What Good Customer Service Looks Like

For most of my life I’ve worked in some sort of customer service capacity. My first job was for a sandwich shop called Togo’s and from there I’ve worked in phone centers and HR (which, IMO, is best approached as a customer service role). The only time I technically didn’t work in customer service was four years I worked in government, but since it was a publicly-facing office (the elections department), I think it’s pretty close. Good customer service is very important to me, not just as a customer, but also as an employee. Good customer service can make or break a person’s relationship with you and can mean the difference in a bad situation improving or getting worse (or, at the very least, managing it in a positive fashion that makes the situation tolerable, even if it doesn’t get better).

Something I haven’t talked about on here is that my wife and I have been in the process of buying a home. This will be the second house she’s purchased, the first for me, and the process has been, in a word, intimidating. Thankfully, my wife has a lot of experience with this as she used to sell homes for a living as a real estate agent and so I’ve been relying on her to take the lead on this whole thing and I’ve been doing what I can to support her.

While I don’t normally like to talk about particular aspects of my personal life, such as finances, I’m going to bend that rule a little bit for this story. You see, we’re using an old IRA account I had from a previous job as a down payment (first-time home purchases being one of the few exceptions to withdrawing IRA money early without a tax penalty). We did some looking, found some houses we liked, put an offer on one, which wasn’t accepted, got over the disappointment, and then made an offer on a second house. That one stuck.

Considering how important the money in my IRA account was to the process, I’ve been very paranoid about it. Paranoid about investing that money because I could lose it, nervous about that money being tied up in investments possibly making it difficult for me to get when it came time to pay up. The IRA was through Capital One’s Sharebuilder service and, after multiple calls, I was assured I could get the money easily with a little bit of prior notice.

So when our offer for the house was accepted we needed to move quickly (we were doing a short escrow). I called Sharebuilder, put in the orders to sell what investments I had, and waited for the sell orders to close, which happened that same night. The next day, toward the end of the business day, I logged into the website to submit the request for the distribution to send that money to my personal bank account (so that we could then in turn give it to someone else). As I was doing this Michelle called me.|

Her: Hey, you heading home soon?
Me: Yeah, I’m just taking care of the distribution.
Her: Awesome, when will that be done?
Me, reading from the confirmation page which was loading as we talked: “Your distribution request was received and will be completed on June 1st.” What…
Her: June 1st?

Now, with all my skill in writing I don’t think I can adequately describe to you the tone of her voice except that every person married has heard it. It’s the tone that says, “Something is wrong, it may or may not be your fault, but you need to fix it and you need to fix it now.”

Me: Calling them right now to find out what’s going on.
Her: Good. Bye.

I called up Sharebuilder, spoke to one guy, explained my situation, and I can say he seemed to get my concern very clearly and took it seriously. Sharebuilder is set up into a couple of different groups so he forwarded me over to the people who handle IRAs. I spoke to a woman named Elise, explained again my situation, and, again, she took my concerns to heart. She did a little bit of digging and discovered that Sharebuilder had given me some money as a promotion for being a good client, but that money was tied up and couldn’t be accessed until June 1st. She spoke with her manager and let me know the fix was simple: cancel the distribution, then resubmit the distribution for the amount of my account minus $300. That worked like a charm and the distribution would be processed the next day as I had originally intended. Throughout the call she was understanding and took the time to explain what was going on.

Me: Thank you so much, I can’t tell you the amount of panic I was in. I mean, can you imagine that conversation with my wife, that we weren’t going to be able to get the money to buy the house we found?
Elise: You’re buying a house?
Me: Yeah, doing the first-time home buyer exemption. We just had our offer accepted and we’re in escrow.
Elise: Congratulations, that’s exciting.
Me: Thank you, Elise, you’ve made me and my wife very happy. You helped us buy a house tonight.
Elise: Awwww.

That was on a Friday. I think it was Tuesday when I came home and Michelle was standing by our kitchen, holding a small envelope for me.

Me: What’s that?
Her: Just look at it. You’re going to like it.

I took the envelope from her and the return address, written by hand, said Sharebuilder. I took out the card.


I opened the card.


I don’t know if Elise did that on her own or if that’s something that Sharebuilder does, but either way that right there is excellent service. Even if she hadn’t included the gift card, that little personal touch, in addition to what she did on the call, pretty much made me a customer of theirs for life.

