Movie Review: Wolfwalkers

A while ago, I’d heard good things about Wolfwalkers, an animated movie on Apple TV+. I filed that away, since at the time we had plenty of other things to watch. When I got my new iPad, it came with a year’s subscription to Apple TV+. Thus far, I’d only used it to watch the Tom Hanks battleship movie (Greyhound), so I was excited to be able to put the freebie toward another something in the future.

We watched Wolfwalkers as a family a few nights ago, and we really enjoyed it. It’s a story set in Ireland, about a city that’s plagued with an infestation of wolves outside its walls. The people are scared, and they’re doing their best to kill all the wolves, but they’re failing. It turns out the wolves are being led by a Wolf Walker–a woman who’s a wolf when she sleeps and a human when she’s awake. Except she’s disappeared, and her ten year old daughter is running things in her absence.

I won’t give away more than that. The story echoed Brave in many ways, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. However, it had a few things that really impressed me. First off, it’s a gorgeous movie, with a hand drawn animation flair that draws attention to the sketch quality of the art. The style was fantastic throughout, and I really enjoyed just looking at how beautiful it all was. The music was also a standout. The story itself was good. Though it dipped into predictable waters at times, it also had some solid developments.

Honestly, one of the things I liked most about it was that it wasn’t done by Disney or Pixar. We watched Soul a while ago as well. I really loved the movie, but at the same time, it feels like Pixar has got its formula down and really just keeps spinning off variations of the same. Of course, if you like chocolate ice cream, and someone makes your favorite chocolate ice cream, it seems kind of petty to complain that they keep making it, but what if there’s a flavor out there that you don’t even know you love yet? If all you do is keep eating the same chocolate ice cream, you’ll never find it. And worse yet, too much chocolate ice cream can make that lovely deliciousness get kind of boring. Variety is a good thing. Soul was very much more chocolate ice cream. Wolfwalkers . . . was more like rocky road. In many ways it could have been another Pixar movie. It’s definitely working in the same basic flavor. But it had enough significant differences to make it a new experience.

I feel like there’s so much room in animation, but these days the films seem to be dominated by the Pixar or the Dreamworks approaches. You’ve either got heartwarming movies with a Message, or farting ogres and neurotic squirrels. True, you’ve got princess movies thrown into the mix, but I would love to see more flat out adventure movies, or mysteries, or even dramas. But maybe that’s just me . . .

In any case, if you’re looking for a good family movie, and you’ve got Apple TV+, I heartily recommend this one. 8.5/10.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Patriotic Thoughts

I try quite hard (regardless of how it may seem, perhaps) to present as balanced of an outlook on this blog as I can. I try to take into consideration the thoughts and feelings of all potential readers, and so there’s often some topics that I just won’t write about, or which I’ll really tread carefully around, for fear of provoking anyone. And so I was really considering not writing a response to yesterday’s inauguration at all. I realize that there are many who dislike Biden, feel the election was somehow fraudulent, believe this is the continuation of a long slide toward a villainous portrayal of socialism, etc. And I’ve been posting about politics a fair bit the last while. (I wonder why?) Wouldn’t it have been easier to just post a movie review or a fluff piece about breakfast cereals today instead?

Yes.

But at the same time, I use this blog to chronicle how I feel and what I think about different things that happen in our world, and when I’ve got a lot to say, I have a documented hard time shutting up. And yesterday made me feel a whole lot of things. Things I wanted to get down. This shouldn’t be considered an attack on anyone or a judgement on people. This is just my personal response to what I saw yesterday and how I’ve felt over the past four years.

In a nutshell, yesterday made me feel like I could be patriotic again. Like I was proud to be an American, and that there was some real hope for my country’s future. For the past four years, I feel like Trump has really steered hard into the negative stereotypes of America that I’ve seen overseas. The shoot first, me first, xenophobic, ignorant, money-grubbing depictions that have always disappointed me.

But Americans are so much more than that. The parts of America I really love are the brighter aspects. The idealism. The thought that we can change the world and make it better. The hope that there’s no problem we can’t tackle. The celebration of diversity. The refuge for all. Yes, we’re wealthy and occasionally spoiled. Yes, we often don’t take as great of an interest in national affairs as might behoove us, but when push comes to shove, I’ve always thought America would do what was best for everyone, not just itself.

Yesterday, I saw a huge display of diversity and optimism, even in the middle of a pandemic. I saw a fantastic young poet laureate deliver a moving reading of art. I saw music and art celebrated from all across the country. Yes, you could argue that Trump tried to do the same thing at times, but with Trump, it always felt to me like he was going for an America of the past. A white-washed historical relic he wanted to somehow embalm and stick out there on display. If this were pop culture, Trump was the toy collector in Toy Story 2.

