Stuff Of The Year

It’s almost the end of 2012. I could attempt to be all sentimental about it, but I won’t. Instead I present my top books, movies, new TV and games of 2012, because this is also a time of year for such things.

Movies

  • Moonrise Kingdom – I was quite surprised by this film. I didn’t really know what to expect, but the lovely little story and the odd presentation and acting made for something endearing and wonderful.
  • The Cabin In The Woods – Anything with Bradley Whitford is good. Anything with Bradley Whitford and made by Joss Whedon… Well, I’ll keep it clean. Crazy monsters and a “meta” type story made for lots of fun. The presence of Cthulu would’ve been welcome though.
  • Paranorman – A kid that can see dead people. Kooky dead people. And zombies. Great humour, nice animation, and fun characters. Good for kids and adults.
  • The Dark Knight Rises – The conclusion of Chris Nolans fairly epic trilogy wasn’t something that a lot of people loved. I’m not one of them, I thoroughly enjoy this movie, and have done with each viewing.
  • Skyfall – An incredibly simple movie really, and one which delivered the payoff of a new M, Q, and Moneypenny. Along with reemergence of a certain Aston Martin.

Games

My absolute favourite game that I played this year was LIMBO. Well worth a play if you haven’t already.

  • Mass Effect 3 – This game was always going to be here. I love the ME universe, and all of the characters. I love how the soundtrack makes my heart beat faster, and I love massively epic sci fi. And I liked the ending.
  • Mark Of The Ninja – I got this in the XBL Arcade, and it was one of the best buys I’ve ever made. Mixing stealth, action, and strategy puzzles this is a fantastic game with cool animation.
  • Dishonored – Another stealth/action/strategy game. Though this time with a far more involved story, cool magic, and the ability to use rats to murder people. Challenging yourself in this game is half the fun.
  • Super Hexagon – I was gifted this game by someone who obviously hates me. It’s evil. Amazing, but evil.

TV

  • Arrow – The new take on the DC character. Much more violent and dark than the incarnation in Smallville. It’s doing a ham-fisted job of introducing characters from the DCU though, and I wonder if the Black Canary will ever scream.
  • Last Resort – This show has been cancelled already, which is a shame. A story driven more by politics than anything else it was a nice insight into why war is a money maker.
  • Revolution – Woo, a good sci fi show that hasn’t been cancelled (yet). Occasionally the story plods along a bit, but generally there’s enough action and intrigue to keep you going.

Books

I looked through the books I’ve read this year, and I came to the conclusion that I read only one book released in 2012. My favourite read this year was Fahrenheit 451, but that was released a long time ago.

  • Redshirts – If you are into science fiction at all, or ever watched the original series of Star Trek, then you know exactly what this is about. The eponymous “Redshirts” discover what that means in the context of their reality, and I’ll say no more about it. Great humour and drama from John Scalzi yet again.
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Brief thoughts on Christmas

Christmas is for sharing, and filling your heart…

Fill your heart with the comfort of your family, the laughter of your friends, and the warmth of a lover.

Share your time, and your smiles, freely and easily.

Eat too much and watch It’s A Wonderful Life. Have a beautiful time.

Happy Christmas,

Wayne

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As high up as we can go

This is a list of people who have walked on the moon:

  • Neil Armstrong
  • Buzz Aldrin
  • Pete Conrad
  • Alan Bean
  • Edgar Mitchell
  • David Scott
  • James Irwin
  • John W. Young
  • Charles Duke
  • Eugene Cernan
  • Harrison Schmitt
  • That’s right, just 11 men.

    This is a list of the people who have walked on the moon in the last forty years:

  • Ok, that’s not entirely true. The last man to walk on the Moon, Eugene Cernan, stepped back into his space taxi on 14th December 1972. In just ten days we will be forty years from the Moon. For an object so close that feels quite far.

    What happened? When did we stop looking up and dreaming? I thought every child fantasised of being an astronaut? I thought the joy of discovery and exploration inspired rushing blood and smiles on the face of everybody?

    Humanity, this is for you: We can do better.

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    My phone journey

    Pictures of every phone I ever owned. Because why the hell not.

    I bought my first phone in 1998/early 1999, and since then the technology has evolved impressively.

    Also, it was kind of interesting trying to remember what I had, and in what order. It’s probably not 100% accurate, but it’s damn close.

    First phone I ever had. Needed muscles to lift.

    First phone I ever had. Needed muscles to lift.

     

    Still regarded as a weapon of mass destruction. Could survive a holocaust.

    Still regarded as a weapon of mass destruction. Could survive a holocaust.

     

    Stupid buttons that eventually stopped working.

    Stupid buttons that eventually stopped working.

     

    I remember this because I loathed it

    I remember this because I loathed it

     

    Got it just because I desperately wanted a clamshell phone.

    Got it just because I desperately wanted a clamshell phone.

     

    I know, I know, I'm sorry

    I know, I know, I’m sorry

     

    I think everyone on the planet owned this at one point. Still pretty nice design-wise

    I think everyone on the planet owned this at one point. Still pretty nice design-wise

     

    Yeah, I owned a purple phone. A great purple phone.

    Yeah, I owned a purple phone. A great purple phone.

     

    Probably my favourite phone ever. Great camera, nice to use, just fantastic all round.

    Probably my favourite phone ever. Great camera, nice to use, just fantastic all round.

     

    My first smartphone. Apart from crappy internal memory I love it, and I still own it.

    My first smartphone. Apart from crappy internal memory I love it, and I still own it.

     

    I like it. It's ok. I just wish it could do more, like fire missiles.

    I like it. It’s ok. I just wish it could do more, like fire missiles.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    Too many Facebook friends?

    I awoke to today, as I awake to every day: The radio crackling to life and the news broadcast. A lot of people like buzzers, even more prefer music, and I’m sure everyone likes waking up naturally with diffuse sunlight and slow stretches, but most days I like the news. It gets me involved in the day straight away, and it immediately robs me of whatever feeling of wonder and immortality I had gained from my dreams of adventure. This might sound crazy, but hey, I own my weirdness.

    Today part of the news was about the recent study by University of Edinburgh Business School. It’s reasonably interesting and makes quite a lot of sense. Basically, if you have to manage networks of friends, that become mixed, it’s a headache. (Worst summary ever, go read the article).

    Later in the day, while driving home, I was listening to the radio again, and again the subject was Facebook friends. Essentially they spoke about what number was too many, and who really has so many friends. A listener text in, proudly stating that they had 200 friends the night before, and deleted 135 of them, because they’d never met. The presenter went on to ask “Can you really have 65 friends?”

    These people do not understand social networking.

    A social network is an online meeting place. An opportunity to talk to people you might never get to meet in person. A chance to engage with them, and others. A place to share ideas, thoughts, along with the beautiful and ugly things in the world.

    It is not exclusively a “friends” only place. Because it’s not a place, it’s a method for getting in touch.

    Last night I sent a message to a Facebook friend, a guy I’ve only met properly once, at my birthday, so that doesn’t even count as a proper meeting. I asked him for advice about something, we chatted, and followed up a little today.

    About an hour ago I posted a link to a music video (Reckless by You Me At Six – I love this). It was ‘liked’ and commented on by a younger cousin of mine, and we had a small exchange. We see each other only rarely, too rarely if I’m honest. I have a car, I could try harder.

    These are just two examples of people I don’t get to see in person all the time. People who I like, and with whom I can only really maintain reasonable contact through a service like Facebook. (And no, calls/texting doesn’t count. That costs money). On any given day I chat to at least four different people on Facebook, almost all of them are people I don’t get to see all too often. These chats might be one or two lines, or they might be in-depth conversations. Either way, they count, they matter, they’re important. Not in the grand-scale-of-the-universe kind of way, but in the maintaining-my-own-sanity way.

    I wouldn’t give that up for anything. I wouldn’t remove two thirds of my friends list because I’ve never met them, I’d make it my business to say hi to these people and find come common ground upon which to build a friendly relationship. It’s a narrow minded and ignorant person that opens the door to a relationship (accepting the friend request) and then snaps it shut because of what can only be described as laziness.

    What then about Twitter? A social network that is pretty much designed to connect people who have never met, and likely will never meet.

