a week and all with a prep time of a shared two weeks. It requires a lot of hard work, effort, and determination to finish so many essays and achieve good grades on them. In other words, it’s not that easy.

In sum: Criticisms on liberal arts degrees are vastly over-inflated and often miss the real issues like the lack of importance on networking and the lack of a high standard.