Private Government

Private Government:

How Employers Rule Over Our Lives (And Why We Don’t Talk About It)

By Elizabeth Anderson, 2017

Elizabeth Anderson gave a series of Tanner Lectures at Princeton University in 2014 on Political Philosophy. During these lectures she discussed the rise of Industry and the loss of Independence of  the Industry Workers.  First she outlined the idea of Free Market and how it has been associated with the Far Right and Libertarians. She explains how the Free Market originated as an Egalitarian or Progressive Agenda. The Free Market was developed in opposition to Monopolies. Some famous Egalitarians were John Locke, Adam Smith and Thomas Paine. However, Adam Smith and Thomas Paine were for a System of Social Insurance.

In the Preface to her book she says, “If the US Government imposed such regulations on us [the same as private companies], we would rightly protest that our Constitutional Rights were being violated. But American Works have no such rights against their bosses. Even speaking against such constraints can get them fired, so most keep silent.”

The concept of the Free Market varies wildly from Adam Smith to Karl Marx. Adam Smith believed in Equality in the Exchange of Goods. It wasn’t until after the Industrial Revolution that Marx came along and saw a great deal of inequality in the system. Smith did not anticipate the corruption that would creep into Free Market System and take over.

The press would have us believe that we only have a choice between the Free Market or State Control. Those who support the Free Market often do not realize the truth.  And the truth is that most people’s lives are ruled by Private Government.

Egalitarianism are referred to as Levelers. This revolutionary belief in the Free Market was a stark contrast to the Hierarchy of England. It was a world ruled by rich lords and other masters. It was a world of Patriarchy and Religious Rule. Women as well as men found that being the master of your own fate was appealing.

Paine believed most problems were the result of The Government. It is sentiment that Republicans echo these days—thought for a different reason than Paine did. Abraham Lincoln did not buy into the idea that Wage Labor and Slavery were the only choice available. Even Lincoln didn’t take into account Unpaid Domestic Labor though. Business owners raised themselves above the wage earners in the Hierarchy.

The Industrial Revolution dramatically widened the gulf between employees and employers. It is no coincidence that the 1800s not only gave rise to Industry and Factories, but to Prisons, Asylums, Hospitals, Orphanages and Poor Houses as well.

People rail against Communism, but they neglect to notice the Communist Dictatorships in our midst. Superiors at work give Inferiors rules to follow. The rules are often arbitrary and subject to change. We can’t remove the bosses or leaders of these Communist-like Companies. There are dress codes and rules to determine hair styles and accessories. There are random drugs tests and rules about fraternizing with co-workers outside of work. People can get fired for Facebook Posts. There is no privacy in these private companies. The Board of Directors operates like an Oligarchy. The CEO is a self-appointed dictator or appointed by the Oligarchy. And the consequences for leaving the Communist-like Company result in Exile (Firing) or Immigration (Quitting).

Essentially, the modern work place is a Private Government. This modern work place is where government and individual liberties overlap. Corporations and Churches are both examples of Private Government. A Government is Private with respect to subject if it can issue orders backed by sanctions in some domain of your life. Private Government has arbitrary and unaccountable power over those it governs.

Unregulated Commons are Anarchist Commons. Anarchy is not conductive to Business Production.  If anyone can take whatever anyone else has produced then chaos reigns. Those who own Private Property have Exclusive Rights over that Property. Corporations must balance Exclusive Rights with Individual Liberties.

The Philosophical Ideals of The Egalitarian Free Market did not foresee or take into account the unequal power structure inherent in factories and corporations. About 25% of workers are subject to these dictatorships at work. Some workers are lucky enough to be self-employed or become management in someone else’s business, but not everyone is so lucky.

Works have been struggling for years to prevent abuse at work. They formed Unions and created a Bill of Rights. OSHA or Occupational Safety and Health Administration was created to prevent injury and death to workers due to poor working conditions.

Early Modern Theories of Equality and Freedom rationalize, but do not justify our current Market Driven Society. The Government is okay because it had a system of Checks and Balances put into it. We can hold Public Officials accountable in the Public Government. Private Government doesn’t have this system of checks and balances to protect the people. Workers need a voice.

