Archive for the ‘ Books ’ Category

The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies (TheByteScene Review)

Date: December 26, 2014


The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies

1.5 Unnecessary-Sequels out of 4

Peter Jackson’s third Hobbit film, and his final entry into Tolkien’s Middle-earth universe, is nothing if not consistent. At a lean 144 minutes, the film is the shortest Jackson-produced, Tolkien-based feature; it is beautifully constructed, with stunning visuals, colours, and sounds. However, its plot is almost nonexistent, its characters quickly grow stale and boring, and its stunted pacing leaves much to be desired. As the final film to a 13-year franchise that has produced some of film’s greatest scenes, strongest writing, and most compelling moments, The Battle of Five Armies is a disappointing feature that plays more like a two-hour-long video-game cut-scene than a film with any real cinematic heft.

Picking up mere moments after The Desolation of Smaug‘s breath-taking cliffhanger, The Battle of Five Armies signals the end of its first half hour – and the Smaug story arc – by delivering the conclusion to last year’s Hobbit film. Infuriating is the manner in which Smaug’s highly anticipated destruction of Laketown – featured in much of the film’s promotional material – feels like an afterthought in this film. Instead, Jackson and his creative team seem more interested in staging the film’s eponymous battle. Undeniably beautiful as the battle truly is, the large chunk of screen-time afforded to the conflict between the Elves, Dwarves, Men, and two armies of Orcs is completely wasted on what amounts to nothing more than theconcludingsetpiece to an otherwise unnecessarily lengthy franchise.

On the topic of endings, The Battle of Five Armies is not the satisfying cinematic conclusion that Jackson and the film’s marketing team would lead audiences to believe. Arrows wiz by, Dwarves violently bludgeon Orcs, and alliances are forged, torn apart, and reforged, but the entire affair plays out as if screenwriters Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, and Guillermo del Toro had planned out setpieces first, and literature last. Delivering the film’s emotional heft is left to Richard Armitage’s Thorin Oakenshield – the Dwarf prince who has spent the entire Hobbit franchise struggling to reunite with his ancestral home. In this film, the Dwarves summarily reclaim the Lonely Mountain, and audiences are left wondering what the point of it all was – if there is a point at all.

Armitage’s Thorin spends most of this film suffering from dragon sickness – a psyche-altering affliction that results from overexposure to gold and wealth. Thorin becomes greedy to an unmitigated degree, and while this examination of greed is brief, it’s presence infuriatingly hints at a stronger, more compelling film lurking beneath a surface blanketed by violence and too much CGI. As the Dwarf king stumbles and skulks about his castle – starving for the Arkenstone that solidifies his leadership as Dwarf king – we’re painted a portrait of a damaged man searching for purpose. Thorin has spent his entire life fighting for his home – now that he has it all, his body and mind begin craving desires that he can’t possibly nourish.

A particularly powerful scene, in which Thorin’s psychological well-being is mirrored in his setting, is skillfully captured by Jackson’s camera, which twists and turns as Thorin sinks into a golden floor. Another moving scene occurs at the film’s climax: cold, snowy wind blows atop an Orc-infested hill as a stealthy team of Dwarves climb to begin their assault. As the wind blows, the audience feels a mix of dread and excitement. We know that this is the final battleground for many of the characters we’ve connected with over the past three films, and Jackson deftly reminds us of the great stakes in play with a simple windy preface.

Peter Jackson has always been a director capable of delivering moving, powerful, and human moments. Though his films are largely characterized by their grand staging and awesome battles, his real skill as a director – as an artist – is in conveying great emotional depth in small, simple scenes. The Battle of Five Armies, however, is not a movie concerned with emotional weight. It is, quite literally, nothing more than the final, epic battle found at the conclusion of every great action film – fantasy or otherwise.

Some fans of Jackson’s Tolkien films might find solace in the occasional brief mentions of the rest of the series. As Lord of the Rings veteran Billy Boyd plays out the credits with “The Last Goodbye,” we’re reminded that The Hobbit serves as the literary precursor to The Lord of the Rings. However, fans of cinema – and fans of Tolkien’s work – will be greatly disappointed in what is a spectacularly mediocre conclusion to an otherwise enjoyable trilogy of films.

If it at all appears that my true disappointment lies in the fact The Hobbit was split up into three movies – instead of the more logical two – allow me to dispel any uncertainty. The Hobbit should have been split up into two movies, instead of three. There is simply not nearly enough material for three films and, as Jackson showed in An Unexpected Journey, including every minor detail from the source material is not only blatant pandering, it stretches and bloats a film to the point of boredom. There’s a reason that almost every adaptation of Tolkien’s novel is split into two parts – An Unexpected Journey and There, and Back Again. Tolkien’s novel is not a lengthy literary legend; it’s a satisfying children’s book that touches on themes of home, family, compassion, and charity. If not children’s fiction, Tolkien’s The Hobbit is a succinct introduction to the world of Middle-earth.

Watching The Battle of Five Armies, I considered a possible universe in which The Hobbit was shortened to two films – or even to a single, cohesive, compact movie. Perhaps Thorin says it best: “If more of us valued home above gold, it would be a merrier world.”

As always, this has been your Admin, the Blogger; comment, subscribe, criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!


Avatar: The Legend of Korra [Book Three] (TheByteScene Review)

Date: December 21, 2014


Avatar: The Legend of Korra [Book Three] (TheByteScene Review)

3.5 Reconnected-Earthly-Tethers out of 4

The idea that sequels never truly live up to the quality of their originals is not an idea purely founded in angry message boards. With a few rare exceptions, sequel films, prequel novels, and remake TV shows are almost never as good as the originals that spawned them. Part of this has to do with the risk assumed by creators, and part of this has to do with audience nostalgia, but the fact remains that it’s nearly impossible to capture the pure vivid emotion that results from viewing something great for the first time. Something amazing – something truly original – is difficult to recreate, simply because the mere act of recreation results in a diluted end product seeking only to appease fans or make money.

Understandably, fans of the original Avatar: The Last Airbender were cautiously optimistic when Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino announced plans to return to the universe they created. The story of Aang ended so neatly, and the central conflicts had been resolved so compactly, that it was difficult to imagine any possibility of expansion. However, Konietzko and DiMartino proved both fans and critics wrong when The Legend of Korra debuted to resounding fanfare and praise. Not only did it manage to capture the Asian-influenced, literary greatness of the original, it managed to present a story filled with narrative complexity, driven by compelling characters. Korra, at the very least, was interesting, and her legend was captivating enough that fans were more than satisfied with its continued production.

