Wednesday, June 9, 2021

The Mandalorian Review: "Chapter 5: The Gunslinger"

In this episode we meet Toro Calican, who wants to join the Guild but must capture Fennec Shand first. He asks the Mandalorian for help with capturing her, so we spend the entire episode with a character who might be the most annoying one on the show so far. I'm going to be honest with you: I'm kind of glad he dies at the end just so we don't have to see him again. While some of his confidence might be an act to cover up that he doesn't know what he's doing, his arrogance (despite being the least experienced one by far) throughout the episode led to me face palming repeatedly. Was it believable that someone like that exists? Yes. Did I want to see more of him in the future? No.

Shand, on the other hand, I found very interesting. We don't learn much about her in this episode, but she's clearly experienced and an important target for a reason, The episode ends with a mysterious figure approaching her body, which I'm assuming is foreshadowing for something, and I'm excited to see what comes of it.

By far my favorite new character in this episode, though, is Peli Motto, a mechanic who ends up becoming a babysitter for the Child. She's brash, but she comes to like the kid. It was fun seeing her not know what to do with him but also arguing with the Mandalorian about how he doesn't know how to take care of a child. It added some lightheartedness and fun to the episode. I don't know if we'll ever see her again, but I'd be excited if we did.

In terms of the larger story, I'm assuming that the big piece of foreshadowing we got was Shand and that figure we see at the end. That's definitely hinting at something, and we got so little about Shand besides her being a high profile target. With Calican dead, that's the only thing I can think of that will play into the later story, and I'm curious about the figure and what will happen. 

Book Review: You Will Get Through This Night by Daniel Howell

Published: May 18, 2021
Publisher: Dey Street Books
Read from May 18-21, 2021
Synopsis from Goodreads:

There’s a moment at the end of every day, where the world falls away and you are left alone with your thoughts. A reckoning, when the things you have been pushing to the background, come forward and demand your attention.

Written by Daniel Howell, in conjunction with a qualified psychologist, in an entertaining and personal way from the perspective of someone who has been through it all—this no-nonsense book gives you the tools to understand your mind so you can be in control and really live. Split into three chapters for each stage of the journey:

This Night - how to get through your toughest moments and be prepared to face anything.
Tomorrow - small steps to change your thoughts and actions with a big impact on your life.
The Days After - help to look after yourself in the long term and not just survive, but thrive.

You will laugh and learn—but most of all, this book will assure you that even in your darkest times, there is always hope. 

You will get through this night.

Review:

You Will Get Through This Night is a self-help book designed to give strategies to help people improve their mental help. It's separated into three sections "This Night," "Tomorrow," and "The Days After That." Each section focuses on different kinds of strategies: ones you can do immediately when your mental health is bad, ones that come after that, and ones you can continue over longer spans of time to improve your mental health. I thought that dividing the book that way was very clever.

I'm not sure if I would have picked this book up if I didn't subscribe to Dan on Youtube and watch his videos. While I read self-help books on occasion if they come across my radar, they're far from being a go to genre for me. Still, I think it's great that Dan wrote this, and he's doing great work in general with spreading awareness of mental health. I know there's a lot of cynicism when it comes to Youtubers writing books, but it's clear that Dan put a lot of work into this book. I was particularly happy that it was written with a professional psychologist who fact-checked everything that went into the book. And it's mentioned several times that these strategies aren't a cure all and to seek professional help when you need it.

Throughout the book, Dan brings up details about his life, a lot of which will be familiar to people who watch his videos, but these details always related to the message he's trying to send in a particular section. The introduction is by far the most personal section, where you get the most information about his life, and after that, the focus is on the strategies. It was nice to get those details because I think they make the book feel more accessible. Reading it, you know you're not alone, and it provides encouragement that things can get better. If someone were to pick up this book without knowing who Dan was, it would still feel accessible.

I think this is a great book to have. Everyone has moments were some or all of the strategies included could be useful. While I had heard of essentially all of them before, it's handy to have them laid out in a book like this and explained in such an easy to read style. I know it could be useful to a wide variety of people.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

The Mandalorian Review: "Chapter 4: Sanctuary"

We're doing the thing again where I write a post about an episode before editing and uploading my video about the episode that came before it. The video about "Chapter 3: The Sin" will be up in a couple of days! For now, I'm going to talk about chapter 4.

The Mandalorian and the Child end up on Sorgan. Because it's quite isolated, the Mandalorian thinks they'll be safe there, but it's too early in the season for that to be true. Something is obviously going to happen on this planet.

While this is a bit of an aside, I can't help but mention: Julia Jones guest stars in this episode as Omera. This is the only thing I've ever seen her in aside from Twilight, where she played my favorite character, so that made me especially curious about this episode and her storyline in particular. (Ironically, this episode was also directed by Bryce Dallas Howard, another Twilight actor.)

The Sorgans are being attacked by Klatooinians, so they seek help from the Mandalorian. Over the course of the episode, the Mandalorian and Cara Dune, who's also hiding out on the planet, teach the Sorgans how to fight and protect themselves. Overall, it's a nice, heart-warming story. It was especially cute seeing the Child interact with some other kids, and it's probably the most we've seen the Mandalorian actually connect with anyone (aside from the Child) since the start of the show.

However, this episode does still feel like it's progressing the story very slowly. At the end of the episode, someone has successfully tracked the Child to Sorgan, so the Mandalorian realizes they aren't safe, so they leave. Other than that, not much seems to happen that advances the plot. From what I've heard, Cara Dune will continue to play a role, so I suppose her introduction is important to the ongoing story. But other than that, this episode feels quite episodic, with most of the story's events being concluded at the end.

That's not bad, but I'm still fascinated at the slow way this story is progressing, and I'm curious about what it will lead to.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Shadowhunters Review: 3x22 "All Good Things..."

Book Review: Prejudice Meets Pride by Rachael Anderson

Publisher: HEA Publishing
Published: May 2nd, 2018
Read from May 27 to June 3, 2019

Synopsis from Goodreads:

After years of pinching pennies and struggling to get through art school, Emma Makie's hard work finally pays off with the offer of a dream job. But when tragedy strikes, she has no choice but to make a cross-country move to Colorado Springs to take temporary custody of her two nieces. She has no money, no job prospects, and no idea how to be a mother to two little girls, but she isn't about to let that stop her. Nor is she about to accept the help of Kevin Grantham, her handsome neighbor, who seems to think she's incapable of doing anything on her own.

Prejudice Meets Pride is the story of a guy who thinks he has it all figured out and a girl who isn't afraid to show him that he doesn't. It's about learning what it means to trust, figuring out how to give and to take, and realizing that not everyone gets to pick the person they fall in love with. Sometimes, love picks them.

Review:

Welcome to a review of a book that I read two years ago (and have been meaning to review since). Usually, that would mean I'm struggling to remember what happened in the book. I got so behind on the reviews of books I read around the same time as this one that I actually don't plan on reviewing a few of them because I can't remember what happened. This one is different.

Around the time I read this book, I had been working my way through an anthology of novels that I'd gotten. As it turned out, I disliked every single one of the novels in that anthology, but I powered through it anyway because... Well, I don't have a good reason, but I did. And I did review a few of those novels back when I read them, but then, reviewing them all when I disliked them so much wasn't fun, so they make up the bulk of the books that I just haven't gotten around to reviewing.

This book is the one that broke me out of the funk that came along with reading so many books I disliked back to back. At that point in time, it was the first book I'd read in a while where it was just genuinely fun to read.

As is probably obvious from the title, this book is based on Pride and Prejudice. Emma is taking care of her brother's kids for the summer, and they move next door to Kevin, a pediatric dentist. Lots of miscommunication and misunderstandings ensue.

This book is a lot of fun, and it was something I needed after a string of fantasy novels that left me banging my head against a wall. Reading Prejudice Meets Pride put a smile on my face. It's a bit cliché. You know what's going to happen, especially since it follows the basic plot of Pride and Prejudice, but it's just so fun as it does so! I enjoyed it so much that I ended up getting my sister a copy of it later in the year for her birthday present, and she said she enjoyed it to.

If you're looking for a fun, easy-to-read romance, then I'd highly recommend Prejudice Meets Pride.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Shadowhunters Review: 3x19 "Aku Cinta Kamu"

 We begin to see the consequences of Asmodeus being loose in New York City right at the start of this episode. He finds Magnus and immediately gives him his magic back, insisting that he only wants to be there for his son. Luckily, Magnus doesn't fall for that and refuses to talk with Asmodeus further. It's clear that that's not going to be the end of things though.

And it's not Magnus remembers times with Alec throughout the episode, all of which are quite sad to watch back. He even destroys a lock that they'd placed together. It's interesting that we see Magnus suffering like this but not Alec. Alec is preoccupied with saving Clary, but even so, it's clear he is upset. We just don't get to see it in the same way.

