Is The Legend of Korra Any Good?

Maybe.

I began watching (several years late) knowing that fans have a love/hate relationship with the show. Nevertheless, I tried to keep an open mind and managed to make it through to the end. And I have a lot of thoughts. I struggled writing this post, I tried to write a coherent essay about the Legend of Korra. Instead have this listicle.

If I had to sum up my thoughts about what was wrong with the series it would be this. It had a lot of potential, multiple good moments, and a lot of missed chances.

The Bending

If you’ve read any of my other posts you’ll know by now that I love magic systems and bending is no exception. The world of Avatar is one of the few examples of a fantasy world where elemental magic doesn’t feel like the cliche. It feels real and it’s an integral part of the setting and culture. Getting to see subsets of bending reach maturity, especially metal bending, is just great.

It was also great to see an airbending master let loose. Don’t get me wrong, Aang is great, but he never really put his airbending on full display like Tenzin does in this series.

I guess airbending is good for something other than marble tricks after all.

Finally, I was glad to see the creators stick with giving each style of bending a distinctive visual. Pro Benders, the professional athletes of the Avatar world. have a very distinctive style regardless of element that shows a focus on quick attacks and agile dodges. That this style of bending rarely holds up outside of the confines of the arena is a nice touch.

The main issue with the bending in this series is Korra’s weakness. Already at the beginning of season one it’s implied that she has already mastered three of the four elements. Yet throughout the series she repeatedly get’s brushed aside by her opponents. This is especially apparant in season one when she starts Pro Bending and apparently forgets everything she knows about bending in the process. Her fights with the Equalists are filled with quick jabs like those used in the arena when she could have just brought the building down. By the end of his first season Aang was sinking entire fleets on his own. With the exception of an incredibly cartoonish fight in season 2 we never get that from Korra.

The Villains

None of the villains were bad exactly, at least the ideas for them weren’t. It makes sense that non-benders would begin demanding equal treatment or that established forms of government would be overthrown or forced to change. Or that people would forget to honor the spirits and cause backlash by doing so.

The problem with these villains is that we never really get to explore their motives. In her role as avatar Korra takes for granted that the world is already the way it should be. In season 4 it’s finally said that Korra helped get better treatment for non-benders but that’s not something we ever see her caring about in the first season while she is fighting Amon.

In Avatar the Last Airbender the protagonists dealt with concepts like imperialism, war , refugees, gender roles, and disabilities to name just a few. Legend of Korra introduces its own ideas, but never really deals with them in the same way. Time and time again Korra sees the problems that gave rise to the villains she has to face and each time she turns the other way.

Not Doing the Thing

So conflicts could have been resolved if the characters had done the sensible thing. I realize that if characters never made mistakes we’d never have story, but LoK has some really spectacular mistakes.

Why for example did Suyin Beifong refuse to restore order in Ba Sing Sei after the Earth Queen’s death? Morals aside, she at the time ruled one of the most advanced cities in the world with dedicated cadre of trained fighters. She had at this point already took her forces out of the city to help the avatar and the fledgling air nomads. Her refusal to help led directly to Kuvira’s rise to power.

While we’re on the topic of inaction. Why in season four was the Fire Lady so unwilling to take action against Kuvira? Given all the work Zuko put into rehabilitating the nation’s image after the war this attitude makes sense to a point. Did she really forget that her son is a part of the army that would very likely have to fight Kuvira on its own if the Fire Nation refused to help?

For a country seemingly dedicated to inaction the United Republic has a lot of warships.

And why didn’t General Iroh just order his troops to fight Kuvira? I understand that the president had ordered him to surrender but it’s not like he wouldn’t have been able to see what a terrible idea surrender was. Plus as a member of the Fire Nation’s royal family he isn’t lacking in career options. After the role he played in season one, his part in season four was just disappointing.

The Spirits

I actually enjoyed Avatar Wan’s story. I know a lot of people did not. But it didn’t actually contradict any of the existing lore, if anything it gave it greater context, and the different art style made it clear that the story was being told with some embellishments.

The problem I have is with how the spirits were portrayed in the rest of the series. in the Last Airbender the spirits had gravitas. They were forces of nature or strange creatures bordering on being eldrich horrors. LoK’s spirits are essentially neopets that get angry sometimes. It’s no wonder the people of the Avatar World stopped listening to them.

I do however like that Iroh was able to live on in the spirit world. It made sense for his character and as a big fan of Iroh I was glad to see him come back.