The Legend of Korra, up until the moment season three debuted, was not as impressive as The Last Airbender, however. From a purely objective perspective, the vast world-building, character development, and plot progression found in Korra’s legend very rarely reached the levels of excitement and intrigue produced by Aang’s world and its story. Speaking from a fan’s perspective – a perspective filled with subjectivity, and nostalgia – The Legend of Korra could barely hold a candle to the legend of Aang. With an often lacklustre second season that barely held itself together, and with an expansive and complicated mythology that required time and effort to appreciate, Korra’s second season almost threw her off the throne created by Aang.

This brief history lesson in the world of Avatar is necessary, because it succinctly presents the complex set of emotions that results from producing a powerful form of literature. Make no mistake, The Legend of Korra is, and should be, held up to the quality of The Last Airbender. It is inappropriate to call spin-offs mediocre without comparing them to their peers – Korra is consistently one of the strongest shows on television, and that includes its second season – but it is completely appropriate to call spin-offs weaker than their originals when they truly are weaker than their originals.

It seems, at this point, that I have complaints about Korra’s third book – about her second chance at producing affect in her audience. It seems that I didn’t enjoy the story, or its characters, and I’m about to tarnish the series.

Simply put, I must state that Book Three: Change is perhaps the greatest season of television produced by Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino. More than meeting the quality of its predecessors, Change attains a level of complexity, intrigue, and compelling narrative structure that has not been seen, and most likely will not be seen, by fans of television, literature, and Avatar for an exceptionally long time.

The story picks up approximately two weeks after the universe-altering Harmonic Convergence that shifted balance in Book Two. While the world slowly adapts to Korra’s decision to keep the Spirit Portals open, and spirits and mortal creatures now freely interact, there’s a prevailing air of uncertainty in the world. In more ways than one, this season is about change, as well as the universe’s tendency to throw us into complicated situations that are often beyond our control. As the Avatar – the bridge between both worlds – the full brunt of insuring harmony has been placed squarely on Korra’s shoulders, and the season’s opening moments quickly tells its audience that people are not happy. The world needs its Avatar now more than ever, and sadly, the general public seems entirely displeased with both its elected officials, and its unelected protector.

Korra’s chief personality trait has always been her hotheadedness. In short, Korra has a short fuse, and though her growth has been evident in the past, it’s obvious that her inability to truly fulfil her duties is baring down on her. After all, she’s the Avatar, and it shouldn’t be so difficult to help spirits and mortals. This notion that Korra is not fit to be Avatar actually conceals a deep underlying problem within the world Konietzko and DiMartino have written thus far: Does the world really need an Avatar? It’s a question that was presented early on in Book One: Air, and it was a question that sometimes appeared in Book Two: Spirits, but if there is a central theme past change, in Book Three, it’s the notion that the world no longer needs its great spiritual leader.

This theme of necessity and spiritual pragmatism interacts with Change‘s universe, where mortals are having a rough time getting used to their spirit brethren. More importantly, this theme of necessity ties in with Korra’s constant struggle to understand herself. After all, if the world doesn’t want the Avatar, then the world doesn’t want Korra, and her entire existence is pointless.

As if an existential crisis isn’t enough to deal with, new Airbenders have begun popping up all over the world, most likely a result of the change brought on by Harmonic Convergence. The rising of the new Air Nation plays into Book Three‘s central conceit. Using the airbenders – who are in dire need of direction and training – Team Avatar uses the opportunity to get out of Republic City and help Korra focus on her Avatar duties. However, the new airbenders are especially important to Korra’s airbending master, and Avatar Aang’s son, Tenzin, who’s eyes well up at the possibility of seeing his father’s dream of a world filled with airbenders come to fruition.

Tenzin’s scenes – where he interacts with new airbender recruits in both an enlisting and education sense – are a delight to watch, and J.K. Simmons lends his natural exasperation to a character who simply can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to be an airbender. In Rebirth, the season’s second episode, Tenzin tries and fails numerous times to convince would-be citizens of the Air Nation to fulfil their spiritual obligations and their humanitarian duties. It comes to no surprise, much heartbreak, and a little delight when doors slam in his face because he’s either too pushy or too ignorant to realize how difficult it can be to sacrifice one’s entire life to fulfil someone else’s dream.

Tenzin’s character arc also heavily features his eldest daughter, Jinora, coming to her own. In the past season, Jinora served as Korra’s guide through the Spirit World, and her involvement in bringing down Unalaq was essential to the survival of the entire planet. A talented airbender, and a strong spiritual leader, Jinora’s arc is tightly bound to the Air Nation’s fate. Jinora wants the tattoos bestowed upon airbending masters, and though she deserves them, Tenzin’s love for his daughter blinds him to the truth that one airbending master – one leader – is not enough to guide an entire nation of people.

Leaders in the world of Avatar are a funny bunch. In the past, audiences have watched dictators grow before their eyes, mad geniuses free entire cities, and reluctant Firelords rise to the occasion, but Korra introduces one more archetype into the foray: Earth Queen Hou-Ting. Konietzko and DiMartino have never shied away from using history as a blueprint for characters – Phoenix King Ozai seemed like the lovechild of Hitler, Mussolini, and Genghis Khan – and Queen Hou-Ting is no different. Heavily based on Empress Dowager Cixi of the Manchu Yehenara clan, Hou-Ting is a seemingly benign despot intent on overtaxing her citizens to death. When a bandit cries out to Korra, “You’re fighting for the wrong side,” in The Earth Queen, we can tell that he’s not wrong.

Queen Hou-Ting, however, is not Book Three‘s central antagonist – she’s more of a political adversary whose decision to wrongfully imprison airbenders to serve the Earth Kingdom rubs Team Avatar the wrong way. This decision is not one without precedent – citizens of a nation are legally bound to protect their nation when conscription is enforced, and airbenders from the Earth Kingdom are still legally citizens of the Earth Kingdom. It’s this kind of political manoeuvring that enables Konietzko and DiMartino a chance to present the true villains in a more relatable light.

The Red Lotus, led by new airbender Zaheer is an anarchist sect that branched away from the Order of the White Lotus when White Lotus members chose to bring their secret society into the light. Comprised of members all over the world, the Red Lotus is the closest thing to a terrorist organization that the Avatar world has ever introduced. What truly makes them so compelling as villains is their ideological devotion to the notions of anarchy.

There are two ways to make compelling villains: have them overpower the protagonist so we care about the redemptive journey, or have them connect with the protagonist, so we’re left unsure of our own moral convictions. Zaheer falls into both categories; a two-week-old airbender with immense knowledge of airbender poetry, form, and culture, his ideological viewpoint is the logical extension of Air Nomad philosophy, and his anarchist beliefs force the audience to confront the truth: The world would be better if we didn’t have so many powerful people messing it up. Zaheer isn’t wrong when he says that world leaders are an outdated notion, and he’s not wrong when he says that we’d all be better if we could make decisions for ourselves.