    I have one story from Twitter: Recently, I guy who follows me, and who I follow in return, posted a photo of three beautiful posters. One of these was a Blade Runner piece, and we got talking about the movie, discovering it was, for both of us, a favourite. A few days later I brought it up to him again, asking where I could get it. In a nutshell: he told me it was his own design and that he would send me the pdf, and that he’d be honoured for me to hang it on my wall, even suggesting where to get a nice frame. My reply was one of delight, and also to tell them that it would be I who was honoured to hang up his work.

    What’s important about this is that he and I have never met person. I might even walk past him without realising who he was, were we to be in the same place. And yet a social network has allowed two people to have a nice conversation, realise some common ground, and put a smile on my face.

    So what am I trying to say with all this? If you’re on Facebook or Twitter, don’t take a scythe to your friend/follow count because of an idea that a number is too high. Engage with people a little bit, see where it gets you. You might make a new friend, you might laugh, you might fall in love, it’s worth a chance.

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    Black Ops 2 – First thoughts

    Eagerly awaited by some, the latest Call Of Duty offering now sits in my Xbox 360, spun and played, if even just a little. I was not one of the many who waited for this game, or one who queued for it, or one who was even particularly looking forward to it.

    I enjoyed the first Black Ops, and I adored World At War, but Modern Warfare 2 and 3 were bitter disappointments that I played more out of boredom (and occasionally friendship) than I did for actual enjoyment. Modern Warfare 3 put me off the franchise so much that I really considered not getting Black Ops 2. Unfortunately the last game I played, Assassins Creed 3, was such a steaming pile of dung that I needed something new, and quick. Enter Black Ops 2.

    Single Player Campaign

    I will probably never play this. The only chance I have of playing it is if I lose my internet connection, all of my books, and my will to live.

    Zombies

    This is what Treyarch have been doing well since World At War. I’ve only played it briefly, and alone, but it was fantastic. It was atmospheric, creepy, scary, and well put together. I can’t wait for a whole night of it.

    Multiplayer

    This is what we all play for, right? Zombies is amazing, but this is I go for my goodies.

    I’ll start with the bad, since it’s nice to finish on a positive note:

    • Dick pictures (and every other vile thing you can think of) for emblems have returned. The lack of maturity of the average CoD player is not entertaining.
    • Terrible connectivity. Hopefully this is an early issue though, and will be resolved soon.
    • Awful spawns. I’ve spawned into sniper fire twice now, insta-death. Which brings me to…
    • The return of the unstoppable sniper man. They who can aim, fire, and kill two people before my assault rifle releases a single round. A few games have been ruined by quick-scopers and campers already, but as they find their favourite game types I’ll learn to avoid them.
    • Idiot players. And when I say that I mean it. Some game types involve actual objectives. Most player types involve ignoring the objective with every ounce of their being. I wish there was an extended TDM mode to cater for these morons.
    • Scorestreaks. I have something good about these later, but for now I just wish they’d brought back the support streaks from MW2. I was never mad for racking up huge streaks, but some are, and it’d be nice if everyone was catered to.

    How about the good:

    • A good range of game types filling out core and hardcore modes.
    • Nice variety of maps. Obviously I haven’t explored half as much as I could have done, but already I’m impressed with what’s there. Big to small, dark to bright, corners and heights, it’s all there.
    • Customisation and class creation, which is super in depth. The ten point class creation is a nice twist, and frees you up to really make a class your own. It’s easy to stick with a classic arrangement, but also just as easy to try something new and load out on loads of perks.
    • Nuketown 24/7. Oh yes. Instant madness, all of the time.
    • The good part of Scorestreaks: Points rack up, in varying amounts, for almost everything you do. Be it a good kill, or simply having a UAV up when your team mate gets a kill. There’s plenty of ways to capitalise on this, and they all involve actually getting involved. Those pitching a tent will miss a lot of the fun.
    • A good weapons variety. Haven’t used them all yet, but I’ve tried a few assault rifles, a few sub machine guns, a sniper rifle, a shotgun, and a handgun. There’s something to suit almost every style of play.
    • The return of The Crossbow (yes a capital T for the). I can play an entire game with this one weapon. So much stupid fun.

