Author Archives: lydias

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.

Posted By:
Tagged:
2

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.

Families Are Forever: A Review of Coco

This review is spoiler-free and suitable for all audiences. This was one of the films I talked about wanting to watch in this post. So far, I’ve previously reviewed Into the Forest and Annihilation from that original list. 

Coco is a 2017 film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. It followed the adventures of a young boy named Miguel who dreamed of becoming a musician one day against the wishes of his parents, grandparents, and other elders.

They wanted him to follow in their footsteps and become a cobbler instead. This conflict between Miguel and his elders not only provided the catalyst for his adventures in the Land of the Dead, it asked a lot of thought-provoking questions about how far someone should go to pursue their dreams and what sorts of things it should be okay for a family to ask one member to give up for the sake of everyone.

(Some of the) Characters

This movie had an incredibly large cast of characters in large part because Miguel was part of a massive extended family that included generations of people who died long before he was even born. Mentioning certain characters would also make it difficult for me to avoid spoilers, so I will only be talking about the most important ones who can be discussed with giving away any plot twists.

The introduction to this film did an excellent job of explaining who everyone was and how they were related to each other, though, so you shouldn’t have any problems catching up on the secondary characters I didn’t include in this post.

Anthony Gonzalez as Miguel Rivera

Miguel, the protagonist, was a 12-year-old boy who was caught between his dreams and what his elders wanted him to do with his life. On Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), when the dead are allowed to come visit loved ones who remember them during this Mexican celebration of loved ones who have died, Miguel accidentally crossed from our plane of existence to the Land of the Dead. In order for him to return to the Land of the Living, he had to receive the blessing of one of his dead relatives before the sun rose again. If he failed, he’d be trapped there forever.

Dante

Dante, Miguel’s dog, was his mischievous and occasionally silly pet who accompanied him to the Land of the Dead. This character was responsible for almost all of the humorous moments in the plot thanks to the fact that he wasn’t a particularly bright dog and he didn’t always think through his choices ahead of time. I’d love to see a sequel starring him someday.

 

Ana Ofelia Murguía as Coco Rivera (right)

Coco was Miguel’s great-grandmother and the oldest living member of their family. She’d been abandoned by her father, a musician, as a small child, and the pain of that experience was something she’d carried with her for her entire life. It was this story that made the rest of Miguel’s family so opposed to his desire to become a musician.

Renee Victor as Abuelita

Abuelita was Miguel’s grandmother, Coco’s daughter, and the head of the family in the Land of the Living (or what we would think of as our world). No one made any major decisions without getting her blessing first.

 

Alanna Ubach as Mamma Imelda Rivera

Mamma Imelda was Miguel’s great-great grandmother. Coco was the daughter she’d been left to raise on her own after her husband went away and never came home again. She still resented her husband for that decision when Miguel met her in the afterlife and asked for her help to get home again.

Gael García Bernal as Héctor

Héctor was a friend Miguel made in the Land of the Dead. He lived in a section of the afterlife that was reserved for people who were no longer being honoured by the living on Dia de Los Muertos. If he couldn’t find a way to get the living to remember him before the last person who had known him in life died themselves, he would disappear from the Land of the Dead forever. What happened to dead people who were completely forgotten was unknown.

Benjamin Bratt as Ernesto de la Cruz

Ernesto was the man Miguel believed to be his great-great grandfather. He was never honoured, remembered, or even mentioned by the Rivera household due to how poorly he’d treated his wife and child, but the songs he sang while he was alive ensured that other people remembered him on Dia de Los Murtos and kept him going in the Land of the Dead. Ernesto was a talented musician whose songs were still sung decades after his death in our world, The Land of the Living.

My Review

Everything I’m about to say about Coco will be complimentary. I normally try to sandwich my criticisms between compliments, but in this case I wouldn’t have changed a single thing about this film. It was exactly what I was hoping it would be.

The storytelling was beautiful. While this was marketed as a children’s movie, I’d honestly recommend it to adults just as much, and maybe even a little more, as I would to the age group it was actually intended for. Miguel’s family was large, but I felt like I got to know each character in it well due to how much time they spent exploring their complicated relationship with each other and their shared pasts. They dealt with serious issues that many people face.