Magnus also goes to Brother Zachariah, who I was so excited to see again! I really wish we'd gotten to see him on the show more. It's a shame.

Eventually, Magnus is so worn down and vulnerable that he gives into Asmodeus, and they share a scene that would be heartwarming if different people were involved but is instead very sad and worrying.

Jace decides that he's going to pretend to be with Clary and Jonathan in order to protect Clary. Every single scene with the three of them in this episode is painfully awkward to watch. Clary has become essentially an entirely different person in a way that strike me as odd and not necessarily fitting with the idea that the rune just made her want to protect Jonathan.

I feel for Jace here because the whole thing is just painful.

Despite everything happening with Clary, Jace still manages to make time to ask Alec what's up with him and Magnus, which is the closest thing to a real parabatai moment we've gotten between them for a while. I'm glad that he was willing to make sure Alec was okay when so much else was already going on. I just hate that Alec refuses to really open up to him about it despite that Jace is supposed to be one of the people he's closest to.

Simon and Izzy continue to be interrupted before anything major can happen between them. They have a few very cute scenes in this episode though, including one where Simon learns that Izzy watched Superman. I love seeing more of them together so much.

Another scene that I really loved was Raphael showing up to apologize to Maia and Jordan. (It was strange realizing that Jordan and Raphael hadn't met before this though!) It was a nice heartfelt scene.

However, after Jordan and Maia find out about the serum, they go straight to the Institute to ask about it. I completely get how there being only one vial could turn up a lot of conflicting feelings in Maia, Jordan, and other Downworlders, but I do think that having more of the serum would be very dangerous. We don't really know what they plan to do after this though, so I'll save talking more about it until the next episode.

At the end of the episode, Isabelle manages to forge a new Glorious, which will hopefully be able to separate Clary from Jonathan. But, once again, I'll save talking about that for the next episode!

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Shadowhunters Review: 3x18 "The Beast Within"

This episode was a Halloween episode, but if I remember correctly, it didn't actually air around Halloween because they delayed the second half of the season to film the series finale. Regardless, it has some fun Halloween elements while still managing to move the story forward, which makes it a great episode.

Becky arrives at Simon's apartment in a vampire costume. She's come from Florida and wants to celebrate the holiday together. We learn here that she understands very little about the Shadow World and even thinks that Simon sleeps in a coffin. They don't seem to talk much, which is sad considering she's the only family member Simon can still talk to. It's possible they do talk and Simon just leaves out all of the supernatural elements, but even that feels sad considering they make up so much of his life.

It also seems a little odd that she didn't so much as call to tell him that she was coming but expected him to be free on Halloween. That adds to making it seem like they never talk.

Maia is back! Unfortunately, we get Jordan along with Maia. I do think the TV show handled his storyline better than the books did, but I still don't like him. And I would much rather Maia get a storyline that has nothing to do with him, especially with the end of season three becoming the series finale.

Alec sends Magnus to help Maryse at the bookstore in a thinly veiled attempt to distract him so he can contact Asmodeus. What Alec does next is really upsetting, but I love the chance to see more interaction between Maryse and Magnus.

The show has always switched up things here and there from the books, but that is particularly true at the end of season three. Alec contacting Asmodeus like he does in this episode is unlike anything that happens in the books, and it filled me with dread the first time I watched this episode. Even though Alec tries to contact Asmodeus in a way that will keep him from breaking free from Edom, it's not surprising that he manages to free himself anyway. I knew right away that seeing Asmodeus wasn't going to be a one off thing, and it's distressing to see him loose in New York City.

Alec wanting to make Magnus happy to the extent that he'll break up with him is, sadly, in character for him. I hate that he makes the decision without consulting Magnus. It's so frustrating! I feel like one Malec break up was enough for the show, and it kills me that we get two.

In happier news, Izzy has figured out a way that should break Clary's connection with Jonathan. Luke arrives just in time to be there when it happens, which makes me even happier. Unsurprisingly, Jonathan doesn't take dissolving the connection well, so it's nice that Luke and the others are there to support Clary. There's a lot of focus on her needing Jace in this and the previous couple of episodes, but I'm happy to see her getting Luke's support as well. I don't like the idea of Jace being such a huge focus in that way and sidelining the other people in her life. It's not healthy to only rely on one person.

The heavenly fire burns both Clary and Jonathan, but once the burning his over, they both still have the rune because the formula the the heavenly fire was used in was too weak. Isabelle says she can make a more potent formula. I love seeing scientist Izzy working out problems like that! It always makes me happy.

We get a parabatai moment between Jace and Alec in this episode. Alec asks Jace about a hypothetical situation involving Clary to help him make his decision about Magnus, but he doesn't explain to Jace what's actually going on. I hate that he doesn't own up to Jace and tell him the whole thing. We don't get parabatai moments between them often, and I wish that we had more of them because I'm pretty lukewarm about their relationship. We see so little of it compared to their relationships with other people. It would have been nice to see Alec completely open up to Jace there, and it's sad that he didn't. I'm not sure why both the books and TV show have such a big problem portraying their relationship. We're constantly told things about how close parabatai are without ever getting to really see it between Jace and Alec except in rare moments that don't match with the rest of the story.

Clary also snaps at Isabelle about Jonathan being a victim, and it's Jace who has to snap her out of it. Clary and Isabelle have a more parabatai-like relationship than Jace and Alec throughout the show despite not actually being parabatai, so I hate seeing a moment like that between them. It would have been nice if more people than just Jace could snap her out of it. Like I mentioned before, it's not healthy to only rely on one person, and Isabelle would have been a great candidate for someone else who could have gotten through to her.

Maryse opens up to Magnus about her feelings for Luke, and it honestly seems like she's more open with Magnus than Alec is with Jace. (Yes, I really did get caught up in how poorly executed Jace and Alec's relationship is while watching this episode.) Then Magnus follows it up with being honest with her about his drunken break down in front of Alec. I love seeing that between Maryse and Magnus, but this time around, it made me more frustrated with Alec and Jace.

To make matters worse, Alec does end up opening to Isabelle and telling her everything. I'm so torn about this scene! I love love love Alec and Isabelle's relationship, and I really appreciate seeing them share a moment like this. But why can't he open up to his parabatai the same way!? We get told that being parabatai are supposed to be a strong relationship repeatedly, but we only ever see Alec or Jace react strongly when the other one is about to die. The rest of the time, it's just not there, and this would have been the perfect opportunity to show us more!

We get another glimpse of the Seelie Court. The Seelie Queen wants to kill Jonathan and doesn't care that it will also kill Clary in the process. It's not surprising that she would stab him in the back like that. It's a good illustration of why trusting the Seelie Queen is never a good idea.

Becky gets saved from a demon by Isabelle and Alec, so Becky gets to see Simon and Izzy flirt with each other. I love the moment when she bugs him about it. It's such great sibling content that we didn't get much of in Becky's other appearances.

At the end of the episode, the rune gets to Clary, and she knocks Jace out to go save Jonathan. I expected this the first time I saw the episode because of the promos we'd gotten before it aired. It's definitely dramatic though sad to see at the same time. That's especially true when she still interacts with Jace like everything is normal. It's frightening to think that someone you love so much could be lying like that. It's true that Jace did it too when he was the Owl, but in that case, he didn't remember it when interacting with Clary. Clary isn't herself either, but it's also a lot different.

Simon and Isabelle wind up alone together at the Institute, and Becky's words have made Simon awkward. Simon finally makes a move and almost kisses Isabelle, which I've been waiting for since the start of the series! They're interrupted when a Seelie breaks into the Institute to get to Jonathan. But it's progress!

There's definitely a lot of tension between the Seelies trying to kill Jonathan and Clary killing the Seelie to save Jonathan. It's an ominous way for the episode to end.

The only thing that tops it is when Alec breaks up with Magnus at the end of the episode. Honestly, I was tempted to just turn the episode off instead of watch this scene because it breaks my heart. Magnus had been so distraught with the idea that Alec couldn't love him without his magic, and then Alec goes and breaks up with him. I'm getting tears in my eyes just typing it out. It's a lot more painful than their first break up, which is saying something. It's so frustrating because it's so obviously a bad idea no matter how Magnus feels about losing his magic.

Alec says some really messed up things to Magnus, and even though he thinks he's doing it for the right reasons, I want to reach through the screen and shake him. I'm not looking forward to re-watching the following episodes where they're both heartbroken either.

The last scene of the episode is Asmodeus breaking free from Edom. As I mentioned above, I saw it coming, but it's definitely a great cliffhanger.

Shadowhunters Review: 3x17 "Heavenly Fire"

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Reading Habits Book Tag

This is an older tag that I’ve had sitting in my list of things to do on the blog for years, so here I am finally doing it!

I found this blog through rachaelrexds, but it was started in a YouTube video that no longer seems to be available.

