Sunday, March 27, 2011

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld--One True Media

Bibliography: Westerfeld, S. (2005). Uglies. New York, NY: Simon Pulse.

Summary: Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can't wait. In just a few weeks she'll have the operation that will turn her from a repellent ugly into a stunning pretty. And as a pretty, she'll be catapulted into a high-tech paradise where her only job is to have fun.

But Tally's new friend Shay isn't sure she wants to become a pretty. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world--and it isn't very pretty. The authorities offer Tally a choice: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. Tally's choice will change her world forever... (Simon Pulse).

Tool: One True Media

One True Media is similar to Animoto (see Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl) in that users upload their images, and the tool manipulates them into a music video of sorts. Unlike Animoto, however, the effects in One True Media are not randomized: users are given complete control of the editing process, creating a much more satisfying creation experience. The user chooses both the montage style and theme song (for Uglies, I used the "Metropolis" style with the song "Santa Rosa Shuffle"), and all of the movements within that montage are at the user's discretion. For example, for the slide "Tally is ugly," I applied the metro effect with a dissolving transition and a zoom in motion of a 3-second duration. Because I wanted this slide to be associated with the next one--"She is about to turn 16. About to turn pretty."--I used the same effect and transition but zoomed out. The image of Shay was created using the bridge effect with a circuit transition. Different effects are associated with different montage styles: if the user were to apply a different montage, say "Fright Night," for example, then the effects could be "blood spatter" or "old film."

Most of the features in One True Media are free, and users can create shareable videos for free that are up to 30 seconds long. Because Uglies clocks in at 2:33 and because I used some premium features, such as the text on the train (all other text images are JPG images created on PowerPoint and uploaded into One True Media), I paid for a downloadable video ($2.99). This video automatically downloaded into an MP4 format, making it easily shareable online and transferable into programs such as iMovie. A nice feature about these videos is that the One True Media logo is not plastered all over your images, as many other Web 2.0 tools are wont to do.

I enjoyed my One True Media experience and will continue to use it for my own personal slideshows. It is slightly more difficult to use than other slideshow/video tools, but the creative control makes it worth it.

Review: Uglies begins with a note from Scott Westerfeld saying that this book began as a series of e-mails exchanged with science fiction writer Ted Chiang about his short story “Liking What You See: A Documentary.” In Chiang’s universe, a procedure has been invented in which the brain no longer produces a chemical reaction when observing a human face and therefore can no longer perceive beauty. Each section in Uglies also begins with quotes about beauty cited from sources such as the New York Times, Francis Bacon’s Essays, Civil and Moral, and Modernist poet Archibald MacLeish. This grounding in the intelligentsia’s perception of beauty is a perfect juxtaposition for Westerfeld’s futuristic world in which beauty is used as a form of population control, and independent thinking is abolished along with the asymmetrical imperfections of your face.

The writing style of Uglies is not quite as sophisticated as Westerfeld’s other work, but this simplicity works both because of the book’s fast, adventurous pace and because the characters themselves are not sophisticated. That is not to say that they are not sufficiently complex or well-developed; rather, they are a product of their simplistic, “pretty” environment, and much of the enjoyment of the book comes from seeing Tally, the protagonist, develop beyond her simple concepts of “ugly” and “pretty” to which she has been culturally programmed. Her relationship with David, the leader of the rebel camp that lives outside of society in order to remain ugly (and, as we learn, avoid having their brains surgically altered during the "pretty" process), is particularly poignant.

To a degree, Uglies is a social commentary on our obsession with Paris Hilton, plastic surgery, and the quest for physical perfection, but Westerfeld never gets too didactic and never goes too long without a good high-speed chase sequence. Like the dark underbelly of the parties and pleasures in New Pretty Town, however, Westerfeld’s message is always lurking behind his science fiction/adventure front: What is the price we must pay for equality? Grades 6+.

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