Midnights: Album Review

The moment Taylor Swift announced that she was releasing a new album at the 2022 MTV Video Music Awards, I may have done a happy dance and then spent the entire next few weeks waiting in eager and impatient anticipation for Midnights. As stated on several occasions in several blogs, I am a major Taylor Swift fan. I am a Swiftie. I’m not ashamed of that at all. I’ve listened to her since her first debut album came out in 2006. I was twelve at the time. Now I am 28, and I am still listening to Taylor Swift. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

So the second Midnights dropped on Friday, I had it on my Spotify to play on the way to work. I listened to the entire album, all thirteen songs, in the 45 minutes it took me to get to work. Then I went back and played the 3 am edition. My mom (my aunt, but I call her mom) saw that it dropped, and she’s like, ‘Well, I know what Keely is listening to for the next month.’ (She’s right. I’ve listened to the album since Friday on repeat.)

Now, most of you probably know that Red (Taylor’s Version) is my favorite album. Red has always been my favorite album of hers. Even before she re-released her version. Then she re-released her version and I loved Red even more. Not to say I don’t love all her albums, because I do. Hello, “cardigan” was my top song for 2020 and 2021. Red just clicked with me for some reason. A lot.

Well.

Move over Red because Midnights has taken over.

Even the songs that I perhaps don’t like as much as others, I still listen to them because of the lyrics, the music, and the whole vibe. This album is like she took all of the beautiful, breathtaking lyrics from folklore and evermore then combined them with the sound of like 1989 and Lover with some Reputation in there. Midnights, just wowza. I love this album. I may never listen to another album again. (Kidding, I will.)

Midnights is thirteen nights in Taylor Swift’s life. So they’re throughout her life. I find that absolutely fascinating, and I have so many questions.

Now, rather than go through all these songs, I’m going to talk about my favorite ones. These are the ones that hit me the most, and I’ve been playing on repeat for a while now. Seriously, I end my day with Taylor Swift, and I begin my day with Taylor Swift.

We’ll start with her newest single, “Anti-Hero.”

“Anti-Hero” is the third track from Midnights. While it’s not my favorite song, I do like it. It’s got an upbeat sound to it, which is funny because it’s a song about self-sabotage. It’s about how sometimes the person who is blocking your way. . . is, well. You.

"I should not be left to my own devices
They come with prices and vices
I end up in crisis."

Who doesn’t feel like that? Who keeps climbing that ladder over and over again and keeps falling, toppling down everyone in your path?

Who can’t relate to this song?

And it’s about acknowledging your own flaws and seeing them and kind of hating them. Wondering if you could just fix them, maybe you wouldn’t be in your own way. But then, the song is also about accepting those flaws and realizing that, hey, you’re human.

Also, the video, as always is a gem. I love her videos. Taylor needs to make a movie. Oh, wait, she sort of did with “All Too Well.”

Pretty sure every millennial is like, “Damn, dude,” when it comes to this song.

Do I think it should’ve been the first single? No, not really. But I do get why. It’s catchy and pop. It’s got a nice beat to it. I personally wouldn’t have chosen “Anti-Hero” as the first new single, but I do like the song. It’s, like, maybe six or seven on my top five of Midnights.

As for the song that I’d chosen for the single, I’ll have to think about that.

My top five from Midnights keep changing, so we’ll go by track.

The next one that’s on my top five favorite songs from Midnights is “Snow on the Beach.”

Not going to lie, this song is like the theme of a new fanfiction I want to write for Law & Order: SVU. (Yeah, yeah, I know, I know. I’m a giant nerd.)

This song is about falling in love with someone while they’re falling in love with you. It’s one of those songs that you’d see in a TV show or a movie where the two main characters are circling around each other, making dinner together, going to the movies, all the little dates, and the feeling of just pure happiness.

It’s like snow. The first snow that falls, and it’s beautiful and perfect. But this isn’t just any snow. It’s snow on the beach. It’d unexpected, but it’s remarkable. It’s something you didn’t know would happen, but it did.

The combination of Taylor Swift and Lana Del Rey makes this song so heavenly and so sweet, with lovely yet simple lyrics. “Snow on the Beach” is a song that would be a romantic comedy, and I mean that as a compliment. I want to make a music video for this song (okay, so I want to make videos for like a lot of Taylor Swift’s songs). It’s just so lovely.

"I've never seen someone lit from within
Blurring out my periphery
My smile is like I won a contest
And to hide that would be so dishonest."

The next song I listened to on repeat for like three hours on Sunday.

“Midnight Rain,” is a masterpiece. It’s my mom’s second favorite song on this album. (We’ll get to her favorite later.) This song is so damn good. So good.

The beginning of this song got me from the start. It starts with a lower voice which is actually Taylor’s voice, with some synth vibes. I don’t normally like synth, but this song, it works.

This song is about putting a career before a relationship. It’s about how the other person wanted a real relationship. Marriage, the white picket fence, the whole kit kaboodle. But she didn’t. She was working on her career and making a name for herself. Then, you have this relationship, and it’s like it never happened. Neither of them think about the other.

"My boy was a montage
A slow-motion, love potion
Jumping off things in the ocean
I broke his heart 'cause he was nice
He was sunshine, I was midnight rain."

Excuse me while I play it on repeat for the next few hours.

I need a video for “Midnight Rain,” like stat. I’ll make it myself if I have to. Like with “Snow on the Beach.” But the song I want a video for the most is this next one.

“Vigilante Shit” gives me such Cruella vibes. Emma Stone’s Cruella de Vil. Like damn. Tell me that this song doesn’t give you all the villain vibes. The femme fatale vibes. It reminds me of Cruella, Maleficent, Yennefer, all those powerful women who were wronged (by men mostly but also by other women) who said, ‘You know what? Fuck you.’

Also, I feel like this song is like a cousin to songs from Reputation. Songs like “Don’t Blame Me” and “I Did a Bad Thing.” It has that kind of revenge and woman power vibe but not up in your face.

Also, the first line of this song, y’all.

"Draw the cat eye sharp enough to kill a man." 

Damn, Taylor. Yes. Just yes, girl. Yes. Women are told to dress pretty. It’s always about appearances. That their make-up must look pretty. Be pretty. Be quiet. Be obedient. All that shit. This song is like, reclaiming it. It’s saying, ‘I’m not dressing for you, baby. I’m not dressing for you or anyone. I’m dressing for me.’

"Ladies always rise above
Ladies know what people want
Someone sweet and kind and fun
The lady simply had enough."

This song might be my theme song from now on. Just saying.

The next song is “The Great War,” which is one of the seven bonus tracks on the Midnights (3 am Edition). “The Great War” reminds me of folklore. Like if “The Great War” was on folklore, I wouldn’t even bat an eye. It would make sense. It’d make sense for “The Great War” to come after “exile.”

Look, I love all of Taylor’s songs. Obviously, but “The Great War” might be my favorite song. (At the moment, at least.) It has the most beautiful, raw lyrics. It flows so well, the lyrics, the music, everything. She’s painting a picture, and it’s gorgeous. You can see it in your head. The way this couple is.

This song is about being in a relationship and comparing it to all your other failed relationships. It’s about fighting and realizing that this isn’t the same as all the others. That he’s not the same. Something about this song touches me. All her songs touch me, but this one hits differently. Just like the next song hits differently. It’s like, she’s speaking what I can’t put into words. I write poetry, but I can’t write songs like she does.

She loves him, she does, but she has a past, and she thinks that’s all he sees. All she sees are her previous relationships. “The Great War” is about pushing past that doubt, the insecurities before she ruins a good thing.

"You drew up some good faith treaties
I drew curtains closed, drank my poison all alone
You said I have to trust more freely
But diesel is desire, you were playing with fire
And maybe it's the past that's talking
Screaming from the crypt
Telling me to punish you for things you never did
So I justified it."

Just. . . .*chef’s kiss* I can’t stop listening to this song.

The last song is my mom’s favorite song.

“Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” hit me like a train wreck. This son is about a relationship. Specifically, the relationship that Taylor had with John Mayer. she was only 19 at the time, and he was 32. There was a lot of heat for that age difference. “Dear John,” one of my favorite songs off of Speak Now, is also about him.

She’s saying that she regrets this relationship the most. That if they hadn’t dated that maybe she wouldn’t have had the experience she did in her next relationships. That this youthful, rebellious relationship with him scarred her. That was the beginning of her issues when it came to relationships. It’s raw and powerful, and the lyrics are incredible. This song. . .jeez.

Who hasn’t had a relationship that they regret? That they wish never happened? I know I have.

"If clarity's in death, then why won't this die?
Years of tearing down our banners, you and I
Living for the thrill of hitting you where it hurts
Give me back my girlhood, it was mine first."

That last line hits me the hardest.

As for which should’ve been the single, I think it should’ve been “Vigilante Shit” or “Midnight Rain.”

Thus concludes my semi-review on Midnights. If you haven’t listened to the album, do so! There’s not a song on it that’s not good. That someone won’t relate too.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to play Midnights on repeat. Again.

Oh, and check out the video for “Bejeweled.” It’s shiny. (See what I did there?)

-K

In Another Life (A Poem)

So I did something different for this poem. . .I co-wrote it with a friend of mine named Nick! I met Nick in 2018 when I interned in D.C. We’ve stayed friends and he helped me with this poem! So I hope you enjoy this little poem. He wrote the second and third lines.

In another life, I could’ve loved you.

Our rivers intertwined as they can often do,

our flows becoming one, when they were once two.

In another life, I might have met you,

but the sky’s gone all blue.

For this is not that life,

and I will never be your wife.

In another life, I would be in a white dress,

walking down an aisle to confess

my love for you.

We’d promise each other to be forever true.

But those would only be pretty lies,

and overtime, we would grow to despise.

In another life, maybe we could work it out,

maybe we could get through this drought.

The storm would finally end,

and our love would transcend,

all obstacles.

In another life, you could’ve loved me,

and I might’ve let you.

But I let you say goodbye and cried later that night,

at another life that might’ve been.

-K

What Song Would Save Your Life?

Music has always been a huge part of my life. I grew up on Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, The Chicks, and Shania Twain. Just like I grew up on Eminem, DMX, and Tupac. And like I grew up on Fleetwood Mac, Prince, and George Michael. In middle and high school, I listened to Taylor Swift, Paramore, The Fray, Avril Lavigne, Panic at the Disco, Evanescence, Daughtry, and so many others. My life has a musical thread to it. Music is the one constant. Music has never let me down. It’s always been there. Whether I need to listen to some heavy rock like Metallica, Disturbed, Shinedown, Sick Puppies, or Skillet when I’m trying to calm down. On those when I’m tangled up in anger and frustration that I can’t explain, I turn them up loud. Or on the days when I feel strangely apathetic when I need some softer music, music that hits me deep within my heart and soul. Music like Lord Huron or LEON or BANKS. Music that makes me feel a bit more connected and makes me feel when I’m not feeling anything. Or on those days where I’m sad, but I don’t know why, so I turn on some Ed Sheeran or some of my favorite musicals like SIX, Rent!, or any Disney movie soundtrack, because it makes me feel better. It puts a pep in my step, and it’s like, okay, everything will be okay because we have music. Music is there. It’s real.