1. Do you have a certain place at home for reading?

The short answer is no. Up until recently, I was living in Japan in a rather small apartment. I did everything in one place because it was the only place to do anything. I’ll pretty much read wherever I happen to be. I prefer it to be quieter so I can concentrate, but anywhere it’s quiet is fair game.

2. Bookmark or random piece of paper?

I’ve been known to do both in the past. I won’t really buy bookmarks myself, but because everyone knows I’m a reader, I get given them as gifts sometimes. And they’ve come in Life’s Library packages as well, so I try my best to use those as much as I can.

3. Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop after a chapter/certain amount of pages?

I usually stop at the end of a chapter. It just seems like a natural stopping point, and stopping in the middle of action can confuse my brain once I pick the book back up.

An exception to this is when a chapter is really long and I just can’t finish it before needing to do something else.

4. Do you eat or drink whilst reading?

I will if I’m hungry or thirsty. At times, I’ll read during meal times, but I don’t do that often because I find it difficult to both eat and focus on the page. But it happens sometimes! Eating small snacks while reading is more common for me, but I don’t do that all of the time either.

5. Multitasking: music or TV whilst reading?

Nope! I can’t focus on anything else if music or the TV is on. I know there are people who even write better with music on, and my brain has trouble comprehending how that’s possible. I can’t even read. I’ll get too distracted, even if it’s instrumental music. I need as much quiet as possible.

6. One book at a time or several?

Usually, I’m reading several books at a time. In the past, that was usually because I was reading books for school as well as books I personally wanted to read. Now, it just tends to happen for various reasons. I don’t have trouble keeping track of what’s happening in each book. I read a wide variety, so they’re usually quite different from each other anyway.

7. Reading at home or everywhere?

This question feels a little different in 2021... 

As a kid, I took a book with me everywhere. Now I tend to only read at home. Like I mentioned before, I read best when it’s quiet, and that doesn’t usually happen out and about. I also just get distracted by more things in general if I’m outside or something.

8. Read out loud or silently in your head?

Silently 100%! I would get so tired reading out loud all the time.

9. Do you read ahead or skip pages?

When I was younger and really eager to know what would happen, I would sometimes flip ahead to see if I could catch any hints, and sometimes I did. I don’t know if it’s just because I’m older now, but I tend not to even think about reading ahead anymore.

10. Breaking the spine or keeping it like new?

Keeping it like new if at all possible! Honestly, that’s probably the biggest reason why letting people borrow my books makes me nervous.

11. Do you write in your books?

College (I was an English major) made me a lot more receptive to writing in books. It was expected for us to either do that or to at least keep a set of notes with each book.

These days, I don’t write in every book I read, but sometimes, there are books that just give me certain feelings and I end up scribbling notes throughout them. It’s not necessarily about liking them more either; it’s just when I feel like I need to engage with the book in a certain way.

And that’s all for the tag! If anyone else answers the questions, please let me know in the comments. I’d be interested in hearing your answers.

Star Trek: Discovery Review: 2x13 "Such Sweet Sorrow"

These reviews are going to appear a little out of order again. I've filmed a review for episode twelve, but I haven't edited it yet, so you're seeing this one first. I'm also in the process of uploading my review of episode ten, so that will be up later today. Then the video review of twelve will be up tomorrow.

At the start of this episode, Michael touches the time crystal that Pike got in the last episode, and she sees visions of the future where there's a battle. She reacts surprisingly well to the visions, but then, I suppose, she already had a pretty good idea that something like that was going to happen.

A bit later, they realize that they're not going to be able to destroy Discovery like planned because Control is already attached to the ship and is protecting itself. Michael realizes that she's going to have to take Discovery to the future. Since this is the second to last episode of the season, this makes it pretty obvious where the next season is going to go. 

Discovery is evacuated, with the entire crew heading to the Enterprise, which looks just as crowded as it seems like it would be. It's pretty bizarre to see the Discovery crew mingling with the Enterprise crew. The Enterprise has the same aesthetic as in the original series, and those two aesthetics clashing together is a lot to take in. When Georgiou arrives, she makes a disgusting comment about the orange on Enterprise that made me laugh. She does look particularly out of place there in her all black outfit. It's pretty startling.

There are some new signals which take them to the planet where Po, who Tilly previously met, is queen. It's cool to see something that didn't seem largely important to the ongoing story before to come back and be so important. Unfortunately, the queen tells them that when Michael goes to the future, she won't be able to come back to the present time.

I'd already kind of expected that once they brought up time travel, but it was shocking the first time I realized this was where the show was going because it's such a big change and means leaving behind so many characters. It's definitely dramatic for a finale though!

We get one emotional scene with Culber and Stamets where they both talk about their plans once they complete their current mission. Them going in different directions sounds very final, yet it's also clear that neither one of them are actually pretty unsure. It's heartbreaking to watch.

Sarek and Amanda come to say goodbye to Michael, and they have a nice moment between the three of them. I'm glad we could see that before the jump to the future.

Right after that, Michael finds out that most of the Discovery's crew (at least the ones we regularly see on the bridge) are going with her. It's touching and a relief. Otherwise, we would either have a show about the same crew without the main character or a show about Michael with an entirely new cast for the next season.

Spock is part of the group that says they're staying though, which is startling considering we know he is there in the original series which is in the immediate future, not where the Discovery is jumping. Obviously that will be something to discuss when I discuss the next episode. For now, though, I just want to say that it's kind of sad that going would mean that Spock didn't get to say goodbye to his parents like Michael did. I suppose it could have happened off screen, but with the way things played out, it doesn't seem like it did.

Ash is also with the group, but he pulls Michael aside to explain that he can't go. Michael understands, but they're both also upset. I am too. I love their relationship, even when we got a little less of it this season, and it sucks knowing that Ash won't be in the next season. I think that's what left me more disappointed with the time jump more than anything else.

But, right now, Discovery hasn't jumped yet, so I'll save talking about that for the next episode.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Star Trek: Discovery Review: 2x11 "Perpetual Infinity

Before I start talking about 2x11, I wanted to mention that I've filmed a review of episode 2x10 instead of writing a blog post. I haven't edited it yet though. That will probably happen in a few days, which is why you're seeing this before you do that one.

The episode starts with Michael having a nightmare of the day her parents died. She wakes up and learns that her mother actually is the Red Angel, which is understandably shocking to her. I can't even imagine what something like that would feel like. Her mom has been anchored to a point 950 years in the future when all sentient life has been destroyed, which sounds like one of the most horrifying situations a person could be in. Even though she keeps going back in time, she can never stay more than a few minutes.

Control decides to take control of Leland’s body. I admit that my memories of that scene actually made the whole thing even scary than it actually was for some reason.

Georgiou is suspicious of Leland/Control right away, and what we get of her working against him are some of my favorite moments in this episode, especially when she contacts Ash and gets him to help her as well.

We get a lot of complexity in Georgiou’s character in this episode. Control tries to use her affection for Michael against her, picking up on it despite how she tries to hide it, and Dr.  Burnham says something similar when she thanks Georgiou for protecting Michael. It’s great seeing her character get even more fleshed out.

Dr. Burnham demands that they destroy all of the Sphere's data to defeat the AI. While many of them, especially Saru, are reluctant to do this because of how much data they'll lose, it was definitely the right thing to do in my mind. I don't think I would have hesitated to do it. No matter how much data that Sphere held, it was either that or Control wipes out all sentient life.

The Sphere, however, tries to protect itself by encrypting data. This episode made me more curious about the Sphere too and what exactly it was. I doubt it's an AI like Control because its motivations seem entirely different and who would have created it? But we'll probably never understand it more, which does make me sad.

Spock also learns that his dyslexia is why Dr. Burnham appeared to him and no one else, which is a detail that I'm absolutely in love with. Spock had spent most of his life feeling ashamed of himself because of it, so it's satisfying to see that turn out to be such a huge strength for him.

This episode ends with everything high tension. Control is still out there, and Ash is serious injured. It's almost tempting to start mentioning things that I know happen in the next episode, so I'll stop here before I blurt out too much. But I am interested in knowing what I think about it the second time around.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Star Trek: Discovery Review: 2x08 "If Memory Serves"

 Episode eight of this season starts with a "previously on Star Trek" that includes clips from the original Star Trek pilot. It was unexpected the first time I watched the episode, but I appreciated getting that. The episode relies heavily on that episode for backstory, and I have never seen the pilot. I actually paused the episode the first time I watched it and read a plot summary of the pilot, which I think helped me follow what was happening better. I'm fairly certain that I would have understood what was happening anyway. It wouldn't have been confusing, but I preferred having that background knowledge.

I'm sure for people who have seen the pilot, this episode was even more exciting.

