Sunday, December 29, 2013

Tell Utah to do good with its $2M and not waste it fighting marriage equality - Matty Jacobson

Said every Utah taxpayer, apparently.

Two million dollars is a lot of money. It's more than the majority of Americans will ever see in their lifetimes.

Whole generations of families can live and die and never see anything close to that amount of money.

There's a lot that can be done with $2 million, and the state of Utah thinks it knows the best way to put said money to use: by fighting marriage equality.

Rather than allow two people who love each other to sign a contract and be allowed the same benefits as anyone else, our state is taking taxpayer dollars and using to hire additional attorneys, in addition to our newly-appointed attorney general, so the state can have the best representation possible when it goes before the Supreme Court.

Go anywhere on the Internet, and you'll find arguments both for and against this. In the end, I have no doubt Utah will lose. And Utah isn't too sure of its chances, either, or else it wouldn't have dedicated such an obscene amount of money to fight the battle.

What I don't understand is why the average Utah taxpayer isn't up-in-arms over this. After all, it's not money that magically appeared out of nowhere. These are dollars that were earned by the retail salesman who worked overtime, by the sanitation workers who pick up trash, by the teachers who educate our children. Am I to believe that these people want the money they worked so hard for to go toward a losing -- and morally corrupt -- cause?

But let's say that you do. Let's say your dedication to religion is so great that you would spend ridiculous amounts of money to make sure two people who have literally zero effect on your life can not reap the same benefits you enjoy.

Are you not being a hypocrite, then? There are few parts of the Bible that I take with me. But there was one thing that seemed to stick out. Jesus said that he had one commandment before all others, and that was to love one another.

Now, you can still disagree that love is reserved only for you and the people whom you deem fit for love, but you cannot disagree that there are far better things $2 million can be spent on. After all, is charity -- love for one another -- not the commandment above all commandments?

Here's some acts of love that could be performed with $2 million.

Help The Homeless

There were around 15,000 homeless Utahns in 2012, according to this report. While only 3 percent of that number are chronically homeless, that makes me wonder: could $2 million do something to alleviate said percentage?

Increase Spending on Education

Did you know that Utah ranks last on spending per pupil? That's right. According to this report, "Utah spent less per student on elementary and secondary education than any other state in the nation." That's right. You'd think Utah would put a little more effort into providing its schools with the materials it needs to provide quality educations. Imagine the supplies $2 million could provide for some of our lesser-off institutions.

Feed The Hungry

According to this report, "Utah is one of 16 states nationwide where the number of families with children who have trouble accessing enough food is 9 percent or more." A Utah Food Bank spokeswoman even says that 117,281 Utah children were food insecure. How many meals to hungry children could $2 million provide?

These are just three examples. There are countless more. People in our state are in need, and fighting marriage equality is not bettering the quality of life of anyone. Nobody's existence on this planet will be more comfortable, nobody's empty plate will suddenly be filled, nobody's illness cured, nobody's naked body clothed, nobody's child's education bettered, by forcing a religious belief on people who don't subscribe to that belief.

So please sign this petition. Tell the state of Utah that throwing $2 million of your taxpayer dollars away on hate is something you won't stand for. Do good in the world. Make this planet a place that's worth living on. Support unity and love.

As it stands, the state gets the following rating for such frivolous spending. Utah, there's still time to fill in these empty stars.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

You're Gay? You're Fired - Matty Jacobson


With all the celebration over equal rights in the state of Utah, it actually occurred to me in the wee hours of the morning that, no, we're still second-class citizens.

The only difference is when we get fired for being gay, we'll still be legally married.

So yes, we can check one thing off the list, but we can't forget that there's still more to go.

This issue literally kept me awake this morning. As you may or may not know, I've been celebrating quite publicly the love I have for my husband and the joy I feel for all my friends who can finally get married and be recognized by our state as such. I've been posing rhetorical questions to naysayers who think we lowly gays should not have the same rights.

