Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

A very pleasant surprise. Netflix's guess was that I would like it. I was dubious, because it seemed like a too-obvious effort to squeeze some more dollars out of Harry Potter's fan club. But—ha!—it turned out to be a movie with an interesting story, sympathetic characters, a daft sense of humor, and imaginative visuals. Go figure.

Of course, it's the first of five projected movies. Those could be worse. We'll see.

It's set in the Harry Potter universe, but in the 1920's and in New York City. Our hero, Newt Scaramander, arrives from England with a case full of magical animals, and promptly loses control of one of them—a cute little guy, who loves to filch shiny objects: coins, jewelry, etc.. Newt's efforts to retrieve the little dickens causes a certain amount of hilarious mayhem; he attracts the attention of the American magical community, and also acquires a non-magical sidekick, Jacob Kowalski, an agreeable schlub who has dreams of opening a bakery.

Unfortunately, Newt gets tangled up in the conflict between the American magical bureaucracy (MACUSA), a disgraced magical investigator, an evil wizard (pre-Voldemort), and a know-nothing "New Salem" church group, looking to burn the witches. Uh-oh!

Especially good was Dan Fogler, the guy playing Jacob. Deserved an Oscar, he did.

URLs du Jour

2017-12-11

■ We begin a new chapter today, with Proverbs 17:1:

17 Better a dry crust with peace and quiet
    than a house full of feasting, with strife.

"If you folks will excuse me, I'll be down in the basement while you work this out. I'll just take this dry crust here. Oh, and also this bottle of wine."


@kevinNR asks Where’s the Omelet?

[…] “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways,” Marx said, highlighting the inevitable rift between the intellectuals and the bomb-throwers. “The point, however, is to change it.” The Western world was at one point quite full of apologists for the purges and brutalities of Joseph Stalin, with our Communists and fellow-travelers — just “liberals in a hurry,” they said they were — justifying what ended up being 100 million deaths as the brush-clearing necessary before laying the foundations of utopia. The inevitable cliché, “You’ve got to break a few eggs to make an omelet,” was answered with characteristic economy by George Orwell: “Where’s the omelet?”

Republicans ought to be asking themselves the same question.

My friend (and boss) Rich Lowry recently argued that the Trump administration has proved so far surprisingly successful from the point of view of conventional Republican priorities — there’s more to the Trump record, he said, than Neil Gorsuch. And that’s true enough: Scott Pruitt at the EPA has done useful and important things, as has Betsy DeVos at Education. But that’s a side of hash browns, not an omelet. Health care remains unreformed, the tax bill is an incoherent mess, the border remains unsecured, there has been no significant reform of economic policy, and we have in fact moved in the direction opposite from fiscal sanity, etc. President Trump announced that the U.S. embassy in Israel would be moved to Jerusalem . . . and then immediately signed a waiver, as he predecessors had, adding an Augustinian “but not yet” to the end of his declaration. That was a classic Trump move: The Trump administration is a show about nothing.

I'm slightly happier about Trump than is Kevin. But that's me. I'm a happy guy.


■ At Reason, Veronique de Rugy notes: The Annual Federal Spending Frenzy Is a Terrible Year-End Tradition

What do you do if you wind up with a little extra money in your household budget at the end of the year?

Perhaps you pay down your credit card debt or save it for an earlier retirement. Maybe you replace old appliances or go on a much-needed but unplanned vacation. One thing is clear: Because you're spending your own cash, you make sure to get as much out of it as possible.

You might expect our tax dollars to be treated the same way. You would be mistaken. The end of the fiscal year—September 30—triggers a spending frenzy in Washington, where the driving order isn't "do something worthwhile" but rather "make sure nothing is left." Because agencies can't carry over any part of their operating budgets into the next fiscal year, politicians and bureaucrats spend to the last dime, knowing that leftover resources will be returned to the Department of the Treasury. They also worry Congress will reward frugal agencies with cuts to their future allotments.

I wish I could say it was different at the University Near Here. It was not. Perverse incentives—they're not just for perverts any more!


■ Everyone in the world is pointing to this, and why should Pun Salad differ? Lara Witt instructs all who would listen: 10 Things Every Intersectional Feminist Should Ask On a First Date.

As a queer femme of color, I keep close relationships with people who go beyond allyship; they’re true accomplices in the fight against white supremacy, queerphobia, and misogyny. If you’re not going to support marginalized folks, then we can’t be friends, let alone date. The personal is political.

Beyond the lovely cushioning, happiness and support that we receive from our platonic relationships (which are, in all honesty, soul-feeding and essential), feminists also date! But there are questions we have to ask before we get close to someone.

Lordy, "in all honesty", it's awful. And funny.

Here's deal-breaking question number 7: "Do you think capitalism is exploitative?"

"No, Lara, I don't. What you call "capitalism" has been the driving force for lifting billions of people out of miserable poverty. It's a good thing. Would you like to throw your drink in my face now, or wait until after the appetizer?"

The bio-blurb at the bottom of the article says Lara's work "has been featured in Teen Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, BUST Magazine, ELLE and more." Which just goes to show how much trouble we're in: Lara, and people like Lara, are being Taken Seriously.


■ Down in da Bronx,
Just up from the Zoo,
There's trouble a-brewin'
At Fordham U:

Campus coffee shop evicts College Republicans from 'safe space'

Members of the Fordham University College Republicans were asked to leave an on-campus coffee shop because their MAGA hats apparently violated the shop’s “safe space policy.”

I could comment, but I would not do better than Treacher's Tweet du Jour: