Still not an update…yet

I have finally finished my graduate school applications (YAY!) and have free time to pursue personal projects again–including this site!

This is where I turn to you. I have two broad questions, and I really would appreciate if all of you could take a few minutes to answer these, either in the comments or by e-mailing me.

What do you want to see on this site? It could be something I’ve been promising to add for a long time (there are many such things) or something totally new.

Are there any questions you have about any aspect of the show that the site doesn’t already cover? (Besides “how was the show supposed to end?” because that question doesn’t have an answer. :P) Questions on characters, merchandise, plot, production…anything at all.

And general feedback is always welcome–what you like, what you don’t like, what’s broken, what rocks your world, and so on. (I just realized today that there are a ton of broken links in the image navigation section…ooops.)

As always, thank you for your feedback and your constant patience and support! I truly appreciate it!

Oh! As a quick addendum to the previous post, about racism in Avatar…it looks like Jesse McCartney is out as Prince Zuko in Shyamalan’s* Avatar film (THANK GOODNESS), and Slumdog Millionaire‘s Dev Patel is in. Though I really liked Patel in Slumdog, this still isn’t good enough, because it’s like they’re trying to appease the protestors by throwing in one token dark-skinned dude somewhere, and the good guys are still white and the (ambiguously) bad guy’s still a minority…and not even the right minority, since the Fire Nation is very obviously East Asian! Not to mention, pretty much the only other way you’ll see minorities in these films are in the form of extras with no lines. (Check out this appallingly ignorant statement from the casting director of the film. Since when do Koreans wear kimono? Oh, wait, but they all look alike, so nobody cares, right?)

* if you reference M. Night Shyamalan in your comments on this site, please do me a favor and don’t mock his name just because it’s “strange.” As unhappy as I am with his decisions as of late, both our last names are of Tamil origin and we both hail from the same region of southern India, so his name is no stranger than mine is. I cringe any time I see “Shamalamadingdong” or any variant thereof because it reminds me of all the times people either accidentally or intentionally butcher my name or just don’t feel like trying to get it right.

On race and animation

Happy New Year!

I’m taking a break from working on grad school applications (the first two are due Monday, the rest in February) to post; with any luck I can manage a website update sometime in late February or early in the spring (yikes…). I guess I didn’t have a chance to post again before 2008 ended, but that’s all right. I hope this year brings good things for all of you, and I just want to state again how grateful I am for your continued support and encouragement of this site and of me.

Anyway, moving on–there was some news (not PoDW-related, but animation-related) within the last couple of months that I wanted to bring up here. It’s a bit old now, and I didn’t really think a whole lot about it at the time, but I’ve been reading a bit about it today, and the more I think about it, the more upset it makes me.

M. Night Shyamalan is creating a trilogy of films based on Avatar: The Last Airbender. (This isn’t the problem, FYI.) I don’t know about you all, but I think this is one of the most finely crafted animated series to make it big in many years. A big part of its appeal to me was the attention to detail the creators have paid to ensuring that the Avatar universe is heavily Asian-inspired and completely faithful to the cultures it draws from. The characters’ ethnicities and clothing, the architecture, the food and drink, and the overall philosophy is rooted very heavily in Asian, Inuit, and South American traditions and styles with a twist of steampunk thrown in (the Fire Nation’s naval technology). Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino were very heavily inspired by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, and they spent years on world-building, working with people from the cultures they were trying to convey to ensure authenticity, and employed a multi-ethnic cast and crew to make this refreshingly diverse universe as solid and true as possible.

And it was fantastic: the characters are obviously internationally inspired, and they don’t play into stereotypes, the way Asian or minority characters tend to in so many TV shows and films. The characters in Avatar are normal human beings, and have attracted the attention of fans all over the world because of what a breath of fresh air it is to see the diversity that exists in our world portrayed so warmly and respectfully. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the show and trying to identify all the different world cultures they incorporated into each new episode, and they treated every single one with the utmost respect. As a 1.5-generation Indian myself (I was born in India and grew up in the US), I became really nervous when they introduced Guru Pathik, but I really had nothing to worry about–his character was solid and wonderful, and not at all an Apu-like caricature, which is how Indians have almost always been portrayed for many years in the media.

