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Sunday
Dec212014

Tales of a Champion--Hockey Night

 

                A high school with a 97% Italian demographic was only good in one boys’ sport.  No, no it’s not soccer.  In fact we were not just a bad soccer team, we were the worst soccer team—in the state—in the nation.  And since we are talking about this nation, we were probably the worst high school team in the world.  Thinks that’s hyperbole?  We were on the cover of USA today, with a very unflattering article when we finally broke our multi-year losing streak.  Multi-year!  This is soccer, you know, comprised of kids who couldn’t make the football team, and yet we went years without beating one of these other non-football making (maybe social outcasts) teams for years. 

                We were really good though at the richer, colder step-brother of soccer—hockey.  We were in the championship every year, and we played in Sweden with some of the best schools in Europe.  And going to hockey games was fucking kick-ass.

                My friends and I were some of the biggest pot dealers in the school.  We were a bunch of hustlers, who loved weed, and were smart enough not to get caught.  My ingenuity was responsible for winning me Most School Spirit.  The reason: I decided sophomore year while at a basketball game that kids were always looking for weed.  Now, this is the mid-nineties.   Electronic communication with drug dealers had just started with the rise of the beeper.  And since most were afraid to bring drugs to a sporting event, what usually would happen after a beep was returned people would go outside and meet, or meet up afterwards.  I said fuck it.  My two friends and I each would bring ten dimes with us at a game, and walk out with $300.  Like most things the first one to do something, usually corners the market and we had accomplished this too.  However, when on top it is most important to not let your game slip.   So we had to go to all of these events, otherwise we would lose our territory in the suburban drug wars of 1995.  So after being seen at every event—sometimes dancing drunk on the sidelines before beating up the other team’s mascots (mascots also tended to be girls)—with weed for sale and also the fact that my school was fucked in the head, the drug dealer won school spirit.

                My point here is to show that we had a reputation.  And it was because of this reputation it became a custom for the hockey team to open the locker-room door for us before a game so that we didn’t have to pay to get in. Instead our donation was a bag of weed for the team.  This treatment also allowed us to come in as wrecked as we wanted without having to have a conversation with adult authority figures while purchasing tour tickets.  This freedom allowed us to enjoy the pleasure of tripping balls on LSD while watching our team kick some ass.

                We came in two groups.  Timmy O’ drove me and Mike.  Jimmy drove Jude, and these girls we hung out with Erin and Caryn.  Yes, those were their names and they were not hot twins…or that would’ve been the story I’d be writing here.  Everyone except the girls were spun on acid.

                Now acid is not whatever Hollywood tries to make it seem.  Fear and Loathing came the closest to illustrating the visuals.  But on top of the border of space and time disintegrating in front of your eyes, and you discover there is a shit-more than the 72 Crayola colors out there, your mind is on another planet and does not give a wet shit about the world you are actually living in.  If you have been experienced, you know that look someone—even if they had tripped before—not tripping gives you when they look into your eyes.  They know there is an invisible force field of reality dividing you two.  You are in a bubble, and anything you view—a joke, a traffic light, a comb—will entertain you in a way that no other person on the planet will experience. 

                Another fact about acid—white is the best fucking color.  White can be anything, and if you are on acid it is everything.  My father caught me and Jimmy one night outside during the winter, willingly throwing snowballs in each other’s face.  The landscape of snow when we stepped outside was too much.  All the colors of the spectrum reveal themselves between the night light and the snow.  Now picture a ball with the power to do this, and it also breaks apart as it is thrown.  If you can, then you can understand why a snowball to the face on acid is fucking awesome.  Faces freezing and wet, boogers all over our mouths, and smiles that put The Joker’s to shame.  My dad heard us laughing and came out and caught me pointing to me face, yelling “Do me now!” to Jimmy with a softball size of snow in is hand. 

My father only had to say five words to fuck my world.

“Andrew, what are you doing?”

There was no answer.  Well there is an answer, but it is not a sane one.  Spun and watching the visuals from a snowball crash onto my face is probably not tops on the father’s list for favorable answers to his question.  It was tough for me to think of a quick answer, while tripping.  Especially since the way he shook his head as he asked me, I only thought of Snoopy’s face when he danced.  Don’t ask, you had to see it.