There are songs that I listen to that instantly bring back memories. Like “Bad Girlfriend” by Theory of a Deadman, my friend and I danced in my house, the walls shaking with how loud the music was. we once were hanging out and having a ball when Facebook started blowing up, and my mother called me asking if we were okay after the earthquake. My friend and I didn’t even realize there was an earthquake. We were having so much fun. Even listening to Jesse McCartney makes me think of her. Two extremes, Theory of a Deadman and Jesse McCartney, and bam! All the memories, ever.

Like the fact that even though I don’t like Bon Jovi, sometimes I’ll listen to “Wanted Dead or Alive” because it reminds me of my brother Tristan, just like listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers does. He went to a concert maybe like six years ago, and he recorded my favorite song of theirs just for me.

How when I listen to songs like “I Love Rock n’Roll” by Joan Jett or “Heartbreaker” by Pat Benatar, I think about those rare moments when my sister Chloe and I were home alone, just us girls. Those rare beautiful moments where we’d dance and sing (scream, really), and we were sisters. How much fun we had just being silly.

When I hear “1985” by Bowling for Soup, and “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers, I think of being at the club Decades with my best friends Caroline, Abby and Nick and we’d be singing it to each other like there was nothing wrong with the world. Like it was just us friends against the world, and that’s all we need. The end of last month, I went to Abby’s bachelorette party, and there was something about being back in Decades, about dancing and singing and being with friends. It was amazing.

Music reaches a part of you that sometimes you can’t explain, and in one of the shows of the summer, it addressed this. In Stranger Things, how they save Max is through her favorite song, “Runnin’ Up That Hill” by Kate Bush.

That got me thinking.

What song would save me from Vecna?

It didn’t take me long to figure it out.

“Freedom” by George Michael immediately came to mind. I can’t help it. I hear that song, and I am instantly happy. It’s like a power ballad and just, yes. Hell, I might get “Freedom” tattooed on my arm. or you know, some of the lyrics, who knows.

This song is like, a new start for George Michael. It was him saying, okay, I’m here but I’m not the same, and my music isn’t the same, and ain’t nothing wrong with that. He wanted to make his own music, and how he wanted. It’s such a power ballad and he’s like, taking back his power. How can you not like this song? Also, you’ve got supermodels lip-syncing the song, and it’s glorious.

And because of George Michael, we got this:

Yes, that is Zachary Quinto aka SPOCK lip-syncing to “Freedom” and it. is. glorious.

The point is, it’s one of my favorite songs, and if I was trapped with Vecna, I feel like it’d be that song that would bring me back.

Then I remembered that Stranger Things is set in the 80s, and this song was released in 1996, a full ten years after the newest season’s events but whatever. It still would save me.

Though if we are going based on, you know, what was available in 1986, then it would probably be a Fleetwood Mac song such as “Dreams” or “Rhiannon.”

Music is such an important part of us, who we are. you hear a song, and it brings back memories. It makes you feel something, whether that’s a good or a bad feeling. So of course it’sa song that saves Max’s life. It makes perfect sense to me.

So my question for you is: What song would save your life? Let me know in the comments!

-K

The Fandoms That Shaped Me

It all started with one line: “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of Number Four Privet Drive were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much,” and it was over. Or rather, it had only just begun. The first “fandom” I ever joined was Harry Potter. I’ve been reading the books since I could read. I have every single book in hardback. I used to have the movies until my siblings scratched them all, so I have to get them again. I even have Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Quidditch Through the Ages, and Tales from Beedle the Bard, both softback copies and illustrated copies. My goal is to get all the released books so far in illustrated form. Harry Potter has been an essential part of my life and continues to be. I may disagree with what J.K. Rowling does or says, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t be a part of the fandom. On my podcast with my BFF, Caroline, we discussed how you could love the work but not the creator. And honestly, after all these years, I don’t think Harry Potter belongs to Rowling anymore. It belongs to us. 

The fans.

For me, and many others, Harry Potter and other fandoms or nerdom (the “nerd culture” if you will) is a form of escape. It’s a way to get out of our heads and into other worlds because sometimes the world is crap, and you’d rather be a witch, a Jedi, a bender, a vampire, a companion, or a Shadowhunter than be your regular normal self. 

The Dursleys may have wanted to be perfectly normal, but I wanted to be extraordinary. Fandoms give people an escape, an opportunity to imagine another place, to be well extraordinary, even if it’s just a chapter or two. Or for an episode or two (or eight).

I can tell you that all of my friends know their Hogwarts Houses.

That the debate on Aang and Katara being a couple is still discussed. Most of us are hardcore Katara and Zuko fans. We still despise that live-action movie.

Just as we despise the live-action Eragon. (Seriously, don’t even get me started on it.)

We all have our favorite Doctors and our favorite companions.

We all lament over the letdown of the Percy Jackson movies and are eager yet wary of the Disney Plus show.

And even though most of us won’t admit it, we all had a Twilight phase, whether we loved the series or hated it.

More recently, we all bonded over The Umbrella Academy (FUCK YOU ALLISON HARGREEVES and if you’ve watched season three then you know why I. am. salty),

The Witcher (Henry Cavill and his ability to grunt and say everything, like what even is this),

and Stranger Things (men should apologize for not being Steve Harrington, just saying).

We found ourselves shocked that we enjoyed Bridgerton. And you know what? We are all still extremely salty at the last season of Game of Thrones

Fandoms bring people together, and yes, they can also be toxic. Fans can be toxic. There have been Star wars actors that fans have cruelly hounded. There are other fans for other shows that have been unnecessarily hateful. They can be mean and cruel to each other, to the creators, and to actors. But for the most part, it’s a fun community. 

After all, without fans, Doctor Who might’ve not been brought back. Star Trek may not have been rebooted. Sense8 on Netflix would’ve been kept on a cliffhanger. But the fans brought them back.

People connect over shared favorite characters, headcanons, and theories. We discuss what we think will happen in the next season or the next book. (I have all the theories on season five of Stranger Things.) We may not be right, but it’s fun to discuss. If people don’t like how a fandom ended, then they hop on fanfiction.net or Archive Of Our Own, and they write the ending they want, or if they aren’t a writer, they find a fanfiction to ease their minds because sometimes the ending sucks and characters die and you just need a happy ending. 

During the pandemic, everyone watched Tiger King and blasted social media at the sheer absurdity of it. You either watched it, or you didn’t, yet it still brought people together. We were in a shitty situation with the pandemic, and the outrageousness of the Tiger King made us realize that, well, it could be worse. 

Fandoms have affected me so much that I have tattoos from them. My first tattoo was the Deathly Hallows from Harry Potter. I have a Captain America shield on my left arm, a Batman symbol on my right arm, and the anti-possession symbol from Supernatural on my right ankle. Supernatural ended after 15 seasons in 2020, and I had to get a tattoo commemorating the show that had been in my life for 15 years.

More fandoms will be forever embossed on my skin because they have shaped me somehow. Sometimes when I’m feeling down or in a funk, I pull out Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and start reading. It’s my favorite Harry Potter book and movie. Or I flip on Supernatural or Doctor Who. I know how those series end, how those books end, and it brings me comfort. Sometimes it’s Criminal Minds or, lately, it’s been the original Charmed. (I still say the sixth season is the best season ever.) My mom and I recently watched all seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all five of Angel.

Fandoms are the reason why I want to be a writer and a filmmaker because I want to create something that touches someone’s life, as so many fandoms have touched me. Maybe it sounds a bit silly, but it’s important to me. 

So yeah, I can’t tell you my blood type, which is probably a bad thing. But what I can tell you is my Hogwarts House and Ilvermorny House.

I am a proud Slytherin. Slytherins are known for being ambitious, resourceful, determined, and clever. Most don’t believe I am a Slytherin, but I can see it, honestly. Here I am, finishing up one master’s in spring 2023, then returning for another master’s in fall 2023. I am resourceful because I grew up in a broken home, so I had to figure out my own way. I am determined because nothing was going to stand in my way of getting a degree.

My Ilvermorny House is a Pukwudgie. It’s based on a creature in the Harry Potter universe. They are known for being wickedly smart and independent. Pukwudgies represent the heart and favor healers. And again, due to my history, I’m fiercely independent. I try to do everything myself (it’s both a good and a bad thing). As for the heart and healer bit, I am going into social work because I want to work with at-risk teenagers who come from broken homes, as I did. Because I can relate to them.

So it might seem silly to some how invested I get into my many fandoms, but for me, and others like me, it’s not. It’s who we are, and I will not apologize for that. 

-K

There’s No Rising From the Ashes Here (The Secrets of Dumbledore Review)

In a previous blog post, I mentioned how I would not be watching The Secrets of Dumbledore in theatres. (For more on that and why, read “When Franchises Re-Cast Characters (The Secrets of Dumbledore.”) My friend Caroline and I also released an episode on our podcast “Disturbed Nerds” where we discussed this, as well as other crimes of creators. Link to the episode below.

That being said, since it’s been probably about a two months or so since the movie was released, and it’s now on HBO Max, a few weekends ago, I finally broke down and watched it.

Let me tell you, I was not impressed. The first Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movie is still the best one out of this trilogy, and we’ll get to the reasons why I believe that is in a moment.

I went in there, trying to ignore the entire ethical issues of this movie, as stated in my previous blog post. Yes, Johnny Depp was not in it. yes, he was re-cast, and it was a whole debacle. Oh, not to mention Ezra Miller (who knows how Warner Brothers will handle him being the Flash considering they are just in general an awful person). I ignored that (mostly). I shoved those issues aside and went in as clear-headed as possible. (Here begins the SPOILERS. So stop reading if you haven’t watched the movie!)

That being said, it honestly wasn’t the best movie. A big question that came to my head was:

What was the point of this movie?

In fact, better yet:

What exactly did this movie accomplish in this saga?

I mean yes, the blood pact that our adorable Niffler Teddy stole from Grindelwald in The Crimes of Grindelwald, because ooh, shiny and here you go (I might have been a Niffler in a past life, just saying. I like shiny too.) is broken. That’s great. But like, how did it break? That didn’t seem clear.

Teddy the Niffler and Newt is done with this

You know, that little guy. He’s great. Like the MVP. Anyways, the previous move he nabbed the blood pact that prevented Dumbledore from making moves on Grindelwald and vice versa. Yay.

The point is, it’s broken now. But HOW. My theory is that it broke because Dumbledore wasn’t actively trying to kill Grindelwald. Rather, Dumbledore was trying to protect Credence, his nephew, from Grindelwald, Meanwhile, Grindelwald was casting to kill, and thus that’s why it broke. But that is a weak theory. It’s all I got though.

This movie greatly suffered from some poor writing. Poor, sloppy writing, that left us with a lot of questions, not a lot of answers, and in all honesty, just plain old simple confusion.

Take for example the message Credence, our poor broken Obscurial, gets at the beginning of the movie. (After hunting down the most adorable little deer type thing and then Grindelwald KILLING IT. YES. I am angry about this. But we’ll get to my thoughts on this version of Grindelwald later.) The message in the mirror says “Forgive me.” Oooohkay then. But when and how did these messages begin? How did Aberforth, who is sending these messages, A) find out about Credence if he didn’t know and B) find a way to communicate with said boy without alerting Grindelwald? Also, they did not make it very clear at all until way later in the movie that Aberforth is Credence’s father. They also didn’t really explain how that all happened. Aberfoth fell in love, his girl’s parents didn’t approve and she was sent away. Did he know she was pregnant? If he did, did Aberforth look for Credence?