There were a few emotional scenes about death and regret that would almost certainly fly over the heads of the youngest viewers, but they meant a lot to me as an adult who has faced similar conflicts myself. One of the things I love the most about Pixar films is how well they straddle the line between appealing to adults while also writing something that children will find meaningful. Once again, they did a fantastic job of speaking to both groups without talking down to the kids or simplifying anything for older viewers.

Mama Imelda, Coco, and Coco’s father in a family picture.

I didn’t grow up in a family or a culture that observes Dia de Los Muertos, so I really appreciated the attention to detail when Miguel and his family were preparing for and then later celebrating it. There was something beautiful about seeing the alter Miguel’s elders had set up with photos of their deceased relatives and offerings of food and other things that the dead would have enjoyed. Yes, there were moments of grief, but there was also a lot of love and joy in that tradition. It seemed to me that it was about remembering the good times with people who have passed on and sharing your happy memories of them with the next generation.

Some of the elders in my family have historically been a bit resistant to the idea of telling stories like this as a coping mechanism for grief, so I found it refreshing to see a family speak so openly and fondly of the dead. It struck me as something that could be much more emotionally healthy for people who found themselves missing a parent, grandparent, or other relative who is no longer part of the Land of the Living no matter how many years ago they’d crossed over.

The conflicts in this story were written in such a way that I could sympathize with both sides. Of course Miguel wanted to explore his musical talents and learn how to be a better musician. On the flip side, of course his elders would be horrified at the thought of another family member abandoning them to make music. This was a case when there was no right or wrong answer and I could imagine Miguel and his elders changing their opinions if their places could somehow be reversed.

The best scenes happened after Miguel crossed into the Land of the Dead and finally met the relatives there he’d been honouring his whole life but had never actually known when they were alive. I enjoyed seeing the tension build between this character’s individualism and his ancestors’ collectivistic understanding of how a life should be lived. It was a nice reminder of how a culture can change from one generation to the next, and it also provided a lot of fodder for conflict as Miguel tried to figure out how to get home before sunrise.

I was also impressed with the music. Every single song was something I’d love listen to again, especially when it came to “Remember Me.” For those of you who have seen a lot of animated films, the music in this one reminded me of classic Pixar songs like “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from Toy Story. Not only were they meaningful for the storyline, they were nice pieces of music in and of themselves. I could see myself adding several of them to the list of songs I listen to every day, and that’s not something I do very often.

Should You Watch It?

Yes, you absolutely should. I’d heartily recommend Coco to audiences of all ages with no caveats.

Coco is avaliable on iTunes and Netflix.

Suggestion Saturday: September 8, 2018

Here is this week’s list of blog posts and other links from my favourite corners of the web. 7 Reason to Get On Your Bike via bloggerbythesea. Autumn is just around the corner, so it will soon be the perfect time of year for a bike ride. Lineage. I’ve had similar thoughts about my ancestors. How… Read More

Posted By:
Tagged:
0

5 Books About Mindfulness I’d Like to Read

While I still don’t maintain an active TBR list, the books listed below have caught my attention. I’ve requested almost all of them from my local library, and I’m looking forward to reading them this autumn as they become available. Look below the images of the various titles for my brief explanations on why each title… Read More

4 Things That Inspire Me to Buy a Book

This post was written as a response to Candy Korman’s What Inspires You to Buy a Book? If any of my readers decide to write their own responses, I’ll edit this to include a link to your post.  Raise your hand if you sometimes have no idea what to read next! I know I have this… Read More

Posted By:
Tagged:
6

Suggestion Saturday: September 1, 2018

Here is this week’s list of blog posts, poems, disgruntled dogs, and other links from my favourite corners of the web. I don’t know how it grew so large. Some weeks I struggle to find links for this feature, and others I want to add everything to it. Ella in Cinders via tjtherien. Anyone who enjoys… Read More

Posted By:
Tagged:
0

18 Science Fiction and Fantasy Shows I Can’t Wait to See in 2018-2019

Last year I blogged about the fourteen science fiction and fantasy series I was looking forward to watching during the 2017-2018 season. Wow, that was a lot of shows! Somehow I managed to continue watching almost all of them, though. Today I’m talking about the shows I’m currently watching or will be watching during the… Read More