How much is the life of a mentally ill person worth?

A man allowed his brother to freeze to death and only got a one-year sentence for it.

If that’s not enough to make you angry, that one year isn’t a year in prison or even a year in jail; it’s a year of probation.

Bruce Simmons’ frozen body was emaciated, dressed only in a makeshift diaper, and he was covered in rodent bites and frostbite marks, surrounded in garbage. His brother Ronald “cared” for him by passing him one meal a day through the front door.

Yet apparently, Ronald didn’t want to seek residential treatment for Bruce, who suffered from mental illness, either. Now Bruce is dead, and Ronald has to complete a year of probation.

For comparison, here is a case of one man stabbing another man to death. He got 8 years in prison. The cases aren’t strictly comparable — the second case doesn’t involve brothers and doesn’t involve a person made vulnerable by mental illness. It involves a direct cause of death rather than an indirect one.

However, in both cases the victims are equally dead, and in both cases the accused killers have received their sentences: 8 years in prison for one death and 1 year of probation for the other.

People with mental illnesses are far more likely to be the victims of a crime than they are to be perpetrators. And sentences like these do not help move us away from the abhorrent idea that people with mental illnesses are somehow less than healthy people.

Review: Jurassic World hit me right in the nostalgia

howardNothing could have matched the original Jurassic Park, but Jurassic World danced so well along the line between charming nostalgia and modern adventure flick that nobody should really care.

The movie was absolutely successful in capturing the feel of the original Jurassic Park, which all of its other sequels utterly failed to do, and made seeing dinosaurs amazing and awe-inspiring all over again, despite the proliferation of realistic-looking cinematic monsters. And it brought back some of the most beautiful touches from the first film, too – for example, a moment where you’re reminded the dinosaurs are living, breathing animals instead of just terrifying monster things out to eat the protagonists.

The dinosaurs are fantastic, and not just in a “movie monsters” way. The movie takes time to make them real animals, and each is a character. The velociraptors are terrifyingly intelligent pack hunters; the T-rex is a majestic killing machine; the triceratops are gentle.

Sprinkled throughout the film are a series of homages to the original, some subtle and some less so. I won’t spoil them for you, but one was already given away by the trailers and most of the posters – the corporate leader in the park wears white, just as John Hammond did in the original.

Then there are a number of occasions in the movie where the film doesn’t take quite the usual action flick route.

prattThe park’s owner is an incredibly rich guy who actually, shockingly, isn’t a horrible person focused on money. The kids in the movie are less annoying than your usual movie children, although like all movie children the younger one has too much hair.

The adult protagonists, Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) aren’t complete cardboard stereotypes either. Sure, Owen’s a tough former Navy guy on a motorcycle, but he cares about animals; sure, Claire is career-oriented, but she is absolutely able to hold her own in a dangerous situation. And unlike some reviews have said, she’s not a damsel in distress in this movie, but an active character who makes decisions and acts on them.

That’s not to say the movie is perfect. There were a few missteps.

  • Someone needs to tell Hollywood movie execs that we heartless career women very often have a pair of tennis shoes or hiking boots under our desks. Throughout the movie, Claire runs around in high heels without a misstep. While there are actually women who can do this, the fact that the actress had to train for it as if she were running a marathon should tell you it’s a little bit unusual. And then to do it in a jungle?
  • Another thing: The kids in the movie were okay, but there was a thoroughly unnecessary “let’s-worry-about-our-parents’-marriage” subplot with them that seems to be present in every action movie lately. It doesn’t really harm the movie, but it wasn’t needed.
  • Then there’s the one-note villain. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil it; you’ll know who this is the second he steps on the stage anyway. It’s about as subtle as an angry T-rex.
  • The score shines, but it shines most when it’s using pieces from the Jurassic Park score by John Williams. Next time, steal more; you had the rights anyway. Why not pull in some of the lesser-used themes and bump them up? Petticoat Lane, anyone?

But the missteps weren’t enough to kill the sense of wonder we all felt when John Hammond first said “Welcome… to Jurassic Park.”

And that’s what this movie does: It brings back the wonder and the excitement of Jurassic Park and turns you right back into a 12-year-old. Enjoy it.

dino

15 UND nicknames left! Whimsy, blandness, lots of hawks.

The Final Fifteen UND nicknames have been chosen, and as has been the case in everyUND logo_1_0_10 round of cuts, my personal favorites have been tossed out.

Alas, Abdominal Snowman, Yetis and Wooly Mammoths. We hardly knew ye.

