Deja Vu All Over Again

It’s seriously like I am back in elementary school.

In elementary school, I was a smart kid. A “gifted” one. One that was always ahead of the class and learning things that other kids couldn’t understand, and learning them better and faster than those that did comprehend them could. I wasn’t a super-genius, not some kind of Ender Wiggin wunderkind that was destined to save the galaxy;  I simply had an above average intelligence.

We had what were called “reading buddies” in kindergarten. You had a “buddy” who was in 3rd grade who would help you learn to read through partnership while learning to take books out of the library. Except, I was a better reader than he was. I had read my first “chapter book” (The Boxcar Children) by the age of 5, and was on to more chapter books by the next year. My reading buddy was still stuck in The Berenstain Bears (which I did like), but only casually flipped through at that point in time. So as it turned out, I started teaching him how to read. It even got to the point where I started getting books that were below my reading level out of the library simply for the reason that I could teach him to read better that way.

It was like that all throughout elementary school. There were not really any accelerated classes, and besides the “gifted program” they had for kids with an elevated IQ, I was mostly stuck with my classmates learning subject material. I never tried or applied myself, and coasted through elementary school with straight A’s across the board, not yet having learned what “real work” was like. School was easy, play was fun, life was good. Aside from my slave driving parents that is, who liked to burden me down and teach me character building and discipline with chores. I mean, why couldn’t I just play RollerCoaster Tycoon all the time? (Side note, I suppose I am thankful now for the way they raised me then. I eventually beat every RCT map anyway.)

I bring this up now, because I see my current job as elementary school. Without going terribly in-depth, I’m exceedingly good at what I do. It isn’t anything terribly special, but I am just good at it. In less than 8 months of employment, my bosses have put me in three completely different areas of the warehouse that I work in and I have excelled. In all three areas, I have been offered promotions but have turned them down because the hours of work were not what I wanted, and the pay raise wasn’t enough. After the ninth such offer, I finally found one that suited me and started the application process, which I am currently still going through (which is why I still have time to write this while at work). The sad thing is,  in my opinion I haven’t even done anything special while I’ve worked here. I have done my job. I have even read about twelve books and done my fantasy research every Sunday morning. And still with only eight months of employment under my belt, one of the supervisors who isn’t even my boss said that I’ll be “the next clerk turned supervisor”, referencing a coworker who recently went from being an hourly associate to a salaried supervisor (which is about a 1.5x pay jump). One of the stockers even went as far as to talk about me (and subsequently tell me about the discussion) to the Union President about how the ‘new young guy’ is one of the few people who actually “gets it”. Yet, I don’t think I have gone above and beyond my duties, I’ve just showed up when I was told to and done what I thought consisted of my job. Apparently, just doing that is deemed going above and beyond the call of duty. It’s like elementary school all over again. I am not even trying, yet I’m blowing away the competition.

Which leads me to a couple of points. One, that if you’re a fan of or have read my past blog (a link is posted on the “Meet the Writers” page if you’re ignorant to this fact), how absurdly pathetic my past employer was. In eight months here without working nearly as hard as I used to, I have attracted the attention of multiple “higher-ups” who have set about in a way to best utilize my skills and reward me for doing good work, something that was glaringly missing from my previous occupation. To synopsize, I was only ever given one opportunity for advancement at my old employer (which I took) and at the same time, one small pay raise from above the abysmal depths of minimum wage, in more than five years of work. That goes without mentioning the fact that I never called off, always came in on time, and always stayed as late as needed, whenever I was needed (which was always Friday, Saturday, and Sunday).

Of course, said ex-employers have also have the audacity to plan opening a new store soon, at an expense of millions of dollars and the mistreatment of their staff, regardless of personal talent.

It also made me realize several things about myself. Right off the bat I realized the fact that without my past blog, and without writing about what a terrible company I was employed for, chances are I would still be there. I would be stuck in the doldrums of underacheiving mediocrity and a life that ill befit my talents. My life would be entirely different now if for some reason I had succeeded in reconciling with the grocery store. I’d like to think I did myself a favor in displaying such truths on the interwebs and thus getting myself canned, but in my vaunted opinion the old Company still owes me recompense for unemployment.

In turn, I started to question not just my motivation but how my motivation is contrasted with that of others. What drives me? Do I have any long-term goals that are more than just fantasies, or am I simply being a temporal hedonist? Am I just trying to get by with the least amount of work for the greatest personal profit?

Some of those questions I can’t answer because I have not yet matured to the point where I know most everything about myself. Every year I look back and see that I’ve grown in leaps and bounds in the year prior, but usually just through temporary personal experiences instead of time invested journeys. I have learned that I am not terribly hard to please, in that I am satisfied with just getting by and flying under the radar. I dropped out of college because I didn’t feel the need to attend or even try to go back, because I could easily get by without it. I stayed at my old job because it paid the bills that I needed to survive. It wasn’t until I needed a new job that I applied myself to upgrade my life and take it somewhere that it hadn’t previously been. I found out that when driven by need, that I was capable of taking myself to a better personal state.

But as my state improves, need starts to disappear and I return to the vicious cycle of lethargy. In order to best use my talents and elevate my personal being, I have acknowledged the fact that I must learn how to be driven by my wants. And not just my desires, but how I can best use the talent and motivation behind those ambitions to better others in the world around me.

What I needed, was a goal and a plan of attack. I am a list-writing person, who sits at his desk at work with all sorts of scraps of paper in his pockets littered with things that need to get done. So, I came up with an idea for a long-term goal and started a list.

I have decided to write a book. I have faintly sketched out the details, creating a plot that is loosely based on a modern day retelling of the Greek Mythological story of Jason and the Golden Fleece, with the story being told through the eyes of Jason’s Guardain Angel.

Of course it is a long way from the inception of an idea to it becoming fully realized. As a perfectionist when it comes to things that I’m good at, each chapter will more than likely receive multiple re-writes and revisions before a rough draft of the final project will be a reality.

Which is where you as the reader comes in. As I have stated above, I’m not terribly competent with long-term goals, so keep me honest and ask me how progress is going. Just don’t ask to read any of it, because the answer will always be the same. Secondly, in more direct relation to this post, find out what motivates you and what you’re good at. Make a plan to achieve a long-term goal that won’t just affect you, but will have a positive affect on others around you as well. Accordingly, as friends hold you accountable for your hopes and dreams, hold them accountable right back to ensure that they are making an effort to better themselves in a way that truly reflects their unique talents. And if you are having trouble finding that motivation, remember that that horrible cliché about there being no better time tha now is actually true. Especially, during the Christmas Season, which I have found is always a good time for miracles.

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Nelson Mandela and Phil Robertson: What does tolerance mean to you?

The two most significant news stories of the past few weeks include the death of one of the most dedicated freedom fighters the world has ever known and a comment made by the patriarch of the nation’s premier family when it comes to making duck calls. Both general storylines involve tolerance, persecution, and hate. They involve a minority and a majority, anger and love, popularity and dissent, freedom and expression. The world on one hand mourned the loss of Nelson Mandela in South Africa recently as we were reminded of his struggle for personal freedom, for equality for his people through the abolition of apartheid, and his support of nonviolent means to accomplish his peaceful and tolerant ends. On the other hand, many Americans are bemoaning the fact that a reality TV star in an attention grabbing interview likened homosexual practices to fornicating with animals citing the Bible as his intellectual foundation for that relationship. Which one of these happenings affected more Americans and sparked more discourse? Sadly, an unintelligible duck call entrepreneur…

So, because so many people are making Phil Robertson’s bigoted and ignorant comments a religious issue let’s fight fire with fire. The bible calls homosexuality and bestiality an abomination. In Leviticus, the bible also  claims that you can’t eat anything from the sea that lacks fins or scales. The bible dictates that if you are widowed by your husband you must live with his older brother and submit to his every demand so that he will take care of  your family. The bible decrees that meat should be prepared a certain way from clean parts of an animal. The bible claims that God is a murderer (the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, Jesus). Do these seem oversimplified? Absolutely. But, Christians, including Phil Robertson, apparently have the ability to pick and choose when the nuances of historical and cultural change apply to ancient texts and when those same words should be taken literally. Based on his logic, all of the following things are the same as homosexuality in God’s eyes:

Eating Bacon

Eating Shrimp

Eating Lobster

Eating Crab (ok you get it)

Masterbation

Anal Sex

Oral Sex

Gambling

Remarriage outside the family

Consuming alcohol

Being rich

All of a sudden I’m feeling like super gay guys. Come on, let’s be serious here. Christians don’t live their lives like they or their beliefs are being persecuted because they aren’t. But, when something hits the newsprint such as this story they are up in arms about how their lifestyle is being infringed upon along with their freedom of speech because of the growing tide of political correctness. Jesus taught about love, tolerance, humility, and caring for your neighbor. How does an unprovoked bigoted attack on homosexuals constitute the way of God? And, if it does, why would you believe in him or worship the teachings that are supposedly infallible that support those hateful conclusions Phil Robertson espoused. Christians in this country are not in the minority, they never have been. Just because they are jealous of the growing support minority groups receive when they are singled out by intolerant Christians doesn’t mean the prescription to cure that situation is to claim persecution. It’s so weak and if your only defense is “read the bible” then ok, do it. You’ll find that no one lives up to this ill-conceived hodgepodge of requirements for Christian life. We live in 2013 and it should be different than 200 B.C. but when our thought processes are so primitive it’s hard to see a marked difference.

Furthermore, something important in the name of tolerance did happen recently. Nelson Mandela’s life is a blueprint for how people of all colors and faiths and orientations can come together for what is progressive and good. Ending apartheid for black South Africans mirrors the fight against true persecution that many have fought and are fighting including homosexuals around the world. Why stifle their efforts by latching on to outdated references that are divisive and bigoted? Madiba spent 27 years in jail for his cause and you are mad because Duck Dynasty has a bad reputation. Ask yourselves, what is persecution? What is tolerance? What is religion’s purpose if it brings about hate instead of love? Next time you order the bacon wrapped scallops and God doesn’t smite you, remember that the bible was a book written a long time ago by people who were very possibly intolerant and misguided. God doesn’t require us to emulate their path of hatred, but instead, we can make the world a better place by fighting hatred with the nonviolent methods Nelson Mandela employed in his heroic campaigns.

The “Invasion of the Vorticons Award” AKA Our 2013 Best Video Game Award

As the year winds to a close, we’ll start the tradition of naming a handful of our favorite entertainment mediums. Since the video game release season is basically over, we are going to begin there with our Commander Keen named trophy, the “Invasion of the Vorticons Award”.  It has been an interesting year, highlighted by the newest generation of console launches, the best-selling video game (and entertainment launch) of all-time, and the annual releases of  new Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, and sports franchise games. But which one is the best one to come out this year? Below I will highlight a handful of the runner-ups and then conclude with what I believe is the best title.

Runner-Ups

The Last of Us – Naughty Dog Studios

From the studio that brought you the hit franchise in Uncharted, Naughty Dog strikes gold again with this fantastic tale that is one of the most visually stunning (if not the most visually stunning) games to be released on the PS3. Capitalizing on the zombie craze that is currently the fad of the land, the story comes to you in a post apocalyptic setting that crosses the United States as you play as a duo that is in search of a cure for the zombie plague.

To be honest, I haven’t played more than an hour of this game (what I did play was awesome though). Since I don’t own a PS3 I can’t give it a 100% accurate review, which is one of the reasons why I can’t name this title as game of the year. If it truly is going to be the very best game of the year, it has to be available to a wider audience. I also feel like the post apocalyptic theme (especially that involving zombies) is getting a tad overused nowadays. It was cool and unique four or five years ago, but it’s a little bit well-worn now. Still, an amazing game.

Grand Theft Auto V – Rockstar Games

This is the best-selling entertainment launch in history. Let that sink in. With a budget upwards of $200 million, and profits in the billions, this game redefines the open world genre of gaming. It included a massive playable space, one of the most varied online experiences in gaming, and one of the most fun campaigns in a GTA game to date, it is very very hard to not name GTA V as the best game of the year. I have invested the most time into this game’s online as I have any game’s multiplayer this year, even beating out my favorite Halo titles. Not to mention the fact that the character system is flawless as well as the single player “campaign” being a blast to play, fixing most of the faults from GTA IV and creating some hilarious scenes.

The only drawbacks to this game are the spatial anti-aliasing that occurs on some of the campaign and online, as well as the glitches that GTA Online launched with. Most are fixed now, and they’re constantly tweaking and adding content that should extend the life of the game. Grand Theft Auto V falls just short of the best game award which goes to…..

2013 “Invasion of the Vorticons Award” Game of the Year – Bioshock Infinite – Irrational Games/2K Australia

Although it has been losing to the previous two titles in most awards this year, Bioshock Infinite is definitely #1, as both I and the Associated Press critics agree. This game is mind-blowingly and mind-bendingly good. Set in a dystopian universe of 1912, it centers around a floating city in the clouds named “Columbia” and the exploits of a man who is supposed to pay a debt by rescuing a girl being held captive there. The game is filled with political, religious, racial, and social tones that compliment every aspect of the game and storyline. As you delve deeper into the game, you find just how complicated the game truly gets as it presents a complex concept in a way that is easily understood through the gameplay and character interactions. As a first person shooter, the controls and gameplay mechanics are fluid and innovative, borrowing in parts from the older Bioshock games all the while reinventing itself. The story is just so amazingly well done, with characters beautifully developed that you will feel completely attached to. The plot has unexpected twists and turns, and I can say beyond a doubt that I have never been more emotionally invested in a game before in my life. Everything is done right in this game, from the thankful exclusion of multiplayer and most micro transactions, to the hardcore addition of 1999 mode. The best part is, no matter what gaming system you own you can play Bioshock Infinite as it is available on PC, Xbox 360, PS3, and Mac OS X. The only people who are critical of this game are those that haven’t played or haven’t finished it yet. Bioshock Infinite is truly the masterpiece of the year, and will go down as one of my favorite games of all-time.

