Those of you who are Old School know about the original Legend of Zelda. The first game in the Zelda franchise was epic. It was badass. In my personal...moreThose of you who are Old School know about the original Legend of Zelda. The first game in the Zelda franchise was epic. It was badass. In my personal opinion, few games have been as awesome since.
This book is a lot like the original Legend of Zelda. Unfortunately, it is like all the crappy and stupid aspects of that game, and none of the cool ones. Witness as I extrapolate.
The main character in this book lacks personality. All of the things that sound kind of cool about her--like she knows about alchemy--in the end amount to practically footnotes as she wanders her way through a storyline, always doing the most obvious thing at the moment. At first, she takes the tools thrust upon her by her father and lets him mold her personality entirely. Like the little old man in the cave who gives Link his first sword, thereby bringing slaughter upon the legions of weird animals wandering Hyrule, Protagonist's father gives her the tools of alchemy and the knowledge of a very limited set of topics (sciences and alchemy are about it). She takes these tools and does the obvious thing with them, seemingly content being her dad's clone.....
....until a MAN walks in. And then, it doesn't matter who he is, she is all hot and bothered and blushing and virginal, unable to focus on her alchemy or science. But, she remains true to her father, not going after any of these guys until one of them rapes her.
After he rapes her, she marries him....you know, because that makes sense.
But, because Link is only capable of following instructions and killing like some little puppet serving the war pigs--let me try that again. Because Protagonist is only capable of doing what she's told, she marries the young and handsome rapist--even though she witnesses signs that he's only out for her money before they even get married.
This is the pattern that she follows through the rest of the book, following the clearest instruction provided for her, slowly gaining cooler clothes and items. But, unlike Link, these items don't give her greater hit points or make it so she can do cooler things. She just continues being a uni-dimensional tool, ignoring the ways those around her are using her or manipulating her.
The plot also shares some common elements with Zelda because everything is foreshadowed way ahead of time. Every plot point is predictable, almost from the point the involved characters enter the storyline. Let me just throw some archetypes at you. Feel free to guess at the ENTIRE PLOTLINE in the comments, and you'll probably be right:
Overly Protective Father Flat Protagonist Kind, Sweet, Widowed Reverend Handsome, Money-Hungry Rapist Husband Sneaky, Distrustful Maid Mother who is Entirely Unknown by Protagonist, and is Never Talked About By Anyone.
The climax wasn't ENTIRELY clear until about two thirds of the way through the book, so that's a mildly good thing. But by the time you get there, end is entirely abrupt and exactly what you'd expect.
And, after reading the other Goodreads reviews of this, I was expecting some serious alchemy porn! I was excited about pages talking about strange experiments, and perhaps digging up bodies or...well, SOMETHING cool. Alchemy was the big draw for me here, but there actually wasn't enough focus on that for me. Mary Shelly can write some passages about science that add texture. This book didn't have texture, and the texture it didn't have wasn't improved by the small amount of alchemy included.
Unlike some of my reviews, I'm not being harsh just because I'm grumpy. I'm actually in a pretty friggin' good mood: It has been a long time since I've read anything by Ann Coulter. I just got a job I'm totally excited about, and I'm buying a beautiful house in a little over a month! So, coming from that frame of mind, let me reiterate: this book sucks. Skip it.
But you should totally play The Legend of Zelda. Link is a flat character, but he's a flat character who'll put his foot up a moblin's ass.
Sometimes as I finish a book I didn't enjoy, I relish the thought of writing the review that will tear the author a new asshole. I had a distinctly di...moreSometimes as I finish a book I didn't enjoy, I relish the thought of writing the review that will tear the author a new asshole. I had a distinctly different reaction as I reached the end of Wolves Dressed as Men, because I didn't enjoy it, AND it was written by a friend.
I was confused. Last year, I read Steve's debut, Muscle Memory, and it narrowly missed being in my 2010 top ten. Literally just missed it; it was number eleven. MM was clever, surprising, constantly funny and poignant, and it ended perfectly.
Then, a few months later, I read this, and it was...well, an unpleasant experience. Werewolves? I fucking hate werewolves! And I'm beyond tired of the whole supernatural romance thing....publishing companies have been vomiting out so many empty calories' worth of supernatural romance that it's quite possibly a fatal disorder, and when it finally suffers a heart attack and dies on its own bathroom floor as a DIRECT RESULT of its own self-destructive tendencies, I'll be first in line to laugh and point. Err, but, back to the book: after loving his first book, this one just didn't leave much of an impression at all.