ALSO, I just realized another plot hole.

So, we know from The Crimes of Grindelwald, that Leta Lestrange switched babies. Her brother Corvus went to the woman who ended up in the water and he drowned, thus dying. Corvus was dead. The father found out because of his fancy family tree. I think. It’s not clear. But either way, he finds out his son is dead. So. . .what did he do with Credence? Did he figure out that that boy wasn’t his son and that this was some switch-a-roo and just have the half-elf woman drop off Credence to Mrs. Barebones? Because he didn’t care? Did anyone tell that woman, whom I assume is Credence’s mother that her baby isn’t the one that died but was really Corvus Lestrange? Again, lots of questions.

Another big major question. . .

Where the HELL was Tina?

You know, Tina Goldstein, big sister to one Queenie and Newt’s woman with salamander eyes. This woman!

Newt and Tina, the ultimate cute

Are you seriously telling me that Tina, badass Auror Tina, just hung about America with her new posh job while the man she loved was out running around being in danger AND not to mention, her baby sister was with a deranged psychopath? No. Hell no. There was no logical reason why Tina was left out of this story. I don’t believe for a second that she wouldn’t be involved. New cushy job or not. That is her sister. She wouldn’t give up on her sister. Not for a moment.

While we are on the topic of Queenie. her decision to join Grindelwald was weak at best. She’s a Legilmens. Couldn’t she read his mind? Or was he an Occlumens? Thus he could shield his mind. But even then, Queenie has heard the rumors about Grindelwald. Come on. She’s a smart girl. She had to have known that he hated Muggles (or No-Majs as they are called in America). I get she wanted to marry Jacob but that still felt so weak. Grindelwald had to manipulate her more than what was shown. Which I suppose makes sense. After all, Grindelwald was known for being extremely persuasive. He knows how to read people, see what they want and then use that for his own means. For me, I always that was more terrifying than Voldemort. Voldemort went with fear, while Grindelwald played on what people wanted. Their hopes, their dreams. In Queenie’s case, she wanted to be with the man she loved without being arrested and Jacob’s mind being wiped. (For more on how I think Grindelwald is a more terrifying villian, read this blog post.)

Speaking of Jacob. This is going to kill me to say, but as much as I love Jacob, he really had no purpose. He’s a great character. I love him, I do. But he had no purpose. He pretty much was in the way. More or less. The storyline of him trying to assassinate Grindelwald? Please. That was so weak. Jacob is a Muggle. How was he trying to assassinate Grindelwald at all legit?

Jacob was a distraction, that’s it. But even then, he didn’t move the story along. This depresses me some because Jacob is a great character and they didn’t do anything with him. He could’ve been so much more. He could’ve had more interactions with Queenie and really bring her back into the fold.

Do you know who was my favorite part of this movie? (Besides Newt of course because baby. Newt Scamander must be protected at all times.)

This woman right here.

Lally Hicks (Jessica Williams)

Eulalie “Lally” Hicks, a Charmed professor at Hogwarts who is seriously 100% that. She’s incredible. She’s sassy and independent and powerful, and she knows it, but she’s not cocky about it. She was a breakout character, and I adored her. Seriously, she was awesome. I need more of her. I also liked how she and Jacob met. She essentially told him that he might be a Muggle but that doesn’t change the fact that he has a good heart. Jacob does have a good heart. They really could’ve used that and they. . .well, didn’t.

Another character I was glad we got to see more of was Bunty. Bunty is Newt’s assistant (who totally has a crush on him, and I can’t blame her, come on). She had a brief little cameo in The Crimes of Grindelwald and in The Secrets of Dumbledore, she had more of a role. Sort of. This is her.

Bunty (Victoria Yeates)

She’s an absolute delight. We need a Bunty spin-off.

Before we get to my thoughts on Mads Mikkelsen’s Gellert Grindelwald, I would like to speak (write, whatever) about the utter and complete sadness that is the character of Credence Barebones, or rather Aurelius Dumbledore. Now in this movie, you can tell that Credence isn’t doing so hot. He’s dying. The Obscurus is basically gobbling him up from the inside. It’s poisoning him. He’s growing weaker and he’s in a lot of pain.

Let’s back up a bit.

What do we know about Obscurials?

An Obscurial is created when a witch or wizard is forced to repress their magic. This can be through psychology or physical abuse. Such as the case with Credence and Ariana Dumbledore. Mary Barebones beat Credence to try and rid him of his unholy ways. Ariana was attacked by Muggle boys who saw her doing magic and they thought she was a freak. Thus she grew to try to suppress her magic, to hate her magic. When this happens, the witch or wizard develops an Obscurus.

Now according to the Harry Potter canon, Obscurials were more common in ancient times. Back when there were witch trials, etc. Now they are not so common. They have ways to hide themselves from Muggles and not risk being alienated, as well as ways to help children who are born to Muggles who may not accept their magical child. Most Obscurials don’t live past their tenth birthday, However, both Ariana and Credence Dumbledore are exemptions to this.

Ariana lived until her fourteenth birthday. Her Obscurus did not kill her, but rather it was a spell from either her brothers Albus and Aberforth or Grindelwald.

Here’s a bit of math for y’all. The boat that Leta Lestrange was on was The Titanic, (though it’s been neither confirmed nor denied but we’re going with it). The Titanic sank in 1912. The Secrets of Dumbledore takes place in 1932. Baby Credence was maybe a year old during the boat thing, so that places him at maybe 20, 21 at the time of The Secrets of Dumbledore. He’s lived twice as long as most Obscurials. Now, is this because he’s a Dumbledore?