For the past four years, the American flag has often been used (in my opinion) as a blunt object. Flown next to Trump flags from the backs of trucks. It felt like you couldn’t be patriotic unless you supported the president, and that (frankly) is ridiculous. The fact that I felt that way is appalling to me, and it took yesterday for me to fully realize how Trump had pulled that trick off. Sure, you can say I was being too sensitive or too whatever, but I don’t believe you can argue how people feel. If someone tells you they’re sad, you can’t tell them they’re wrong.

So it was such a breath of fresh air to finally not have that feeling hanging over me anymore. To know that Biden will no doubt do things I disagree with, but that I can still feel like we’re on the same team, or at the very least that my disagreeing with his policies won’t make me un-American. And doubtless there will be some on the right who say that kind of thinking is just me being a snowflake and too easily triggered or whatever, but we shouldn’t have to apologize when someone else makes us feel less or crazy or wrong.

Anyway. It was a very good day for me yesterday. I’ll return (hopefully) to movie reviews and whatnot tomorrow. But for today, I wanted to at least get that thought down for the record. Thanks for reading, and I’ll catch you tomorrow.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Perception Matters

Watching the inauguration coverage today, and it’s naturally different to see how this one is looking compared to the ones I’ve watched in the past. The spartan attendance, the chairs that are spaced out, and (most notably) the masks, masks, masks.

I’ve tried to see the argument made by Trump and Republicans against masks, at least at significant events. The desire to “appear strong” and project a sense of normalcy even in the middle of a global pandemic. But I really believe that was a misguided effort, because like it or not, this time is different than other times. On my way way to work this morning, I listened to an interview with a funeral director in California. They discussed what was different now compared to usual times.

He’s got a three week minimum waiting list to accept new bodies. (I can’t think of a nicer way to say it than that.) He has to turn down hospitals that are overrunning with the deceased. I get that some are still trying to insist this is overblown. That COVID has a 98% recovery rate, so why are we making a big deal about it? But even with all the quarantining and social distancing and mask wearing, we’re still having hospitals needing to bring in refrigeration units to store bodies until they can be buried. No part of that is “normal.” Over 400,000 people in the US have died. Over 2 million across the globe. But I’ve been making that argument (along with many others) for months and months. I’m not sure what else can be done to persuade people who don’t want to be persuaded.

Which is why things like seeing this different inauguration feel significant for me. Seeing all those masks and all those social distancing measures help visibly show the nation that it’s okay for this to be different. That it’s okay to wear a mask. What I’m seeing in the inauguration is very much in line with what my life has been like at the university since September. And the great thing in the fall was that I saw we could still have classes and still have some semblance of normalcy, even with all the changes.

Anyway. Just some of the thoughts going through my head as I watch today. I could say a whole lot more, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

What to Do about Trump?

Assuming nothing goes horribly wrong (knock on wood), tomorrow will be Donald Trump’s last day in office. (And even if something does go horribly wrong, actually. If something were to happen to Biden between now and then, Harris would be president. If something were to happen to her, Pelosi would be president. Under no scenario does Trump remain president at this point.) With his recent second impeachment and his departure, the question then turns to “What do we do about him now?”

I know some are calling for the impeachment trial to happen quickly, and some are calling for Biden to pardon him. My personal preference is that we . . . just ignore him, as far as the impeachment goes. Don’t pardon him. Don’t try him. Don’t even mention him for the next 100 days when it comes to all of that. We have far too many other more important things to be focusing on than wasting another second of the country’s time on that man.

That doesn’t mean I want him absolved of everything he might have done. However, we have a justice system that can continue to operate very well without the need for the Senate or the House to get involved. If he’s committed crimes in the past, let those crimes go through the normal avenues, now that he’ll be a normal citizen again. No doubt the news organizations will get themselves into a froth over the proceedings, but hopefully the people leading our country will not.

Did Trump do all the things his detractors claim he did? I have no idea. I’ve read a whole lot of news articles about the man, and I’ve read a whole lot about those claims, but I recognize I wasn’t involved in any of them, and I have no real way of telling who’s right and who’s wrong. But again, that’s what we have courts for, right?

Ultimately, I’d like to move forward and not even think about Donald Trump again. Every second focusing on him gives him the thing he seems to crave more than anything else: attention. And it takes our eye off the other things that we need to be putting our efforts to instead. Distributing the vaccine. Helping the economy. Looking out for those who have lost their jobs. Shoring up our infrastructure. Doing something about climate change. You name it. There are so many other things to work on solving.

That said, I recognize that the things Trump has stood for and the people who he has emboldened aren’t going anywhere. There’s still the very real threat of them coming back to power, whether under Trump himself or under a new leader. That’s a concern we need to continue to address along with the rest of the troubles, so it’s not like we can just ignore the whole issue. But I believe once we can stop wasting all our energy about this one individual, much of that has a good chance of slinking back under the rock it’s been crouched under for the last few decades. Hopefully that will in turn help weaken it. Deprive it of sunlight and energy, and it will wither instead of flourish.

