Email notification to Brandon Starr's blog has been shown to reduce bad cholesterol in two-toed sloths, and has been used as an effective exfoliant.
Monday, August 06, 2007
Talking about "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"
I read the book, and I wanted to wait a while before talking about it. This way those who wanted to read it right away could, and those who wanted to read it right away but had to wait in line for other family members to finish also could.
Overall, well done.
POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD!
It seems the "prediction webpages" were hit-and-miss with their predictions. Specifically, they were "hit" when it came to Harry and Voldemort and the Horcruxes, and "miss" when it came to most everything else that wasn't pretty explicity set up in the series.
Overall the whole fascist thing was a brilliant stroke. Most people seemed to think that Harry wrangling with Voldemort would provide plenty of danger factor for the dramatic struggle. Wrong, and Rowlings recognized this. This isn't just a book randomly set in time; this is "Year 7" of a school system with seven years in it. Even with Dumbledore defenestrated at the end of 6, Hogwarts would be a place of great protection for Harry. What better way to up the ante of the story than by taking that away from him?
Still, while I recognize the importance of that move, the middle of the book does sag a little bit, and directly because of it. There are an awful lot of scenes with the friendly trio and, worse, for a long time, a duo. Fortunately, this is eventually resolved and we get "back to the fun," which involves other people. This is good, because while not on the verge of becoming a magical version of "Waiting for Godot," Rowling does struggle to keep the story moving along. I imagine this chunk is going to be somewhat truncated in the movie version, only hitting the important parts.
Rowlings is interesting as a storyteller. She proves more than about anyone else that you don't have to have truly original ideas to be a great storyteller.
Shakespeare came up with almost zero of his play's plots. Yet he remains the greatest writer in English of all time by almost anyone who is widely enough read to have an intelligent opinion on the matter.
Similarly, there is nothing "new" in the stories of Harry Potter:
1) The basic Harry-vs-Voldemort plot is clearly set up along the lines of the hero's journey, as delineated so well by Joseph Campbell. The hero is often a highborne person who ends up raised in poverty or secrecy, who then makes a reconnection to his heroic roots on the cusp of adulthood. Then he goes through a series of adventures, which all inescapably lead him to and prepare him for a central conflict, the culmination of which will make him both a man and a hero. See, for example, Hercules. The parallels between the Harry and England's earlier great magical hero, King Arthur, are even more legion.
2) Every bit of the way magic is done in "Harry Potter" is based on the wider culture so inescapable that it is straight out of Halloween. Magical brooms and wands, dark cloaks, pointed hats, magical phrases, bubbling cauldrons--if it all seemed "right" and comfortable to you from the beginning of the series, that's because it was based directly out of the stuff drilled into your head from birth, by everything from Mother Goose to Scooby-Doo.
3) Even things like Horcruxes have a lot of bases in earlier things. Why didn't Sauron die in the great elven/orcish battle thousands of years before Bilbo Baggins was born? Because part of his soul was in the One Ring, and as long as the ring existed, Sauron couldn't really die. The Ring affects anyone who carries it negatively, and is difficult to destroy. So it is with the Horcruxes of "Harry Potter." There are other examples, but that is the easiest comparison to make.
So, again, Rowlings doesn't have a ton of original plot ideas or settings. What makes her a great storyteller is how she puts it all together. And it's an interesting lesson for anyone interested in writing or storytelling. The plots are all a thousand years old. It's the storyteller who is new.
Monday, July 30, 2007
There are fans, and there are fans.
And then there are fans that take aROM version of an '80s video game and turns it into an homage to that greatest of TV shows, "Mystery Science Theater 3000."
Thank you, I-Mockery, for bringing this to the world's attention with your review.
Monday, July 16, 2007
Harry Potter set a five-day non-holiday week total at over $140 million.
Yeah, so the marketing worked. Was the movie any good?
We went to see it as a family. Frankly, I loved it.
The acting was stronger in this one than perhaps any other one. Umbridge and Luna Lovegood were especially strong newcomers to this chapter. I somehow knew Helena Bonham Carter would eventually get a role in the "Potter" films, and sure enough, here she is, and well done.
Many of the returners are especially strong, too. Alan Rickman is riveting as Snape--probably his finest in the series, and I love him every time out. Emma Thompson plays her hippie/addleminded Divination teacher role and really pulls some good emotion out of the audience.