So since we now knew snow was great for visuals, an ice rink should then be awesome.  We dropped the tabs at my house an hour before the game.  Why so early you ask?  Then you never did acid I assume.  Acid takes an hour to kick in.   The girls were not with us at this point so Jimmy left to get them and the rest of us went right to the game.  Before we split up we all agreed to hide this little fact that we were tripping from anyone else at the game.  The stands aside from the teenage hooligans were also filled with parents of the kids actually playing in the game.   

Mike, Timmy, and I arrived a little before the game started.  Most of the time was spent just looking at each other and laughing to ourselves about everything.  You see that was the fun to us.  We were living an inside joke.  As the game started a buzz began to go around the stands about getting a keg.  Brilliant.  I decided to start up a fund for the keg party.  I didn’t plan to get the keg, I delegated that job to Jimmy, who unfortunately for him had not even arrived at the game yet.  I did tell you he was picking up two girls—they took a while to get ready.  So as I walked around trying to get five bucks from everyone to get this keg, I also kiddingly started calling it the “Jimmy” Fund.  That is funny.  What is fucking funny was when I walked up and down the parent’s section and asked them for donations to the “Jimmy” Fund.  A few parents were happy to support research for children with cancer.  I wonder how they believed me, but if you can sling your bullshit solid enough, it won’t even smell.  What else could they think?  This kid can’t be that fucked to lie to parents about donating to a child cancer fund. 

So Jimmy showed up with a few minutes left in the first period.  He now has no idea about the donations he just received.  The moment he walked in I was fixated on the ice.  The patterns of the players’ movement hypnotized me.  Purple, blue, yellow—the two team’s jerseys rotated around the edge of my vision.  The ice intensified it.  These were some of the best visuals I ever got.  A whistle was blown, the crowd quieted.  It took me out of my trance.  I saw Jimmy walking the aisle below the stands, and I screamed to him:

“Jim, JIM!  I’m fucking tripping my balls off!”

For some reason—even though the parents had just learned that I had scammed them out of their money for children’s cancer while on acid—the parents turned their attention to Jimmy.  And by the way, Jimmy was also spun. 

It is a challenge to walk into a high school hockey game on acid and being able to keep it together around your peers, and the parents of their peers.  It is more of a challenge as you enter for your best friend to scream that he is also tripping balls, and everyone else in the hockey rink stares at you, and not your retarded friend.  But what separates the men from the boys, is when your same retarded friend runs down to you, puts a wad of cash in your hand that he acquired from people who thought they were donating to cancer and tells you: “Go get a keg.”

“A keg, Where am I going to get a keg?  I’m tripping balls.  I barely made it here.  I got no fake ID.”

All valid reasons, James.  And yet I fired back with, “I don’t know, but you better, or all these people are going to be pissed.”

We didn’t get a keg.  We didn’t give the money back.  We pretty much ended up stealing from the stands at a hockey game.  We didn’t intend to rip anyone off.  I think we just saw visuals and forgot about it, or stopped caring about it, or started talking to some girls.  I don’t remember.  The good news for us was that no one else did.  Because the ending of the game was all anyone remembered.

We were playing a neighboring town.  We were beating them bad.  My friends and I were peaking now with our trip.  WHY NOT, go over to the other team’s side and talk shit.  Mike, Jimmy, and I went, along with two friends—Matt and Bobby—who were drunk.  The trash talking started innocently enough, “Not only do we fuck your girls, we also kick your ass in hockey.”  You can see how heated the dialogue went from there.

Now three kids tripping, and two other teenagers bombed do not make the best decisions that is sure.  They also are not completely aware of their surroundings.  It wasn’t soon until 17 kids from the other high school surrounded us.  I have no idea why in the state of mind I was in I remembered there were exactly 17, but I did, so that number is now indisputable.

To a creature that values their own survival they would extricate themselves from this situation.  But not us fucking idiots.  I think our response was to throw the first punch.  Bobby has that claim.  That started the melee.  This is the only sample I have to evaluate, but apparently when I trip balls, I kick ass.  I punched one kid, and he went down cold.  I had never done that before, I felt like I was in a kung fu movie.  I turned and punched another kid, he fell.  I looked down, and Jimmy was on the ground punching the shit out of one kid, but getting kicked by a few others around him.  I grabbed him by one hand, pulled him up, punched another two kids—they fell—and I felt like Chuck Norris.