I have been asking, and have yet to get a real response, what rights of the opposed have been violated by allowing everyone the right to marry. I posted an example of this questioning on my Facebook page, and one my friends told me she knew of a woman who was going to cancel her subscription to the newspaper I work at because our publication hires gay people.

First of all, never mind that if that's what this woman does when she finds out a gay person works at an establishment she patronizes, then she's SOL with everything she purchases.

But what woke me up this morning before the sun peaked over my Utah home was the fact that it doesn't matter if there are a million gay people who work for my publication. My company, and almost every company in Utah, for that matter, could fire a person just for being gay.

Now, there is a map circulating the Internet that shows where a person is protected when it comes to employment and housing; it's pretty comprehensive. However, take a look at the lower left corner of Utah. That's Washington County -- my home -- in purple.

In my research for this article, I felt a moment of alleviation when I saw this map. But then I started thinking, when did my county pass an anti-discrimination ordinance? Where the hell was I? I mean, I work in the news industry. You'd think a piece of legislation that protected me would at least grab my attention.

But no, it's actually not true. The closest thing we have to protection here in Washington County is the progressive town of Springdale, which passed its anti-discrimination policy earlier this year.

So here's the thing: Actually, a lot of people don't realize that being fired for being gay is not only actually a thing, but it can and does happen. On one hand, that's good because most people think we live in a world where that sort of atrocity would have been long ago outlawed. (Which, duh, it should have been!)

But on the other hand, because so many people don't realize there aren't laws on the books concerning this type of issue, the people who would normally be outraged at such a thing aren't concerning themselves with passing such legislation.

Utah Senator Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, introduced a bill this year to the state legislation that would make pass non-discrimination laws across Utah. Sounds like a pretty good deal, right? Believe it or not, the mostly-LDS legislators (a religion that isn't always seen as favorable in the eyes of others, yet still enjoys the protections of anti-discrimination ordinances) refused to see the bill passed. Urquhart is trying again this year, but there could be even more opposition from the people you and I have elected.

With so many of the LDS faith up-in-arms over marriage equality, I fear the bill will be killed with extreme prejudice by those on Capitol Hill who disagree with marriage equality.

I pose the question to you again, to those who who think we in the LGBT community don't deserve to keep our jobs, our housing and our marriages: How are YOUR rights being infringed on when we are given the SAME rights that you have?

Please, include your answers in the comments section. I really, really do want to know.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Femme Fatalacast - Matty Jacobson


OK, this one should definitely come with a disclaimer. Now usually I don't do reviews of things I am personally tied to in some way. I don't have anything to do with this podcast, but I should say one of my buddies is a host, and I am Facebook friends with one of the other hosts and a producer.

So, that being said, take my review as you will. I'll try not to be biased. But... no guarantees. Sorry.

Sometimes it's fun to just sit back and listen to other people gripe. Well, a lot of podcasts do this, but it's fun when you can get one with a local flair.

Femme Fatalacast started off as just a women-oriented type of deal, but it didn't take long before the gals, Cori Hoekstra and Syd Werner, started adding sausage to the taco.

Please, forgive me for that last sentence. It has to stay, though.

While this show is eventually sent to the podcast format, your best bet for listening will be live. Unlike your regular talk shows, "Femme Fatalacast" is broadcast through, so it's commercial-free and uncensored.

Each week focuses on a new topic, from "Gnarly Sex Germs" to "Gratitude." The ladies take calls and chat with folks via Google Hangout. It's fun to get interactive with them, although I personally haven't been able to do the whole Hangout thing. However, I have written in and had my stuff read on air while I've been editing at work.

It makes for a good time.

The thing that sets "Fatalacast" apart from the others is it's way more personal. Your input is almost assured if you're willing to call/text/write/Google Hangout.

Check them out Sundays at 8:15 p.m. Mountain Time at You can also subscribe to this podcast here. Hook up with the show on Google Hangouts here. And if you're listening live, call or text during the show to 385-215-9225.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

'Anything After' App - Matty Jacobson


More and more filmmakers are utilizing the movie's credits to add additional scenes. These can be throwaway scenes meant just for laughs, they can be plot clarifications or, as we see in most Marvel-related superhero flicks, the scene during and/or after the credits usually sets up some sort of sequel.