This does have a PoDW tie, actually, because the cast of PoDW is completely multi-ethnic, not just in skin color but in facial structure, accents, clothing, and more. And while the world is quite fantasy-heavy and plays with pirate legends and references, there are some undeniable ties to various countries and cultures in the designs of the characters and locales. Many of the people I’ve talked to through this site, and many of the comments I’ve seen on other sites, have pointed this out as something very positive and refreshing.

Anyway, about a month ago, the casting for Shyamalan’s Avatar films was announced–and the main characters are all white.

Read more

Coming up for air

Yikes…hello! It’s been a while. I promise I’m not dead–just very busy. Retaking the GRE, occasionally studying for level 2 of the JLPT, and working on grad school applications and my visual portfolio…plus playing catch-up at work this week because I was sick and out of the office for two days…I haven’t had a lot of time to myself lately.

I did begin some work on reorganizing some aspects of the site, and my Designy Sense (meant to sound like Spidey-Sense…pardon me, it’s been a long week) is really tingling. One thing that’s been bugging me for months is that the Mac and PC versions of the same fonts behave differently, so because of the differences in Verdana between the Mac and PC, the navigation is totally wrong on the Mac.

I’m almost tempted to attempt another redesign and try to stick it in my portfolio, though there’s the whole constraint of “pretty portfolio site” =/= “caters to all users.” Eh, we’ll see. I really wish I were a better web developer, so I could generate the content dynamically and not have to change over 50 separate HTML pages individually (did you notice that the copyright statement still says 2007? yeah…). I like to do it all myself and not rely on some generic CMS that dictates the site’s layout, too.

And I am seriously behind on my e-mails. I’m really sorry about that.

Okay, something related to the show: I was rewatching episode 1 (I created my own DVDs of the show thanks to iDVD on the Mac, which rocks) and picked up on something during the rhyme-in-runes that Alomar shows Ren.

Thirteen Treasures of Ancient Time
Thirteen Lessons of Rule in Rhyme

“Lessons of Rule.” Once that phrase registered for me, it immediately brought to mind this article, and specifically, this quote:

“Sailing in a vessel called the Wraith, Ren tries to locate “the Thirteen Treasures of Rule,” which are qualities such as perseverance, strength, grace, generosity, kindness. They are, said Kirschner, the qualities that will make Ren more qualified to take over his father’s position as king of Octopon.

Kirschner sees the story as a mirror of life and the search for the power that lies within a person.

“It’s an action-adventure that’s certainly a swashbuckler,” said Kirschner. “The story is about a boy who’s thrown into a situation beyond his control: He has to bring back the Thirteen Treasures of Rule. At the end of the story, Northern Wind touches him – and it’s his father’s voice – saying, `Come home.’ This amazing journey was not to collect these treasures, but it was what they signified. He moves that much closer to being a true ruler with the qualities it takes to preside over a people.”

I’m not sure how many of you ever did happen to see that article, but it’s a rather telling one–that quote in particular.

Hopefully I’ll post again this year, and I hope you all have a great weekend!

DragonCon parade

Very short notice, but while I (probably) won’t be at the convention, I will be at the parade this morning with my friends, wearing a b&w PoDW shirt I had made in college years ago and brown capris. (I’m Indian, too.) Come look for me!

(I’ve now broken my tradition of posting something on my birthday every year, which was yesterday. 27 years old…wow. This site’s been with me for a very, very long time.)

Attn: Atlantan and North Georgian fans

For anyone who was wondering, I will not be attending DragonCon this year. I’m done with DragonCon–it was too huge and badly managed last year, and I can’t deal with such massive crowds packed into such small spaces (the convention’s grown far too large for its host hotels)…and I think I’ve mellowed out in my geekiness much more so than the standard convention-goer. DragonCon always ends up leaving me stressed and worn out.

However, a friend and I will be checking out the parade on Saturday. That should at least be interesting–I really admire people who have a talent for crafting such intricate costumes.

Ioanna, a fellow North Georgia PoDW fan, proposed a suggestion this week: would any Atlantan/north Georgian PoDW fans be interested in an in-person group meetup? Over the years I’ve met a few other fans–friends I made through the site, fellow Georgia Tech students, or people I talked with who happened to live in cities I visited. But in all these years, a group meetup never crossed my mind. One of the goals I had for this site was to attempt to connect PoDW fans, and I haven’t done a great job of that (though granted, it’s tough with a slightly obscure show that’s been “dead” for this long), but this is a more tangible way of going about it.