The Tech

At first the huge jump in technological progress that happened between ATLA and LoK was jarring, but it grew on me. The series has a wonderful steampunk/magitech aesthetic and the ways that we see bending and technology intermingle is just great.

Almost none of this tech got used after season one and that’s a tragedy.

With all the advances in technology I don’t quite understand why we don’t see as many non-benders taking part in conflicts as we did the ATLA.

The Verdict

The Legend of Korra had some good moments and a lot of bad moments, but it’s still a fun watch. If you want to see powerful benders driving around in shiny cars then this is the show for you. Like most things, it helps if you watch it for fun and don’t question it too much.

If you liked the first series then you should definitely watch this one, as long as you don’t raise your expectations too high you should still be able to enjoy it. I still don’t think it at all measured up to the first series, but at least I had fun watching it.

All the images here were sourced from the Avatar wiki.

Does the Perfect Fidget Toy Exist?

Confession time. I LOVE fidget toys. When I was a kid my mom used to to put all sorts of knick knacks in our stockings for Christmas. To this day I seem to be the only one who actually liked getting them and this minor obsession has continued to this day. For this post I searched my desk for my three most used fidget toys to try and decide which one is the best.

Our three contenders.

Tom’s Fidgets Flippy Chain

Our fist contender is admittedly underwhelming at first glance, but it’s simplicity is part of its charm. It’s a simple, repeated motion that is perfect for fidgeting when you’re on edge (if you look closely you’ll see that I broke one of the orange rubber bands during my qualifying exam). My only complaint is that sometimes the two rings get stuck and it takes a few seconds to get them back into working order. If it weren’t for this occasional stumble I’d say this chain is the perfect fidget toy.

Fidget Cubes

Our second contender should look familiar to many. Fidget cubes got very popular for awhile and for good reason. If you need to keep your hands busy they’re a great option. Each side has a different option so if you’re only allowed to own one fidget toy, this is one.

That said, there is one very important thing to remember; price matters. There’s a surprisingly large difference in quality between the $20 and $5 options. The $5 knock offs you find at walmart? They can be good, but if your first one was maybe $15 like mine was then the difference is clear. That $15 might seem like a lot but when you’re buying something with so many moving parts that quality difference matters a lot.

Lifidea Alumnium Alloy Fidget Toy

This one is simple. You have a cube, made from smaller cubes, and you break apart the big cube and continuously refold the smaller cubes back into the bigger cube. Like the Flippy Chain the movements involved are relatively simple but perfect for idle fidgeting. The only real complaint I have with this toy is how quickly the paint wears off. Admittedly the color doesn’t matter much for something like this, but it’s still nice to have a set of desk toys with the paint still attached.

The Winner

So which toy wins?

It’s a tough answer for such a simple question. If I had to choose I would say the Ligidea Alumnium toy. It has a nice repeated motion that doesn’t get fouled up like the chain does, and any shortcomings in quality are not as obvious as they might be in knock off fidget cubes.

So if you just have to buy one, buy either the Lifidea Alumnium toy or the authentic fidget cube. Or buy all of them. The more people who are buying these things the more options will be available for anxious graduate students like me.

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Everyday Carry: My Five Favorite Pens

1. Jotter XL

I love Jotters. I love the simple design, the refill options, the affordable price, and the history. Parker has been making Jotters since 1954, meaning there are plenty of variations on the classic design for anyone who just isn’t happy with the standard. But despite my great love for these pens they sometimes feel a tad small in my hands, so when the Jotter XL came out I was ecstatic. The XL takes the same refills as a standard jotter and shares the same design language, but according to Parker’s website the pen is 7% larger than the standard model. This may seem like only a small change but makes a huge difference in how it feels to hold. For me it creates the perfect ergonomics for what was already an almost perfect pen.

2. Rotring 800 Ballpoint Pen

Rotring’s ballpoint version of their 800 mechanical pencil was something I waited awhile for. Their industrial aesthetic and sturdy build quality make them easy favorites, even if the price can be a little eye-watering. Even the box has a great design. All the writing utensils in this series come in a slim triangular box that immediately sets it apart from other pens. My one complaint is that sometimes the barrel feels a little too small in my hands, but the knurled grip greatly offsets this.

3. Lamy 2000

In some ways Lamy seems to me like the Apple of pens. Their products are well built, fun to use, but sadly proprietary. Lamy ballpoint cartridges are a pleasure to write with but are not the parker-style refills that come in most of the pens I have. That said, Lamy makes some of my favorite pens like the Lamy 2000. It’s got a simple design and hefty feel and comes in several variants if you’re someone who needs a multipen or just likes having the complete set.

4. Cross Tech2

A lot of pens nowadays come with a built in stylus that I’ve never found much use for. But I am a sucker for finishes that Cross puts on their pens and the stylus point on the end looks good aesthetically. It’s just a good, quality pen with a nice feel and a great finish.

5. Pentel Energel

I love to see variety within a product line, it helps to satisfy my urge to collect. And Pentel’s Energel line does the job splendidly. The pens come in multiple colors, nib sizes, and price points. You want to just spend a few bucks on a pen to take notes with in class? Energel has got it. You want a fine point for scribbling in the margins? They’ve got that too. They even have a more upscale model with the same refill if you need something that works as a gift or looks good in meetings. Like the Pilot G2s or parker-style refills, this is a line that has a lot of versatility, with a well-made cartridge that can be used in a wide number of formats to suit your use-case and preferences.

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Summer Reading 2019

We all make promises to ourselves that we can’t keep. We say we’ll go on a diet or go to the gym more, or spend more time outside. If you’re like me you probably tell yourself you’re going to read more. That’s what I told myself at the beginning of the summer and I did, but not as much as I had hoped. I told myself a similar lie when I said that I would get this written over a month ago. And yet here we are.

So here is my very late list of some of the reading I got done this past summer.

Dune

Every fan of science fiction has probably at least heard of Frank Herbert’s masterpiece and with a new movie adaptation on the horizon it’s bound to get even more buzz. I first read the series back in middle school, it was one of the books I would bring with me every day to read on the bus and during study hall. It’s amazing the details you miss out on when you’re fighting to stay awake on the ride to school because you stayed up too late reading the night before.

I’ve been telling myself for years that I would revisit Dune to take in some details that I missed on my first read-through or that simply went over my head at that age. Well, I’ve finally accomplished my goal, or part of it. Back in July I was gifted the book on Audible and finally gave the platform a try (I admit this is a loose definition of reading). I never thought I would enjoy an audiobook but this really changed my mind. The narration brought the characters to life and some sections of the book even boasted separate voice actors for each character. These different voices helped greatly with immersion, especially in the case of Baron Harkonen. My only complaint is that the entire book was not narrated in this style.

I was really amazed by how many details I missed out on. Frank Herbert crafted a book with a complex setting that feels lived in and distant, but familiar at the same. I thought I knew the story well but I felt as if I was experiencing the book again for the first time. These books certainly deserve more than one read to really appreciate.

Velocity Weapon

I haven’t been doing much to keep up with recent scfi, or keep up much with scifi at all. So when I saw Meghan O’Keefe’s Velocity Weapon on sale I wasn’t sure what I was getting into. Boy do I regret staying away from scifi for so long.

O’Keefe introduces us to rogue AI, a wounded gunnery sergeant and her brother, and a thief living in the slums of her planet’s habit domes. The action takes place across two planets and a space ship, and leaves you guessing for much of the book about how they connect and what is real. O’Keefe does a great job keeping the reader in the reader guessing. Several times I tried to guess at an upcoming plot twist and turned out to be right, but the book keeps its secrets leaving readers to discover deeper plots alongside the characters.

The Darkness That Comes Before

I have a friend that has been trying to get me to read some of R. Scott Bakker’s work for years now and this summer I finally picked up the first book of “The Prince of Nothing” which is in turn the first trilogy of Bakker’s “The Second Appocalypse.” Before going on I should point out however that these books are not for young readers, and certainly not for those who might find gruesome of explicit content in their books disturbing. With that said, I very much enjoyed this book.

I started out unsure of how I felt. The book throws a lot at you in the opening chapters and doesn’t give a whole lot of explanation of what is going on. Overtime we learn a few things, Achamian is some kind of sorcerer who belongs to an magical order called the Mandate. Kellhus is a monk who has been sent out to accomplish some task that we aren’t quite sure of yet. And there is a holy war coming that several factions are fighting to take advantage of.

The book has a lot of things that I enjoy including a deep sense of history. The world we’re shown just feels old and there are constant hints of a greater past that has been lost. Bakker’s characters are deeply flawed and readers will likely be hard pressed to say that any of them are truly good. These are characters who have been shaped by a harsh world and their actions show it.

Magic is shown to be incredibly powerful in these books. At one point we are shown a relatively small group of sorcerers who annihilate a much larger force. With that said, magic is not something that is used frequently, at least in the sections that I have read so far. In fact we are told that Achamian, on of our POV characters, is incredibly powerful. Enough so that even the leaders of other magical schools seem to be wary of him and yet in the entire book we only see mentions of his power but few actual demonstrations. If anything I think this shows his strength more than any spell-slinging could.

The Thousand Names

Django Wexler’s books have been on my to-read list for a long time now and I have to say that I regret waiting. The series takes place in a gunpowder fantasy setting and follows a group of soldiers assigned to their kingdom’s colonial forces and in the beginning of this book find themselves faced with the difficult task of reinstalling the local rulers following an anti-imperialist coup. Their situation is then made more difficult by arrival of reinforcements led by an eccentric commander who has other motives for having requested this assignment.

I really enjoyed the book’s focus on the common soldiers and its portrayal of napoleonic style tactics in a fantasy setting. Even though this is a fantasy setting magic is not seen for most of the book. Features that initially seemed magical later turn out to have much more mundane explanations. Not to worry though, the book’s namesake turns out to be central to the plot later on and my initial impressions of the second book lead me to believe that magic will become a bigger part of the plot as the series progresses.

Writing on an iPad

I have been steadily moving away from Apple products for years. I traded in my old iPhone for a Samsung three years ago and my macbook for a windows laptop last year. So it was something of a surprise when I found myself looking at iPads when they were on sale at Best Buy. I had been wanting a tablet for awhile. Since I go away for weekend trips a lot I wanted something lighter that I could take with me to get some work done (but not too much!) and also keep up with writing. At first I was torn between a Surface, the Galaxy Tab S6, or an iPad. As much as I like windows it doesn’t seem as tablet friendly as I would like and I didn’t really want a secondary device that could run too many of my work programs. As for the Galaxy Tab, I was intrigued by Dex and the included pen but I just couldn’t bring myself to make what is honestly a luxury purchase without being sure that I would get software updates for the foreseeable future. In the end I decided on an 11-inch iPad Pro with 256 Gb of storage, 2nd gen Apple Pencil and an Apple Keyboard Folio.

Now that I’ve been using this iPad for a couple weeks I’ll be sharing my thoughts on its capabilities as a writing machine.

There were a few uses I had in mind:

    – Reading books on Kindle and Google Books
    – Taking notes in class
    – Referencing text books and rpg rule books
    – Writing on the go

In all of these categories it has done great so far. The bigger screen makes Google Books a much more pleasant experience and digital textbooks feel so much more natural when read on a tablet versus a computer screen.

When it comes to taking notes this things works even better than I had hoped. I’ve long resisted digital note taking, but I’ve gotten tired of carrying so many books with me and I’ve been looking for ways to slim down my every day carry. Being able to keep everything on an iPad has significantly lightened the load, and the apple pencil is probably the best stylus I’ve ever used. There are a lot of note taking apps available for the iPad, but I’ve just been using OneNote since it syncs with all my other devices through Office365.

As for writing I was pleasantly surprised. Some reviews I read were critical of Apple’s own keyboard case but I liked its slim profile and not having to worry about pairing or charging it. The key travel is acceptable, not huge, but each key does have a satisfying click when you press it. I might not end up writing a full novel on it, but for the amount of use I intend for it to get it works perfectly. But if that’s not your thing and you want a keyboard case that offers function keys, then products like the Logitech Smart Folio can be found for less money and are well-reviewed online.

The newly added mouse support provides a non-touch option for interacting with the device. You can now link a Bluetooth mouse to your iPad under the assistive touch settings. It’s not what I would choose to use as my primary means of controlling the device, but it makes editing text a whole lot easier.

Mouse support is far from perfect but can be good for productivity tasks

One thing I did not expect to find myself doing on this tablet was much gaming. Seeing as I have rarely given much thought to mobile games I was not expecting to recognize so many titles on the app store. I immediately purchased Rome Total War and so far it seems to run surprisingly well. Now I just need to protect my wallet and keep from buying KOTOR or Stardew Valley or else my productivity will take a nose dive.

Overall I have been incredibly happy with this purchase. It’s always a little nerve wracking to make a major purchase, even if you have given it a lot of thought before hand. I have hardly even begun to utilize the device to its full capabilities and already it has proved its worth. So if you’re like me and wondering whether you can make much use of a tablet I’d consider going to the store and trying them out. They are a lot more capable than you might think.

Note: I may earn from qualifying purchases made through amazon affiliate links.