Diagnostic: "This I Believe" Compare & Contrast

    The two “This I Believe” essays that I read shared a common theme. They both heavily believed in the importance of kindness. However, they also differ in a few ways, such as the way that each author first realized their belief in kindness. The similarities and differences of these essays affected the ways that they each succeeded in following the prompt.

    The first essay, entitled “The Kindnesses We Give Each Other” is an essay explaining why “kindness is the cornerstone of [the author’s] belief”. She uses an engaging, first person tone which was very effective in responding to the “Be Personal” section of the prompt. The author briefly introduced her belief, told a story, and then connected how her story was relevant in explaining her belief. Similarly, in “Umbrella Moments”, the majority of the essay was a story. In fact, she did not even mention her belief in the beginning of the essay, but instead three words that summarized the the surroundings of the story. She told a story and at the end, connected it to her core belief of kindness, much like the author of “The Kindnesses We Give Each Other” did.

    Although the essays were similar in their ideas and delivery, they differ in a few ways. In the essay, “The Kindnesses We Give Each Other”, the author writes about what it feels like to receive kindness from someone as well as what it feels like to give kindness to someone else. Using those feelings that she conveyed through her story, she discovered that “we should help each other get through this life” with kindness. Comparatively, in “Umbrella Moments”, the author only talked about the feeling of receiving an act of kindness, rather than the feeling of giving an act of kindness. The feeling of relief and happiness that she got from one simple act of generosity inspired her to believe and write about how kindness can change the world.

    These two essays compared in many ways. Because they used a lot of the same ideas and techniques, they both successfully responded to the prompt well in similar ways. They both told a story about them, which was the first part of the prompt. Each essay used their own real experiences to create a memorable piece of writing. Both stories were brief enough, while still containing good details that were relevant to their core belief. They also named a belief that could be expressed in a sentence, which was an important aspect of the prompt. However, each also had possible areas of improvement in responding to the prompt. In “The Kindnesses We Give Each Other”, the author wrote in a personal tone, however, she spoke in the editorial “we” quite often even though the prompt stated to avoid that. That was one area of the prompt that could have been improved upon. Comparatively, “Umbrella Moments” had a different possible area of improvement. In this story, the author concluded by stating that if everyone used acts of kindness, it could change the world. Although I think this part of her essay supported her point well, the prompt states to avoid social ideals. This could possibly be an area of improvement for this author.

    Both essays were similar in their theme of the importance of kindness, as well as the style of storytelling that they were written in. Because of these similarities, they both succeeded in many of the same aspects of the prompt. However, they contrasted in a few ways and had different small areas of improvement according to the prompt. Despite these areas of improvement, I believed both essays succeeded in responding to the prompt.


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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

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