I Can Wait to See You Again : Another Author’s Opinion on Hannah Erotica

Although I don’t disagree with the opinion voiced by my cowriter, Mr Madison, I would just like to expound on those thoughts while they’re still fresh in everyone else’s mind. Granted, this is all giving Miley Cyrus more attention than she is deserved, but what this writer writes about her isn’t going to affect her inflated ego one way or the other.

I agree with Madison about the fact that we need to be more conscious about the messages that crap Top 40 music is sending us as the listneners. In today’s day and age, it’s easy to avoid the Ryan Seacrest hosted music scene that comes with the garbage that is played over the radio on a daily basis. There’s XM radio, iPods, talk radio, or even CDs to listen to before you turn your radio dial to any popular music station. If you don’t want to be inundated with the trash flow that is played on the radio these days (irregardless of content, the music itself is bad), you have about another million options. And if you don’t want your kids listening to that music, set the precedent in the household that that is simply not the norm. Pretty easily done.

But then, how many of you actually sat down and intentionally watched the VMA’s? I know I sure didn’t, but I was still bombarded with images or news about what happened during them. I chose to watch a much better production in Breaking Bad on my Sunday night, but I was still made well aware of the happenings on MTV. Pretty much any internet news site or social network was completely exploding with VMA information whether you wanted it or not. Every memebase on the web started cranking out VMA related memes that hit the internet as fast as pictures of cats do. Which then leads to people talking about it at your work, or amongst your friends, or in your family. And it’s all part of a genius system, that attracts your attention to something so that it stays relevant.

And then what happens once you see and hear everyone talking about it? You get online and watch the performance yourself. And then, when you hear the song you realize it has a catchy tune you can’t get out of your head, which you hear the next time you accidentally turn on the radio. Which then leads you to turn on the radio more often, leading you to have your brain turned to mush by the dumpster bin quality of what is being played. And then when the moment of clarity comes when you realize what the catchy song is really about, you either don’t care enough to try and change, or you just stop listening to it. Either way though, you bought into The System.

One thing is certain, is that something needs to change. The System has gotten so good, so rich, and so powerful, that unless you literally live underneath a rock, you’re guaranteed to hear about the dunghill news that the entertainment biz cranks out on a daily basis. Whether you choose to invest any actual time and or money into it is a different matter, but it doesn’t change the fact that somehow, somewhere, you’re going to hear about it. And quite simply, that’s a huge problem. Blame it on America, capitalism, the FCC, the degradation of basic morals, whatever. But the fact will always remain that somehow, you’re to blame.

In a system based on greed, the person with the most wins. The most money, viewers, listeners, fans, stuff, etc. In a country where success is equated with excess, bigger is better as long as bigger means more. There’s even a television show based on people who do nothing but hoard things. We rank people and businesses based on the value of their assets, or what they have, instead of who they are and what they do. Album sales matter, not album content. Ratings matter, not what is being displayed on television. Quantity wins over quality every single day without contest.

So how do we avoid more Miley Cyrus controversy? It’s not by restricting what can or cannot be shown on television, or forcing strict morals on society, or issuing harsh statements from conservative watchdog groups. It’s by as a society on the whole, becoming less materialistic and greedy. Remember the old Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” Sure, banning Miley in your household is going to make a temporary difference, but instilling values that don’t consist of the need to accumulate things is what is going to make the lasting difference. When you no longer care about the inane materialism that is in most pop songs, not only will you stop listening to that genre of music and all it glorifies, but you won’t even care to tune into MTV anymore, or the VMA’s specifically for that matter.

Does this all mean that I think it’s okay for Miley Cyrus’ disgusting performance being so raunchy and on basic cable that it overshadows that of Lady Gaga, who chose to wear a thong on-stage? I certainly don’t think so, but I don’t think that the immorality is the inherent problem. Regardless of whether you care (watch) about the VMA’s or not, The System has learned exactly how to maniuplate people into getting what they want. It’s built by people who want or have fame and fortune, as they project that image onto millions of other people who in turn desire the same thing. And if those aren’t your priorities, then you simply won’t buy into the System. The more people that don’t buy into it, the less profitable it will be, and the less we’ll hear about it. It’s not a quick fix, but it certainly is not going to be, after decades of the focal point of this country being the accumulation of wealth and power. Everything in moderation, especially Miley Cyrus.

 

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Miley Cyrus: Hannah Erotica

I know you’ve seen it, I know you’ve seen it, and you’re a good person….but I know you’ve seen it. That intoxicating melody of Robin Thicke’s mediocre sex themed song setting it yet? First of all, why do people watch the Video Music Awards? Second of all, why do we care about Miley Cyrus? Thirdly, Britney Spears.

1. Who cares about the VMA’s? Imma let you finish but it’s just a cesspool of manufactured drama and controversy that is designed so you watch the next year and talk about it (yes, like I am now).

2. Hannah Montana is not real and Miley Cyrus has a manager, people. She wants to make money and remaining relevant is her only ticket to doing that, so she took advantage of the biggest stage she could find.

3. That manager is the same as Britney Spears employed. Remember the mousketeer? Then the python, then the loss of clothing, then the Madonna kiss at THE VMA’S, then the shaved head, then the $10 million or whatever she makes to be on the X Factor. Miley is doing the same thing because the business begs her too.

A simple solution to your outrage. Stop listening to awful music. Today’s music industry is more about industry than music. The songs are awful, the lyrics are juvenile, the melodies are computer generated, and the visuals are all sexual in nature. How dare you complain to the world that Miley Cyrus is corrupting your 14 year old daughter when you’re the one that lets her listen to Robin Thicke in the first place. Call it like it is, or prohibit the filth altogether. It’s a business that has nothing to do with music, quality, or decency, so questioning the merits of the VMA’s debacle on those dimensions is idiotic. Just change the channel, read a book, play a guitar, or embrace it for the soft core porn young celebrities represent and the fact that it is worth millions. But, please don’t make this a moral conversation when you’re watching MTV and the lyrics “I know you want it” are repeating in your head when you sit at work and while your daughter sits in school….

The Power and Ignorance of Belief

Spoiler alert: This post is about religion. If your first inclination was to stop reading for fear of taking offense to the content below-this post is for you. If your first inclination was to read on with a caustically discerning eye and pick apart my logic with more precision than with which a vulture strips a carcass-then this post is for you. If your first inclination was to channel the mediator of your friend group or family that softly suggests, “Can’t we all just get along?”-then this post has you in mind. This is not meant to instigate although it is critical. This is not meant to preach for that would be antithetical. Simplicity in all things, however, should not be confined to areas in our lives that are somehow separate from spiritual and religious beliefs. Therefore, the logic and reasoning that pervade our daily decisions, our productivity at work, and that shapes our dreams and aspirations should be consistent when concerning our belief systems.

Belief is a choice. It is the choice to fill in the cracks of an ideological structure founded in uncertainty with the putty that quells the need for questioning. The putty does not make the structure stable or secure if forced to function, but the project is finished. The need for touch-ups every now and again is an acceptable consequence when compared with the prospect of rebuilding the imperfect structure to ensure continued functionality. This is a building project that we all tend to leave unfinished, because the reserves of belief putty are limitless. Conviction covers this crack and tradition makes this wall non-load bearing. “Please, anything so we can stop working”, becomes our attitude toward things that require belief to cloud the fact that questions are unanswered or the truth is seemingly unattainable. But, the purpose of this diatribe is to illuminate the inane idea that we scoff at the stability and legitimacy of other belief structures when our own process and project is equally unfinished. This elaborate and probably ‘off the mark’ metaphor can be better summarized in a short anecdote.

I was watching a documentary on The Buddha recently (yes Christians, take a minute and exercise those frowning muscles) and a Christian was in the room watching as well. The program described Buddha’s long journey of self discipline and spiritual awakening that resulted in enlightenment underneath the Bodhi fig tree. He was hesitant as to whether he should broadcast his message of nirvana when  he was supposedly visited by a God who pleaded for him to be a teacher of this unprecedented knowledge. The foundation of Buddhism was then laid and the wheel of Darma eventually began to roll when Buddha shared his experience. The Christian, when I turned in his direction, extended his hand for the remote and with a blank, exasperated expression on his face, bluntly stated, “I don’t get it” and proceeded to change the channel.

Yet, somehow, that same person believes that their savior was born unto a virgin, was crucified only to be risen from the dead, and is the physical manifestation of his heavenly father as he lived on earth. One brush up with the supernatural is somehow preposterous and another is not? Followers of Buddha do and did so because of the necessary and sufficient condition that he had attained enlightenment. Followers of Jesus do and did so because he is a member of the Holy Trinity. He must be or else he would not be worth his follower’s devotion. So, in both cases, believers are choosing to accept the necessary and sufficient conditions that justify and necessitate their belief structure. However, what they fail to realize is that all of those structures are the same. They are all self-evident. The principles and dogmas employ circular logic that work backward from an end so as to justified by the means in forms of rituals, traditions, rules, and teachings. This is not to say that there is no merit within these teachings and religious lessons, however, the point is that even belief systems seemingly so different are very much the same. It then becomes baffling to me that the Christian in this anecdote is unwilling to recognize this truth about his brethren in faith albeit a Buddhist. The two devotees have more in common than they realize.

And that is where the frustration lies. Religion is about communal strength as taught by the tenets that define a people’s beliefs. So why is it that almost to a rule different religions cannot seem to accept each other in terms of legitimacy or validity? I think that the more clear realization in this case shows that the Christian recognizes the leaps of faith a Buddhist needs to make to acquiesce to their belief structure. That same Christian however, amazingly seems incapable of recognizing the supernatural elements of large bounds of faith necessary to stimulate their own religious practices. The Christian nor the Buddhist is unique in this sense. So, wouldn’t it be easier if the world was peacefully separated into believers and non believers instead of the us against the world mentality that many major religions perpetuate?

Belief is in fact a choice. It is a choice that is manifested in a myriad of ways in a myriad of circumstances of faith driven systems. But, all those who make that choice and are believers share something in common even if they are Christian or Buddhist. Look inward and reevaluate if you are willing to accept the choice to believe that your religion begs of you. Look outward and commiserate and understand another believer’s choice that their religious beliefs require of them. After all, none of our belief based structures have completed their construction and they never will so why attempt to question the foundation of your neighbor’s structure without recognizing that the same cracks exist in your own dwelling? As someone who does not believe in belief as a truth seeking alternative, it baffles me not that people feel differently than I but that people are unwilling to truly understand their own faith building habits and hold those principles in a separate realm as compared to their neighbors. Religions of peace require more compassion and effort in order to coexist.

Halo 4 Champions Bundle DLC Review

With no console Halo game coming out in the 2013 calendar year, 343 Industries needed to release something to keep gamers playing the “killer exclusive app” to the Xbox 360, in Halo 4. They had previously released three scheduled map packs, available with or without the War Games Pass (which, just to clarify, does not work with or cover this DLC), but besides what will eventually probably be another season of Spartan Ops, there needed to be more multiplayer content to pique fan interest. Thus, the Champions Bundle that 343 Industries released yesterday, was born.

Because of the new features of Halo 4, this DLC package features content never seen before in a Halo game, which makes it a completely different animal than any other normal DLC. Normally, in the days of Halo 3 and Halo : Reach (and Halo 4 if you didn’t have the War Games Pass) you could expect to pay 800 Microsoft Points ($10) for new multiplayer map content, which would net you three multiplayer maps. In the Champions Bundle however, you get only two multiplayer maps and an assortment of different content (weapon skins, game type, armor permutations) which you may or may not care about. Is it a good deal? It all depends on the quality of the content, and how much you care about the content.

The first map, entitled Vertigo, is a medium-sized, rocky, forest centered map on the border of a large body of water. 343’s description of the map is as follows :

An asymmetrical map, Vertigo provides a wide variety of indoor and outdoor combat. The map lends itself best to Slayer and Extraction game types and is best played with anywhere from 8 to 10 players. Vertigo also touts the return of a dynamic, interactive element in a Halo multiplayer map: Each base has a trigger point that depletes the shields of all players in range when shot. The map also contains a series of caves on each side as well as three levels of verticality, providing players with several different routes for attacking each base.

vertigo

This is good and well and all, but how does it play? is the real question gamers want answered. Off the bat, interactive maps are very fun to play on and should be desired by all gamers. For example, in the Halo series both Zanzibar and High Ground featured interactive elements (mostly having to do with opening and closing gates), as did the bridges in Call of Duty Black Ops’ map Discovery and ziplines in the map Kowloon. (Random side note, did you know that in Star Wars Battlefront 2 on the Kashyyyk map, you could hit a switch to raise and lower the sea wall that defended the oil fields? This tidbit was so valuable if you knew how to use it.) Bottom line, interacting with the map to alter gameplay makes it simply more fun. And, as my friend Henry Kissinger and I found out last night, it can be extremely frustrating as well. Whether the towers were on a timer, or were being triggered, we couldn’t exactly figure out. It was cool to see that even the high ground/camping spots were vulnerable to attack, which was good for balancing. Beyond this, the map was to me, very enjoyable. Vertigo is very detailed, and strikes a good medium-sized map balance having enough room to run yet still places to defend and navigate in duels, making it very reminicsent of Halo 2’s Beaver Creek. This map shouldn’t hold more than 10 players in it, with 5 v 5 probably being too crowded, 4 on 4 being preferred. I wouldn’t say this map is outstanding, but it’s definitely solid enough to rank in the upper echelon of Halo 4 maps.

The second map, Pitfall, is a remake of the Halo 3 classic The Pit. Its description reads as such:

Pitfall stays true to its original layout, remaining a medium-sized symmetrical map. However, it will also contain updated features (such as strategically placed crates and ledges) that provide increased pace and flow. Pitfall has the setting of an abandoned UNSC training facility with battle remnants outside. The Pit has a similar setting except it is located in South Africa and is not abandoned.

Back in Halo 3, I had mixed feelings about The Pit. A sniper with a decent degree of talent could own the map. By the same token, anyone camping in the sword room with the sword (or oddball) could own the game. I had some friends like Thurston Howell who loved the map, but to me it just wasn’t as great as they (he) made it out to be. Adding the ability to sprint however, changes the game entirely. Everything moves much quicker, and with armor abilities such as Jet Pack and Promethean Vision, it turns into a more balanced faster paced game than ever. Some codgy old badgers of players probably hate the speed and the changes associated, but honestly I really enjoyed playing this map. It’s balanced, it’s fun, and it’s fast. It reminds me a lot of a speedball course in paintball. There isn’t much to hide behind unless you’re intentionally hiding in the back, and if someone is going to make a quick move and come out shooting you better be ready. With the addition of a lift, the sword room camping aspect is all but removed. The only thing I wish this map had would be the Brute Maulers from Halo 3. Other than that I’m going to love playing slayer variants, and the new gametype released with this map pack called Ricochet.

Although in two weeks the Ricochet team armor and game type will be free to all players, for the time being it is only a part of the Champions Bundle. Ricochet is a game very similar to oddball and assault, with there being a center ball dropped and each team having a goal in which to score upon. You can either throw the ball in or run it in, different amounts of points being awarded for however you score (which I haven’t quite figured out yet). Playing on Pitfall is a little cheap, as it is very easy to run about halfway across the map, jump, and throw, in which you have a high probability of scoring. I look forward to seeing this game type tested on several different maps, and hoping that it finds a couple good homes to play on.

The final elements of the Bundle are all about aesthetics. The first aspect is a bunch of new gun skins. Included are some steampunk inspired skins for every loadout gun, that look a little silly when gears are thrown into the equation. Available for the Assault Rifle only there are the Teeth and Trauma skins, the first being a shark’s mouth similar to WWII fighter planes, and the latter being a blood splatter on the end of the gun. There’s also the camouflaged Salvage skin, Indigo, and Flare skins, which are available for the Battle Rifle and Magnum only. These skins look good, but then again I’m not a huge fan of skins that you can just buy. I’d rather that you earn them or unlock them in some way, as with the previous skins in Halo 4 or the skins in Gears of War 3 or Call of Duty. I want the appearance of my gun to mean something, not just show that I can blow money on meaningless in-game content.

To round out the Bundle, there are three new armor permutations included. Honestly, I hate the Halo 4 armory, which is horrid compared to the great one that Halo : Reach came with. There are simply too many options, the majority of which are ugly as sin and don’t even look like suitable armor for a Spartan, instead making them look like cybernetic clones. Adding armor was an option that I wanted in Reach but not in Halo 4. Thankfully, two out of the three armors are classics, being the Mark V and ODST armor. They don’t look bad, but they do look kind of plasticky and pale in comparison to their Reach counterparts. The last permutation, the Prefect armor, is straight up ugly. You look like Cyclops from X-Men, which isn’t a good thing.