Phil Robertson : A Guide to (Smart) Freedom of Speech

By now, we all know that television network A&E has put Duck Dynasty clan leader Phil Robertson on suspension for comments he made in an interview for GQ magazine. Those comments were especially disparaging to homosexuals, as Robertson in essence compared homosexuality to bestiality amongst other statements that weren’t exactly kosher. To be honest, I would have thought his comments about Louisiana being perfectly fine during the Jim Crow law time period would be more offensive, but in today’s society gay is the new black.

To be clear, Robertson is allowed to have his own opinions. He is more than entitled to say things that don’t include making threats to the POTUS or falsely shouting “fire” in a crowded theater. Which, his comments were not either one of these things. He is more than allowed to say what he did.

Which is why he’s not going to jail over this. Robertson exercised his freedom of speech perfectly fine. There will be no legal consequences for his actions. But, as we have seen, there are private repercussions.

Does anybody remember the movie Die Hard with a Vengeance where Bruce Willis’ character was forced to wear a walking sign on the streets of Harlem, which prominently featured the “n” word? This case is very similar. Willis isn’t stepping outside his bounds as far as free speech goes. He is, however stepping outside the bounds of good taste and intelligent thinking. He also must realize that his actions are going to incite a certain response and reaction from the native population. In other words, he’s probably going to get killed. It’s the same thing with Robertson (minus the getting killed part). He’s allowed to make certain remarks, he just needs to realize that made in such a public forum that it is going to garner him a certain reaction which he must be prepared to deal with its fallout.

I’m sure that somewhere in his contract, A&E has reserved the right to put any cast members on suspension for any matter of things, especially public comments that could reflect on the television company. This is not wrongful termination, or even termination at all (it’s a suspension, not a firing). Robertson made comments that could hurt the reputation of the company, and the company has to take disciplinary action, plain and simple.

People also fail to realize that before Duck Dynasty was ever a thought for a TV show, that A&E existed as a company. They don’t need Duck Dynasty to survive. They are not committing suicide as a company. In fact, they have probably cashed out so hard on the popularity of this show in the past three years, that they could go a decent amount of time with it on ice and still be fine. It’s not their wallet they care about, it is instead their reputation. In all likelihood, it’s a suspension based on a breach of contract of some type, so they would have to go back on their signed intent in the first place if they were to not suspend Robertson.

Phil Robertson is entitled to his freedom of speech which he exercised. But he then must understand that whatever comments he makes, he is also subject to other people’s (including A&E) freedom of reprisal. This is not an attack on Christianity, it’s a suspension of a man for being dumb enough to not just answer questions honestly, but to take them a step further. If he was Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Wicca, Buddhist, what have you, it wouldn’t have mattered. If he made those comments he would still have been suspended no matter what. It may have been a “trap” by GQ to make him answer these questions, but Robertson is also entitled to the freedom of being smart enough not to answer those questions, or answer them in a different manner.

This all being said, I don’t care enough about these ZZ Top lookalikes and their scripted show to be sad or anything about this outcome. Just be aware that if you’re going to comment on it, I expect you to be intelligent enough to think the entire situation through.

Oh, and in case you’re curious. Remember the government shutdown? There’s more important things to be paying attention to right now, like THE BUDGET FOR THE GOVERNMENT BEING VOTED ON. Kind of the whole reason there was a shutdown in the first place. But, I’ll let you get back to your cable programs in the meantime.

I’m Sorry Mr. Jackson, I am for Real – Your New ‘Hobbit’ Movie is a Total Disgrace

I had been looking forward to watching The Hobbit : The Desolation of Smaug all year-long. After how I lukewarmly received its predecessor in An Unexpected Journey, I hoped and read that director Peter Jackson would be back in form for the sequel. Before going to the midnight screening, I read a few reviews (spoilers didn’t matter as I have read the novel time and time again) which all said that the middle piece of the story was by far better than the first. I was excited. The trailer made it look awesome, and after the way that Jackson stuck to the book’s main plot points (although taking a few liberties, primarily in the main villain of Journey), I had little doubt that he would do stick to the storyline’s guns again.

The_Hobbit_-_The_Desolation_of_Smaug_theatrical_posterUntil, that is, I watched the review that my favorite critics gave the film. Ty Burr and Wesley Morris of The Boston Globe gave the movie a 3/4 star rating, but in their video review said there were several parts that may ruffle the feathers of fans of J.R.R. Tolkien’s original work, including a cross-species romance. All of a sudden, this pit developed in my stomach and I was much afraid.

The movie starts out amicably enough, with a flashback straight from the book that I am glad was shown, when Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) meets Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) at the Inn of the Prancing Pony in the town of Bree. There, Gandalf convinces Thorin to reclaim his ancestral kingdom of Erebor which was taken over by a dragon when his grandfather Thror was king. From there, Jackson throws the book out the window and hurries the movie along so he can get to the final destination of Erebor, the Lonely Mountain where Smaug the dragon sleeps on piles of dwarf gold.

It picks back up with the Company of dwarves, Bilbo, and Gandalf being chased by an orc-pack astride wargs (large, wild wolves) that are closing in. Gandalf knows one point of safety ahead, the home of Beorn the skin-changer, who at night takes the form of a bear-like creature that is rather dangerous. Gandalf warns the Company that Beorn has no love of dwarves (or unexpected guests), but he gambles that his hate of orcs and the evil that pursues them will be greater. It is this scene where we first see Jackson set fire to the novel. Instead of a good chapter of the book dedicated to the creation of a friendship with Beorn (including where Gandalf mentions that he slew the Great Goblin), our vaunted director creates an action sequence where the bear form of Beorn inexplicably attacks the dwarves, and after being repelled changes back into his human form as he grudgingly welcomes the dwarves with little or no explanation. Swedish actor Mikael Persbrandt nails the role of Beorn, but is only given a handful of lines and little screen time, as the film hurries along to Mirkwood, where Jackson continues his butchering of the book. Such crimes (with limited spoilers) consist of the following :

-Trimming and cutting Mirkwood down to one trippy sequence (which is actually accurate and done well), and one action scene involving Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and the spiders that capture the Company (minus Gandalf, who has gone on his own quest).

