Grg Lstr's linkdump and thoughts on science, family and things in the ocean that would kill you if given the opportunity.

Category: Dumb thoughts (page 1 of 16)

Quick Reviews: The Crimes of the Crimes of Grindelwald (spoilers)

I think I want to get in the habit of cataloguing my media consumption here. I generally get just a few opportunities to view a pictures on a screen (I was going to say watch television, but that isn’t strictly true any longer)–while working out on my elliptical machine in the basement, on the weekends if I catch a movie with the kids, and falling asleep while my wife watches a show next to me.

It turns out I can fall asleep while holding up a phone or tablet so she can see it.

So, let’s kick this off with something I watched with the kids this weekend: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.  I’ve read all the Harry Potter books to the kids, with the exception of the last one. For some reason, they just didn’t want me to read The Deathly Hallows to them, and I know they’ve read every other Potter book on their own. I haven’t gotten a good reason why, but I suspect the death of Dumbledore hit them pretty hard and that they have heard noises about more death in the last book.

Collectively, the Lstr household thought the first movie was uneven but fun. Bottom line: This movie was uneven and somewhat joyless. That’s despite the fact that I enjoyed each and every actor on the screen, particularly Jude Law.


  • My daughter uttered the phrase “They are not going to kill that baby, are they?” twice during this film. And the phrase “This movie murders babies” at least once.
  • Pretty much the entire ending of the first movie was undone through unconvincing exposition. Jacob’s memory? Wasn’t wiped. The death of creepy kid? Didn’t happen. Newt’s love interest? Estranged via awkward lack of communication. I wonder if the thunderbird is back in Newt’s box somewhere.
  • Both the Ministry of Magic and Dumbledore want Newt as a their secret agent against Grindelwald because, essentially, he’s so weird and awkward that nobody would suspect he’s anything but the Magical Steve Irwin/Doctor Who mashup that he is. Did nobody else see the first movie where he exposed Grindelwald? No, I guess the first movie didn’t happen and we’re doing this who retcon thing now.
  • Speaking of the big G. How did Grindelwald become a husky-eyed fauxbino? Maybe too much polyjuice. In the Harry Potter movies he was your standard British character actor. Couldn’t JK kept with the No Americans rule?
  • Did this movie somehow take the position that Magic Nazis wanted to prevent WWII?
  • How poorly contrived and overly complicated was the switched/drowned baby story? I love Rowling’s storytelling, but she’s gotten too big for an editor. She’s crossed the Lucas horizon.
  • So, is Dumbledore’s long lost, previously-never mentioned brother now the anti-Potter?

Pitch: Doc Savage and the Land of Terror

I’m a fan of public domain pulp weird, horror and adventure fiction.  My Kindle can hold a vast reservoir of books and I’m exceedingly cheap, so the public domain is a great source of good stuff.  Last night, I just finished reading my son the first two Doc Savage novels, which were published in these monster 100-page magazines for 10 cents a pop in the early 1930s.

I admit, I tend to do a little editing as we read along, as these books are a product of the time. I know we look for racism in every corner nowadays, and the first novel, at least, would generally be considered racist by today’s standards–Doc Savage and his team find a lost kingdom of Mayans. After killing some bad guys that were trying to exploit the tribe for their own end, Doc is named a member of the tribe and promised a never-ending supply of gold to right the wrongs of the world with his team of adventurers.  I see it more along the lines of Western imperialism, which was more of a cultural default position back then, but there you go.

What is perhaps more striking is all the inadvertent homo-eroticism. To put it in context, Doc is the first superhero–essentially Superman without much of the Christ allegory (although, some!). He had a Fortress of Solitude in Arctic, where he would go to devise new inventions or create new medical cures.  He, like Buckaroo Banzai 50 years later, had a super-mind. He was a surgeon-scientist-engineering-legal mastermind wrapped in bodily perfection. It is the bodily perfection part that gets a lot of play in these first two novels. “Kenneth Robeson” (Lester Dent) never misses an opportunity to point how physically perfect Doc is.  Superheros are new, I get it, but it gets a little weird. Doc is, in reality, quite asexual, although I’m sure, if the character were more popular, it could fill entire queer studies lectures.

OK,  so here’s the pitch, based off of the second Savage book, The Land of Terror, which is essentially a criminal mastermind-meets-Lost World novel. Here you go Hollywood, a ready made Avengers meets Jurassic Park/Kong script:

Summary: Adventurer Doc Savage and his band of adventurers chase a criminal mastermind Kar and his army of disposable goons across 1930s New York and to Thunder Island, home to dinosaurs, prehistoric animals and the secret of the Smoke of Eternity, Kar’s mysterious murder juice.

Think Dieselpunk: Doc’s world is full of incredible post-WWI gadgets and gizmos. This will be a New York in the Art Deco sci-fi mold of Metropolis or the Shape of things to Come. Let’s replace Doc’s conventional tri-motor plane with a full-on amphibious flying fortress.  Doc and his team carry his machine pistols, which will look like 45’s with little curved magazines attached. They’ll each hold 100s of tiny yet high-impact rounds.


Doc Savage, Man of Bronze. Full on earnest boy scout of a character driven to the point of being a little dark. Frankly, the Rock was a great choice, but he needs to be leaner in muscle tone, like his muscles are of metal themselves. And yes, it needs to be played by an actual bronze-skinned person.

