Monday, July 30, 2007

Wha?

So where am I again? Right, here, hm. So am I finally running out of spoilers? Maybe. I think I am too tired today for spoilers, too woozy. I am not thinking straight, and my recently erratic memory is worse. Too much sugar, I swear. Anyway, leave me alone now. I'll see you all again tomorrow.

Friday, July 27, 2007

No spoilers, and hardly any posting

Now folks, I am being more of a techie than usual today. I am having a good day (so far!) for reasons I will tell you more about later and which may or may not have anything to do with Severus Snape. Anyways, I am happy. Life is good, and I am all writed out. Have a lovely weekend, and if this is not enough entertainment for you, and you haven't read Deathly Hallows, try this. If you have read it, and are in need of obsessive discussion, try the Mugglecast forum.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

More spoilers folks. Please take heed.

In my all-too-public Snape/HP bereavement moment, I have been thinking* about the Wisdom of the Thing. By Wisdom I mean J.K. Rowling's wisdom, and the Thing is of course both Deathly Hallows and the lamented demise of my favourite character. You'll be pleased to hear that in my five stages, I have potentially reached Acceptance. As the song goes, "the wheels in my head have been turning", and I will perhaps defer to Rowling's brutal slaying of Severus. Let me explain.
Considering the Russian roulette he'd been playing with Voldemort for years, it's a testament to his skill that it didn't happen earlier, and that when it did, it was not because of any mistake of Snape's. Plotwise, I think it is likely that any other way of finding out would have been unconvincing, considering Snape's motivation for protecting Harry - it would always take something fairly enormous to convince Harry/everyone else that he was acting for the best.

Did he need to die in such a stupid way?
Why not kill him on the battlefield? Wouldn't it be a more fitting, more heroic end? Hm. It would be hard to squeeze in the personal contact, and Harry escaping to look at Snape's memories would have been almost impossible. I think the death-then-revelation works best, and if you accept that, then perhaps this was a good time for him to die.

Why didn't he fight more when he realised Voldemort was going to kill him?
Well, firstly, once he knows Voldemort want him dead, the game is up - even if he gets away, which would be unlikely, where would he go? I doubt that his old colleagues at Hogwarts would give him a chance to explain. Secondly, there is the vague possibility that he knows Harry is there - no, quite a distinct possiblity actually. Knowing that he is unlikely to escape, he may not put up a fight, knowing that this may be his last chance to give Harry the truth.

Why doesn't he get any more credit?
This is where my acceptance sort of breaks down. Why does Snape** not get more for his labours? Hm. Harry does acknowledge his bravery, but only in hushed tones, and in that (otherwise) wretched epilogue. Hrmpf. One could say that Snape would hardly have enjoyed having the world know why he did what he did - but still...
Ok, ok, I'll stop now.

*I have to quote Beauty and the Beast here. Sorry. Conditioning:
Gaston: Le fou I'm afraid I've been thinking
Le fou: A dangerous passtime
Gaston: I know
**Will I ever tire of linking to sexy Alan Rickman photos? Nevar!

Seriously, there is no HP in this post at all

Procrastinating. I don't mean that I am now (though I guess I am), but that we all have our moments of procrastination and distraction. One of my favourite means, yes, are blogs. Mostly I read the same ones every day, with excursions to other blogs. The irony of this is that while blogs are public and theoretically anyone can read/comment on them, they really aren't. Reading blogs of people I don't know (unless they are well-known, very consciously public blogs, like Language Log or Go Fug Yourself) I feel like I am looking in someone's underwear drawer, or eavesdropping on a conversation. This is not to say it can't be enjoyable, but it hardly encourages one to participate. I see the same thing when people do, very occasionally comment on my blog without knowing me personally - they do it almost apologetically. I think that's a shame - it would be more fun if it were a more improvised community, if people took it as a conversation. Personally, I only tell the blog what I would be content to have the world at large know; being a talkative sort of person, that is tends to be quite a lot. Anyway, my very diluted point is that I am homesick and really want a good cappucino.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Not


Oh whatever! I need someone who can discuss The Deathly Hallows with me. You grown-ups are boring.


No Harry Potter at all today, I promise

I'll keep it brief today, and possibly even Snape-less (I am sure some of you will be relieved). On the downside, that probably means I'll be talking about myself, which is fairly boring to people who are not me. My parents-in-law are arriving tomorrow, and our flat has chosen this moment to acquire a mysterious and ghastly smell, so I am annoyed. One does try to keep things clean(ish) and tidy for guests.

Hm, I have been re-reading my morning pages (for The Artist's Way) and as a consequence a few things have occured to me; mostly it occurs to me that I keep re-inventing the wheel. I mean that I keep having good insights, and then forgetting all about them. Sometimes it pays to have a good (trained) memory. Anyway, one of the things that came up was that I really love reading - how terribly unsurprising. More importantly, I've realised that reading is a really important motivator for me - it kicks me into action in a whole list of fields, most crucially, considering the context, creativity. Reading good books always makes me want to run off and do things.

Time to teach someone else how to read. Yikes. This literacy tutoring business is scary. Any tips, anyone? Oh and did I mention that I am going to be teaching the person basic math? Amusing, really, considering how I don't know my multiplication tables. I may pick up a thing or two.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Et pour les francophones (minor spoiler)

Best comment ever:

"Chap31 : The Sacking of Severus Snape ....
Ennnnnnffffiiinnnnnn ! Noudoudiou !!!! 30 chapitres sans Sev ! Mais c'est pas humain ça !!!!! Remboursez !!!!!"

or, in the much less amusing impromptu non-literal translation:
"Chap31 : The Sacking of Severus Snape ....
At laaaaaaast! Holy mother of God!! 30 chapters without Sev ! That just isn't right! I WANT MY MONEY BACK!!!"

About chapter 33:
"Putain de chapitre 33....
Il pleut, le ciel est tout gris.
Où sont mes kleenex...."

"Bloody chapter 33...
It's raining, the sky is all grey.
Where's my kleenex..."

And about the End:
"Fini
Putain de bordel de merde......................."

Which I won't translate, as it is pretty self-explanatory.
For those of you who read French and Potter - this is the original

More! More! (but no spoilers, only ramblings)

It is funny, nay, hilarious, that the thing that really inspired me to think about literary criticism for the first time in long was, yes, Harry Potter (btw, no spoilers in the post, but some in the essay links). On the other hand, why not? Anyone who, like me, bothers to wade through the heaps of incoherent opinion on, say, Severus Snape, will find that there are, three days after the release of Deathly Hallows, a number of intelligent, well-formulated essays out there. Not fully fledged criticism, but a pretty decent start. One can see the Eng. Lit. professors shaking their heads and wondering when this will ever wear off. Not all of them, to be sure. I am sure that there are some out there who haven't entirely lost their souls to highbrow literature, and who ignore the knocks on the door to finish this last book. I love highbrow literature too, don't get me wrong, but it is a little delusional to think that popular writing doesn't count. Those teachers could grow some gorgeous, passionate scholars out of these Harry Potter readers. I hope they're paying attention.
The question I have been asking myself is What is the point? I have spent five years of my life studying literature, but seriously, what does it do? Any ideas? Honing critical and analytical skills? Surely there are other ways to do this, though this is a very fun one. In light of that question, the spontaneous writing about Harry Potter is interesting. Now that there is nothing left to predict, what makes people so eager to search for more, to find out more, to analyse, to understand, to hypothesize? What do we add to people's lives when we teach them about literature? Obviously, these people who are writing so busily have already found their own way to it. I see the point of literature, of course, ye gods, life would so much worse without it. My life at least, since reading is my (other) great passion.
Maybe the study of literature can justify itself as this only - as a framework for that voracious curiosity, that passionate interest that makes people speculate about Snape's loyalties at 3 am on a Tuesday. A way to use your head and your heart, if literature if where your heart tugs you. That's all I can think of anyway - but if that's the point, then somebody needs to figure out a better way to teach it.

Monday, July 23, 2007

We have suffered such a loss

Further update: I should not procrastinate, but this is too funny - addressed to Emerson, the founder of Mugglenet:
"Hello Mr. Emerson,

You are going to hell for your satanistic rituals. You might be sexy but that is no reason to defy GOD. I will laugh at you when you are down in hell eating pineapples and I in up in heaven being sexy."

Update: I will soon add this to my already impressive collection of totally random t-shirts. Muhahaha. You see how easily I am entertained, though I do think it is possibly the funniest shirt I've seen. I also cheered myself up a little by reading this very silly page.