The last 15 names, in alphabetical order:

Blaze: I’ve come around a little bit on this one. It’s not a bad name, and while it’s a little abstract it’s much easier to visualize, draw and personify than, say, “spirit.”

Cavalry: No. Native American names being replaced by names of people famous for killing them is not helpful.

Explorers: While this name sounds neutral, I can’t help feeling it’s associated with white people who came and “explored” ground that native peoples had been living on and had explored pretty thoroughly themselves already. At the same time, as noted before, Sakakawea is just one very famous Native American explorer, so it can definitely not be said to be all about the white people, or the men.

fightinggreenFighting Green: The fighting green what? Green is an adjective, unless it refers to part of a golf course. Why would part of a golf course fight? And “fighting” just seems too much like the old nickname anyway.

Fighting Hawks: Kind of boring. And you’d hope “Hawks” won’t just turn into the Blackhawks’ Indian-head logo, but it sure could.

Force: The Fargo Force might object, and fans here might object to being associated with Fargo, too.

Green Hawks: Definitely one of the better “Hawk” names, it’s unusual but still recognizable. Hopefully this isn’t another backdoor way to get the Blackhawks mascot in the door.

Nodaks: I still don’t know what a Nodak is. Nobody’s explained it yet, either.

North Dakota: Boring, and it doesn’t give sports writers any alternatives, either. How many times can you put “North Dakota” and “UND” in a single paragraph before it gets repetitive? Not many. And you can’t really visualize it, although I suppose you could build a North Dakota costume shaped like the state.

North Stars: It’s still Minnesota’s motto, guys. This is exactly like naming yourselves the200px-Minnesota_North_Stars_Logo_2.svg Gophers and calling it a win.

Pride: People are citing this name as a way to stealthily “keep” the old nickname (as well as the “North Dakota” and “Spirit” alternatives). Totally aside from that, though, pride is one of the seven deadly sins, and not only that, but it is the most serious of them. It’s great to be proud of your school, but “pride” in itself has some extremely negative associations. Besides, how many signs saying “PRIDE GOETH BEFORE DESTRUCTION” do you want to see at your hockey games? (No, it does not goeth before a fall. A haughty spirit goeth before a fall; people just misquote it a lot.)

Roughriders: I suppose we can put up with the double entendres. It might be worth it, because it is a nicely thematic name, after all. I’ve warmed up to it a little bit.

Spirit: I don’t know why you’d want to bring religion, or another name for booze, into a sports contest. And this is another one people cite as “we can still use the old name with this!” which doesn’t seem constructive at this point in the process.

sundogsSundogs: I’ve warmed up to this one, since it’s one of the only charmingly eccentric names left on the list. The Arizona Sundogs were a minor league hockey team at one
point, but the team opted for dormancy last year (admittedly this is according to Wikipedia).

Thunder Hawks: Less distinctive than “Green Hawks,” yes, but it’s kind of okay.

Here’s the TL;DR version of my own personal opinions, which, again, are not those of the Herald or anybody else:

Good:
Blaze
Roughriders
Sundogs

Meh:
Explorers
Fighting Hawks
Green Hawks
Thunder Hawks

Bad:
Cavalry
Fighting Green
Force
Nodaks
North Dakota
North Stars
Pride
Spirit

What do you think?

If we have to pick a new name, which of these would you go with? Please don’t answer with either “none,” or any variant on the old nickname. It’s been said and that’s not the topic of this post.

However, if you’d like to discuss the old nickname I’d encourage you to post on one of the threads on the subject on the Herald’s Facebook page; here’s one. Thanks!

UND Nickname Analysis: All the Rest, and David Hasselhoff

Knight Rider

Knight Rider

Night Riders: What would David Hasselhoff say? Leaving off the K isn’t going to be enough to avoid comparisons, is it?

Riders: Could potentially have some inappropriate connotations, just like “Rough Riders.”

Snow Dogs: A little unusual, but still easy to recognize and fierce/cute as is needed.

Spirit: I may be prejudiced by having seen “The Spirit” movie, which was entirely awful, but I don’t like this name much, as I mentioned before. It’s fine on its own, but almost any visualization of it will be offensive to some religion or another.

Live and Let Die

Live and Let Die

Thunder Hawks: A few other teams use this mascot, but it’s not that distinctive, either.

Warhawks: “War” isn’t really a connotation we need for sports.

Wings: Well, I do like “Live and Let Die” a whole lot.

Wool(l?)y Mammoth: I actually like this one. It’s unusual, but it’s also a fierce beast comfortable in cold climates, and bonus, it is larger and scarier than a bison. The downside would be all the extinction jokes.