Albus Dumbledore believes that if an Obscurial is showered with love that that could essentially save them, but then he says he believes it’s too late for Credence. The power of love is a common theme in the Harry Potter universe. It was Lily Potter’s love that saved Harry, and Harry is saved by a mother’s love a lot throughout the series. Love is a powerful emotion. I like that even here we can see that Albus believes that love is the most powerful emotion. The purest form of magic. I wish we could’ve seen this. To know if love can truly save Credence from his fate.

Can love really eliminate all of the trauma that Credence has been through? Mary Barebones beat into him that he was a freak. That made his magic turn against him and then the Obscurus burst out. Can the love of his long-lost father Aberforth truly reverse that? Can his father teach him that magic is a gift, not a curse? That being a wizard does not make him a freak or an abomination. It makes him special. Wheter or not we see this on-screen has yet to be determined.

He may or not be in the next movie (if there is a next movie, tbh) because of the issues (rightful issues) most fans have with the actor who plays him. (For more on that, here’s a timeline.)

Let’s get to the crux of this blog post. That would be Mad Mikkelsen’s Grindelwald.

I don’t even know where to begin.

I feel like they totally underutilized him. We’ll start with that. Mads is known for playing villains. It’s like his thing. Though I haven’t watched it, I’ve heard he played a delightfully wicked Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal. That being said, he was definitely underutilized. What did he even do in this movie? I can’t recall.

Other than the fact he killed the most adorable deer-like thing in the world in like the first fifteen minutes of the movie. I will say that Mads’ Grindelwald got his hands dirty compared to Depp’s Grindelwald. Depp’s Grindelwald was more about persuasion, about reading someone, such as Credence or Queenie, figuring out what their weakness was, and how to exploit it. What did they want? That’s what Depp’s Grindelwald read to me. He wanted to gain as many supporters of his vision but wrapped it in cotton candy while the inside was all hard. The whole point of Grindelwald was that no one knew who he all had in his pocket. He hand his fingers in many different pies. It was a terrifying time.

I didn’t mind that Mads’ Grindelwald was more willing to get his hands dirty. However, he was missing that persuasion that Depp’s was.

There was also another problem. . .At the beginning of the movie, when you see Mads Mikkelsen as Grindelwald, you don’t realize that it’s Grindelwald. Half the time, I forgot he was Grindelwald because he’s so drastically different from Johnny Depp’s. I understand that Mads Mikkelsen wanted to have his own version of Grindelwald, but Depp already established a distinctive look for Grindelwald.

When Richard Harris died, he was replaced by Michael Gambon for Albus Dumbledore. Michael Gambon wanted to honor the late Richard Harris but also, honor the character. When you watch Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, it is a bit jarring to see Gambon as Dumbledore at first, but you still know that he is Dumbledore. You never question if he’s some another character. You know he’s Albus Dumbledore. (Compare them below.)

There is nothing about Mads Mikkelsen that is familiar as Gellert Grindelwald, and that is a problem. Compare him and Johnny Depp below. They feel like two completely different characters.

There is nothing similar about these two. Nothing at all. That is a problem. Fans want to see something that is familiar. I know it’s not fair to Mads Mikkelsen. I think he did a decent job, but the problem was A) he was underutilized, B) poor, sloppy writing, and C) forgetting he was Grindelwald.

The reason why Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the first one, is the best one is that it was about the beasts. It was about Newt and his fantastic beasts. By having his story intertwined with the Grindelwald and Dumbledore lead up to their battle, it takes away from what I liked from the first one. It takes away from the beasts and learning about them. I feel like they just use “Fantastic Beasts” as a way to get viewers. It’s not about those beasts anymore. It’s about the humans. That’s it. If they wanted to do the Grindelwald era, they should’ve made it separate from Newt’s story. Yes, some overlap, but not this much.

I feel like this movie was trying to lead up to something. . .but it didn’t. Honestly, I have expected this to be the huge fight between Grindelwald and Dumbledore if I didn’t know that they fought in 1945. This movie had no rise, it had no climax. It was stagnant, and it felt like it. So what Grindelwald isn’t the new leader of the wizarding world? He still has followers all over the world. What did that accomplish? Nothing. Also, Dumbledore isn’t the new leader. He’s in the shadows once more. Where do we go from here? Where did we even go with this?

And that’s all folks for my review of The Secrets of Dumbledore. If you haven’t seen it, then uh, why did you read this? But if you have, drop a comment! I’d love to know what you think!

-K

What Has a Book Ever Done to You?

What has a book ever done to you? Personally, if I was to ban a book, do you know what books I’d ban? Math books. Math books have harmed me. They’ve made me cry. They’ve made me scream. They’ve made me faceplant on the desk in hopelessness. But in all seriousness, what has a book ever done to you? What have they done that they warrant being banned from schools? You know if we decided to ban the Bible from schools, people would lose their plum minds. Then if we decided to replace the Bible with the Qur’an, then boy, howdy, people would lose it. Yet, the Bible hasn’t been banned from middle schools or high schools. Hell, in some schools they had a “praying time” in the morning. That later got turned into “read time” or “quiet time.”

Somehow, books are constantly being banned.

Now, I am one of those people who have never believed in the whole banning books thing. Can you name a single book that should be banned? Can you? I honestly can’t. I don’t think any book should be banned. Nor do I think music should be censored on the radio (See this blog: “Unnecessary Censorship”) Or movies censored on television. All that being said, let’s talk.

I’m sure you’ve heard about how a Tennessee school banned the graphic novel Maus by Art Spiegelman. This book details his parents during the Holocaust, depicting Nazis as cats and Jews as mice. The book was taken out of a middle school curriculum. Now, it was banned, according to this article, because it had several curse words and a naked woman.