Voiced by Henry Rollins, who presents a performance devoid of major emotion, Zaheer is an ideological and physical force to be reckoned with. Fascinating is the way the other Red Lotus members treat him as their leader; as a short man with a fierce physical bend, and a set of powers roughly two-weeks-old, the fact that a dangerous waterbender, a powerful lavabender, and a combustionbender treat him as their leader is indicative of deep character complexity. This ability to convey depth of character – the skill to tell audiences a lot by saying very little – is exactly the kind of writing that Konietzko and DiMartino are renowned for. It’s exactly the kind of writing that made The Last Airbender so great – that, and the martial arts sequences.

Studio Mir, thankfully, returns to create the animation for Book Three, and their return also brings back the incredible fight choreography that the series has been known for. Bending finally feels real again, thanks greatly to amazing cinematography and directing by Joaquim Dos Santos, Ki Hyun Ryu, Colin Heck, Ian Graham, and Melchior Zwyer, as well as music and sound editing that makes bending sound possible. Furthermore, locations look large and expansive, colours blend together to form backgrounds akin to paintings, and the use of lighting to highlight, showcase, hide, and subdue is spectacular. This is a masterfully created series, and the Earth kingdom’s browns and greens, and Republic City’s blues, reds, greens, and yellows are made impressive and interesting because of a studio willing to make the extra effort required to draw the most out of a palette.

More importantly, characters look like real people, instead of drawn figures moving their bodies. When Korra speaks, her eyes light up, her eyebrows move, her lips purse, her face contorts. When Jinora bends, her body strikes, her frame dances. Even Zaheer – whose entire schtick seems to be that he’s calm and collected all the time – seems menacing, imposing, and even threatening when lighting changes the shadows on his face and the camera moves from long shot to medium shot to close-up to wide-angle and back again.

Avatar The Last Airbender was a show about a universe; it’s entire premise was that a powerful cosmic and spiritual force had to save the world from an evil mortal exerting his twisted will over others. In contrast, The Legend of Korra is a show about a person – really, a show about people. Not to belabour the point, but the show’s title reflects the idea that this is Korra’s story – not her world’s, but her own. Regardless of where she goes, who she meets, or what she sees, this is a story about Korra’s fears, apprehensions, successes, and failures. Unlike Book One and Book Two, however, Book Three spends significant time on other characters, as well as other stories. Audiences learn about Mako and Bolin’s Earth Kingdom family, we learn about Jinora’s struggle for identity, and we finally learn the history behind Lin Beifong’s scar.

Lin’s arc, in particular, is brought into extreme focus when Team Avatar travels to Zaofu, a city created by Toph Beifong and led by Suyin Beifong, Lin’s younger half-sister. There’s a reason Lin is so tightly wound, and it all has to do with Toph’s extremely hands-off parenting style and Suyin’s lackadaisical attitude during their youth. As an overarching plot point that serves to characterize a popular character, there’s little reason why Konietzko and DiMartino should have presented Zao Fu. Instead, the decision to focus on the development of someone other than Korra is deeply tied to the series’ – and the franchise’s – focus on world-building.

Over the course of 13 tightly-packed episodes, Konietzko and DiMartino deliver an expansive story about an entire world, and what makes much of this season so exciting is the wide playing field the creators have afforded themselves. Make no mistake, this is Korra’s story, and her involvement in the plot is still integral, but by exploring other characters – like Suyin and Lin – the creators manage to produce a character-driven story about an entire world. This is important because it removes the narrative burden off of a single central character – Korra – and places the burden of intrigue on other equally compelling individuals. This isn’t to say that The Legend of Korra needs to be a copy of Game of Thrones to succeed, but in a fictional world that practically begs to be expanded, world-building is one of the most beneficial facets to explore.

After Book Two, I was cautiously optimistic about the possibilities of Book Three. For the first time since Avatar the Last Airbender, however, I’m genuinely excited to see what comes next, and I look forward to being a part of Korra’s story next season when it comes to the stunning conclusion I’m sure is in store.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!


The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (TheByteScene Review)

Date: August 22, 2014


The Amazing Spider-Man 2

2 Rather-Mediocre-Spider-Men out of 4

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is by no means a good movie. Tonally unaware, lacking in appropriate definitions of pacing, featuring a convoluted plot, and clearly created to set up future films in the franchise, director Marc Webb’s latest feature plods along in a heavily populated sea of better comic-book movies.

Interesting is that Marc Webb has failed at learning from the mistakes made by Sam Raimi in his take on the character in Spider-Man 3. Raimi’s film was criticized for an unnecessarily lengthy run-time, a cast of poorly developed characters, and a convoluted plot that fails at telling a compelling story. There are parallels to be drawn between the two films, and there are lessons to be learned for future filmmakers. What upsets me, as is common with these kinds of movies, is that beneath the mess of overproduced CGI and a soundtrack loaded with blaring dubstep lies something good, perhaps even something great.

In the sequel to Marc Webb’s original The Amazing Spider-Man, Peter Parker is still trying to juggle his life between normalcy and crime-fighting. Returning to the role is Andrew Garfield, whose Parker is less maladjusted chemistry-geek and more average-everyday-teenager. His nemeses in this film are a cavalry led by Paul Giamatti, Jamie Foxx, and Dane DeHaan as classic villains Rhino, Electro, and Green Goblin. Also returning are Emma Stone, as love-interest Gwen Stacy, and Sally Field, as aunt and maternal-figure May Parker. The cast is talented, and it’s clear that every actor tries as hard as humanly possible to inject relevance and emotion into otherwise one-dimensional characters.

However, despite herculean efforts, there is nothing any of these respected and compelling actors can do to save an excessive script. Worst of all is Giamatti’s role as Russian mobster-turned supervillain Aleksei Sytsevich. So gloriously over-the-top is the performance that Giamatti constantly seems to be one linguistic step away from asking Spider-Man if he ordered a plate of pirozhki.

Penned by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and Jeff Pinker, the film’s script is tonally unaware to an almost comical degree. The truth is, there are three stories being told here.

The first is of a couple struggling to stay together despite being torn apart by uncontrollable circumstances. Peter Parker is Spider-Man, and he has a duty to protect the people of New York; Gwen Stacy is a scientific genius fresh out of high-school being recruited as an Oxford Scholar. Their lives are destined for separate futures.

The second is of a lonely electrical engineer whose desire to be recognized drives him to insanity. Max Dillon (played by Jamie Foxx) works for leading corporate empire OsCorp, and while his superiors recognize his skills, they fail to give him credit for his work. One day saved by Spider-Man, Dillon develops an obsession with the hero, and goes mad once he is transformed into the blue-skinned living battery Electro.

The third, and arguably most interesting story, is that of two boys angry at their fathers for deserting them during their youth. Harry Osborn (played by Dane DeHaan) is the son of dying corporate emperor Norman, and heir to the OsCorp throne. Norman’s illness is hereditary, and in an attempt to save himself (and his son), he sends Harry to boarding school while he attempts to find a cure. Peter Parker is the son of former OsCorp researcher Richard. Richard discovered OsCorp’s dirty secrets, and in an attempt to save his son, he vanishes, leaving the boy with Aunt May and Uncle Ben.

