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Brad Sherwood


Welcome to the first entry in the Orwell Project! Those of you who follow me on twitter may have seen my brief tweets whilst reading the first book on the list, and you may have noticed that my opinions were less than positive. I go into every book with an open mind and aim to give each of them a fair chance, as I did with the Sparkle Project (yes, really), and what better way to start off my exploration into the new dystopian YA craze than with what is arguably the biggest success story of the post-Hunger Games market.


Read more... Spoilers within.Collapse )

Next time on the Orwell Project: I honestly have no idea. I’m waiting on a few books arriving from the library so I will update this entry when I have more information, or post it on Twitter (@Ceilidhann).

After the Games - The Orwell Project

Feist

The Summer I began the Sparkle Project, my YA review venture into the world of Twilight inspired paranormal romance and its reoccurring problematic elements, saw the release date for the 3rd and final book in the wildly popular Hunger Games series, Mockingjay. I must admit that it took me far too long – until this February, just before the movie was released – to read The Hunger Games, and that was for a number of reasons. One, I have become pretty averse to hype in young adult literature due to having been immersed in it for almost two years now. Two, I was extremely annoyed by publishers heavily promoting a YA series once again through a Team [insert man here] strategy, dumbing down any complexities the series and its heroine may have into one rehashed love triangle. And three, I’m a huge dystopian fiction fan. The Handmaid’s Tale proudly sits on the list of my all-time favourite books. When a writer of particular skill or imagination tackles the topic of a twisted society, the results can be extraordinary, eliciting genuine fear and understanding from the reader, and reminding us a little too much of the possibilities that could spring from our own world. I know I’m not the only one who viewed the recent contraception debate in America and thought about Offred. The jargon of these novels have entered everyday language, from Newspeak to Big Brother and beyond. It’s not hard to see why the genre is so alluring to readers of all ages.

So why has it become so popular in YA? In my opinion, part of that has to do with the excitement element. There’s just a whole lot more happening in dystopian YA novels than most of the romance centred paranormal reads that have dominated the bookshelves and continue to do so. The possibilities are endless. Whereas the paranormal romances present a somewhat fetishized image of love conquering all, dystopian fiction offers something else; tough decisions, although the same heightened emotions are there. These novels also have strong connections to contemporary socio-political commentary, acting as mirrors to the world they inhabit. Of course, there’s also romance. While PNR presents forbidden love surviving the boundaries of mythology, dystopian pushes romance head first into societies that forbid it. The role of romance still plays a heavy part in the marketing of these novels in a similar manner to the Team Boy publicity that I oh so despise, because it’s still profitable. Whether it appeals to me or not, there’s something appealing to the demographics about forbidden love in all its forms, and this is a new outlet for it. Given the rumblings that Suzanne Collins was asked to add more of the pointless love triangle element into her series by the publishers, I can’t help but feel as if we’re stuck in a rut, even if we have moved on from sparkles. I have found myself disappointed with the dystopian YAs I have read so far (Delirium, Wither, Enclave and The Pledge), but this fad still has some steam left, so I am announcing my new blog venture:

 After the Games: The Orwell Project. 

(Thanks to Paige for the name suggestion).

I have picked 10 dystopian YA novels that have received varying levels of publicity, acclaim and commercial success. Some of you may notice that a few notable novels are missing, which is explained in the rules below. I have reviewed each of these novels and will include mention of them throughout the various discussions. I also wish to note that this project will not take on the same form as the Sparkle Project. I’m afraid my days of snarky recaps are over. I am extremely grateful for every view and comment these reviews received, and if it wasn’t for them I would not still be blogging today. However, I’ve grown as a reviewer since then and feel the more straightforward analytical approach would work best here. Besides, I wouldn’t want to subject you all to the pain that is my attempts to be funny! If you wish to read along with me, that would be great!

Rules:

·         Each book must have been published post-Mockingjay.

·         The book must either be a stand-alone or the first in a series.

·         It must have been advertised, hyped or otherwise described in terms of being the next Hunger Games, or a twist on the novel, or any sort of emphasis on its dystopian elements.

·         It must be something I have not read before.

The list of books I shall be reading, in no particular order, are as follows:

·         Divergent (Veronica Roth)

·         Matched (Ally Condie)

·         Glow (Amy Kathleen Ryan)

·         The Selection (Kiera Cass)

·         Shatter Me (Tahereh Mafi)

·         Legend (Marie Lu)

·         Possession (Elana Johnson)

·         XVI (Julia Karr)

·         Eve (Anna Carey)

·         Blood Red Road (Moira Young)

I have not yet compiled my dystopian bingo card to accompany each review, but I will provide one as soon as possible. Each review will be posted simultaneously on my blog and my LiveJournal page, then will be added to GoodReads at a later date. Stay tuned for my first review – Divergent by Veronica Roth – next week! 

Shameless plug time!