You can purchase all elements separately if you so choose, which I should have told The Secretary before he blew $10 on the aesthetic crap that he’ll never use. The two maps and Ricochet game type and Ricochet armor come in the Bullseye Pack for 480 MS Points ($6). The three armor permutations come in the Infinity Armor Pack for 240 MS Points ($3) and the Steel Skin Pack has only the steampunk skins for 240 MS Points as well. Or, you could save $2 and buy the entire Champions Bundle and receive the other skins as well as all the detailed content.

Is it all worth $10 of your hard-earned money? To me, the answer is yes. Although the armor permutations are rather worthless, there are enough maps in this game to warrant replacing what would be a third map with cool new skins and armor options. Both maps are solid, and I would much rather have two good maps and some aesthetics than two good maps and a bad one (I’m looking at you, Monolith). If you don’t care about the looks, save yourself $4 and just buy the maps and the game type. Otherwise, grab the whole bundle while you can, because I think it is worth it!

There Must Be Some Kind of Way Out of Here, Said the Joker to the Thief

I promise I’m not turning this into a work blog. I think I learned my lesson this time around, and I’m not friends with any co-workers on Facebook so we should be okay for the time being. That being said……..

I really despise Fridays. People at most jobs are all jazzed about the weekend and blah blah blah, but to me, Friday is almost as bad as Monday. Where I work, it’s a guaranteed 12 hour shift that can never seem to go fast enough, and with employees antsy to get their work done they create more equipment problems than usually actually physically exist. Usually they’ll involve forklifts, in which I’ve already had to clamber around the dusty and grimy indoor maintainance yard unscrewing the back of a fork computer while searching for the S/D card to re-image it because for some reason some incompetent crashed the computer or disjarred the card from the back to corrupt the files. Or if I’m low on corded scan guns for forklifts, I’ll wander aimlessly in the hot and muggy maintainance area searching for forklifts to steal equipment off of in hopes that they’ll work for the immediate problems I have.

I’m sure that today will be no different. One of the jobs I do is run the room that hands out, records, and does basic troubleshooting on all the handheld electronic equipment. Basically, I’m the first line of defense before problems escalate to IT, which on my watch usually never happens. It means however, that anyone who needs a flashlight, radio, walkie talkie, voice headset, scan gun, fork gun, ID badge, or reward stickers comes through me. And because I work in a grocery distribution center that has more than 1.5 million square feet, I see quite a lot of employees a day. I couldn’t put an exact number on it, but on a typical Friday it probably falls in between the 300 and 400 range for individual employees. My job is a lot like being the principal of an elementary school. If you’re a member of the DC proletariat, and I know you by name (or employee number in this case), it’s traditionally a bad thing. There are some who are genuinely nice and polite people who I in turn am kind to, and are patient and understanding when the electronics don’t work or are slow, as is wont to happen. Then there’s the other group of people who I have little patience for, who simply think that their little world of percentages is all that matters, and common courtesy be damned to everyone else.

These are the kind of people who really irk me. One of them happens to be a foreman who comes into my domain every morning to pick up a scan gun. Here’s a little background information. The normal protocol for signing out a receiving gun is you come to the window, say what you need, give your employee ID number, as I log it and make sure it works as I hand it out. This way the expensive (upward of $1000) equipment is always accounted for to ensure it doesn’t disappear or get damaged. After months of basic repetition, I know who about 80% of the people are that use the equipment and what they need, so they just need to appear at my window and I will hand them whatever they typically request. If you’re an employee that recently has had a lot of issues with equipment or works in a part of the warehouse with sometimes spotty wireless signal, I will try to find one of the newer or better electronic tools to help you out. On most days, I will keep the very best equipment back with myself, and only hand it out to employees that are consistently running into problems with their equipment as to appease their pain and frustration.

However, on most days when said foreman works, she just bypasses the window and barges into the office and grabs whatever scan gun (typically the best one) she so pleases. On more than one occasion I’ve attempted to ascertain which gun she has (they’re all numbered) so that I can log it and follow procedure. But, it’s gotten to the point where I have just given up trying to do that, making myself resort to other methods. The thing is, in all of her 10 hour shift (which my shift always completely encompasses), she never comes back for a battery change, and she works in the area of the warehouse with the best reception. Which means, not only does she not use the gun very often, but it isn’t even necessary to have the best gun at all. I’d much prefer that those guns were kept in my back pocket to help out employees that really need them. So this morning, I hatched a plan.

Instead of trying to fight her every morning and get on the mainframe to hunt down whatever gun she’s on to log it, I thought to myself, why not just hide all the good guns before she even comes in? I took every gun that she was known to pilfer and hid them in the back of the room buried underneath some empty boxes and bubble warp. As the early morning wore on, she hadn’t shown up yet so I was wondering if all my efforts were in vain because of her schedule. But sure enough, as I was making an ID badge for one of the maintenance supervisors, in she walked. And like a high schooler listening to Dave Chappelle in the middle of class, I stifled my laughter as best possible as she stared at the gaping hole in the middle of the gun rack where I had absconded with all the quality equipment. In what seemed like a bit of a huff, she grabbed an inferior gun and walked away, securing the victory for myself. I couldn’t care less which gun it was at this point, the victory of it not being one of my babies was more than enough to keep me momentarily happy.

Unfortunately, not everything is as easy to set up as this. In another instance, there’s one rather notorious employee (at least in my world) that annoys the living crap out of me. Despite the quality of the equipment I give said employee, she manages to mess something up and then instead of asking for help, she’ll grouchily jump right from the frying pan into the fire. For example, yesterday I handed her what is usually a solid gun. It’s not fantastic, but it certainly isn’t a piece of garbage. One of the problems these guns can have is that if they have a bad battery or loose connection or some issue or other, they’ll reset back to the main menu which is past the sign on screen. And if you’re already logged onto a gun, you can’t log back into it and have to have someone as myself get on the mainframe to manually log you off so you can get back on. If a gun starts having this problem, most employees will exchange it as quickly as possible so they can go about their business. It might happen two or three times a day to different people, so it’s known to happen.

This woman seems to have this problem every day. The only feasible way this can be real is if it is simply user error. Except yesterday, she called me from her position in the warehouse six times to log her off her gun because it rebooted. Six. Even the thickest people can figure out that there’s a problem after half that many times. And each time, she proceeded to get more and more hostile, becoming shorter and terser with me every time. It got to the point where when the phone rang, I merely ignored it and brought up the mainframe and logged her out. The fact that she took time out to get off her forklift, find a phone, and call me six times to log her off the gun is mind-boggling. Obviously the thing isn’t working right, so use that time to instead get me to fix the problem or to get new equipment. I was ready to throw the phone through the wall, but thankfully it was the end of my shift so I turned her pathetic raging warpath over to him and washed my hands of it as I got out of Dodge. Part of me wants to hand her that same exact gun, totally unfixed, today. But the other part of me says to just give in and let her have working equipment so she can take her place as a woman, seen but not heard (I’m getting slapped for that comment soon I’m sure).

Anyway, I should hop off my high horse and do something actually useful at work today. There are cables to be repaired and stuff that needs organized, so off to the land of boring I go for the next 10 hours. -____________-

 

Can Clipper Magazine Stadium Barnstorm Our Grading Scale?

Review 2 of our Ballpark Tour : Clipper Magazine Stadium, Lancaster PA

Forty-four years after the Lancaster Red Roses were shut down, Clipper Magazine Stadium opened up in 2005, once again bringing semi-professional baseball back to Lancaster County. With a brand new $23 million stadium that could hold up to 7500 fans, there was a lot to be excited about for baseball fans in the county. However, they lost their bid to become an actual minor league affiliate, and instead ended up in the Atlantic League, probably made most famous for Jose Offerman charging the mound in 2007 wielding a bat. My early memories of Clipper Magazine Stadium were tarnished by laughably high food prices and sub par games. Atlantic League lineups mostly consist of nobodies and washed-up pro-ball players, so watching guys like Ryan Minor or Daryle Ward gets old, even though they usually tear up the league. There are no rehab starts or rising stars playing in the Atlantic League, so if you’re looking for some serious baseball, Lancaster isn’t quite the spot for you. However, when you have a crew of guys that include Jonathan Drama, Thurston Howell, Henry Kissinger and newcomers Sitting Bull and Julian Eastman on $2 beer night, you’re bound to have a good time even with the scattered thunderstorms that were predicted for game time. That being said, let’s jump into the actual grades.

