Thursday, March 26, 2015

Cosmic Cafe at the Highland Library


Dr. Stiffler came to talk to us about atomic structure and he was a phenomenal presenter! He brought a variety of hands on equipment to illustrate his points the video below is two of the teens getting to play with sound waves!

Thank you Dr. Stiffler!

Monday, March 23, 2015

GadgetJax rants about- sorry, I meant 'Reviews': Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

*Note: The following review is centralized around what is often thought of as the most successful Juvenile Fiction franchise in the market. If you like these stories, I would recommend not reading these reviews as they may cause you to a) stop reading this series, b) grow extremely angry at Jax, or c) grow a beard shaped like an anchor. Well, maybe not that last one.*

 I finally got around to reading 'Wimpy Kid 9: The Long Haul' after months of waiting for my hold on it to be processed. I thought it was fairly average. It was defenitely better than Hard Luck - my personal pick for the worst in the series - but it still had a lot of dead weight from previous titles 'Hauled' onto it. I thought that maybe it was just a thing where sequels are worse than the originals because authors run out of ideas, so I decided to go back to read the first in the series. That's when I remembered something that I know a lot of people are going to torch me for...

Diary of a Wimpy Kid was never a AAA book to start with.

No, it wasn't even like a 6 outta 10 kind of bad, but rather a really bad book. I know a lot of people call these some of the most influential titles in recent Juvenile Fiction history, but all of that is just because of the audience in mind: stubborn readers.

For anyone who hasn't read anyone of the Wimpy Kid books, Diary of a Wimpy Kid can easily be summarized as the Call of Duty of Juvenile Fiction. It was popular enough to cause so many other authors to copy and paste the same formula Kinney started just as a way of cashing in. So, let's dive in to this mosh pit of a book, shall we?

I usually start a review by looking at the positives of a book, but that's where Diary of a Wimpy Kid fails. The only quality it gets right is comedy. There are a few funny points here and there, but the rest of the comedy comes in the form of toilet humor. I know that's the kind of humor kids like most, but do you know why kids like that? Because the authors always right like that.
It's a case of the media controlling kids into believing something is cool/bad/funny/hip just because everyone else does it. That's why 70% of 5 year old girls like 'Barbie', as it's just a case of the media shoving that kind of product in the face of the consumer - but enough of this. Let's get back to the book.

The art style these books have are 'charming', but lazy. Jeff Kinney is a talented man that has had a lot of experience working on Poptropica.com, so I know he can make his illustrations much better. Goodness, even 'Dork Diaries' - a shameless rip-off of the 'Wimpy Kid' formula - has better looking illustrations than this series!
Now, I know what you're all thinking; "Oh, but Jax, you shouldn't judge a book by the illustrations in it!"
Oh, well, YES I CAN. If a book's main story is centralized around the pictures telling most of the story with snippets of dialogue between each picture, then it's fair game in my line of work. In fact, the Wimpy Kid series feels more like a comic than a book.

I've mentioned this before, but the central reason I hate these books is because of Greg Heffley. He's our main character, so I should care about him and sympathize for him and feel happy for him and all that jazz, right? No. Honestly, everyone, Greg is not only a very snooty and immature character, but the story is told from his perspective and constantly reaffirms that Greg doesn't care about anyone else. Here are little bits from the book where he messes up in being a character I should care for:

-He works on a comic strip with his friend Rowley and ends up quitting on it because he runs out of ideas, leaving all responsibility for the comic strip in Rowley's possession. Then, when Rowley gets popularity for the comic, Greg gets mad at him because he didn't credit him for it - despite the fact that Greg had no involvement in the revival of the comic strip.

-Greg tries to run for school Treasurer. His campaign posters involve nothing but insults towards the other people running for that office.

-He breaks the glasses of another character - Patty, to be exact - by throwing apples at her. The reason why is because he wanted to 'get back at Patty for stopping him from cheating on a state capital quiz.'

-He terrorizes a group of children and Rowley gets framed for it. Even worse in this instance is that Rowley ends up telling his teacher that Greg was the one who caused the problem. A quote from it: "I can't believe Rowley went and backstabbed me like that. I need to remember to give my friend a lecture about loyalty." -_-

Oh, and that's just a pinch of the problems. He does much more than this - so much, in fact, that I would have assumed Greg was the antagonist of the story if he wasn't the one TELLING the story.

Even outside of Greg's morality issues, the story revolves way too heavy on stereotypes. In my book, the only good stereotype that should ever be consistently used to a point of 99% of books making use of it is 'The Five Man Band': A trope that says that any team or group of lead characters should be comprised of 1 leader, a brainy guy, a tough guy, a rival/crush of the leader, and a team pet/friendly guy. Every other stereotype out there is bland and repetitive and really doesn't feel as fresh when everyone and their mother is making use of it. All the 'best' ones in the Trope Bible are here. "Jerk older brother", "Bullied best friend", "Teacher with no defining traits"...

Speaking of which, that's another thing. This book - despite featuring over 50 different characters - makes no attempt to try and delve into the individual personality of anyone but Greg. Why would they do that? I don't want to read a book where the only character with any individual traits is a jerk! Average teachers, average classmates, average family, the gang's all here. Whoop dee doo.

Does the term 'Wimpy' even do justice to Greg's characteristics? The defenition of a wimp is 'to show timidity or cowardice; chicken out.' Yeah, sorry Dictionary.com, but I don't think I would use that term to describe someone who chases kindergarterners around with worms stuck onto a stick. I'm not really feeling it.

Bottom line, people need to stop encouraging Kinney. The more praise the franchise gets, the less time Mr. Kinney will spend trying to ensure quality. This will result in more and more new Juvenile Fiction franchises dropping to the same level of quality as these. People need to start speaking up about this franchise and how it's ruining everyone's perspective on how to appeal to a youth audience. Maybe someday I'll write a book. If I do, I can guarantee that I'll be using Wimpy Kid for reference on what NOT to do.