After the pilot clips, we find out that Section 31 is telling Discovery that Michael has Spock and ignored Section 31's hails. Discovery is ordered to search debris and not participate in the search for them. As a viewer with more knowledge, it's frustrating because we know what actually happened with Section 31. Ash tells Pike to trust Michael in this scene though, and the Ash/Michael shipper in me loves that moment.

Meanwhile, Michael and Spock arrive at Talos IV, the same planet the Enterprise visited in the pilot. Spock has brought Michael here because he knows the Talosians can help him. This was the first time I'd seen the Talosians, and while I don't know exactly how they come across in the pilot, I find them quite creepy despite them helping Vina and, in this episode, Spock.

Still, it was interesting to see Michael and Spock share their memories with each other to help both themselves and the audience understand. We know for sure after this that Spock didn't murder anyone and Section 31 is lying, which isn't a huge surprise.

Spock also reveals that the Red Angel's thoughts were those of a human. It's one of those reveals that kind of raises more questions than it answers because there's no telling how a human got the ability to do everything the Red Angel seems to be doing.

Culber is still adjusting to being back, and it's still not going well. Stamets is showing him around the ship, and he's irritable. Culber sees Ash for the first time since his death, and understandably, he doesn't take it well. He ends up fighting Ash in the mess hall on top of fighting with Stamets.

His emotions are extremely understandable. He says that he has his memories intact, but his senses aren't connected to those memories, so he tastes his favorite food but doesn't recognize the taste in the same way despite his memories of it being there. It's heart breaking.

Vina appears to Pike as an illusion created by the Talosians. They have a conversation about her being happy because the Talosians have created an illusion of Pike for her to be with. He tells her he's happy about this which, to be perfectly honest, wasn't a moment that sat well with me. Vina may claim to be happy with the illusions, but it just strikes me as incredibly sad. It's like she's living with these illusions without actually healing with actual help. To me, it doesn't seem all that different from people who use alcohol or drugs to momentarily forget problems instead of actually dealing with them.

Of course, a lot of people do that, so I get Vina as a character making that choice. It's merely the moment where Pike expresses happiness for her irked me a bit.

The crew of the Discovery also discovers that someone has corrupted the spore drive, and they did it using Ash's code. Ash gets confined to his quarters, which is an understandable reaction, though I can't imagine that Ash would be as obvious as using his own code if he was actually behind it.

As viewers, we get a look at Airiam's eyes flashing red, and it's quite obvious that she's guilty of something and it almost certainly has to do with the spore drive being corrupted.

Towards the end of the episode, before they leave Talos IV, Michael also shows Spock her memory of telling him she didn't see him as a brother. It adds a lot of context to their relationship although it doesn't seem to change anything between them at the moment.

The episode ends with Michael and Spock on the Discovery and Discovery now a wanted ship, which is sure to lead to some drama.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Star Trek: Discovery Review: 2x09 "Project Daedalus

This episode starts off with Admiral Cornwell arriving on the Discovery after coming in secret. She questions Spock, and the computer says that he's telling the truth despite video evidence of him committing murder. The computer tests they use here are interesting because current lie detector tests are so unreliable. I'm curious about how that computer program works.

Cornwell also tells them that a different admiral who's an extremist has locked her out of the system. That raises questions of how that admiral got her position in the first place if Cornwell seemed to really believe that she would do something like this, but I guess that's a story for another day.

We learn more about Airiam's past in this episode when we see her going through her memories and deciding what to keep and what to delete. Tilly walks in on her doing this, and we find out that Airiam was in a shuttle crash with her husband, which ultimately killed him. I definitely felt for her a lot when we learned that, and I feel like she had an even more interesting backstory if there'd been time to explore it.

Once they get to Section 31's headquarters, they realize that Admiral Patar is actually dead and Control has taken over. It's apparently Control who could possibly destroy all sentient life like in Spock's visions.

Michael is forced to kill Airiam, which is a powerful scene, though it does seem a little sudden to have such a powerful moment between them when we haven't seen them interact much before.

Before she dies, Airiam tells Michael to find Project Daedalus, which creates an even bigger mystery.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Shadowhunters Review: 3x15 "To the Night Children"

Ten months after the last one, I'm here with a new Shadowhunters review! I promise that I will review every episode. I was worried about watching the show once I got back to the US because, in Japan, I could watch the series on Netflix, but in the US, I can't. Turns out, I can watch it on the Freeform website for free in the US, so it wasn't an issue at all. I don't like Freeform's video player, but it's better than nothing! (It's kind of nostalgic because this is how I used to watch the show before I moved to Japan too.)

After so long, I'd forgotten how dark the lighting in Shadowhunters is. I had to crank up the brightness on my laptop in order to see anything. On the flip side, I'd also kind of forgotten how much I enjoy this show. I'm probably more involved in the Shadowhunters fandom than I am any other fandom online even at the moment, but being active in the fandom isn't quite the same as watching the show for the first time in over a year. I'm overdue a rewatch from the beginning, I think, so I may do that after I finish reviewing these final episodes.

Magnus is staying at the Institute after losing his apartment. He's hesitant about this, but Alec insists that they "rule" against Downworlders living at the Institute is actually just a "suggestion." It's a big change from the Alec earlier in the series who was strict about every rule, and it's nice seeing that kind of character development.

Underhill spots Magnus in the dining hall that morning and gets strangely angry about it. Honestly, I don't get this at all. I wasn't Underhill's biggest fan from the start, but this episode really cemented my dislike for him. Still, I don't get his reaction. Later in the episode, he tells Magnus that it's because it's against the rules, and that's the only reason why. However, it seems strange that one of Alec's friends would seemingly have a stronger reaction to Magnus being there than anyone else in the Institute. If he was jealous in some way, it might make more sense, but the show is pretty insistent on portraying Underhill as not having any feelings for Alec (which is perfectly fine with me!), so it comes across as just baffling to me. Sure, some people are very passionate about following rules (Alec even used to be one of those people), but it feels like it comes out of nowhere and plays out in a strange way.

While they're eating breakfast, Clary gets a call from Luke, who tells her that he's been arrested for killing everyone at the Jade Wolf. Once he gets off the call, he tells the police officer that he plans on pleading guilty even though the officer is convinced that Luke didn't do it. Clary eventually arrives and begs Luke to let them get him out because she needs her dad. I enjoyed that scene because I love every scene that focuses on how much of a dad Luke is to be Clary and Simon.

Meanwhile, Maia is dealing with her entire pack being slaughtered. She knows Heidi is behind it, but Heidi beats her to the Institute and insists that she had nothing to do with what happened. Alec pardons her in exchange for telling them who is guilty, only for Heidi to insist to the rest of the clan that there's a traitor who clearly isn't her.

Maia is understandably furious when she finds out that Heidi has gotten off. She and Simon go to see a Mundane who can prove that Heidi was behind it, but Heidi gets to her first, leaving her in a coma. To be honest, I'm surprised that Heidi left her in a coma instead of killing her. Maybe she thought murder would make it too obvious that she was behind it? Either way, it wasn't that well thought through because Magnus was quickly able to heal the girl. Even though Maia gets to her first and kills her by injecting her blood with holy water (which is a detail from the books despite everything else about the situation being different), Heidi presumably would have still been caught then despite her confidence that she never would be.

While at the hospital, Simon also calls Alec and we get what is one of my favorite exchanges in the entire show: "Alec, it's Simon. The Daylighter." "I know who you are." Poor Simon thinking that Alec wouldn't have any idea who he is after everything. (Though it's true that they don't get nearly enough scenes together.)

Before Heidi dies, she also ends up revealing to Alec what Raphael did and Isabelle's role in letting him go. Instead of letting her participate in the raid on the Dumort, Alec sends her to Detroit to take in Raphael. The only thing that seems strange about this is the fact that Isabelle needed to go there and get Raphael and then bring him back to New York. Though we never see them, there are supposed to be other Institutes. Is there not one in Detroit (or, at the very least, closer by) that she would have taken him to instead?

In a bit of a surprise, Aline arrives in this episode! She is annoyed that they had Jonathan but didn't manage to bring him in. Her anger towards Clary specifically is kind of understandable considering the circumstances but also kind of jarring. The scene where they spar with each other makes me extremely uncomfortable even before Clary winds up hurting Aline. I just don't like watching it at all.

The episode ends with Magnus and Alec agreeing to move in with each other moments before Magnus' nose starts bleeding. It escalates to blood coming out of his mouth. He was already hearing ringing and appearing weak any time that he did magic, so something happening isn't a surprise, though even rewatching the episode, the sight of that much blood is still a bit of a shock. It definitely gets your attention right as the episode ends.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Book Review: White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo



ISBN: 0807071161
Published: June 26, 2018
Publisher: Beacon Press
Received: purchased
Read from February 18 to March 18, 2021
Synopsis from Goodreads:

Groundbreaking book exploring the counterproductive reactions white people have when discussing racism that serve to protect their positions and maintain racial inequality

Antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo first coined the term "white fragility" in 2011, and since then it's been invoked by critics from Samantha Bee to Charles Blow. "White fragility" refers to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially. These include emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors including argumentation and silence. In this book, DiAngelo unpacks white fragility, explaining the underlying sociological phenomena. She'll draw on examples from her work and scholarship, as well as from the culture at large, to address these fundamental questions: How does white fragility develop? What does it look like? How is it triggered? What can we do to move beyond white fragility and engage more constructively?

