Monday, March 25, 2019

In Defense of 'Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald'

I loved the first Fantastic Beast movie. A lot. Newt's devotion to helping magical animals, his attachment to the individual beasts in his care, and his awkwardness with people are all things I strongly identify with. So naturally, I was very excited about the second movie coming out, and we went to see it opening weekend despite lots of articles tearing it apart.

Now with the DVD release, and I think J K Rowling must have done some sort of interview that upset folks, there seems to be a new round of 'the problems with Fantastic Beasts' articles showing up in my various online feeds. While some of the problems are probably valid, and I even agree with some of the criticism, I still really enjoyed it a lot, and wanted to throw out some positives from a big fan (me).

The second Fantastic Beasts movie is darker than the first. It might be darker than any previous Harry Potter movie at all. I've rewatched it a couple of times since my DVD arrived, and I think I can say with some confidence that there are nearly zero light moments in the whole thing. I wonder if this is the real problem a lot of the critics had with it. It is so different in mood from the first, and definitely from the Harry Potter movies.

In the first there were quite a few funny moments, mostly with Jacob. In the second, his and Queenie's story line is not funny at all, it is intensely tragic. In fact, I don't think we see Queenie at any point in the second film where she is not in severe emotional pain. That's a pretty harsh contrast to the way we see her in the first film. Jacob is doing a better job of coping with the obstacles that are in the way of his and Queenie's relationship, but his pain and helplessness are there too. There are a few attempts at jokes or levity, but since everything is so heavy, they aren't very funny, and just don't work well. I actually believe that Grindelwald is not just taking advantage of Queenie's emotional distress but actively mind controlling her in some way as well, as it is implied he can do. Her and Jacob's storyline is heartbreaking to me. I mean, it's great drama, but heartbreaking.

Also in the first there were a lot of moments of just pure wonder. The second tries to do that some too, but they are also generally heavier and darker - like watching Nagini transform. Newt is still Newt, and I love his character enough to go along with whatever he is doing. I do wish there had been more actual beasts featured again. I assume ones like the Kelpie, who get's a big scene near the beginning and then is never mentioned again will perhaps show up in future movies. It was cool to see the Niffler's additional skills put to use, and the scenes with the new Zouwu cat/dragon thing were some of the most fun in the film.

So, generally, I think this movie was so different from the first that it could be jarring, but that doesn't make it a bad movie. I know I am looking forward to the next and finding out what happens next (to Jacob, Newt, Queenie and Tina anyway, honestly I'm less interested in what happens to Grindelwald and Credence and the rest of those.)

Monday, March 18, 2019

Hey there, watcha doin?

Curious Meeko and Panther. Photo by Robin Hartz

Friday, March 15, 2019

Forgot to Show Off My New Books

I forgot to show what I bought at FogCon last weekend. I knew I wouldn't be buying as much as I wanted since the budget is what it is right now, but here's what I went home with:

I'd already read The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, and enjoyed it a lot, so I knew going that picking up the next book was part of my plan.
I've wanted to read In Calabria for awhile now, so when I saw a signed copy available I snapped that up (Peter S Beagle was not at FogCon as far as I know, but there was a bookseller there with lots of signed books from lots of authors).
Then there were a ton of things I saw that were already on my TBR (To Be Read for anyone who doesn't do book lingo) list, plus I started a whole new TBR list as I listened to panels and got interested both in books the presenters had written, and ones they recommended or quoted or talked about. Picking was tough. Then I also sort of had in my head ahead of time that I'd like to get something I didn't know anything about before attending. Something new to me. That's where Defrag came in. I piked it up in the dealer room because of the cover art and the thin size I thought it might be a graphic novel, and my daughter might like it. No, it's just a short-ish book, but I still love the cover art, and the blurb sounded interesting, so it's my 'new thing to try out'.
Then I made the good financial decision to not go back to the dealer room again. I still have my list though, so I am all set on reading material for a nice while.


Wednesday, March 13, 2019

FogCon 2019

I've wanted to attend FogCon since I first learned about it, maybe 4 or 5 years ago. I have trouble spending money on myself, and on the years I wasn't in the hospital, it always fell on a weekend I had to work. If I was uncomfortable spending the relatively small membership fee for something just for me, I was doubly so about taking time off work to do it. Maybe I was just afraid to go alone to a place where I would know no one. That was probably a bigger part than I'd like to admit to myself.

Lucky for me, I have the most supportive husband in the planet. When I sighed, alas, FogCon was again on a weekend I worked, he just looked at me, and said, "Then take time off." He encouraged me to buy my membership early and ask for the time off. So I did.

I only took Saturday off though, because I didn't realize how much happened on Fridays. Still I attended the panel on "Life in a Closed System" on Friday night. It was great. Saturday there were some tough choices, but I ended up going to "Decolonizing Space" about colonialism in our world and in fiction, "Science to the Rescue!" about how science and scientists are portrayed in fiction, "Sense of Place" about worldbuilding, "Creating with a Day Job" about what it says - this was super encouraging and so what I needed to hear at times even if I didn't get anything specific to use that I'm not already doing.

By that time I was pretty exhausted and there was a dinner break for 2 hours, and I decided I wouldn't come back since I had a big day of family events on Sunday. I did sneak in one last panel Sunday morning, and I was proudly on time for it even with the time change. It was "It's Never too Late to be a Writer" and again, nothing really actionable to take away, but lots of encouragement and inspiration, and I always need that.

I regret not making it to any readings, but there was just so many panels I wanted to attend.

The idea of going to a multi-day event like this alone was daunting, but since I was primarily sitting in an audience, listening and taking notes it was manageable for me. Everyone I spoke to - usually to ask a question since I was new and didn't know how things worked or where things were - was very friendly. If I can schedule things to go again next year, maybe I'll work my way up to being more social - attending the lunch banquet or visiting the Con Suite or something like that. Maybe not though. Not if I would miss an interesting talk.

I'm so happy I got to go.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Decision Fatigue

I'm trying to remember where I heard the term 'decision fatigue'. I believe it was in the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. It's a great book that I highly recommend. The point though is that I realy love that phrase, decision fatigue. It resonated with me so much the first time I came across it. If I remember correctly, the point the bookmakes with this term is that habits allow us to prevent decision fatigue. By having things we do routinely, without thinking, it lets us save all that decision making energy for other problmems.
I frequently find myself exausted from making decisions. When I work weekends, my husband handles dinner. He will sometimes ask if there is anything special I want. I usually answer something along the lines of, "I want to not have to think about it." Then he gets takeout and we are all happy.
When I was recovering from my many surgeries, I had a lot of anxiety about a lot of things. I didn't feel I was coping all that well, and I was supposed to be carefully watching my weight and following so many other instrutions I wa getting overwhelmed. I took advantage of a program my insurance provided to do phone coaching for things like weight, stress management, etc. Some of the problems I discussed with my councler/coach person were very small everyday things, like the stress of figuring out what to do for dinner all the time. She helped me come up with a system to plan ahead weekly so I knew what I needed to do each day. It seems so simple, but at the time I just couldn't make any more decisions. I was seriously fatigued. Even better, small things like this really helped. Way more than I expected them to. To have a plan for everyday things leaves what little decision making energy I have availble for decisions that come up that can't be planned for.