-Forcing Legolas (Orlando Bloom) into a starring role and making him seem like an entitled and uptight prick, which is nearly the polar opposite of his character in Lord of the Rings.

-Creating a major character and love interest for both Legolas AND Kili the dwarf (Aidan Turner) in Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly, from LOST) in a predictable and unconvincing romance.

-Commuting the timeline and sentence of the dwarves to the Elf-King Thranduil’s (Lee Pace, Lincoln) prison to one day instead of months.

-Changing the scene where Bilbo creates a stealthy escape for the dwarves from prison in shipping barrels into an absurd action scene that involves Bombur destroying orcs while in his barrel, Legolas and Tauriel engaging regiments of orcs with the ease of Peyton Manning in a pee-wee game (all the while swinging from tree to tree and running across the river like little monkeys), and the wounding of Kili by a poisoned arrow (which he does not know is poisoned), which predictably can only be healed by elf-magic that Tauriel possesses.

-The twisting of Bard the Bowman into an outlaw, where in the book he is in fact the defender and voice of Lake-town.

-The ruining of the arrival of the dwarves into Lake-town.

-Creating another action sequence in Lake-town where Legolas and Tauriel along with three dwarves that got left behind in Lake-town from the quest to the Mountain, engage orcs led by Bolg who are hunting Thorin Oakenshield.

-Having a poor end to the Dol Guldur – Gandalf storyline that is non-canonical.

-Making a middle sequence of a film series where nothing except rising action and exposition is created. Nobody major dies. Nobody major lives. Nothing major is resolved. Everything, literally everything, is left in limbo for the next movie.

-For this last point, lets review the major events of Jackson’s first middle movie The Two Towers with The Desolation of Smaug. Granted, The Two Towers is a novel where things are meant to be somewhat resolved, but Jackson could have easily incorporated any event into Smaug that creates some resolution. In fairness, we’ll let Towers have twice as many resolved events as Smaug simply because of the book length.

The Two Towers  

Eomer destroys the Uruk-Hai, is expelled from Rohan.

Merry and Pippin meet Treebeard, persuade him to attack Isengard.

Gandalf comes back to life, meets with Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn.

Gandalf releases Saruman’s spell on Rohan King Theoden, Theoden rallies Rohan.

Saruman creates an army to pillage and destory Rohan.

Saruman’s forces meet Theoden’s at Helm’s Deep, Saruman gets defeated.

The Ents led by Treebeard attack Isengard and win a decisive victory.

Frodo and Sam capture Gollum who becomes their guide to Mordor.

The three reach the Black Gate, and turn aside at the advice of Gollum, who starts to progress as a character through Smeagol his alter-ego.

They are captured by Faramir, who takes them to Osgiliath.

Despite being tempted, Faramir lets the trio go after Frodo nearly gives up, Gollum becomes fully evil and bent on waylaying the ring bearer after a perceived betrayal and capture at the hands of men.

The Desolation of Smaug

Bilbo and the Dwarves are attacked by spiders in Mirkwood, then are captured by the wood elves.

They escape imprisonment by the elves.

The 13 and one Hobbit meet Bard and are  smuggled into Lake-town.

The Company makes for the Lonely Mountain, they reach it, and Bilbo attempts to find the Arkenstone as requested by Thorin.

The Company awakens and engages Smaug.

Gandalf infiltrates Dol Guldur.

The Two Towers totals 10 events. The Desolation of Smaug totals 6, of which two are still unresolved, bringing the total to 4 actual happenings. To wrap this section up, that simply means that a lot of nothing happens in this movie. It is a bad second installment. Jackson rushes past major events and makes them minor ones, and instead hurries up all for the big finish in the end, which never actually happens. It’s like running a 5K race as fast as you can, only to realize once you hit the 5K mark, that it’s actually a 10K race. You’re exhausted and deceived, but you are only halfway there.

And then there’s the romantic story between the Elf and the Dwarf, which is just complete rubbish. It hogs so much screen time and so little viewer investment, that it robs time from the main character of Bilbo (you know, the hobbit that the movie is named after) who is so wonderfully played by Martin Freeman. Jackson decides to sit there and go through the motions of a baseless romance instead of continually developing his main character.

My other main critique of the movie (on a strictly film basis) is that just like the predecessor, Peter Jackson relies on the overuse of CGI in action sequences. He cannot make up his mind if he wants to make a movie for kids or a darker movie for adults ; as the action scenes are comical in nature, and with the computer generated goblins, creates a sillier and less scary atmosphere than in Lord of the Rings. He populates Desolation of Smaug with video gamey fight numbers, and then juxtaposes it to a room full of rotting corpses that best demonstrates his inability to decide who exactly his target audience is. I have had people ask me if there is a fundamental (novel based) difference between goblins and orcs in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings because of how different they appear in nature. It is decidedly for a turn of the worse.

As much bad as there is in this movie, there is just as much good. The cast is wonderful. From the Master of Lake-town (Stephen Fry) to Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), almost every role is extremely well acted and perfectly cast (with the exception of Tauriel, who shouldn’t have had a role to cast for in the first place). Smaug is beautifully animated and voiced, and all scenes with him in it are worth the weight of a gold-plated Dragon (yet another Jacksonian “twist”). Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) isn’t given nearly enough screen time, as too much instead goes to the Master’s assistant in Lake-town, in a horrible and forgettable role played by Mark Mitchinson. His disgusting, unibrowed character is the largest casting and character creation mistake outside of Tauriel ; with those two characters omitted and the stick removed from the behind of Legolas, this cast would be perfect.

The plotline with Gandalf infiltrating Dol Guldur is very interesting, and although somewhat ruined by how it concludes, is very dark and mysterious as well. Jackson also well demonstrates how Bilbo is being consumed by the ring in just his short possession of it. Although at times a bit preposterous, the action scenes can be quite comical and have some really cool shots, despite the dramatic loss of realism.

Without reading the book, the movie is good, but not great. Several plot adjustments and character omissions could give his film a significantly higher grade, but unfortunately it turns out to go no where, and fails to be a sum of all its parts. This is Jackson’s worst film set in Middle-Earth yet, despite all of the potential it had. 6/10

But if you read the book, here’s your review.    

The film is an utter betrayal of the novel for the following reasons.

1. Beorn did not attack the Company as in the film, and expounded his character to a rough friendship with the dwarves, and a true one with Gandalf. When he skin changes into a bear, in the book he is still able to control himself. He intentionally kills goblins and wargs, and nails their skins to his property to ward off intruders. It works.