800px-Clipper3

1. Accessibility and Parking

Located just off Fruitville Pike/North Prince Street in downtown Lancaster, Clipper Magazine Stadium is accessible by multiple parking lots all around the area. However, unless you live in Lancaster, driving is the only way you’re really going to go to get to the ballyard. I suppose you could take the train because the train station is a five-minute walk from the park, but if you’re that serious about going to a Barnstormers game, you might want to get your head checked. You’d be a fool to not drive though, because any Barnstormers lot is 100% FREE to park in, which is a beautiful thing. If you arrive late you might find yourself parking far away with a 5-10 minute walk, but you don’t have to pay. And, there’s not just a main gate entrance, but one in center field as well to shorten your walking distance. It can be kind of a jam to get out if it’s a packed out close game, but with a rain delay and a Thursday night I got out of the lot in 30 seconds flat. Free goes a long, long way, ladies and gentlemen. 9.5/10

2. Tickets

For the six of us going to the game, we were coming from four different directions so it was imperative to have the physical tickets in our possession before game time, as we’d all be arriving at different times from different places. We bought second row field box seats for $13 (for a dollar less we could have sat six rows back, no thanks) plus $2 to mail them to us, and a $1 service charge on each. I could have literally put my arm out and touched the on-deck batter for the visiting Long Island Ducks, because as nobody was in the seats in front of us, we traded up for first row seats. And for thirteen bucks, I’ll take that any day of the week, especially with how the stadium is built close to the field. At Harrisburg it might not have been worth it, but here it’s a sure thing. We could’ve bought bleacher/grass seats for $7 each and still probably traded up, but at the time of reservation these seemed like our best bet. Physically, the tickets are worse than the Senators though. Ugly font and a bad washed out background, with the obligatory coupon on the back make for nothing even remotely special. Great inexpensive seats and ease of purchase, but ugly physicality and garbage service charges hinder the overall score. 7.5/10

3. Beer and Hot Dogs

We went on Thirsty Thursday $2 beer night, which is going to slightly skew the score because that’s so freaking cheap for pretty much anywhere outside of a distributor. On the first base side (I wish I would’ve discovered this sooner) was Coors Light for $2 and on the third base side where we were sitting was Miller Lite (gross) for the same price from 6-7 PM. They said you were limited to 3, but not only did they never card me, but nobody kept any such tally. Had we been serious alcoholics we could have gone wild, but we limited ourselves to four brews in the first hour and a half. Other than the sale price, it’s $4.50 for a 12 oz domestic or $7 for a 20 oz, or $7.50 if you go to the wrong stand like the genius Sitting Bull. Everything is domestic, sporting a decent selection of standard fare. Coors, Bud and Miller Light are all on tap, along with Redd’s Apple Ale, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Shock Top, Samuel Adams Summer Lager, Third Shift and Yuengling Lager. A few girly drinks like Mike’s Hard and Twisted Tea are available in 20 oz cans for $6.50 as well. Take out the Thirsty Thursday discount, and you have a completely average beer experience, with semi-pro baseball prices, and simply an okay selection. As far as hot dogs go, the story is somewhat similar. You can pay $1.25 for a junior hot dog or $3.50 for a jumbo dog, where, just like Metro Bank Park in Harrisburg, the jumbo dog is a complete ripoff. Points are awarded for Kunzler hot dogs and good buns, but nothing special as far as condiments go. Demerits for a bad deal for the jumbo dog which is all-beef, but those points are gained right back for the cheapness of the junior dog. Play it safe and get two juniors instead of one jumbo, and save that extra dollar for something else. At least the hot dogs were warm and tasty as they should be. Average prices and selection, bolstered by beer specials, cheap junior dogs, and Kunzler. 6/10

4. Architecture and Design

Built to reflect the old brick buildings and warehouse feel of Lancaster’s Northwest Corridor, Clipper Magazine Stadium is a work of art. With design reminiscent of the Major’s Coors Field, the brick facade and steel beams make for a very pretty stadium. The seats are all a nice dark shade of dark green, and there’s nothing tacky about the colors or design. The stadium includes wide concourses and bleacher seats along a grassy hill in left field, where one can sit and heckle the visiting bullpen or left fielder with complete ease. And, over near the Hess BBQ picnic pavilion, there’s more than enough tables and bar style seating to buy food and watch the game from along the right field line. The only drawback is that center field kind of feels like a gaping hole with nothing there, it’s as if they planned to add something but instead just continued the walking path around the stadium haphazardly. 9.5/10

5. Atmosphere

The Barnstormers are very, very family friendly. It’s a serious PG atmosphere, with a few knowledgeable fans in the seats. We even got reprimanded by a father a few rows back for our heckling of the players, which for the most part was fairly innocuous. I’m sure we let a few colorful metaphors loose (I know the indian chief did for sure), but the most offensive thing I can recall saying is that a player was wearing women’s underwear or that their girlfriend was ugly. Of course, Drama had to be the father of our motley crew, apologizing for whatever nonsense we said and claiming he was trying to keep reigns on us. It didn’t help that we were rooting against Lancaster, with only a few Long Island fans finding our jokes amusing. No matter, people in Lancaster absolutely love the Barnstormers. Their players might go in and out every month, and they might not always be a competitive team, but the games are usually well attended with lots of Lancaster gear being sported by fans. Nobody commented on my obvious troll of the fanbase though, as I sported my Sugar Land Skeeters shirt to the game, who are in first place and the only team ahead of the ‘Stomers in the division. The PA system wasn’t terribly special and the music played wasn’t anything memorable. Points for loyalty and well attended games, but that’s about all the positives about the atmosphere. No baseball scholars, or memorable public address moments make for simply an average score. 5.5/10

6. Concessions

There used to be more Lancaster County staples available at the ballpark such as the whoopie pie, but those have since gone the way of the dinosaur, probably due to their incredibly inflated pricing. Turkey Hill Ice Cream is quality and plentiful, as are Auntie Anne’s soft pretzels, both Lancaster staples and relatively inexpensive. Normal ballpark fare such as burgers, fries, and chicken strips are available at prices to be expected ($5.75 for a cheeseburger with all the fixings, $4.00 for a “Normal” french fry). Snacks such as cracker jack, peanuts, chips, and popcorn are all there too. I purchased a slice of Parma hand-spun deck oven pepperoni pizza for $3.75, which wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be. I also got what was advertised as “fresh baked cookies” for $3.50, which sadly turned out to be only one cookie (they really have to fix the grammar on the sign) which was large and delicious, but a little expensive for just one. Mr. Howell claimed that his Pulled Pork sandwich from the Carvery which featured Hess’s BBQ was fantastic, which I totally believe upon watching him wolf it down and smelling it. Outside of junior dogs and beer, stick to the Lancaster County specialties, as they’ll give you the most unique and best taste, not to mention bang for your buck. 7/10

7. ADD Generation Appeal

As I said earlier, the Barnstormers are very family friendly. There’s an arcade, a playground and a reservable birthday area for kids to play on. Plus, in right-center field, there is located a pool called “Home Run Harbor” that has bumper boats with water cannons that frequently attracts kids. And in left field, there’s plenty of open grassy space for kids to just play or hang out, chasing each other up and down the hill like sixth graders at a high school football game. You may not think this is enough stuff for kids to do, but that’s only because you don’t remember how much time children can spend at a simple playground. The souvenir shop is also very kid friendly featuring many different toys and stuffed animals, all for outrageous prices. If you’re not making stacks on stacks, I would say keep your kid out of the Barnstormers team store, because you’ll either have to buy a muzzle and blinders for your kid, or spend away your life savings. I feel like there could be more options of things to do, but Clipper Magazine Stadium isn’t terribly large so trying to fit more into the park might make it cheesier. It’s not City Island, but it does a good job of utilizing the space it has. 7.5/10

8. Intangibles

Very spacious and clean bathrooms, with no lines at all. The “push” to turn water on sinks are annoying as sin, but the bathrooms get a perfect score other than that drawback. The seats are large and have cushions on them where we sat, and were so close to the action. The staff was very friendly even to us obvious trolls, wiping our seats off with a Shamwow after the rain delay and even complimenting our obvious attractiveness as fine young men. Even as the ballpark emptied and our heckling escalated, they never said a harsh word to us knowing that we were within our bounds as fans. If we had one dollar bills we would’ve tipped him but at that point we had invested most of our money in our various appetites. The program was free and horrible, and I had to ask an usher for a writing utensil so I could take notes on the game, which he didn’t have nor could he find. I’m not sure why they would give you a scoresheet in your program but not even a chinsy little pencil to go with it. At least it was free, even though once it got waterlogged it turned into garbage. Oh, and a midget usher tried to evict us from our seats, until I showed him the error of his ways and that the tickets the guests he was escorting had were in fact for Tuesday’s game, not Thursday’s. I wanted to ask him what he was doing away from the set of “Game of Thrones” but I was too busy making sure our seats were secure. Great bathrooms, great seats, good staff, cruddy program. 9.5/10

