Lstrblg

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

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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.

Notes

  • 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?

New to Me in 2018: Nonagon Infinity opens the door

I get it, I’m old. I’m a parent. All I hear all day is the soundtrack to Hamilton blaring from the kids’ rooms and my cranky old man podcasts. (Although, I’ve started letting my 10 year-old listen to The Adventure Zone, and he’s hooked. He’s f-bomb aware and pretty disciplined about that, so don’t question my parenting. My parenting is amazing, obviously.)

I digress.

What I mean to say is that it is rare that I listen to relatively new music, let alone come across it on my own.  Aussie psychedelic/prog (is that fair, prog?) rock champions King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard  were completely beneath my radar until I happened to find them on YouTube–my daily work background noise is usually ambient or some synthwave variant megamix that I can put on for a few hours.


My body’s overworked
It’s just the same I know
When can my body work
Cold static overload?

So, what’s new to me? Other than this new WordPress “block” interface, that is. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard has some old school concept rock sensibilities, yet remains fresh.  Normally, this sort of thing wears out quickly for me.

Nonagon Infinity, however, has been on heavy rotation on my godforsaken morning drive each morning. It came out in ’16–but, like I said, new to me. It is inherently re-listenable, as its central conceit is that all the songs are designed–if that’s the word for it–to dovetail into the next one regardless of what order the album is played. 





New to Me in 2018: Camera Thief

So, I get to cheat a little with this one. Joe Duffey and his brother Brendan aren’t new to me. I see them all the time all over town. Joe saved my [soccer] life this year as we started up a new U11 travel team. Joe’s music isn’t all that new to me either, as his previous band, Underwater Window Garden, released a fantastic album a few years back entitled The Greatly Divided, which you should buy.

Joe is a great guy, and I’d be a fan of him whether or not he played in band. As it is, his new band Camera Thief crushed it at the local arts fest this year. They’re working on a new album, but its increasingly looking like it won’t happen in 2018. Fortunately, they’re on SoundCloud with a handful of songs now.

This one, Starting Fires, legitimately gives me chills:

I love this video because a) public domain Superman from Fleischer studios,  b) it is a good tune and, c) Joe did the editing himself. See for yourself:

New to Me in 2018: The Beetle

Hey kids, what was the top-selling horror novel of 1897?

No, not that one…the other one: Richard Marsh’s masterpiece, The Beetle

Like this but bigger, is occasionally trying to kill you and is often a person

What? Never heard of it? Don’t worry, outside the UK, which occasionally reinterprets it as a radio play, it really hasn’t lingered in the popular culture.

The Beetle is a complex telling of a simple revenge tale with a whole lot of themes of sex and gender identity running throughout. It will remind you of Dracula, but I think it is a tad easier for modern readers to grasp. Instead of ancient vampires you get an ancient Egyptian pagan cult prone to orgies, human sacrifices, and werebeetlery.  It begins with mind control, nerve gas and a comedy of errors, and ends with a chase that must have made British trainspotters squeal with glee. I enjoyed it, and I suspect you might as well, if you are into this sort of thing.

Structurally, it is told as four entangled tales told in the first person. Marsh does a good job of developing unique voices for each of the characters, although the story threads are interwoven functionally but not necessarily smoothly.  In fact, each narrator is a fun little archetype: the doomed, noble bum; the mad inventor; the rebellious young woman trying to find love, identity and purpose in an honor-driven patriarchy; and a hard-boiled detective. Good stuff, generally well told.

You can find it in a variety of formats on   Project Gutenberg and listen to it on LibriVox. I have a fondness for public domain fiction, particularly that of the horror, scifi and weird variety, so this ranks right up there. One of my goals of 2019 is to start up a podcast on the topic. Of course, that was also a goal of 2018.

 

New to Me in 2018: I Think Like Midnight

I figured I’d post some things that I have enjoyed in 2018. Not all of it is new, but this was new to me.

I Think Like Midnight makes rock instrumental music, and if I had a theme song it would be Miner Pocket Draft Gear.

The band is my kind of supergroup, featuring Andrew Chalfen from The Wishniaks along with the Dead Milkmen’s Joe Genaro and Dean Sabatino. Buy all their stuff and listen to it.

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