Monthly Archives: November 2016

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Spoiler Review

Those of you who have been paying attention will have spotted this post that went live yesterday morning, containing photographs of notes taken by Mitchell in the cinema as we watched Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (IMDB). The release date allowed us just enough time to see it together before he goes back home tomorrow. Now we’ve had time to put this together, enjoy our full rambling review. Spoilers later.

It probably won’t surprise any of you that Mitchell and I had pretty different views of the film by the end. We both picked out the same issues with it – spoiler, there were a lot of issues with it – but I’m far more willing to overlook most of them than he is. I’m more forgiving of bad writing in films than I am in books, too. Though we both hated the ending.

[I don’t actually think we disagree on much of anything, except how much we’re willing to forgive. I found this film utterly infuriating overall, while Loten enjoyed it, but when we started comparing complaints we found they were pretty much identical.]

If you go into this film with the right mindset, it’s mostly a lot of fun. Just don’t expect miracles. A lot of it makes no sense, there are some bad plotholes, and a lot of it is wildly inconsistent even by the already inconsistent rules of the Potterverse. But it’s pretty, and mostly silly in a good way, and has some cute moments.

[Here’s a quick attempt at a spoiler-free review for anyone who wants that. Overall, this is the sort of film that can be mindless fun if you like that sort of thing, but definitely don’t forget to switch off your brain before watching or you’ll be heavily disappointed. The core conceit of “absentminded zoologist loses magical monsters in New York City, needs to track them down, chaotic shenanigans ensue” is reasonably fun and the creatures are visually interesting (and the way they move is mostly well done too, the CGI is pretty good). Those parts are mostly fine, and we’d have liked the film much better if they’d just stuck to that (I’d probably have still complained about it being pointless, but that’s really just a matter of CGI slapstick not being my genre). But they decided it had to have an overarching plot beyond that, so they shoehorned in political intrigue and personal drama (and cringe-inducing “romances”) and very forced connections to Grindelwald and so on, and those things… just didn’t really work, and created so many issues that could have been easily avoided.]

Spoilers below the cut: Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on November 21, 2016 in loten, mitchell


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Fantastic Beasts, a first look (writing in the dark)

We saw “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” yesterday. We’ll have a full review for you all later, once we have some time to put it together, but thought it might be fun to give you this first. I attempted (do note: attempted) to take notes while watching, and I took some photos of my notebook, so here’s my initial reactions to some things. Some of it is pretty indecipherable and I’m sorry about that (wrote over myself a few times because I couldn’t see what I was doing), but honestly that’s some of the fun too.

Spoiler warning, although honestly, you probably won’t be spoilt on much without serious effort because this is a cryptic mess. [We’re writing this post the morning after seeing the film and we can’t figure out some of this…]

Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on November 20, 2016 in loten, mitchell


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Absolutely Not Harry Potter Soda

We found ourselves wandering Aberystwyth [yes, that is a real place, I promise] the other day and came across something purporting to be an “American candy store”. Naturally we thought this had the potential to be amusing… and it was, though perhaps not in the precise way we anticipated. They ended up having a weird mix of things I definitely recognised and things which were absolutely traditional British things you won’t find anywhere in the States, plus probably things in between. It was all a bit surreal to me, but I also don’t purport to be an expert on sweets.

There was also a shelf labelled, simply, “Harry Potter Soda”. After a double-take we obviously needed to investigate this.

The first thing to note is that, contrary to the store’s labelling, this stuff is very specifically Not Harry Potter Soda. I’m not sure about the legal details, but the labelling is very clearly trying to get as close as possible to saying that it is while keeping the specific names changed just barely enough to avoid liability. I wouldn’t want to be them if someone decided to sue, though.

So, anyway, fanfic soda. What is it?

The label proclaims this to be “Flying Cauldron Butterscotch Beer” and, in smaller print, admits it to be butterscotch-flavoured cream soda. The label design is amazingly cheesy in the best possible way. And the back of the bottle has this amazing blurb:

“Flying Cauldron Butterscotch Beer. Since 1374, the Flying Cauldron has been making this magical brew for under-aged wizards or wizards who are young at heart at their brew pub in Hogsbreath England. The recipe has changed little over the centuries. It has the perfect combination of spells and quality ingredients. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to create our Giggle Potion.”

