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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Chapter One

Content warning for fat hatred. Right from the first page. Sigh. Nothing notable about the chapter illustration either – I’ll try not to be too lazy to add them in when we do comment on them. Cut time:
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Posted by on January 19, 2017 in loten, mitchell

 

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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Introduction

We made it to Book Two, everyone!

I know a lot of readers have been looking forward to this one; it seems to be a favourite of the series for many. I can certainly see why – this book’s villain is easily the best by about a million miles, poses an actual threat, is actually scary and causes actual harm. There’s a genuine air of fear at the height of things. That’s all great, but for me personally I think this book still isn’t going to hold up. Before we even start I can think of two or three serious plot holes that make it impossible for all those lovely praiseworthy parts to ever happen in a coherent story, which is a shame.

[Mitchell adds: I’m also really curious to see how this one plays out. When I was young this was my least favourite book of the series, though some of the reasons I disliked it are strengths in retrospect: for instance, I think I didn’t like the tone, and the tension and fear that characters could come to actual harm. So looking back I think it has a lot to recommend it that I missed, and it could surprise me in a good way… but at the same time, there are also a lot of deeply problematic and stupid things that happen in this book, and most of the individual scenes I remember are infuriatingly bad.]

That said, it’s still almost certainly going to be the high point of the series [we decided in discussion we think either this book or Order of the Phoenix is the strongest, not that that’s necessarily saying much] and is probably the least awful of the seven, so let’s take a look at the two editions your writing team here are using for this, under the cut. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2017 in loten, mitchell

 

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Happy New Year

I’ve been saving this.

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Thank you, John Oliver.

Let’s hope the new year doesn’t suck as overwhelmingly as the last one, eh?

See you soon for Chamber of Secrets and whatever else we decide to babble about. Happy new year from both of us.

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2017 in loten, mitchell

 

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The view from the brink (or: on the Electoral College)

I have been struggling with writer’s block for quite some time, so it may not be surprising I’ve not had much to say recently. That said, I think the recent version is something a bit different: I keep feeling like I need to say something about politics (what I have called and will continue to call the US national disaster) but can’t get through the shock and horror and disbelief well enough to actually say something coherent. Lots of people have already been saying the things I want to say better than I could say them, which doesn’t help either (I’m not sure if anyone has noticed my continued linkspam in the comments over here but that’s the best I’ve been able to manage thus far).

At the same time, I haven’t been able to look away. I keep reading news stories in horror as they come out. It certainly isn’t good for my mental health, but I can’t stop doing it, and at the same time I can’t imagine it would be better to stop paying attention and bury my head in the sand. I’ve been wrestling with that since 11/9, as I’d been fully expecting the horrorshow to be over (or at least to change forms; I’ve said before that prior to the election I’d naively thought the worst case scenarios involved disappointed deplorables lashing out). (As an aside, I do love that people are referring to this as 11/9; while slower acting, I really do think this is a catastrophe of similar scale to 9/11.)

I can pretty safely say that I do not think I have ever felt such hatred and contempt for anyone as I do now for Donald Trump, his stooges, and the Republican party for abetting them. These people are fucking terrifying. These feelings make me very uncomfortable, but I think in the end they are rational feelings to have, and they’ve more than earned it by this point.

I should say again that while I currently exist in a constant state of anxiety and terror, it’s not really for myself; it may be my depression talking, but I honestly don’t particularly care what happens to me (and at the same time, I belong to enough privileged demographics that the worst consequences aren’t going to fall on me; a lot of my fear is fear for what is going to happen to other people and groups of people). This is bigger than any one person. Rather, I’m concerned about the drastic consequences that will inevitably ensue from having such an incompetent, foolish, narcissistic arsehole in power and from the destructive cabinet appointments he is making. And that’s even disregarding the Russian interference, and the Trump campaign’s possibly-treasonous collusion with it; between this emboldening of Russia and what is looking something like a resumption of the Cold War, and Trump’s irresponsible actions with respect to China and the Middle East, I am beginning to seriously think this might be leading up to a World War Three. The odds of humanity surviving such an event do not seem favourable.

In a time where everyone should be seriously concerned with trying to curtail climate change in any way possible (if it is not already too late) instead Trump and stooges seem to be threatening to remove anyone who agrees with the scientific consensus from their positions in the EPA, promoting climate-change deniers and oil executives to high positions and encouraging more environmentally destructive drilling and reliance on fossil fuels. There are multiple ways in which the worldwide consequences of a Trump presidency might be irrecoverable. This is not histrionics; it is brute fact. We cannot afford to play games.

And that is disregarding the smaller effects that a Trump (and Pence) administration will have on the everyday lives of people, especially people with marginalised identities. I am not the biggest fan of ‘Obamacare’, but it is undeniable that many people will suffer and die if it is repealed.

To frame things a bit flippantly: I do not ever want to see another fiction story about time-travellers trying to prevent the rise of Hitler, when people in our time couldn’t even do anything to prevent Trump and at best looked the other way while it happened. Let’s note the parallels in how journalists downplayed that threat too. While I don’t want to make excuses for ignorance, in the case of Hitler it could at least be argued that such a thing had not happened before; today we have the benefit of history, the benefit of hindsight, and the parallels are all too obvious. Americans like to think that our national ideals and supposed values make us immune to facism, but it has become all too clear over the past two years that if anything it makes us more vulnerable, because that very tendency to think ourselves immune caused us to stop looking for the warning signs. We elected (for some definition of that word at least) a candidate whose only noteworthy newspaper endorsement came from the Ku Klux Klan. We cannot afford to minimise that either.

I could go on. I could try to list off every single thing Trump, his children (who thanks to nepotism and corruption will have outsized influence in his administration), and his cabinet appointees have said which makes it utterly obvious what a disaster they will be for America and the world, but if you are reading this post you probably already know.

The Electoral College meet tomorrow to cast their votes. This may well be the last opportunity we have as a nation to legally put the brakes on this tragedy, though I’m afraid I don’t think the odds of the electors miraculously opting to spare us are very high. Nevertheless, I can’t help hoping they will do something (even without the intelligence briefing they’ve requested and been denied). It’s unfortunate that many of them have received harassment and threats (and from both sides of the issue; so much for the moral high ground. I really do not envy the electors their position, as they may well feel unsafe no matter what they do), but I hope some of them will find their consciences in spite of that. It may sound melodramatic, but our future really is in their hands right now. If I were a praying person (or even thought there were the slightest possibility of benevolent supernatural entities), I would fucking pray. But that won’t help us, so instead let us pray to the potential better nature of the electors.

I should add, because I’ve just been reminded: this is not about “poor sportsmanship” and Democrats being “sore losers”. This is not about “sour grapes”. Donald Trump is the single most unqualified person ever “elected” to the presidency (in point of fact negatively qualified, nearly everything about him should have been disqualifying), and beyond that the election was “won” by suspiciously slim margins in a few “swing states” while having the largest gap between popular and (projected) electoral vote we have ever had. When we consider this is also in the context of interference by a hostile foreign power (via propaganda there is no doubt; whether voting machines and vote counts were actually meddled with seems an open question but is unproven at best), it becomes even more troubling (and I find it troubling even to discuss), because so much of this sounds like conspiracist nonsense. I should like to think that Democrats would be equally troubled if it was our own favoured candidate who “won” an election under such circumstances (I am not sure this is true, sadly, but at the very least I think they/we would be more troubled than the gloating deplorable Republican “sore winners”). This is about an international crisis and preventing catastrophe. Don’t be blindsided by accusations of partisanship. This is a crisis that should transcend party affiliation.

Honestly, we don’t even know how long it will take us to find out if they’ve done anything, and I suspect that will cause a great deal of anxiety for quite some time.

I don’t expect it to accomplish much, but there will be protests outside every state capitol tomorrow and I will be participating. It took me a long time to make up my mind, but I don’t think I could live with myself if I didn’t go; I’m not at all optimistic that it will make a difference (especially in Pennsylvania) but I feel like I have to do something more than just signing petitions…

I don’t know that I’ve made any coherent point here, but I’ve been quiet for too long and I needed to say something.

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2016 in mitchell

 

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Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone: Final Thoughts and Attempted Rewrite

So, we’ve finished the book, and we’ve watched the film. We concluded that the film does individual scenes better than the book did, but that it falls down on characterisation and suffers from being unable to show us a villain (whereas the book suffered from too many villains). And both fail hard at representing anyone who isn’t white and male, though the book is fractionally better in that regard. Fractionally. Both fail at showing anything of magic school, too.

In this post I’ll be rambling a bit about some of the flaws, then attempting a full rewrite, then talking about spells. It’s going to be another long one. Cut time! Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2016 in loten, mitchell

 

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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 »

 
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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 »

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2016 in loten, mitchell

 

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