Despite what some people would tell you, though, I'm not a total jerk: I talked to Steve before deciding to write a review because I wanted to see what was up with this. It turns out this was his FIRST book--written first--even though MM was the first book published. So this novella is fair game to be picked on, because you're SUPPOSED to pick on people's first novels. First novels are usually a teeth-sharpening process, and almost always end up being generic supernatural romance novels. Hemmingway's first book? Supernatural romance. Faulkner? Southern supernatural romance. Even the greatest novelist of our time, Guy N Smith, started his illustrious career with a supernatural horror novel that was basically a proxy of Twilight, only more hot chicks and mutant crabs were involved.
So, when I write my debut, you ALL have permission to pick on it. Unless I never manage to get anything published, in which case I'd appreciate it if you just softly tell me I'm truly an awesome writer and it's what's on the inside that counts, or some crap like that to make me feel like less of a failure.
Back to the book. I've had a lot of caffeine, btw.
I shall recount for you the reasons this book didn't work for me.
1. The lack of humor. This book took itself surprisingly seriously considering it was a supernatural romance. And, the characters were archetypal in...well, in much the same way the characters in my first novel were archetypal. I had the good fortune of being turned down by all the publishers, though, so I don't get to be publicly humiliated.
2. THE BACK COVER IS PINK. Pink. I'm not a homophobe or anything, but I don't want to carry a goddamned pink book around Phoenix.
3. As seems to happen increasingly, I knew what was going to happen before it happened with all of the plot points. I'm not sure if this was the result of foreshadowing or the use of these archetypal characters, but either way, I prefer my reading experiences to be surprising. And to not be populated with werewolves. Or detectives. I kind of hate detective fiction.
Those are my bones of contention, and I don't really want to click the "Save" button now, because this is the second time in a row I've read a book by a friend and then written a negative review of it. But, dammit, if I don't give them honest ratings, I might as well not even be here reviewing them. I DO NOT LIE unless money is involved.
But I can assure you I'll be buying the next thing Steve publishes--I can't wait to see what comes after Muscle Memory.
By the way, the official day for burning Muscle Memory is July first, so I suggest buying several copies before then so you don't get left out on all the fun! (less)
You could be eating Taco Bell tacos right now! In fact, there's a Taco Bell nearby calling your name!
Just think of that taste as the stea...moreYou could be eating Taco Bell tacos right now! In fact, there's a Taco Bell nearby calling your name!
Just think of that taste as the steaming beef-like substance hits your tongue, with Taco Bell's savory blend of spices all ready to give you MOUTHGASM! With a side of those cinnamon twists, and a big, plastic quart of a dark, sugary substance, you're ready to have a tasty tasty meal! And you've earned it! Perhaps you should consider buying some when you finish reading this review!
Because this review is about what life would be like it we had internet access in our head. Awesome? NO. It would totally suck. Nearly as much as the Dirt Devil In-Ground Ultra-Sucker, which temporarily has a $50 mail-in rebate, as long as you ACT NOW.
It sucks for a variety of reasons. . . for one, how would you feel if, while you were trying to talk to someone and he was looking you straight in the eyes, you started getting the sneaking suspicion he was watching Archer? Or you thought he might be on Goodreads, tinkering around with some new review? And this made you start wondering how well your last review was doing RE: votes, and before you could think twice about it you were on Goodreads, checking your updates? And then your conversation trails off because he really IS watching Archer, and now you're posting a status update b/c you've read another 20 pages in a book--BUT WAIT! There aren't books! Nobody reads anymore! So it's an internet without Goodreads! More about that after these messages.
And we're back! I guess the most annoying part of the whole internet-in-the-head thing would be the constant barrage of advertisements. I mean, when you can't control when you have to endure an advertisement, can't turn it off, can't change the channels, because the advertisement is literally in your head....I mean, WTF?
But RE: this book, it's a well-done mix of young adult literature and dystopia that manages a techno-teen speak that works and is more funny than annoying. This is quite impressive, although not as impressive as the taste of Bacardi, which helps you become skinny and slutty, i.e. hot.