Some jobs and some work places try to be fair. The lower the income at the job the less fair the conditions often are. The bottom half of the work force deals with low pay for long hours and substandard conditions. There are unpredictable schedules that don’t take into consideration the needs of their employers—particularly the need for childcare. There is often harassment, disrespect and downright abuse that is tolerated because the workers are desperate for income and don’t feel they have a choice.

As a nation, we need to reexamine our system and try to make it better. Perhaps we could find inspiration in The German System of Co-Determinism. They do have make less profits for shareholders, but the workers gain a lot more freedom and flexibility because of it. What do you think might be a reasonable solution to the problem of Private Government?

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College Unbound

College Unbound: The Future of Higher Education and What it Means For Students

By Jeffery J Selingo, 2013

Students are pressured to go to a 4 year college, but many drop out. Some find success in a 2 year Community College, but others never finish their education.

We live in a risk adverse, self-satisfied industry. The Education Bubble is about to Burst. The Education System needs to evolve if it is to survive. Online Courses are an example of the evolution of education in the right direction. College is no longer a one size fits all experience.

1999-2009 is referred to as the Lost Decade. There was a flood of new buildings, new students and new student debt.

Chapter 1 Explores How We Got There. The Master’s Degree is the new Bachelor’s Degree. Slowly there has been a “Credential Creep.” The amount of people getting a Master’s Degree has doubled. Colleges have added more degree programs.

Chapter 2 discusses the fallacy of the idea of how The Customer is Always Right. From 1999 to 2009 prices rose 68%. Colleges began using more and more part time professors or adjuncts. This was partly in response to the revolving door of students. Colleges Graduation Rates dropped. Professors were supposed to act as Performers and keep the attention of their students. Many colleges rewarded students with good grades for merely showing up. 45% of College Students showed little to no improvement in their knowledge and skills during their first two of college. See the book Academically Adrift.

 Why does Tuition cost so much? Because it can. Some Colleges Compete by having what has been deemed “Resort Campuses.”  Because of the outrageous cost of college, most students are no dependent on Student Loans. It is surprising that these colleges are not kicked out of the Federal Loan Program. In the 1950s and 1960s Colleges offered lower tuition in order to gain more students. This was part of the Higher Education Act of 1965. In 1972 the Federal Government took a role in colleges with the creation of the Federal Pell Grant.

Colleges also had a habit of inflating the Rates of Graduation and Job Placement when they advertised. Today most Graduates will fail to obtain a job in their career fields.

Part 2 of College Unbound goes on to talk about The Disruption all this has caused. Colleges have been struggling since 2008. The States have cut budgets and Colleges are unable to expand Programs. Some have even started cutting programs and departments. Due to this lack of resources, the Colleges cut costs wherever they can.

Khan Academy is a non-profit educational organization created in 2008 by Salman Khan with the goal of creating a set of online tools that help educate students. The organization produces short lessons in the form of videos. Its website also includes supplementary practice exercises and materials for educators. All resources are available for free to users of the website. Khan Academy is the result of a Nation of Students worried about Student Loan Debt.

Chapter 5 explains how Personalized Education is the next step. Some colleges are working on creating personal algorithm for College Students similar to how Netflix takes our preferences and creates viewing suggestions. There is a program that acts like a Matchmaker for College Students and Colleges.

Check out Naviance, which is an American college and career readiness software provider that partners with high schools and other K–12 institutions to provide students with college planning and career assessment tools.

Colleges are also working to make the Transfer from 2 year to 4 year Colleges almost effortless for the students.

Also mentioned is MOOC, which is a massive open online course, aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. MOOCs are a recent and widely researched development in distance education, first introduced in 2006 and emerged as a popular mode of learning in 2012. This allows many students to obtain an Elite Education for Free. The University of Manitoba is an example of this. Carnegie Mellon also has an Open Learning Initiative as well. These classes often utilize Hybrid Online and In Person Classes.

Chapter 8 covers Degrees of Value. Money should be a factor in choosing a degree or career, but not the only factor. An Engineering Degree will definitely get the student more money than an English Degree. However, the world needs at least some people with English Degrees. If it is your passion, then you should pursue it. The job market has shown that Employees with Liberal Arts Degrees are Preferable. They are often more well-rounded than someone who has trained for a specific job, trade or role.

The Magazine US News and World Report puts out a yearly Ranking of Colleges. Most people equate a Higher Ranking with a Better Education. Perhaps Colleges should receive certificates and be encouraged to improve weak areas.