9. Warm-Up Entertainment

At the game’s start, a few boring looking females that worked for the Barnstormers approached us and asked if four of us wanted to participate in an in-between innings game. Of course I was immediately on board, picturing myself getting into a fight with Cylo the mascot like Tucker Max at a minor league hockey game, but all the other morons with me weren’t interested. The girls even told us to keep drinking $2 beers and then play, which I was all for, but the girly men in my group aside from Thurston all declined. I told the girls not to waste their time on wimps such as my friends and they moved on. Usually, the actually fun stadium MC “I.M. FUN” hosts the various games in between innings, but much to my major dismay he was for some reason not in attendance, instead with a pudgy hairy man awkwardly taking his place as Master of Ceremonies, whom we dubbed “I.M. NOT FUN”. The beautiful thing about Lancaster’s in between innings entertainment is that it’s all live, with nothing on their JumboTron to waste my time with. With a rain-delay impacted sparse crowd by the 7th inning stretch, the “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” song was pretty weak as expected. I.M. Fun wins points for just the fact that he’s usually there, because he’s the type of guy that would set himself on fire and run across the field. Take away half a point for I.M. NOT FUN and the Barnstormers brass giving our regular MC a vacation of any sort. 8/10

10. Game Quality

This is where the score suffers. Atlantic League baseball is not very well-played. Yes, their uniforms are very well designed and neat, but the team names are horrendous. The Ducks? Skeeters? Blue Crabs? Revolution? They’re creative, but just plain weird and usually picked via fan vote. Back to the actual game though, the quality is just bad. Lots of walks, full counts, swings and misses, errors, misplays and mental mistakes. If you have any major league experience, you’re going to clean up in this league. Bill Hall and Ramon Castro both play for the Ducks and were responsible for all of the 3 Long Island runs which propelled them to victory. Castro homered to right and Hall hit a towering ground rule double to left, which everyone thought was a home run. The Barnstormers’ offense couldn’t manage to do much even with opportunities aplenty, and there were a fair amount of fundamental lapses during the game. It wasn’t quite Little League, but the emphasis in Semi-Professional should be on the “semi” part. 2/10

EC:

The fact that by the fifth inning we owned the third base seats is worth two points of extra credit alone. With a sparse crowd because of the weather and it being a Thursday night, our presence was felt up and down the line by everyone within listening distance. Whether in reality that’s a good thing or not, I’m awarding it points because I had a straight up blast. +2

I’m also awarding three additional points of extra credit simply because I had a great time and I feel like the score should be higher. Even though the players are bad or washed up, you’re really not going to an Atlantic League game to see the players. There’s bound to be washed up ex-Major Leaguers on both squads, and it’s fun to see where they’ve ended up after their good playing years have come to an end.  +3

Final Score : 77/100

Conclusion: Clipper Magazine Stadium is a very pretty place to go see a semi-professional baseball game at for inexpensive seating wise. It’s a great stadium with a loyal fanbase and friendly staff, that is very family friendly by keeping even us boys at a PG rating several beers deep. However, if you’re in it for the baseball or saving money on concessions, this is a place to avoid. The regular ballpark fare’s quality isn’t up to the prices unless you know specifically what to get as I’ve managed to detail above. My advice is to eat beforehand and buy only one or two things to consume at the game, unless you specifically go on cheap beer nights as we did. The Barnstormers offer a great public hangout experience, if not the best baseball experience around. On a regular night, $20 will get you a great ticket, a beer, and two junior hot dogs, and you’ll have a great time. If you’re not the biggest baseball fan, or are looking for a place to take your family, I definitely recommend Clipper Magazine Stadium as the ballpark to visit so far in the Susquehanna Valley.

My Expenses

1. Ticket – $13

2. Convenience Charge + Mail Charge – $1.33

3. 4 12 oz Miller Lite Drafts (Specials Night) – $8

4.  20 oz Redd’s Apple Ale – $7

5. Slice of Pepperoni Pizza – $3.75

6. Large Chocolate Chip Cookie(s)(screw the grammar on the sign) – $3.50

7. Junior Hot Dog – $1.25

8. Jumbo Hot Dog – $3.50

My Total Expenses – $41.33

Compared to the Senators, I spent an extra $5.33 and got two and a half more beers, a cookie and a junior hot dog, if we equivocate the pizza slice and jumbo hot dog from the Barnstormers with the regular hot dog and chicken sandwich from the Senators. I got a way better and more expensive seat in Lancaster, and all those extra concessions for a mere $5 and chump change. I still think that their food is overpriced, but when you don’t have to pay for parking or a program, you have money freed up to spend on whatever else you desire.

Ballpark Review #4 – Oriole Park at Camden Yards (Baltimore Orioles), Baltimore MD

Ballpark Review #3 – Sovereign Bank Stadium (York Revolution), York PA

Ballpark Review #2 – Clipper Magazine Stadium (Lancaster Barnstormers), Lancaster PA

Ballpark Review #1 – Metro Bank Park (Harrisburg Senators), Harrisburg PA

I’ve Got That Summertime Sadness

Here I am, stuck at work at 6:30 in the morning running on two hours of sleep and about a Red Bull and a half prepping for a twelve-hour shift and preparing to just have a mess of a day. I was planning on getting a few more hours sleep than what occurred, but as it turned out I couldn’t really help it a whole lot.

One of the things I struggle with in blogging and in real life is how much to incorporate glimpses of my true self into writing. Although a blog isn’t necessarily designed to be a diary, it’s a good source of venting and throwing around ideas/feelings to get the consensus of the general readership populace. But, the flip side of this is, I don’t want to turn into Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor and start using my “professional” (I am using this term very lightly in this case) venues as outlets for personal problems. I am also a very guarded person, and do not share things about myself or what I am truly thinking with much ease at all. This is why I write, because I’m simply better at expressing myself through my writing than any other form of communication.

This all being said, I’m posting this in “Life” which means this has to do with my life. So, let’s rewind the tape 48 hours or so, where my alarm will just be going off on Monday morning to try and wake me up to tell me that I’m supposed to maybe if I feel like it, go get new rear tires for my car. Of course, at 8 AM on a day when I don’t HAVE to be up till 11, the rationalizing part of my brain decrees that I don’t in fact have to go get new tires, and that those three extra hours of sleep on top of the six I already have will help me so much more than new tires. Minus the fact that it’s in the plans to drive to work and back, and then Ocean City, Maryland and back in the next 36 hours, culminating in what is supposed to be about 8.5 hours of driving. All I want to do is get in and get out of work, and then go spend some time with family at the shore while I have a Tuesday off. That’s all I really want.

So, I go to work, and it being a simple Monday Fresh Shipping setup shift, I figure that I’ll light a shuck out of Dodge about 545 or 6 with relative ease. I even get to work about 15 minutes early so I can abandon ship just a little bit earlier, and hit the road for OCMD even faster. As luck would have it, the proverbial feces would hit the fan and even though I put my rear in gear, it’s past 640 as I walk out the doors of paycheck prison.

Ugh. I’m already rushing around as I push 85 on the highway home, and I make decent time with enough to spare to stop over at my apartment quick to grab my Google Maps’d directions and overnight backpack. Now, here’s where things start getting a little complicated. I am supposed to pick up the best friend of one of my stepsisters to take to the beach as well, because if I’m going down I might as well play valet and take as many willing persons as want to go. Whatever, I’m going anyway and it’s nice to have a co-pilot when I’m treading unfamiliar waters below the Mason-Dixon Line. But, if you know anything about women and family, it’s that they are ALWAYS over-interested in your life, especially your romantic one (or in my case, lack thereof). Besides shopping, I feel like trying to set single people up is the most favored hobby of the females of this country (I will almost certainly get slapped for saying this).

So, I’m considerably wary of this whole scenario. It’s only in actuality a less than day trip, and it’s also seven hours of being stuck in a car with nobody but each other, so I’m wondering if there are ulterior motives going on here by the powers that be. I can sniff out a good trap where usually one doesn’t even exist in the first place, but the only way to truly know if it’s a trap or not is to take the bait. Obviously, I agree to take her with me and go down to the beach as soon as I get off work.

Accordingly, I pick her up from work and begin the three and a half hour quest through multiple states to our destination. As luck/fate/bad omens would have it, neither of us have “smart phones” or a global positioning system, as my Google directions printed out in 8 size font are our only guide south. And, like the moron that I am, I only printed out the directions TO Ocean City, not FROM. In the back of my mind, I make the assumption that we can just reverse the directions down to come back up, but to be truthful I just didn’t think that terribly far ahead in all the busyness of my life.