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Leonard Nimoy, RIP

I just read the news that actor Leonard Nimoy passed away this morning after being reportedly admitted to the hospital for chest pains within the last few days and it hit me surprisingly hard.

While I wouldn’t call myself a Trekkie, I grew up watching the syndicated ST:TOS with my father and so the cast of the show does hold a special place in my heart and my childhood. Watching Gene Roddenberry’s Wagon Trail to the stars, I can hear young Shattner’s voice saying “Space…the final frontier.” and it still gives me shivers. I remember gold lame Klingons and troubles with tribbles, salt vampires and red shirts dying by the score.

I also remember those seriously hit or miss movies, my favorite of which, I think many would find unsurprising, is Wrath of Khan. I still remember watching it for the first time on television and hearing Kirk’s cry of dismay for his friend, finding him collapsed in the reactor room, and their now famous exchange through the safety glass as Spock dies.

A few days ago Michelle and I showed Connor Star Trek, the first of the remakes, for the first time and something he has been working out has been Kirk and Spock’s relationship. He doesn’t have the context that we have, knowing about what the original characters dealt with together, the trials they faced, their friendship spanning both life and death, but it’s been fun getting to share this experience with him, watching him wonder like I did at the exploration of space, hearing little bits from the movie end up in his imaginative play (like when he “beams up” a toy he’s playing with).

I’m sad today, like I’m standing on the other side of the glass watching helplessly, unable to change something I wish I could. Thank you, Mr. Nimoy, for bringing some wonder and a love of science fiction into my life and helping create something that has spanned the years that is now filling my son’s life with wonder.

You have been, and always shall be, our friend.

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Movie Review: Fifty Shades of Grey (Yeah, yeah…), Part One

Friday night I flew down to Los Angeles to join my cohost from Your Book is Why Daddy Drinks Tyler. My wife, who delights in my suffering, had offered to pay for the plane tickets if I saw the movie and I figured with the rest of the weekend spent at a gaming convention it’d be worth a little pain.

Oh, I don’t know if I was right or not. Let’s just get to it.

Fifty Shades of Grey (from here on 50SoG) is the story of Anastasia Steele and how she comes to be in a relationship with the millionaire (maybe billionaire) Christian Grey.

First, I will note that this story originally started out as a Twilight fanfic called Master of the Universe so you can already guess at the quality level of the fiction (let’s just say, at one point, E.L. James has Ana going up at “terminal velocity”, something that’s not possible), which is not to say that fanfic is bad per se, but that when you’re starting with a turd it’s difficult to craft a diamond.

Moving on, as you have probably heard the relationship in both the book and the movie involves what many would consider “BDSM”, being tied up, being blindfolded, some spanking, some flogging. At one point Christian insists that if Ana is going to be in a relationship with him then she needs to consent to a very formal and “legally binding” contract that stipulates all kinds of kinky and sexual things (which leads to, in both movie and book, a scene where they have a business meeting to discuss and revise the contract). Ana never actually signs the damn thing but Christian still does a whole host of things to her.

Both movie and book progress until the end when, after having a lot of conflict over Christian being unable to have a “normal” relationship (such as sleeping in the same bed, having normal sex (despite there being a lot of fairly normal sex as far as most couples are concerned), or doing things like go out on dates), Ana pretty much demands Christian show her what it would be like for him to punish her. This apparently involves six slaps with a belt while she is bent over a table. Which is somehow different from all the other spanking that happened in the movie, so different that Ana apparently is horrified at what Christian is and storms away from him after telling Christian he was never going to put a hand on her again.

Now, a lot of hay has been made about the books already about how they illustrate an abusive relationship and, I’m not going to lie, they do in my opinion. Christian does shit like show up places unannounced where Ana is, even after she’s asked him for space (including flying across most of the US to get away from him), selling her car and replacing it with one of his choosing without any input from her, more or less breaking into her apartment. Then there’s the usual Edward schtick of “Stay away from me, but I’ll stalk you, but no really you should run because I’m bad for you, but I’ll keep chasing you until you have no other option than to be around me.” He’s physically, emotionally, and mentally manipulative (calls her outright stupid several times), physically abusive in several instances, and he’s got some pretty severe anger issues in the book.