Colleges are becoming Ala Cart. They are allowing students to pick and choose not only their degree program, but the classes to meet the degree requirement. They create an education that leads to a specific skill or area of expertise. Some 45% of managers are looking for an employee with a specific skill. However, 55% of managers want a broad base of education in an employee.

Roger Schank says what subjects you take in college really doesn’t matter. It is your cognitive ability that matters. He says that the focus should be on mind, body, law, information, language, networks, space, time, media and money. Deep active learning is what is important. See A Whole New Mind by Daniel H Pink. Pink suggests that we should be moving away from logical, linear education and move toward creative, big picture education that is flexible. Countries like Finland, Sweden and Norway have already implanted programs similar to what Pink outlined where topics are taught in multiple subjects.

Harvard and MIT have created EdX online programs. India wants to copy this education system.

Checklist For The Future:

When Choosing A College Check Out These Factors

 Calculate Return Investment For The Education There

Check Out Mobility of Credits or What Transfers

How Tech Savvy is the College

Get A Sense of College’s Priorities and Their Academic Rigor

Find out of the College Prepares Students for the Future

Check Out the Ability to Learn Through Travel Abroad Programs

Study The College’s Financial Aid Programs Closely

Asses The Financial Health of College Overall

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After The War Zone

After The War ZoneReturning Troops and Their Families

By Laurie B Slone, PhD and Mathew J Friedman, MD, PhD, 2008

The book was written to help understand the cycle of deployment and dealing with changes during deployments, as well as the homecoming.

Frequent Combat Experiences include being attacked or ambushed, receiving incoming fire or being shot at, discharging their own weapon, seeing dead bodies and remains, knowing somebody who has been seriously injured or killed and feeling in grave danger of being killed.

Switching Gears can be difficult. Something to help is the BATTLE MIND Acronym:

B=Buddies or Cohesion vs. withdrawal
A=Accountability vs. Control
T=Targeted vs., Inappropriate Aggression
T=Tactical Awareness vs. Hypervigilance
L=Lethally Armed vs. Locked and Loaded
E=Emotional Control vs. Detachment

M=Mission Operational Security vs. Secrecy
I=Individual Responsibility vs. Guilt
N=Non-Defensive Driving vs. Aggressive Driving
D=Discipline and Ordering vs. Conflict

Spouses can also have a difficult time adjusting. There is a BATTLE MIND Acronym spouses.

B=Buddies (Social Support with others)
A=Adding or Subtracting Family Roles
T=Taking Control
T=Talking It Out
L=Loyalty and Commitment from Both Partners.
E=Emotional Balance

M=Mental Health and Readiness
N=Navigating The Military System
D=Denial of Self or Self Sacrifice

Chapter 5 Discusses Common Reactions to the Trauma of War. Soldiers who have returned from war may experiences: trouble sleeping, trouble eating, upset stomach, headaches, bad dreams or nightmares, poor diet, poor health, rapid heartbeat or rapid breathing, existing health problems may get worse, trouble concentrating, are jumpy or easily startled, being on guard or always alert, excessive drinking, drug use, flashbacks, avoiding triggers, irritable, often angry, shock, numbness, easily annoyed, helplessness, mistrust of others, emotional shutdown, detachment, becoming controlling or overprotective of loved ones and having lots of conflicts.

All Soldiers experience these symptoms after combat, but many find it only temporary. If the symptoms listed above persist and continue on long-term than they may receive the diagnosis of PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Friends and Family will often try to be helpful, but they may say things that make it worse. If you are dealing with a loved one who has PTSD don’t put pressure on them to talk and don’t tell them to shut up if they are able to talk to you. Dont use clichés like, “War is Hell.”  Don’t say it will be okay or it could have been worse. Essentially, try and not to invalidate or belittle their experiences.

Chapter 6 talks about how Anger is the most common issue returning veterans face. Why? Anger is easy. It is easy to get angry at others in the civilian world for not listening or obeying orders. When they don’t do what they are supposed, there is no recourse. Angry often stems from trust and betrayal issues. Anger is in response to being victimized. Anger also comes from feeling fear and a loss of control. Anger cause can be caused by Physical Issues as well.

Chapter 7 discusses Guilt and Moral Dilemmas. Many Veterans suffer from Survival Guilt. Hindsight of the events is biased. They feel like they were given a test of faith in the foxhole. They ultimately feel responsible for the outcome even if they had no control over it. Grief is a normal response death and loss. Grief can become Traumatic Grief when the loss is sudden or violent.

Chapter 9 covers Reconnecting with a Partner, Family, Children and Friends. The authors suggest avoiding the pattern of withdrawal and isolation. It is important to reestablish trust and intimacy. Talking through anger and not exploding can aid in this process. General Communication skills often need improved to avoid further conflicts.

Chapter 11 deals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder specifically. The first month after the trauma nearly everyone suffers from Acute Stress Disorder. The problem occurs if this state lasts longer than a month.  Anxiety and Depression that lasts two months or longer is a problem that needs treated. They will have triggers that keep them re-experiencing symptoms over and over. They may even try to avoid the memories, feelings and triggers. PTSD is NOT a weakness though.

PTSD can negatively impact family and friends. The Veteran may change and seem like an entirely different person. Those around the Veteran who suffers from PTSD may suffer from Depression as well as drug and alcohol abuse.

PTSD treatment includes talk therapy and medication. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or SSI’s may be the first line the defense against the overwhelming feelings. Sometimes CBT or Cognitive Behavior Therapy is recommended. There is also Exposure Therapy which helps them regain a sense of control. EMDR is Eye Movement and Desensitization Therapy. CPT is Cognitive Processing Therapy. Also, yoga and meditation have been shown to help.

The last couple of chapters suggest that you learn to recognize anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. Recognizing Panic Attacks and GAD or Generalized Anxiety Disorder can also be helpful.  Learn to recognize drug and alcohol abuse. Violence and physical abuse can also become a huge problem for some. Notice the physical effects of PTSD-related issues—including pain, fatigue, sleep problems, muscle cramps, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath and chest pains.

Sometimes TBI or Traumatic Brain Injury can cause or add to PTSD. A brain scan and other tests can help determine if this is a contributing factor or not.

In any case, the book stresses how important it is to seek mental and physical help via the Veteran’s Administration and other Community Groups.

Overall, I found the book easy to read and good resource. The only complaint I have about the book is that I would have liked to have seen more on alternative therapies.




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Nutcracker Nonsense

March 25, 2019   Nutcracker Nonsense

I just watched Disney’s 2018 movie The Nutcracker and the Four Realms and I was disappointed. To be fair, I had pretty high hopes for it. When I was in 6th Grade we did a production of The Nutcracker and I fell in love with the music and story over twenty years ago. When I was in 12th Grade I got to see a professional ballet performance of it as well.

So what was Disney thinking? The movie barely resembles the tale The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by ETA Hoffman from 1816. It barely even resembles the Tchaikovsky Ballet. To begin with the Nutcracker isn’t even a Nutcracker. In the book and the ballet he is the wooden doll who cracks nuts come to life. In the movie it is a boy with a name that is barely mentioned. Disney leaves out the entire back story of how the Mouse King was killed by one of Drosselmeyer’s traps and the Mouse Queen transformed the Prince into a Nutcracker as revenge. The Nutcracker is like German version of Beauty in the Beast in a way, but Disney ignored that angle entirely.

In the book the main character’s name is Marie while in the ballet it was change to Clara. In the movie they explain the Marie was Clara’s mother. Somehow Marie found the Four Realms and became Queen. But then she left and had a family. Before she could return, she died. How she died or why is not really focused on.

Disney has Clara go to Drosselmeyer’s mansion for a Christmas Ball where she discovers a portal to the Four Realms. In the book Marie is playing with the Nutcracker and her other toys when they come to life. The Nutcracker engages the Mouse King with the Seven Heads in battle right there in Marie’s home. In the movie the battle is moved to the end of the movie as a Climax instead of being the jumping off point.

In the book Marie falls into a glass cabinet and injures her arm. She awakes and recounts the tale of the magical battle. Her mother and father scold her for taking about her dreams as if they were real.

The next night The Nutcracker returns and asks for a sword. He kills the 7 headed Mouse King and takes Marie to the Land of Dolls as a reward. It is there that she is entertained by a series of dancers.  In the Ballet we are treated to performances by Spanish, Arabian, Chinese, Danish and Russian Dancers who all represent various treats. The Spanish are associated with Chocolate, the Arabians are associated with Coffee, The Chinese are associated with Tea and so on. The Sugar Plum Fairy brings candy.