 Review:

I highly recommend White Fragility to other white people who want to fully examine their own views and actions in terms of race and who want to become better at recognizing and confronting racism.

White Fragility is an insightful look at how racism has shaped the way white people view the world. It makes its readers analyze the structures and systems that they've always taken for granted and never questioned before. Racism is embedded in every aspect of American society, and it's so deeply ingrained that many white people don't notice it's there because they don't have to. White Fragility is an important resource to help us white people grapple with the ways we help perpetuate racism and how we can work towards dismantling it.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Star Trek: Discovery Review: 2x07 "Light and Shadows"

This episode marks the first time we see Spock in Discovery outside of Michael's memories. Going into these episodes, I was curious what they'd do with him as a character, and even though Spock is limited in how much he interacts with the other characters in this episode (because of his mental state), the first time I watched this episode it made me even more curious about where the story was going.

At the start of the episode, Michael is granted leave to go to Vulcan, where she plans to speak to Amanda about Spock. She already suspects that Amanda knows something that she's not telling anyone, and once she gets to Vulcan, she's right. Honestly, I was surprised at how quickly Amanda gave in and showed Michael where Spock was. It shoes that they're close and that Amanda does ultimately trust Michael.

Amanda takes Michael to where she's keeping Spock hidden, and this is the first time we see him. He doesn't acknowledge Michael's or Amanda's presences and instead keeps muttering to himself. His muttering includes a set of numbers that Amanda says she can't find the significance of. It's a shocking first look at Spock. Despite only seeing episodes here and there from other Star Trek series, I know enough about him as a character for his demeanor in this scene to be jarring.

Sarek shows up as well, having followed them, and there's quite a bit of tension between him and Amanda over what to do about Spock. I like seeing their differences explored here. We also learn that Spock had a condition similar to dyslexia that he seems to have inherited from Amanda (i.e. his human side) which resulted in him being isolated as a kid. It's a sad story and makes me wonder if learning disorders just don't typically exist on Vulcan or if they have any that are different than those humans have. Either way, it's an interesting insight into Spock's past.

During his muttering, Spock starts quoting Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, which Amanda read to both him and Michael as children. Sarek expresses disapproval over this because the absurdness of Wonderland conflicts with Vulcan culture and, in his view, hearing it as a child harmed Spock. There's a connection between the absurd nature of Wonderland and Spock's mental state that's interesting. Back when this season was first released, I remembered reading some stuff where people were complaining about it being Alice that Amanda read when it could be any book from history or in the galaxy, but I do get what they were going for with it, and it does make sense to me that Amanda would choose that book, both because she's human and because she was trying to counter the extreme focus on logic that Spock was getting from the Vulcans.

Sarek believes that taking Spock to Section 31 is the best course of action. He's convinced that Spock has information that the Federation needs and that, if Spock is innocent, he will be fine. Michael ends up taking Spock to Section 31. However, Georgiou reveals to Michael that Section 31 plans on removing Spock's memories and helps her escape with Spock. Georgiou/the Emperor and Michael's relationship is one of the most interesting on the show to me, so I love the dynamics we start to see where Georgiou actually wants to help Michael.

This episode also includes quite a bit of tension between Pike and Tyler. Pike still doesn't trust Tyler, which is understandable considering what information he has on him. The Discovery encounters temporal distortions, and Pike and Tyler wind up together on a shuttle only to then get lost inside a temporal distortion themselves. While there, their shuttle gets attacked by a probe that appears to have come from the future. It attacks their computer, though they're not sure why.

Once back on Discovery, they point out that the Red Angel and the probe have both come from the future and might be connected to each other. Airiam also begins acting strangely, and from the way the scenes are shot, it's made clear that this has something to do with the probe who attacked the ship's computer. It raises some interesting questions about both the Red Angel and what will happen to Airiam.

At the end of the episode, Georgiou also reveals that Leland is responsible for the death of Michael's parents. Because we've seen a few glimpses of Michael's parents recently too, it seems a little obvious that we're going to be learning more about them in upcoming episodes.

The episode ends with Michael figuring out that Spock's numbers are coordinates, and she starts heading for the planet.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Star Trek: Discovery Review: 2x06 "The Sound of Thunder"

There's a lot in this episode that I enjoy. This season of Discovery really did go into so many of the kinds of stories I most want to see, and that makes me really excited, even on a re-watch.

Culber is in the hospital having tests run on him after his body was reformed. The doctor confirms that, while his brain scans are normal, his entire body has been reassembled from his DNA. This is clearly distressing to him, and he doesn't feel like himself. It's an understandable reaction. It has to be jarring to suddenly be in a new body. He's even missing his scar that inspired him to be a doctor. That probably felt like a big identifier for him, so it would be a big shock for it to be gone.

This storyline raises a lot of interesting questions about what makes a person and how much is it tied to what makes you a person. If Culber's entire body has been reformed, then that means his brain has too. Even if his brain scans are normal for him, there's still a question there of if he is actually himself or is he more along the lines of a clone of his former self who is now dead.

What's strange to me is that no one else notices just how distressed he is by all of this. It's clearly written on his face in every scene he's in, yet people keep going on as if everything is perfect. On one hand, I understand this could be because they're so relieved to have him back that they can't imagine why he would be upset. That's especially true of Stamets, who I didn't find it surprising from, but it's just strange that no one clues in to just how upset he is. It's also strange to me that, despite their advanced medicine, no one thinks that going through something like having your body reformed would warrant a psychological evaluation immediately. (Yes, they performed brain scans, and we don't know everything those covered, but clearly, that wasn't enough.)

We also get a bit of information about Saru right off the bat in the episode: His fear response is being suppressed. Not long after, there's another signal from the Red Angel that just so happens to have come from Saru's homeworld Kaminar. The rest of the episode is heavily focused on Kaminar and the truth about the Kelpiens and Ba'ul.

This is one of my favorite subplots in this season. I find the history of Kaminar fascinating enough to warrant a whole season on it. The Ba'ul were almost wiped out yet managed to develop technology to both save themselves and oppress the Kelpiens. That story alone could be a whole show. The Ba'ul also appear to have lived in the water yet now live on space ships (or maybe some still live in oceans on Kaminar and we didn't get to see it) that has huge story potential too. There's so much there!

The way the Ba'ul are characterized is also interesting. Both their voice and bodies are clearly meant to be terrifying despite what we learn about them in this episode. They're characterized more as predators than prey even though their bodies appear rather frail from what we see of them. (Admittedly, the Kelpiens don't look like a typical portrayal of a "predator" either.)

Neither Kelpiens or Ba'ul fit neatly into "predator" or "prey" considering they've each been both at different times in history, but it was still an interesting choice to portray the Ba'ul the way they did visually.

Once the Discovery and Saru's sister, Siranna, learn the truth. They're committed to telling the Kelpiens the truth and creating a "new balance." This desire makes sense. Obviously, as Kelpiens, Saru and Siranna would want their people to know the truth, and I'm happy that they want to achieve peace instead of destroying the Ba'ul.

However, everyone seems quite convinced that, if the Kelpiens learn the truth, they will inevitably come to live in peace with the Ba'ul instead of the cycle of one destroying the other continuing. It's optimism to a degree that feels foolish. Personally, I'm sure it could be possible, especially in a fictional TV show, but it would be a huge struggle that would undoubtedly involve violence to a certain extent (which is kind of acknowledged), and it feels like the show just leans on "everything will work out great in the end" a little too much there.

When the Ba'ul try to destroy every Kelpien village, the Red Angel intervenes and saves the Kelpiens. Saru sees the Red Angel and reports back that it's "humanoid" (which is an interesting word choice considering what I've said before about it being a weird "coincidence" that so many sentient aliens look like humans) and has advanced technology. Time travel is mentioned for what I think is the first time this season. But the Red Angel's identity is really as much of a mystery as it was before.

The episode ends with Michael declaring that she needs to return to Vulcan, so we know exactly where we're going in the next episode.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

My Experience at AEON Initial Training

Note: This was written in July 2017 right after my initial training. I'm posting it now, in 2021, because I no longer work at AEON. I'm leaving it as is to show you what I thought at the time.

You won't be reading this post until after my time at AEON has come to a close. Because of that, I can't guarantee that anything in this post will accurately reflect your own training if you come to work at AEON. This is even more true as I have been given the impression already that there can be a number of differences in training between regions. (I was in the Seibu region for reference.) That being said, I know I was anxious before I arrived in Japan, so I hope I can provide some information to set you at ease if you're going to work for AEON and are nervous about what to expect.