Mike grabbed both of us from behind.  “The cops are here.”  We looked up and sure enough two of the boys in blue were making their way down the aisle.  We turned down a crevice and escaped out of the Zamboni entrance.  Something like that gets noticed.  So we had to do something smooth.  By something smooth, I mean Jimmy opened the back door to a random dark blue van, and we jumped inside.  It was an empty work van.  We lied down, heard the sound of a kid and maybe a cop walk by the van looking for us.  We decided to not go anywhere soon.  So Mike took out a joint and we clammed up some stranger’s van.

Now when you are young you may think you are invincible, but apparently we thought we were immortal.  No fear at all in us until we heard the sound of the back door to the van opening.  Here is it, a family with young kids that were probably here to cheer on their son/brother, and now we had to explain ourselves.  We were toast.

But it wasn’t that.  It was a kid Nate that we went to school with.  We were so fucking happy to see him.  The feeling was not mutual.  “What the fuck, you guys smoked up my dad’s work van.  He’s gotta take this on a job tomorrow.”  Well shit, this just gets better.  We told him we were sorry through a cloud of laughs and then gave him the rest of our joint for his trouble.  We asked if the cops were still here.  He told us no, but Matt and Bobby did get arrested.    

We didn’t know where Jude, Timmy or the girls were.  We would find out later.  It didn’t matter.  We got into Jimmy’s car.  As we left Jimmy took out a wad of cash—he still had the Jimmy fund.  We laughed about that.  We shouldn’t have been laughing then.  We should have re-evaluated our life choices, and counted our blessings.  We had managed in one night, to go to a public school event tripping our faces off, selling pot, ripping parents off of their money in the belief that it was for cancer research, instigated a fight, fought, escaped the police, broke into a random vehicle and smoked it up with weed.  We should have been like how the fuck did we pull that off, we were lucky, but still very stupid.  But no, we didn’t think like that.  That’s what normal people would think about.  We just thought about what drugs we could buy with this money.  Because that is how champions think.   

 

Wednesday
Jul162014

Age of Extinction Review

 

  Okay, every once in a while since I’m an author, I like to review a novel for the sake of this blog.  However, this time I will do my first review for a movie.  No, it is not a movie based on a book, and no there is no higher reason as to why I am doing this.  It is simply my inner nerd coming out, because I am a freak for the Transformers.  So here it is, my review for Transformers: Age of Extinction, complete with the good, the bad and the ugly about the film.  For the ugly though I am not going to focus on this one film, but on what has become some recurring themes throughout all four movies, in the hope that maybe the filmmakers could right their mistakes before the next two movies are finished—yeah like they’ll listen to me.

 

The Good.

Action!  Action, action, and action.  Some have complained about the long running time of the movie clocking in at 2 hours and forty-five minutes.  But since most of that time is spent with big robots fighting other big robots, I am happy with it.  The major complaint from the critics is that is it just mindless action, director Michael Bay just blowing things up and robots fighting each other—which is exactly what fans of The Transformers want.  I wish these critics would stop judging every movie based on if it would win an Oscar and instead if it carried through on its promise.  This movie was supposed to provide action, and great special effects.  It did just that.

Speaking of the effects, another great improvement in this movie was the faces of the robots.  In the first movie sometimes you could barely make out the difference between a face and an arm.  Take one look at Drift’s face and you know things have changed.  The robots are more detailed, their mannerisms more defined.  John Goodman’s Hound has a beard and a cigar in his mouth.  This movie upped the ante in the detail in the Transformers.

This installment also made a great improvement in the human cast.  Sure it was cute in the first movie—a kid and his first car.  But as the action and suspense grew throughout the first three movies, we all kind of got sick of Shia LaBeouf, and his string of unbelievingly hot girlfriends.  The kid cannot play anyone tough—did you see him in the Crystal Skull—and these are action films.  Mark Wahlberg has proven himself as an action star, and his shooting up robots comes across more naturally.  It looks like the first trilogy was LaBeouf-Bumblebee, whereas this one will be Wahlberg- Optimus Prime.  The difference in that combination is a whole other level of action.