However, this banning has caused massive controversy. A lot of people have spoken out about it, and it is still ongoing. That it isn’t about swearing or a naked woman, that instead, it’s about the context in the book. Since then, the book has been selling even more copies on Amazon. I plan to order it at some point so I can read it.

What other books have been banned from middle or high schools?

Let me tell you, there’s been a lot. Harry Potter, The Golden Compass, Dr. Seuss, Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, Judy Blume, To Kill a Mockingbird to name just a few. A few, mind. There’s a lot more where that came from. (See links below.)

But why ban books? Well, in my opinion, it’s because the board of directors are trying to control what children learn. Do they want children to know our country’s history? Yes, but not in a negative light. They want the kiddos to know yes, slavery was a part of the country and leave it at that. They gloss over a lot of things in history classes. Such as slavery, the Trail of Tears, the Holocaust. Why? Because events like that were dark periods in our history and they (the board of educators, the government, pick one, there are lots of ‘theys’) don’t want to remind the public about those times. So when it comes to books such as Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, or To Kill a Mockingbird, which both address difficult topics such as racism and slavery, of course, they will get banned.

As for books like Harry Potter and The Golden Compass, they deal with magic, and honestly, not to be rude, it’s the Christians or other religious sects who want those banned. Especially The Golden Compass which is very anti-religious.

I don’t believe books should be banned. Ever. I think that children should be able to read whatever book they want to read and draw their own conclusions from it. They need to learn and figure it out for themselves. But how can they do that when they are prevented from reading certain books? When books are banned?

So I’d like to challenge you to read one of the banned books listed in the articles below. Any of them. Make a list. See how many you can read before Banned Book Week in September.

They’re trying to ban ‘Maus’: Why you should read it and these 30 other challenged books

Book awards: Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century

Now to decide my first banned book to read. . . It will probably be either The Color Purple by Alice Walker, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Beloved by Toni Morrison, or To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

-K

Cocoon (A Poem)

The little green caterpillar munches on a leaf, looking around with big brown eyes as the world spins around and around. She keeps trying to catch up but her short legs can’t keep up. She keeps falling and falling, further behind, scrapping up her knees and hands, blood staining her clothes.

She tries to keep her head down, be like all the other girls.

Keep smiling. Be sweet. Shut your mouth.

Don’t say a word even as the greedy grasshopper grabs her ass.

Don’t raise your fists as the angry ants swarm her, her supposed friends, calling her names and acting like she’s all to blame, Crawling inside her and devouring her up until there’s nothing left but green goop.

Don’t try to be unique. Get in line.

Neat little green caterpillars all in a row with their perfect white teeth, every hair in place, letting greedy grasshoppers move their limbs wherever they want them to go, bending and twisting, putting on a show for the whole world to see.

You’re too thin whispers the others. But don’t they know that it’s because she has hungry larvae to feed? So she hides behind baggy clothes and shrinks into herself like she can just disappear into nothing, fading away into the mist.

The whispers get louder and louder, crueler and crueler.

She’ll spread her legs for any grasshopper, they say. Let them stick their greasy claws in and tear out her insides until she’s just a Hollow husk of flesh with empty dead eyes and a broken heart.

The green caterpillar hides away, until she’s finally free of angry ants and greedy grasshoppers.

She builds up her shell, making thick outer layers to protect herself but doesn’t harden her heart. Instead she creates solid bones, a spine to hold up her head and a sharp tongue to defend herself.

Slowly the caterpillar starts to strengthen with the care and nourishment she never had as a child, flourishing and flourishing.

She becomes strong, finding her voice and speaking her truth with no fear of the repercussions, knowing that she’s not the victim. She is the heroine in her story as long as she believes. She builds herself a suit of armor, made of the encouragement of the others before her, telling her. You can do it. You can do it.

Just keep trying.

Keep your head held up high.

She wraps herself in her own strength that she never knew she had, forming a cocoon.

She used to be so afraid but now she’s not, even as she dissolves into green sticky liquid in her cocoon, shaping into something new. Change can be scary but she’s somehow she’s not afraid even as she breaks down until she’s nothing.

But then, then ugly brown shell cracks and the caterpillar slowly breaks out, shaking the wet off her face, more pieces crumble and as she dries, she spreads out beautiful wings of multitude colors. Vibrant blues, reds, yellows, oranges, greens. All in varying shades. Some pieces darker than others, others darker, some have no color at all, instead black as the night or as white as snow.

In some places, the wings have holes, letting the light through, a little scarred, torn in places but they will still get her where she goes.

She takes a slow hesitant step, still afraid. What if they get more torn? she wonders.

No.

She will simply add more colors, more scars and more tears that tell the story of her life.

So she spreads her wings, the kaleidoscope of colors shimmering in the sun and then she takes off to the sky, feeling the wind in her air and the sun on her face, as she finally tastes true freedom at last.

-K

The Snow Family (A Poem)

The house looks so picturesque, like something you’d see in a magazine for Home Garden, the Christmas edition.

The front yard blanketed with a fresh layer of snow, icicles forming on the gutters, so artfully dripping as if it was planned.

A neat snowman with a black top hat, a checkered blue and white scarf around his frozen neck, little black buttons to make him a sharp jacket, a carrot for his nose and blue buttons for his eyes, a smile on his face. He carries a briefcase in his hand.

Next to the snowman is his snow wife, a pink scarf around her frozen neck and a cream-colored faux fur hat, a wide smile plastered onto her face. She holds the hand of the snow girl, a mini copy of her with the same pink scarf and faux fur hat. The snow boy stands next to his snow father, a baseball cap on his head and a mischievous smile on his face.

The house is strung up with lights that start white then flash to green, red, blue, yellow, and every color in between. A Christmas tree behind the little snow family, the decorations perfectly in place. Not a pine needle out of order.

No, no, that must never happen. Everything must be perfect.