How was the movie?

From the perspective of the book, it is both accurate in the meta/grand scheme of things and lesser in the details. The anger is toned down a lot, the insults are mostly nonexistant. The scene where Ana gets drunk and her friend Jose doesn’t take no for an answer and creepy Christian swoops in to save her (while apparently MAGICALLY finding the one bar out of all the bars in Portland where Ana was opposed to all of the multitude she wasn’t) is mostly accurate, although in the movie he comes off as more concerned/creepy because he’s never seen her drunk before and in the book he’s outright furious, how dare this grown ass woman decide to get drunk at a bar. The physical abuse and anger were more or less written out until the scene where she tells Christian and her family that she’s going to fly out to Georgia; Christian’s hand is on her thigh under the dinner table and, when she reveals her trip, his fingers dig into her leg and he angrily asks her “I didn’t know about this. When were you going to tell me?”

For as toned down as the anger might be, he’s still fucking creepy. He still sells her car and, at one point, she texts him a message that is basically “Thanks for everything, bye.” which any normal person would’ve taken as a “break up” (in so much as they weren’t actually dating), but not Christian. Nope, the dude breaks into her apartment without asking with a bottle of wine and two glasses, tersely confronts her about her text message, and then proceeds to have sex with her.

Which is after her virginity, it seems, was a “situation” that need to be “rectified”.

As for the BDSM, it really wasn’t that prevalent in the movie. Yeah, Ana gets blindfolded twice and she’s restrained a few times (twice with the now famous tie). Ice cubes are used briefly in one scene, some light spanking (apparently punished by being spanked over Christian’s knee bare-assed with the flat of his hand is ok but with a belt isn’t). Honestly, the “kinkiest” the movie gets is when he uses a flogger on her and I say that only because the rest don’t require a level of investment that any vanilla-sex couple wanting to spice things up a little couldn’t easily do. I mean, if you wanted to see a movie featuring a couple heavily involved in BDSM with an emotionally unavailable male lead, watch Secretary. More about this later. Back on topic, the sex was kind of meh but I will give the movie credit in that Christian was very good about using condoms. Safe sex, in a movie like this? Good show!

Ana felt like she had a LOT more agency in the film than she did in the books, even to the point where she straight up mocked Christian to his face for pulling an Edward, but when you’re starting out from almost zero, raising the agency factor by even a little feels epic. The other good thing that didn’t happen in the movie was that they DIDN’T USE THE ZIPTIES! Ana, in both movie and book, works at a hardware store and Christian surprises her at work soon after their first meeting and buys a number of things used for restraint, electrical tape, rope, and zipties/cable ties, which get used later in the book if I remember correctly.

Please, if you take away one thing away from this review, is that under no circumstances should you ever, EVER, use zipties to restrain a person directly (as in on their skin). The reason for this is that zipties ONLY tighten, they do not loosen, and in order to get them off you have to cut them. Now, imagine that you’re playing with your partner sexually. They have zipties around their wrists. They’re into the moment, so into it they don’t realize until after it’s happened that they’ve started to lose feeling in their hands. Maybe the zipties are dug into their skin. You think it’s going to be easy to cut those off quickly with a possibly panicking partner? Would you really want to try to cut them off with a pair of kitchen shears or a knife with the zipties dug into their skin, their flesh possibly swollen around it? Most professional dominants keep a pair of safety shears (also called paramedic shears) with them at all times and even with those they still wouldn’t use zipties because of how easy they are to tighten too much.

Something I was imminently thankful for was that character’s internal dialogue can’t be conveyed in a movie the same way as it can in a book and the reason I was thankful was because Ana’s internal speaking is annoying as hell. She reuses lines constantly, especially referencing her “inner goddess this” or “her inner goddess that.” Her inner goddess cheered, her inner goddess danced the samba, her inner goddess decided to file a restraining order against E.L. James to get her to stop referencing her.

As for other good things, that’s it. That’s the best I can say about that movie specifically and, in general, that it wasn’t as bad as the book, which isn’t saying much. As for the movie watching experience, that was incredibly positive and I’ll write about that in another post.