 

The Bad

The Dinobots were finally introduced to the series.  My problem with them was not their little time on the screen—the very end of the third act.  My problem is more of the nerd in me who cares about the story for these robots, and the truth is, the Dinobots did not really have one.  There appeared to be some attempt to explain the Dinobots, but either one important scene did not make the final cut, or the writers just figured we could read their minds.  The movie starts off 65 million years ago with all the dinosaurs being destroyed by some ancient race that destroyed all life on earth and introduced this mineral called Transformium that the Transformers are made out of.  Then in the artic a lady find a dinosaur made out of metal.  Jump to the end of the movie where there are these “Legendary Knights” that are imprisoned in Lockdown’s ship, who turn out to be Dinobots, but they are not actually Autobots, nor do they have any idea who Prime or Megatron are.  They only fight with Prime because he bested their leader, Grimlock.  No, no dots have to be connected here.  And that is all they had for an explanation.  But who needs more.  It’s all so clear their history right?

But what lacked more than the screen time for the Dinobots, was the almost absent screen time for the Decepticons.  While this movie did do a good job of establishing a new team of five Autobots since three from the first movie—Jazz, Ironhide, and after the first few minutes of this movie Ratchet, are all dead—there is not even three Decepticons with names in this movie.  Lockdown the main antagonist of the movie, is not part of either faction.  Galvatron—the resurrected Megatron—gets only five lines, and Stinger—Bumblebee’s Nemeis—does not even say one word.  The rest of the decepticons are just used as fodder for the Dinobots at the end of the story.  There is no story for the Decepticons, but the Decepticons should not be just nameless bad guys like Stormtroopers.  In the animated show each of them have their own characters and personalities—Soundwave, Shockwave, Starscream.  In the first movie they had their own personalities—Barricade, Blackout, Frenzy—but as the series has progressed it appears the producers are feeling the Decepticon characters are less and less important.  This cannot be further from the truth, and this vision is most apparent in this movie.

Something about the new Decepticons that you will notice about them if not their lack of dialogue, is the way they transform.  Or in other words—the way the reassemble.  These Decepticons who are created by the humans, do not so much shift from one form to another.  They appear to disintegrate into molecules and then reform into either their robot or vehicle mode.  I have some problems with this.  First off, it is too much of an advantage.  When Bumblebee shoots at Galvatron, he turns into atoms, avoids the bullets and then reforms.  If they are capable of this, then how can they every really be destroyed, nevermind how Hound himself appears to destroy twenty of them by himself at the end of the movie.  But the problem I have most with this new style is that the normal transformation of these robots is one of the coolest things to see on screen.  Never mind the sound effects which are great, the way you see the parts shift and move into place is awesome.  All of this is lost with this new style, and instead it looks like a swarm of bees making some kind of car.  I hope this trend is not in the next movie. 

 

The Ugly

The ugly is not so much what is in this movie, but what is developing throughout all of the movies, and trends I hope the producers will stop before the fifth installment.  The first problem I have is the increasing back story between the humans and the Cybertronians.  In the first movie the backstory was that Megatron went after the All-Spark that had been hurled through space and crashed on the earth.  I did not have much of a problem with that.  The second movie, showed how the Primes used to harvest energy from suns, and the Fallen—though forbidden to harvest a sun from a solar system that has life—tried to harvest our sun, and for that the Primes punished him and hid the Matrix of Leadership in our pyramids.  Still not too crazy to believe.  Not as bad as the backstory to Dark of the Moon.  I can see past the Moon landing conspiracy—in fact I find that kind of cool—what I cannot swallow is why there was a conspiracy with the moon.  So Sentinel Prime while escaping from Cybertron, his ship is attacked, and out of all the places in the universe that his ship can land on, guess what, it’s our moon.  The moon of the same planet that the All-Spark landed on and that The Fallen met his imprisonment in his attempt to harvest the sun.  Seriously, monkeys would type Hamlet before I could believe those odds.  Take us to this movie, where it is revealed the “Creators”—who I am guessing will be the Quintessons—decided to wipe out all life 65 million years ago  (Except for those who survived so evolution could continue) to produce Transformium to make the Transformers on Cybertron.  What a blessed connection our world has with Cybertron.  Really, is there any other planet in the galaxy that Cybertron has any connection with?