Disappointing is the film’s decision to try to expand and tell each of these stories simultaneously. Alone, there is material enough for three or four separate movies. Together, the multiple plots take away from each other, leaving the audience unable to focus on any individual conflict. It’s not that Marc Webb is a bad director – the fact that individual scenes draw in the audience and stimulate us is proof of Webb’s talent. The problem is that the film is unable to successfully unify its themes of loss, love, hope, and redemption.

Between Peter, Harry, Gwen, and Max is a venerable who’s who of troubled geniuses, but because they exist in a script unable to figure itself out, their stories are unsubstantial.

A glaring tonal imbalance is equally evident in the film’s score. With music scored by Hans Zimmer, Marc Webb, Pharrel Williams, Johnny Marr, Michael Einziger, and David A. Steward, it appears that the only unity The Amazing Spider-Man 2 can muster is in disharmony. The movie sometimes feels like a comicbook movie, sometimes feels like a romantic-comedy, and sometimes feels like a Skrillex-music video.

Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 made a lot of mistakes and Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 repeats almost every single one of those inconsistencies. Important to recognize is that Marc Webb has not created a bad movie. What he has created is an incoherent mess that is often entertaining and always infuriating. I mentioned earlier that the film clearly sets up future movies in the franchise. Sony has already announced that there are scripts in the works to expand on characters from the Spider-Man universe. I genuinely hope that the filmmakers attached with those projects learn from the mistakes made by The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!


Guardians of the Galaxy (TheByteScene Review)

Date: August 9th, 2014


Guardians of the Galaxy

3 True-Sci-Fi-Epics out of 4

At this point in cinematic history, it should come as absolutely no surprise that the latest addition to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is a hit. In fact, there was little doubt that director James Gunn would succeed at translating the cosmic comic book team to the cinema screen. Certainly, any doubt that Guardians of the Galaxy would succeed only truly came from the cinema elite and nervous fans worried that Marvel’s string of successes would somehow end with this latest feature.

Interesting is that, unlike the remainder of the MCU’s source material, this iteration of the Guardians of the Galaxy is only 6 years old. While the original Guardians were first introduced in 1969, the team containing the characters Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Drax the Destroyer, Groot, and Gamora (including a rotating selection of other characters) was first introduced in 2008 as a reboot of the original 1969 team. Make no mistake, however, the idea that Marvel was interested in introducing a cinematic iteration of the team was never a sign of studio arrogance. As new and obscure as the characters may be, I find it very difficult to believe that Marvel would allow one of their properties under their direct control to perform poorly.

Whereas Sony and Fox have been fighting their hardest to maintain some control over their respective franchises with varying results, Marvel Studios has yet to truly produce what anyone can call a bad movie. Even their lowest rated and poorest earning films have still been at par with almost all of the best produced cinematic superhero offerings. What I’ve come to realize about the so-called “Marvel Method,” and what I hope other studios like DC hope to learn, is that the best superhero movies aren’t truly superhero movies. Instead, they’re genre films that simply happen to feature superheros at their core. Utilizing a more recent example, Captain American: The Winter Soldier and Thor: The Dark World succeeded because they worked within the confines of their respective genres (a spy-thriller and a fantasy film respectively) while also featuring an already popular series of characters.

Keeping in mind that the best comic books have been stories that just so happen to feature an already established cast of characters, Marvel Studios seems to have realized that making a good movie is all about focusing on the importance of writing, characterization, editing, and cinematography. There was a time when superhero movies were, at best, attempts to satisfy fans who wanted to see their favourite characters on film and were, at worst, cash grabs made by studios trying to push comic books. In today’s cinematic age, thanks largely in part to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, superhero movies are nothing more than well-made genre films.

In this same vein of cinematic purity, James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy succeeds because of its adherence to the qualities of great science fiction and its decision to subvert the boring tropes that bog down weak sci-fi features. Characters whiz about in deep space amid a gorgeous landscape of stars and galaxies and planetary conflict set to an epic score undercut by hilariously anachronistic pop music. Characters are diverse and well-written with their own unique quirks and idiosyncrasies. There are multiple spaceship battles utilizing a variety of cool advanced technology. Most importantly, there’s a clear distinction between traditional effects, make-up, and CGI that makes even the most impossible visuals seem possible and real.

The main cast of Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, and Vin Diesel as the voice of a talking tree, share a cohesive and familiar chemistry. Furthermore, the underlying themes of their friendship – wanting to do more with their unimportant lives – is surprisingly mature given the fact that Bradley Cooper voices a genetically enhanced raccoon and Vin Diesel’s only line is “I am Groot.” Cameos by Benicio del Toro (as Taneleer Tivan The Collector), Josh Brolin (as intergalactic warlord Thanos), and Glen Close further appease fans of the original source material.

Heroes aside, however, I was disappointed by the film’s cast of villains. Lee Pace stars as the film’s main antagonist, Ronan the Accuser – a warhammer wielding radical hellbent on the destruction of an entire galaxy – and I was left underwhelmed by the character. Compared to the broad scope portrayed by the film’s cast of heroes, Ronan is relatively flat and one-note. Secondary antagonists like Nebula (played by Karen Gillan) and Korath (played by Djimon Hounsou) are equally dull.

Cinematography by Ben Davis allows the film’s more poignant moments to shine, whereas action and grandiose scale are perfectly encapsulated in every subsequent scene. Director James Gunn has his tongue placed firmly in his cheek as the film finds the perfect balance between earnestness and not taking itself seriously in any capacity. Each sequence feels like Gunn is inviting the audience into his absurd, surreal vision of a very real galaxy.

Impossible to avoid mentioning are the film’s stunning colour palette – which should be used as a recruitment effort by NASA to convince people that space is awesome – and the film’s song selection – a collection of songs that score every scene with humour and emotion. Praise must be given to Tyler Bates, whose musical efforts deserve to be studied.

My only real complaints with the film are its forced efforts to tie-in the already established Marvel Cinematic Universe. Guardians of the Galaxy is undoubtedly part of the expansive MCU, and because of this fact, Thanos, the Infinity Stones, and the Nova Corps are introduced simply because future Marvel films require the set-up. Allow me to speak as a fan for a brief moment. Thanos was introduced as the man-behind-the-curtain in 2012’s The Avengers. It’s been two years, and moviegoers and fans alike have been waiting for the culmination of his grand plan, yet his reveal in this film is nothing more than an uninspired cameo. What should have been a grand reveal is admittedly rather weak.

Ignoring my complaints, Guardians of the Galaxy is a fantasticsci-fi feature that stars a talented cast clearly in tune with each other and their director. It’s well written, well shot, well edited, and contains an absolutely amazing soundtrack.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subcribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!