If you’re interested, drop me a line or comment here! Be sure to leave your e-mail address or something so I have some way of reaching you.

Avatar: The Last Airbender – a spoiler-free review

The series finale to Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of the finest pieces of animation, emotional storytelling, and closure I’ve seen in years.

My only regret…that I don’t know other people here in Atlanta who watch the show. I had a few friends in Japan who also kept up with the show (hey, Kiet/Julie/Brian/Kam!), so we had a viewing party for the hourlong Book 2 finale, but this was a solo event for me today.

Well, actually, there are several other regrets I have that relate specifically to the show (finding one character very hard to understand, being turned off by a bit of necessary kid-friendly silliness at the beginning, and wondering why half of season 3 has now ended up becoming fluff and filler episodes with occasional character development)…the review sums them up exquisitely and delivers a stellar review.

To people complaining it was predictable–well, to a degree, yes. It’s still a kids’ show, which guarantees several differences from adult-oriented fare right there. But it was quite dark and quite deep, definitely catering to its older audiences and painting a very real and human struggle that’s far removed from the standard cliche-riddled “you shall pay for this!”-esque cartoon duels.

American TV hasn’t seen animation like this in many years.

And was the music–DONE WITH LIVE MUSICIANS FOR ONCE–amazing or what? There’s one duel in particular that wouldn’t have quite succeeded without such a strong score behind it. This violinist and music-worshiper very strongly approved! I read an interview The Track Team (the composers) had done a couple of months ago and they mentioned how excited they were to have real musicians to work with on this. It totally paid off! They’ve done a great job with this entire show, giving it a very different, organic, and worldly feel with their instrumentations and melodies.

I’ll confess: I cried. I seriously wept. I’ve become fairly emotionally invested in these characters. The journey Zuko and Iroh have taken has been particularly wonderful to watch, and I just rewatched episode 1 this week, and Aang and Katara and Sokka have grown up and matured so noticeably since then. And though people write Aang off as being boring, I really identify strongly with his struggle–like him, I also try to live a life of nonviolence and respect towards all living beings. (I’ve been a strict vegetarian for 15 years, and as an Indian, my belief structure is based in Hindu and Buddhist spiritual ideals.) The struggle he went through to reconcile his task was one that resonated with me–I truly understood how hard it was for him, being shouldered with an assignment that went against his very core. I really liked the way they resolved it.

This has a PoDW tie-in, too, because a complaint I’ve seen about Ren is that he’s too weak and wimpy (in part) because in The Game Players of Undaar, he didn’t kill Bloth off–or, through inaction, let him die–when he had the chance. To me, that isn’t cowardice, but courage and strength of character.

And speaking of resolution, I love how…final and not final the ending was. It instilled a great sense of closure, certainly, but the way they left several untied threads hanging there was done so gracefully.

Okay, this is long enough. I can’t say enough good things about it. Did any of you see it? Feel free to weigh in here–and spoilers are okay in the comments.

Input needed: renaming the site!

All right…as part of my move to bill myself as a web professional, I’m striving to present a (marginally) less geeky facade online, and to associate all online content with my real name. As a result, I’m moving away from using the name “Andorus” as an alias wherever possible–and that includes renaming my websites. “Andorus’s Hideaway” is (for now) simply, but will eventually be changed to something else.

Andorus’s Pirates of Dark Water Page,” though…I have no clue.

So, I’d like you all to tell me! What do you think would be a good new name for the site? I’d like something kind of classy, obviously related to the show, but not too over-the-top or contrived. I suck at naming stuff on my own, so any and all input would be appreciated! This site also wouldn’t exist in its current state if not for the contributions (and words of moral support) from several thousand of you all over the years, so it’s only fair to include you in the decision-making process.

Please comment here, or send me an e-mail. Thank you so much in advance!

Wikipedia entry

Thanks to Nathan for alerting me to this, and sorry I didn’t post it earlier (I was out of town and fell pretty sick while I was traveling, so I’ve been out of commission for over a week).

