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Not Everything Deserves a Response

There have been references to the argumentative nature of the Internet for as long as I’ve been aware of such a thing, much less an active participant in it.

Without giving away my age, I was around back when people got into never-ending arguments on message boards about topics that ranged from the serious to the downright silly.

For those of you who don’t remember those halcyon days,  message board discussions sometimes went something like this:

 

Thread title: Dogs Are Great

Anne: Here’s a humorous story about my dog not realizing that it’s Daylight Savings Time and waking me up an hour early for breakfast. I really wanted to sleep in, but he was so excited to spend time with me that I ended up getting out of bed early. Aren’t dogs the best?

Bernard: Oh, so you must hate cats then.

Anne: Wait, what?

Bernard: Obviously, everyone who loves dogs also hates cats. If you didn’t feel that way, you would have included cats in the beginning of this thread since they also like to ignore Daylight Savings Time.

Charlie: Yeah, what Bernard said. You really should have thought this rude thread through before posting it for these fourteen reasons that I will now list in exhaustive detail.

Diego: Well, I agree with Anne. Cats are the worst pets that have ever existed for these fifteen rebuttals to Charlie that I’ll now list in exhaustive detail.

Anne: ………..

Depending on how Anne responded once she realized that her innocuous thread about the joys of dogs had immediately been hijacked to argue about whether dogs or cats are the superior pet, this thread could go on for multiple pages and many days.

It didn’t matter what the original purpose of the message board was. I saw it play out on every one I ever visited. Maybe these kinds of arguments are an inescapable part of human nature in general.

At any rate, this pattern of behaviour carried over to social media as soon as such a thing existed. It’s shown no sign of of stopping since then.

No, this isn’t going to be a rant against social media or the Internet in general. Like many other tools, they can be used in all sorts of constructive or destructive ways depending on the intentions of the person behind the screen.

What I did want to talk about today is why not responding is sometimes the best possible thing you can do when someone online – or offline, for that matter – is determined to argue with you no matter what you say or do.

It Takes Two to Argue

I was originally going say that it’s impossible to argue with yourself, but I have seen a few examples of people so determined to win a debate that the lack of an opponent doesn’t do much to stop them.

Still, most arguments require at least two people to sustain them. If one person simply refuses to play the game, it becomes much more difficult for the other one to keep pressing their points. I don’t personally find any fulfillment in debating, but I’ve noticed that many people who do get a thrill out of any response you give them.

It’s not necessarily about the merit of the arguments themselves, it’s about the act of getting the other side to respond in any way.

Nobody’s Mind Will Change

There is nothing Anne can do to convince Bernard that her original post was intended to be lighthearted and happy. He is so determined to drag his own feelings about dogs and cats into every interaction he has that he’ll probably never stop.

Likewise, Bernard will never convince Anne that cats are better than dogs. That wasn’t why she originally signed up for this message board or started that thread. She has no interest in arguing with a stranger on the Internet on a topic she already has an opinion on, and there’s nothing Bernard can say or do to change that.

You’re Not the Cause or the Solution

A certain percentage of people have urges to do things like stir up conflict, always be right, or push their opinions onto everyone they meet regardless of the social context.

Nobody that I’ve known has ever learned to examine the reasons why they behave the way they do based on a conversation with a stranger. If or when they decide to work on changing those parts of themselves, they’ll seek out help on their own terms.

But you didn’t cause their behaviour and there’s nothing you can do to fix it. They are who they are just like you are who you are.

I Choose Peace

There’s something liberating about choosing not respond to everyone who wants to debate. The Bernards of the world obviously have the freedom to rant about cats and dogs as much as they wish, but they’ll soon learn that I’m not someone who will jump into fruitless arguments with them.

There are plenty of other folks on the Internet who are willing to do that, and I wish them well with their virtual battles.

How do you decide what you will and won’t respond to online?

The Unforgiving Dead: A Review of Winchester

Winchester was originally mentioned in my to-watch list in this post. So far, I’ve also reviewed Into the Forest, Annihilation, and Coco from that list. A content warning for anyone who is sensitive to this topic: this film does contain a few brief references to the death of a child, but I will not be discussing that part of the plot in this post. This will otherwise be a spoiler-free review. 

The real-life Sarah Winchester lived from about 1840 to 1922. (The exact year she was born is unknown, but it is generally thought to have been between 1835 and 1845). She was the heiress of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. I’ve long been interested in the story of why she began adding so many rooms to a mansion that eventually had seven floors and a couple of hundred rooms.

Some people have speculated that she was expressing an interest in architecture in the only way she could at a time when such a career was forbidden to women. Others have passed around legends about Mrs. Winchester believing she was haunted by the ghosts of people who were killed by Winchester rifles. They’ve wondered if Sarah’s mansion had so many staircases that lead to nowhere, hidden rooms, and other architectural oddities in order to confuse the spirits and prevent them from harming her.

