27 June 2008

Frakkin Toaster and the Order of the Phoenix

I've finished reading the Harry Potter series. I've known about them for years, but it was one of those things that was so ubiquitous that I hated it on general principle. Everyone and their mom read those books, and I didn't get in on the ground floor, so I set my mind against it and refused to read the books or see the movies. That was all good until I fell in love with a girl who was a total Harry Potter nerd. I gave in willingly, saw the first few movies and liked them enough to read the books.
We meet Harry at 11 years old, orphaned, living with his aunt, uncle, and cousin, boorish, insensitive people who make Harry sleep in a closet under the stairs. He has no idea that he is a wizard, or that his name is famous among wizards as the Boy Who Lived. He doesn't know that his parents died for him, that he survived and even got the better of an attack by a Dark Wizard so powerful that none dared speak his name. Like Luke Skywalker, he finds that he is part of a larger and far more exciting world than he'd ever known, and that his destiny is to take up arms in the epic battle between good and evil.
By the beginning of the last book, Harry is nearly grown up, a powerful wizard with 2 close friends, also wizards, who would lay down their lives for him in a heartbeat. He sets off on a quest for several magical objects whose destruction is the only way to finally kill Lord Voldemort. Does he do it? I'm sure you know, but I won't tell you, because if there's a chance you have not read these books, you must go out now and read them immediately.
It's always sort of annoyed me that in bookstores the 'fantasy' is grouped in with the 'sci-fi.' I know there are a lot of similarities in the genres, but they feel different to me. Spaceships, aliens, faster-than-light travel, all these are so much more interesting to me that wizards, dragons, and magic spells. This is still true, but there's something different about Harry and his world. It's a world where the good guys are good, and you can always count on your friends to stick up for you, or to stand up to you when it's necessary. It's a world where the bad guys are bad, but their underestimation of the power of love and mistaking it for weakness is their downfall.
Politically, it's relevant. We see the British penchant for bureaucracy and how its self-serving incompetence keeps in the dark and in danger the people it is supposed to protect. We see the media in bed with the government, not running news stories as much as smear jobs on the current enemy of the people.
Getting lost in Harry's world is like nothing else. For the last month and a half, I rushed outside on all my breaks at work, looking forward to reading another 3 pages before I had to go back to my crappy job. Harry kept me company at work, at play, late nights when I would sit outside and just read until the sun came up. Now I can't say whether I'd feel the same if I had found them on my own, whether it's Jodi's love for this story that magnifies my own, but I suspect that I would have fallen in love with the Boy Who Lived years ago if I'd given him a chance.

23 June 2008

George Carlin has left the building...

I've just heard that George Carlin has died of heart failure at the age of 71. Truly one of the most talented, influential, subversive, filthy, and, oh yes, funny comedians ever, he often challenged us to question everything from the Pope and the President to whether broccoli can cure cancer. I offer this snippet of his work to make you laugh:

15 June 2008

oh, to get involved in the exchange of human emotions

Tim Russert, NBC News Washington bureau chief, moderator of Meet The Press, bestselling author, ardent Buffalo Bills fan, he of the famous "Florida, Florida, Florida" dry erase board of Election Night 2000, has died at the age of 58, incidentally only a year or two older than either of my parents. His family mourns him over Father's Day. We mourn him at the end of the first part of the most exciting campaign season in my lifetime. There was no one quite like Tim Russert. Every time you saw him on TV, he always had that same look in his eyes, the look that says that this is exactly where he wants to be, that he absolutely loves what he does. A few weeks ago, after some primary, he announced, "We now know who the Democratic nominee will be." It was in that moment that Obama had won. Tim Russert would not have called it unless it were true, and he wouldn't have called it before it were true.

Jodi and I went to Central Park the other day, just for the day. It was a beautiful day, sunny and simple. We drank coffee, walked, talked, sat on rocks and in grass, took pictures of lovers in boats and children playing. Everything was perfect, right down to making the last red line train to Harvard by a split-second. I don't say it much on this forum, and I know she knows it, but all my faithful readers should know that I love Jodi.

Jodi is the one who turned me on to Harry Potter, which most of my friends have already read and loved. I was the guy who never read it, never wanted to, just because everyone else was doing it. Different story now, though. I am absolutely loving these books. The story they tell is timeless, familiar in its archetypes but totally original, a finely detailed world unto itself, with richly drawn, varied characters.
I have finished the 6th and penultimate book, and what an ending! Everything that Harry and his friends suspected all these years about their least favorite teacher, the sallow faced, greasy haired Snape, has been confirmed in the most horrible way. Dumbledore, the wise and strong headmaster, is murdered by Snape, a man in whom he put absolute, unquestionable trust. I promised myself I would wait a while until starting book 7, but, wow, I can't wait to find out what happens.

06 June 2008

season 4 wrapup

Coletta factor: Lost-current

The Oceanic 6 have returned home. The story has doubled over on itself, and we've ended where we began, in 2007 Jack telling Kate that they have to go back, in 2004 their long dream of rescue finally coming true, although we've known for a while that going home is not the end of the story, only the beginning of the end. I was right that Jin would die, and I was right about Ben. I predicted in this space that the Orchid would transport him to that desert in Tunisia in his parka with his injured arm, and that he would be unable to get back to the island. If he can't get back, and Locke has usurped his position, exactly what are he and Sayid doing killing all those people? Are they really protecting the ones left behind, or just avenging the death of Ben's daughter? It seems pretty obvious that Ben is manipulating Sayid, but as usual, we don't know Ben's true motives. I was arong about the identity of the man in the coffin; I just couldn't envision a scenario which included Locke ever leaving the island. Apparently, things went pear-shaped after the 6 left, and Locke left the island, took an alias, and visited each one of the 6, begging them to return to the island. It is unclear whether Locke had use of his legs when he left the island, ditto why he was able to die when the island protected Michael from suicide. Did he fall out of favor as Ben did? Is the destiny of each survivor of Oceanic 815 intertwined to the point that when the 6 left, they destroyed some master plan the island had? Was Locke destined to fail when the 6 left?
What about Daniel, Charlotte, and Miles? Their ride got blown up, now they're as stuck as everyone else. There was a conversation between Miles and Charlotte which seemed to imply that she was born on the island, and there are some fans who think that she is actually Ben's little girlfriend Annie, although I think this is rubbish. It will be interesting to see them integrate with the 815 survivors, whose numbers are steadily dwindling. Those who have not died, or left the island: Locke, Claire, Rose, Bernard, Sawyer, along with all the redshirts who went with Jack at the beginning. Locke's redshirts all died in Keamy's assault. I wonder if all those who are left, the Others, 815 survivors, and Freighties, will now join forces and try to live together, with Locke as their leader? Ben said that Richard would tell Locke everything he wanted to know. I hope we will be privy to those conversations, but I'm pretty sure we won't. We still don't know who the Others are, what their purpose is or their relationship to the Dharma Initiative. We don't know exactly what Smokey is, whether it belongs to, is controlled by, or is loyal to the island or the Others. We need some of these answers, I feel, going forward. At least we need to see all the 815 survivors taken by the Others, and find out why they were taken.
It's going to be a long time until January...

October 1, 1983

He was about 8 years old when I first saw him, a handsome little boy with bright, eager blue eyes and a "Frankenstein" t-shirt. I asked him for his name, which he gave me. "Funny, that's my name, too," I said. I asked him what he was doing, and he promptly launched into the narrative: "Luke Skywalker went to Jabba The Hutt's palace to rescue Han Solo before they could throw him into the Sarlacc pit and Princess Leia dressed up like a bounty hunter but she woke Jabba up when she unfroze Han Solo now they're all gonna get thrown in the Sarlacc pit but R2D2 has a lightsaver and he's gonna throw it to Luke and..." He showed me each of the toys as he said each character's name, totally absorbed in his imagination. He suddenly cut off his story when he noticed the tattoo on my left hand. "What's that?" "It's a duck," I said, " He's there so I can keep an eye on him." He quickly looked away back to his Sarlacc pit, grabbing the Luke Skywalker figure. "I don't like ducks. They're scary." He started gathering up his toys. "The streetlights are coming on. I gotta go home, you wanna come, Mom won't mind." "No, I've got dinner waiting for me, too, but maybe I'll see you again." He put his hand up for a high-five; I slapped him one.

I stood there and watched him go, feeling like I'd let him down.