    That’s about it for now. I fully recommend giving it a go if you’re into competitive online games. It’s a lot better than MW2&3, and a nice sequel to Black Ops.

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    Savita Halappanavar – Our failures

    The story of Savita Halappanavar came to light today, and has been widely covered in the media in Ireland, and even further afield (BBC and Huffington Post). It’s an awful story, and all day I’ve been moved to complete disgust and shame by what it revealed. As a human I’m stunned by how something like this could happen in what I’m sure almost every other Irish person would describe as a modern, civilised, and decent country.

    There are a few things about what I read and heard today that bother me a great deal. Not as much as the loss of her life, but they are the rot in this country.

    • Mismanagement of a miscarriage- Once it was evident that there was a miscarriage occurring, and once Mrs Halappanavar requested that the pregnancy be terminated, then it should’ve happened. People who abhor abortions and terminations are allowed to be offended, but they should not be allowed to influence policy and opinion such that even in this case it was considered to be a right and fair option. 
    • “This is a Catholic country” – Just what the hell is this even supposed to mean? In one statement we’re all branded as religious zealots (I’m an atheist by the way), and look to be cruel, and evil. When religion interferes with the right and fair treatment of a patient we really need to have a deep look at our priorities.
    • A lack of political/governmental clarity and commitment – Enda Kenny, James Reilly, and their fellow ‘leaders’ had an opportunity today to stand up, and shout clearly that this tragedy will not be repeated. To state once and for all that they would move on legislation, and bring our country forward to a point where pregnant women no longer need to escape our borders in order to avail of an abortion, especially where medically necessary. But they didn’t do that. Oh no, now they’ll wait for the end of an investigation or two, maybe even a review or two, and then order more research, and then pass the buck on quietly when the voice of the people has moved on to another subject.
    • Pro-Life/Pro-Choice – It’s a pretty terrible day when the death of a woman is used as a stick and a shield by both sides of the fence. Considering my stance (women should have the right to choose) you might only think it natural that I consider the Pro-Life side (and all their associated cronies) to be the more bat-shit crazy and evil of the two, and I do. If I could scoff any more at their bizarre twisting of events then I would. That said, the vocal and spitting mob of the Pro-Choice side should’ve quietly stepped back, and mourned the loss of life, with dignity.
    • The Medical Council – OK, so I’m not sure if my problem is with the Medical Council exactly, but I do think some of the problem lies with them. And they should be acting today too. It is realistic to imagine that part of the reason that Savita Halappanavar was treated in this way was because the doctor was afraid. Afraid to commit to a procedure which might cost him his license, his job, his freedom, and who knows what else. All over the news today there was a lack of consensus until the evening on what exactly the doctor was allowed to do. How is anyone supposed to make a decision on a patients fate when all of that is swinging over them like a giant axe?

    These are all things that we as a country need to address. We need to make things better. We need to never allow this to happen again. We need to beg forgiveness of ourselves, and of the family of Savita Halappanavar for not being a better nation, and for not standing up straight enough and demanding change.

    Contact your TD, write to your newspaper, tweet about it.

    Negligence and ignorance killed this woman. We can do better.

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    Weepy movies

    I realised today that it is absolutely yonks since I’ve posted anything. This realisation came after I was discussing something with a colleague that once made me cry, and so that leads me to post about movies that have made me shed a few tears. That right there is my thought process. And yes, my Sunday has been incredibly dull.

    (You may notice a theme from my choices. Yes, a lot of them tend to be father/son related).

    The Champ

    This movie, oh this movie, is my kryptonite. The first time I saw it I was a child, and my family had only recently moved into a new home. Unfortunately we were low on furniture, so  I ended up sitting on a floor with my knees against my chest as tears rolled off my face and seeped into my t-shirt.

    I watched it again, for the second time, nearly twenty years later. This time I was living with a couple of friends, and I’d called in sick to work for a few days. We sat around drinking tea, and by the end of the movie all three of us were discreetly trying (and of course, failing) to hide our faces. Faces that were wet from eye to chin, and blotchy to boot.

    I can’t recommend this movie enough too, it’s a great watch.

    The Lion King

    When Mufasa dies. Every time I watch it, since the first time.