Anderson does amazingly well at making you actually feel for the main character, considering he--along with almost every other character--is even more wrapped up in consumerism than we are. I know, right? Happiness is an idea communicated by advertisements, and identity is created by which of these happinesses you choose to pursue. Are you the Bacardi ho? Are you the dude in the field of flowers tossing his kid up in the air? Are you walking down the beach and sliding a diamond ring on a finger? Who are you?
The main character falls for a girl who doesn't seem as...well, distractible and materialistic as the other people he knows. This is a big turn-on, although not as much as a pair of Air Max 90 Infrareds. You don't have a pair yet? They're the dopest of the dope. These shoes are so hot, girls literally make out with them.
So, he's attracted to the way she seems so strangely thoughtful and reflective. But, it's a dystopia, so blah blah blah, it goes to shit.
There's a lot of absolutely hilarious parts of this book, most of them in the first half. Things then get real. RE: funny things, though,
1. Everyone has lesions on their skin because of pollution. They're so common that they are usually ignored, until it comes into fashion to get artificially created, ornamental ones. 2. They go to the moon one day because they're bored. 3. They go to a farm. A filet mignon farm, with big pulsating walls of beef all around them. And they go through a beef maze. I laughed until I cried.
That said, I shall conclude. This conclusion is brought to you by Chevron, the environmental fossil fuel company. We're working toward a progressive energy future, and sustainable resource practices. And those terms really do mean something.
My conclusion is that IT'S NOT TOO LATE FOR US. We still have the chance to be creative, innovative, and make choices for ourselves. And if we don't use these abilities, we may end up losing them. So, lets all go out and express our individuality by finding products that help us define who we are as individuals. Maybe then, then, we will be free. (less)
*NOTE: Authors are specifically authorized to heckle and troll this review.*
This is a difficult book to talk about because K.I. plays her cards pretty...more*NOTE: Authors are specifically authorized to heckle and troll this review.*
This is a difficult book to talk about because K.I. plays her cards pretty close to the chest. I want to avoid spoiling anything--in this review, the REAL review. There are some spoilers below in the fake review, so only read it if you've already read Hector.
Hector is a book about empathy.
K.I. is trying to shake her audience awake and show them how much they take for granted; how little empathy we have as a culture and as a country; how successfully we block out the things we don't want to see. This is an incredibly important point to make, and by the end of the story, she makes it very well. The ending of this brief book almost made me sick because it's so powerful, and painful, and full of despair.
But, I did feel the point was made a little too simplistically at times. The characters who are going along with the system seem too black-and-white malicious, when I feel the real problem is these people are so capable of labeling groups other than themselves as "others" that they don't recognize the ethical problems in how they are living. This is a serious problem for every culture in the world, and it's important to wrestle with how we can see each other eye to eye.
The entire structure of the book is crafted so that we, as readers, are unable to do the same thing: we HAVE to see the situation with empathy, as we see faces we usually don't even think of, as we hear voices that we rarely hear. But, another problem I had with the narrative was the way this was done. I found my suspension of disbelief wavering during scenes where the protagonist and those around her talked (and thought) too much like western democratic individuals: they seemed too knowledgeable about current events in the U.S. These two issues are the reason the book got three stars. But, based on the strength of the book's conclusion, and the strange and creative story itself, I would definitely recommend reading it.
I honestly feel this is all I can say without possibly spoiling some surprises. Oh, and I should probably mention that I know this author personally. I think I'm pretty good about not letting that effect my reviews, but you should know anyway.
And beyond this line be spoilers. ---------------------------
(So, I asked K.I. if she wanted me to write a review of Hector since I was only giving it three stars, or if she'd rather I just gave it a star ranking. She said "BRING IT ON." Then, she messaged me a couple days later, all like, "Yo, bitch! Where's my review?" And I said, "It's not finished. I'm trying to choose between 'masturbatory bovine-supremacist propaganda' or 'vegan torture porn.'" She insisted I include 'vegan torture porn' in my review... and then I became horribly curious about how people would react to an ineffectively mean review, since everybody loves K.I. And I'm still confused that nobody jumped to her defense in the comments...and you people say you're her friends.)
K.I., you know I love you. And I hope you aren't offended by this review, but I have to be honest.
Vegan torture porn. If you want me three-word review, that's it: vegan torture porn.