Emerald green, shimmering silver, gleaming gold, and radiant red delicate glass ornaments so carefully set in the tree. A string of white lights and a wide velvet ribbon wrap around the tree like a noose. Glittery white snowflakes and shimmering clear glass icicles. Cranberries and popcorn on a thread in between the ornaments, snowflakes, and icicles. The snow father placed an angel on top of the tree, her beautiful face filled with reverence, gold wings stretched out behind her, and a glowing halo above her head.

Everything is perfect. They seem like the ideal snow family. Their house is seen in one of those magazines that talks about how the family, a mom, and a dad, two kids, one boy, and one girl, have lived in this house since before there were children. When it was just snowman and his little snow wife.

It seems like nothing is wrong until it slowly starts to melt, revealing what they don’t want you to see.

Snowman yells at his snow wife and broke her carrot nose, blue buttons flashing with anger. “I am the man in this house!”

Snow wife threw a plate at his head even as she clutched her bleeding nose. “It’s Christmas!” she yelled. “How could you?”

Snow boy hid with his little snow sister in their closet, covering her ears instead of her own. “Everything will be okay,” he whispers even as the shouting gets louder, flinching at the sound of glass shattering and their mothers cries. The front door slams.

The icicles dripped onto the polished wood floor.

The angel turned up her nose as her wings turned black and charred, a broken halo on her head.

Snowman knocked the tree over, scattering pine needles and glass for his snow wife to cut her feet on as he fled. “Don’t come back!” screams the snow wife.

Crows eat the cranberries and the popcorn while the snow wife cried, her tears freezing on her face.

Snowman grabbed his car keys and screeched out of the driveway, running over the snow boy and snowgirl in the yard, leaving a track of mud.

Snow wife pours herself more mulled wine, telling her best friend over the phone, “I can’t do this anymore.” Her face in her hands, the tree still laying on its side, needles bent and broken. The first ornamanet they ever bought, a simple blue ball with a pretty white Christmas tree painted on it, laid in pieces on the floor.

Snow boy creeps out of his room, sneaking a candy cane to give to his sister. He carefully picked up the pieces of the ornament and took it to his room, spending all night trying to glue it back together, cutting his little fingers, his tongue sticking out of his mouth in determination.

Snow girl hides under the covers, crying but not understanding why, sucking on the sweet candy cane but not tasting it, clutching her stuffed bear tight, a red bow on his neck.

Snow man drives to the bar, picking up a blonde with too much red lipstick smeared on her face. “Make me feel something,” He tells her. But as she leaves red stains on his tie, the one his snow wife bought him as a gag gift, the one with little briefcases on it, he feels nothing. He shoves her face further down, closes his eyes, and finishes the bottle of whiskey, melting into the bed that smells like piss.

Later snow man will come home. He will kiss his snow wife’s cheek. “I’m sorry, baby,” he’ll say. She’ll smile and forgive him, like she always does. “It’ll get better,” says the snow man as he kisses her frozen lips.

And maybe it does. For a while. The snow boy proudly shows his parents the blue ornament he spent all night fixing, lines of silver glitter hiding the Elmer’s glue. The snow wife will say, “It looks even prettier now.” Presents will be given, red and green wrapping paper on the flooring.

The snow man gives his snow wife a heart shaped dimond to hand around her neck. It will get heavier and heavier as the years go by as her smile gets wider and wider. Back to crisp suits and steak and potatoes on the table. Back to screaming and crying, slamming of doors and broken bottles.

The snow man will continue to see random, nameless woman with lipstick smeared on their faces and cheap perfume. He’ll end up dying of a heartattack, sitting in his own filth in front of the television and leaving his wife all his gambling debts.

The snow wife will drink, throwing herself into PTA meetings, soccer games and ballet recitals, and trying to make everything perfect, putting so much Botox in her face, it’s like she’s permanently smiling. She’ll have to get a job after her husband dies, then another until she’s working three jobs.

The snow boy will drown his pain in pills and whatever else he can shove down his throat to forget the yelling that happens. He’ll turn to a life of petty crime, begging for someone to see him, to save him, until at 17 he ends up on a slab with a bullet in his head. His own hand pulled the trigger.

The snow girl grows up with earbuds in her ears, locked inside her own mind as she makes red lines on her arms and writes into a batter composition note book, hiding from the world. She won’t even mourn her father. She barely knew him.

She’ll try to help her brother but it’s too late, and she’ll always remember the blood on their family portrait and he said, “I can’t do this anymore.” She’ll remember her mother screaming and hitting the ground, clutching her brother’s body.

She’ll end up going to the school counselor and pouring her heart out. Her father’s drinking. The fights between him and her mother. Her brother’s crime record and suicide. She’ll slowly heal, telling her story to group therapy sessions and then eventually to a crowd of teenagers at her old high school, with her wife by her side and her children in the crowd.

She’ll visit her mother every weekend, take care of her and talk about the good days. Only the good days though.

She’ll place flowers and baseball cards on the grave and tell her brother that she’s okay, that she still loves candy canes and making snow angels with her children. She’ll tell him that it wasn’t perfect but at least they had each other. She’ll tell him that now she counsels children who came from homes like theirs so maybe there won’t be another him. Maybe she can save another snow boy when she couldn’t save him. She’ll tell him she loves him and that he was right. It will get better. Maybe not at first but it will.

Then she’ll set a blue ornament on the grave that their mother kept all these years, little lines of white glue visible where the silver and gold glitter had flaked off. She’ll remember how she took a glitter pen to hide the glue and how her brother said “That’s a great idea!

Then she’ll walk away, taking the hand of her snow wife, their daughter in her arms as they walk away. Money is tight. Stress is high. Their daughter is sick. Her snow wife lost her job. But the snow girl will remember.

It will get better.

-K