Our kingdom is free… from a wicked jumpsuit?

Video Game Review

The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes

Platform: Nintendo 3DS

Released: October 22, 2015

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4.6/10

Becoming a hero involves four key things: possessing a courageous spirit, leading by example, accomplishing notable feats, and, most importantly, rocking swanky fashion while defeating your enemy.

The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes introduces “stylish victory” in the literal sense. Our protagonist, Link, doesn’t rely on his trusty sword and shield to vanquish evil. In this adventure, he has the option of purchasing clothing to accompany his trademark tunic, hat and tights, each with its own advantage.

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One costume, for instance, enables him to shoot beams from his sword, eliminating a baddy from afar. Another one illuminates his body in dark mansions or caves, making for a safe trip.

This unparalleled concept creates only momentary enjoyment. Some classic Zelda puzzle-solving and unintentional brain training exists, but beyond that, the plotline is silly, borderline ridiculous.

Set in Hytopia, a kingdom inhabited by fashion-obsessed people, its Princess Styla is cursed by “The Lady” (a witch), who forces her to wear a black jumpsuit which cannot be removed. Styla’s devastated father, King Tuft, calls for three legendary, totem-pole-forming heroes to fulfill the prophecy of restoring the kingdom’s couture-mania.

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Link, along with two other swordsmen, excurse to the Drablands to conquer its eight arduous regions, in hopes of stopping the Lady and freeing Princess Styla from unroyal embarrassment.

There are dribs and drabs of slightly satisfying challenges in Triforce Heroes, blended with a dry, shallow storyline. These ingredients didn’t produce a true Zelda title. While traversing through a dungeon or fighting a boss, I wanted to tell myself it was to rescue a country from vileness’s clutches, but when I remembered it was to remove a princess’s jumpsuit, I became unmotivated.

The main event was to stack the three heroes on top of one another, essentially “totem-poleing” to strike tall enemies, activate a switch perched atop a high ledge, etc., a technique that outlived its creativity in a matter of two levels.

The lack of character development made it impossible to feel any sense of accomplishment. The backstory of the “Triforce Heroes” wasn’t discussed at great length, breaking potential relatability to or humanization of protagonists, secondary characters, or even antagonists.

It’s a shame this installment turned out to be stale. I was looking forward to Triforce Heroes the moment it was announced on Nintendo Direct, anticipating an inadvertent revival of the classic Four Swords games: two adventures comprising more than one hero.

A saving grace is a single-player mode is available to those who would rather complete the game on their own; however, the gathering of the “doppels” (the name given to the two non-controlled heroes) was excruciating. Instead of the three Links travelling in formation, only one is led by the player, while the others stand lifeless. This requires the player to “totem-pole” the gang and guide them to the next objective.

Usually, the franchise contains rich, colourful scenarios spawning limitless theories and debates. At times, it’s hard to tell that Triforce Heroes continues the tale of the omnipotent Triforce, Hyrulean warrior and princess, and Ganon, the leader of desert brigand race. I don’t recommend this game for long-time Zelda fans, or casual gamers seeking entertainment.

Learning through literature – fiction provokes thought and reflection

My life lessons weren’t taught solely by my mothers, schoolteachers, or personal experiences. Getting lost in the vicissitudes of a fictional character’s life allowed me to witness conflict between oneself, nature, or others, granting me knowledge of how to solve similar problems in real life.

I’ve narrowed down my three favourite novels from Grades 1 to 12, identifying the impact each has had.

Who is Bugs Potter? Gordan Korman

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Written by children’s author Gordon Korman, Who Is Bugs Potter? follows the story of a mustachioed, gifted drummer named Bugs Potter, who shares a room with high school student and flautist Adam Webb, who is settling along with his school’s orchestra at Toronto’s Hotel Empress.

Night after night, Bugs sneaks out of his hotel room and loiters around a suite inhabited by BiBi Lanay, a fictitious movie star staying in Toronto with her entourage, in hopes of meeting her. He also promotes his drumming ability by traveling to exquisite clubs and becoming a media sensation in Toronto.

Bugs’s wish of meeting BiBi Lanay comes true when he plays at Adam’s high school orchestra festival, and sees that Miss Lanay has grown quite fond of him as a newly-famous musician.

Even though they might not be prevalent, I’ve identified two themes in Who Is Bugs Potter?.

At first, Adam was reluctant to call Bugs his roommate, but he eventually warmed up to him and they became friends. The theme/lesson is anyone can befriend a person they view as the polar opposite of themselves, or not as their “equal.” If you take time to get to know someone who seems differently-minded, you’ll discover that you can form a strong relationship and expand your horizons in terms of knowledge and perspectives.

The second theme is persistence and knowing the right times and places to pursue your desires and unleash your talents. If you’re bold and know what you want, it’s a matter of meeting the right people and doing the right thing.

Speak – Laurie Halse Anderson

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Speak realistically depicts what would happen to a teenage girl if she were sexually assaulted, faced mental health issues, and was understood by no one, not even her own family.

Melinda Sordino, a high school freshman from Syracuse, New York, attends an “end of summer” party with her elementary school friends. She meets Andy Evans, a soon-to-be senior of Merryweather High, the school Melinda will be attending that autumn, who lures her into his car and rapes her. After calling the police and consequently ending the party, Melinda’s friends ostracize her during the new school year, unaware of her traumatic experience.

Melinda becomes depressed and unable to speak. Her parents believe her silence is a cry for attention, and ignore any non-verbal messages she attempts to send. She spends the ninth grade mentally replaying the assault, and trying to determine the next step in her life.

Symbolism is a prominent literary element in Speak. Mr. Freeman, Melinda’s art teacher, represents freedom of expression, speech and thought using almost anything as a medium. Mr. Neck, Melinda’s social studies teacher, represents dogmatism: the dissemination of facts and principles without concern for the opinions of others.

Throughout the story, Melinda struggles between finding her voice and staying mute as to not “disrespect” authority or cause a ruckus.

With Mr. Freeman’s mentoring, Melinda “speaks” using pictures, physical objects and abstract paintings, which she shows him before finally telling him her story.

No matter how dire a situation seems, speaking up is the best way to go. Speak teaches this through a first-person perspective of Melinda Sordino’s sardonic humour and observations of her surroundings. There are people (e.g. Mr. Neck) who misuse power and shut others down abusively, but you have to find the right way to express yourself and exercise your rights.

The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

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The Kite Runner is my favourite high school novel. It explores circularity of life, and culpability not for one’s actions, but for one’s lack of intervening.

Set in Kabul, Afghanistan, two boys named Amir and Hassan enjoy kite fighting. Amir’s father, Baba, loves both children, but continuously brands Amir as “weak” and “lacking courage.” An older sociopathic boy, Assef, sadistically causes violence any way he can, and torments Hassan for being a Hazara, who he considers an inferior race to the Pashtuns. As he’s about to attack Amir with his brass knuckles, Hassan defends his friend by threatening to sling a rock into Assef’s eye.

Hassan wins a kite-fighting contest and is confronted by Assef and his gang, who demand that Hassan hand over his kite in exchange for freedom. Upon his refusal, Assef attacks Hassan and sexually assaults him. Amir, standing a fair distance away, witnessed this and ran away, rather than stopping the event.

Amir flees to Fremont, California, marries a woman named Soraya, and ultimately adopts Sohrab, who is revealed to be the child of Hassan – who was killed by the Taliban.

The concept of guilt for not doing something is unprecedented. It shows that telling yourself “you should have done something” is just as bad, or sometimes worse, than saying “I shouldn’t have done that.” Growing up, it taught me that you should gauge when and when not to act. Sometimes, it’s best to not do anything at all, but when a loved one’s life is at risk, doing nothing can be costly.

The Kite Runner also teaches us that life is circular; in other words, what goes around comes around. Committing a crime hurts the criminal as much as it hurts the victim.

Literature entertains, mystifies and teaches. Even a fictionalized story can provoke thought and reflection, making you question things in your own life.

Musical artists – establishing and maintaining a social media presence

In a new age of music marketing, artist development and promotions have evolved. It’s imperative for every singer and musician – independent or signed to a label – to establish and maintain a strong, positive social media presence.

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In the 2010s, many people rely on technology to consume information instantly, without having to wait for evening news broadcasts or daily newspapers. This generation of music connoisseurs expects to be “connected” to their favourite artists 24/7, awaiting album/EP announcements, photos and videos, and random musings at a time convenient to them. They may try to engage in a virtual conversation with you by commenting on a post, tweet or photo.

Here are three suggestions to creating and sustaining a viable social media identity, while attracting a multitude of followers and fans.

  1. Know your audience.

When reaching out to potential supporters, there’s no such thing as “the general public.” A target market or key public, a homogenous group you hope will become your fan base, must be identified and understood. Consider hiring a public relations professional to research demographics, psychographics, musical interests and favourite activities – i.e. nightclubbing, attending larger-scale concerts and music festivals.

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Get a sense of the language they use while interacting with others, what fascinates, angers or amuses them, and times and days they regularly use their channels. For instance, if you notice your target market usually posts on Saturdays between 12 – 5 p.m., this is an “optimal posting time,” a recommended period in which your comments, photos, or announcements should be posted. This can be accomplished by browsing Twitter and Instagram feeds, YouTube channels, and Facebook accounts, and then incorporating these findings into your social media outlet(s).

  1. Select your social media channels.

Based on audience research, choose a realistic number of social media outlets. Stray away from selecting every existing outlet, as it’d become difficult to manage posts and follower engagement.

I propose two to four outlets your audience uses on a regular basis. To save time and energy, sign up for a free Hootsuite account, a service which allows seamless streaming of multiple channels, as well as content management and creation to a single, couple or all your social media outlets.

More information and tutorials are available on the official website.

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  1. Analyze your following; make necessary changes.

Besides research and implementation, evaluation is an important process. Now that you’ve established your social media presence, review and assess your progress so far. If you decide on Hootsuite for ease-of-flow, use their tracking and analytical options (e.g. UberVU) to see which of your postings garnered likes, favourites, shares, retweets, etc. Also look at which ones didn’t fare off as well as you would have liked them to. As unpleasant as it may be, this data will help you to alter posting times, change the tone or language of your content, or maybe change social media channels altogether.

As an artist, you lead a hectic life. If you face challenges establishing a social media presence, seek out a digital-savvy person to help you along the way.

Volunteering on a budget

Volunteering is one of the best ways to learn new skills, expand your network and possibly land a job.

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In high school, you may have to accumulate a number of community service hours in order to graduate. In college and university, professors and career counselors suggest you take on pro bono work while attending classes and working.

Although there are long-term benefits to volunteering, not everyone has the means to do it.

Students facing financial setbacks – on their own or within their families – could be prevented from volunteering due to debts, rent, a mortgage, etc. Those who don’t have a valid driver’s license or access to transportation may find it difficult to travel to an organization or special event.

With this in mind, what can be done for people wishing to pursue volunteer opportunities, but facing financial or personal challenges?

1. Don’t make it a long-term commitment. Volunteering doesn’t have to be treated as a job; instead, you set the parameters. If you’d like, you can assist a business once or twice a month with tasks related to your field of study, or provide one-off assistance at a special event or gala held on a weekend afternoon.

2. Get involved at your school. Chances are, your timetable allows for an hour or so of free time between classes, so use it to your advantage. Your college or university runs programs and initiatives recruiting student volunteers, so visit your Student Life (or respective outreach department) and ask how you can get involved. My post-secondary school ran an initiative requesting only an hour of a student’s weekly agenda. It also held events of which students acted as “leaders,” dedicating a few hours to planning, execution and evaluation.

This doesn’t require any excursions, and is based solely on your availability.

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3. Engage in micro-volunteering. Similar to working from home, micro-volunteering involves telecommuting to a charitable organization by applying on sites such as Skills For Change. You join a team of people also working from their homes, and perform tasks as if you were physically under an organization’s roof. This, too, is based on your commitments, and can be done in small increments of time.

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There’s a place for everyone out there, and by employing any of these three strategies, I hope you find a volunteer opportunity that matches your interests and builds your skill set.

“Music Is My Weapon” seeks to eliminate financial barriers

Published in The Cambridge Citizen: August 3, 2015

More than one third of Waterloo Region youth cite financial hardships as the main thing preventing them from enrolling in music-based extracurricular lessons.

To counteract this, the “Music Is My Weapon – Unplugged Concert Series,” held at Kitchener’s Registry Theatre on Sept. 18, 2015, seeks to eliminate financial barriers preventing children from receiving training in music, song writing, instrumentalism, and performing.

The official “Music Is My Weapon” logo.

This benefit concert will raise funds for E-Bolt Music in Cambridge and the Community Music School of Waterloo Region. This funding will enable both schools to expand their music programming, slash their prices in half, and increase intake capacity for new students.

“Music really helps children to think differently and to process thoughts and emotions,” said Eric Bolton, local singer/songwriter and owner/music teacher at E-Bolt Music. “Music was my reaction to life. I remember going through some tough times and the first thing I did was write music. This initiative is great, and already we see young people benefiting from the power of music.”

Businesses around Ontario have sponsored this concert series, including MIREU Entertainment & Music Business Consulting Group as an artist sponsor; Coldwell Banker Gary Baverstock Realty, Brokerage as a stage sponsor; and Musselman Compressor Services Inc., as musician sponsors.

Prominent Canadian artists, instrumentalists and music producers such as Alysha Brilla, Adam Bowman and Kenen Shadd have voiced their encouragement of this initiative.

“Getting children involved with arts and culture is critical,” said Shadd, vice-president of Roulette Media Records in Waterloo. “There has to be an outlet for them, though. There has to be a way for them to be recognized for their hard work. I think ‘Music Is My Weapon – Unplugged’ will provide a great outlet for these children to showcase their musical talents to a wide audience.”

According to the National Assembly of State Art Agencies, music programs build the confidence and problem-solving skills sought by today’s employers. Children from low-income families who are given the chance to develop skills in music – whether it’s through singing, performing, producing, or composing – achieve grades above 80 per cent in mathematics and science.

Using the hashtag #ELIMIN8BARRIERS, the “Music Is My Weapon – Unplugged Concert Series” encourages members of the Waterloo Region community to come out to this event, and donate what they can to assist students wishing to pursue music lessons.

Please visit the official website, the Facebook page for more information about this initiative. Please click here if you wish to donate.

Canadian arts and culture is serious business

Over the years, I’ve heard people disregard the Canadian arts scene as a “true business”; one that doesn’t “pull in the bucks” or contribute to a strong economy. It might be seen as an industry in which a handful of people paint, sculpt, perform magic, or sing and dance to loved ones and a moderate YouTube following.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Canadian arts and culture serves as an entryway to a prosperous economy securing people financially — and providing them with an outlet to unwind.

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But what counts as arts and culture, specifically?

It’s not just influential singers dominating the airwaves, dancers gracing a stage, or big-time comedy festival performers; it’s the exhibitions and recitals you gaze at and listen to in libraries, of which artists have dedicated their lives to the creation and staging.

Culture is the heritage resources, archives and historical organizations, independent film festivals, and exquisite artwork which has defined our the high culture of our generation.

According to Statistics Canada, $7.7 billion was invested collectively from the municipal, provincial and federal governments in 2010. This employed 600,000 people in the arts and culture sector, producing $40 billion for the Canadian economy — a 500 per cent return on investment.

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In reality, Canadian’s cultural sector in monumental. It employ as many people as the agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, oil and gas industries combined.

Todd Hirsch, chief economist at ATB Financial in Calgary and author of The Boiling Frog Dilemma: Saving Canada’s Economy, concluded that, next to New York and California, the province of Ontario houses the third largest entertainment economy in the world.

Canadian tourists who partook in arts-related activities in 2009 — watching a production in a village, attending a concert, or exploring heritage buildings — generated $3 billion for the Canadian economy alone.

Believe it or not, investing in the arts helped Canada to climb out of the 2008 recession.

Simon Brault, senior director of the Canadian Council for the Arts and former president of Culture Montreal, vocalized that the gross domestic product share in 2007 catapulted by 4.4 per cent, when $400 million was spent on arts and cultural activities: namely sidewalk show, plays and music festivals.

Even though people weren’t spending money on anything during that time, the sector produces domestic products and services, rather than relying on international trading.

By purchasing a ticket to the Stratford Festival or Big Music Fest, a season pass to a theatre, or pottery from an artist-in-residence, you’re contributing to the growth and stability of the Canadian economy by investing in a very profitable sector. If one year of regular arts engagement can produce $40 billion, imagine what five or 10 years of investment can do!

Succeeding in post-secondary communications programs

If you’re enrolled in public relations, marketing, communications or journalism at the post-secondary level, developing soft skills is just as essential as learning the ropes of the industry.

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Here are four key skills (and pieces of knowledge) to acquire while progressing through a communications-based diploma or degree.

1. A sound knowledge of group dynamics

Whether it’s a presentation on research findings, a mock press conference or capstone, expect to be affiliated with a number of groups for an undetermined period. In some instances, you’ll be assigned to two or three groups — at the same time, comprising completely different people — to prepare special events, strategic communications proposals, and issues management plans.

The moment you meet your group members, collectively establish ground rules. Agree on meeting times and locations, topics of discussion, and possible roles (e.g. one member may be responsible for proofreading documents, another could act as “head researcher”). Ensure that everyone — including yourself — is satisfied with decisions made. If you have any issues with meeting times, your workload, or anything that could hinder the group’s advancement, notify other members immediately. This way, you can iron out the kinks and ensure a smooth, uninterrupted work experience.

While working with your groups, communicate as often as possible. Set up a Facebook page (or another outlet of your choosing) so your group can update each other on tasks, absence notifications, etc. Don’t overwhelm others with constant information; update your group members only when important things need to be discussed (e.g. a piece of research which could further the assignment).

2. Time management and organization skills

The pace of communications programs is aggressive. If you’re studying journalism, you’ll be writing and photographing stories for your college/university newspaper on a weekly or monthly basis. In public relations or marketing, you’ll be coordinating with real clients in the midst of projects and exams.

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I recommend purchasing a day planner or appointment book to keep track of assignment due dates, meeting times, etc. For example, if your research professor assigns a report with a one-week turnaround, pencil in a “work period” the following day after a class.

Also create a priority list of assignments, client meetings and media interviews. If a campaign proposal worth 20 per cent is due in four days, complete that before your grammar worksheet due in two weeks.

3. Extemporaneous thinking

This is a skill you’ll gain over time, both in your program and in the workplace. Extemporaneous means “spoken or done without preparation.” While studying communications, it’s not uncommon for a professor to question you after a presentation, or a client to request clarification on your campaign, event, or issues management plan. You won’t have an ample amount of time to think about your response, so you need to be quick on your feet and provide a coherent response.

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How is this achieved? Through practice. Ask a classmate or family member to role-play your professor or client and to ask you a series of question that catch you off guard. Additionally, ask them to assign you a random topic to discuss in the span of two minutes.

4. Adaptability

Communications is an art and a science; there isn’t a right or wrong necessarily. An open mind and a willingness to learn is critical for academic success.

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I hope these skills will be of use to you during your academic epoch, and I wish you the best of luck in your endeavours.