The Hobbit (TheByteScene Review)

Date: January 12th, 2014


The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

3 Vast-Improvements-Over-The-Original out of 4

Peter Jackson’s first foray with The Hobbitwas an awkward mess of a film. From a purely technical point of view, the movie was fantastic, but it was spectacularly boring with much of the main plot dragging on for far too long. Ironically, the film suffered specifically because of Jackson’s refusal to veer away from J.R.R. Tolkien’s original story. Even some of the most mindless and inane details that were present in Tolkien’s novel managed to find themselves in Jackson’s film, and the production was weaker for it.

Ironically, a feature that so closely followed its source material was the exact argument against perfect book-to-movie adaptations. Jackson proved that a film that follows its source material’s story to the last letter will not only run for an unnecessary amount of time, it will also be boring enough that it’s nearly three hour run time will feel like far more.

Thankfully, viewers and critics alike will be happy to know that The Desolation of Smaug is a fun production and a great movie. The visuals are beautiful, the action is plentiful and well choreographed, the acting is a mix between scene-chewingly absurd and succinctly minimalistic, and Andrew Lesnie’s cinematography yet again brings a fantastic Tolkien feel to New Zealand.

Jackson and his cast of artists let their world speak for itself, succeeding in carrying on the tradition of excellence that the original Lord of the Ringsfilms helped pioneer. Simply put, The Desolation of Smaugis the movie that An Unexpected Journeycould have been if much of the fat was trimmed off.

Picking up a short time after the conclusion of its predecessor, the hobbit Bilbo, the wizard Gandalf, and Thorin Okenshield and his team of dwarves are attempting to outrun the vengeful Azog the Orc, who served as the first film’s primary antagonist. Continuing their journey to reclaim The Lonely Mountain, the heroes split up into two groups, with Gandalf leaving to search for a reemerging evil in Middle Earth.

As with many long-existing franchises with a consistent track record of success, The Hobbitfilms are no longer exercises in film-making. Instead, they represent a shift to a wider universe with more characters, more locations, and new stories to entertain diehard fans and newcomers alike.

I suppose at this point, it’s unsurprising that Peter Jackson is going to make a great movie based on Tolkien’s work.

That The Desolation of Smaugfeatures strong performances by Richard Armitage, Martin Freeman, Evangeline Lily, and Benedict Cumberbatch’s low baritone (who voices the eponymous fire-breathing dragon Smaug) is just icing on the cake. Additional praise should be given to Stephen Fry who cameos as the Master of Laketown – a fat landlord who rules his city with a tyrannical and well-fed fist. Stephen Fry’s talent should never be called into question, and watching him saunter on screen to act out anything is always a treat.

The much touted 48 frames-per-second visual quality is yet again on display, and the movie is a stunning piece of art to behold. Colours are bolder, and scenes look like paintings, with CG characters and backgrounds almost seamlessly blending in with the rest of the production. Again, it should come as no surprise that special effects created by Weta Digital under the supervision of Jackson and his crew are beautiful.

The truth is that Peter Jackson is clearly a talented filmmaker with a keen eye for fixing his mistakes in order to strengthen his work. My largest concern with An Unexpected Journeywas its monotonously slow pacing, and The Desolation of Smaugliterally fixes this problem with the opening credits. Gone is a long, heavily narrated opening sequence that serves to recap the previous film’s events. Instead, Jackson presents a short cold open, flashes the film’s title, and continues with the story.

Ultimately, all that matters with universe building is the story. As long as the story is interesting and well-paced, everything else simply falls into place. The Desolation of Smaugfulfils this criteria with an effortlessly unfolding story that does away with any concern for plodding exposition. Audiences are treated to an entertaining production that benefits from a strong script, and a cast of artists who care.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!


A Temporally Impossible Space in Canada; Thanksgiving at the Farm (TheByteWeek Issue 17)

Date: October 25th, 2013




A Temporally Impossible Space in Canada; Thanksgiving at the Farm (TheByteWeek Issue 17)


It’s 8:00 in the morning and I’m awake. As I remember that it’s the Sunday before Thanksgiving, I realize that I’ve spent the majority of my weekend alternating between studying physics and playing Pokemon. I smile to myself, wondering which avenue was better spent pursuing, before the gravity of time pushes down on me. I shower, and get myself ready for the day, keeping in mind that I need to be done by 9:00; if I’m late I’ll never hear the end of it. I fell asleep on a long drive before – once – and I’ve learned the importance of an awake, if not alert, front-seat passenger.


Clean, and barely awake, I eat my breakfast.


The drive from the city to the country is a commentary on the state of developed nations. Every piece of road is divided between modern design sensibilities and rustic throwbacks to a bygone era. The highway is new but the forest is old; the trees are looked after by various municipalities but the ground has been here for countless generations, through impossible lifetimes, and infinitely changing histories echoing sentiments of the natural past.


Roadsigns are meant to better the road but the drivers remain as reckless as when Ford first introduced his Model-T. There’s something to be said about the consistency in which vehicles throttling at over 27.8 m/s (100 km/h) manage to avoid total disaster.


As we drive out of the city, I introspect on the subtle shifts in architecture. Office buildings that belong to large multinational corporations staking claim to foreign and local markets turn into large suburban homes filled with similarly happy and differently unhappy families turn into farmland and enough agriculture to feed the majority of the country. Fourth largest out of 13 doesn’t mean very much until I remember that the fourth largest province in the second largest country in the world is still significantly larger than many countries in total. Ontario is large – large enough that it’s distinctions are noticeable and land is able to retain its architecture without giving into modernity.


I’m going to the farm today.


It’s not just any farm, of course, and it’s not my farm. It’s belonged to a Canadian family for over 40 years and it’s a reflection on the nature of change and the nature of change in Canada. We perceive time as linear when it’s really more like a series of random shifts in particle movement that somehow collides into something coherent that we categorize as forward motion. Time doesn’t move at the farm; it’s always a sunny Sunday morning even if it’s a rainy Wednesday afternoon.


The farm shouldn’t technically be possible; it’s a perfect amalgamation of pre-World War 1 agricultural Canada and post-Information Revolution 2013.


It’s Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables if those two things had the same setting but took place in modern times. The farmhouse is old, and it creaks and gives way like every good childhood memory, but it’s strong and reinforced with a tensile strength found only in machined titanium. The sink is old, but the bathtub is new; there’s a modern washer and dryer powered through modern AC/DC electrical technology in a bathroom that’s decorated with larges splashes of pioneer dreams. The kitchen is filled with toys that once belonged to the now fully-grown children still doing the dishes after dinner; the kids aren’t just alright – they never left to begin with. They got an education, live their own lives, have their own families, but once they’re back home time ceases to exist for them too.