I affectionately call these extra scenes "Credit Cookies." But they're also known as stingers or just plain old "that scene after the credits."

Whatever terminology you prefer, the fact is sometimes there's extra footage that you don't want to miss. But sometimes there's no footage at all.

And sometimes, what's even worse, is sometimes there's footage -- but it's just not worth sitting through two or three minutes worth of credits.

There are actually a few different apps that provide this information, so you can go into the movie knowing whether or not you want to sit through the end credits. But the one I've come to rely on most is Anything After.

Anything After does cost 99 cents, but because of that, you're not bogged down by stupid ads popping up whenever you want to quickly plug in the title of a film before the trailers start playing. The films are relatively easy to find because they're listed by what's in theaters.

If you're looking for an older title, then click the button and type it in.

The best part is you get peer responses on whether a credit cookie is worth the wait. In my case, however, even if it's been downvoted, I tend to hang around just to see what it was people didn't necessarily like about the after-credit scene.

I do that mostly because I want to be able to add my reason as to why the scene ain't that great, which is an option with the Anything After app.

This app has also saved my skin a couple of times as I've been heading out of the movie theater. I decided to double check to see if "Anchorman 2" had something to wait for, and indeed, it did. Of course the scene wasn't actually that great, so I noted it as such in the app. But at least I wouldn't be left wondering what I missed.

The Anything After app is available on iOS and Android devices.

'Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues' - By Matty Jacobson


As a journalist, "Anchorman" has always been one of my favorite films. I'm not that into Will Ferrell, but for some reason I find the antics of Ron Burgundy, Brian Fantana, Champ Kind and good old Brick Tamland quite hilarious -- and super quotable. (Why don't you go back to your home on Whore Island?!)

So, as a journalist and "Anchorman" lover, I might have gone into "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" a bit biased.

Of course the second isn't as good as the first, but you know what? It's pretty damn close.

"2" follows up on Ron (Ferrell) and his wife Veronica (Christina Applegate), both working as coanchors for the same network. But it isn't long before Veronica continues climbing the success ladder, and Ron gives her an ultimatum: It's either him or her job.

So, needless to say, we catch up with Ron a few months later, separated from his wife and now working as an announcer at Sea World.

This all sort of felt like a re-imagining of  "Blades of Glory." The disgraced Ron Burgundy even had stains on his shirt, reminiscent of the vomit-covered Chazz Michael Michaels after falling from grace and having to skate in children's shows. But that's where the similarities ended.

Ron is approached by a producer for a new idea: A 24-hour news network. So he rounds up Kind (David Koechner), Fantana (Paul Rudd) and Brick Tamland (the ever-funny Steve Carell) to help anchor a channel that would be all news, all the time. This is where the journalist in me was really entertained.

The film pokes fun at the ridiculousness of 24-hour news and how the very concept is basically asanine. The only way to make something like that work would be to report on what is actually newsworthy and then fill in the other 23 hours with fluff (the movie hits that nail right on the head).

There was one scene that got a little out of hand for me. In an attempt to cash in on one of the more memorable scenes from the first film, the gang gets into a newsteam gang fight only with national news channels and about double the cameos that appeared in the first film.

We get a fustercluck of celebrities in the form of Sacha Baron Cohen, Kirsten Dunst, Tina Fey, Harrison Ford, Greg Kinnear, Liam Neeson, Amy Poehler, Vince Vaughn, Marion Cotillard, John C. Reilly, Jim Carrey, Will Smith and, in what was almost a movie deal-breaker for me, Kanye West.

Don't get me wrong; the scene had its moments. But at that point, the film was already running a bit long. It could have been cut down just a bit.

Don't miss the face Kristen Wiig makes when she says, "Wanna see the face I make when I'm looking at a snake made out of candy?"

Yes. This film gets my approval. You stay classy, San Diego. Or, wherever you happen to be.

'Saving Mr. Banks' - Matty Jacobson


There's nothing like a good "based on a true story" story to give you perspective on things. But unlike most "based on a true story" stories, this one is, at least for the most part, truly based on a true story.