Fighting Greens: Greens are lettuce, guys. “Fighting Green” could be a team; “fighting greens” would be a belligerent salad.

Previous analysis of the other UND nickname possibilities can be found here and here.

Feel free to disagree with me in the comments, but stay civil, and please, nothing about the old nickname. This thread’s not about that; if you wish, I can direct you to other threads where you can make those comments freely, though.

UND Nicknames: A Short List Is Out!

Well, the first short list of UND nicknames is out! Most of the ones I picked out aren’t on the list, which is probably for the best.

Also, they’ve only gone through nicknames starting with 0-G, plus a few H-names. A few of the ones that are left are ones I mentioned, but a lot aren’t, too, which makes sense–I only got to a tiny fraction of the ones on the original list. Specifically, I wrote about these:

  • Aeronauts/Aeros
  • Aurora
  • Badlanders
  • Blizzard
  • Bombers
  • Drillers
  • Fighting Anything (Fighting Green, Fighting Green Hawks, Fighting Hawks made the cut)
  • Fire
  • Flames
  • Flickertails

The Names That Made It That I Didn’t Mention Earlier

And some comments…

I’m still not making a specific endorsement. Views expressed here are mine, not those of the Grand Forks Herald.

  • Arctic Blaze: Seems like an oxymoron to me, but maybe that’s why it’s cool.
  • Arctic Force: Someone has pointed out there’s a Fargo team called the Force, so I feel like we should skip this one.
  • Aviators: I just like Aeronauts better, honestly. Isn’t Aviators a brand of sunglasses?
  • Big Green: Reminds me of gum.
  • Bison Slayers: Much too specific. Our NDSU rivals might get a big head from all the attention!
  • Blackhawks: Oh, I get it, it’s another hockey team with an Indian-head logo. Let’s not start this whole thing over again.
  • Blaze: I’m not the only one who remembers the Paul Newman movie called “Blaze,” in which the title character is an exotic dancer, am I? It wasn’t a good movie.
  • Blazing Stars: Also the name of a cute yellow plant. But it does sound cool, doesn’t it?
  • Blizzard Dogs: Odd combination.
  • Bombardiers: Like Bombers, but since it’s not a modern word, this one might be a little better?
  • Cavalry: Is a group notorious for fighting the Native Americans really a good option in this instance?
  • Charging Nokota: Supposedly this is referring to the Nokota horses, but Nakota is also a name for a Native American people (more commonly known as the Assiniboine). So again, I’d avoid this.
  • Energy: Very abstract, but maybe we could use a little lightning bolt or something. It’s very thematically appropriate!
  • Explorers: Still probably a good idea to avoid this period in the state’s history, given that there were already plenty of native people here when white people came to “explore.” On the other hand, Sakakawea was also one of the explorers.
  • Fighting Green: Abstract and a little bit confusing. When used as a noun, “green” usually refers to a golfing surface.
  • Fighting Green Hawks: This would look cool, and hawks aren’t normally green, so it would be unusual.
  • Fighting Hawks: I’m still not liking the “fighting” moniker, purely because it’s too associated with the old name. And “hawks” seems like it could turn back to the Blackhawks Indian-head logo.
  • Fliers: Again, I just like Aeronauts better.
  • Force: See Arctic Force.
  • Force of North: See Arctic Force.
  • Global Hawks: This smacks too much of foreign policy, since the word “hawks” usually is used to label people who are in favor of war. I could be wrong, though.
  • Green Bombers: See Bombers in the other post.
  • Green Hawks: I like it better than Fighting Green Hawks. It’s a little unusual but still recognizable.
  • Green Pride: See Pride in the other post.
  • Grey Hawks: Would make Dungeons & Dragons fans happy. Greyhawk is the main setting for much of the world D&D takes place in.

 

Of these, I like: Aeronauts/Aeros, Blazing Stars, Green Hawks.

Though I also don’t mind: Blizzard, Bombardiers, Energy.

Which of my picks do you hate? Which do you like?

If we have to pick a new name, what nickname do you want to go with? (And please don’t answer with either “none,” or any variant on the old nickname. There are lots of other places to discuss that; I recommend the Herald’s Facebook page.)

UND Nickname List: Analysis of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Looking for a nickname, UND accepted suggestions from the public, and came up with a long list of nickname possibilities (more than 1,000), as well as a long list of suggestions that won’t be considered.

Many of the suggestions are great, but a few joke names (intended to raise the hackles of NDSU fans, poke fun at UND fans or perhaps somehow undermine the school) did get through, as far as I can tell.