There were also actual pies and tarts cooling in a window sill next to an espresso machine out of Star Trek, which I thought was charmingly anachronistic.


We’re completely out of the city now. I’m awake – against my desire to not be – and the sun has decided to acquaint itself with the forest. It’s autumn, of course, and the natural cellular respiration cycles of any non-Boreal tree is coming to an end, and they do so love putting on a grand show. I imagine directors would enjoy working with trees if trees had the capacity to act out Shakespeare; trees have bit roles in a large planetary drama, yet they enter and exit each scene with such panache. On-stage, they only attempt to better the scene, never trying to take away from what any other actor does. Now it’s time to bow out, but they’re leaving in style, and we’re the ones who will clean up after them thank you very much.


Driving through another small town, there’s a nonsensical welcome sign – as we leave we’re told to “Please call again.” Paved road soon becomes gravel which quickly becomes dirt. Farms are on all sides. There’s a bridge overlooking a creek, and enough passing-by pick-up trucks to shoot a Jason Aldean music video. Things seem familiar even though I don’t entirely remember them, but that’s only because of how familiar everything always seems when you’re seeing it for one of the first times.


Finally, we get to the farm. At least, we get off the main road that leads to an inroad that leads to the farm. We get to the farm and it looks the same as I remember it, except this time it isn’t winter so there’s corn growing. I know how I’m going to spend Thanksgiving weekend. I’m going to do exactly what you’re supposed to do on the second Monday of every October. I’m going to be with family, and though I can’t possibly lay claim to any members of the families I’ll meet, I’m going to be treated like family. I’m reminded of Marc Cohn’s trip to Memphis as I step through the front door and greet the men who I’ll call uncles, the women who I’ll call aunts, the children who I’ll call nieces and nephews, and the elders who I’ll call grandparents.


The farm isn’t mine. Neither is the hammock in the backyard, nor the shed filled with supplies. The kitchen, dining room, bathrooms, living rooms, solarium, bedrooms, and piano will never be mine.


I’m not a Christian child either, but man I am tonight.


As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!



A Different Kind of Test-Taking Standard; The Multiple Retake-3/4 Model

Date: October 7th, 2013


A Different Kind of Test-Taking Standard; The Multiple Retake-3/4 Model

It goes without saying that Canadian schools, are in dire need of reform. The two loudest arguments blame teachers for not teaching properly and parents for not letting them teach, but I believe that one of the real problems lies in the grading and prescribing of tests. The current test-taking system, in which students are given a single chance at writing an assessment to gauge how much they remember is flawed because it leaves many students mindlessly memorizing and regurgitating facts for the sole purpose of getting a good grade.

I believe that a greater understanding of course material can be given to students by simply allowing multiple attempts at quizzes, tests, and exams.

In the new test-taking model, the concept of grading remains unchanged. When students write a test for the first time, their papers will be graded normally, but after receiving their letter or number grades, students will be given a three day grace period to consider retaking an exam on the same material. If students choose to retake a test, 3/4 of the exam will be old questions from the original test while the remaining 1/4 will be new questions to gauge whether or not students truly did take the time to review the material and prepare again. If students choose to ignore the opportunity to retake the test – because they were satisfied with their initial grade, or otherwise – their grade for that particular examination will remain the same.

For each subsequent retake, students will be given three days to weigh their options, and the 3/4 distribution will continue to take effect. Eventually, I expect the grade of the student to approach a near perfect state, while simultaneously leaving the student with a firm understanding of the material.

With this model, less emphasis is placed on achieving a good grade, and more emphasis is placed on doing well and understanding the course material.

Instead of forcing students to memorize an arbitrary number of facts and details in the hopes that their preparation pays off, students will be expected to understand their course material in order to constantly do better. For the argument that students will simply memorize answers from the initial exams to take with them to the next ones, I make the case that real learning is the result of constant repetition in addition to understanding.

Mathematics and the physical sciences prove this. Word problems in math, chemistry, physics, and biology enforce the need to understand subject concepts and the need to know how to solve the problems that are given. Purely memorizing the solution of a single kind of word problem in any of these disciplines only works for other word problems if the questions are the same but the numbers are changed. The so-called “Plug-and-Chug” method of problem solving, where a question is solved by simply plugging numbers into a formula, ceases to be a legitimate problem solving tool the instant a differently worded question is given. It’s simply not enough to know what the variables refer to, but also how to mix, match, and reconsider variables in different situations to work towards an answer.

Pure memorization is harmful because it leads to students dumping out information and knowledge at the end of each assessment in order to fill their minds with more information that will eventually be dumped out. Simply put, pure memorization is to the mind what bulimia is to the body; a rapid, morbid intake that concludes in nothing more than a harmful purge, leaving the individual wanting, unsatisfied, and worse off than before.

In this way, the “Multiple Retake-3/4” model (MR34) of test-taking takes the best lessons math and physical science can teach: The best way to learn is through constant repetition, understanding, and a wide question bank to practice from. By literally allowing every student an equal opportunity at achieving a perfect score, grades – wide ranging number values – stop serving as an indication of a student’s intelligence. The MR34 method adds an additional benefit: Instead of having certain students who excel in certain subject while struggling in others, all students are given an equal chance at excelling at all of their subjects.

Despite these benefits, there are issues to be addressed beyond the time and effort teachers would need to add to their schedules and classrooms.

Chief among these issues is the argument that schools aren’t designed to give every student an equal opportunity at success, and that having a large pool of intelligent students over-saturates the job market. However, the MR34 method allows the best and brightest to maintain their spots, much like the current test-taking standard. Students aren’t forced to retake their tests, they are simply encouraged to do so; just because the opportunity is present to every student, that doesn’t mean that every student will choose to take advantage of it. That is to say, the best and brightest will remain the best and brightest, but those who aren’t faring as well have a chance to do even better. Instead of having the “Smart kids,” the “Average kids,” and the “Not-Smart kids,” classrooms will be filled with the “Really Smart kids,” the “Smart kids,” and the “Kids who didn’t take advantage of the benefits that the MR34 offers.”

Furthermore, the students who have “One bad day,” or who suffer from test-anxiety, will have an opportunity to make up for their temporary misfortune.

Another concern lies with post-secondary acceptance, post-graduate acceptance, and job-searching: How do universities and other such institutions determine whether a student is worth accepting if every student has good grades? In these cases, extracurricular activities, teacher referrals, interviews, and a more intensive round of selection must take place in order to determine an applicant’s aptitude.

Obviously, it goes without saying that the MR34 is completely useless if post-secondary and post-graduate institutions don’t adopt similar reforms. If students accustomed to retaking tests ad infinitum are forced to adapt to a system where a single test is the difference between success and failure, I hypothesize that a noticeable drop in attendance records, class GPA, and entrance numbers will occur.

Furthermore, there are professions that are specifically designed to avoid the possibility of a redo. Medicine, engineering, law, and other such backgrounds place employees in pass or fail situations on a daily basis; a single incision is the difference between a successful bypass and death, one wrong calculation can result in an entire suspension system failing, and a single unprepared argument can be the difference between freedom and life in prison.

Understandably, a strong argument can be made against the MR34 on this basis alone.

However, I argue that the surgeon who measures 10 times to make a single cut is less likely to make a mistake than the physician who immediately prescribes ACE inhibitors without running diagnostic tests first. For medical colleges, engineering programs, and law schools that adopt the MR34 model, it’s the job of the teachers and instructors to insure that every student they pass has the necessary skills for the field they have studied.

The MR34 doesn’t make it easier to do well; I propose that teachers maintain their exams’ level of difficulty. Instead, the MR34 model forces students to review their notes, and engage in constant testing to gauge their level of understanding in a way that could potentially reduce the anxiety of passing. In fact, the MR34 doesn’t even make it easier to get into a specialized form of education. In the cases of med school or law school, the respective standardized tests will remain unaffected by the proposed model; the MCATS and LSATS already follow a similar model to the MR34 anyway, with an exception being that test-takers are not given 3/4 of their old exams on their next attempt. Neither are test-takers given three days to consider retaking the exams with the 3/4 rule in place.

I propose that a strong step towards a more efficient, and well-informed student body is by taking test-taking reforms into consideration. I believe that the Multiple Retake-3/4 model of test-taking, though merely a rough idea now, can prove to be highly beneficial to both students, society, and the future of this country. By reducing the emphasis on answering a question correctly, and increasing emphasis on understanding why an answer is correct, I believe that students will be able to gain a better understanding of their studies, in addition to acquiring a wider, farther-reaching skill-set.

I believe the MR34 can be the future of education in Canada. Education and knowledge, after all, are the two most important tools for a well-informed and confident electorate.

As always, this has been your Admin, the blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!


Pacific Rim (TheByteScene Review)

Date: September 9th, 2013


Pacific Rim

3 Giant-Robots-Fighting-Giant-Monsters out of 4

It’s a movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters from a different universe. No, really, Guillermo del Toro, the famed director behind Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy, The Devil’s Backbone, and a wide array of other films has returned to create a movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters from a different universe. And it’s awesome. No, seriously.

The movie’s premise is simple, succinct, and straightforward: Giant monsters from another dimension named Kaiju attack Earth from a breach in the Pacific Ocean and the world’s governments work together to create giant robots named Jaegers to fight the unearthly threat. Taking place days after the Jaeger programmed is decommissioned, four remaining Jaegers set up a final resistance against the Kaiju menace in an all-or-nothing gambit for the fate of the world. Again, the movie’s premise is straightforward, and little time is spent on meaningless exposition; despite, or perhaps due to, the film’s ambitious nature, the plot is streamlined and all character interactions are limited by purpose.

What is the point of the conversation, what purpose does it serve to have these characters meet, how is the plot affected by this piece of dialogue? Once a scene answers these questions, the movie quite literally returns to the action, drawing in the audience with visuals, CGI, graphics, robots, monsters, and set pieces that are operatically epic. The film’s pace carries the audience from set piece to set piece choosing to spend time on creating a world where the Jaegers and Kaiju reign supreme.

Above all else, Pacific Rim is an exercise in visual mastery.

Created by artists whose love for the Mecha and Kaiju genres, and tokusatsu is abundant and evident, the movie radiates in subtle homages, references, and pastiches to the works of masters such as Ishiro Honda, Hideaki Anno, Go Nagai, Akira Kurosawa, Yutaka Izubuchi, and Yoshiyuki Tomino.

To those unversed in the staples that these creators and their works pioneered, the movie is loud, beautiful, epic, and awesome. A score by Ramin Djawadi creates a powerful atmosphere that the movie relishes in exploring, and though blockbuster action is present, watching Jaegers pummel, and get pummeled by, Kaiju is akin to watching master warriors dance around a large apocalyptic canvas. The fight choreography is akin to watching violent ballet; Jaegers and Kaiju match one another’s moves like dancers who have spent years learning each other’s intricacies and idiosyncrasies, and discovering new ways to adapt and conform to them.

Yes, the film’s plot is thin. Yes, the characters are fleshed out just enough to explain their motivations. Yes, the action is loud, bombastic, frequent, and worthy of the “Summer Blockbuster” distinction. Beyond these criticisms, Pacific Rim is beautiful, expertly choreographed, beautifully directed, and spectacularly scored.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

– SC(EK)

Understanding Film Critics; Yet Another Frivolous Article on the Importance of Argument

Date: September 7th, 2013


Understanding Film Critics; Yet Another Frivolous Article on the Importance of Argument

I fear becoming a movie critic.

To anyone who claims that fear isn’t real, and that it’s nothing more than a metaphysical extension of danger, I say this: Start writing movie reviews. There’s something about criticizing movies – compared to criticizing music, books, or even theatre – that somehow manages to enrage entire populations of the educated world. Truthfully, there’s something about criticizing movies that makes me fear writing too many movie reviews without producing a completely unrelated article. Even if I consider writing an opinion piece about movies instead of an actual movie review, I still manage to send nervous chills down my spine. Interestingly enough, for anyone who pays attention to my frequent absenteeism, it can be noted that most of the articles I write before a major hiatus are about movies.

There’s no need to be needlessly ambiguous with my critical fears; my worries have nothing to do with the enormous public backlash my reviews conjure within society. Quite the contrary, I absolutely love it when I start a needlessly detailed and incredibly laid out argument about the current trappings of the silver screen. Putting it delicately, I’m afraid of writing too much about movies because of the small percentage of the population that doesn’t understand the need for criticism, critique, reviews, or opinion pieces on the current state of art, media, life, the universe, and everything.

Putting it indelicately, there are people who don’t understand why it’s important to criticize everything, and these people scare me. Granted, previous articles have approached the ridiculous notion of “Questioning Everything” with the necessary quizzical-questioning glare that Socrates himself would surely embolden. Still, I find it’s far easier to tackle a single sample rather than the entire population, so I’ll continue discussing my fears nonetheless. Back to my point, I’m scared of becoming a movie critic because of the people who unironically argue the need to criticize.

I hope my point is made clear even at a perfunctory glance: I’m scared of becoming a movie critic because of the people who argue that we don’t need to argue about movies. I’m scared of writing too much – too often – about movies because of the people who attempt to dismiss, dismantle, and destroy the idea of criticism while simultaneously exercising, employing, and engaging their very rational desires to criticize and argue. Despite what a poorly educated pacifist might say, the universe runs on the intrinsic idea that there are positives and negatives, and these positives and negatives always interact even on microcosmic scales.

I admit that my explanation of quantum theory distracts from my argument regarding criticism, so I’ll be brief in my digression.