As far as mishaps go, the trip down was fairly uneventful. The directions were straightforward, the tolls minimal, and we only made one wrong turn which was easily corrected albeit with a waste of 15 minutes. As far as conversation goes, I mean we had three and a half hours to say pretty much anything, so having the excuse of “it’s a long story” got me out of nothing whatsoever. Since I am a fairly private person, I don’t really talk to people on a regular basis about my life, but I live/have lived a mostly interesting life that I could tell stories from the past 20 years for hours upon hours on end until my voice gave out. I’ll have to admit that actually being able to talk to somebody who was actually intelligent and about more than current events/sports/weather was refreshing for a change. Don’t get me wrong, I love (even though I’d never use that word with them) my friends to death but we just get together and troll each other or talk about and share our common interests as we’ve done for years past. There simply is just a totally different dynamic to any girl-guy relationship than any guy-guy relationship. Anyway, we were finding out that we have a lot in common (uh-oh, if this was a set-up somebody is going down for this) (also, who says that Applebee’s is their favorite restaurant, seriously?) and the driving time flew past as we filled all the spare time with random yet interesting and hopefully meaningful conversation.

We end up in Ocean City just in time to see all the drunkies stumbling around the sidewalks, but with no traffic citations (the way down was CRAWLING with cops) and wallet only $2 lighter from tolls along the way. The next day it’s mostly overcast, which doesn’t make for the greatest beach conditions but it was good to be among family for the day and not having any responsibilities other than a questionable departure time, seeing that I needed to be awake for a 5AM-5PM shift the following day. Preferably, I would have liked to be in bed by midnight so that I can afford myself four hours of sleep, but if we don’t get back until after midnight I wouldn’t be offended because I have worked a 12 on half an hour of sleep before. I’m willing to take one on the chest and take a nap when I get home or something fun along those lines.

As it would turn out, about 830 PM that evening we finally find the time to head out, and with the supposed three and a half hours of driving time back we’re aiming for a midnight appearance back home. The first portion of the trip starts out great, we don’t miss any directions and correct our only mistake from coming down, and for an hour and a half it is smooth sailing. And then, we run into trouble just as we’re getting out of Delaware. The directions have seemingly changed a little bit from our reverse Google Maps and we start making guesses on turns and wrong assumptions, and then get my family back at the beach on the horn as they pour over maps and directions attempting to ascertain where we are and where to go. We miss a couple exits we’re supposed to take, and it starts to get late and I’m just getting more pissed off at this whole situation. It’s getting late so I don’t feel like bugging family even more than I already have, so we start footing it for ourselves. Which, once we hit one of those evil “you took the wrong turn and now we’re gonna punish you by not letting you turn around the way you came” exits, it looks like doom and gloom. Then I pull into a shady motel around Wilmington, Delaware where thankfully a state policeman is sitting, and like Smartphone-less bums, we ask him for directions for probably the first and last time in his career. He gives us great directions but doesn’t get route numbers completely right, so we end up in downtown Wilmington, in the hood, around midnight. My co-pilot suggests stopping at the BP to ask for directions again and when I don’t I get the “typical man” joke, which is somewhat true but let’s stop and think for a second here. This is the ghetto of Delaware, which although not exactly Camden, New Jersey, isn’t exactly the place where pretty white girl and white boy should stop and ask for directions, because A) we might not get the right directions and B)it’s just asking for a bad time. And if my Hispanic co-worker who is from the heroin capital of the east coast (Reading, PA) agrees with me, you know that this is some straight up gospel right here.

So we decipher the cop’s directions, and figure out that he meant South instead of North, and end up finding the roads we want to take back, having wasted more than an hour in the doldrums of GPS-less idiocy. I was tempted to call the night shift guy at work and tell him that there was no way I was coming into work in the morning, but I didn’t want to inconvenience the company by me simply not being able to suck it up like a man. Of course, again as luck would have it, it turns out that I could’ve easily been covered for and should have called off, which means I would have still been in bed sleeping instead of killing time at work typing this. Shoot me now.

On a more personal note, having a lot of good one-on-one time with a girl that isn’t an old friend or part of my friend group really made me think. I have spent a lot of time the past year plus being apathetic and bitter toward the entire female gender in general. I didn’t really give a care to trying to date or even let myself try and generate feelings for anybody, simply because I was content to be locked down in my own secure vault and living my own life. My friends always joke when we play Age of Empires when I always build massive walls, castles, and fortresses, that they outwardly portray my inner-self and how I wall up and close everyone else off from the outside, thinking that I’m secure in my Keep from all breaches on the outside. And even though they’re partially joking, they are still right. I’ve realized that I may have taken myself too far out of the game to even positively know if I’ve connected with someone on a personal/meaningful level or not, or if that supposed connection is even something worth pursuing. In the past I’ve blundered full speed ahead, shooting first and asking questions later, but now the gun is completely holstered and buttoned down. I don’t know if I should stay in my secure fortress and keep manning the towers, or just let one of the walls be breached and see exactly what happens. Or even if I will have or am going to have the opportunity to pull a Gorbachev, and acquiesce when asked to “tear down this wall.”

They always say not to let the fear of failure to stop you from doing something, but it isn’t the failure that’s the fear, it is the success before the failure that is so scary. I’m not afraid of not succeeding at something right off the bat, I’m more afraid at having something work and then having it fail.  And since this has happened to me numerous times, on each occasion another wall is erected and another defense tower built, making it harder and harder each and every time to come through the borders. The ultimate fear is the question of what to do when the walls completely take over and there is practically nothing left? I don’t want to get to that point, but it’s still a feasible question. This one time I will admit that I have do not have all of the answers, and in fact all the answers I have are probably mostly wrong in the first place.

To shut up the mushy-gushy feelings and thoughts crap, I’ll bring this post full-circle with a relation to the posting title. Being from my favorite Lana Del Rey song (edging out Young & Beautiful), the section of lyrics from “Summertime Sadness” pretty well describes the state I’m in. I’m not necessarily “sad”, that’s an emotion with such a negative connotation, just curious and apprehensive about the state of things in my life. I’m interested just as anyone else is to see what I do and how things (generally speaking of course) turn out over the course of X-amount of time, to see what exactly happens, because to be honest I don’t even know myself where to go from here. So instead of rambling on and on as I do in a lot of things, I’ll just leave the rest of the story open to how the future plays out, and leave it at that.

On a different note, we’ve got a crew of I think 8 of us men going to the Lancaster Barnstormers game this Thursday for our Stadium Tour and second Ballpark Review! I should have it written by Sunday evening, so check back then and see how it compares against the Senators Park which we reviewed late last month. Stay tuned, and thank you as always for reading.

The Hunger Games : How and Why the Book and Movie Should Have Been Better

I know I’m rather behind in this scene, but I just finished reading “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins, and watching its film adaptation. The book was an enjoyable if not a transcendent read, while the movie was a complete disappointment.  I’m writing this “review” to compare and contrast (and criticize) both versions, already assuming that you have either read the book or seen the movie, or are merely interested in what I have to say. Which means, there WILL be spoilers. So, if you, like I was, are planning to read or watch the movie, bookmark this post and see if you agree or disagree with my words afterward. That also means that instead of summarizing the plot, I’m going to jump right into the action and talk about the events and characters of the medium again assuming that you know what I”m talking about.

First off, I’ll start with the book. It’s very fast paced, interesting, and has a fantastic concept that I picked up on and almost fell in love with in the first chapter. Basically, it’s a futuristic Rome and Gladiator Games contest, with the Tributes representing the Gladiators, where winners are showered in gifts, and losers systemically killed. It’s a bloodthirsty and cold-hearted tradition, but it works for the government in the Capitol (curious how it’s an “o” not an “a”) to keep control of their realm. And, choosing children as the Gladiators is utterly horrifying yet fascinating, it’s a tactic that shows the heartlessness of the Panem government to pit those aged 12-18 against each other in a Battle Royale. The characters are relateable and three dimensional, if not somewhat predictable. The action and violence is realistic, if even at some points it’s rather graphic. And, Collins kills off a loveable main character, which is something that all good novelists need to do to accurately convey realism and portray danger. Rue was an adorable character that the reader truly cared about, and when she took one for the team it was right up there with Dobby dying in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as far as emotionalism. It’s a good book, but not a great one.