UND logo_1_0_10I’m going to pull out a few suggested names here that are interesting, either for positive or negative reasons and write about them.

Let me be clear here: I am not taking a position here on choosing a name. I’m not taking specific position on anything. Views expressed here are mine, not those of the Grand Forks Herald. I’m probably not even going to read the whole list. And you’re free to disagree with me in the comments, as long as you’re polite and civil, not vulgar and don’t make personal attacks.

Abdominal Snowmen: Assuming this person meant “abominable” instead of “abdominal,” this is a cool suggestion. Unfortunately, it’s not gender-neutral, so it probably wouldn’t work that well. If the person actually meant “abdominal snowmen,” maybe the idea was to intimidate the opponent with our amazing chiseled abs. That doesn’t work for me. I think I last saw my abs in 1988.

Aeronauts/Aeros: This suggestion pays tribute to UND’s aerospace program, which is nationally known. Some of the notes do connect “Aeros” with “arrows” and hearken back to the old nickname, but that’s a pretty big stretch. Aviators is a related possibility that seemed quite popular.

Auroras: Cool idea, but really hard to draw and even more difficult to makelights1_0 a mascot suit for. It puts me a bit in mind of the Quasars, the team name of Southwest Star Concept School before it went back to being Heron Lake-Okabena. The school had a mural of stars showing the name, and it was fairly unique – but a little odd, too.

Badlanders: Hearkens to the terrain in the west. At the same time, the Badlands National Park is in South Dakota, and this might confuse people.

Berserkers: A callback to North Dakota’s Norse heritage, as berserkers were known for frenzied fighting in Scandinavia. Modern people may not know of the berserkers’ supernatural traits – despite not wearing armor they couldn’t be hurt by edged weapons or fire, and they went into a kind of battle-trance before fights. Some could supposedly transform into animals, so this would also be a bit like calling ourselves the Werewolves.

010515.n.gfh_.storm1_Blizzard: While very “northy,” and certainly something one associates with North Dakota, this might be a little abstract and tricky to draw as well. Would our mascot be a snowball? A field of white? Three sparkly snowflakes with lots of glitter? A lot of people suggested this, though!

Bombers: Meant as a shoutout to UND’s aviation program, I’d really hesitate to recommend this. Void of context, “bombers” are generally known for attacking soft targets and killing civilians with explosives. Lately the primary association with the word “bombers” is probably terrorism. Probably best to pick something else.

Dragons: Everyone loves dragons. Some are good, some are evil, some warlike and dragonsome wise. They also seem to be enjoying a recent popularity surge thanks in part to “Game of Thrones.” You can make them cute, you can make them fearsome, and dragon suits are probably easy to purchase. Not seeing a downside here, but I’m extremely partial to dragons and have two on my desk at work, so I will freely admit some bias here.

Drillers: I see the Oil Patch connection, but evoking dentists probably isn’t a great idea, even if they are feared by many. And there are other negative connotations here as well.

Ermines: It might be best not to be named after a creature best known for being made into coats for wealthy people. But that’s just my opinion.

Eternal Flame: Meant to tie in with UND’s current logo. Those who aren’t religious may not know that this is the common name of the candle on many churches’ altars that never gets put out. And everyone can probably see there might be an issue with “flamers.”

UND logo_1_0_10

Edit: Here are more suggestions, from F to M:

Fighting Anything: I don’t think this is a good idea, as it’s too close to the previous name, but that’s just my opinion. A few of these may even be attempts to squeeze the old logo back in, which seems to me to be a one-way ticket back to tedious and expensive litigation and ceaseless arguments. Let’s not go there.

UND logo_1_0_10Fire, Flames: Might sound a little too much like an unfortunate disaster has occurred on campus. “The UND Fire” sounds like a phrase that would be followed by “began at 3 a.m. last night,” or “claimed the lives of 17 students,” or “is suspected to be arson.” Flames, well, we already covered the reasons that might be problematic under “Eternal Flame.”

Flickertails: People either love this nickname, which UND used in days gone by, or they hate it. It’s a ground squirrel sometimes called a gopher; the University of Minnesota’s mascots are the Golden Gophers, obviously. It could be worse, but I personally do feel that we could probably do a lot better than this. And I wonder how many of the people who submitted Flickertails were just trolling to try and force a U of M doppelganger on UND. They are awfully cute, though.

Flood: While this is incredibly relevant to the area, it brings up a lot of very bad memories for a lot of local people and might be a little bit insensitive. On the other hand, it does mark a time in which our community united to fight a destructive natural disaster.

Frackers: This may be an unwise choice in the long run. The oil boom may not last forever, and should it end a lot of people will be financially hung out to dry. Then the name would rub it in their faces. Additionally, there is major opposition to oil fracking all over the United States.

Ymir, Frost Giant

Ymir, Frost Giant

Frost Giants: I’ve already written a bit about the Frost Giants. I kinda like it, and because the Frost Giants aren’t properly gods, we aren’t running the risk of offending any modern pagans (yes, there are still people who worship the Norse pantheon).

Glaciers: Y’all do know that glaciers are incredibly slow, yes? They do crush everything in their paths, but at the same time, slowness is not generally a trait positively associated with most athletic endeavors.

Green Goblins: Come on, dude, we all saw Spider-Man. Even if we wanted to steal from good ole’ Stan Lee (which we shouldn’t, he seems like a nice man), I’m pretty sure Marvel’s lawyers would pound us into dust in that legal battle. (The Lawyers would be a great mascot, but everyone would be too terrified to speak the word aloud, Voldemort-style, because they’d sue.)

Green Machine: John Deere might not be amused. On the other hand, they might be so amused they’d sponsor the team, but that would be selling out. And International Harvester fans would not be happy with this choice at all.

Homesteaders: While this does seem like a good suggestion at first glance, it would probably be a better idea to avoid this period in the state’s history, which often saw white settlers pitted against Native Americans. This goes for Explorers as well, though at least that would include Native American explorers such as Sakakawea. If these were the only options they’d be worth considering, but we have a thousand others, so why risk a replay?

41GBhveGlYLImperials: Hearkening to imperialism is also probably a bad idea. Plus, it’s a kind of delicious cinnamon candy, which isn’t terribly intimidating, and they’re red candies to boot, meaning we wouldn’t be able to wear our old green gear anymore. That’s no good.

Legends: Ties in with the state’s “Legendary” marketing campaign, but it’s also super vague and there are a million ways to illustrate it. That might be too many. Also, a certain age group will probably automatically complete the phrase with “of the Fall.”

Meadowlarks: These are the state birds. They sound a little bit too cutesy to me, but people have managed to make blue jay mascots look threatening, so that probably shouldn’t rule them out.

Mountain Lions: I see a problem with any nickname that has “mount” in it. If you don’t, congratulations, you are probably more innocent-minded than I am. Never change.

400px-Nighthawks_by_Edward_Hopper_1942Nighthawks: The name of a very famous painting by Edward Hopper, this nickname would strike fear into the hearts of abstract artists everywhere.

Nodaks: A lot of people like this one, but I’m not sure what a “Nodak” is, and having graduated from a college where we had to repeatedly explain our mascot to anyone who heard its name, I’m not a fan. (For those of you who don’t know, an Auggie is a baby eagle. And I graduated from Augsburg College.) It’s a little bland, too.

Norse: In English this word is often an adjective, not a noun, and would thus make for some unusual and awkward sentences later down the line. (It’s like naming your team “the Purple.” People would be continually asking “The Purple what?”) Norsemen might be easier, but that’s not gender-neutral, so I can’t really support that.

North Stars: This is literally the state motto of Minnesota, and may or may not have been200px-Minnesota_North_Stars_Logo_2.svg an attempt to name UND’s team after one of their big rivals (and recall the NDSU color scheme, too). Or, people might just not realize that’s the Minnesota state motto, due to it normally being in French. Also, the Dallas Stars might send lawyers after us if we went this route.

Northern Lights: See Auroras.

Oil Anything: See Frackers.

Orangutans: Submitted with the text “Orangutans are awesome.” Everything is better with monkeys, right? Er… apes, in this case.

Phoenix: The coolest mythological bird (sorry, rocs), phoenixes rise from their own ashes and symbolize rebirth, the circle of life and all that jazz. People seem to have a real problem spelling “phoenix,” though, and even more problems spelling the plural, phoenixes. On the other hand, fire.

Pilots: I feel like this is a less cool alternative to Aeronauts/Aeros.

Polar Bears: These are the scariest bears around, and because they’re not acclimated to humans they have no fear of humans, either. You can draw them terrifying, or draw them cute and cuddly, and they have an undeniable tie to chilly snowy places. You could easily find a polar bear suit, too.

Predators: Um. In the modern world, the word “predators” is usually immediately preceded by “sexual,” which is definitely and absolutely not the image we want here. Prowlers could also qualify as objectionable.

Pride: One of the seven deadly sins, along with Wrath, Gluttony and Sloth, Pride is generally considered to be the worst of the lot. Sometimes it is even considered the Original Sin. I’m guessing a lot of religious people might object to being literally named after a sin, but maybe not.

Pronghorns: It might be easier not to be named anything with “horn” in it, as I’m sure it will be turned into “horny” by opponents fairly quickly. Cool animals, though.

velociraptorRaptors: Could go one of two directions with this one, and use a fierce bird or the scariest dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. However, in real life, the dinosaurs may or may not have been covered in feathers, which would make them significantly less intimidating (albeit significantly fluffier).

Rattlers: Snakes generally have a negative connotation. While a lot of people are afraid of them, that fear often manifests less as “OH CRUD IT’S GOING TO KILL ME” and more as a “Icky creepy gross!”

Reapers: You want to be named after the bad guys from the extremely popular Mass Effect series of video games? The one that’s sold more than 14 million units? Not to mention the TV show Grimm. Maybe we should skip this one, even though the agricultural origin might have been cool.

Roughnecks, Rough Riders: However appropriate these names might have been in a more innocent time, it would take about 15 seconds to turn into bad jokes about “liking it rough.” Too many bad double entendres here that wouldn’t be suitable for a nice family hockey game. Alas.

Settlers, Sodbusters, Trailblazers: See Homesteaders.

Spirit: Super abstract and a little confusing. Would the mascot be a ghost? Are they just trying to get “Spirit Lake” into the mix without being obvious? I don’t know.

Stallions: This isn’t gender neutral, folks. The term refers to a very definitely male horse.

Storm: Interesting idea, but could potentially be difficult to find good artwork. Lightning bolt? Cloud and rain? Snowflakes? Thundersnow? Rats, now I wish I’d suggested Thundersnow.

Sundogs: Here’s another popular alternative a lot of people seem to like, but I’m not sure Isundogs quite understand the attraction. Literal sundogs are the pretty rainbow effect you get around the sun sometimes; metaphorically, maybe you could use a dog costume or something? I’m not fond of dog-related names even though my high school’s mascot was the Huskies. They can be potentially problematic for women’s teams. (Think about it.)

Swallows: More double entendres, huh? Did people really think it wouldn’t be obvious?

Trappers: Everyone who was a kid in the 1980s remembers trappers, right? Those nifty megafolders where we kept all our school stuff? They came in purple and pink and the virulent neon shades that were popular back then.

Tsunami: Yes, we did notice the first syllable is pronounced “Sioux.” Another attempt at an end run around the old nickname prohibition? Or just a lot of well-intentioned people who didn’t notice? I don’t know. It’s a shame, it would’ve been a cool name if it weren’t for the connection.

Valkyries: Also not gender neutral. Valkyries come in one gender, boys, and it is female.

Warriors: Another one that might be an attempt to run around the restriction against the old logo. If it’s not, it’s just too generic for my personal taste anyway.

Wind: It would give other schools the opportunity to plaster “Break the wind!” signs all over the place. Your mileage may vary on whether you think that’s a good thing or not, but I suspect it might not be funny after a while.

Yetis: This might be the holy grail of all nickname suggestions presented. They’re scary, they’re mythological, they’re known for being around ice and snow a lot, and they can be drawn as cute or terrifying as needs require. I do like this one.

UND logo_1_0_10

That’s my rundown, A-Z.

What do you think?

Which of my picks do you hate? Which do you like?

If we have to pick a new name, what nickname do you want to go with? (And please don’t answer with either “none,” or any variant on the old nickname. It’s been said already lots of times and this post isn’t about that.)

Rewatch: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

It’s been 14 years since the movie version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was released. Does it hold up to scrutiny when you watch it as adult, or does it flounder? Was it good then, and is it good now?

And does the fridge horror involved in knowing most of its plot points all along ruin the movie?

Well… yes and no, to virtually every one of those questions. I actually first read the books as a young adult, not a child, as I started on them in college (some time between 1999 and 2003, in other words), so I never read them, or saw the movies, with the uncritical eyes of a child. Although I was in fact a fairly critical child.

I don’t remember when I watched the movies, but I have seen them all at least once, so this will be at least the second time through for me on all of them, third or fourth in some cases.

It’s been years. The actors playing Harry, Ron and Hermione literally grew up while they made these movies, and it’s strange to see Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson as tiny little children again. They are awfully cute, but they’re wonderful actors as well, which struck me for the first time as I watched Harry have a very earnest conversation with a snake.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – Harry has a conversation with a snake.

The actors, then, are part of the movie that still work, and beautifully so, for the most part.