The thing that still gets me about this movie and book is how they present BDSM. They present it as this all or nothing thing, that Christian (supposedly) can’t get along without it in his relationships (despite the first time they have sex having NOTHING to do with kink). There is no nuance and, while a lot of actual kinky things are discussed, like electricity and fire play and fisting or the contract (which can and do happen depending on the kinky person), what is shown is so tame that it might’ve come from a sex advice article from Cosmo.

And while it is so tame, it’s presented as being bad. Christian is constantly referring to how his life started hard and in a bad way and that his kink is partially from that and, also, partially because he was sexually abused at the age of fifteen. Those who practice BDSM in mature, safe, consensual ways will talk your ear off about how good it can be (something I know from personal experience) and yet 50SoG manages to make some of the most mild expressions of BDSM look to be the workings of a fucked up person.

Indeed, the movie version makes the final scene even worse than the book, almost rape-like IMO. Ana is bent over the table, her face twisted to the side, her expression kind of sad, even a little dead like she’s just waiting for it to be over. She counts out each swat of the belt in a monotone, “let’s get this over with” voice while Christian stands behind her, swatting her across the ass, his eyes closed, looking incredibly turned on. While Ana did consent to it, specifically asked to experience it, it’s very, VERY clear it’s not what she wanted and a real top should have refused to do it. A real top and/or dom wouldn’t have lost touch with their bottom/sub the way that Christian did, would’ve seen that they weren’t into it and ended things. Hell, a mature person, let alone a kinky one, wouldn’t have gone there.

The movie very much makes it clear that Ana is uncomfortable with kink. In the moment, a few times, she might enjoy it, but over all she’s not happy with the things Christian asks for or the boundaries he expresses, wanting to violate those almost as much as he violates hers. The whole relationship isn’t a healthy one. While I would hope that this movie would get people thinking, get people asking questions, maybe even act as a normalizing influence on people who are kinky but are a little freaked out by their desires, it’s upsetting and unfortunate that a lot of people who haven’t ever experienced anything remotely like that kind of BDSM-influenced relationship (such as it is in the movie) will now have this as a point of reference.

Honestly, if I was going to recommend a more mainstream movie centered around kink, go watch Secretary. While Secretary does have a male lead (who is also the top/dom in the relationship) who is unhealthy, he’s not unhealthy because of his desires but because he doesn’t know how to handle emotional intimacy. In many ways, James Spader’s Mr. Grey (I’d forgotten that was his name, how funny) uses his kink to keep Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Lee distant from him, using the structure of that relationship (as well as their business, boss/employee relationship) as a wall. It’s only when she uses that kink, uses his own tools against him by taking control of the situation as a sub, that she forces him to confront his feelings for her. Kink is shown as something they actively, positively participate in, even with Lee doing things intentionally to make Grey punish her because she likes it and is into it. She gets pleasure out of the act and she, as the sub, enjoys what he does to her and enjoys the fact that he also likes doing it and that he gets pleasure from it. Their play is mutual and cooperative. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

Please, skip this movie and just rent or buy Secretary instead.

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Game Review: Cthulhu Wars

Today I finally got to play our initial test run of Cthulhu Wars, a game I and a friend of mine backed quite some time ago and finally received a few weeks past.

In short, Cthulhu Wars is the story of the struggle between the factions of Great Old Ones and Elder Gods who have brought about the functional destruction of the world and are now fighting over what is left. In the base set the factions are Cthulhu (obviously), Nyarlothotep, Shub-Niggurath, and Has…Has…ok, that one that never gets invited to parties who is very easy to summon if you just say his name three times.

First off, while the base game is a bit pricey, the game itself, from a quality stand-point, is top-notch. The box is made out of heavy card stock that you’d have to put some effort into messing up and has a nice, glossy finish and great art. Inside the the tokens are made out of equally sturdy stock, the art on them is nice. However, the real quality is the game pieces themselves.

Go up to that link and take a look at them. They’re freaking huge! Cthulhu alone is longer than my entire hand with my fingers stretched out. The level of detail on all of them is incredible and, even better, they come assembled so those people without experience with miniature gaming don’t have to futz around with Krazy Glue and stick their fingers together (or worse). While you could paint them if you want to, each faction has its own colored plastic and so telling apart the pieces is very easy.