Friday: Arrival in Japan

I arrived at Kansai International Airport on a Friday. (Note in March 2021: For some reason I didn't write about this, but to my recollection, I received my residence card while going through immigration at the airport as well, so that picture, which was taken right after getting off multiple international flights, was on my first residence card that lasted for three years, so be warned of that.)

After making it through immigration and customs, I had around a half hour to walk around the airport before an AEON staff member arrived to pick us up. He was friendly and immediately helped me ship my luggage to my branch school (as only my carry on would be going with me to training in Okayama).

Two other trainees arrived at the airport that day, but both were going to different regions from me. Because of this, the AEON staff member was going with them while I was given a ticket, taken to the train, and put on it by myself. After days of flying, I was exhausted but determined to stay awake for the entire trip out of fear that I would miss my stop.

When I got off that train, another AEON employee was waiting to get me from the regular train to the bullet train. It was on the bullet train that I really had to struggle against sleep. I think that I dozed of once or twice (which was much easier to do on the train than it had been the plane for some reason), but luckily, I didn't miss my stop, and I was greeted by one of the trainers at the station.

We met the one other trainee in my training group at the station as well, and we were taken back to the dormitories, which occupied a building around the corner from the training center itself.

We each had our own bedroom. (If there'd been more trainees, we'd have had roommates. There were two beds in each room.) There was a common room with a kitchen, ironing board, etc. There was also a washer and even a dryer (rare for Japan), though we were also given racks to air dry our clothes in our rooms.

Enough about the living conditions though, onto the training itself:

We had two trainers, and since there were only two of us trainees, there's a lot of focus on you individually. Both of our trainers were nice. (I've already heard some things about trainers in other regions not being as nice, so I'm thankful for that.)

Saturday: First Day of Training

On the Saturday after we arrived, our training lasted from 10 AM to 1 PM. After that, one of the trainers took us to lunch, with AEON footing the bill. After lunch, he gave us a bit of a tour of the area and then left us on our own. (We ended up walking to the castle, which was a sweaty experience to say the least, but the rain held off, so we were lucky in that sense.)

The Rest of Training

Sunday was a day off, but Monday was the only other day where we began at 10 AM. (Every day after we would being at 11 AM.) Each day lasted until 7 except for when we taught our lessons, which would go until 8 with feedback from the trainers afterward.

Each day was packed; there's no denying that. We had to learn a lot, including the entire structure of AEON's lessons which we then had to teach to students the next day. Without a doubt, make sure you are prepared to do reading every night and practice, practice, practice your lessons. You will, without a doubt, screw up. They don't actually expect you to have everything down 100% after having learned the lesson structure the day before (at least, our trainers didn't), but they are looking to see that your trying and that you are responding to what they tell you. (If, in practice, a trainer tells you that you need to start doing something, you should keep that in mind the next time you're teaching.)

I don't want to make it sound entirely daunting though. I also had a good time. Overall, it was a fun atmosphere, not an intimidating or scary one. (We did meet with the president of the company over Skype one day though, and that was a bit intimidating to say the least, though he was very nice.)

There's no way I could go through everything we covered in the training here, and I couldn't anyway as a lot of stuff about AEON's particular style of teaching is owned by them and isn't something I'm legally allowed to share. I will say, though, that it would have been nice to been given the lesson structure prior to training in order to prepare myself a bit. It might have lessened some of the pressure going into training. I, like many others, felt that I should have the lesson format memorized as soon as the next day (when you teach your first lesson), and while they're looking more for a good attempt at following the structure, I would have been more at ease if I'd had more time to prepare on my own somehow.

That being said, I enjoyed my training experience overall despite how tiring it was by the time it came to an end. I was lucky to have a great fellow trainee and also great trainers. If you're planning to join AEON, then I hope that you manage to have as great of a training experience as I did.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Life Post: Being Back in the US

 I'm currently trying to type this with a cat's tail swishing across the keyboard, so we'll see how it goes.

As of writing this, I've been back in the US for just over a month, and I haven't written one of these posts since leaving Japan. To be quite honest, it doesn't feel like much has happened all things considered. There is a pandemic after all, so it's not like I've been going many places.

I did chop off all my hair though, so there's that.

I've been at my sister's house for the last week and a half after staying with my parents for about a month. I'll be here for a little bit longer and then I think I'm going back to my parents' house.

Most of my time recently has been spent looking for jobs and also fleshing out a good writing portfolio to use while applying to said jobs. That's my big priority at the moment, but I don't want to go into detail about anything because I don't want to get my hopes up about certain things online and then those things not happen in the end.

Once things feel like they're progressing more, I'm sure I'll have another update here, but for now, I'm just focusing on adjusting back to being in the US.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

My Experience Interviewing with AEON Corporation

Note: This was written in March of 2017, four months before I went to Japan. I wound up working at AEON for three and a half years, and I decided to hold off on posting this until after I left so that I would feel free to express an entirely honest opinion. (That being said, working for AEON was a positive experience and something I would recommend.) So, this post comes from the prospective of not having started the job yet.

Recently, I announced that I'm moving to Japan. After that, I posted about interviewing for HESS, a chain of English schools in Taiwan. Clearly, I did not take the job with HESS. So who I am I working for in Japan? The answer is the AEON Corporation. Much like I did with HESS, here is what the interview process was like with AEON.

Initial Application

Unlike many other companies that hire foreign English teachers, AEON requires a face-to-face interview before they hire a teacher. They have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, and Tokyo, and anyone living near those cities is able to come in for interviews (to the best of my understanding) year round. For the rest of us, AEON has interviews at various cities throughout the year. (Note in March 2021: In-person interviews are currently suspended because of the pandemic, and interviews are instead being held entirely online. I can't speak to what that experience is like.)

The list of the upcoming cities where interviews will be held is on AEON's website. You apply by choosing the city whose interview you will be attending (if you get through the first two stages of the process). This part involves providing all of the typical information you'd provide when applying for a job and uploading your resume and an essay about why you want to work in Japan.

If you pass this stage, you will receive an email from the recruiters at the office that is in charge of the interview that you selected. (I interviewed in Nashville, which meant that the New York office was in charge of my interview.) They will set up a Skype interview with you. The stated purpose of this Skype interview is to make sure you realize what the job requires. They ask you to study the AEON website and tell you which parts to pay particularly close attention to.

Skype Interview

It is crucial that you do study the website. The recruiter will ask you questions about the information stated there. That truly is, as far as I can tell, one of the biggest parts of this stage of the interview. They want to know that you understand AEON, but they also want to see that you'll follow directions (and continue to do so throughout the entire interview process). The other thing I think they're looking for is your personality. The right personality for an AEON teacher is discussed during the in-person interview, and it basically narrows down to "someone who is bright and enthusiastic." Do your best to be that person during the Skype interview.

Make sure that you're following the AEON dress code during the Skype interview. Although this likely won't be mentioned to you at this stage, the dress code specifications are on their website where you will find them if you do your research. You will be asked to stand at the beginning of the Skype interview. This is supposedly to introduce yourself, but obviously, they're going to check what you're wearing when you stand as well. Definitely don't have pajama pants or anything like that on.

The Skype interview is conducted by only one recruiter and shouldn't take more than fifteen minutes. I was informed at the end of my interview that I had gotten a spot at the in-person interview. From what I can tell from reading other stories online, they seem to always tell you at the end of the interview if you are moving on in the process. Everyone who was told they would find out later seems to have been rejected, but this is largely conjecture based on secondhand information. (Note in March 2021: This is still just a guess. I cannot confirm if it's true or not.)

Preparing for the In-Person Interview

If you get through to the in-person interview, you will receive an email from AEON that you must reply to in order to confirm your spot at the interview. After this, you will receive information about the interview location and be given a set of tasks to complete before the interview. There will be documents you should bring to the interview as well as more information about AEON that they ask you to study, which you should definitely do.

I've seen older stories from people who applied to AEON saying that they were asked to plan a lesson ahead of time and bring it to the interview. We were not. (Note in March 2021: AEON's lesson steps are set in stone, so you can't plan an AEON lesson before you've learned the steps you'll need to follow. Having taught there, I can see that this step is pretty useless for determining if someone can do the job, so I can see why it was changed. You need to have the ability to follow the steps you're given, not plan your own lesson from scratch.)

When they tell you to take notes on certain information before the in-person interview, do it. They will not flip through your notebook, but they will do a more casual check to see if you have brought the notes with you. Plus, they do ask you about the information, and your far less likely to flounder with notes in front of you. This should go without saying that it pays to be prepared, but some people in my group weren't, so put yourself at an advantage.

While I got a head start on everything I was asked to do, I also made sure to go through the information much sooner to the date of the interview. I wanted it fresh in my mind.