    Warrior

    This might seem an odd addition. But, at it’s core it shares a lot of similarities to The Champ, and it’s those moments that get me. I’ve watched this film a couple of times, and it’s not something that makes me bucket out the tears, but a few little drops always seem to eek their way out right at the end.

    The Pursuit Of Happyness

    I love this movie. It’s got nice humour, and a guy you find yourself rooting for in his desperation to be the best he can be.

    The scene in the subway bathroom is the one that gets me. Will Smith looks like he’s breaking apart, it looks like his lowest point, and he’s still trying to strong. It’s just a wonderfully delivered scene.

    And finally, the movie I watch when the ducts need emptying:

    Up

    If you don’t cry at this movie you’re a soulless demon.

    Actually, let me be more specific, if you don’t cry by the end of the prologue you’re obviously a dragon monster from a dimension where nothing sad ever happens, your eyes require no moisture, and so evolution has robbed you of your tear ducts.

    This pic suggests that Up > Twilight regarding the love story. I’d go so far as to say you’d be hard pushed to find a better love story anywhere.

    I went to see this with my then girlfriend, and while finding our seats we bumped into a friend of mine who suggested I might cry, because I was unmanly. He was right. Even the ridiculously large 3D glasses could not hide the fact that there was a river erupting from my face.

    It sounds like it’s a nightmare to watch, but it’s a great movie, and well worth the time and tissues.

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    Comic book movies?

    It hasn’t been a terrible summer for comic books movies. Unexpectedly I enjoyed The Amazing Spider-Man. The Avengers delivered exactly what I wanted, with a little extra Hulk goodness. And The Dark Knight Rises was a perfect ending (in my humble opinion) to a great series. Not to mention that we still have Dredd 3D to look forward to in about a month.

    Over the next few years we’re going to be treated to more of the Marvel stable. With films from Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Wolverine, X-Men, and another Avengers. Great, I’m looking forward to them all. Next year we’ll also get something from DC: Man Of Steel. I love Superman, so this makes me very happy. Very, very happy.

    But not all movies have to be in a series. Comic books have been going for decades and there is a wealth of source material. We don’t always need another reboot (I really hope that’s not what they do with Batman), and we don’t always need the next in continuity. Not only do we not always need that, but I also think, sometimes, that a lot of us don’t even want that.

    And what about non-superhero comic books movies? I honestly don’t know of any that are coming up, and that could be down to my own ignorance. In the past though we’ve been treated to some great adaptations. Movies like Scott Pilgrim, From Hell, The Crow, A History Of Violence, Road To Perdition, and Sin City are all either engaging or stunning or just fun.

    These are just a few movies I’d love to see put all over the big screen. Or even just on the small screen, as a special series… On HBO, where all the good stuff goes.

    (I’m leaving out Sandman and Preacher. We all know that they should me made into something. Or many somethings. If it happens in my lifetime I’ll be both surprised and delighted).

    Midnight Nation

    I have no recollection of buying this book. But I do remember that in the years since I’ve owned it I must have read it at least ten times. To put it briefly: A man kind of dies, and then he takes a journey to save himself. I’m not writing any more about the story since I really think you should read it, it’s worth the time and effort.

    At it’s heart it’s a very simple story, but one that’s very personal. It will take a different toll on every reader as it encourages self contemplation and awareness. How does that adapt well into a movie? It’s not great dialogue and solid male and female leads. The setting is wonderful, from big city, to desert, to hell city (yes, HELL city, but enough of that). And if done right you’ll fall in love with at least one of the characters.

    The Boys

    How do you feel about excessive violence, bad language, sex, drugs, and general insanity? Like it? Me too!!

    I won’t lie, I bought this because Wee Hughie was based on Simon Pegg, and I thought that was hilarious. Also, one role cast instantly! It helped that it came from Garth Ennis too.

    In the universe in which this is set the heroes are pretty much all complete bell-ends  much in need of a talking to, or more often, a smack in the head. The protagonists could be described as anti-heroes, but they’re so much more than that. They ‘watch the watchmen.’ And they do it to extremes. Wonderful, savage extremes. Were this to be a movie there would be no tears shed in the watching of it, oh no, just laughter, wonder, and disgust.