2. Tauriel does not exist, nor do any events involving her.

3. The Master of Lake-town’s crony does not exist.

4. Legolas and Azog are not present in The Hobbit book. Azog is actually dead at this point in time.

5. The Dol Guldur storyline is wrong for many reasons. Gandalf does in fact infilitrate the fortress (twice), but here’s a side note. In Lord of the Rings lore, Gandalf and Sauron are the same race, being angelic creatures who have descended upon the mortal to guide (in the case of Gandalf) or corrupt (in the case of Sauron). Sauron is more powerful than Gandalf and Gandalf fears him, but they have the same basis at the least. When he sneaks into Dol Guldur (the second time), Sauron (once under the guise of the Necromancer) flees to Mordor, fearing being discovered by Gandalf before he can openly present himself as the Dark Lord. There, the Grey Wizard finds Thorin’s father who has gone mad in prison, and obtains the Lonely Mountain map and key to give to Thorin. Gandalf barely escapes, but escape he does. The movie gets it all wrong with Gandalf losing a ridiculous “battle” with Sauron’s spirit, and ending up imprisoned in a cage. In the novel universe, not only would the Grey Pilgrim never risk a battle with the spirit of Sauron, but he wouldn’t allow himself to get utterly embarrassed and jailed. There’s a reason this guy once snuck through Moria and into Dol Guldur twice, he’s kind of a boss. He also wouldn’t fear a stupid orc like Azog, as this is a guy that went toe-to-toe with a Balrog.

6. The timeline is skewed. The Company spends months wandering in Mirkwood and in the cells of the Elvenking. There were also assaults on the Woodland Elf realms by orcs, but none happened when the dwarves where there. In fact, one of such attacks happened and coincidentally freed Gollum, who was being held captive by the Wood Elves, as Gollum then pursued the Fellowship into Moria. Everything is commuted to one continuous happening instead of events being spread across time.

7. Mirkwood is wrong. Much MUCH more happens in the forest than in the movie, as the dwarves wander lost and practically starved to death before being captured by the Spiders, where Bilbo uses Sting and the Ring to free them. Besides spiders, there are also flies that Mr. Baggins has to fight off.

8. Barrels out of Bond. Bilbo had worn the Ring consistently throughout having snuck into the halls of the Elvenking. It took him some time to find out where the dwarves were being held, how to reach them, who had the keys, and how to get them out. When he finally formulated a plan, he stuffed the dwarves physically in each barrel to sneak out under the noses of the elves in complete stealth. There was no escape fight, as the elves did not realize that their prisoners were missing until they surfaced in Lake-town.

9. Lake-town is wrong. Although the setting and Master are correct, Bard was not an outlaw or imprisoned, in fact he was known as the defender of the town. Seeing as the dwarves were smuggled in, their arrival is greeted with surprise and hope, as the citizens hope that the Mountain King will restore the Kingdom under the Mountain again and bring everybody wealth. No dwarf gets left behind in Lake-town either, and Bard shoots the Black Arrow from a bow, not some type of lance caster.

10. The discovery of the side door is also incorrect. This is how Thorin escaped from the Mountain when attacked by Smaug in the first place. Although he forgets the exact location of the door, he knows it exists and that it is in moon runes. In perhaps the dumbest scene of the movie, the dwarves “give up” when told that the door will be illuminated by the “last light of Durin’s Day”. It occurs to none of them (even though it occurs to every audience member) that the last light isn’t daylight, but instead moon light, as dwarf runes (as evidenced in Moria) are often written in moon script to hide the entrance.

11. The dwarves never engage Smaug. Bilbo steals a golden cup from the horde, which after much riddling and flattering talk with the dragon (which did happen), Smaug furiously erupts realizing part of his treasure is missing. He then goes off to wreak havoc on Lake-town, where he meets his demise. The entire sequence of the dwarves plotting and creating devices to attempt to off the dragon are all out of Jackson’s mind of meddle.

11. There is no fight in Lake-town. No invading wolves or orcs, no Bolg, no Legolas, no Kili, no love story, nothing. The only fight that occurs in Lake-town involves a very large dragon.

All these facts leave me completely puzzled. The first movie was criticized for sticking too close to the book (for the most part), as critics felt that the story took too long to develop. Here, Jackson throws the book into the trash and creates a movie that is “inspired by” the novel instead of “based upon” it. It seems that he does not know how to correctly incorporate events into a movie to make it whole, instead drawing one out and rushing the other. It also confounds me that he could shoot one movie at the same time as another, and yet have two completely different variations come out. One was well grounded in the source material, whereas the other takes monstrous liberties on it.

It also upsets me that Peter Jackson felt like he could do this to J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel. In essence, he is saying that the story he has and wants to tell is better than the story that Tolkien told, which is 110% incorrect. There’s a reason that Tolkien’s novels did so well, and became so legendary and famous that Jackson could make such a profitous franchise out of it. PJ’s ego is basically saying that he is more intelligent and creative than J.R.R. This assertion is so hilariously false, as one of these men directed Meet the Feebles and Braindead, whereas the other created an entire language, universe, and novel series all out of his own imagination.

If you are a fan of the novel like I am, you are going to find this movie offensive. This is the worst amount of liberties that Peter Jackson has taken in any LOTR based film yet, and it shows. It’s the same old story of Hollywood basing movies off good source material. If something is good, you do not change it and mess with it, especially with its core events. If it can be visibly improved (such as The Hunger Games : Catching Fire), go ahead and take those liberties. But for something that is such a work of art as Tolkien’s, this movie is a sad moment, and a betrayal of Jackson’s responsibility to guard the franchise that we the fans love. As a fan of the novel, the Lord of the Rings universe and its details, this movie merits a 2/10 as corresponds to a film adaptation of a beloved book.

My Year at the Movies (ranks in order of best to worst of movies I have seen that have been released this year)

1. Rush

2. Star Trek Into Darkness

3. Man of Steel

4. Catching Fire

5. Pacific Rim

6. This Is  The End

7. Despicable Me 2

8. Monsters University

9. The Great Gatsby

10. Oblivion

11. Elysium

12. World War Z

13. The Hobbit : The Desolation of Smaug

14. Oz the Great and Powerful

15. Fast and Furious 6

16. Iron Man 3

17. Hangover Part 3

18. Thor : The Dark World

19. A Good Day To Die Hard

Why I Love the ‘Christmas Season’

It’s simply bound to happen. You know exactly what I am talking about. There’s going to be someone in your group of friends or family that is going to hate Christmas. They’re going to spew on and on about how it has simply become a season of rampant capitalistic commercialism that has turned whatever base it used to stand on into a season of greed and madness surrounding the accumulation of stuff. Then there are the people who hate on the religious founding of the holiday, and then argue about how it was founded by the Pope to counter a pagan holiday, and that Christ wasn’t even born during December. Furthermore, you will also have those that insist there should not be a set aside day or “season” that promotes generosity because well, people should always be generous not just at Christmastime.