Doc’s Team: Monk, Renny, Ham, Long Tom and Johnny. I want to see a multi-ethnic cast. Whereas each of them are experts in their respective fields, they posses the foibles Doc doesn’t: womanizing, drinking, etc.  Renny usually carries a sword cane. Give each their own distinctive weapons and talents.

Monk, chemist. Ape of man, he doesn’t need a weapon to fight

Renny, engineer. He’s huge. Give him a big machine gun, like a Lewis gun to lug around

Ham, lawyer. He’s average height and slim built. Vaguely aristocratic he carries around a sword cane. Ham and Monk have dueling personalities

Long Tom, geologist. Electrical engineer. Give him a goddamn ray gun.

Johnny, anthropologist/archaeologist. He’s nerdy with glasses (one lens is a magnifying lens). He’ll carry a machine pistol but make him a martial arts master.

Kar: the main villain. The twist in the story is that Kar turns out to be the man the team has been protecting all along. The script would need to build clues up Shyamalan-style, but not has hamfisted as in the book (Ben picked up right away that Bittman was Kar all along).



Free Corporate Samba

George Blood Audio in Philly’s Chestnut Hill neighborhood is doing the Lord’s work and digitizing old LPs to post them for free on the Internet Archive. Nice.

More info from Newsworks. 

The Internet Archive is kind enough to post share code ready made for WordPress, so going by the Samba filter, I found this little number from Bando Da Lua, a Brazilian group that tagged along with Carmen Miranda. It might be familiar to Disney fans:

And this one, a corporate commission by Monsanto, of all people. The “Onb Samba” has “Monsanto March” on the flip side.  Google hasn’t turned up any easy answers to what ONB might mean in this context, but that’ll come later. Castenada aside, I figure the Don Juan Quartet were session musicians.

Yet Another

OK, this is progress. It looks like an old plugin–Chemicalize, which was a novelty script that automatically added chemical formulas whenever I’d type the name of a particular substance, was causing a 301 error. Weirdness.

But that’s what happens when you’re trying to figure out the quirky errors made by 2012 You.

Linkdump: computing for kiddies

Stinkbug Manor houses two lovely and awful children, ages 4 (soon-to-be 5) and 7 (soon-to-be 8), and recently, I’ve noticed that they’ve spent far too much time hovering around my computer.
In general, I don’t have a problem with telling them no and booting them off. However, I also know that I want to blunt the emerging issues regarding my daughter, the 7 (8) year-old, whose friends are beginning to acquire either their own devices (iPods Touch, primarily) or laptops. There’s no way on Earth I want to give my daughter unfettered access to Girl Drama, and I certainly don’t believe any child of any means should own a device they can’t replace with the money found in a few holiday cards from Mom-mom & Pop-pop (seriously, Mom, St. Patrick’s Day cards? Really? They appreciate the $5, though.).

My lovely and talented daughter can barely make it through dinner without spilling her glass, I’d hate to see the damage she’d do to her own iPod. They are allowed to play games/Facetime on our devices, even unsupervised (but not far away), but they’re not getting their own. Uh-unh.

Still, I’d like them to use a computer. Even play games (although I’m trying to keep gaming to a minimum. I see no need to introduce gaming consoles any time soon. I fear they will become inevitable, but they are yet another thing that will try to keep my kids inside.

More this, less computing. But still, some computing

More this, less computing. But still, some computing

So, computer it is, and, I have an embarrassment of plans of how to deal with it. But let’s inventory the equally amazing embarrassment of computing options available:

  • A mac mini, purchased 2012 after the catastrophic failure of my old macbook’s hard drive.
  • A macbook, revitalized after the 2012 hard drive death.
  • An ancient Dell laptop, trash picked. Now runs Ubuntu. Doesn’t have a wireless card.
  • A new $199 no-name Chinese laptop bought on Ebay. Also runs on Ubuntu. I bought it intending to give it to the missus, but it was too icky slow for the Win7 it came with and so I decided Ubuntu would be good. It makes for a nice writing laptop, though, so I’m kind of loathe to get rid of it.
  • An ancient Dell Inspiron laptop what my wife uses for work and should replace for Gawd’s sake already. (Generally off the table.)

So here are the options:

1) I could give each child their own account on the Macs, complete with predetermined auto shutdown time limit thingies, which is nice.


  • I still don’t like the idea of them mucking about on the computer with all the Family Stuff on it.
  • They also tend to poke the screens with their little pointy appendages and it gets all icky.

2) I could give them each an Ubuntu laptop, with similar safety bits.


  • They’re not at all familiar with Ubuntu.
  • One of them would necessarily get the trashpick Dell, whose lack of WiFi card would prevent PBS kids and require tethering to the router. (Still, minecraft)
  • Inability to Facetime or Message with Apple-equipped peers, the little sh!ts.


3) Do nothing. Allow them to whine.

There’s no downsides to that, really, as the whinging hardly stops anyway. Still, I want them to be able to use a computer to discover how to do stuff and make stuff.

So, while I’m trying to decide, some helpful links. If you happen to read this, let me know if you have any ideas. Feel free to comment.


How to Create a Family-Friendly Ubuntu Land of Pure Bliss. Setup.

How to restrict my kid’s computing time.

Linux is Full of Educational Software.



How to Install DansGuardian

9 of the Best Linux Educational Games

The Linux Desktop: Rich With Educational Software

Child-proofing your Mac.

How to share your Mac with your family.

How to manage multiple Macs at home.

Support.Apple’s bit on managing kid computer usage.


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