Holding these pieces in place in the box is a large, sturdy, molded piece of plastic that fits snugly inside. Have you ever had a game that had those flimsy plastic bits that pretty much crumple with the barest amount of pressure? The ones that become so warped over time that it’s less frustrating to do without? Yeah, this isn’t it.

The rest of the figures, the cultists and smaller monsters that make up each faction, fit inside the box underneath the plastic shell. This is the one complaint I have about the box because getting them to fit, AND have the plastic fit inside the box, can get a bit dicey and may require some effort to do.

Cthulhu Wars is one of those games where, looking at it, the game seems incredibly complex however my three friends and I went through the rules while taking our first turn and it ended up being very straightforward; I have no doubt that without the rules I could teach someone how to play. It’s a little like Cthulhu Risk.

While we didn’t get to finish the game due to time constraints (it’s a 1-2 hour game), I’m looking forward to completing one!

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Non, je ne suis pas Charlie.

Just as a heads up, this post is going to contain more politics and swearing than my blog usually does. If that offends you, come back for the post after this. It might contain kittens.

Yesterday something very tragic happened.

In France, three men, spurred on by religious ideology and religious-fueled hatred, stormed the headquarters of a satirical paper Charle Hebdo and killed a number of people, including a police officer who attempted to stop them. While there they were heard to say things like “Allahu Akhbar!” (God is good) and that they had avenged the Prophet.

The staff of Charle Hebdo, you see, really didn’t care for Muslims or Islam (or, really, a lot of other people). This wasn’t even the first time they’d been attacked; back in 2011 their offices were firebombed via Molotov after publishing a cartoon featuring the Prophet Mohammed. This was a continuation of that past violence.

Since then I’ve been seeing a number of people express “Je suis Charlie” or “I am Charlie.” Many of the people who are expressing this do so because they see the attacks on Charle Hebdo as an assault on the freedom of speech, the freedom of expression. And you know what? They’re right. In many ways the attack on Charle Hebdo was all of that, it was that group of three men saying, “Speak disrespectfully (or at all) about our religion and this is what you get.” Speech should be free, free from the threat of violence (from anyone) and censorship (from a state or organization of authority). No group, no belief, should be free from criticism, condemnation, or mocking (Christopher Hitchens had some very cogent things to say on the topic). These people saying they are Charlie see the assault on those ideals, just as much as the shootings that happened, as a terrorist act, meant to quell any and all criticism of Islam or the actions of a select few of people who the majority of Muslims would probably wish they could load into a giant slingshot and shoot into the sun.

All that being said, I do not join in with the “Je suis Charlie” sentiment, even though I agree with those people who are. Why?

Well, to be honest, they seem like assholes.

Consider this cartoon by them:

Consider the racist caricature of African women. Now consider that this was their response when Boko Haran stormed several villages, slaughtered the male inhabitants, and kidnapped the young women of those villages to use as sexual slaves. The text bubble roughly translates to “Hands off our welfare checks.” So, not only are they making light of the fact that a large group of young women were kidnapped solely to be raped over and over again, until pregnant according to the cartoon, they’re then the stereotype of greedy welfare recipients.

Compassionate bunch of swell guys, no? If you really want to see more examples of their art, here you go.

Back in 2012 a guy by the name of Floyd Corkins II approached the headquarters of the Family Research Council and, while armed, attempted to gain access to the building to do violence (and, in the process of being stopped by the security guard, shot the man in the arm). He opposed their points of view, the way they spoke about gays. Corkins, who had served as a LGBTQ-center volunteer, had chosen the FRC for their ideology and for the things they said. Thankfully he was stopped before he could kill anyone.

The FRC is a pretty bigoted group of homophobes who openly oppose things like equal rights for homosexual couples, gay adoption, and a number of other issues relating to homosexuals and homosexuality and have thus been branded a hate group by the likes of the Southern Poverty Law Center (who have cataloged the FRC’s particular ideology thoroughly). Tony Perkins, their head, is a closed and small-minded individual who would rather see homosexuals made second-class citizens than possibly give them equal rights. He is, of course, free to do so, free to say those things. He’s free to spend money and political power in an attempt to further disenfranchise a minority of Americans who struggle daily under stigma. He is free to do so because in the US we have enshrined the idea of the freedom of speech (expression or thought) second only to the freedom of our beliefs. With all of his hatred that he pours forth daily, he was exercising his freedom of speech.