Another thing that works, astonishingly well, is the movie’s score. Most people would probably recognize it on hearing it – John Williams wrote it, so of course it’s fantastic. It lost the Oscar for Best Original Score to some movie nobody’s heard of called “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.” Shame they had to go up against each other.

But then there are things that don’t work quite as well. Case in point:

Baby Harry Potter from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

Baby Harry Potter from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Oh my god, Dumbledore, you can’t just leave a baby on a doorstep! That baby has a full head of luxuriant black hair, it’s well out of the “moves as much as a sack of flour” stage! What if it rolls over onto the sidewalk? What if it rolls into the street? Are there coyotes in England? Do we know?

Knowing how the story ends, and knowing information provided by the author also give us two more tidbits about Dumbledore we may not have initially known for this scene:

  1. Dumbledore is gay. That doesn’t really have any bearing on anything at this point, and I can’t remember if it ever does, in the movies.
  2. Dumbledore is planning to essentially sacrifice Harry to get rid of Voldemort. I can’t remember if he had that plan all along or only for the last few books, but it kind of gives you a whole different perspective on the lovable old bearded school principal, doesn’t it? Who knows what evil lurks behind the beards of men? Well, we know, don’t we.

And then there’s the way the books are graduated in reading level, starting out by being written for young children and slowly moving into the older children/adult reading level. While it was a creative, fun idea, it translates into some tone problems in the movies.

For example, the Dursleys:

The Dursleys in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

The Dursleys in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

They’re not characters, they’re caricatures, at least early on in the books and in the movies too. This doesn’t work quite as well as the series starts to create more shades of gray in a more grownup landscape, and so if you’ve read to the end, on the rewatch they just seem… unlikely and silly. No one could be that bad in real life, could they? Well, maybe, but they’re also played for laughs. To me they don’t work.

And the other victims of tone in the book are the Slytherins. You can get away with totally evil characters when you’re writing for second-graders, but older age groups aren’t accepting of one-note, one-dimensional villains. You can only watch someone tie a victim to the train tracks so many times before you start to wonder why on earth they’re bothering.

Then there’s the fridge horror in the series. Fridge horror is when something that seems normal or innocuous becomes terrifying or awful after the fact, usually after you’ve thought about it a bit. There’s a more in-depth explanation on TV Tropes.

There’s a bit of fridge horror in knowing that after Hagrid puts a pig tail on Dudley with magic, Dudley has to have it surgically removed.

There’s a lot more fridge horror in this scene:

Food from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Food from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

See all that beautiful, delicious food?

Yeah, slave labor created that. Hogwarts runs on slave labor.

Lest you think I’m somehow making this up, it’s completely true – house elves made the food, and house elves are basically slaves. Slaves keep Hogwarts running on a day-to-day basis.

And even more disturbingly (at least from a certain point of view) most of them are happy to be slaves. There’s a whole genre of literature out there now decried as horribly horribly racist, in which black people who were slaves in the American South were portrayed as being happy to be enslaved, and that parallel is enough to cause this scene to be nauseating even on a good day. Even though you don’t see any of the house elves doing the work.

And Harry and his friends don’t find out that house elves are doing that work until they’ve been at Hogwarts for four years.

I noticed a host of other small things on this rewatch, including, but not limited to the following:

  • Harry is called The Boy Who Lived. He really ought to be called The Boy Who Lived and Got Credit For It Even Though His Mum Did All the Real Work.
  • I was really hoping Neville would turn out to be the real savior from the prophecy. He had a more interesting character arc than Harry did. (Sorry, but he did.)
  • Hermione is such a nerd, and she’s that wonderful rare thing, a female bossy nerd. But it’s always very clear that her bossiness is kindly meant – noting that people should get their robes on before the train gets to Hogwarts, or telling them they have dirt on their nose.
  • The movie is super slow. I thought that the first time I saw it, and I still do think that.
    Rad

    Rad.

    It’s not that it’s setting up the universe, either, it’s just a lot of unnecessary fluff. We don’t need to see Harry ruminating as he stares out the window, for example. On the other hand, it does give us more of a chance to luxuriate in the music, so there’s that.

  • Modern muggle-born students would have such a hard time going without the Internet that I think wizards must have some sort of equivalent.
  • Madame Hooch has rad porcu-hair.
  • I still suspect the Sorting Hat’s real algorithm is “put people in the House they want to be in.”
  • I’m pretty sure all children caught wandering the halls at night are taken to the terrifying forest of terrifying terror “for a chore,” just to frighten them into not doing that again.
  • Gryffindor winning the House Cup is still highway robbery.
Highway robbery in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Highway robbery in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Seriously, if the heroes of the story weren’t Gryffindors everyone would be so mad right now.