"Saving Mr. Banks" follows the tumultuous week where Walt Disney, played by Tom Hanks, tries to convince "Mary Poppins" author P. L. Travers, brought to life by Emma Thompson, to sign over the rights to the story in order for the studio to make it into a film.

Now, we all know Disney succeeded because, well, we've all seen "Mary Poppins." But the trek from point A to point B is very interesting, and incredibly touching.

I read the books when I was a teenager and was completely disappointed in them. They were nothing like the movie, after all. But after seeing "Banks," I can see how Travers saw the characters, and the books make a lot more sense to me now.

Hanks plays a sometimes convincing Disney, but when it boils down to it, I don't know how anyone other that Walt himself could really take on that role. The real scene-stealer was Thompson.

Now, I didn't go into the theater with any real knowledge of P. L. Travers, so there wasn't a lot compare Thompson's portrayal to. I do know, however, that Thompson managed to tug a couple of tears from me on a couple of occasions.

This was the perfect movie to see on Christmas day. It was enlightening and heartbreaking all at the same time.

Plus, it made me want to go to Disneyland.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Grump Who Stole Marriage (A Poem) - Matty Jacobson

The Grump Who Stole Marriage

Every YOU down in Utah liked marriage a lot, but the Grump, who lived on Capitol Hill, did not.

The Grump hated marriage (for those who weren't straight), he'd poo-poo and hah-rumph and refuse to debate.

He knew he couldn't get away with beheadings, but he had to find some way to keep gays from their weddings!

For the weekend before Christmas --and this is no joke-- a judge said marriage should be for ALL folk!

Judge Shelby declared in a statement so proud: It shouldn't be reserved for just some of the crowd!

This burned the Grump's panties, this made him go crazy. He barked and he drooled and his vision got hazy.

To see all the happiness from St. George to Salt Lake, it made the Grump boil and it made the Grump bake.

What's worse was the ruling came right before Christmas! The gays and the lesbos would be getting married en masse!

This just wouldn't stand, no he wouldn't let it be so. So he planned up a plan in the Wasatch Front snow.

"I know how to proceed" The Grump burped on Friday. "I'll call for the court to issue an emergency stay!"

"They'll stop all the licenses, they'll stop all the bliss! I'm the smartest man ever!" He proclaimed with a hiss.

So he called up the judge and he said, "Listen buddy! Put a stay on your ruling! Before things get cruddy!"

The judge, to be clear, would not grant the stay. He didn't want to discriminate against lesbians and gays.

So The Grump in his Grumpiness turned on his heels. "FINE!" he screamed, running to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

While The Grump's childish behavior made him look like a jerk, he also issued a letter to each county clerk.

He assured them in writing that seemed far less than formal, that pretty soon things would be back to normal.

"I know you're confused, and this is chaotic! I'm not being irrational, nor am I neurotic!"

His Grumpiness got airtime from Fox News to Rachel Maddow, and then came a response from the court in Colorado.

"No thanks" said the court when it came to the stay, "You didn't do things correct. You didn't them the right way."

The Grump saw the calendar was getting closer to Christmas. "NO!" He grumped loudly. "I want them to miss this!"

"They can't have their weddings! They can't have their cakes! Heck no on their families and those pesky tax breaks!"

He Grumped and he Grumped till his grumper was sore. Then he thought of something he hadn't before.

What if marriage, he thought, isn't cause for a war? What if marriage, perhaps, means a little bit more?

And what happened then, well in Utah they say, The Grump suddenly realized it's OK to be gay!

He called off his minions and he issued a statement: "My Grump!" he declared "Just had an abatement!"

"I see that these weddings do not harm my own, and this war on the gays is perhaps overblown!"

"The wonderful thing about America is, my beliefs are my own, they're not hers; they're not his."

"We can disagree and we don't have to see eye to eye, but that doesn't mean I have to Grump away the joys for the gay, lesbian and bi!"

"Ho hum to the ban! Merry Christmas I say! Let's rejoice! Let's unite! Please get married today!"