For some reason Disney decided to make The Mouse King a minor threat and make Sugar Plum the villain. I am not sure why. Yes, it was unexpected, but it seemed rather unnecessary. I guess they needed to fill the plot hole left the absence of the Nutcracker back story.

Sugar Plum seemed to represent the anger that Clara felt toward her mother for leaving her. Even though she knew her mother did not choose to die, Clara was still struggling with feelings of abandonment. Sugar Plum’s greedy grab for the Throne could have been a projection of Clara’s own bitterness.

Mother Ginger in the Disney movie was perhaps a stand in for her feelings toward her mother. Clara’s deceased mother was at first feared and than vilified before coming to Clara’s aid. It turned out Mother Ginger was a hero, not the villain.

The book and the ballet focused more on the relationship between the two main characters though. Marie comes back from the Land of Dolls and is met by Drosselmeyer’s Nephew, who happens to be the Nutcracker. The young man has broken the curse and is quite handsome. The book hints at a possible romance blooming between Marie and the Prince.

The subtext of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King is the struggle between being a child and growing up. Marie played with dolls and craved sweets like a little girl, but as the story unfolds we see her start to embrace the more adult world of romance.

The book is a product of German Romanticism, which examines the power of imagination. The Natural and Supernatural world played a large part in shaping their perspective. Certainly, The Nutcracker embodies those sublime characteristics. However, the Disney movie moved away from the root tale to embrace the successful formula found in their other live action adaptation—Alice In Wonderland.

Alice was rebellious and full of feminist ideals. She marched into battle against the Red Queen and won. This template was laid over The Nutcracker so we have Clara taking over the role of Alice. The Four Realms is her Wonderland. Her White Rabbit was a mouse who stole the key to her Magical Egg. The Polichinelles reminded me of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb. The problem is that The Four Realms is does not have the same illogical logic to it. It is a chaotic world that was not well developed.

We also see bits of The Wizard of Oz in the Disney movie. Like Dorothy, Clara meets the ruler of the land and is sent to take out the opposition. In this way Sugar Plum is like The Wizard and Mother Ginger is like the Wicked Witch. The life size Tin Soldiers are like The Tin Woodman.

In the end The Nutcracker is left in the Four Realms and Clara returns to the mansion. She visits with Drosselmeyer and then finds her father. She explains what she learned in the Four Realms and how she is learning to deal with her grief better. The movie ends with a father daughter dance rather than Clara marrying the Prince.

I suppose they were trying to pull away from the traditional Fairy Tale mold. And that might have been welcomed had we had a dozen other versions of this tale. While Mickey Mouse and Barbie have all taken a turn at telling their versions, we’ve never had a big budget blockbuster or even a full length animated version for that matter. I feel like they really should have stuck with the source material.

The only real compliment I can give The Nutcracker and The Four Realms is that the visuals were stunning. I just wish I would have been drawn into the world more instead of feeling like I was merely looking at a pretty picture book.  If you haven’t read ETA Hoffman’s tale The Nutcracker and The Mouse King, I suggest you find a copy. It is a magical tale that no movie or even ballet has done justice.

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Fantastic Beasts 2: The Crimes of Grindenwald

Fantastic Beasts 2: The Crimes of Grindenwald

 Saturday the 17th of November I took the kids to see Fantastic Beasts 2: The Crimes of Grindenwald. We all enjoyed the movie despite the plot holes. A lot of Harry Potter fans are frustrated with details that don’t line up with the information JK Rowling laid out in the original books. I remain hopeful that Rowling will address these issues in the third film. In the meantime, here are my thoughts on the matter:

One interesting note is that fans have wondered if Newt Scamander is on the Autism Spectrum or if he has Asperger’s. Overall, Newt is an odd fellow but still incredibly likeable.

Although it is not explicitly stated, Eddie Redmayne does seem to play Newt as on the Spectrum or Atypical.  Newt doesn’t like to look people in the eye and he gets along much better with animals than people. Though brilliant, he comes across as a bit shy. We see in Fantastic Beasts 2 that he is offered a job at the Ministry for Magic working with his brother, but turns it down. As a student at Hogwarts his worst fear—as shown to him by the Bogart—was office work. He doesn’t like to be tied down to daily schedule doing work he doesn’t enjoy and he doesn’t like having to deal with people. Although these things are by no means conclusive, it does shed a new light on the character.