A guy by the name of Soetermans took it upon himself to make some major edits to PoDW Wikipedia site, deleting a lot of stuff he (and he alone) claimed doesn’t belong on Wikipedia. I think the admins intervened in the favor of the regular maintainers, but a lot of content that was once there is gone. If you have the inclination and time and aren’t averse to editing Wikipedia (some people think that’s the height of geekiness, but I think it embodies the original intent and ideals of the World Wide Web in many ways), please take a few moments to head over and add in whatever info you’re willing.

Oh, and a note to the guy who insisted in the Discussion tab (sorry, I’m not a frequent contributer and am not up on my Wiki-jargon) that Frank Welker is the only voice actor for Niddler: actually, he isn’t. I have VHS copies to prove that Roddy McDowall did do the original voice, and I swear I’ll digitize them soon so everyone can see! (Not that I’m complaining about having a social life…it just makes my online presence more incidental and less regular.)

Maybe I’ll ride this wave of guilt over letting this website just sit here and rot, and go back to my parents’ place, pick up my copies of the VHS tapes, and go to our local Indian grocery and see about having them converted. I’ve been eyeing DVD-burner/VHS decks, too, so I can just do it myself. And TVs, because those are also kind of important. ;P It’s been really nice living a TV-free existence, though I’d only be using it for movies and basic channels (reloading and searching for streaming webcasts of local weather when under a tornado warning is not ideal! But for Atlantans, does have one). I’ll figure something out soon. And maybe I’ll spend a weekend just catching up on website updates…it’s so hard when the weather’s so beautiful, though.

Wrist preservation and Facebook

God, I need to update this site so badly. I have something like a year’s worth of stuff to put up, but I guess the fact that I have an active social life is a good thing, though not so good for any of my websites. ;P And I’m trying to go easy on my hand and wrist, which have been aching lately from overuse, since I spend 40 hours/week on a computer already. I’m getting back into playing the violin seriously again, so I definitely don’t want to strain my hand as I prepare to audition for community orchestras.

Anyway, this is just to say that I’m finally loosening up a bit, raising the floodgates, what-have-you. If you’re on Facebook and you want to add me as a friend, feel free! Thank you to everyone who has tried to friend me already, and I’m truly sorry for having to turn you away before! Facebook’s customizable privacy settings have made this possible now, so I’m not broadcasting my personal contact info to every single person I add. ;P Just be sure to mention that you found my name through the site–I want to add people with whom I share some connection/commonality, and not just random folks.

(And there seem to be about 27 Facebook groups that relate to PoDW these days–besides the standard “Pirates of Dark Water” groups, there are other ones like “Replace the F-word with Noy Jitat” (ha! I love it), and a few “Classic Cartoons” groups. Take your pick!)

Japanese PoDW review

The first of the two PoDW VHS Yahoo! Japan auctions I won arrived last week (wooo!), so when I was at my parents’ house this weekend, I hooked up our VCR and checked it out. (I love how this was express-mailed and arrived in a matter of days, but the box of stuff that I shipped when I was visiting Japan in mid-March hasn’t arrived yet.) I’m mailing back and forth with the seller of the five individual episode videos, but he’s not being too flexible with my sorry-I-don’t-live-in-Japan-so-please-have-pity-on-me plea, in terms of shipping and payment; I’m concerned I may just have to give those up. Oh, well–at least I have this!

The video I received was the one I thought was “The Saga Begins” (the 90-minute edited movie version of episodes 1-5), when in fact it was the full-length Dark Water miniseries dubbed in Japanese. Sweet! It’s on a VHS, and in fair quality, but I will totally have it converted to DVD to rip clips from it. If people are interested in creating fansubs, I can help with the translations, though I’ve never done video editing myself before.

(And I will be converting my VHS copies of the English Dark Water miniseries to DVD, too. I think there’s a healthy amount of interest in what the show originally was over here. I only just realized that our local Indian grocery offers that service!)

It was surreal–it’s been quite a while since I last watched the episodes, so while I knew what would happen, I was focusing on listening for the dialogue, and it was almost like new all over again. It was a lot of fun!

Click the link below to read the full review (yes, I took notes, shut up–all about minor changes and Japanese cultural/linguistic notes).

Read more