Much of that is probably up to Republicans at this point. It’s their house they need to get into order, and I hope they do it. But for now, at least, I want the country to move on and get to work.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

There are No Happily Ever Afters

First, let me lead off by saying that I don’t think this post is a negative one. At least, that’s not where I think it’ll end up. But it’s going to start off pretty gloomy. I mean, just look at the title up there. No happily ever afters? You mean fairy tales have been lying to me all this time?

If it were just fairy tales, then I don’t think it would be as big of a deal, but our culture is in many ways saturated with a happily ever after mentality, primarily because of the pop culture we consume. I love movies and books (obviously), but almost all stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. And when you watch or read story after story after story with endings, it’s easy to get to the point where you start waiting for the end of the story you’re living.

Take, for example, the story of COVID. It fits easily into any number of disaster movies, and so it’s not a big leap to try and assume it will follow the same arc of those movies. Disease is discovered. Disease wrecks havoc. Cure is found. Disease is vanquished. Fade to black. But in reality, it doesn’t work out that way. When exactly would the “fade to black” have kicked in? When the vaccine was found? It wasn’t done yet. The vaccines still had to be tested. How about when the vaccines were tested and confirmed 90%+ effective? Nope, still not done. The vaccines had to be administered. How about when they’re administered? Well, just look at what a mess that’s been in America to date to see how well that’s worked out. You could have made an entire second narrative, starting with the “happily ever after” of the vaccine being effective and then focused around the huge problems of actually getting the cure administered.

And even once we iron those wrinkles out, at what point is it “over”? I don’t know that there will be one.

This isn’t isolated to world-changing events, either. It’s very easy to assume you’ll get your “happily ever after” when long-sought for moments arrive. When you graduate, perhaps. When you marry. When you get a job. When you get a book deal. When you win the lottery. When you reach that goal you’ve been waiting a long time to reach. But if you take a look back at all those potential “happily ever afters,” I think you’ll note that it wasn’t, in fact, happy from then on. You don’t get a job, or you miss a promotion, or you lose the job, or your boss is a bone-head, or you squander your lottery money, or your book tanks, or your spouse is annoying, and on and on and on.

Happily ever after just doesn’t come.

So how in the world is this not depressing?

Over a hundred years ago, newspaper columnist Jenkin Lloyd Jones wrote, “There seems to be a superstition among many thousands of our young who hold hands and smooch in the drive-ins that marriage is a cottage surrounded by perpetual hollyhocks, to which a perpetually young and handsome husband comes home to a perpetually young and ravishing wife. When the hollyhocks wither and boredom and bills appear, the divorce courts are jammed.

Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just ordinary people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. . . .

Life is like an old-time rail journey—delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”

This speaks in many ways to what I’ve concluded as well. It’s important to celebrate the victories you get when you get them, but at the same time keep in mind that those victories are not endings. That the page will turn, and new challenges will continue.

I read recently that “the lie outlives the liar.” You can remove a liar from office, but you can’t remove the lies they persuaded people to believe as easily. The people who attacked the Capitol last week aren’t going to suddenly decide that what they did was wrong. (Though it’s been amusing to me to see how many of them have now spoken up after their arrests to explain that they were really just there to watch what was going on, and that they personally weren’t protesting anything. They walked through open doors. They picked up zip ties they ran across, and were looking for a policeman to return them to. Many many excuses . . . )

Trump will be out of office next week. It becomes that much more important for us to continue to press for truth and transparency from our leaders. To not let the Democrats now do all the things they reviled Republicans for doing for the past four years. To not assume we’ve reached our happily ever after.

Likewise, we need to keep pressing for people to social distance and to wear masks, even though a vaccine is currently being administered. Thousands of people continue to die every day, and hundreds of thousands continue to contract the disease.

In our personal lives, it’s important to not wait for some big life changing event to begin making changes or taking action. It’s easy to say to yourself, “I’ll do that when COVID is over,” or decide to delay things until something else is in place. Sure, sometimes you have to do that. I’ve got a kitchen renovation I really want to do, and money to do it with, but I’ve been hesitating (and will continue to hesitate) until I have more certainty about what the future holds. Committing tens of thousands of dollars to cabinets and countertops when there’s a decent chance you’ll need that money for food and clothing doesn’t seem like a good call.

But I also believe there will always be reasons to not do things you want to do, just as there will always be the temptation to plan up to a point and then assume all your troubles will be over. That just doesn’t happen. But it does mean we can choose to act today to make changes we want to see happen. Just because there isn’t a happily ever after doesn’t mean those mile markers aren’t important. It means we can be happy now, and the happiness we have now can be extended to the happiness we’ll have in the future.

I don’t know. Maybe the post ended up being bleak anyway. I suppose it all depends on how you read it. Just know that for me, as I look at it, knowing there’s no happily ever after motivates me to be find happiness in the present. To not wait for some outside thing to change, but to be the change I want to see. Take that thought for what it’s worth.

Look at it this way: it’s Friday! Weekend! We can be happy about the weekend while still acknowledging that a new week will begin in just a few short days. That’s no reason not to enjoy the weekend, however . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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