Speaking of earth, those damn humans are still taking up too much screen time.  Though I like Wahlberg much more than LaBeouf, still no one who is watching this movie gives a wet shit that Wahlberg’s character can’t understand that his 17 year old daughter is dating, that he is a failed inventor, or that there is a missile in the living room.  Though the storylines of Kelsey Grammar, and Stanly Tucci are important, the ratio still needs to be more Transformers and less human.  Maybe exchange some of that human dialogue for some Decepticon banter.  The only reason I can excuse this is done is maybe for economic reasons.  I’m sure it is far more expensive to have Prime and Hound exchanging lines, than Tucci and Wahlberg.

But I come now to the trend that is bothering me the most in all of these movies—the lack of story line that is given to Megatron.  Let’s look at how Megatron is used in these four movies.  In the first movie, he is really not seen until the battle at the end, since he was frozen for most of the movie.  Then in the second and every other movie afterward he is the secondary bad guy.  In the second movie The Fallen is the top badass.  Then in the third the main antagonist was Sentinel Prime.  The two Primes did have a great fight scene, but what was up with that five second fight with Prime and Megatron?  And especially with what could have been the end of the franchise at the time.  Prime makes one move and just decapitates Megatron—that’s it.  That’s all we get for his death.  Now in this movie Lockdown is the main antagonist, who is in it for most of the movie.  Galvatron gets a few lines, only one fight with Prime—in fact why did Galvatron not fight any Autobot at all in the end of the movie—and then flies away in Lockdown’s ship.  Megatron is not just the bad guy of the series.  He is the yin to Prime’s yang.  He needs more screen time, more character development.  And if the sixth movie is the end of this trilogy, and possibly the franchise, then it should end with an epic Prime/Galvatron battle that was six movies and millions of years in the making.  Megatron/Galvatron deserves this.  And so do us fans.

 

  Overall I honestly think this was the best of the four movies so far, and a must watch for any fan of The Transformers.  I am excited about this Prime trilogy with Wahlberg, and the prospect of Quintessons and Unicron in the upcoming movies.  This story is grittier, darker, most action packed and also far more fun.  Those who disliked it and said it was just metal robots blowing stuff up, well idiot, that’s what Transformers is, and we love that about it.  But it is also pure science fiction and the battle between good and evil.   Get the popcorn out.  It is well worth the price of admission, especially in Imax 3D.  Even worth the price of admission to watch it a few times.     

 

D.D.

Wednesday
Mar262014

Shit Happens

 

                Just have a few female friends on facebook and I’m sure you have seem these memes that mention in one way or another that “Everything Happens for a Reason,” or they are promoting the idea of Karma.  This blog here is to tell how most of philosophies are complete bullshit.  A philosophy is supposed to be a guidebook on how to live your life.  Neither of these outlooks are anyway to live your life.  If you want to truly be the best you can be, you have to see that life is one big poker game.  A game of chance mixed with the skill of how to play the cards you are dealt.

                Let’s first dispel karma.  Now, most of the people who believe in this—and there are a fair share of men who believe in it too—probably have no idea how Karma is really supposed to work.  It is how the life you led in your past life will affect you in the next one.  Not how if you’re a cheater, your next girlfriend will be ugly.  When did this idea of karma replace the tried and true saying of, “Life is not fair?”  That was the saying I grew up with and I always expected.  I just wanted to get more than I deserved.  Now all of a sudden life is fair?  One event disproves that—The Holocaust.  If Karma exists, than you believe those six million Jews deserved to die?  They had some bad karma?  How about the parents of the dead children from the Sandy Hook Tragedy, and their grief?  How about the kids themselves?  They deserved to die?  What bad Karma could a five year old have possibly committed?  Now, as a scholar of history I can tell you the only universal truth history tells us is that life is not fair.  So do not think that there is this force of Karma and people will get what they deserve.  This doesn’t mean people always get away with shit.  And it doesn’t mean that people who work hard won’t be rewarded.  It just means that not every wrong is righted, and not every good deed is rewarded.  Karma does not exist, and to use this term for simply the sake of your relationships issues is both immature and ignorant.  So read a history book, watch the news, and realize Karma does not exist.

                Everything happens for a reason, however is a little more of a complex argument, then just simply proving that life is not fair.  This view holds some credibility for people because it is comforting, we have our own experiences from our past, and there may actually be some divine intervention to what does occur in this world.  Let start with explaining why this outlook is so comforting.