Feist
Have you ever wanted to combine your passion for angrily tearing apart badly written fan-fiction BDSM porn with the British democratic process? Look no further!

Ed Miliband reviews 50 Shades of Grey!

I need to go hide my Labour membership card so nobody tries to cut it up now. Enjoy!

Happy non-denominational holiday fun fest!

Doctor Who
I'll write a longer, sappier and more pretentious post for my 2011 summary but for now, I shall simply say that I wish all of you a very merry Christmas. I shall never be able to repay you all for everything you've done, especially regarding the whining and pathetic existential crises of confidence that have made up the vast majority of this year's entries. You're all so lovely and I love & appreciate every single comment I've received from you all. Those kind words and bags of humour, support and love have meant the world to me. 

So to give you all a laugh, here's a photo of me during Xmas 1995. Ah, that fringe.




My top 5 films of 2011.

Amelie
I can't sleep, I'm too emotional and I'm resisting the temptation to read the remaining 5 mini-cakes in the box next to my bed. I need a distraction and The Hollywood Reporter gave me one (no, I'm not in this one.) The serious lack of women in directorial positions in film is of no big surprise to me or anyone else. Even this year, where we have a brilliant selection of women directing films, is evidence of the studio system being run primarily by straight white guys, with women directors taking to the indie route to get their films made. The Hollywood Reporter's round-table of directors this year featured no women and when the topic was brought up, most danced around the subject. So, to save my twitter followers from the pain of my spamming, I've decided to put together some videos, pictures and facts on female directors. I hope you enjoy it. Please comment with further facts and people I may have left out!


Pretty picspam ahead!Collapse )


I just know I've forgotten some big name female director in this entry so please feel free to contribute with your favourites. I'd love to hear some opinions on the state of the film industry in terms of gender politics, be it the people making the films or the content they present. 

The dissertation of doom!

Brad Sherwood
I frequently make reference to my dissertation on twitter (by which I mean I panic and complain a lot) and all the things related to it that only I find fascinating. More and more people have been asking about it and my advisor gave me the go-ahead to actually begin properly writing the thing (EEK!) so I thought I'd stick this info dump here, taken from an e-mail sent to one of my twitter friends who wanted some more details. I got carried away.

Read more...Collapse )


Why I am done with Keith Olbermann.

Feist
I can't believe I'm even bothering to address this but here it goes. Last night, I live-tweeted Countdown with Keith Olbermann, something I have done on and off for roughly 2 1/2 years. Countdown is the show that inspired my passion for politics. Olbermann's commentary was what lead me to discover Rachel Maddow. It made me want to know more about the injustices of the world. I dare say it was one of the driving forces behind me becoming so heavily involved in the politics of my own country, going so far as to join a part and hope to actively campaign. I can't deny the impact it's had on me. It's also given me the best group of friends I could ever hope to have. I haven't always agreed with Olbermann. Sometimes I've been actively angry at him. However, even during those times, I saw him as someone willing to engage with his audience and learn from his mistakes. Once, me and some of my friends managed to get him to apologise for using transphobic attitudes towards Ann Coulter, something he has not done since then. I try to be vocal about my criticisms of people I respect because I think it's important to hold them accountable when they make mistakes. They're supposed to be better than pettiness. They're the vocal voice of a movement or opinion and they must be articulate. It's a big job but he's been doing it so well for so long. The jokes about his ego and such are all well known but I firmly believe in his message and defended him for many things.

Then he blocked me on twitter today.

I understand the sheer teacup storm nature of this topic and I know how silly it is to be so upset over something as insignificant as a twitter block, but when someone you've practically idolised for years, someone you can say genuinely had an indelible impact on your life, actively decides to push you aside, it bloody hurts. My friends consoled me and wondered if it was a technical glitch, as twitter is so fond of falling victim to. Some friends, and other people who I have never spoken to before, asked about it, and the answer was confusing:

"you don't insult my friends - by last name - on twitter."

I honestly had no idea what he was referring to. I checked my tweets and wondered if he was referring to a tweet where I'd commented on former congressman Alan Grayson's hair (which was never intended as an insult), or possibly my discomfort over using Olbermann's show as a platform to ask for political donations. Then more tweets revealed this:

"she addressed him as "Lewis""

The Lewis in question is Richard Lewis, the comedian. My tweet being mentioned here is this:

"What do Bachmann's looks have to do with it, Lewis? #Countdown"

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann's physical appearance was mentioned in one of Lewis's comments, which I found unfair since it's unfair and extremely misplaced to emphasise style over substance in politics, especially in regards to women, who have faced such discrimination for so long. I never followed up on this tweet except for a couple replies to friends, and my tweet wasn't meant as some malicious insult to Lewis. Olbermann's justification for blocking me came here again in another reply to a friend of mine:

"Just the last name is far more insulting than just the first. We're done here."