Why is it so important for me, or anyone, to criticize anything? Because that’s the whole point; without criticism, without argument, and without debate, things have a tendency to fall towards calculated tyranny and an eventual acceptance of blatant complacency.

Certainly, for all of my criticism of Transformers: Dark of the Moon not a single penny was withheld by the people who helped produce its billion dollar profit margin.

That is a very strong argument against film criticism.

For all the time invested into pointing out cinematic flaws, people still watch “Bad” movies, and for all the work done pointing out cinematic ingenuity, people will still avoid “Good” movies like I imagine medieval Europeans avoided the bubonic plague.

This is a strong argument regarding all forms of criticism.

Eventually, regardless of the work one might put into criticizing anything, one’s effort will be an exercise in futility. Presidents won’t be impeached – they’ll be re elected; governments won’t fall – they’ll simply become more intent on inconspicuously brutalizing their people; and Michael Bay won’t be driven out of Hollywood by a crowd carrying pitchforks and torches – he’ll go on to direct another Transformers sequel and Pain and Gain (which, admittedly, wasn’t absolutely terrible).

I argue that results are only one part of the overall structure, and that meaning and knowledge are equally important derivatives.

Why is it so important for me, or anyone, to criticize anything? It’s so we can learn something instead of sheltering ourselves in a cocoon of safety and self indulgence. Why is it so important for me to call a movie bad? It’s so I can start an argument and try to understand why I might be wrong, and why someone else might be right.

I’m still scared of becoming a movie critic, but thanks to this article I’ve learned that I’m only scared of being called one. I might never pursue cinema in any way after this article, but at least now I know that my fears are less physical and more entirely immaterial.

In any form, criticism is an extension of self-examination, and I argue that there are few things less frivolous in this universe than attempting to understand this universe.

This has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-SC (EK)

Tip Your Servers or: The Most Important People in Our Lives are the Ones We Pay the Least Attention to

Date: July 3rd, 2013


Tip Your Servers or: The Most Important People in Our Lives are the Ones We Pay the Least Attention to

Our universe consists of a series of indisputable rules, laws, and restrictions. This is a fact, and while many may disagree with science, religion, philosophy, and politics, the fact remains that universal laws are indisputable. Matter will never be created or destroyed, regardless of what belief system an individual adopts, and the universe will consistently move towards entropy until the inevitable heat death claims the life of the last particle in existence despite what anyone might say about anything. Universal laws serve as the building blocks of our own existences; despite attempts to prove otherwise, universal laws somehow always serve as the foundation of some philosophy, ethic, or principle. Large corporations are comprised of smaller individuals like big things are made up of little things like protons are comprised of smaller quarks.

It’s important to never confuse a universal law with a human aphorism or logical proof; while humans ideas are based off of larger cosmic philosophies, self evident paradigms that serve as pseudo intellectual aphorisms are very rarely so.

The reason why things are always in the last place we look is because one normally stops looking once one has found what one is searching for. Likewise, “Whatever can wrong will go wrong” is a simple idiom that emphasizes the importance of double-checking figures, and following up on work – making sure to not let overconfidence get in the way of a quality task. They’re idioms and anecdotes – helpful reminders to lighten up or take things more seriously, to be more careful or carefree, or to be a better more thoughtful person. It’s very rare for so-called “Self-evident” logical proofs to be either logical or self-evident, but languages cling to colloquialisms simply because they are simple and straightforward, and help teach a moral or a lesson.

That being said, I continue with no small grains of salt when I say that some of the most important people in our lives are the ones we barely notice, some of  the most important events are the ones we pay almost no attention to, some of the most important work is the one done on a daily basis, and some of the most important people are the ones who simply do their jobs. Yes, these are all so-called “Self-evident” logical fallacies that can be easily debated and disproven, but I’m going to try my hardest to prove a commonly ignored point.

I speak of the minimum wage warriors slogging through demeaning jobs on a daily basis so the rest of the world has easy access to packaged processed goods instead of having to grow it themselves, spending months harvesting crops and livestock. I refer to the workers who help serve as the foundation and backbone of large corporations simply by driving a bus that helps millions get to work. I refer to the individuals working two or three thankless dead-end jobs to satisfy their own needs who are never given enough gratitude for doing something that no one else wants to. I refer to the bus drivers, dishwashers, porters, housekeepers, trash collectors, waiters, meatpackers, amusement park workers, janitors, non-celebrity cooks, cubicle drones, and so-called office slaves who make life easier for all the people lucky enough to not have to.

Dead-end jobs are, by definition, jobs that allow for little opportunity or upward mobility for those forced to work them. They’re not jobs people generally want to do, and the people who are unlucky enough to do them most likely do it because they have no other choice.

Before I continue: Despite the loud cries of those lucky enough to be in a position to be heard, there are countless reasons why people have no other choice than to work thankless, mind-numbing minimum wage professions that barely qualify as occupations above slave labour.

I digress however: Dead-end jobs are professions at the bottom of the proverbial totem pole.

As long as people desire easy lives, someone’s going to have to work at a waste treatment plant to insure the water coming into the toilet is as clean as the water coming out of the sink, and that the water coming out of the sink is safer to drink than water coming in a prepackaged bottle. Salaries are not determined based on desirability – which would create a paradoxical and ironic problem – and these individuals understand this truth on a continuous basis. These individuals are people working some of the most thankless and undesirable jobs, all while effectively maintaining the existence of an at-least-desirable planet.

That these are also the people we rarely recognize, or even acknowledge, only adds to that difficulty; that the world is mostly run by people doing their jobs is an understatement. I argue that some of the most important people in our lives are the ones we pay the least attention to because this doesn’t seem to be a self-evident logical proof; it’s not even a logical fallacy. It’s a concept of neglect that serves as a slippery slope argument that leads into justifying aggression or misbehaviour towards people in jobs that we feel we don’t have to do, towards people in jobs we feel we should never have to do, towards people in jobs we know no one should ever have to do.

The idea that waitstaff don’t deserve tips simply because they choose employment as waitstaff is absurd and ludicrously shameful. The idea that it’s acceptable to verbally assault a porter simply because he serves as the face of a company is actually more than a little terrifying. The idea that service people deserve to be harassed simply because, by definition, they require the money of those they service is disgusting.

I recognize the importance of competency in public professions, and I realize that incompetence is often horrifically mind-boggling for some, but I argue that the incompetent make up a bleak minority of the population and that even the incompetent deserve respect for attempting to gain credibility competency. A person who’s bad at their job doesn’t give anyone a right to harass them. A person who’s bad at their job doesn’t deserve ridicule, they deserve encouragement for a speedy and efficient learning curve.

Ultimately, the issue lies with the population that fails to understand the universal law of respect: Working a low-end job is no excuse for the arrogance and presumption of power over such a person.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!