People have complained about Queenie’s shift in character though. She seemed so strong in the first and then by the second movie she is obsessed with getting married. Although it is sad, perhaps the regression was the only way to make her alliance with Grindenwald make sense. She would need a reason to switch sides and those who are swayed by the dark side are often taken advantage of when they are at their most vulnerable. I see her shift as a way to move the plot forward even if it is frustrating to fans.

When we saw Dumbledore visiting Tom Riddle in the orphanage in London he looks much older than Jude Law in this film. Although Jude Law fits the age Dumbledore would be in the 1920s, it doesn’t align with having Michael Gambon play a younger Dumbledore in The Half Blood Prince movie. Fans joke that Dumbledore’s duel with Grindenwald aged him. He had a stressful decade between Crimes of Grindenwald and the flashback in Half Blood Prince.

There is a meme of Jude Law as Dumbledore next to Richard Harris as Dumbledore in Sorcerer’s Stone. It asks when Dumbledore gave up elegant three piece suites for the more traditional wizard robes and why. This is a valid question. Both Fantastic Beast movies show a wizarding world that embraces new technology far more than the Harry Potter movies. Maybe there was a shift after both World Wars two to go back to Pre-Industrial times and abandoned Muggle Technology and Fashion. Rowling doesn’t explain this really, but it makes the most sense given what we know about tension between the wizarding world and the muggle world.

One minor quibble fans had was with Professor McGonagall being in Crimes of Grindenwald. One source puts her birth on October 4, 1935, which is about eight years later than the second movie. If I recall, Dumbledore did mention her last name, but not her first. This tells me that it could have been Minerva’s mother or aunt or sister even. Again, given what we were told in the books, this is the best explanation. It could be that Rowling wanted her character to appear, but had forgotten the timeline she’d laid out. Mistakes do happen and Rowling isn’t perfect. It isn’t the end of the wizarding world since it is a brief moment in the film.

What does matter is the presence of Aurelius Dumbledore. We are following this young man named Credence who is crucial to the plot somehow. We don’t realize why until the twist ending when Grindenwald tells Credence he is really Albus Dumbledore’s long lost younger brother. It left fans going crazy. Many pointed out Rita Skitter and Bathilda Bagshot would have known about a younger brother if he had existed. Between the two of them, they knew pretty much everything there was to know about Albus. Bloggers speculate that Grindenwald was lying to him.

My first thought was that he was really Ariana. What if Ariana didn’t die during the first duel, but did in the second. What if Grindenwald pulled a gender switching curse to disguise her as Ozma had been disguised as Tip in the Oz books? Credence or Aurelius is an Obscurial. This dark power sounds an awful lot like the explosions that Ariana caused before her death. In fact, it has been put forth that Ariana was an Obscurial So either there are two obscurials in the same family, or they are the same person! Also, the actor Ezra Miller who plays Credence is non-binary or gender fluid. I think it lends credence to this theory if you pardon the pun.

There has also been speculation about how Grindenwald and Dumbledore were able to duel the first time around if they had a blood vow not to. Perhaps that blood vow took place AFTER Ariana’s supposed death. If it was Grindenwald and not Dumbledore who shot the curse that killer her, perhaps he meant to hit her. And just maybe he cast a spell that didn’t kill her, but made it look like she died instead. Or maybe he did kill her, but then used the Resurrection Stone on her. I wouldn’t put it past him to have manipulated Dumbledore in this way.

On a side note, I loved the appearance of Nicholas Flamel and Nagini. We also get a glimpse of some Thestrals in the beginning. And then, of course, we see Dumbledore use the mirror of Erised. Not to mention all the cool, funny and scary creatures that live up to the name Fantastic Beasts. There are many wonderful Easter Eggs and crossovers to spot and enjoy.

Overall, the acting and the special effects were all well done. And the plot holes did not bother me as much as they did others. The movie was trying to cram in a great deal of information in a limited amount of time. It did make it messier than the first, but it also made it more interesting than it as well.