Would many of my liberal friends (and I myself am a liberal) say that they stood with Tony Perkins in the face of someone attempting to use violence to silence him? It’s essentially the same thing as what happened yesterday, someone representing a minority used violence against a member of the majority who has been crapping on them in pretty serious and continuous ways. Would my friends declare “I am Tony Perkins”? Probably not, because he’s a bigoted asshole not unlike some earlier discussed assholes.

As I said before, I believe in the importance of freedom of speech and, unfortunately, freedom of speech is a double-edged sword because while it keeps us all safe from the threat of violence (or makes sure that the law will side against those who would use violence to stifle speech), it also allows people to use their words to hurt others. The same rights that allow me to stand beside people and defend them by shouting down the haters are the same rights that allow someone to give me cause to defend others, to use slurs, to troll people, to be hateful and harmful and in many ways dangerous. But that has to be the way it is, because if you start chipping away at that freedom, if you start saying “This thing you cannot talk about” or “You can only talk about this in respectful tones”, you open the door to exceptions and if you do that then the precedent of those exceptions could be expanded to stifle more and more speech. Already we see protesters, despite Constitutional protections of peaceful assembly, being cordoned off to “free-speech zones” (as if speech isn’t free elsewhere) and being arrested if they aren’t in that zone. We can’t afford to weaken that freedom more.

So while I support the freedom of speech that allows people like Tony Perkins and the FRC, and Charle Hebdo, to shit on those beneath them, I do not support them doing so. I oppose them most vociferously. I’ve seen people try to claim that the staff of Charle Hebdo were brave or heroic for what they were doing in the threat of violence; let’s be clear, they were being racist and intolerant assholes using satire to be hurtful towards others they believed to be powerless, and, unfortunately, they found out yesterday that they weren’t as well-protected as they thought. They hid behind freedom of speech to legally protect their crappy opinions but legal protections rarely deflect bullets. Despite their shitty behavior, the violence done against the staff (and police officer) is horrible and wrong, just as the attempt by Corkins to murder people at the FRC is wrong.

As with the FRC back in 2012, yesterday Charle Hebdo were the victims of terrible violence. Because of that violence there are families and friends in mourning, who are suffering now, and for that I am sorry. No one should have their loved ones taken from them in such a fashion.

But that in no way makes them heroes. In no way does the violence done to them make their behavior any less atrocious, any less offensive, any less wrong. While I will support their right to say it, and do so by speaking out against the violence done to them, I will not support their message, is fear and intolerance and hate hiding behind satire. The last time something like this happened, Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said, “We don’t question the right of something like this to be published. We just question the judgment behind the decision to publish it.”

I am not Charlie.

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Movie Review: The Hobbit, Battle of the Five Armies

Wow, was my last post really September? End of the year got crazy busy.

During the last two weeks Michelle and I got some time away from our kid (let’s hear it for grandparents with a good relationship with the grandkid) and so we did something we rarely get to do anymore and caught a movie. We chose The Hobbit, Battle of the Five Armies. What did I think about it?

The more I think about it, the more annoyed I get. That’s not to say that there aren’t things that are good about the movie but so much of Bot5A is extraneous crap. The bits with Tauriel, meh, I could take it or leave it (although I do talk about why, in a way, they are ok below), but the scenes between Bard and Alfred every ten minutes? Complete crap. And for what? We know Alfred’s a sycophantic, lazy asshole from the beginning, the worst kind of “YEAH!” guy, so what the hell is the point of all of these scenes? I mean, it’s not like he had some great turn of heart or noble sacrifice that would give him some kind of redemption.

Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention that: there’s no *real* resolution to that whole plot arc. Are we really supposed to believe that Alfred steals some gold, manages to navigate a battlefield over-run with a variety of people who would like to kill him dead for a variety of reasons and successfully survives to live happily ever after? We saw the Master of Laketown get his comeuppance, I can’t imagine that they’d let good ol’ Alfred miss paying his karmic debt. So did they film it and then cut it without us ever getting to enjoy the fruits of him being a dirtbag? If so, I would’ve gladly taken one less “Oh, Thorin’s losing his mind” or “My, Legolas and his father don’t get along” scene to at least round out that particularly dull plot line. And if they didn’t film such an ending, again I ask, what’s the point? Those scenes added absolutely NOTHING to the over-arcing plot of the series or movie.