Slightly disappointing was Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort, but then he doesn't have much to do except attack, attack, attack. Plus, it's a little like "Jaws 2": once you've seen the shark, it isn't as scary. He didn't do anything wrong, but he really didn't find much special to do with the material either. Hopefully he'll get a stronger chance with the final two movies. (There's a reason Voldemort is backgrounded in this outing, but I'd rather not delve too deeply into it, lest I provide too big a spoiler.)
And the acting of the kids were particularly strong, as well. The three main kids have really settled into their roles, and we get strong outings from Neville Longbottom among others as well.
If you have any interest in the history of the rise of Nazi Germany or other fascist regimes, you'll definitely enjoy the theme of how new, Ministry of Magic-approved teacher Dolores Umbridge worms her way through the school's corridors of power.
For whatever reason--the stronger-than-ever acting, solid direction, the themes of loss and frustration--I found myself emotionally involved with the characters more than in any other outing.
So far, this is my favorite "Harry Potter" movie.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
"Harry Potter" breaks one-day record
"Potter" breaks one-day box office record
My wife saw it last night, and added to those receipts. Our family will be seeing it this weekend.
She said she liked it pretty well. She was distracted by two things: one, to see if the latest in the ever-darkening series would still be okay for our young son to see (she says yes, and the rating can go and whistle), and a woman next to her. The woman was perfectly nice, but she was the type to be overly affected by everything on the screen, especially the scary things, which made her screech loudly.
Still, she said she wants us all to see it this weekend, and so we shall.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Homeland Security chief raises terrorist "threat level"--day after Bush's popularity sinks to new low
That's what you call a coincidence that stinks of non-coincidence.
Typical of the Bush presidency, if you ask me.
Monday, July 09, 2007
The next couple of days will be very warm here in the Portland, OR area.
These will be those days that test the theory that we don't really need air conditioning in our home--on the following:
1) It's only for a few days a year.
2) If we put it in, either it'll be a horribly inefficient wall unit or a very expensive central unit.
3) After we put it in, we won't just use it those couple of super-hot days per year. Likely we'll set the thermostat at, say, 75, and the thing will be running quite a few days during the year.
Hopefully we can just make it through the next few days, and acclimate to the heat. It was a quite moderate spring and early summer. Things are changing.
Monday, July 02, 2007
Bush removes the 30 months of prison for "Scooter" Libby, short of full pardon
I'm really not surprised that Bush would take this step. Frankly, any crime committed by Bush & Co. is likely to be commuted or pardoned. I forsee a time at the end of his term when the pardon pen flies wildly.
Unlike most aspects of our Consitution, pardons and commutations are not reviewable by any court or by Congress. It will stand.
Likely to deflect some criticism, Bush stopped short of a full pardon at this point, merely removing the 30 months of prison. The $250k fine and criminal record will remain.
Monday, June 25, 2007
I recently saw "Ocean's Thirteen" and enjoyed it immensely.
Oddly, I never saw "Twelve." We bought the DVD just before a vacation and then lost it during the trip. I never heard great reviews of it, though, so I never bothered getting it again.
I loved "Eleven." I'm a sucker for heist movies--especially good heist movies, which are rare. "The Sting," of course, is undoubtedly the best. There are others worth watching, though: "Charade" and "Bank Shot" come to mind.
Similarly, I'm looking forward to the third installment of the "Bourne" movies later this summer. While not exactly a heist movie, there are lots of double-crosses and counter-moves that emotionally resonate in the same way. Same for the final "Die Hard" movie coming out soon, though a bit less of a heist/double-cross movie and a bit more on the action side.
I'm sure there are other interesting heist/double-cross movies out there, but it's hard to put any to mind.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
There's worse ways to spend it than watching Robot Chicken: Star Wars
Claymation-style and voiced by some very famous people, including several guys who voice on "Family Guy," plus George Lucas himself. They even got Mark Hamill to voice Luke.
It's like a mini-sketch show, with the sketches running anything from 5 seconds to about a minute.
Like any sketch show, some are funnier than others. But overall, it's definitely worth checking out.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
I knew about parrots and tortoises...
But I didn't know whales lived so long: explosive bomb lance fragment puts bowhead whale at 115 to 130 years old
Fascinating. The whale was hit squarely, and the explosive did go off. But the whale survived another century--until killed by (legal) hunters last month.
I wonder how old whales can get?