In-Person Group Interview

The day of the interview, arrive fifteen minutes early. Fifteen minutes early in Japan is arriving on time, and that's what AEON expects. (Note in March 2021: Funnily enough, we were told to arrive fifteen minutes early to work too during my interview, but not long after I started, they changed the way they talked about this and started encouraging us to arrive later. Still, arriving early for the interview probably still helps give a good impression.)

You will also be held to Japanese business standards while working at AEON. While there's some leeway with this in the interview as they don't expect you to know all of the rules, I would recommend doing some research and being aware of at least the basics. (Note in March 2021: It's probably worth noting that there will be leeway with this throughout your time at AEON, not just during the interview. Yes, following Japanese business standards as much as possible is a good thing. You should show that you're trying, but people will understand that you're a foreigner and not expect you to get everything right all the time.)

Make sure you're following AEON's dress code at this interview as well. The information is on their website.

When we arrived, we had to sign in on a sheet of paper. The recruiter will greet you. (I've read other accounts of interviews where people mention there being more than one recruiter. We only had one, and it was the same recruiter who had interviewed me over Skype.) As they greet you, they will tell you where you can put your stuff down and then encourage you to introduce yourself to everyone and/or look over the AEON class materials that are set out.

While doing either of these is no doubt helpful, I recommend immediately introducing yourself to everyone. One of the responsibilities at AEON is what's called "lobby talk" where you're required to talk to your students in the lobby between classes. They want to see that you're capable of conversing with other people. (Note in March 2021: I support 2017 me wholeheartedly here: talk to the other applicants! Going over the materials is fine, but you'll have time to later. It's not actually that helpful to do it here. Showing that you're friendly and personable is more important. If anything, go over the materials with other applicants and discuss them with each other. But make sure to make conversation.)

If you're more introverted, this is likely one of the more nerve-wracking parts of the day. I was worried about it since I am extremely introverted and find conversation with people I know difficult, let alone strangers. The thing is, everyone else is also there because they want to teach in Japan. Your interest in Japan is already one thing you have in common, and that provides you with a conversation starter. Use it. Our group certainly did. I talked about why I wanted to teach in Japan to just about everyone. What saved me here, I think, was that everyone else knew they needed to socialize too, so we were equally eager to converse and be friendly. That made me less anxious about approaching strangers than I would usually be.

Also, don't worry about a competitive atmosphere. This may or may not be a problem in your group; it wasn't in ours. As your recruiter will remind you, they can hire everyone or no one in a group. You're not competing with each other for only one position. Helping each other look good helps you all in the end because it shows that you work well with others.

Everyone else in my group was incredibly friendly and happy to talk. I got the sense that I wasn't the only introvert in the group or the only one who was nervous and, therefore, especially struggling with trying to be talkative, but realizing we were in the same boat really helped. I found I had no problem maintaining conversations until the interview started.

The first part of the interview is the recruiter sharing information about the company with you. This will include information about the contract, expectations of you, the housing in Japan, and more. This is absolutely crucial: Take notes during this part. Not only does this make you look good, you'll need to know the information if you get the job, and you don't want to have to ask for it all again and show that you didn't pay attention.

This also leads into the section of the interview about what you took notes on before. Make sure you have those notes handy and that you answer the interviewer's questions. I made sure to volunteer each time the recruiter asked for answers even though it made me nervous, and the recruiter seemed to be trying to get everyone to answer equally. If people didn't volunteer, he would eventually call on them anyway. Try not to stay quiet until you're called on.

After the information session, you will have a break of about ten or fifteen minutes. Treat this break exactly like you treated the time before your interview. I did look over the AEON materials at this point as we were getting closer to having to actually teach an AEON lesson. (We had discussed the materials a bit during the information session.) However, I made sure that I still conversed with the others as well. Balance is key here I think. I wouldn't recommend spending the entire break with the AEON materials. Even while I was looking at them, I was talking to someone, and that conversation eventually prompted me to put it down entirely. (Note in March 2021: Looking over the materials is probably fine, but seriously prioritize being friendly and conversing. Looking over the materials briefly might help because it shows you're interested, but it's really not that important.)

Then the truly fun part of the interview begins. Your recruiter will demonstrate a kids' lesson for you, with you and your fellow interviewees as the kids. Make sure you participate even if you feel silly. Everyone's doing it, and you don't have to see these people again.

After running through a lesson as the students, you'll be divided into groups. (I was in a group of three.) You'll be given some time to prepare a kids' lesson with your group. Each person in the group is required to teach part of the lesson. (The lesson is already divided into four separate parts.) Be enthusiastic, even if it feels overly slow. Remember that this lesson is meant for kids, and don't worry about talking to the other interviewees as if they're small children. I'll admit this does feel weird at first though. (Note in March 2021: If you get hired, you'll do this in training and regular teachers' meetings too. It gets much less weird.)

We were all laughing by the end of this, so don't get too uptight or think that getting into this part is beneath you. I think it would show.

Then comes the adult lessons. Again, you will watch a demo lesson by the recruiter, with you acting as the students. Once again, participate.

After this, you will have to teach an adult lesson, and this time you'll be on your own. You're separated into groups. (Different groups this time.) You're given time to prepare by yourself and are encouraged to speak to yourself and act it out to be prepared. I didn't speak so much as whisper to myself, but I highly recommend acting it out to a certain extent. (Note in March 2021: If you get hired, you'll be expected to do this while preparing during training, and that carries over once you're working too.) My previous experience with lesson planning and teaching definitely helped here, but this isn't anything where that experience is crucial as long as you fully play it out in your head.

The lesson is already pretty much planned out. It's just how you present the material. You have to think ahead of time about how you're going to present each example, how you'll explain it, etc. It's also important to remember here that AEON wants a very high percentage of student speaking time during lessons, so it's crucial that you focus on that. A lot of what you're doing is encouraging the students to talk and providing them with opportunities to have conversations with both other students and yourself, the teacher. (Note in March 2021: This really is the most important part of AEON lessons. Prioritize interaction, not lecture.)

You will then take turns in your group teaching your lesson. Each lesson will be timed, and you absolutely cannot stop until your time is up. (Note in March 2021:This is actually great practice for after you're hired when you inevitably finish a lesson too quickly and have time to kill. Not that that ever happened to me...) This was definitely a struggle for some. I knew from my student teaching that the timing was guaranteed to not work out how I thought it would. Because of that, I had planned out how to extend the lesson to at least twice it's length if it would be necessary. As it turned out, my timing was good, and I finished the page I was given right on time without needing to go into any of the extensions I'd planned. (Not in March 2021: This wound up being something I was praised for during my training and once I was at my school because apparently I had better time management than most trainees. I attribute this entirely to my prior student teaching experience.)

Others there went far under the time limit though and seemed to fumble with how to expand on it. Definitely try to help in any way you can if this happens in your group. As a student, you can ask questions or carry on conversations that will help lengthen their time.

After teaching, we were given time to fill out a sheet of paper. This included information such as when we'd be able to move to Japan as well as a short grammar quiz. If you're confident with grammar, then this isn't difficult. If you're not, you might want to brush up both on commonly misspelled words and the differences between similar words.

We were given our envelopes right when we finished, but the envelopes were somewhat of a formality as our recruiter told us that our entire group would move on to one-on-one interviews. Mine was for two and a half hours or so later, so I went to eat a late lunch before it.

One-On-One In-Person Interview

The one-on-one interview was the most nerve-wracking part of the process for me. The group's presence had eased a lot of tension earlier in the day, but the tension returned full force once it was just me and the recruiter.

This interview took about forty minutes I believe and was a lot like your typical job interview. We talked about my skills and other such stereotypical things.

After teaching earlier, we had been told to write down what we thought we did well and what we could have done better. I discussed what I'd written with the recruiter before he asked me to teach again while keeping what I could do better in mind. He shared what he thought of my lesson and then demonstrated an AEON lesson one-on-one with me. He asked me to teach again, following what he'd done as close as possible.

In the moment, I thought I'd really messed up that lesson due to my nerves. (I even admitted as much after teaching because things like that tend to slip out of my mouth when I'm very nervous.) He did, however, tell me what he thought he'd seen me do well. (Note in March 2021: Showing that you can take feedback and use it to improve really is the most important thing here instead of teaching a perfect lesson right away.)

He checked to make sure I had a Bachelor's degree (a requirement for a Japanese work visa, not just AEON's requirement) and also that all of my information was correct.

At the end of the interview I was told that I'd be hearing from them within ten days but that it would probably be sooner. It was. My interview was on a Saturday, and I was called on Monday and told that they'd like to hire me.

My 2021 Perspective

I never worked as a recruiter, so part of this post are still just speculation about what they're looking for. However, having taught at AEON for three and a half years, most of my guesses about what they're looking for are probably right.