Expanding upon that idea, this self-righteous rant follows the great Ayn Rand tradition of reconstructing the world in a superficial way in order to make her point more clear. You eat meat? You are an evil fucker. Might as well put babies in microwaves, because that's pretty much what you're doing when you eat a hot dog. (well, actually, hot dogs are disgusting beyond belief, so maybe she's onto something there.....)
Keep in mind, I am reviewing this book as a raw foodie. I eat raw food about 9 out of 10 meals, and eat meat much less than once a week. So, I'm not a vegetarian, but I'm not simply trying to defend my eating habits. I'm just saying how I feel about the writing quality here.
AND WHAT THE SHIT IS THE TITLE ALL ABOUT?!?! It's not the protagonist's name, for reasons that will be obvious to those of you who have read it. Unless I missed the part where a character named Hector was mentioned....and I don't think I nodded off at any point in reading this, although it's not outside the realm of possibility.
When I reached the end of the book, I felt a little bit sick to my stomach, and I don't think it was for the intended reasons. I think it was because I'd spent so much time reading K.I.'s masturbatory prose, and her stream-of-unconsciousness writing style. Her style is as inconsistent as my sex life, and meanders from idea to idea like a drunk high schooler trying to drive his truck home after a Halloween party. Pointless, disconnected tangents are dribbled like dog shit onto the green grass of what could've been a semi-coherent plot.
All of that said, I look forward to reading your new book, This is Not a Flophouse, K.I., and I'm sure you're looking forward to hearing my thoughts on it. (less)
One question I've been wrestling with as I read, as I watch these societies move slightly past sustainability, as I read abou...moreThe halfway point review:
One question I've been wrestling with as I read, as I watch these societies move slightly past sustainability, as I read about societal collapse and the squandering of resources by the wealthy and then the inevitable cannibalism that always seems to show up in the last act, I keep asking myself how the environment became a "political issue." There's no question that environmental resources aren't infinite, yet it seems like the majority of people…or at least the loudest faction…care less about human life on earth than their own comfort and status. Or else, how can they justify placing jobs, business interests, or anything else ahead of the environment in their values?
Is it because environmental damage is such a gradual process? If so, we need to come up with some way to drive home the importance of creating a sustainable way of living. Politicians hedging around environmental issues--while placing these issues on the same level of importance as gays in the military--is clearly not getting us anywhere. Literature on the dangers of global warming and about the human effects on the environment isn't going to get the point across to those who willfully avoid learning about the topic.
Does the environmental movement need more advertisements? More celebrity endorsements?
I hate asking rhetorical questions, even if my goal is to generate conversation, so my hypothesis, without any evidence to support it, is YES: we need a much fucking better PR department, and we need it quickly. If we are going to keep the global society from reaching the point of some real collapse, we need to change the rhetoric with which we talk about the "environment." The environment is an abstract "out there" that doesn't necessarily include human babies or grandchildren. The way we abstractly think of "the environment" makes this separation of humans from their environment easier. We need rhetoric that makes it clear that when we speak of "the environment," what we are really concerned with is the continued ability for humanity to survive on this planet. What we're talking about isn't separate from people, physically or ethically.
I'll end my halfway point review by bringing up the personal guilt that reading these pages has reawakened in me. Reading about the way the Easter Islanders squandered resources building the tremendous statues and headpieces for the glorification of rich people has reminded me of my own complicity. I've always thought of myself as an environmentalist: I take the light-rail whenever possible, recycle, eat with an awareness of where my food comes from. But, even as someone passionate about the environment, I've spent several years working at a bank. I've spent my time too focused on my own education to dedicate much time to preservation…which is what I'm complaining about others doing. What have I truly done to rebel against a society that places greed and opulence above sustainability? I've found ways to reduce the damage that I inflict, but I have done nothing to challenge my society's destructive way of being. So, what right do I have to climb up on my soap-box?(less)
I wrote a poem many years ago about wishing I was black so I could have an afro. How do you beat afros as a hairstyle? About the only way is by having...moreI wrote a poem many years ago about wishing I was black so I could have an afro. How do you beat afros as a hairstyle? About the only way is by having afro puffs, which white dudes also can't have. Partially because they are white, and partially because they're dudes.
I used to skip over that page of job applications that asks your ethnicity. I thought it was stupid that anyone would care what my race, or my sex, was before deciding whether or not to hire me. Hahahah, I was soooo naive!