This is new to me. I've always been told that it's ruder to refer to someone you don't know by their first name, since it adds an edge of condescension to the equation, and with twitter, tone is so hard to grasp sometimes. Countdown is a political show and it's commonplace, or at least it is in UK, to refer to political figures by their surnames. I do it all the time and I know I'm not the only one. 140 characters requires brevity. The choice of surname wasn't meant as some damning critique of Lewis, nor was it meant as the insult of the century. Besides, Olbermann refers to someone by their surname a few tweets earlier. Maybe it's only rude if you're British:

https://twitter.com/#!/KeithOlbermann/status/141677694415937537

So what do I have to say to this all? Honestly, I'm more confused than anything else right now, but there's some undeniable sadness and anger. Mr Olbermann, I think what you did was extremely petty. Not just blocking me but blocking anyone who you construe as disagreeing with you or daring to question you. I understand that you must get a lot of extremely insulting and possibly threatening messages every day and I can't imagine what it's like to deal with that, but your actions here are downright confusing at best. I've supported you and your show for so long, even during times when you were heavily criticised, because I stood firm in my belief that you stood up for what was right. But I'm done now. I'm not going to creep around on egg-shells for you or anyone else. I believe in the power of words and the responsibility that comes with them. If you think I'm being some sort of bully for using someone's surname then maybe you should think about the impact you have when you refer to a network as a "political whorehouse" or a female commentator as "a mashed up bag of meat with lipstick" or when one of your guests calls a rape accusation "hooey" or when a frequent guest on your show says, in reply to GOP's false equivalences over violent rhetoric "Well, I think that's what they said about the burning of the Reichstag, if I recall correctly." Practice what you preach, Mr Olbermann. I call you that because it's polite. So I'm done.

I also vote.

Do you want an Xmas card?

Mock the Week
Of course you do! Snail-mail is amazing because you can't put stickers on an e-card!

Comments will be screened so please leave your name and address in the comments below and wait patiently by your door for a lovely card with my semi-presentable handwriting and some non-Xmas themed stickers. 

Also, completely unrelated to snail-mail and such but I've got a lot of free space on this entry to fill and nobody comments here anyway, but I'm thinking about giving political writing a try, just to amuse myself at first but maybe trying to submit it to a few blogs later. This will inevitably end badly since my political tweets are rambling at best and my own confidence in my writing skills has declined recently due to getting only 64% on my latest essay (and not being able to read my tutor's handwritten notes) but I'm getting sick of Blairites clogging up the field and my vengeful side wants to even things out a little. Anyone know how the hell I'd go about researching how to do this properly? 

That was a stupid comment, wasn't it? Here's some painfully early Xmas music.


Lie down on the couch...

Spirited Away
What with the first semester of my final year quickly coming to a close and the rest of my life approaching on the horizon, I've been reading a lot of graduate and internship applications, trying to sort out how I move from student life to the real world. It's been interesting but mostly terrifying, but that's only when I really have the time to think about it since I have so much other stuff to do. Pretty much all of them ask for a few paragraphs on why I feel I am suitable for the position or what I hope to achieve or what unique skills and talents I could bring to the table, and I'm reminded frequently of how bad I am at selling myself on that level. I'm getting a lot of personal statement flashbacks from high school (holy crap, how was that 5 years ago?). Luckily I have more jobs and experience to fill out these things with nowadays but the sentiment is still the same. I'm just not very good at complimenting myself at the best of times unless it's sarcastically. It always feels so smug to me to do so. Not that I have an issue with others doing it, nor do I think it smug when they compliment themselves, I've just never had that much self-confidence. I have no idea what I'm getting at here, I'm a bit too frazzled to say anything entertaining. 

I'm volunteering with the higher education programme again tomorrow but this time it's with primary school kids who will be about 10 or 11, which is a new thing for me. I do enjoy doing it all and I think it's an extremely important programme, especially these days with higher education being seen more and more as something not for a specific class of people, but I don't think I'm selling the experience very well to them. The spontaneity of it all is interesting and does force me to keep thinking and on my toes but I'm sure I'd be a lot better at that if I could get a decent night's sleep. I couldn't sleep until after 6am, although this was also due to some internet worries I won't delve into, and the only reason I didn't sleep until dinnertime was because I had a student rep meeting to go to. I just can't turn my mind off any more. I don't know if it's stress from studies and such or if it's the big you-know-what threatening to rear its ugly head, but whatever the case, it's fucking me up badly and the doctor won't help. Herbal sleeping tablets don't work either, haven't done so for a long time, and googling for advice just leads to a lot of homoeopathic bollocks. I got some suggestions from twitter a couple of days ago but if you have any more I'd really appreciate them. I know there's no quick-fix solution, as much as I'd like one, but at this point in time I'm pretty much willing to try anything. The lack of a decent schedule is fucking with my studies more than the average student should have to deal with. 

I don't want to end this entry on such a downer so here's the Time Warp put to the Batman cartoon.


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