Considering that, these are the things I would consider most important:
  • Be excited about interacting with "students." A couple guys at the group interview openly admitted to me that they just wanted a "free" ticket to Japan. (AEON reimburses you for your plane ticket, and of course, you'll be paid.) He said this when the recruiter left the room, but I think the attitude came across through the whole interview. He was particularly unenthusiastic about the kids' lessons. You may or may not enjoy teaching, but even in the demo lessons, you should show an enthusiasm for interacting and making connections with people. This is also why making small talk with the other applicants is crucial.
  • Do your research. A guy in my group interview actually mispronounced 'AEON', which made me cringe considering the recruiter had already pronounced the name too. Show that you've put in effort in learning about the company and its expectations.
  • Show that you can take feedback. You don't need to be perfect, but you should be able to adapt and improve. Focus on what the recruiter tells you and do your best to show that you're using the feedback during the next demo.
Honestly, those are probably the three most crucial things aside from the absolute basics like 'dress appropriately.'

Working at AEON was a truly great experience. It's a job, and you should be prepared to work hard. (I also know that some schools have managers or other staff that can be hard to work with, so that part can be a bit of a gamble. I believe working in a big city, especially Tokyo, will be more stressful than a school in a more rural area.) But as long as you understand that you're being hired for a job and not just an extended vacation (which they will likely say to you straight up in the interview) then I very much recommend working with AEON.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Book Review - I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown

Published: May 15, 2018
Publisher: Convergent Books
Received: purchased
Read from January 11 to February 11, 2021

Synopsis from Goodreads:

From a powerful new voice on racial justice, an eye-opening account of growing up Black, Christian, and female in middle-class white America.

Austin Channing Brown's first encounter with a racialized America came at age 7, when she discovered her parents named her Austin to deceive future employers into thinking she was a white man. Growing up in majority-white schools, organizations, and churches, Austin writes, "I had to learn what it means to love blackness," a journey that led to a lifetime spent navigating America's racial divide as a writer, speaker and expert who helps organizations practice genuine inclusion.

In a time when nearly all institutions (schools, churches, universities, businesses) claim to value "diversity" in their mission statements, I'm Still Here is a powerful account of how and why our actions so often fall short of our words. Austin writes in breathtaking detail about her journey to self-worth and the pitfalls that kill our attempts at racial justice, in stories that bear witness to the complexity of America's social fabric--from Black Cleveland neighborhoods to private schools in the middle-class suburbs, from prison walls to the boardrooms at majority-white organizations.

For readers who have engaged with America's legacy on race through the writing of Ta-Nehisi Coates and Michael Eric Dyson, I'm Still Here is an illuminating look at how white, middle-class, Evangelicalism has participated in an era of rising racial hostility, inviting the reader to confront apathy, recognize God's ongoing work in the world, and discover how blackness--if we let it--can save us all.

Review:

Memoirs can be hit or miss for me, and because of this, they're not the first genre I reach for. However, I thoroughly enjoyed I'm Still Here. Brown shares stories from her life in an engaging way that held my attention the whole way through.

Brown has a career working on inclusion with various organizations, and she lays out ways in which those organizations have repeatedly failed at what they claimed to be doing. The book provides a look at common situations that happen every day in offices across the United States. Brown does an excellent job of highlighting how white and Black people have completely different perspectives in a wide variety of interactions and occasions. Because of this, white people often do not stop to realize how their or their organization's actions are affecting Black people.

Much of what Brown writes could apply to any organization in the United States, but she also focuses quite a bit on churches. Not only does she highlight differences between Black and white churches, but she lays out ways that white churches claim to be spaces for everyone while also excluding Black people, despite not being conscious of this. I found these sections some of the most interesting because, as Brown explains, much of what these churches do in practice does not fit with what they claim to believe.

Throughout the book, Brown is clear that the biggest problem here is white people not imagining non-white perspectives. The white perspective is considered the default in the United States, and most white people don't acknowledge (or accept) that whiteness isn't universal. This leads us white people to assume that people of color are coming from the same viewpoint as us despite their vastly different life experiences, and we fail to realize the full scope of the situation. When Brown provides her own personal stories of being in these situations as a Black person, it goes a long way towards illustrating just how deeply ingrained in American society that this is.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Star Trek Discovery Review: 2x05 "Saints of Imperfection"

 At the start of this episode, the Discovery is chasing a ship that they believe has Spock on board. It turns out to actually be Georgiou/the Terran Emperor. Captain Pike doesn't know about the Discovery's trip to the Terran universe, so he's clueless as to who Georgiou really is, which added a bit of fun to their scenes together. The fact that Pike knew Georgiou in the past made it even better.

Georgiou being one of my favorite characters, I love getting to see her more in this season, and this episode does a great job of continuing to show that she's the perfect character for Section 31.

Leland and Pike also speak to each other for the first time in this episode, and I enjoy their dynamics was well. The two of them as individuals illustrate the tensions between Section 31 and Starfleet. Just like Georgiou, making them previous acquaintances was a good move storytelling-wise. It's a great rivalry.

Discovery makes a plan to go into the network to save Tilly. It's good that the storyline with Section 31 added a bit of comedy because the storyline about the network was emotionally heavy. You feel for the JahSepp having their home destroyed and all of them being killed, but once you learn the truth, of course you feel even more deeply for Doctor Culber, who's a character you've gotten to know.

It was a good look at how the way you view a situation can make a huge difference and how there isn’t always a clear cut villain in a situation. I did find it a bit odd that May never once mentioned to Tilly that the "monster" was a human even though she should have been able to tell after her time spent in Tilly’s head.

Stamets and Culber together was heart-breaking, especially when you briefly think that Culber won’t be able to make it back. Ressurecting dead characters can often be overdone, but this is a case where I appreciated it. Back when Culber died, I wasn’t thrilled about Discovery foraying into the Kill Your Gays trope. I don't know if they planned this all along or decided to do it later, but it does make me feel much better knowing that Star Trek's first same-sex couple gets a chance at a happy ending.

The Admiral arrives at the end of the episode to talk to Leland and Pike. She tells them that they have to find Spock together. This is exciting because I find the mystery of Spock to be the most interesting of the open storylines, and I'm excited to have the Section 31 characters stick around. (I've watched all of this season, so I know where it's going, but even re-watching, it's what I find most interesting.) I look forward to talking more about that as I keep re-watching.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Book Review: How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? by Moustafa Bayoumi

Published: August 14th, 2008
Publisher: Penguin Press
Received: purchased
Read from December 30th, 2020 to January 10th, 2021

Summary from Goodreads:

The story of how young Arab and Muslim Americans are forging lives for themselves in a country that often mistakes them for the enemy

Arab and Muslim Americans are the new, largely undiscussed “problem” of American society, their lives no better understood than those of African Americans a century ago. Under the cover of the terrorist attacks, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the explosion of political violence around the world, a fundamental misunderstanding of the Arab and Muslim American communities has been allowed to fester and even to define the lives of the seven twentysomething men and women whom we meet in this book. Their names are Rami, Sami, Akram, Lina, Yasmin, Omar, and Rasha, and they all live in Brooklyn, New York, which is home to the largest number of Arab Americans in the United States.

We meet Sami, an Arab American Christian, who navigates the minefield of associations the public has of Arabs as well as the expectations that Muslim Arab Americans have of him as a marine who fought in the Iraq war. And Rasha, who, along with her parents, sister, and brothers, was detained by the FBI in a New Jersey jail in early 2002. Without explanation, she and her family were released several months later. As drama of all kinds swirls around them, these young men and women strive for the very things the majority of young adults desire: opportunity, marriage, happiness, and the chance to fulfill their potential. But what they have now are lives that are less certain, and more difficult, than they ever could have imagined: workplace discrimination, warfare in their countries of origin, government surveillance, the disappearance of friends or family, threats of vigilante violence, and a host of other problems that thrive in the age of terror.

And yet How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? takes the raw material of their struggle and weaves it into an unforgettable, and very American, story of promise and hope. In prose that is at once blunt and lyrical, Moustafa Bayoumi allows us to see the world as these men and women do, revealing a set of characters and a place that indelibly change the way we see the turbulent past and yet still hopeful future of this country. 

Review:

How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? is the story of a group of Arab Americans in the 2000s after 9/11. These young people don't know each other, but all of them live in Brooklyn. Despite all being Arab and living in the same place, they each had unique circumstances and experiences, which kept the stories from feeling repetitive.

However, all of the young people being from Brooklyn did mean that the book was slightly limited in the experiences showed. New York City is vastly different from other areas of the country, so I would have loved to get stories about young Muslims from all over the United States. That would have been a great look at an even more diverse group of experiences.

That being said, it was an enjoyable read. I liked some of the stories more than others, which is to be expected in a book like this, but I appreciated the variety of perspectives on what it was like to be young and Muslim in Brooklyn in the 2000s.