I agree that JK Rowling is better at writing books than movie scripts, but I still feel the movie is worth seeing. In novels one can take their time and have many subplots. It is more difficult to unfold a complicated and complex story in the two hours allotted by a movie. That is why I have found more enjoyment in books made into a TV series than movies recently. Having said that though, I felt that the Harry Potter movies were well done and translated about as well as they could have been to the big screen. And while Fantastic Beasts 2: The Crimes of Grindenwald has its share of flaws, I would still recommend it.

I still find comfort in the world Rowling has created and welcome more additions to that universe. You’d better believe I will be watching the third movie in the Fantastic Beasts series due out in 2020.

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She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

November 2018

This She-Ra is less edgy than the original perhaps, but more modern. She-Ra represents modern Feminism and it is interesting to note the sometime subtle differences crept up in the 32 or so years that have passed between the two versions. The 80s She-Ra sexualized the characters and placed their ages around 20-25 years old. The new one is drawn more modestly and makes the characters more like 16-18 years old. They also removed the tie in to He-Man. It is cool because that makes She-Ra less dependent on her men in general. They also downplay the role of Hordak and emphasize Shadow Weaver’s influence instead.

Without He-Man they had tweak the origin story. We have hints, but haven’t gotten a detailed history. It seems people from Eternia landed on Etheria in their spaceships. They had advanced technology, which was lost over the centuries. We find out that each of the “Princesses of Power” were each given a rune of power. The runes helped them protect themselves and the planet. Now the Horde is destroying the planet and they need to band together to stop the Horde from killing them all. It keeps the original undertones of Feminist Ecology while not blaming technology. Its vision is one where technology can be used to balance things rather than destroy them. In this version, greed is seen more as the issues more than industry.

I noticed the influence of Norse Mythology in the original cartoon, but the new cartoon highlights those influences even more. She-Ra’s headdress hinted at her status as some sort of goddess or Valkyrie. Now with the presence of the runes we see a confirmation of this Norse influence.

The truth was the original She-Ra was pretty much a white-washed fantasy world. I applaud the diversity in the Netflix Series. In the new show Bow is black and Perfuma appears to be of mixed race. Mermista looks to be Indian perhaps and Frosta in an Eskimo who is all of 11 years old. Frosta reminded me of Lyanna Mormontt from Game of Thrones. Both Lyanna and Frosta are tiny but fierce.

It was an interesting choice to portray Glimmer who has curves that show she is a fuller figured gal. I liked the mother-daughter relationship between Glimmer and Angella. While Glimmer comes across as whiny and annoying at first, we eventually do see the struggle to become an adult and be taken seriously. Angella obviously worries about her daughter, but begins to let her grow.

One thing I noticed is that there is no rebel camp where Glimmer and Bow hangout. Glimmer still lives at home and who knows where Bow stays when he is not hanging out at the castle Brightmoon.  The rebellion seems to be centered with Angella and Glimmer. During the Netflix Series we see Glimmer recruiting the other princesses, which begins to build the rebellion.

The original She-Ra drew a great deal from Star Wars with the rebel camp and the storm trooper robots.  They even had laser guns. This new series downplays the robots. The troopers look more like they are from Halo than Star Wars. Not to mention the fact the droids draw more from the Star Wars Prequels and even The Incredibles than the original Star Wars.

Swift wind is less She-Ra’s companion and more about freeing other horses while occasionally helping out. Lighthope is no longer a beam of light with a male voice. Instead, she is a hologram the helps Adora. Lighthope is more like Synergy from Jem in this one. Scorpia is may be a bit butch, but she has a softer side in the new series. The old Scorpia alternated between silly and cruel.

One character I wish we saw more of was Castaspella. She was always one of my favorites. The new series portrays her more as kooky aunt than a serious sorceress. She was good for a laugh, but I wished they had explored the role of magic and mysticism more. It seems to me they really missed opportunity.

However, they did include a hint at Shadow Weaver’s back story, which was cool. I wasn’t sure what to think of this new Shadow Weaver. She seems much more malevolent in this one. While the 80s cartoon drew inspiration from Maleficent, this new Shadow Weaver reminded me of the villain from Big Hero Six. I think it is perhaps the style of the mask and they way she throws her tendrils of shadows around.  I also noticed Shadow Weaver relied on psychological manipulation as well as magic to control Adora and Catra, which made her scarier somehow.