                “Everything happens for a reason,” is a great coping mechanism.  It relieves us of guilt for our actions.  We fail at a relationship—he wasn’t the one.  We lose a job—there are better jobs for you.  This everything happens for a reason makes us feel great even when we fail.  This term is in fact usually used when someone falls onto hard times.  But the truth is sometimes shit just happens.  This idea helps us to feel comfort when we go through a tough time.  We are going through this for a reason, to learn, or for something better to happen.  When one door closes another door opens.  It’s a positive spin, but it is still a spin nonetheless.  We all like to believe we have some great destiny that we are striving to.  And one day we will meet our soulmate.  But there are no soulmates.  People die alone.  The divorce rate is over fifty percent.  With all the suffering all over the world in underdeveloped countries, you think there is some divine plan so that you can find ever-lasting love, a better job?  Why do innocent people in the Middle lose their children to drone strikes?  Why do Africans starve, but you don’t have a nice house? No, everything does not happen for a reason.  And what’s wrong with taking responsibilities for your actions.  Rise and fall, but take credit for both.  Trust me, when things are going good for you, it feels better to say, “I earned it.”

                This argument however, also gets some traction when people are successful.  We look at our current job and say damn am I happy I lost that other shitty job.  We find ourselves in love and say God damn I’m glad my ex broke up with me.  Even if you are in a happy place, you look back at instances you thought were devastating, and now find yourself in a better place and say, “Everything happens for a reason.”  The problem with this outlook is that we do not give us any credit for this amazing miracle called “learning.”  Yes, people, we do learn from our mistakes.  Why are you in a better job—because you got smarter, more experienced, and hungrier for a better opportunity.  Why are you in a better relationship—you learned from your past love mistakes, you know what you do not want, and know how to weed them out earlier.  You also became a better boyfriend/girlfriend.  This is not things happening for a reason, this is you learning from your mistakes.  If you do not learn from them, then you are insane.  Insanity is making the same mistake and expecting a different result.  Learning and discovery are all a part of life.  It is far better to lose someone and find yourself, than the other way around.  Well, that’s all you did here with your love life.  Maybe your first marriage failed and your second worked not because it was meant to happen for a reason.  Maybe you just became a better spouse.

                However, there is a third aspect of this argument that is a little harder to disprove.  Especially if you have any faith in any kind of divine element playing a role in our world.  I am an agnostic, a huge difference from an atheist.  An atheist believes in nothing, and like a religious person, they feel they have all the answers.  I think everyone got it wrong, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing.  We found no life in our solar system, but that doesn’t mean there is no other life in the universe.  Just because every current religion I feel is false, doesn’t mean there isn’t something divine out there pulling certain strings.  Going back to the Holocaust, this horrible genocide did lead to the creation of the state of Israel.  As a historian I can say life isn’t fair, but I can also say that events cause other events to happen.  Also every human being on this earth is alive because two people bumped uglies.  So maybe there is some divine movement in our relationships so that we meet a person we create a life with.  This doesn’t insure any of that fallacy of soulmates and a happy marriage, but sometimes the condom does break, sometimes the pill doesn’t work.  I will admit some things may happen for a reason.  But we cannot live our lives waiting for things to happen.  Expecting things will happen, and just blind faith that everything works out for the best.

                Chance is a major factor in so much more than you can understand and control in this world, and what you can control and understand in this world is the rest of it.  No karma, not everything happens for a reason.  Sometimes people are rewarded and punished for what they do, and sometimes things beyond your control happen and they affect your life.  My religion is pokerinity.  Life is one big poker game.

                If you know anything about the game of poker you know chance is always a factor.  Anytime at a table the worst player who knows the least about odds can beat the best player because the cards fall their way.  But if they play long enough the better player will always win.  You always have to do your best no matter the circumstance.  This way when luck or chance is against you, you can minimize your losses, and when luck or chance is on your side you can make the most of it.  You cannot be afraid, but you also cannot be arrogant.  Pride comes before the fall.  And also like in poker you need to be in control of your emotions, hold back a bit what you’re really thinking.  Have a filter.  With that power you can then also read the emotions and intentions of other people.  With that you may not reach a point you consider yourself successful in life (whatever your standard is) but you will be the best you can possibly be.  Sure, sometimes the cards fall the way they do to teach you a lesson, true.  But most of the time they just fall how they fall and it is up to you to make the most of it.

                Sorry to introduce you to the secret of life.

 

Tuesday
Feb252014

Dance With Dragons Review

 

 

                While a majority of people are getting all excited about the upcoming fourth season of the HBO series Game of Thrones.  Those of us who actually like to read and are fans of the Song of Fire and Ice saga are well past the events that will unfold in the upcoming season.  You know who you are, the only ones who were not shocked when you watched The Red Wedding—because we were shocked when we read it.  So this review is for all of those who have read the latest book Dance with Dragons.  Warning spoilers ahead, so if you are still looking forward to reading it, do not read this review.  If you haven’t read the book but are curious as to if you should read, well if you read the first four this is a no brainer.  I would place this book the third strongest of the books, in descending order: Storm of Swords, Game of Thrones, Dance with Dragons, Clash of Kings, and Feast for Crows.  It is of course a must read for those following the saga.  This blog (or as George R.R. Martin would call it, not a blog) if for those who have read it and would like some perspective on it.  Now, in the form of the good, the bad, and the ugly, let the review begin.

The Good

                Finally characters we give a shit about.  I mean those of you who read Feast of Crows understood that Dance and Feast are actually two parts of the same book and each book covers different sections based on geography and the characters in their respective areas.  This meant that in Feast there was no Jon Snow, Daenerys, or Tyrion—probably the three characters fans care the most about.  Dance follows heavily the viewpoints of these three characters along with the viewpoints of other characters after about two-thirds of the book.  He brings the two narratives together and promises for the following two planned books to never separate the characters again.  Fans of Martin know how faithful he is with his promises though (please sense the sarcasm).  Needless to say for fans of the saga the characters in this book and the plot is a lot more intriguing than that of the previous book, and it ends on an exciting cliffhanger.  Just be prepared to wait another decade for the sixth book in the series.

The Bad  

If you think Stephen King overwrites, than you have not read a novel by Martin.  The length is well of 1000 pages, but only about 600 of them you will give a shit about.  Readers do not need to know every dish that is served for every meal that happens within the story.  Too many times I found myself skipping over immense detail that pertains nothing to the plot.  The book itself seemed to drag, and the plot appeared to run in circles.  This also pertains to the ugly of the book.

 

The Ugly

                The Meereeneese knot as Martin refers to it was just too much wasted pages.  The whole story of Daenerys was for her to get an army and with her dragons, sail on to conquer the seven kingdoms.  Well she has her army, she has her dragons, she has to opportunity to sail west to Westeros—and she chooses not to.  Instead she chooses to defend a city, marry a man she does not love, for the sake of a slave city that is even far more corrupt than King’s Landing.  Look, we all know Daenerys is going to make it to Westeros and fight for the Iron Throne, why the hell are we wasting time here?  She’s not going to stay, if so, what the hell was the point of her character anyway?  This is excessive overwriting and detail that fails to forward the story.  At the end it shows Martin’s weakness and why it takes him so many years between books.  He has to realize he is telling us a story, not a diary with a day by day account of everything that occurs.  We are five books in now, two more to go.  Fans are clamoring for the ending, let’s get down to the nitty gritty.  Let’s get Daenerys down to King’s Landing, let’s get Bran to wherever he has to go in the North.  Let’s get Stannis on the throne.  Let’s get this ball rolling, and get this story over in two more books.  Let’s not let the HBO series catch up to the books.

Conclusion

                At the end of the day this book is of course a must read for fans of the Song of Fire and Ice Saga, but it could have been better.  It could have been tighter, shorter, and more exciting.  I hope the last two books—and that there will only be two more books—will help bring all the excitement home for a worthy conclusion.

Thursday
Feb132014

Doctor Sleep Review

 

                Fair warning there are spoilers ahead.  This review is written more for those who have already read Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep.  For those of you curious if they should read it, I’ll just say this—It’s the fucking sequel to the Shining.  So yes, I recommend this book.  Now with caution to the wind, here comes the review in the form of what is good, bad, and ugly about Doctor Sleep.

 

The Good.

                It is the fucking sequel to The Shining.  36 years after the first publication of The Shining, the sequel arrives.  The reader gets to learn of what had become of young Danny Torrance, now an adult over thirty years after the events that took place at the Overlook Hotel.  Danny still has the power of The Shining.  He also unfortunately became an alcoholic like his father.  Drinking helps him drown out the power of The Shining that drove him crazy as he got older.  Through the help of Alcoholics Anonymous he became sober and found a job working at a hospice and through the help of a cat that knows when one of the residents time has come, Danny helps to them pass on painlessly to the next world.  This is how he acquired the nickname Doctor Sleep.  The conflict in the story is that his step-niece who also had the power of The Shining, is being hunted down by a group of people known as the True Knot.  The True Knot live off the power of The Shining in little children that they call steam.  They are referred to as a sort of vampires who needs to take this power, this steam, from little children, to give them power and prevent them from aging.  Danny’s step-niece Abra, is so powerful, so full of this steam—more than Danny ever had—that she is their white whale and once they learn of her they have to have her in their crosshairs.  The story’s plot revolves around Danny trying to protect his niece.  It is also cool how the story comes full circle with the climax happening on the land of the burned down Overlook Hotel.  The good about this story is that is makes for a great action-thriller.

 

The Bad

                This story makes for a great action thriller.   I mean alone it is a cool story, but this isn’t a stand-alone story, this is the fucking sequel to The Shining.  One of the scariest novels ever in print, and I have to admit there isn’t one real scare in the whole book.  First take a look at the antagonists of the story—the True Knot.  They are disguised as elderly people who drive in Winnebagos.  Like there is anything scary to that idea.  That the old people we see at highway rest stops are really steam sucking vampires—c’mon Mr. King you can do better than that.  In fact they are even given funny names like Rose the Hat, Snakebite Andi, Token Charlie, Grandpa Flick, Apron Annie, and Crow Daddy.  They love each other and act like a close knit family.  They are not hard to hate, but they are almost impossible to fear.  I mean why should the reader fear them?  They only attack children with The Shining.  Guess what, I don’t qualify, so let the True Knot roam the highways of the world.  I will not be in their sights.  I have more to fear camping at the wrong lake and a hockey masked killer after me, than these people.  The lack of a genuine fear or thrill is disappointing when you think of the sequel for The Shining.  Even if you don’t fear these antagonists, you still don’t even fear for the protagonists.  In a situation where the True Knot attempts to kidnap Abra, guess what happens.  Danny, with the help of some friends, kills a few members of the True Knot, and Crow who actually does abduct her, is killed by Abra.  Story-telling 101 would suggest that she does get kidnapped and create the suspense to get her back.  But this doesn’t happen.  Abra comes home safe and then Danny completes his plan to destroy all of the True Knot.  Sorry but like how a sequel to Die Hard should have action, a sequel to The Shining should have some frights.

The Ugly

                King has placed himself a little too much into his stories lately.  Any reader of the Dark Tower series will tell you that based on how that saga ended.  He continued to perpetrate that flaw here with the amount of the book dedicated to Alcoholic Anonymous.  It is known that Stephen King drank heavily during the writing of The Shining, and is now a recovering alcoholic—but how or why should this play into the actual story?  Sure Danny’s father was an alcoholic, but the Alcoholic Anonymous meetings, Danny’s struggle to become sober, and his happiness through recovery, for the most part do nothing for the plot and are a waste of print.  I mean the quotes to that start the book are AA quotes.  But the actual experience of Danny in rehab really does not affect the plot.  He does know Abra’s pediatrician because he is also an alcy, but the amount of the book that is focused on the AA experience is a bit much, and really does not help build any form of suspense.  It feels more like King wanted to express his experience with AA, than build some suspense to the story.  Basically this whole book could have been written without Danny ever touching an ounce of alcohol.  That being true, then with so much print given on this storyline it is just a waste.  And detracts from the action-adventure we have here.

Conclusion

                Doctor Sleep is worth a read.  King is still a great story teller—probably one of the best ever.  However, do not expect sleepless nights or memorable scenes like Redrum or those freaky twins.  And that is a letdown because of the horror classic it is a sequel of.  3 out of 5 stars, but a must read for a Stephen King fan, or just a fan of The Shining.