(All grammatical errors original.)

What can we even say about that? Hogsbreath. HOGSBREATH. Like I said, it’s Not Harry Potter Soda. I don’t know what it is, but it is absolutely Not Harry Potter Soda. We could hardly control our laughter and had to buy some, so clearly something about this company’s marketing is working. Even if I doubt they wanted people to buy it out of laughter at how hard they were trying. [It was also pretty cheap, relatively speaking, particularly compared to any official merchandise they may or may not have been charging multiple limbs for.]

Despite that, we fully expected it to taste awful. Well… it’s actually not that bad. It honestly tastes like butterscotch-flavoured soda. It’s not the sort of thing I’d normally choose to drink (and I tend not to like overly sweet drinks much), but I found it pleasantly drinkable if nothing extraordinary, and Loten liked it. It is much, much better than the stuff they serve at the official Harry Potter venues, or at least the one we tried when we visited the Harry Potter studios in Leavesden, which made me want to be ill (though it didn’t help they put a lump of some unpleasant creamlike stuff in that).

[I liked the ‘official’ one as well, personally. But I like weird things. And with enough sugar I’ll drink pretty much anything.]

I took a photo.


It’s apparently made by a California soda company called Reed’s. Here’s the link to the product page, with even more hilarious pandering to Harry Potter fans. Seriously, go and look at it.

I’m not sure I would really recommend it, but it honestly isn’t bad and you could do far worse for a theoretical Harry Potter themed party or something. Regardless, thanks for the laugh, Reed’s.

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Posted by on November 14, 2016 in loten, mitchell


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Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone: The Film

Despite the world going to Hell in a handbasket, life goes on, at least for now, so let’s do this. As you may know if you happened to see our post aptly entitled WHAT THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED yesterday, Mitchell and I are currently in the same country. Bore da to you all.

We didn’t have a plan for this post, particularly, so it’ll be even more rambling than usual for us. Our method, such as it was, was just to watch the film together while we each took notes and occasionally paused to talk about things. You’re welcome to go watch the film now to refresh your memories before reading this if you like. We’ll wait.

I’m also going to attempt to learn to use ‘read more’ tags properly because this post is going to be ridiculously long. If it doesn’t work, which it probably won’t because I suck, please scroll down to see our other recent non-HP posts if you missed them earlier. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on November 13, 2016 in loten, mitchell


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Recommended (?) Reading About the US National Tragedy

I may out myself as some kind of masochist by doing this, but ever since the election went how it did, I’ve been unable to stop myself reading about it everywhere. So here are a bunch of things I thought were worth reading (feel free to share more in the comments as well).

In no particular order:

Yemisi Ilesanmi: Donald Trump’s America: A Win for Sexism, Racism, and Misogyny

Mano Singham: The revolution was televised after all, Let the Post-Mortems Begin

Dana Hunter: You Wanted to Know How Fascism Wins? Look in the Mirror , Regrouping

Alyssa Gonzalez: Compañero, We’re Done

Hank Fox: Well… Wow.

Kathleen Johnson: The King of America and the Killing of Hope

Martin Hughes: How to Grieve Trump: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance

Iris at Perry Street Palace: no title

Amy Roth: I Didn’t Vote For Him

Melissa McEwan: This Is Why We Supported Her, We Will Be Light

Peter Daou: News Media rush to whitewash their role in savaging Clinton’s character , More Americans voted for Hillary’s values than Trump’s

Matthew Facciani: Trump’s America is Already Terrifying

Peter Beinart: After Trump, a Call for Political Correctness From the Right

Joshua Benton: The forces that drove this election’s media failure are likely to get worse

Amanda Marcotte: The Misogyny Apocalypse

PZ Myers: What happened?

I’m sure there’s more, I’ve definitely read a lot more things but these were the ones I saved up to post. Feel free to link more below. I don’t know, let’s wallow in despair or something. What am I even supposed to say?

(Edit: 11/12/16) Here are some more things to read.

Kaveh Mousavi: The US Has Elected its Ahmadinejad

John Scalzi: The Cinemax Theory of Racism

Martin Hughes: Don’t Tell Us to Hug the Smirking Deplorables

And here is a Petition to ask the electors of the Electoral College to be “faithless” and elect Hillary Clinton in agreement with the popular vote. It’s already at over 3.3 million signatures, though it could do with a lot more. I have signed it. While I understand if people are uncomfortable with this sort of thing – and if successful, probably would lead to some problems with Trump supporters shouting about “rigged elections” among other things – this is technically permitted by the system and, frankly, things are desperate. I don’t know if it will do any good, but please consider signing if you are comfortable with it.

(Edit: 11/14/16) In case you may not have seen them, I have been posting more links in the comments, and will no doubt continue to do so.


Posted by on November 10, 2016 in mitchell


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Well, fuck, America. I don’t even know what to say. I certainly wasn’t expecting to have to write about THIS. FUCK.

As I begin to write this, the results aren’t quite in yet – mainstream news networks are holding off on calling the result but a Clinton victory is looking more and more impossible. Including in Pennsylvania, where I am from, and where I honestly was shocked to see the level of Trump support but still was not expecting him to win the state (right now they’re still saying it’s too close to call, but Trump is leading).

Never mind that, Hillary Clinton has apparently conceded. Goddamn it. We’re officially in Brexit Mark Two.

(By the time the post was finished he’d won outright anyway. Fuck.)

I’ve been refraining from writing about politics for a long time, despite being somewhat tempted, because I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I started trying to draft a piece on what watching the Trump phenomenon was like, as a male person who has been sexually assaulted (I don’t call myself ‘survivor’ because it was comparatively minor and I was never in danger), but couldn’t finish it. I am also ethnically Jewish – which doesn’t often mean a lot to me, as I’m an atheist, but is starting to feel more and more like it is going to matter (and not in a good way) thanks to all of the anti-Semitic dogwhistling that Trump has been promoting and voicing himself. Let us not forget that of the very few newspaper endorsements Trump received, one was from the Crusader, the official paper of the Ku Klux Klan (because apparently that is still a real thing that exists). This man is a fucking terror. He is a racist, misogynist bully and has already established himself as the sort of person who enjoys taking advantage of his (perceived? actual?) power as a celebrity to do things he would not otherwise get away with. He is also demonstrably a pathological liar. America has just decided to give that person a hell of a lot more power.

Plus the power to make Supreme Court appointments, given to a man who has already promised to find “another Scalia” and claimed he knows of 20 such people (which is almost certainly an exaggeration and a lie, but still, that is the intent he expressed). This is a sad day for anyone who has any kind of marginalised identity whatsoever, and for any white person with the barest modicum of self-awareness. And let’s not forget that the entire Republican party made that happen, by declaring by fiat that President Obama’s final year in office didn’t really count and that therefore they could block him from making any such appointment at all.

Now it’s true that the presidency is not a dictatorship. All the evidence you need for that is to look at President Obama, who was rendered ineffectual by Republican stonewalling in the House and in the Senate. But again, Americans have fucked ourselves, because both legislative houses are also under Republican majority control. I will acknowledge this: it is true that many Republicans claim not to have wanted Trump, and came out publicly to repudiate him, but it is also true that many of those who did also turned around and voted for him because EMAILS!!!! or something similarly stupid. I have no confidence in House or Senate Republicans’ not being on board with a Trump administration, because these are the people who created him, were unable to stop him, and eventually just went belly-up like the dogs they are (all due apologies to our actual canine friends). We have given this man power, and we are going to feel the effects of it.

Let’s look at some other scenarios – if any of the upcoming trials against Trump (including the child rape case, and the Trump University scam – don’t forget about these, America!) don’t go his way, and this somehow leads to an impeachment, we’ll be left with Mike Pence. A Christian fundamentalist theocrat who, in Indiana, has had women thrown in prison for having miscarriages. I am genuinely unsure whether a Pence presidency would be any improvement; as some people have already pointed out, he is less likely to start a nuclear war, but that’s about the only thing that can be said in his favour. Trump is stupid, self-serving and evil; Pence is just self-serving and evil, and has the skills to actually enact policy.

Is this what the Romans felt like, when they elected Caesar? The Germans, Hitler? How long does it take before it is obvious whether the democratic system will survive the election of a would-be tyrant? And will we like the answer once we know? It will probably be too late by then.

So let’s also remember who is to blame for this. People are going to blame Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders for various reasons, and I suppose in a technical sense there are ways in which, had they acted a bit differently, some numbers might have tilted a little and the outcome could have been changed (because let’s face it, this is one of the closest elections we have ever had). People might blame the Electoral College, and there might be a bit of something to that too. But let’s not forget that half of voting America VOTED FOR TRUMP. Even if Trump had lost, that would still be true. I saw a lot of think pieces in the run-up to this election of people musing about how we’re going to deal with the angry mob Trump fomented once Trump lost, because once the explicit bigotry is out from under the rock it’s very hard to shove it back under again, and yes, that was something I worried about. I didn’t quite manage to worry about what would happen if there were just enough of them to tip the scales the other way; none of the polling data made it seem like that was at all likely, and I suspect it could be interesting to see the statisticians try to work out what it was they overlooked. But we have a bigger problem, because there are a lot of these people and they are angry AND THEY ARE IN POWER.

If you voted for Trump, I have no sympathy for you. I don’t care why you voted for him, nor how distasteful you thought Hillary Clinton was or for what reasons. This is on you. If you don’t like what he does to this country, BLAME YOURSELF BECAUSE IT IS YOUR FAULT. If you were watching mainstream media go on about EMAILS and supposed Clinton scandals that were (certainly comparatively and, I would argue, absolutely) of a severity level comparable to a tempest in a teapot, and parroting and promoting these narratives, THIS IS YOUR FAULT. If you were one of those reporters who thought Trump made such good TV it was okay to promote him over other candidates, THIS IS YOUR FAULT. If you, at any point, justified the false equivalency narratives between Clinton and Trump, THIS IS YOUR FAULT. FUCK YOU. As far as we’re concerned, if you voted for him you are also a sexist racist piece of shit.

If you didn’t vote, I have to seriously wonder what’s wrong with your priorities (obviously excluding people who were disenfranchised by ‘voter ID’ laws, ran afoul of voter intimidation, and the like; if that’s the case you have my sincerest sympathies). Could you not tell the difference? Do you just not care? I honestly think ignorance cannot be an excuse here, despite the absurd levels of ignorance I’ve found myself confronted by when talking to people about this election. THIS SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN HARD.

And then there’s the FBI, whose baseless and partisan intervention the week before the election may well have thrown it to Trump. FUCK YOU. I don’t know what is even happening any more, but that does not bode well for the future either.

I live in Pennsylvania, which is one of the more difficult states to do early voting in (the only early voting in PA is by absentee ballot, and they don’t send the ballots in time to vote early) and in which absentee ballots are not guaranteed. I am currently in Wales, visiting Loten [hi guys; we expected our joint posts to be about wizards, not this shit]; we’d been planning this trip for a long time, and it was perhaps foolish of me not to factor election day in, but there was literally no other time we could make this work and it had been far too long since we’d seen each other. I applied for absentee ballot and – this was the mistake – because I expected it to arrive in time to vote early, I had it sent to my US address. It arrived an hour after my plane left, because the universe hates me and wants me to suffer.

So I didn’t get to vote. I didn’t get to vote for Hillary Clinton, who I enthusiastically supported and think would have made a fantastic president. I didn’t get to vote for Katie McGinty, either, who I thought looked quite promising (and now we are stuck with Pat Toomey). And Pennsylvania ended up being a very close race, one of the last states they called and, possibly, the state which pushed Trump over the 270 threshold. I’ll be wrestling with guilt over that for a while, I think. [Emotions are irrational and I’m not letting him explicitly blame himself.]

I can barely process this.

We’re all fucked.


Posted by on November 9, 2016 in mitchell


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Well, we’re doomed.

Goodbye world, it was nice knowing you.


Okay but for real, actual post coming in a few hours when we’re both less shell-shocked.



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Posted by on November 9, 2016 in loten, mitchell


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