And that’s because of the romance between the main characters, the two tributes from District 12 in Katniss and Peeta. It’s really boring. For the first part of their relationship in the book, you can feel the tension, but you don’t know how it will turn out with them supposed to be pretending to be in love during the games. You can predict that it’s going to turn out badly for one of them, as one might fall for the other in the midst of pretending, but it doesn’t pan out that way. Instead, Collins draaaaaaaags out the pretending part of their relationship,  muddling it and drastically overplaying it. And then to make matters worse, she doesn’t even resolve their true feelings in the end, OBVIOUSLY bating the reader for a sequel in which there will be more kissy-kissy overplayed, clear as mud teenage romance. Blech.

Secondly, there’s how she writes the book. It is written in present-progressive first person tense, which makes NO sense, but improves the pacing of the book. For example, a normal first person narrative is told like this.

“I ran through the woods, seeking my prey out amongst the evergreens, attempting to follow the blood trail as it became faint on the pines and needles.”

Present-progressive is told like this :

“I run through the woods, as I seek my prey in the evergreen forest, following the blood trail as it is becoming faint on the pines and needles.”

It’s very very confusing, because when a story is being told in first person, it’s usually the main character relating facts to you, the reader, told as a story. But instead, in present-progressive first person, it’s like she’s telling you what is going on as it’s happening, and you’re there with her. Which makes no sense, because diaries aren’t even written in present-progressive. Basically, the reader is a split personality of Katniss who she is relating what is going on to. Uh, okay? It improves the pacing, because it feels like the events are currently happening, but it makes for a bit of confusion.

The book doesn’t play to its strength of the concept, failing to expand the universe as much as it should, and wasting too much time on a romance that doesn’t even become terribly clear. Still, it’s a good book. The point of adapting a book into a film, however, is to reach a wider audience while staying faithful to the source material. However, a film adaptation can play to the strengths of the novel, and focus less on the weaknesses because it is actually an adaptation. So, in order to make a successful film, the filmmakers could do one of two things. 1) Create a teenage-romance film, and pander to that audience only OR 2) Create a heartfelt and realistically (for a fantasy) gritty film, AKA the later Harry Potters, that plays to the universe of the book. Sadly, the producers stuck with option number one, banking on the Twilight audience to bring in the box office receipts.

Here’s my problems with the movie, listed in no particular order.

1. The Film Score.

Unmemorable. All good novel adaptations should have a fantastic score, like The Lord of the Rings series. It emphasizes all the right moments in the movie and impacts the audience drastically. Which means, you need to hire a good composer, just like Peter Jackson did in LOTR (Howard Shore) or the Harry Potter producers did in John Williams. James Newton Howard is an accomplished composer, but you gotta pair him with someone like Hans Zimmer to get something truly memorable.

2. The Non-Linear Storytelling

If you’re not Quentin Tarantino or Zack Snyder, don’t tell a story non-linearly. We get these awkward flashbacks of Katniss’ father being killed in the mine explosion, and of Peeta throwing Katniss bread in the rain. We have no background or emotion tied with either scene, it just feels so utterly disjointed and awkward that we’re not sure what exactly to make of the scenes. Here’s how I would have incorporated those events into the film.

START out the film with the Everdeen’s father being the main character (like in Star Trek with Kirk’s father), with a young family in a dirt poor mining community. Show his relationship with Katniss and how he passes down his skills to her, and show what a caring parent he truly was. Then, in an emotional and tragic death scene, with piano music such as this playing……(skip to 13:10)

….show the death of their father in the mining accident, and the grief and spiraling depression that it sends the girls mother into. Then, altering the book a little bit, show Katniss running away from home in her emotion, and THERE have her encounter with Peeta as she is starving and hurt in the rain. Have her return home, and then in a voice-over by Jennifer Lawrence, have her say something like “My Name is Katniss Everdeen, and this is my story.” She can then narrate the history of Panem as the audience returns to the present events starting with the reaping. The part with Peeta has to be downplayed enough however, that when he gets chosen to be a tribute, the audience is thinking to themselves “oh my God that’s the kid that saved her in the rain!”

3. Casting and Character Changes

I don’t understand why Donald Sutherland plays  President Snow in this movie. The President isn’t featured in the first book, and Donald Sutherland isn’t a politician or intimidating. And, take the creative liberty to ax the term “President”. Make the ruler of Panem have a sweet title like “Augustus” or something Roman that implies dictatorship. If you insist on having an older guy be “President”, cast Christopher Lee while he is still alive, PLEASE. Or, if you want a truly intimidating two faced politician, Kevin Spacey should get the role.

The rest of the cast is actually very well done, they’re honestly just given bad lines. Someone please kill the writer for this movie, it’s another Michael Bay-esque film where they decide to explain entire things by throwing in a line of script instead of actually showing something. It’s a book, your movie is allowed to be 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Also, WHO IS THE VILLAIN OF THIS MOVIE?? You think it’s President Snow but he isn’t even in the book and is in about three scenes. You might think it’s the Careers (District 1 and 2 tributes), but you don’t hate them at all and they’re left totally undeveloped. I think the villain is the director, who butchered this movie completely.

Which brings me to the part of Rue. Her death in the book was very emotional, and she was a great developed supporting character. However, she isn’t developed AT ALL in the movie, and when she dies you just think to yourself, “oh, well she’s gone even though I don’t really know how because the filmmakers are afraid to show violence in an inherently violent movie.” HERE’S how you do an emotional impalementish death scene.

At this point in the movie, YOU DON’T EVEN LIKE BOROMIR. But, wow. This death scene is just unreal, as he comes to terms with everything. The music, the slow-mo, the dialogue is just off the chain. Which is how it should have been in the movie.

My final gripe as far as characters go is with the Peacekeepers. Supposed to be the policing force, they’re totally lame and not intimidating. You want intimidating and memorable? Go with something like this.

http://www.starwars.com/watch/encyclo_tear_this_ship_apart.html

Or, if you want to stick with the Roman theme, go with a Centurion design. That works too.

4. The Setting

The Capitol is described as being in the middle of the Rocky Mountains with mountains surrounding it on all sides. In other words, it’s Denver. But, we get no real notion or idea where it is, for all we know it’s in DC. They also describe District 12 as being in Appalachia, in other words, West Virginia. But again, the audience isn’t informed about this, and we can’t connect with the setting at all.

Furthermore, there should have been way more Roman architecture to go with the theme. Steal a page from the book of Gladiator and have more white stone paved streets, arches, and pillared structures. Yet, maintain the futuristic feel by incorporating more technology into the vast courtyards and plantation styled houses.

5. The Little Things The Movie Has To Do

-Create a convincing romance between the main characters. This is foremost and premier (and is hardly a little thing_, this drives the movie. It’s boring and unconvincing, and it’s what the producers tried to make a movie about. Thus, the movie failed.

-Create an “Evil Empire” feel for the Capitol and the Government. This means NOT omitting the fact from the novel that the Muttations are given life from the corpses of the rest of the killed tributes.  Show their atrocities and their reign, create empathy for the rebellion and hatred for the Capitol.

-Be much more faithful to the book’s portrayal of Haymitch and Katniss’ relationship. They have an understanding but not a like of each other, which the movie doesn’t show at all. Woody Harrelson does a great job as Haymitch, his part simply isn’t written well at all. It’s like the director wanted to dumb down their relationship just so simplify the movie. Collins creates a unique dynamic between the characters, showcase it as best possible.

-Expand and enhance the scene where Thresh spares Katniss’ life. This is about a 40 second scene in the movie, where it’s several pages and is very dramatic and the book. Make the audience feel the pressure and the emotion of having to owe somebody for a kindness

-Show the REAL way that Katniss obtained the Mockingjay pin. In the movie, she gives it to Prim “for luck”. Apparently, it’s not lucky at all because Prim gets selected as Tribute. And still, Prim gives Katniss the pin as Katniss volunteers to take her sisters place, “for luck”. Uhhhhh……..why? It was just proven that that pin is not lucky what-so-ever.

-Include Cato’s Body Armor from the book. At “The Feast” where Katniss receives the medicine for her and Peeta. It’s integral to the plot, and the fact where in the movie she puts Cato out of his misery while being devoured by the Muttations. The body armor came without a facemask, which would amplify this further.

-Don’t skimp on the exposition of the movie. The audience needs to understand the disparity between not just the Capitol and Districts, but between the Districts themselves. Explain the universe as best possible.

-Don’t be afraid to push the limits of a PG-13 movie. I feel like this could have easily been up for a PG rating, whereas the book can get rather graphic and definitely merits a PG-13 rating with its brutality. You shouldn’t go overboard, it being a teen novel for the most part, but portray more of the violence more realistically, make the audience feel the pain and the sorrow in having children kill each other.

Despite all the negatives I’ve listed, the movie is very well cast (other than Sutherland) and the last 20 minutes are done particularly well. However, if you really like the book and have half a brain, you shouldn’t love the movie. I only enjoyed the book and I still hated the film. I did just purchase the second book which I’m told is an improvement, but there’s no way you could drag me to see the second movie after this chop job. My advice? If you want a good read, buy it cheaply (I did for $6) or borrow it from the library. It’s a good read and great concept that you won’t regret, but it without a doubt pales in comparison to Lord of the Rings or even Harry Potter. The book gets a 8/10 whereas the movie 5/10.

Friday Nights in the California Household

Barring the occasional 4AM Saturday shift, the apartment of one Daniel California is usually a good place to be at every Friday night. At the end of the work week, my fellow comrades and I typically have a 21+ get-together featuring some fantastic games that we have created and refined over the course of the summer. If you’re ever in the area, and between the ages of 21 and 30, feel free to drop me a line and stop by to see what fun is going down on that particular night. We’re generally a safe and responsible crew, with plenty of room to crash so that nobody does anything terribly stupid. The night usually starts out with some form of MLB 2K11, until enough people show up and yell at me to stop being a nerd and only play baseball games. Naturally, we then switch to Oregon Trail II.

Well, actually it’s Oregon Trail 5, but the creators (I think The Learning Company bought out Mecc) made a brilliant plan to basically re-port the best Oregon Trail ever created for newer computers, instead of Windows 3.1 and ’95. Of course, we have managed to somewhat demonize this innocent educational game, and turn it into a competition of sorts, with an optional drinking game as well. Six people can play at a time.

The premise of Oregon Trail is to make it from one town on the eastern part of the midwest (around Indiana, Illinois or MIssouri typically) to some west coast destination by surviving the perils of the trail. To start, you create a “Wagon Party” and elect one player as Wagon Head, with the other five simply becoming characters that are entered into the wagon party. Upon leaving your home city, your party is presented with some major decisions along the way, such as how to cross a river, go up or down a mountain, treat a wound, cure a disease, etc. Going in a circle, we take turns on who makes what decision. If the made decision is incorrect (i.e. wagon tipping, falling into the water, turn for the worse), the person that made that call has to take a sip of their drink (be it an adult beverage or no). This goes on until the end of the game, where either the Wagon Head has perished, everyone else died off, or the destination has been reached. The only other major rule is that each time a person dies, they must take a shot. If they are the first person to die, they must take two, or a double shot. Most games are often marred with side bets and formation of teams trying to kill one another off, and typically we don’t get out of Utah with the amount of team killing going on. Usually hunting and rafting is incorporated in some way as well, but rules on those are not yet concrete. Whenever we tire of this, we’ll move on to one of the following.

oregon trail 5cards against 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cards Against Humanity is a popular title on Friday nights, and is occasionally played as well. If you’ve never played before, it’s very reminiscent of Apples to Apples, but much more crass and offensive. It’s billed as “A Party Game for Horrible People”, and if you are easily offended by pretty much anything that exists in the world, you shouldn’t play. The rules, as described by their website, are as follows :

To start the game, each player draws ten white “answer” cards. One randomly chosen player begins as the Card Czar, and plays a black “question” card. The Card Czar reads the question out to the group. Each player answers the question by passing one white “answer” card, face down, to the Card Czar. The Card Czar shuffles all of the answers, reads them out loud in a humorous fashion, and picks their favorite. Whoever played that answer gets to keep the Black Card as one Awesome Point. After each round, a new player becomes the Card Czar, and every player draws back up to ten cards.

A (very) PG Example of a Round with seven people playing is shown below

Black Card: What has been making life difficult at the nudist colony?

White Cards: 1. a plunger to the face 2. a passionate Latino lover  3. a beached whale  4. a bloody pacifier  5. a crappy little hand  6. mom

Basically, the “Card Czar”, after collecting and reading all the white cards, picks the answer that he/she thinks is the best (personally, I would pick “a plunger to the face” from the above answers), and the winner is awarded with the black card. The game continues by the next “Card Czar” in a clockwise fashion picking up the next black card, reading it, and so on and so forth, and whoever accumulates the most black cards win. The game includes some alternative methods of playing, but we haven’t investigated them too thoroughly. Our version is pretty straight-forward.

We haven’t associated any kind of beverage consumption with this game, as it is basic in its inherent board-gamey-ness. We play, we laugh hysterically, and eventually some of us will splinter off into some sort of other activity or conversation. Usually though, the last game I’m about to mention is the highlight of the night.

The final game and one that we always play is Beer Pong Baseball. We clear the kitchen table, draw it out, and put a cover on it to help prevent wood damage from spillage. The only real similarities to regular beer pong that this game has is the use of teams, plastic cups (I refuse to call them Solo Cups after that idiotically moronic song became popular), and pong balls in its play. To start, there are teams of four formed by all in attendance (team size could vary, but you generally don’t want them less than three or greater than five), with the amount of innings and games to play determined. Usually we have formed only two teams, playing a best of three set with each game being three, six, and nine innings each, the last game only being necessary for tiebreaking purposes. Everyone gets their own drink to start, with a communal beer and two cups in the middle for purposes that I’ll explain later. Amongst yourselves, you decide which team is home and which is away.

Both sides have four cups vertically arranged in a line filled about halfway with water, like a four blinker traffic light. The home team then assigns a pitcher to go to the center of the table. The idea of the pitcher is that when the opposing team gets a runner on base, the lead runner can engage the pitcher in a game of flip-cup using a few ounces of the communal beer in the middle of the table. If the runner wins, he has stolen up to the next base. If the pitcher wins, the runner is out, and the out is recorded for the defense.

In order to get on base, though, the offense plays a variation of pong. In an assigned “batting order”, the batter that is up throws the pong ball at the arrayed cups in an attempt to make it in one of them. If he makes it into the cup closest to the center of the table, it’s a single. The next one back is a double, then a triple, then the cup closest to the defense and table edge is a home run. The defense gets outs by working as a unit to catch the ball before it hits the ground once it clears the cups. If the ball hits the floor, it is a strike, which the batter is allowed three of before being recorded as an out. Interference on a ball that has not cleared the cups is deemed an automatic single for the offense. Runners can move up in forces and steals only, no first to thirds on singles or anything like that. Whenever a run is scored on the defense, each member of the defense must take a swig of their beverage. Upon three outs being recorded, you switch offense and defense until you reach the predetermined amount of innings set at the start. The pitcher for the defense must change every half inning, in a rotation similar to the batting order.

Other than the rules stated above, everything else that occurs during the game is subject to House Rules. Things that may arise include the eligibility of balls that bounce off the wall, double steals, and penalties for certain party fouls that may occur. My best strategy has consisted of not being on the same team as my one friend, who I’ll dub for all intents and purposes as Henry Kissinger.

I consider myself an above average pong player. My hand eye coordination is sufficient enough to be competitive in the majority of games I play, and given a competent partner I have the ability to be part of a good team. I don’t consider The Secretary to be a very good pong player, at best he’s average. But when it comes to baseball, it’s simply unfair. He has the uncanny ability to just snipe home runs at will. Recently I was playing against his team in a series, and after getting absolutely trampled in the first game, we held a four run lead going into the top of the last inning with us as the home team. We get the first out, and were well on our way to shoving the victory in their faces when he hits a solo homer. No harm done, we still maintained a three run lead and there were no baserunners. That home run was the snowflake that started the avalanche however. Before the inning is over, he had homered two more times and they had put eight runs on the board in a ridiculous comeback of epic proportions. Demoralized, we got two back in the bottom half of the inning, but that wasn’t enough to stem the tide. I swore off playing that evil game for the rest of the night, and have almost never had smack talk blow up in my face as much as then.

Starting around 8, we usually hang out and play games and whatnot until around midnight, when we walk down the street to the (good) local bar. It’s a good social atmosphere after competing against one another all night, and the deck is nice to be out on in the summer night air. Those that we feel can’t safely drive or operate heavy machinery are made to stay at my place either overnight or until deemed fit to leave. I’m open to suggestions on how to improve existing games, or new ones that I haven’t even touched on yet. So whether you happen to be looking for something to do on a Friday night with a group of friends, or you’re one of the lucky few to personally know me, I hope a few of these ideas might (responsibly) inspire you to, as Long John Silver’s proclaims, “Throw boring overboard”.