Then there’s things that are in the movie that just don’t make sense to me. Giant, war-trained bats? What? I mean, seriously, WHAT? What were they supposed to do, perpetuate the stereotype that bats are horrible, rabies-infested hell-mice with wings? Or giant Cthonians (seriously, those were Lovecraftian Cthonians) that they used to burrow a tunnel through the mountain range but, oh, I don’t know, NOT TO BURROW INTO THE GODS DAMNED MOUNTAIN OR UNDERMINE THE CITY WHERE THE HUMANS ARE HOLED UP?!

And what’s with the white-orc fighting with a bit of masonry with a chain sticking out of it at the end? He’s had a variety of other weapons throughout the movies, he’s the general of not one but TWO armies, and they couldn’t find an actual weapon for him?

Goblin: Uh…it appears we left Dwarf-Slayer at Guldoldoon.
White Orc: Well then bring me the spear Elf-spitter!
Goblin: That too was left in Guldoldoon.
White Orc: Man-cleaver?
Goblin: Guldoldoon.
White Orc: Hobbit-poker?
Goblin: …
White Orc: Don’t tell me. Guldoldoon.
Goblin: *nods*
White Orc: The hell am I paying you for?
Goblin: You’re not.
White Orc: Fair point. Alright, what do you have?
Goblin: Spot of concrete with a chain innit.
White Orc: And what good is that going to do me?
Goblin: You can swing it around in huge, highly inaccurate arcs without hitting anything but turf.
White Orc: …
Goblin: You’ll look stupendously intimidating!
White Orc: …That will have to do. BRING ME SOD-CRUSHER!
Goblin: YES, SIR!

There were a few things that were good about it. The battle scenes were well done, which is good because the movie is primarily battle scenes. While I could’ve cared less about the Tauriel/Filli love-arc, watching him and his brother die on screen (when, if I remember correctly, they die off camera in the book) added a bit of gravitas to something I felt Tolkein kind of brushed over. Thorin’s death (it’s not a spoiler, the book’s been out longer than I’ve been alive) was equally heavy and I thought they did his reconciliation with Bilbo very, very well. And, as always it’s fun to see Billy Connolly.

All in all, unlike the LotR series, I’m happy this is over. LotR had a lot more heart and just…joy to it. There’s a bitter-sweetness knowing that such a group of friends as the Fellowship will never see each other again, knowing that Samwise has to let go of his Bilbo so that they can both finally really be free. There was no such bitter-sweetness here, only relief that the end had come.

If you really want to go see it in the theater feel free but…meh.

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Top 10 Things Connor Cried About on the Way Home From the Airport

Connor does this thing we call “garbage collecting” (a term Michelle got from a parenting book I think) where he just grabs onto whatever comes into his tiny brain in order to keep himself upset. The ride home from SFO wasn’t any longer than it had to be, the roads were pretty much clear of any kind of serious traffic, but that didn’t stop him from tiredly crying about a variety of things because he’d been up for a long, long time at that point.

For your enjoyment, here they are:

1. That he wasn’t in Hawaii anymore.
2. That he wasn’t in daddy’s car.
3. That he didn’t have a cookie.
4. That we weren’t able to take his Gogurt with us and that the Gogurt at home was “way way far away”.
5. That he wasn’t tall.
6. That he didn’t feel himself growing.
7. That our friends D&N weren’t in the car with us.
8. That everything was far away.
9. That he couldn’t watch a movie when he got home.
10. A long, long period of crying “My featheeeeeeeeeersssssssssss…” in this piteous child’s voice. Connor spent the entire trip picking up various kinds of feathers, mostly chicken feathers because, holy crap, is Kauai covered in chickens or what. In order to not bring home however many ratty chicken feathers he found Michelle told him that, like vegetables and fruits, we couldn’t bring chicken feathers home or we’d get in big trouble. Thus my son was crying like a pint-sized, cuter-sounding Smeagol over his lost precious.

And the bonus, closing statement as we put him to bed, “With no one to cuddle me I’m going to have nightmares and no one loves me.”

So, so very verklempt.

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