    The books are as entertaining as Ennis’ stuff usually is, so if you’re into that kind of thing, check them out.

    Superman: Red Son

    This is one of those ‘What if’ tales, or ‘Elseworlds’ as DC like to describe them.

    Superman is a Soviet. What happens if you give the most powerful being on the planet a completely different upbringing, one where he’s a socialist, and where he uses his power to do some very naughty things?

    Apart from a great story, that would allow some great freedom in costumer creation and development, this movie would also drag people into the mythos and fun of Superman well beyond the usual ‘born on a planet that blew up, then grew up on a farm, now works at a paper, pretends he’s a dope, scores hottest girl in Metropo-whatsit, beats Luthor.’

    This book also has what I consider to be my absolute favourite ending of any one of these stories that I’ve ever read.

    Batman: War Drums & War Games

    In this story we’d be getting a great collection of Gothams heroes and villains: Batman, Robin, Nightwing, Spoiler, Batgirl, Oracle, Catwoman, Tarantula, Onyx, Orpheus, The Black Mask, The Penguin, Lynx, and The Ventriloquist all make an appearance.

    Yes, yes, I know. Casting this would be a nightmare of epic proportions. But it would be amazing. No ramp up, no wind down, just a straight jump right into the middle of chaos. Bad stuff is happening everywhere, and it’s pretty much Batmans fault. Now control needs to be exerted, if at all possible.

    It’s a great series of books, exposing one of Batmans ultimate flaws. He plans for everything, worst case scenarios in every direction, it allows him to strategise and turn things to his favour. But what happens when someone else starts following his own rule book, and for the worst possible reasons? Absolute madness, that’s what.

    Lucifer

    Introduced by Neil Gaiman in his Sandman comics Lucifer is the Angel King Of Hell who gives up his throne. This is a great scene in the book, and it’s drawn incredibly well, this is the only mention of Sandman here, but if you haven’t read it you really should.

    This was followed by Lucifer getting a long series of his own. A lot of this is the usual stuff you’d expect from something about such a character: Heaven, Hell, good, evil, magic, naughtiness… But the character is so intriguing, and so engaging that it drives good books into better territory.

    There’s so much scope for imagination here that it really comes down to the creativity of a writer/producer/director and their collected ability to reign in the epic insanity to make something cohesive and interesting.

     

     

     

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    Black Ops 2 and the Call Of Duty curse

    It’s that time of year again. We’re about 24 hours away from the newest, biggest, insanest (this is probably not a real word, I’m not checking), and latest gameplay video/trailer for Black Ops II.

    Apart from the frankly amazing first Modern Warfare game I’ve always felt that Treyarch make the better releases in this series. The explosion in popularity of the series over the last few years has been incredible. The announcement, reveal, and release of the yearly title has become more a ‘media event’, and less a standard entry in a yearly cycle. And so this year I’m pretty interested in Call Of Duty. The trailer and release details so far have been good enough to whet my appetite, and I imagine tomorrow while watching the livestream from Gamescon I’ll develop a little excited feeling.

    Yet as always there’s a dark shadow over the new Call Of Duty. I’m going to call this shadow the ‘haters.’ It’s not a word I enjoy using, but the truth is that since the first Modern Warfare every single year has seen an avalanche of abuse and hate directed straight towards Activision, IW, Treyarch, and the players of the games themselves.

    I have no problem with people not liking the series. I don’t mind if they prefer Battlefield, Medal Of Honour, Counter Strike, or just hate first person shooters in general. No one has to like this game, in fact to be even more accurate I don’t think anyone should play this game if they genuinely don’t want to.

    But these people haven’t played this game yet. And won’t get the opportunity to play it for quite some time, and already they’re complaining about it. Some people who say they gave up on the series post-Modern Warfare still take the time out to complain even though there have been four titles released since they apparently abandoned Call Of Duty.

    Where the hell do these people get off? What goes through their mind that compels them to complain about something in this way? Like spoiled children or people that must not ever allow themselves to be seen liking the most poular thing. Inevitably every single year I become irate at this behaviour. If they play the game, hate the game, then complain about the game, then that’s fair enough. But for the love of three inches of common decency and intelligence either back off, or hell, give it a chance.

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