@Questuslibris Allen Yang

Engl 137 provides 4 main types of media. And now I’ll present to you a very hands-on and easy-to-understand guide of how to get your hands on all of these resources. (In excruciating non-related details)

Texts(Herman Melville’s Pierre; Or the Ambiguities,  scrolls & the nature of the book):

1). Get a laptop or any smart devices that support internet browsing functionality(Smart phones, Tablets, Gaming consoles, Calculators). Preferably one with 32GB RAMs and an 4Ghz and above CPU, because of Pierre. You know, you need a powerful machine to handle all the ambiguity. Preferably a windows machine, because Apple has turned into a anti-consumer, greedy company with terrible product design and disastrous customer service. Let me tell you the one time I went to the apple genius bar because my screen started to go black out of nowhere while all the other functionalities remain functional. And the “genius” told me I had to pay for 1900 dollars to get it fixed, because the “specialist” can not find out what is wrong with my machine and the only thing they can do was to replace the entire motherboard with a new one. Because our product is very advance and delicate, so we can not fix it by parts. Because we have this obsession of thinness, we decided to make all our newest flagships thermal throttle with extremely unreliable keyboard and very limited I/O ports. So you are screwed either way. Because we are Apple and we “Think Different”, you, the customer, are f**ked.

If you choose to view the book via smartphone, i recommend you to get a Chinese brand smartphone(Huawei, Xiaomi, OnePlus). They build machines function well with a very low price compared to Samsung, Google and Apple. Take off your tin foil hat and ditch the spyware nonsense, that is just the Trump government’s way of protecting the US local market. Let me ask you one thing, if these smart phones was not produced and designed in China, instead say they are from Europe or Japan while remain the same price would you buy them? Probably yes, right? So there you go. Competition is not part of Chinese culture. One of the core concept of the Chinese culture is 和, which means peace and harmony. Why can’t we just stop picking fights with each other and make some money together, huh?  Americans loath the Chinese thinking we are the sheep who buys in whatever the government tells us. Come on you guys are exactly the same, the mass of the United States population is manipulated by the media. You let Trump become the president for God’s sake. We are all living in a society controlled by the 1 percent of the population. And to be honest, I believe the censorship of internet is quite necessary in China. The majority of the Chinese youth are way to ignorant and easy-to-manipulate to allow a free internet. Look at the teenagers in the United States. One day, I was in the check out lane of the Harris Teeter and a kid in front of me just started flossing out of no where. Freaking Fortnite.

2). Oh yes, the texts. Go to the class website.


Audio books(Night circus): Audible

TVs(The OA, Russian Doll): Netflix, duh.

Game(Life is Strange):Steam, because Epic Store sucks! Exclusives sucks ass!!!

The redemption of a Russian Doll – Yilun Yang #QuestusReviewus

When I first seen the trailer of this show and realize that this show is about, I really didn’t think i would ever like it. The lifestyle of the protagonists seems disorganized and purposeless. And having the main character reliving the same day over and over again to reveal a grander theme is not a novel setup in the Hollywood. In science fiction, we have Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow; in thriller, we have Christopher Smith’s Triangle; in comedy, we have Groundhog Day and in drama; we have Jake Gyllenhaal’s Source Code. So when we discuss the merits of the this show, we must consider what’s new got brought to the table in this show.

This unique setup of story-telling granted the show a very particular edge in portraying the development of characters, that is the show presents a natural longitudinal comparison of the character between each “reincarnation” or “resurrection”. With the bulk of the background unchanged, it became very easy for the audience to notice the arch of our protagonists’ behavior and personalities through the tiniest changes in their behavior, in some sense, we get to shed layers of disguises of the characters and reveal the truth underneath them — like a Russian Doll. For example, Alan used to kill the fly in his bathroom every time he resurrects, but in the eighth episode, not only didn’t kill the fly, but also has a smile on this face, this forces the audience to compensate: what can this possibly mean?

So who are the dolls in this show? We have Nadia, who is a video game designer in her 30s, who is clearly a drug-head with a very chaotic romantic life and a serious mother issue. And we have Alan who is a young man with mild obsessive-compulsive disorder and a sort of faintheart and wimpy character. I think this show did a very good job exhibiting the course of change in these two characters. Over the show, Nadia became more tuned in with the reality she lives in rather than the numbed up world she had built for herself with alcohol and recreational drugs. She gradually starts to genuinely accept her mother’s influence on her, shaking off this overshadowing mother figure that has been her source of her misery her entire life. And Alan becomes more confidence and starts letting go some of his obsession with absolute order and embracing the unpredictable life.

So what is new in this show? How is this different from the other great movies mentioned in the beginning? I think what is great about this show is the choice of using this unworldly setup to tell a redemption story of an ordinary people, to tell a story of someone everybody can relates to, one of that alien warfare and top secret military operation mojo. What i really like about this show is that it is a realistic depiction of the lives of people with mental health problems, not problems like Schizophrenia and psychotic disorders, but depression like Nadia and OCD like Alan. What I mean by realistic is that main-stream media tends to either vilify or romanticise depression and OCD. for example people with depression were either portrayed as solitary genius like Dr.House from “House” or the victim of mistreatment of our society like Clay Jenson from “13 Reasons Why” and the Hollywood classic math genius with OCD stereotype. What I like about this show is that the character it creates can be bitter and cynical like Nadia and somewhat pathetic and woeful as Alan, and these two characters can still find hope and happiness from this dreadful situation they were stuck in. It offers a point of view of life from the perspective of people with mental illness that is dark and depressing, yet not smothering the ember of hope. Changes counts, no matter how small it is. It is not about the grand gestures but believing in the smallest good deeds will eventually bring your life around.

I think it is also very interesting that the writer of the show decides to make both characters resurrects in front of a mirror every time. Mirror is a metaphor for introspection, so resurrecting to the front of a mirror sort of touches on the theme of this show: face the true self and accept your true self. What is also interesting about this design is that the character Nadia is Jewish, and in Jewish mourning culture, mirrors need to be covered because they believe ghosts, although cannot be seen by the naked eye, can be seen through the mirrors. I am not sure if the writers had this in mind when they designed this part of the show, but I think it is a very interesting coincidence either way.

This show also did a very good job in cinematography and scoring. The long takes following Nadia walk through crowds in the party were done very artistically and appropriately. The time-lapse of Nadia binge drinking and smoking after one of her resurrection and the parallel camera angle of Nadia and Alan in episode 8 were perfectly done and fit perfectly with the story telling perspective. The recurring song “Gotta Get Up” brings a positive and warming energy every time it starts playing, reminding our character to get up and start making changes about her life.

Overall, Russian Doll is a very interesting show with a very deep and meaningful theme and brilliant and marvelous acting. Although I really hope some of the death of the main characters have more metaphorical meaning, I can not deny the fact that the writers and the director did a very good job in the story telling of this show and I would definitely recommend anyone who is interested in the topic of depression and mortality to watch this show. I give it a rating of 4 out of 5.

Review for The OA #questusreviewus

The OA is a Netflix original TV series released back in 2016, back then i was not interested by the summary so i didn’t bother to watch it, and now that i have watched it, my opinion about it totally changed. Although there exists some over-used plot cliches, I can tell that the creators wanted to touch on the subject of the influence of beliefs or religions on people and wanted to bring up the discussion that whether unethical experiments should be allowed if the results they yield may indeed alter the human history. I can tell that the show wanted to demonstrate how unimaginably powerful people as a group can be and yet how diabolical human can become when they get greedy and obsessed. The show could have elaborated more on any .

Although this show has some minor flaws, it had done a marvelous job in the casting of the characters, gorgeous cinematography and moving scoring. Many characters’ performances are remarkable and very relatable. And the show did a brilliant job of showing the kind of influence positive thinking can bring to one’s life by the development of the four teenager and BBA and their changes of lifestyle after they got to know OA’s story. Unlike most people, I grew more and more fond of the Hap and Nancy, OA’s mom. Let’s first discuss Hap. In this show, Hap represents the kind of person that gets lost in his own obsession – the obsession of proving the existence of an after life. Because of this obsession, he illegally kept five people in captive for years and  killed three people. But every once in a while, we got to see his vulnerable side, we see he becomes attached to OA and questions the morals of his study. I love this character because he is not one of those villain that are bad just because they are bad in nature. Hap, however, is firstly a human being, he is abominable yet relatable. His villainous deeds stem from a firm belief, an unswerving dedication to his own belief. This, to me, is very respectable. The other character I liked a lot is Nancy, OA’s mother played by Alice Krige. Her portrayal of a loving mother is so genuine and tearjerking. The scene in which she loses all of her self control after a girl asks to take a selfie with OA, and starts rambling about the terrible things people online are going to say about OA is a spot-on portrayal of an over-protective mother. This show made us question the decisions she made in the name of protecting her daughter yet empathize with her and feel incredibly sorry for her suffering.

But the show has a lot of problems, and i believe it is these problems that hindered this show from becoming one of the great shows of all time. The first one is that a lot of sub plots fall into the industry cliches. One prime example for this is that OA refuses to tell her parent her story because she believes the true story would only bring her mother pain. When i was watching the first episode and got to this part, i almost turned away because this is such an cliche excuse of causing conflicts. And what’s worse is that after we get to hear her story with the chosen five, it eludes me why would this story bring her mother nothing but pain, when truth is the only she is asking for. Another problem is that the show lack a more detailed depiction for some of the chosen five. For example, we barely know anything about Jesse, what is his struggle in life? And the show could have devoted a little more time explaining why is BBA feeling so hard to let go of his brother’s death. The most confusing part about the show, although why choose those bizarre movements to represents the rituals for healing the opening the inter-dimensional portal is also very baffling to me, has to be the school shooting in the end that came out of nowhere. The show could have ended with them using the movements to save the other four captives which is what the entire show leads us to believe is gonna happen. The fact that the show’s ending leaves it open to interpret whether this whole thing is OA’s imagination or not totally negated its own effort of bringing up all these profound topics that inspires us to rethink about our society. To me, all the build up from the previous episodes were just completely shattered by the last 30 minutes of the show.

Overall, I believe the show’s creators have some very interesting insight into the humanity and social problem, but their intension of bringing up these discussions got completely overshadowed by the lazy writing of minor characters and the climax. This show started the discussion but did not manage to close it. This show had a lot of potentials but sadly, they are wasted.

Pierre; or, the Ambiguities – A.Y.

Pierre is the first novel by Melville I have ever read and thus I was very much intimidated by the ornate language of Melville. When I was reading it, I had to constantly looking up adjectives used in the book to envision the scene Melville is trying to depict. It was a tough read to say the least, But i do not think it is so bad that I would not read it again.

This novel portrayed a rather morbid relationship between the novel’s main character Pierre Glendinning Jr. and his half-sister Isabel Banford, focusing on the psychological portrait of the mental struggle Pierre went through and the ever increasing tension between his family due to his decision of marrying Isabel. Reviewers universally condemned its morals and its style, criticizing its unorthodox topic and pedantic language. However, I found these two points rather understandable if the fact that Melville put a lot of personal experience into the creation process of the characters is taken into consideration. I believe what Melville was trying to accomplish here is to use Pierre as a means of self-expression. The recurrent psychological activities actually stems from Melville’s confusion and frustration towards his friendship with Nathaniel Hawthorne. This is probably the reason why a lot of the flashbacks seemed coming out of nowhere and hard to follow, it is because they are not from the natural progression of the character rather than the writer himself. Every time Melville think of something, he just add the snippet of thoughts into the story. And this is probably also an explanation to why Pierre’s character seems somewhat inconsistent, the sudden becoming of an author: Melville was trying to use him to speak out, but somewhere along the writing, the line between the character and the writer is blurred which made this novel all the more fascinating. There are certain things, you have to experience it in order to realize it. This is the reason why Pierre seemed very hard to be empathized with.

And I can understand why Melville chose the incestuous relationship between Pierre and Isabel as the topic of this novel, the focus of this novel is the psychological process Pierre went through. So you need a truly moral dilemma for the main character otherwise there won’t be any struggle necessary. I think this topic was perfect for the sake of plot development and the build up of tension between different characters. You need a compelling antagonist to create a truly realistic protagonist.

So, although it might not appeal to the general public’s taste, i found Pierre: or the ambiguity a very interesting book. It is one of those kind of book, i thought i would never read, but it turned out to be quite rewarding. Although, to be fair, the book could have easily be more accessible if Melville could just organize his thought a little bit more before he wrote the whole thing.