I’m here to say that I do not care what those people have to say. It simply doesn’t matter to me. Call me selfish, simple-minded, or traditional.

I don’t care.

Normally, I’m a rather complex person with tastes that stray away from the category of simple. Sure, sometimes the small things in life, like a cool summer breeze or watching a sun set while driving across an open expense, I enjoy and will point out. But for the most part, I like chaos. I’m a fan of a busy life with many intricacies, I like things with a compounded meaning and deep creativity, and can at the very least pretend to appreciate it on all levels.

But when it comes to Christmas, I don’t over think it and do not nitpick it. Those people who naysay the Christmas Season are honestly probably not wrong in what they have to say. Sure, it’s overwrought with commercialism and probably isn’t the exact time of year when Jesus Christ was born, but as I said earlier, I don’t care. To me, the Christmas season is something to be enjoyed rather than critiqued. It’s like the music of my favorite band, Oasis. Sure, half of Noel Gallagher’s lyrics are total nonsense. Even he will admit that he hasn’t the faintest idea what “slowly walking down the hall, faster than a cannonball” means in Champagne Supernova. But as he later explains, it doesn’t matter what he think it means, because when 60,000 people are all singing it together all with different meanings for each one, the original nonsensical intent ceases to matter.

Commercially speaking, Christmas is a time when the best movies are released. I have great memories of Lord of the Rings, (up to five December installments as of tomorrow), The Chronicles of Narnia, Night at the Museum, I Am Legend, Seven Pounds, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Avatar, True Grit, and Sherlock Holmes. It’s also when Egg Nog comes into season, Troeg’s releases their Mad Elf Ale, McDonalds has their holiday pies, and all coffee and donut outlets have festive themes with their peppermint and gingerbread coffees. Stores, and especially malls, are decorated in Christmas fashion. Everyone is playing Christmas music, and since I no longer work in retail it doesn’t earn my temperamental scorn. Especially here in the Northeast, it usually snows a few times which adds to the ‘Winter Wonderland’ theme. There just seems to be some sort of feeling in the cold air during the month of December that vanishes in January. In December, the snow and chill seems almost magical. It’s like it belongs there, and is fun to interact with. When the Christmas Season dissipates, the cold instantly feels dank and dreary. There’s no Christmas to look forward to, no froofy holiday coffee flavors to warm you up. Instead it is a cold dark emptiness, with your black coffee that tastes like stale cigarettes in lukewarm water.

That holiday spirit obviously isn’t completely made by the things you can buy to stimulate the economy and promote greed, as I’m told. It’s the time where family and friends aren’t pressed into service at Work or School, and the busy schedule and hectic pace of life slows down to the tempo where I can schedule things that I want to do, instead of things that I must do. There is time to see beloved family members whom I haven’t seen in too long, or friends who are off at school or have graduated that finally have some time off back home. I am not forced to go into work on Christmas or Christmas Eve, instead I know those days I can set aside for catching up on some of the people that matter most in my life. I can finally schedule a 16 player Halo 2 LAN Party, because I know that I’ll have at least sixteen friends free on a Friday night for once.

Sure, we can delve, dissect, and debate Christmas and its applications all day long. But you won’t change how I love the ‘Season’ surrounding it.

It’s a magical world out there right now. Gather your friends and family, and go explore it!

The Death of Paul Walker and What it Should Mean to You

In case you didn’t notice, American actor Paul Walker was killed in a car crash this past weekend. As the media is wont to do when a celebrity dies, investigations and coverage is running in an overflow of excess. Any of you that use social networking are also privy to the fact that many people are critical of those members of the proletariat that post material in memoriam of Walker, because they say that humans die every day that have more needs or have done greater deeds than a Hollywood star. They further say that people should not post things about dead celebrities since greater masses of people die every day.

Those that say these things in an outrage are simply wrong.

Firstly, this needs to be put out in the open. Paul Walker’s death is not a tragedy. Although by definition, “tragic” means dreadful or disastrous, it is not tragic. The connotation that comes with a tragedy is the implication that innocence or goodness has been destroyed through harmful forces outside of the control of the innocent. The fact of the matter is, Walker was a passenger in a fast sports car, which was reportedly being driven in excess of a safe speed. Cars are and always have been death traps, especially at volatile speeds which was the case. When driving at that speed, the driver and passengers accept responsibility for all effects to follow. As a result, innocence is lost. When something happens to a person that is unfortunate, but a direct effect of their action or inaction, the result can no longer be deemed tragic. It can be unfortunate, it can be sad, but the word “tragedy” has too strong implications and should be reserved for truly tragic events.

Moving forward, let us tender the following two statements as fact. When somebody inherently “good” dies, it is a sad occurrence. Especially when they pass at what seems like an early time; a time that could have been used touching and improving the lives of others around them.

Transitively, the death of Paul Walker is sad because of the kind of person that he was. However, it is going to be sad to so many more people than the death of an average person. This is because throughout his film career, Walker managed to reach out and touch the lives of untold millions of people. When you go to see a (good) movie, through the storyline and acting you are placed in empathetic touch with the protagonist. To me, Walker was a good enough actor that through the Fast and Furious movies that I watched and own, I felt for his character in Brian O’Conner. I wanted to see Brian succeed, to witness him overcome his weaknesses and create a circumstantial outcome that was best for him and the people he loved. Again, transitively that makes me feel for Walker, through the character he portrayed. Although I do not feel for Walker as much as I would someone like Tom Hanks, whose roles I identify and empathize with more than Walker’s, during the two hours of a Fast movie, Walker is my protagonist.

Putting this into another view, imagine how you would feel if your current favorite (alive) singer/songwriter died. The lyrics they have written, and the melodies they have composed would cease to continually be created. The essence of their being, the emotion and creativity they wrote with, and the emotions and lyrics that you identified with, would be somewhat of a memory. In the duration of the songs you listen to, you are totally empathizing and placing yourself into the shoes of the singer. They have now touched your life and are a part of you. Truth is, part of you is going to be sad if they passed away.

Although Walker’s death isn’t very personal to me particularly, it is sad. However, it is personal to some people, which I can still identify with. When Sean Taylor (Washington Redskins safety) died in 2007, I will be the first person to admit that I was personally in a somber mood. Taylor was one of my favorite players on my favorite football team, and was in the midst of a career year on the rebound from having personal problems. I liked Taylor and it was upset to see him gone. He touched my life enough that I posthumously bought his jersey so that I could remember the player that he was.

There are people who have had their lives touched by Paul Walker in a significant way, like Taylor was with me. Yes, some did not personally know him, but like the death of a character in a book, they empathized and were placed in the shoes of his characters, transitively being placed in the shoes of Walker himself. And yes, the death of a good person on any scale is sad, but not every person has the opportunity to be a part of so many lives like a movie star can. If someone who could not have possibly known Walker is bemoaning his passing, be respectful and let them be. Their influences and lives are different from yours, so treat your reactions to them as such. Remember what you were told to do as a child, and fully think through what words you are going to attribute to yourself before you make a foolish statement.

The Better Late than Never Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag Review

I am going to start off this review with a confession. Yes, I am one of those scumbags who goes ‘Black Friday’ shopping on Thanksgiving evening. Go ahead and hate me for it, but we eat Thanksgiving dinner around lunchtime, so after spending all afternoon/early evening with family, I am ready to go out and do something else. Which usually means going to Wal-Mart at 10 PM after all the crazies have left to see what sales we can score. One of which, was Assassin’s Creed IV : Black Flag, for almost 50% off list price. That’s a steal, and considering the game came out a month ago, I had to pick it up.

A little background information would be useful to start. I own and have completed all the previous games in the Assassin’s series. They are fun to play, if not the best created games in the world. I picked up the previous title, Assassin’s Creed III, on launch last year as I was excitedly awaiting what looked like the best installment in the franchise yet (don’t let the III deceive you, that title was actually the fifth in the series, and the fifth in as many years). Unfortunately I was disappointed, as the changes they made to the game such as the controller scheme and the setting did not improve my gaming experience. There were a good amount of bugs and flaws, and the story was simply not very good. I refused to buy the next year’s (this year’s) title on release, despite the fact that the Caribbean pirate-style setting looked like fun.

Which leads us directly into this installment. The overall strength from the previous title was the naval combat and the shipbuilding/seafaring aspects. Ubisoft recognized this fact, and built upon and expanded it for IV. The setting is a lot of fun, without a doubt. Being an assassin and a pirate on the high seas is a concept that a large studio like Ubisoft cannot ruin. Following treasure maps, engaging galleons in battle, upgrading your ship, boarding other ships and fighting hand to hand is a blast. I have waited for a while for a good pirate game to be released, ever since Sid Meier’s Pirates! was upgraded, updated, and ported to the PC in 2004. And Black Flag is that, a solid pirate game. The graphics are absolutely stunning on Playstation 4 (I got to play it for about half an hour), and still looks good on Xbox 360. If this game were simply titled Black Flag without being an installment in the Assassin’s franchise, I think I would love this game. Instead, I merely like it, because making it part of the Assassin’s universe is ultimately the biggest drawback.

And here’s why. The storyline in Assassin’s Creed makes no sense at all. I have sat down and played through every game in the series, and the story still is indecipherable. The concept is solid, with a secret war going on between the Knights Templar and Assassin’s Order, with secrets about the past (which help the future) being found in the Animus, a machine that lets you relive the experiences of your ancestors. However, once the third installment (Assassin’s Creed : Brotherhood) is reached, the present day storyline starts to become convoluted, with technicalities and jargon taking over intertwined with ancient Roman religions and powerful “pieces of Eden.” So much crap and contradiction goes on that the only way to play this series anymore is to sit down and mindlessly enjoy yourself. The storyline is junk, and you’re a fool if you try to comprehend it and its universe. As a side note, there are actually fans of this franchise out there who buy and wear Assassin’s symbols and attire. I have seen it first hand, and it is quite frankly frightening to see people ascribe themselves to something so fake and flawed. It would be like someone openly worshipping the Great Green Arkleseizure from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Just, like, what on earth are you doing?

As I digress, garbage storyline aside, the controller scheme from III is virtually unchanged in IV. Which means, it too is junk. The buttons are so unintuitive, and so unlike the other open world masterpieces of Grand Theft Auto and Fallout that you would think Ubisoft would have learned better somewhere along the line. There will be many times where you are supposed to be chasing after a thief or assassination target, that because the controls suck so much, you will jump off of the tree you were climbing instead of jumping to the next tree. Or, your character won’t jump up the side of the building and will instead remain dangling and motionless. Or worse, you’re trying to run down the street when you get too close to a wall which your character starts to climb. Just, no. Make things simpler and the universe as a whole less sticky. And, don’t change the controller scheme from game to game. The differences between Revelations (the fourth installment) and III are so dramatic that without being briefed, an Assassin’s veteran will be lost in the wilderness. If you play Grand Theft Auto IV, Red Dead Redemption, and Grand Theft Auto V you will notice that the controls are basically exactly the same. That is because Rockstar isn’t filled with idiots and knows a winning formula when they see one. Over six years, they have kept the same basic controller scheme. Ubisoft likes to switch it around in every single game. It is like piloting a Banshee in Halo 2, Halo 3, and Halo : Reach. The buttons change with every game, and unless you have the manual in front of you, the button you pressed to get out of the Banshee in Halo 2 is going to shoot a bomb in Halo 3, and then make you do a flip in Halo : Reach. At least with Halo, the controls had to change because of a platform change. In Assassin’s, they have all been on the same machine.

The real question is though, is Assassin’s Creed IV : Black Flag a fun game to play? And the answer is a resounding yes. It is fun to be a pirate, sail the high seas, and board ships while wielding a pair of swords like Anakin Skywalker dueling Darth Tyranus. Obtaining treasure maps that lead to buried treasure, and using that money to create a deadly pirate ship is fun. It is when you sit down and think to the reasoning behind your character’s actions that the game starts to falter. Why are there always so many ships in the Caribbean sea? Why do they always attack me, and why must I always sink them? Why can I explore entire cities and towns and do things with Edward Kenway (the main character) when I haven’t even progressed the story? How does Kenway fulfill Assassin duties without knowing anything about the Assassin Order? How does the present day storyline make ANY sense at all, and why should I even care about it? Why do they still include multiplayer in this game?

Like Activision and Marvel, Ubisoft asks the gamer to keep their logical thoughts to themselves, and buy the new version of the game that they release every year. Assassin’s Creed is becoming Call of Duty. New titles every year, but the same game with small, gimmicky, and nuanced updates. Some titles (like Black Ops) are more fun than others (like Modern Warfare 3). And to be truthful, this title is more fun than others. I have not had this much fun playing an Assassin’s game since 2010’s Brotherhood. As long as I turn off my brain and keep the beer flowing, I’m having a good time.

7/10

You Really Should Hate the Boston Red Sox as Much as the New York Yankees

Even if you are a casual fan of baseball, you know who the big bad enemy is. The Evil Empire. The Bronx Bombers. The Pinstripers. The New York Yankees. You probably hate most of the teams in your division, simply because they are the rivals of your favorite team. But those Yankees, every fan of the 31 other teams have it inbred in them to hate the NYY. From their entitled fans, to their jerk players, to the capitalistic way they run their team, ask any baseball fan to give you a reason to hate the Yanks and they’ll give you five.

But, I’m here to tell you, that your hate should be directed at another team that likes to market itself as the anti-Yankees. The Boston Red Sox. This anti-NYY sentiment is all a facade, because beneath it all, the Sox and their fans are just as bad as those in the Yankee ballpark. Below, is why.

1. Even their own good players do not return after a successful season

Perhaps you’ve seen the news. Talented BoSox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury has recently signed with the New York Yankees. Which, is quite frankly, embarrassing. Ellsbury was a huge part of the 2013 Boston World Series run and victory. When healthy, he’s one of the best all around players in baseball. According to his contract, he would become a free agent after the 2013 season. Naturally, what a team does after having a World Series winning year is to retain the key players, and attempt to build their success from the past year in an attempt to repeat that success the next year. Now, nobody has been able to win back-to-back World Series since the 1999 and 2000 Yankees (the team to come closest was my Philadelphia Phillies in 08-09), but it is the idea that since you (should) have had the best team in baseball, that you want to keep that team at the same level of play to earn another title.

At least that is the general sentiment for teams outside of Miami. However, for some reason Jacoby thought his chances at winning would be best served in New York, rather than resigning with Boston. Which means, one of three things. Either A) Ellsbury thought the team was not good enough to keep winning, or B) Ellsbury simply wanted out of Boston, or C) Ellsbury only cared about money. Because he is not an old outfielder (still in his baseball prime at 30), and has two World Series rings, a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, Comeback Player of the year,  and 3 time stolen base titles to his name, we can safely assume that not only is he a more than an above-average player, but he is going to get a large contract. Which, the Red Sox with their deep pockets, should be willing to pony up for especially with a classy player like Ellsbury who consistently brings home the bacon.

So is it the money that purely motivates Jacoby? I highly doubt it. A player of his caliber is going to demand a high salary no matter what team he is on, and well, he is a Mormon (insert stereotype here). Could it be option A? Maybe, I never thought this year’s BoSox team was actually very good in the first place, they simply got lucky. But to be honest, I am leaning toward option B, because this is very reminiscent of another Sox outfielder who left the team for the hated Evil Empire. Remember Johnny Damon? Back in 2005, following a playoff run that year and the miraculous 2004 WS the year before, Damon was one of the biggest fan favorites with his Christ-like beard and scrappy play. However, Boston refused to negotiate a deal with Damon that extended beyond three years, so he abandoned ship for a team that actually wanted him, in New York. In this case, Boston should have paid Damon what he wanted, to keep their team in contention and their fan base happy. Instead, their arbitrary front office decided to be stubborn and not negotiate, and thus JD ended up in the Big Apple. I can easily see the same thing happening with Ellsbury this time around.

If a player wants to stick with a team, they will stay with them even if it means taking a pay cut. Look at Cliff Lee when he resigned with the Phillies. He could have signed with the Yankees for more money, yet he wished to return to Philadelphia instead. I can tell you first hand that Philly is not exactly the best place to live or raise a family, nor the most friendly atmosphere to play in. But, he saw something there that was what he wanted, and chose to return. Ellsbury or Damon could have done the same thing, but either Boston was not hospitable enough, or the Sox did not try hard enough to retain them.

2. Their Organizational Crux is a Roider

It was revealed four years ago that David Ortiz tested positive for performance enhancing drugs in 2003, in a governmental report on an investigation of the sport of baseball. He cheated, plain and simple. You want to know who never tested positive on a drug test? Barry Bonds. Sure, he was embroiled in a scandal involving his personal trainer, but there’s no solid evidence that Bonds was a steroid user, just speculation. Yet, there’s solid evidence that Ortiz cheated, and he is somehow a hero, whereas Bonds is a villain. The truth is though, we probably would not be talking about this if Torii Hunter were two years younger and would have (should have) caught the grand slam ball that Ortiz hit in the ALCS.

3. The Red Sox are Hypocrites

The biggest critique and ammo that Boston had in their arsenal with their 2004 World Series win was that they beat the big bad Yankees, who spent like a liberal who just hiked taxes. This small Boston team embarrassed the giant Yanks, and it was awesome. And yet, between 2006 and 2011, the Red Sox had the second biggest payroll in the Majors, buying several players at high prices. Those players would be Victor Martinez, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, John Lackey, Josh Beckett, Bobby Jenks, Erik Bedard, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Adrian Beltre. Granted, they won the Series again in 2007 (without most of the players I just listed), but it doesn’t change the simple fact that the Sox contradicted themselves and became the team they hated the most.

4. Red Sox fans are also Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins fans

Do I really need to explain this?

5. Nobody outside of Boston wanted them to win the 2013 World Series, which they didn’t deserve anyway

I have family in Colorado that are Rockies fans. As such, you would think that they would harbor an apathetic sentiment toward an American League East Coast team, and a little bit more of a negative sentiment toward the midwest NL team in St Louis. However, for obvious reasons they were all extremely disappointed when Boston won the Series. Why? Because their team was ridiculously obnoxious, and won because the Cardinals lost the series, not because Boston won it. St Louis gave away Game 1 with their ace Adam Wainwright on the mound, with defensive and mental miscues all over. If the Cards could have taken just that one game, it would have forced at the very least a Game 7. Not to mention the fact that the Cardinals got more hits than the Red Sox overall, and despite the Game 1 debacle, made three fewer errors in the entire series than the Sox. And, take away the performance that Senor Steroid had, and Boston is dead in the water to ANY playoff National League team, even the hapless Pittsburgh Pirates. Their annoying team of beards, bellies, and crappy castoffs, was not loveable like they tried to advertise. It was exactly like the first adjective I used to describe their team. Annoying.

6. History aside, Fenway Park sucks

Remember our Ballpark Reviews from the summer? Those are based on ESPN’s ballpark tour in the Summer of ’06. In which, they reviewed Fenway Park where the Red Sox play. They gave it a decent review because of the atmosphere (not because of the merits of the stadium), but let us remember one thing about that atmosphere and how it’s changed. You are going to be surrounded by fans from Bah-stan who think the Red Sax are Gad’s Greatest Gift to Hamanity. And then, if it is September, there is sure to be someone wearing a Brady jersey just saying how the Greatriots are the best football team in the Unated States. When at Fenway, I just find the cheapest beer and pray that whoever is playing against the Sox slaughters them.

Are the Red Sox worse than the Yankees? Depends on the season, honestly. This year, because they were/are in the spotlight, they’re pretty much the worst. The year before, they stank, and it was awesome. The good thing about the Yankees is that they are consistently good and consistently stick to the same routine of creating funds and spending them on large profile players. It’s what they do. They don’t pretend to be anything else, and that’s why you hate them. What makes the Sox so bad is that they do pretend to be something else, when in reality they are not any better. That, and of course the five other reasons that I have listed above.