Those of you who are reading or plan to read Deathly Hallows, meaning those of you who didn't inhale* it this weekend, please look away now. Spoilers will follow.

Those of you who know me at all know that I am a Snape devotee, right from the first time he appeared. I am devoted for a an increasingly long list of reasons. My original reason for siding with him was very simple - I agreed. I agreed that the boy was, mostly, obnoxious and mediocre. I think that Harry is still one of my least favourite characters. Heroes are so often boring, and they get things right all too easily. Later on in the series, I really sympathised with him because he consistently gets short-changed for saving people's sorry asses, and becasue he has this awful childhood, and because none of the people being Heroic ever gives him credit for anything**.

This last book really did me in though. Oh ye gods, Snape was already such a mistreated character, and then, then he just gets killed by that stupid snake, and he gives Harry his memories, and then Rowling really takes your heart out with an ice pick. It makes perfect psychological sense - he does. His love for Lily explains very satisfactorily why he is such a reluctant hero, and such a conflicted character. It explains why he finds Harry such a nuisance, yet keeps extricating him from messes. Most of all though, it makes him so unbelievably much sadder than he ever was before, so disproportionally punished for a childhood sin. Imagine that you spent the rest of your life paying for one stupid thing you said when you were fourteen. At that rate, all of us are in trouble, aren't we? He is believable, miserable and contrary to the last. Instead I blame Lily - what kind of a person doesn't forgive a close friend for saying something stupid once, and only once? Poor awkward Snape; even Dumbledore, so busy loving all creatures all the time, doesn't seem to like him much.

And then you finish the book, and you go back and re-read the death scene, wondering if it will be any more satisfying second time round, and it only ends up being more gut-wrenching, because now you realise that the reason he asks Harry to look at him is because he wants to be reminded of Lily. It makes me want to cry. In fact it did make me cry, because here is one of my favourite characters of all times dying pointlessly, and all he gets for it is a middle name.

Poor Severus. Poor neglected, bright, contrary, difficult, persistent, awkward, unpleasant Snape. If I could hug him I would. He always did seem like the kind of person who needed to be hugged.***

*I love this expression, but didn't invent it. I'd credit it, only of course I forgot where I read it.
**Did it help to have him played by Alan Rickman in a gorgeous set of robes?...hey, I'm only human folks, and by no means indifferent to Mr. Rickman, and he'd already been the bad guy that makes the movie for me before...
***On a sidenote, I just came across a blog where someone's icon has a picture of Rickman as Snape, with "My fandom gets detention on purpose" written across it. That is so cool.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Lost


My digital camera has been lost. This is sad. I had pictures on it, but mostly I now feel image-less. What I really should do is get myself a cheap little camera and carry it everywhere, and take pictures. I could get it instead of the Queens' undergraduate scarf I have been coveting for years. It would be more expensive, but not by as much as one might think. You know what, I'll let it depend on this: if the person whose bumper I scratched this morning lets it go (unlikely, but possible), I will buy myself a new camera.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Novelty

Ooh, I've been tagged by Practicing Idealist. First time! Well, I feel kind of bad about it, because I already kind of drown you all in random facts about myself, but here goes, I promise I'll make it as interesting as possible. Ehm.

8 random facts:
1) When I visited the children's museum in Houston, the girl behind the ticket desk, who was obviously at least five years younger than me, asked if I was under 12. I was 24 at the time.
2) I learned to drink Guinness at summerschool in Edinburgh when I was twenty; it was the most alcoholic two weeks of my life, and all I remember is that I started with cider and ended with Guinness. We were told, in one of the lectures, that Belgium was a "small and insignificant country", and where I first learned to like Americans - they were much more indignant on our behalf than any of the Belgians were.
3) I can't see 3D - I had a lazy eye as a child, and in spite of surgery the eye doesn't line up well enough
4) In my five years studying English literature, I never took a Shakespeare or Chaucer course. It took two stays abroad, and I somehow ended up taking Old and Middle English grammar, but I did it. I love Shakespeare, but I wanted to make up my own mind, and besides, there is so much Shakespeare out there already. As for Chaucer, I don't, didn't, don't expect to ever see the point.
5) Cherries are my favourite fruit. Insofar as I have notions about an afterlife, cherries figure largely in it.
6) My first ever theatrical part was that of a talking seagull. My most recent one was Hedda Gabler (as seen by about five people). Between the ages of 13 and 25, I did am dram for six years in three groups and two countries; I wish I could find an unpretentious group round here. Amateur drama is my ideal social activity.
7) On our second day as a couple, the Spouse took me to a Brian Green talk about string theory. Brian Green is far more compelling in the flesh than he is on Nova, though decidedly less easy to follow.
8) I associate the sound of helicopters with sleep and comfort. When I was living in Belfast, I would often wake up to the sound of patrolling helicopters, and as such, whenever I hear helicopters, I think of good times in Belfast, and of breakfast