Yes, I Am an Evil Supervillain, Thank You

I’m Lex Luthor and Emperor Palpatine and Magneto and The Penguin.

Best-case scenario, maybe I get to be antihero Beatrix Kiddo on her roaring rampage of revenge in Kill Bill. But that’s on a good day.

Why am I turning into a supervillain? Well, if you believe the Myers-Briggs personality tests, I have an ENTJ personality. You can read all about Myers-Briggs here, and about that specific personality type here, but what that really means, according to lots of people on the Internet, is that I am a bad person who wants to take over the world and then kick puppies or blow up a planet.

That’s not what the research says, of course, or at least not in those words.

ENTJs are a rare personality type in general and even rarer for women. About 2-5% of men are ENTJs and only 1-3% of women. ENTJs are motivated, assertive, competitive, strategic. They’re influential and organized, but their standards are high and they don’t always take people’s personal needs into account. (Here’s where that came from, but you can find similar information all over the place.)

Here’s the problem: people apparently do not like the ENTJ personality. At all. Not even a little.

If you check out some of the fictional people generally believed to be ENTJs, they are some of the worst human beings ever put on page or screen.

Does this mean I’m going to take up puppy-kicking and nun-punching as a hobby, and build a death ray in the basement? No.

I think it might actually mean that ENTJs are misunderstood.

  • Yes, we can seem alarmingly insensitive, but that doesn’t mean we don’t care; it means that a lot of the time, we don’t actually notice. And if we do, it won’t be weighted as heavily as objective data. (Sorry.)
  • Yes, we can seem irritatingly assertive, but groups we’re in will be blessedly free of restaurant choosing discussions that go “Where do you want to go?” “I don’t know.” “Eh, don’t care.” “What do you think?” “Not sure.” (repeat 10 times)
  • Yes, we can seem quite bossy, but we see systems everywhere. We want them to be the best systems possible, and we want each person to do the best they possibly can. That’s not just because we like the system, either–it’s because we feel awesome when we’re doing our best and we assume everyone else does too.
  • Yes, we often like to have plans. That doesn’t mean we’re devoid of spontaneity, though, just that we like to have a backup in case spontaneity spontaneously doesn’t happen. If spontaneity occurs we will happily scrap the plan.

In short, if you know someone who’s an ENTJ, give them a hug, or better yet, give them a rational, objective assessment of something awesome they’ve done. They’d probably prefer that over mushy feelings stuff.

But maybe you should keep the nuns and puppies and death rays away.

You know, just in case.

Music Review: Charli XCX’s “Sucker” Is Rude, Crude, but Pretty Good

Charli XCX

Charli XCX

I wouldn’t want kids to listen to Charli XCX’s most recent album, “Sucker,” but if you don’t mind an F-bomb here or there, it’s great stuff–punk-flavored, hard-edged pop with retro-80s styling.

Madonna might have sounded like this, if she was starting her career now and if she were starting with as much musical talent as she acquired over the years. It’s aggressive, unapologetic pop, and every song sounds gloriously distinct from every other song on the album.

Ironically, the song that gave the album its name, “Sucker,” is probably the weakest of the lot.

The second song and second single released, “Break the Rules,” is better, a sort of middle-finger salute to school that revels in its own obnoxiousness. That shouldn’t be a good thing, but if Charli XCX can get the biggest square in town (me) to appreciate a rebellious attitude, she’s doing pretty well, I’d say.

“Breaking Up” is a bouncy, upbeat tune about having dated someone who’s really easy to break up with for an apparently inexhaustible list of reasons, some of which are funny and some less so.

I feel like I’ve heard “Boom Clap” before, possibly on the soundtrack to “The Breakfast Club.” Well, we know that’s not it, but the song would fit right in that era with its wavery synths.

Then there’s the song that doesn’t sound like any of the other tunes on the album, “Need Ur Luv.” Its title may have been deliberately designed to aggravate grammar nerds like me, but it’s like someone took the backbeat of “The Hey Song” and wrote a new song for it. A song that appears to be about an unhealthy relationship, whose upbeat tune doesn’t match its gloomy lyrics. And that’s before the little-girl voice Charli assumes partway through it, which makes it all even more disturbing–and wonderful.

That song happens to have been produced by Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend, by the way, and Charli shares a writing credit with Batmanglij and others on it. It’s the best of the album.

There’s plenty here for those who enjoy defiance-infused punkpop. Just chase any kids away before you play it, because there’s bad language and less-than-subtle references to sex and drugs, too.