I liked the way Adora stumbled onto Madam Raz’s house in the woods and helped her pick berries. They pulled off the forgetful, but wise old woman well. And I liked how she talked to her broom but the broom didn’t talk back this time.  I just wish they had spent more time with her. I felt like she knew a great deal more than she was letting on. If only Adora had known what questions to ask!

Mermista grated on me at first with her apathetic teenager routine. She was all like “whatever.” Eventually she grew on me though. Her relationship with Sea Hawk is amusing. I noticed that Sea Hawk is written more like Jack Sparrow instead of Errol Flynn. Although I like the humor attached to Sea Hawk, I found his character to be less developed than some of the others.

The best and most developed relationship is the one between Adora and Catra. They were kind of catty toward one another in the original, but the new show adds depth to their friendship. They still care about each other even if they are on different sides of the conflict. This alone makes the series worth watching.

Overall, the series is intelligently written and drawn well. It doesn’t underestimate its viewers like the original ones sometimes did. Also, the Netflix series feels like it has an arc while the original 80s cartoon felt very episodic.  In any case, I can’t wait for Season 2 to see where they take it. The 13 episodes we got were just not enough!


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The Lady in White

The Lady in White

Halloween 1992 was different.  I skipped the Haunted Hotel, Trick or Treat and the Parade. It was a chilly October night when I took a stroll downtown in Shelby. I often took walks alone, exploring and adventuring.  Messing around, I found an open door that lead to apartments above an old store. These apartments were not the same ones where they held the Haunted Hotel, but they were close by. I imagined that the Haunted Hotel had once been an abandoned area before the Jaycees rented it and used it for our amusement.

In any case, the apartments I explored had not been lived in for many years. Alone, I quietly tip-toed up the stairs and into the ruined rooms. I treaded softly and cautiously as I examined an old mattress and an open medicine cabinet still stocked with bottles from the 1940s or earlier. My footsteps echoed in the dark silence as I stepped on wooden floors covered in dust, plaster and other debris. I peered through a broken window that had once been between walls. All that was left was a frame and a single shard hanging from it. No one heard me and I saw no one. Though I feared I might see a ghost that night, I did don’t think I did.

I came to the back stairs and descended them softly. I sat on the steps for a moment thinking back to a past life back in 1940. Had I really experienced something traumatic in another time? Or was I struggling to understand a trauma in this life? There was some darkness inside I latched onto and tried to hold in an effort to understand. I closed my eyes and drew in a deep breath. I saw a vision of a girl into an upstairs window—crying. Then the vision faded. I glanced up at the window above me, expecting to see something. There was only darkness.

That night I walked home thinking about reading The Vampire Diaries. I thought of Stefan and Damon and I thought of my past life in the 10940s.  When I got home I set about writing my story Damon’s House.  I envisioned a nearly empty English Manor that was haunted. I figured that those apartments were probably the closest I was going to come to touring any sort of haunted castle or haunted mansion, but they still inspired me.

Years later, I returned to the abandoned apartments to find that someone had bought them and began remodeling them. One apartment was completed and the rest were in progress by 1999.

Halloween night came, I had decided to stay home and watch some scary movies—but not too scary. I walked down to my local video store and asked for some recommendations. I explained that I wasn’t into blood and gore, but I wanted something thrilling. Karen pointed me toward The Abyss and The Lady in White. I checked out and went home.

My Mom left to go hang out with her boyfriend that night. My friend came over and wanted to ride our bikes to a nearby graveyard. I agreed to go with her and even grabbed some flashlights for the trip. We peddled quickly in the cool night; our hearts were beating wildly in our chests. Fear mixed with anticipation over what we might find there.

When we got there we dropped our bikes and began walking around. Our flashlights beams danced and landed on various headstones. I enjoyed reading their names along with their birth and death dates. Some of the last names I recognized, others I didn’t. No one I was close to was buried there though. Despite the shifting shadows and Gothic atmosphere, everyone was resting comfortably. No ghosts appeared before us during our fifteen minute visit. Content with our outing, we got back on our bikes and rode home. My friend went home and got ready to go out with some of her other friends. I returned to my dark, empty house and turned on the VCR.  I popped in the VHS tape of The Abyss and watched it alone. When it was over, I put in The Lady in White. The Lady in White scared me a tad bit, but not too badly.

Years later, I walked into a pawn shop in Monett, Missouri and did a double take. I swore I saw Lukas Hass at the front counter. Turned out it was just his doppelganger though!

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