Ok, now, I will stick to PI's more modest tagging, and tag four other people: Perelaar, Missing Sarmale, Mediterranean Goddess and, of course, Susan.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Alright, I know

Psychedelic Furs. I keep remembering things. For some reason I woke up with "Love my way" by the Psychedelic Furs. I haven't heard that song in years.
I feel incapable of anything today, but instead am running lego robots for a living, and taking a driving lesson after work. My only consolation is the Mugglecast I am listening to, and the prospect of chocolate.
Sorry folks, I would love to have something intelligent to tell you, but instead I will simply try to make it throught the rest of the day. Drek is right, intelligence is like a muscle, and like the rest of my muscles it is woefully underused. Ambition and self-discipline are in short supply, not helped by the fact that after six months of pondering I still don't have a clue what it is that I want, what career, what purpose. I have never spent so much time without wanting to reach some goal that I felt capable of reaching. Now I find myself between goals I've reached*, and old dreams I can't fulfill**. The inescapable Julia Cameron says you are never too old. Stubborn as a donkey, I refuse to believe her. My common sense gets in the way of her optimism.

Oh ye gods, the self-pity, I do apologise. I am obnoxious, but I have been dreaming about The Wizard of Oz and I am tired. I definitely have a heart, but wouldn't mind some extra brains and courage. Time to try yet again to do something about those muscles. Let me see if I can't come up with something. Literacy training aside, I need to find out what I want.

*Study abroad, check; make lots of foreign friends, check; acquire bizarre skills, check; work for a multinational, check; work for a non-profit, check; have a functional romantic relationship, check; live in England, check
**Like being a physicist, or an architect, or going to Oxford - the university -, or writing music
***Better poetry and better looks

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Housewife

I just spent most of the day cleaning the house, shopping, and tidying. My spouse is in the living room with a colleague watching football. I feel like quite the housewife. The good part of being a hobbyist housewife? The lovely Spouse has just brought me a beer, and I am now going to have blue corn chips with home made salsa and perhaps also watch some football. In our flat, which is clean and has flags and framed art. Life is good.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Potter

I warned you that I was going to see Harry Potter. It is good. Any movie that can make over two hours of not-especially-happy stuff feel like no time at all is good. The casting is, as ever, wonderful, with the lonely exception of Tonks, who turned out too tame and too pretty. Oh well. Of course I unconditionally love and adore both Snape and Alan Rickman as Snape, and in case you were wondering (which I doubt), yes I do think Snape is a good guy, but really, it doesn't matter. I always did like stylish bad guys.

I am really curious about The Deathly Hallows now, of course.

So much for reviewing stuff - I am too tired, too sleepy. I just want to go home. But do go see Harry, if you like that kind of thing. Meanwhile I am reading Wicked, just to fully hit the mainstream. After that I will need something exceptionally post-modern just to detox. However, my reading habits aside, I want some music tips. I feel like I only ever listen to stuff I already know these days. I need something nice and non-mainstream that isn't horribly depressing. Old or new. I am looking to expand.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Yes

Yes, yes, yes - yes.

I am listening to Morphine. It has been many years. I am going to see the new Harry Potter movie tonight. Life is good. The good life being in the eye of the beholder, you can tell that I am having a good day. I have reached the stage where even decaf radioactive sludge makes me jittery. Jittery can be good.

Morphine is lovely. I remember borrowing the album from a friend when I was 15. Being fifteen sucked, but the music made it all a little better. I forget the friend's name, perhaps in an act of subconscious resentment - he wasn't that good as a friend, but not traumatic enough to remember.

Saxophones, strange suggestions and the memory of them playing "You look like rain" while it was drizzling at the same festival where I saw Jeff Buckley. Jeff Buckley and his angel voice and kosher sex appeal. Yes - I have good memories of Morphine.

I am easily intimidated by people who are smarter than I am. There are a lot of them. If you define yourself based on your better-than-average intelligence*, it is disconcerting to encounter people who can see through you and out-think you at any given time. You see, I am a bluffer mostly, not burdened with too much knowledge of the things I discuss. Lately, I have a hard time remembering things. Lately, I am better at looking good than at thinking straight, and frankly that is funnier than any of you are likely to understand.

Julia Cameron, the ubiquitous, somewhat outdated Ms. Cameron says that jealousy is a map; she says that jealousy tells us that what we want. By that token, I should be jealous of good writers; I am not. I respect good writers, and while I can criticise them, I respect the craft and the effort. What I am really jealous of is people who are good analytical thinkers, people who are smarter, more qualified, more brilliant. And Jessica Alba. I admit that I envy Jessica Alba. She is just too uncannily pretty. If you are envious of novelists, says Cameron, there is an easy fix - write novels; but what if you are envious of people who have skills you can possible acquire? I am chasing my tail here. Time to challenge myself a bit more. That said, I am due to start tutoring adults on literacy skills soon, and if that isn't a challenge, I don't know what is.


*I know that's silly. Old habits are hard to shake, and I got used to being more smart than attractive.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

What?

I just finished Kite Runner, and want to tell you about it, but instead I have an situation on my hands. Kite Runner is a beautiful book, and the first half in particular is crisp, brutal and tender. Great writing. As is Girl with A Pearl Earring, which I resisted reading for the longest time (too popular - I am a snob). Tracy Chevalier amazes me with how well she lets her writing mirror Vermeer's style. I respect that, I respect her skill and grace. It is so much better than the movie*. Like our Dear Deb, I do wonder what sticks, what I remember of all this writing. Though I admire both of these books (The latter perhaps a little more than the former), and read them quickly and with pleasure, they leave few traces. Even the books I love passionately I find hard enough to remember in detail - even Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, which I spent my entire teenage years re-reading. My knowledge is only barely enough to pedantically annoy the people who loved the vexing movies.
Now if I try to remember The Last of the Mohicans, a book that genuinely changed my life (at age twelve - I stole the book from my school library), I can barely dig up the bones, even with the wonderful movie. It's tragic, and wonderful, and all about Indians and then the Mohicans die out. I used to love stories about Indians (meaning pre-PC-writing-Native-Americans) when I was a kid. I blame Karl May, the German author whose absolute ignorance of all things American did not stop him from writing a series of wonderful cowboy and indian stories. They were noble savage indians, and the protagonists were called Old Shatterhand (cowboy) and Winnetou (indian). I had a crush on Winnetou, who was not so macho and much sexier. Anyways, my point is that Winnetou at some point dies very dramatically, only you see I don't remember how.
I was actually going to be distracted from reading, but instead the reading has distracted. Very nice. My point was going to be that there is a little too much upheaval brewing in my life just now, and that right now the prospect of yet more change is appalling.
*Sorry Colin, sorry Scarlett, I adore you both but it just wasn't as compelling

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Glory, glory

Yes, I know, it has been too long. It has been far too long. I was away from all computers and internet access, and very busy. Don't say I didn't warn you. Anyway, I am back, though not necessarily with a vengeance. My employer still likes me; and apparently the state of Maryland likes me - I got a Governor's Citation yesterday for my volunteer work. Easily impressed as I am by fancy pieces of paper and shiny things, I am pretty excited about it, though feeling somewhat undeserving. Martin O'Malley, the Steve Stevaert of Maryland, has given me a pat on the back by way of a pretty certificate, and for once I got the piece of paper for doing something I actually value. You know what? I am going to frame it.

To change the topic not entirely, I saw yesterday that they have raised the green card application fees for asylees from $395 to more than $1000. This is after the asylee has survived the catch-22 of not being allowed to work until they get an employment authorisation (which takes three months once the paperwork has been filed), but not receiving any kind of aid, and after he/she has been granted asylum*. These are people struggling just to support themselves, never mind finding the money for applying for a green card (an unpleasant enough procedure as it is).

Blech.

What else? Well, I am yet again considering what to do with my career. I am also considering Julia Cameron's (she of The Artist's Way) concept of synchronicity. I prefer serendipity; but anyway, what she means is that what you need in life has a way of crossing your path. I don't know how much of that I believe, but as with almost anything, I am willing to give it a go.

*the odds are against it