We’ll never know for sure why she spent so many years building and tearing down sections of the Winchester mansion, so this film took these nuggets of truth and spun them into a full-fledged ghost story that is only somewhat related to the actual events of this woman’s life. I only knew a few details of the original legend when I first heard that this movie was being made, but it was more than enough to convince me to watch it.

If you’re interested in learning more about the real Sarah Winchester, the links above will give you factual information about her life. There are a few plot points from the film that ended up mirroring the truth, though, so be cautious about clicking on those links if you’re a stickler for avoiding all spoilers ahead of time.

The Characters

 


Jason Clarke (left) as Dr. Eric Price

Eric Price, the protagonist and a medical doctor who lived at at time when psychiatry as a distinct type of medicine was still in its infancy, was hired by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company to determine whether or not Mrs. Winchester was mentally fit to continue running the company she’d inherited.

Some of the other stills featuring this character reveal huge plot twists, so be cautious about googling him before you watch Winchester.

Helen Mirren as Sarah Winchester

Sarah Winchester owned half of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. This character lived with an overwhelming sense of guilt over the deaths of all of the people who had been fatally shot by Winchester rifles. She used some of the profits she earned from her successful business to add, renovate, and remove rooms from her massive mansion twenty-four hours a day in an attempt to help those restless spirits find peace.

Sarah Snook as Marian Marriott and Finn Scicluna-O’Prey as Henry Marriott

Marion Marriott was Sarah Winchester’s loving, protective niece. Marion had been recently widowed, and her son, Henry, was still grieving from the loss of his father when the events of this film began.

My Review

Originally, I was quite excited to watch Winchester. There’s something about knowing that a film was inspired by the lives of real people that makes it even more appealing to me than it might otherwise be. (I should warn you again that the screenwriters took a lot of liberties with the original story, though! This wasn’t a biography by any means, but given how many contradictory facts there are about Sarah Winchester’s life and unusual hobby that ended up being a good thing).

The Winchester Mansion

With that being said, there were some pacing problems. The Winchester mansion filled with restless, angry spirits, but there weren’t quite as many scenes about them as I was hoping to see. Yes, the setting itself was incredibly spooky. There were multiple times when the Dr. Price took a wrong turn and suddenly realized that the architecture of the house lead to quite a few dead ends. I was creeped out at the thought of trying to open a door that wasn’t actually meant to open or climb a staircase that didn’t go anywhere after all. It would have been nice if such a scary setting had been matched by ghosts who were a little more active in the beginning and middle of the plot.

It was nice to have hauntings that weren’t gory, however. It’s been my experience that many modern ghost movies assume the audience want to be frightened by dumping a lot of gory scenes into the plot regardless of whether or not such a thing actually makes sense for the characters or storyline. This is appealing to some viewers, of course, but I prefer a less bloody approach to the horror genre in general. The fact that Winchester relied on building a deliciously creepy atmosphere and asking the audience to silently dread what might happen to the characters next without showing anything gruesome was refreshing.

I would have liked to see the characters behave a little more intelligently once they realized they were in danger. Yes, horror movies do depend on their characters making terrible decisions in the beginning for the sake of giving the plot an adequate amount of time to put them in mortal danger and frighten the audience, but I kept shaking my head at the silly choices Dr. Price and the other members of the household made after they realized just how much they’d underestimated their foe.

There were several subplots dealing with grief and regret that I thought were handled nicely. While I can’t go into much detail about them without giving away spoilers, I will say that every single main character in this film was dealing with a loss of some kind. Most of them had not processed that grief, and the weight of those unexamined emotions was heavy. Watching for the gradual exposure of their backstories was rewarding. It was these subplots that kept me watching until the end. While I was curious to see if the ghosts would become more active, I was honestly far more interested in finding out how or if the characters would resolve their complicated feelings about their pasts.

Should You Watch It?

If you love paranormal movies that are loosely inspired by the lives of real people, go for it. This may not be so intriguing for anyone who isn’t already a huge fan of this sub-genre, however.

Winchester is available on Netflix and iTunes.

Suggestion Saturday: September 15, 2018

Here is this week’s list of links from my favourite corners of the web.

I Used Every Pumpkin Spice Product I Could Find for a Week. Now My Armpits Smell Like Nutmeg. I can’t stop giggling at this article. Whether you love or hate pumpkin spice, you should really go read this.

At Least There’s Potatoes via seanpaulmahoney. Now that cooler weather is around the corner, I’m going to have to go back to eating potatoes more often again. They’re something I especially enjoy on a cold, crisp day.

Leaves Changing. This is a comic strip I recently discovered. Expect to see quite a few more links to them in 2018 and 2019.

There Are More Microbial Species on Earth Than Stars in the Galaxy. Raise your hand if this blows your mind.

The Art of Saying No via lisaorchard1. I couldn’t agree with this post more.

Watch Your Step: Why the 10,000 Step Goal Is Built on Bad Science. Well, this is disappointing. I’m still going to stick to my step count goals while we wait for more data to emerge. As someone who is young and healthy, I don’t think it’s going to do my body any harm to be a little more active than what the current recommendations think is best.  Obviously, this won’t be the right answer for everyone.

From Unknown Unknowns – The Problem of Hypocognition:

Tudor’s ice tale contains an important point about human affairs. Often, human fate rests not on what people know but what they fail to know. Often, life’s outcomes are determined by hypocognition.

From The United States of Space via Rad_Francis:

I’m aware that SF has a long history of equating humanity with American culture – it’s sort of the whole guiding metaphor of Star Trek, for instance, though it goes back further than that. But it’s a side of SF that’s always sort of bothered me, and I think it’s somehow more glaring here than in other SF novels I’ve read.

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How I’m Expanding My SFF Watchlist for 2019

Has anyone else noticed that the time between September and January flies by every year? There’s something about the short and often rainy days in the autumn that makes this season pass quickly for me. (If only winter behaved the same way! Every winter I feel like the cold and snow are going to last forever).
My watchlist for science fiction and fantasy films has dwindled over the course of 2018. The list below contains all of the movies in these genres that I’m currently hoping to watch in the future.  Some of the entries on it aren’t even available in the theatre yet, and others were released so recently that I’m still waiting for them to become legally available to watch online.
  • A Dog’s Purpose
  • Christopher Robin
  • Devil
  • Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindleward
  • Get Out
  • Gremlins
  • Goodbye Christoper Robin
  • The Good Dinosaur
  • Hereditary
  • The House with a Clock in Its Walls
  • Lights Out
  • The Little Stranger
  • The Lottery (based on Shirley Jackson’s short story)
  • A Monster Calls
  • Monsters University
  • Peter Rabbit
  • A Wrinkle in Time

Before I watch a film, I always check the reviews of it to see what others thought of it and if it includes certain topics that I’m sensitive to. I ended up deleting some of the titles I’ve previously mentioned on this blog due to multiple negative reviews that referenced stuff I try to avoid in the entertainment I consume. 2018 has also been a year when I’ve slowly begun losing interest in the non-paranormal horror genre in general, so that cut way down on my to-watch list as well.

Now that winter is just around the corner, I’ve decided that it would be a good idea to build up my watchlist again. Sometimes it can take a while for a film to show up on Netflix or become available to rent on iTunes. The more options I have, the better. Not only will it be a nice distraction for me during my least favourite season, I’ll be able to continue writing more reviews for all of you as I find stuff that I like and/or have strong opinions about.

My Criteria

  1. It will preferably have been released in the last 20 years, and ideally within the last decade. While I do occasionally enjoy older films and am open to hearing about faster-paced recommendations from back then that have stood the test of time, I generally find the pacing of anything released before the mid-1990s to be too slow for this millennial’s tastes.
  2. There is little to no gore. I can handle a few briefly violent scenes if necessary, but I have no interest in bloodbaths or slasher flicks.
  3. It ideally includes stuff like: the paranormal; cryptozoology; aliens; an exploration of planets, caves, or other remote places where communication devices mysteriously stop working for the sake of a better plot; space ships; the distant past or future; characters who are at least somewhat self-aware and intelligent when something really weird happens in the first scene.
  4. There are clever plot twists in it. I do watch more predictable shows as well, but it always makes me happy to find something whose ending can’t be predicted five minutes into it.
  5.  Also, I’ve watched countless movies about straight, white men having science fiction and fantasy adventures together. If the stories are equally intriguing and I’m given the choice between them and a more diverse cast, though, I’m going to go with the latter every time.

Where I’m Looking for New Films

  1. Netflix. I don’t mean to sound like an advertisement, but I’ve found so many interesting films there over the years. It’s always the first place I try when I’m looking for something new.
  2. iTunes. I’ve combed through everything Netflix has to offer, but I’ve yet to do the same thing for iTunes. Here’s hoping I’ll find hidden treasures there.
  3. Top 10 Lists. While I’ve seen many of the science fiction and fantasy films that were released over the past two decades, I definitely haven’t seen all of them. This is especially true for foreign and indie films that only showed in select theatres.
  4. You! If you have any suggestions for me, please leave a comment on this post or tell me about it on Twitter.