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Amparo Bertram

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08:20 am: A tale of two fans
Certain people have been reminding me that it's about time I posted an update. First, my training in passenger baggage is nearing its end. Starting this week, rather than requiring a trainer to tell all the trainees what to do, we have been written into the daily assignment schedule so that we are expected to show our initiative in keeping ourselves busy. Once we've done that for two weeks, we will be finished with our baggage training and can be put on the regular work schedule. The main benefit of this is that we will be able to work overtime, which we currently aren't allowed to do. The drawback is that we aren't guaranteed weekends off. In fact, for the first couple weeks in March, I will have Thursday/Friday off and work on the weekends.

My tae kwon do classes have been going well. I broke my first board last week (and couldn't help thinking "but I'm not being attacked by a tree..."). Apparently breaking boards is a requirement for advancing to the next belt. I have also been practicing something called a poomse (kata in Japanese) that consists of a punch and a block repeated in various combinations. I've been told this is also part of the belt test.

My first fan tale is about the fan in the furnace of my apartment. It was just installed in December, so it's brand new. A couple weeks ago, it started making a strange noise, which sounded like a motorboat or helicopter...or the sound you get when you hold a piece of paper up to the blades of a revolving fan. After being awakened in the middle of the night repeatedly by this rather loud noise, I told the building manager about it. He showed up one day to see what the problem might be. First I had to convince him there WAS a problem, because he wasn't able to hear the noise until I took him to one of the rooms where it echoes through the vent. After fiddling with the furnace for quite some time, he decided that the filter was loose. He didn't do anything about it that day.

Yesterday I came home after work to find that the noise had grown even louder. I opened up the furnace to see that the building manager had come in some time during the day and had attempted to hold the filter in place with duct tape. However, the tape had worked loose and was flapping around wildly. I wasn't about to sit through all that noise, so I ripped the tape out...and lo and behold, when I pulled out the piece of tape that had gotten one end sucked into the fan, that end had stuck itself to a piece of paper. Once the strip of paper came out, the sound vanished, and all was well.

The second fan tale is about mangaroo, who has recently become a fan of the animated series Avatar. She invited me over to her house on Saturday so we could watch a marathon of the first episodes. From what I've seen so far--which, I've been told, is not the best part of the series--it is a show with interesting characters in a world that displays evidence of both Japanese and Chinese influences, among others. The animation, although it has a few oddities here and there, is attractive to look at (thank goodness) with some well choreographed action sequences. I found it fascinating that, despite the Asian influences with the clothing, the fighting styles, the architecture, and the zoology (unagi? koi? flying bison that could be straight out of Totoro?), the facial expressions of the characters are done in a very American (Disneyish) style.

Of course, me being me, I couldn't help wondering about some of the logic behind various plot devices and twists. For example, why can earth benders use their powers on coal (an organic compound) but not metal (a mineral that comes from rock)? What would happen if an earth bender tried to bend a stone with, say, a vein of copper in it? Who has dominion over lava? Would it be a fire bender (because it's hot) or a rock bender (because it's merely rock in liquid form)? Why is an earth bender unable to use his powers when his arms are incapacitated, while a fire bender can shoot flames from his feet or mouth (or conceivably elsewhere)?

Why did the fire army make earth bending against the law, but not water bending?

And the really big question is, how come the flying bison can zip back and forth across continents in an east-west direction (as we saw illustrated on a map of their movements) in a matter of hours or days, and yet it will supposedly take WEEKS to get to the north pole for water bending training? ...Assuming they ever get around to heading that direction, which seems doubtful if things keep going as they are.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to seeing what becomes of the characters in future episodes.

Note: This would have been posted Tuesday evening, but my internet service went out.

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Comments

[User Picture]
From:havocthecat
Date:February 11th, 2009 01:41 pm (UTC)
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Why did the fire army make earth bending against the law, but not water bending?

Oh, they explain this one, believe me. The rest of it, not always so much, but the answer to this one is definitely extant in the series.
[User Picture]
From:melf42
Date:February 11th, 2009 01:47 pm (UTC)
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You broke a board already? Pretty cool. When I took Tae Kwon Do way back when, we did not learn to break boards until we reached green belt. I only made it from white to gold belt (and "high gold") but not beyond so I never broke one. Though I did learn a couple katas.

Tree attack! Maybe Tae Kwon Do is really Tolkienesque.
[User Picture]
From:mangaroo
Date:February 11th, 2009 01:57 pm (UTC)

But I'm the *good* fan, right?

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I think it's adorable that you count doing overtime as a "benefit." Given the upcoming change in your schedule, is there any chance I can persuade you to come back this weekend for the end of the first season and as much of the second season as you like?

What does breaking a board feel like? Is it a physical achievement or a mental/discipline achievement?
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:February 12th, 2009 01:08 am (UTC)

Re: But I'm the *good* fan, right?

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I think it's adorable that you count doing overtime as a "benefit."

It is for most people. There's constant complaining that so many people are putting in for overtime that not everyone who wants it can get it. I'm happy to let them fight over it.

is there any chance I can persuade you to come back this weekend for the end of the first season and as much of the second season as you like?

I'd be delighted to have another marathon! What day and time would be best?

What does breaking a board feel like?

I did it with a kick, and I was quite startled that I barely felt it at all.

Is it a physical achievement or a mental/discipline achievement?

At the white belt stage, it's mostly physical. I'm still working on getting my muscles toned up enough to do even half what the higher belt students do in the way of warm-up exercises.
[User Picture]
From:mangaroo
Date:February 12th, 2009 04:22 pm (UTC)

Re: But I'm the *good* fan, right?

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Saturday or Sunday are equally good, anytime after 9am. (Actually, the way my sleep schedule is currently running, anytime after 8am works for me, but I know you have long ride here.) Promise not to kick my bookcases.

*happy dance*
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:February 13th, 2009 03:42 am (UTC)

Re: But I'm the *good* fan, right?

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Saturday or Sunday are equally good, anytime after 9am.

How about Sunday? That way I theoretically shouldn't have to worry about getting done in time for Warcraft.
[User Picture]
From:wednesday_10_00
Date:February 11th, 2009 02:02 pm (UTC)
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*considers how many questions can be answered without spoilers*

Why is an earth bender unable to use his powers when his arms are incapacitated, while a fire bender can shoot flames from his feet or mouth (or conceivably elsewhere)?

I think this is related to the skill level of the bender. Bending involves a lot of (martial arts-related) forms that require your hands (and/or legs). Experts, however, can be more creative in their technique.

Also, (unless I'm remembering wrong) I think earthbending was only outlawed in that one town/village/area/whatever. We saw Earthbending being widely used in Omashu, for example. And they wouldn't bother outlawing waterbending, because as far as the Fire Nation knows, the only waterbenders are at the North Pole.

P.S. Thank you for posting your thoughts. But you didn't answer my question. :(

Edited at 2009-02-11 02:03 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:mangaroo
Date:February 11th, 2009 02:29 pm (UTC)

re: outlawed bending

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I think other forms of bending are generally outlawed (or unwise) in areas that the Fire Nation controls. You might think after 100 years of war that they control most of the world, but we encounter a lot of locations without a permanent Fire Nation presence: Kyoshi Island, Omashu...mind goes blank because I only remember towns that are named in episode titles.
[User Picture]
From:wednesday_10_00
Date:February 11th, 2009 03:26 pm (UTC)

Re: outlawed bending

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Well, I guess I think of it less as "outlawed," and more as "if the Fire Nation finds out you're a bender, they're going to hunt you down and kill you." Except for the village from...the name is escaping me. Imprisoned?

I also am surprised at how little the war has affected some parts of the world. I suppose the people who live in those places are just THAT awesome.
[User Picture]
From:manga_crow
Date:February 11th, 2009 05:30 pm (UTC)

Re: outlawed bending

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Yay! Avatar is a really great show, probably the best thing american TV animation has put out in a decade. Great characterization, interesting (if sometimes predictable) plot, and some really great art.

I think that pretty much all of your questions are somewhat answered throughout the series, but here are a few (as non spoiler as I can make them) answers:

Why did the fire army make earth bending against the law, but not water bending? - It is, but no ones looking for water or air benders right now. Remember, they're traveling through the Earth Kingdom, both occupied and unoccupied parts; but since, as a rule, benders tend to stick to their own geography, the focus is earth bending here.

why can earth benders use their powers on coal (an organic compound) but not metal (a mineral that comes from rock)? - In theory, they could, it's just that in practice they can't. The more rigid the structure, the harder it is to bend. You don't see very many earth benders working with crystal, either. This question i covered in depth later on though^^

Who has dominion over lava? Would it be a fire bender (because it's hot) or a rock bender (because it's merely rock in liquid form)? - Earth primarily, though a skilled fire bender could deal with the heat of the magma.

Why is an earth bender unable to use his powers when his arms are incapacitated, while a fire bender can shoot flames from his feet or mouth (or conceivably elsewhere)? - as wednesday said, this has mostly to do with the skill level. Zhuko, and especially Iroh are probably two of the greatest living fire benders right now, whereas most of the earth benders you see (with the exception of Bumi) are fairly weak.

how come the flying bison can zip back and forth across continents in an east-west direction (as we saw illustrated on a map of their movements) in a matter of hours or days, and yet it will supposedly take WEEKS to get to the north pole for water bending training? - well, we are dealing with some ancient cartography here I don't think the map is quite to scale :p

Anyway, glad to hear you're enjoying the show; keep us updated =)
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:February 12th, 2009 01:20 am (UTC)

Re: outlawed bending

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Thank you for all the answers. I'm sure I'll have more as I continue to watch.

It is, but no ones looking for water or air benders right now.

What perplexes me about it, though, is that if waterbending were outlawed, there would be no need to pretend to be an earthbender to get arrested. Waterbending would work just as well.

The more rigid the structure, the harder it is to bend.

So, where does ice fit into that pattern? It's also a crystal, and yet it doesn't appear to be any harder to bend than liquid water for a waterbender.

[User Picture]
From:manga_crow
Date:February 12th, 2009 01:47 am (UTC)

Re: outlawed bending

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"What perplexes me about it, though, is that if waterbending were outlawed, there would be no need to pretend to be an earthbender to get arrested. Waterbending would work just as well." -

But the actual point wasn't to just be arrested; she wanted to be sent to the earthbender prison camp to find Haru; the water bending prisons are quite different. (ie. not in the middle of the ocean)

So, where does ice fit into that pattern? It's also a crystal, and yet it doesn't appear to be any harder to bend than liquid water for a waterbender. -

Can I just be a punk and say you have to watch and find out? :p Seriously though, ice is harder to work with than water, but the relative difficulty is less than earth to metal. And I don't think I can go into more detail without giving stuff away, or launching into pure speculation =)
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:February 13th, 2009 02:26 am (UTC)

Re: outlawed bending

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she wanted to be sent to the earthbender prison camp to find Haru; the water bending prisons are quite different.

That sounds reasonable. I probably would have been more worried that they would keep male and female prisoners separate...
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:February 12th, 2009 01:12 am (UTC)
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And they wouldn't bother outlawing waterbending, because as far as the Fire Nation knows, the only waterbenders are at the North Pole.

What bugs me about that explanation is, if waterbenders are so unheard of, why isn't anyone ever surprised when one shows up?

But you didn't answer my question. :(

I was planning on answering it all on its own so that I could give it a detailed response, but when I tried to call up the page my connection kept timing out.
[User Picture]
From:wednesday_10_00
Date:February 12th, 2009 01:13 pm (UTC)
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Now I'm trying to remember how many people saw Katara waterbend in season 1 and what their reactions were. But I'm drawing a blank because I haven't bothered to rewatch most of season 1.

This is just random speculation, but: it's possible that only the Southern Water Tribe and Fire Nation really know the extent to which waterbenders have been wiped out. Men from the Southern Water Tribe have gone to the Earth Kingdom to help fight, but there are no waterbenders among them. Thus, to the Fire Nation, there's no need to "outlaw" waterbending, because it only exists at the North Pole, which they have no control over. (I think Zuko is the only one from the Fire Nation to see Katara waterbend? Maybe Zhao, too, but we won't count him because he's stupid.) However, the Earth Kingdom people, not knowing the waterbenders have been wiped out, are not surprised to see someone wearing Water Tribe clothes waterbend.
[User Picture]
From:mangaroo
Date:February 12th, 2009 05:02 pm (UTC)

I'm not obsessive or anything. I just like lists.

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Who sees Katara waterbend in season 1.1-1.16? (All s_vamp has seen so far.)

* Zuko
* Zuko's crew
* the pirates
* Jet
* the nuns, Uncle Iroh (if he hadn't noticed before), and Jun
* Jeong Jeong

Although she doesn't bend in Imprisoned, she announces she is a bender to Haru and his mother. And I would sum up the reactions of all of the above as...non-existent. Except Jeong Jeong thinks its cool that she has the healing gift.
[User Picture]
From:manga_crow
Date:February 12th, 2009 05:51 pm (UTC)

Re: I'm not obsessive or anything. I just like lists.

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You left one out; Sokka, who treats her like she's a freak because of it^^ But I think it's really more that they don't bother to occupy the poles, if they did, I think you would see a similar situation in the south pole to that of the earth kingdom villages. But instead they chose an alternate solution (see s3 ep8) effectively de-clawing the southern tribe and putting the north into an isolationist position.

So, while waterbenders are rare, at least everyone knows they exist. Combine that with the company she travels with, and it doesn't seem a stretch that no one finds her that shocking.
[User Picture]
From:wednesday_10_00
Date:February 12th, 2009 06:13 pm (UTC)

Re: I'm not obsessive or anything. I just like lists.

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Combine that with the company she travels with

Maybe this is the important thing. People realize she's with the Avatar and go, "OMG, the Avatar!" (Except that they are usually amazingly unsurprised to see him, which I find more perplexing than spacealien_vamp's question; I mean, he's been missing for 100 years and you accept it in three seconds? Okay.) And then just accept that he's going to be with a bunch of fugitives or weirdos or whatever they think.
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:February 13th, 2009 02:48 am (UTC)

Re: I'm not obsessive or anything. I just like lists.

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Except Jeong Jeong thinks its cool that she has the healing gift.

That's another thing that confused me. If waterbenders (even if it's a fraction of them) can heal, one would think they'd be sought out by everyone--especially during a war. They ought to be famous for healing. Yet she didn't even think to attempt using her powers to heal until she was seriously injured, and that appeared to be mostly by accident rather than intent.
[User Picture]
From:wednesday_10_00
Date:February 13th, 2009 01:04 pm (UTC)

Re: I'm not obsessive or anything. I just like lists.

(Link)
Please hold that thought until you've seen the end of the first season. I'm curious to see if you'll find it more or less stupid at that point. Though I will say...

that appeared to be mostly by accident rather than intent.

It was totally by accident. She had no idea waterbending could heal at that point.
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:February 13th, 2009 02:40 am (UTC)
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However, the Earth Kingdom people, not knowing the waterbenders have been wiped out, are not surprised to see someone wearing Water Tribe clothes waterbend.

What I find interesting about all this is that, despite being under attack by the Fire Nation for a century, despite seeing that they could be driven extinct, the two remaining nations haven't joined forces. I bet a joint water-earth team could do some pretty innovative bending tricks. Instant quicksand, as one example that I mentioned before.

Or, as they say in Corseltel, "If you have a fire dragon and a water dragon, you can make fresh tea anywhere!"
[User Picture]
From:mangaroo
Date:February 13th, 2009 02:56 am (UTC)
(Link)
In the opening credits for the first episode, we learn that men of Katara's tribe left two years ago to join the Earth Kingdom to fight the Fire Nation. And remember that Katara is the last waterbender in the South Pole.
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:February 13th, 2009 04:08 am (UTC)
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In the opening credits for the first episode, we learn that men of Katara's tribe left two years ago to join the Earth Kingdom to fight the Fire Nation.

But they're not benders, though. I'm talking about using their powers in combination. (Besides, why did they wait 98 years? I can't imagine it took them THAT long to see the threat...)

It's like in the Nice Dragon series...the people who have strength in multiple elements seem at first to be less powerful, but the way they combine multiple elements actually makes them stronger than those who excel at only one thing.

That's what the Avatar is, after all, isn't he? Someone who can combine multiple elements. Sure, he has the advantage of being very powerful, but at the core what makes him special is the ability to mix the elements. A partnership of benders should be able to approximate that, by making up for each other's weaknesses with their synergy.

And remember that Katara is the last waterbender in the South Pole.

Sure, she is NOW. But there used to be others. And there are still the northern ones. (Or so we're told.) If they had ever bothered to help the earthbenders, then the earthbenders would be more informed about the sorry state their numbers are in.

Speaking of which, those guys at the south pole need to worry about some serious inbreeding in their very near future. What happens when members of different nations intermarry? Could their children potentially become benders of either element? Can non-benders have children who are benders?
[User Picture]
From:mangaroo
Date:February 13th, 2009 06:29 am (UTC)
(Link)
Hey, Aoshima can't shake his finger at me! I've been the non-spoileriest person in this thread! I've even not answered things when we were in the same room 'cause the answers came from season 2 and beyond. (See you Sunday, when I will continue to bite my tongue.)

For shippy reasons, I would love to know what happens with mixed bending genetics. And, yes, non-benders can have children with bending ability.
[User Picture]
From:wednesday_10_00
Date:February 13th, 2009 01:09 pm (UTC)
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Sure, she is NOW. But there used to be others.

I'm not sure it was ever made clear how long ago the other waterbenders were killed off, but I think it's been a while. Remember, at the beginning of the series Katara has no clue what to do with her powers, and Sokka barely even believes bending exists.

Edited at 2009-02-13 01:09 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:manga_crow
Date:February 13th, 2009 02:17 pm (UTC)
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It was around 60 years ago that the last waterbenders in the south disappeared. And there are reasons that the North doesn't help out, though they're more implied later on than said outright. But I'll wait to say more, at least until you finish S1.
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