And although nobody quite knew why he changed his dark heart, there was marriage equality, and that was a start.

Christopher Moore's "A Dirty Job" - Matty Jacobson


This title tripped across my iPad on a random recommendation. I'd just finished Neil Gaiman's "Neverwhere" and sent a call out to my social network buddies.

What had my friends read that they thought I might also enjoy? One recommendation was for Andrew Davidson's "Gargoyle," which I'm still reading in between other books. I'll get back to you on that one.

The other came from my colleague who, despite having known me for less than a year, pegged me pretty well when she said I'd like Christopher Moore's "A Dirty Job."

"Job" is a modern-day fairy tale in the vein of the kind of fairy tales the Grimms and the Andersons actually told. (You know what I'm talking about -- Red Riding Hood gets ripped to shreds by a wolf, The Little Mermaid kills herself, a prince rapes a sleeping beauty -- not your Disney fluff.)

Charlie Asher is grieving over a recent loss and trying to run a second-hand shop all while simultaneously having to figure out how to raise a newborn daughter. He has help, of course, in the form of his lesbian sister Jane, who tends to steal Charlie's best suits; Ray, an employee of Charlie's and suspicious ex-cop (with a penchant for overseas dating websites); and Lily, another employee whose dark demeanor, dark dress and dark moods almost force you to cast Kristin Stewart in the role.

Whatever chaos he thought he was living is turned on its head when Charlie gets himself a new job: Death Merchant. You know, going around and collecting souls and whatnot.

The thing that makes stories like this really successful is the comedy. The utter ridiculousness of the situation demands a narrative addressing the fact. Moore does that perfectly through Charlie's eyes.

Unlike other "man becomes death" books like "On A Pale Horse," by Piers Anthony, which takes itself entirely too seriously, "Job" ladles comedic gravy all over the absurdist meal to make it entirely palatable with a desire for seconds.

And I have no idea what drove me to compare comedy to gravy. I think I might just be hungry.

So I'll go eat and leave you with this review for Christopher Moore's "A Dirty Job."

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Sign The Petition!

You don't have to live in Utah to be a part of history.

As you may or may not know, Utah's governor Gary Herbert (affectionately known as Herby the Love Gov here at The Skewed Review) immediately started his campaign to put a halt to all this happiness.

So please do your small part and sign this petition. It's a gentle reminder to Herby that he has rights not everyone in his state was afforded until yesterday.

Let our highest elected official in the state know that you support happiness. Even if he does growl with his Grinch fingers nervously drumming, tell him he will not stop marriage equality from coming. Click the red button below.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Utah lifts ban on marriage equality! - Matty Jacobson

I was at work when it happened. Where were you?

An article in Rolling Stone magazine predicted Utah could possibly see some kind of progress when it came to marriage equality, but the article predicted it would probably happen sometime in 2016.

And most of my buddies on Facebook predicted an even longer haul to the equality finish line. But today, Dec. 20, 2013, that equality came to our state.

Similar to California's ban on equality being lifted, a judge had to come in and slap our state on the hand and say "Share!" Also similar to the whole California debacle, some Utah lawmakers, including his royal Herbertness, the Governor, have already swooped down to reclaim their portion of the playground.

Even the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which today saw its power grip on the state loosen -- like laces of a kindergartner who didn't have anyone to teach him how to tie his laces properly because he was an accident and Utah didn't allow him to be adopted by a same-sex couple and therefore he's been bouncing from foster home to foster home with no real guidance on shoelace-tying skills -- issued a statement saying it's sure a higher court will rule that marriage is something only a portion of the population get to partake in.

But here's where I'm baffled: Do the Governor and the LDS church not pay attention to the history books? And by history books, I mean that thing called the Supreme Court's decision on the Defense of Marriage Act? Which happened this year?

That court looked at the California case and said, "PFFT. Don't waste our time!"

What makes Herby the Love Gov and (some but not all of) the Mormons think that the Supremes (of the Court) will look at Utah and say something different?

"I'll give you five good reasons why the gays shouldn't marry!
1: Cuz The Bible! 2: Eww, Gross! 3: I don't like guys that way, so
nobody should like guys that way! 4: How will babies be born since
everyone will be gay now?! 5: The Bible!"

The fact is they don't want to share. They like living their better-than lives adorned with tax breaks and legal children.

Here's what should have been stated by the LDS church:

"While our religion teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman..." (debatable) "...we recognize that the Constitution of the United States of America guarantees all citizens equal rights that are based in law and not religion. We may not agree with the decision by the court, but we are happy for all the couples who now get to enjoy the same freedoms and benefits married couples have been enjoying for years. The LDS Church, in accordance with our own Articles of Faith, respects the laws of the nation and would not attempt to force our religious laws into the nation's laws, especially considering not every citizen of our great state of Utah is Mormon."

And here's what the Governor should have said:

"While I support the traditional form of marriage..." (historically, that's one man and lots of wives, concubines, slaves, etc., but whatevs) "...I want to extend my congratulations to all our citizens..." (voters!) "...who have, up to this point, been second class citizens in our state. I want all our citizens, be they straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer, to know that they are welcome in our state and they are afforded the same rights as anyone else. Utah is a state that cares."

But, instead of respectfully disagreeing with the ruling and offering to build bridges to make this a greater state, the higher ups have chosen to wage war instead.

How sad.

Hopefully, the Republican't Governor and the LDS Church will take a second and think about what their lives would be like if someone tried to take their rights away. (Oh, you know, kind of like what happened to the Mormons when they were driven out of Missouri. But, you know, that's something completely different.)

My husband and I will raise a glass tonight in celebration of all the happiness and all the acceptance. We want to congratulate not just those who can now marry who have waited for so, so long, but we also want to thank the people who stood by us. They didn't have to, but they did. These people include so many Republicans and Mormons. These people include families, friends and acquaintances who could easily look the other way and come out of the whole thing unscathed.

We celebrate you.

And finally, thank you to Judge Robert J. Shelby. You, sir, are a good man. Thank you.

Our rating for Good Judge Shelby:

Our rating for the allies who supported those who deserved to get married this whole time:

Our review for the Mormon church (I've still got a little faith that the members have good hearts):

Our review of the Scary Gary:

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Put Your Hands Together - Matty Jacobson


Sometimes it's worth it to invest in a standup comedy album. Even if we haven't heard the comedian's latest set, we can still make an educated bet that Tig Notaro or Louis C.K. will offer up something worth hearing.

But what about the lesser-known comedians who haven't quite established themselves?

We know they exist. Every Kevin Hart had to start somewhere. But how do we find out who the funny up-and-comings are without having to blow a bunch of cash on a comedy album craps shoot?

Well, thanks to "Put Your Hands Together," I can listen to an entire smorgasbord of comedians and then order more of the ones I like. It really is the Chuck-o-Rama/Golden Corral/Casino Buffet of comedy.

Comedian Cameron Esposito hosts the weekly live show at the UCB Theater in L.A. She's great. Her significant other, stage manager Rhea Butcher, is equally as funny and often takes the stage with Esposito to deal out some funny. Someday I hope to go check out the show live and in person. But luckily, I can download it for free in the meantime.

Check it out. It's worth a listen. This podcast drops weekly. Listen to it here. Subscribe to it here.
Be advised: The content is pretty much explicit, no matter which episode you're listening to.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Gaga & Xtina's "Do What U Want" - Matty Jacobson


Lady Gaga has certainly been making the rounds when it comes to her single "Do What U Want." She and R. Kelly have been seen grinding on stage at both "Saturday Night Live" and the American Music Awards.

However, she's also sang sans Kelly across the pond with an additional verse not heard on the single from her recent "ARTPOP" album. And on the most recent episode of "The Voice," she teamed up with Christina Aguilera for that rendition for her American audience.

I wouldn't call myself an Xtina fan. But there's something about the two of them on stage together that made me just a little bit giddy. When Gaga first jumped on the scene, she was getting compared to Christina left and right. So to see them taking part in a duet was almost surreal.

But it made me happy. Oh lordy, did it make me happy. In fact, I think I'll buy this version on iTunes. I kind of wish she'd do a studio version with Xtina with that additional verse.

That additional verse, by the way, is still hard to make out. Does anyone know how to translate Aguilera's singing voice?

The costumes, by the way, are a big plus. I can't get enough of that '70s glam look. Here's hoping the trend continues!

I hate "The Voice," but I loved the performance.

Here's the clip in case you missed it. 

'The Ocean at the End of the Lane' - Matty Jacobson


I didn't realize I was such a huge Neil Gaiman fan until I realized two books I'd read that resonated with me profoundly, "Good Omens" and "Stardust," were both authored or co-authored by him.

So I recently went on a Neil Gaiman binge session, reading anything he's written. I've gotten through almost his entire collection of full stories. And one of the best, I think, Is his most recent: "The Ocean at the End of the Lane."

True to form, Gaiman doesn't skimp on the awesome and wondrous elements that make his stories so unmistakably his. Like so many of his other books, "The Ocean" begins rooted in a very gray and unimportant place.

The story follows a man who returns to his childhood home. He begins to reminisce about being a boy, and he suddenly starts remembering some very interesting details about his life. He remembers Lettie Hempstock, the girl who lived in the farmhouse with her mother and grandmother just down the street.

He remembered the pond on their property that Lettie called her "ocean." He also began remembering things like the mysterious coin that choked him in the middle of the night, and Ursula Munkton, the woman hired to look after him and his sister.

There is no shortage of magic in this book. There is also no shortage of sadness. "Ocean" offers a glimpse into the heart of a loving young boy and how he perceives family, friends and enemies. It also offers a glimpse at the melancholy reality that most of us grow up to face, and how even the most wonderful and magical things in life can so easily be forgotten.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug' - Matty Jacobson

"Oh, I see you're still awake after hours and hours of unnecessary plot,
Barrel Rider!" - Smaug (probably) 

When it comes to J.R.R. Tolkein's Middle-earth adventures, I was never able to get into the actual "Lord of the Rings" book or movies.

Reading them is was like having to learn a whole new language, and I think I got through "Lord" and a smidge into "The Two Towers" books before I had to put them down and. All semblance of story was lost within a hodgepodge names, creatures, languages, quests and characters that popped up for no apparent reason other than to take up room. And I still couldn't tell you the motivation behind anything anyone did.

"The Hobbit," on the other hand, was such a great book. It wasn't drawn out to the point of ridiculousness. It had jovial characters who, despite their horrible manners, were generally likable. And the whole tale was told in a fraction of just one of the "LOTR" trilogy books.

That, of course, didn't stop Peter Jackson, Warner Bros., New Line Cinema and MGM from greedily trying to bleed as much money from the audience as possible.

"The Desolation of Smaug" was a four-hour movie, or at least it seemed like it. Why? Because there was a whole lot of nothing happening all the time. It reeked of being fleshed-out for the purpose of length and nothing else. "The Hobbit" could have easily been told in one movie. But instead, we had to be subjected to a bunch of material that was lifted from The Histories of Middle-earth, which include 12 "LOTR" companion-style books written by Tolkien, and new characters written specifically for the movie.

And for what? For hours of fight scenes that should have lasted minutes? For a barrel-in-the-river scene that might as well be a TV miniseries in and of itself? For a movie that feels like it should have been over hours ago when it gets to the good part?

The good part I speak of is the titular character's emergence, but by the time we actually see Smaug, I'd already had enough and I was pretty much ready to leave. I will give the film this though: Smaug's voice was great to listen to. That's about it.

There were so many unnecessary additions to the story of "The Hobbit" that I just couldn't reconcile my feelings for the book and my hatred of the movie.

I just wish Peter Jackson had told a "Hobbit" story that stuck with the "Hobbit" book. If the director wanted to tell all these additional tales, there are plenty of other books to make into movies. I didn't need all the realms of Middle-earth bleeding into what was once one of my favorite stories.