Since then, I've realized to what a great extent the law attempts to make that pesky All men are created equal clause actually true. I've also read some statistics that make it pretty clear those laws aren't getting the job done. Racism, sexism, ableism, sexualpreferenceism, attractivenessism, sizism, there are a fuckton of isms that people still engage in. They aren't conscious of doing them, but they have a sense that the slightly heavier, balding guy my own age isn't going to be as much of a go-getter as me, so they hire me. If he's also black, well FUCK! The job is as good as mine.
I believe in the idea of race even less than I used to. But, I have an awful confession to make. I now fill out that page of the application because I now understand that--although it's not technically legal--my whiteness helps me get jobs. Which begs the question, WHY ARE PEOPLE SO FUCKING STUPID?
American Born Chinese is the story of an American boy who struggles with the stigma that comes from his Chinese ancestry. He's treated like a second-class citizen, bullied and made fun of. This book also tells the story of Chin-Kee, a Chinese stereotype who comes to live with his white cousin, making the whiteboy's life a living hell as he starts being ostracized by his friends and the girl he has the hots for.
This graphic novel is a fast read, yet has a complex story, weaving three tales together that don't unite until the climax. It's my favorite combination of elements in a book: constantly funny, but funny and sad at the same time. The ending was relatively satisfying, and the intricacies of the plots make the book more complex than some novels. This book carries more literary weight than a lot of other books, despite the fact that it's a graphic novel. (I'm still prejudiced against this genre. "It's perrty good....fer a graphic novel!")
I could use this to launch into yet another political tirade about how instances of "reverse racism" are now given a lot more attention in the press than instances of real racism. If anyone really wants that kind of tirade, though, maybe it'll happen in the comments. OOhh, maybe I can attract a troll! I'll try a little bit harder to do so: REVERSE RACISM IS A TERM MADE UP BY RACISTS WHO ARE SICK OF BEING TREATED LIKE EVERYONE ELSE.
I have a headache. Oh, and by the way, Goodreads.com, I'm about to plunge back into another semester, so I may not be around much at all, other than when I'm on here experimenting with you guys. But, I will be thinking of you longingly, and I look forward to the time when we can again be together for more than a quick trist.
The ratings on this book tend to be polarized here on Goodreads, with lots of people giving it 5 or 4 stars, and quite a few giving it 1. This is beca...moreThe ratings on this book tend to be polarized here on Goodreads, with lots of people giving it 5 or 4 stars, and quite a few giving it 1. This is because this book is upfront about where it stands politically: Howard Zinn runs with the notion that poor people tend to be exploited by rich ones. (GASP!) If you agree with this general human tendency, yet STILL believe we should teach the NERFed version of American History--where Columbus is a swell fella, the Native Americans were using the land wrong anyway, and rich people have no advantages over poor ones--I'm not sure how you can reconcile these ideas.
One common critique of Howard Zinn is that this book, if taught by itself, will present a skewed version of history that inspires a general hatred of rich people. So, I fully expect these reviewers to give low ratings to every history book, including those that pretend to be objective. By giving a low rating to only the books that point out flaws in the U.S. government, these people are essentially admitting the direction of their own bias. Of course, we're all biased, whether we're writing history books or reviewing them. If I weren't politically biased towards LIKING this book, I'd probably give it a four-star rating because there were some topics I wish Zinn would've gone into that he didn't.
All historians have an agenda, so the obvious solution is to teach from two or more textbooks with conflicting views. There. Problem solved! Moving on...
I'm gonna talk about the book itself now, so that I remember to do so. Then, I'm going to get into political rant mode, because I want to talk about why Zinn and the Tea Party SHOULD be best friends if people were more rational than they are.
The Part Where I Talk About the Book:
Zinn, in the newest versions of this book, discusses U.S. history from its origins all the way up to Bush Jr.'s presidency. Throughout, he pulls no punches, questioning the motives of those in power regardless of their political party, because there's really not that much difference between the right and the left. He covers a whole lot, even considering the length of the book, and has done a lot of work since the book's original publication to add sections addressing the plight of those segments of our population that were ignored in the earliest printings. Keep in mind as you're reading this that there really WASN'T anything like this book when it was written. Before Zinn, no schools taught history from the perspective of the lower classes...in fact, most of them STILL don't. I know mine didn't. So, I think we need more historians like Zinn, willing to challenge the assumptions we make about history. Like every academic field, history should be evolving and growing more nuanced over time.
I should've known I'm incapable of actually FOCUSING on the book.
The Part Where I Talk About Other Stuff:
As those who have talked to me about politics know, I have a lot of frustration with the tea party. First off, some of them don't realize how batshit nuts Sarah Palin is. That's bad. And, that's not nearly as bad as the fact that they don't realize how batshit nuts GLENN BECK is.
Glenn Beck: Professional media clown.
But, more importantly, the so-called Tea Party developed at the same time that a democrat entered office, developed under the leadership of republicans, yet developed saying they were independent from this big-business-focused party, and that they were all about lowering taxes. Pardon me while I take that with a VERY BIG grain of salt. I'm still willing to be proven wrong, though, if it turns out that the tea party actually DOES want to cut taxes, and not just assist the federal government in deep-throating big business a little bit more. Until SOME political party is willing to come right out and say, "Guys, we're spending more than 500 billion THIS YEAR on the military. We could pretty much kill everything alive a few times over with the weapons we have stockpiled. Maybe it's time to think about cutting part of THAT spending instead of complaining about health care expenses." Until someone comes right out and says that, I'm not declaring my allegiance to any party.
I have yet to hear anyone willing to challenge the importance of the military industrial complex...anyone in politics, that is. A lot of normal humans think this is a pretty fucking solid place to cut spending.
The government can only be improved if we as citizens are willing to call it out when it acts in ways that are unethical. The notion that patriotism is connected to a blind faith in the current version of the political structure is foolish. Those who really believe in freedom will recognize that freedom applies to everyone, including those of us who want to examine whether or not the government is operating in our interests. After examining it, a lot of people are convinced it isn't.
That said, we're all gonna get along better when we stop focusing on the issues that we don't agree on, and focus on what we think a government should do. When we say the government is "of the people, by the people, and for the people," I think "the people" includes everyone who lives here, including those of us who didn't make any money on the bailout, and those of us who don't want to help finance murder abroad through "Overseas Contingency Operations." I would think pro-lifers would agree with me on that.
Anyway, I'm going to climb off my soap box now, but I give this book my recommendation. Read it if your American history education hasn't included enough skepticism. (less)
I hope you don't forget about me when school starts again. You shan't? Right?
6th February 2011 Dear Michael,...more 6 January 2011 Dear Michael,
I hope you don't forget about me when school starts again. You shan't? Right?
6th February 2011 Dear Michael,
22 February 2011
2 March 2011
I have missed our long strolls down the avenues, discussing good books and laughing, the gondola rides, walking down the beach, 69'ing in the back of the church, and all that other romantic stuff we've done over the years. But, you should see the way they're treating me at this school! I'm, at present, chained up in a dungeon where I'm forced to read about sustainability, social media, and composition theory for hours on end. No matter how much I beg and I plead, they make me research communities in World of Warcraft and Second Life by playing these 'games.' It's oh-so-very hard.
Okay, so it's mostly fun. But, it's very time consuming.
I haven't forgotten you, nor have I forgotten the way you taught me to spend forever reviewing a book while barely talking about the book--or even books in general. Or, the way you supported my addiction to crab-related horror novels. (By the way, those crab books STILL aren't in the mail, but I'm getting there.) I remember all the good times we've had, goodreads. And, I especially want to thank you for convincing me to give Virginia Woolf another chance.
When I give a five-star rating to more than one book by the same author, I start wondering if I should demote all but my favorite. Clearly, they can't be entirely equal books. But, Mrs. Dalloway was amazing in its own way. I would definitely recommend Orlando as a more necessary read, though. This is such a strange, dynamic, HILARIOUS book...in very brief form, this is the story of a young man growing up to be a young woman, and doing so over several hundred years. It's magical realism way before Marquez, and it's full of beautiful writing that constantly surprises you. The tone is much more playful than anything else I've read by Woolf (he says knowingly, with two other Woolf novels on his shelves). But, like David Bowie in spandex pants, there's clearly something substantial and weighty under the surface. This book, like other works by Woolf, deals with some major issues of sexism and gender. I would elaborate on that, but I haven't had my coffee yet.
The final off-topic point I want to bring up is this: