Wednesday, August 31, 2016

What I did this summer besides not sleep and talk about Harry Potter

I just realized that the only things I've blogged about this summer are Harry Potter and sleep. And while those two things really have been on my mind a lot the past three months, I'm pretty sure other stuff happened, too.

Such as, I worked a lot. Preparing for this year's International Convention about killed off our department. But that's not a fun thing to talk about, so let's move on.

I played stake softball. But I don't have any pictures, so I guess it didn't happen.

Ooh, I know. I finished my ginormous afghan just in time to summerize my bedding. I'm excited to pull it back out in a few months.

My family had a water party on Memorial Day for the grandkids and Tyrel.

Ladies, this muscular dork is single. (That's a balloon on his head, if you're wondering.)

Avonlea loves her cousin Noah. LOVES him. 

Passing on a beloved tradition.

The 4th of July happened, and we did sparklers and pop-its (is that what they're actually called?). Once again, for the grandkids and Tyrel.

She looks so much like baby Kimberly in this picture.

We also watched Prince Caspian on our garage door, because that's what you do when fireworks are banned in your area.

I colored my hair for the first time since high school. It's not really what I had in mind, and I miss my natural boring brown hair. But I'm reconciling myself to going about life with yellow hair.

I went to Seattle with my family (minus the married kids), where we weren't allowed to talk about the w-word for a whole week. Many hilarious things were said, we ate a ton of great food, watched the Olympics every night, and slept in every morning. Heaven.

Other highlights include going to a Mariners game, which we all enjoyed more than we thought we would.

Except maybe Shannan.

I ate a deep-fried Twinkie, which kind of tasted like bread with powdered sugar on it. Not really what I was expecting.

We fulfilled our hike obligation for the next couple of years. (Except for Tyrel, who climbs a mountain once a week.)

Look at all that green!

Mom and Dad aren't so sure about Tyrel's tripod/selfie stick.

I had a great time embracing my crazy, curly hair for a few days (humidity's one redeeming quality), and learned that taking dramatic wind pictures is hard and usually not glamorous.

We went to a bunch of museums. The guitar tower was my favorite.

And the Invisibility Cloak display that had nothing in it.

I faced my fear of heights and made it to the top of the Space Needle without completely losing my dignity. I somehow ended up at the front of the elevator, right in front of the window, and had nothing to hold onto to make me feel anchored. And once we got out of the elevator I couldn't shake the feeling that the tower was swaying. The view was awesome, but I don't need to go through that again.

Note Mt. Rainier in the background. 

This picture makes me look slightly more terrified than I actually was. Only slightly, though.

And other shenanigans happened in Seattle.

We rode the ferry and went on a boat cruise.

We sat in these amazing recliner chairs for the Star Trek movie, so we had to go back and see another movie (Pete's Dragon) on our last day. And stick our very own Troll in the Troll's head.

I dove right back into the craziness of work, and went into Convention exhausted. I have no pictures or cool stories from this year, but I do have documentation from my Fitbit that it happened—I averaged 18,000 steps per day over the four days. That's about double what I usually get. I watched Friday Night Lights every night and took the most amazing bubble bath of my life on the last night to recover. And slept a lot on Sunday.

So, some good stuff happened this summer. But, as always, I'm stoked for it to step aside for fall.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Manufactured magic: What happened after "all was well"

When the last Harry Potter movie was released in 2011, a lot of people assumed the Harry Potter fandom would finally start to settle down. Of course, those of us who live and breathe the books knew better; no way was the lack of new material going to temper our passion.

And we were right. Potterheads are as dedicated as ever. We still go to conventions. We still read and discuss the books. And the original Harry Potter generation is already introducing this incredible story to their kids. (I'm resigning myself to the fact that my kids will probably hate Harry Potter just because I love it, because rotten kids tend to get their just reward when they pass on their genes. My only hope is that I came around to Lord of the Rings eventually, and Chris Pine managed what my parents earnestly tried but could not do—get me to enjoy a Star Trek movie.)

In fact, it turns out that we weren't done getting new Harry Potter material. In just five years, we got Pottermore, tons of information on the Harry Potter world and even some on the North American wizarding school, a promise for at least three movies about New Scamander of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them fame, and a play. JKR invited us further into the world she created (although Potterheads prefer to say "discovered") with her sorting and wand selection quizzes, and even gave us "live" updates on the Quidditch Final in 2014 (spoiler: Krum won). And that's not even getting into theme parks, merchandise, and endless amounts of fan-created content. It doesn't take a business genius to see the money-making opportunities in Harry Potter, so of course people with marketing teams got involved to "give the people what they want."

We drank it all up, and kept demanding more. I'm as guilty of this as anyone.

But after reading Cursed Child (stop reading if you want to avoid spoilers) and getting a sense for how my fellow Potterheads feel about this new branch of "canon," I finally started to see what's happening to the franchise. It's just what the Harry Potter grinches have been predicting for years—continuing a story that has a solid conclusion would only dilute it until it is no longer recognizable. It took Voldemort and Bellatrix having a daughter and Harry being afraid of pigeons for me to see it. JKR's voice, which is what made Harry Potter most special, is slowly being phased out.

The amount of pressure JKR has experienced because of Harry Potter has got to be tremendous. Someone without her talent and sense of humor would probably have had a mental breakdown by now. Passionate fans aren't a whole lot different from gluttonous beasts, and no matter how much information she feeds us, we're never going to be completely satisfied. And those trying to capitalize on Harry Potter's guaranteed money-making powers are even more persistent than fans who just want to know what Moaning Myrtle's middle name is. Warner Brothers and other corporations are going to take the Harry Potter cash cow and keep running with it, whether JKR is on board or not. So she got involved with the Fantastic Beasts trilogy, and signed off on the play. Because she loves Harry Potter too and wants to do right by her fans. And no artist wants to see her creation tarnished by someone else.

But it's clear that her heart isn't into it. Not like it was 10 years ago.

We have no one but ourselves to blame. We wanted more, and we kept getting it—now we're to the point where a writer who is not JKR thought he could get away with having the "canon" Harry Potter say something like, "You don't understand, because you don't have kids" to Professor McGonagall (in an alternative universe, sure, but alternate universes don't belong in Harry Potter anyway).

As I've talked about on this blog many times, I love getting anything Harry Potter related, and I'm not ready to telegraph a "cease and desist" order to JKR. And while the charm, wonder, and—gosh, I'll just say it—magic of the original seven books will always be there, the franchise as it currently stands feels manufactured. Like Squibs trying to imitate the world they can't truly be a part of. Perhaps it's time to start tapping on the brakes. Or—imagine this—let JKR take back her control, even if it means we never get another word on Harry Potter.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

9 years later: Reading a new Harry Potter book for the first time

For those of you who cautiously clicked through, don't worry; there won't be spoilers here. Not really.

Ya'll know my thoughts on the so-called 8th Harry Potter story. I would much rather have a novel we can all enjoy than a play only a few can experience.

But when the script went on sale for pre-order, of course I ordered a copy—a new piece of Harry's world was waiting to be discovered, and ignoring it simply wasn't an option.

I was a little annoyed when I realized that July 31 was a Sunday, which meant I'd have to wait an extra day to read the book. Uncle Vernon won that round.

But still, it wasn't too big of a problem. It was like that Christmas before I was a true Harry Potter fan and chose to read my Nancy Drew books before I read books 2 and 3 of the Harry Potter series. I'd get to it eventually.

Which is why I was a little surprised that when I sat down with the book I got a little emotional. The dust jacket has the same texture as my other Harry Potter books. The book design is the same. It felt like a Harry Potter book, and it dawned on me that I was reading a new Harry Potter book for the first time in nine years. No, it wouldn't be quite the same, but it was new Harry Potter canon nonetheless—that's not something you can just brush aside.

In traditional Harry Potter fashion, I stayed up too late finishing it, and then had to sit down and jot down some of my thoughts before attempting to sleep. Therapy for Harry Potter withdrawals won't be required this time because the script isn't on that level of literary magic, nor did I expect it to be, but, come on. It's Harry Potter. Of course I have thoughts.

(If you're one of those who considers impressions spoilers, I would advise that you stop reading now.)

Did I enjoy it? Yes, more than I thought I would (though it's definitely got problems). Do I think it would make a good play? Absolutely, and I'd love to see it. The writers managed to convince me that a play would be a fun way to tell this story, more so than a movie would be, even. But I stand by what I've said for years—there's no better medium for Harry Potter than a novel written by J.K. Rowling. It's no contest. Reading the script was a bit like watching it through a foggy window—you grasp enough to know what's going on, but you don't truly experience it.

Did it feel like Harry Potter? Well, sort of. Tone-wise, it felt most like Sorcerer's Stone; lighthearted with some dark moments. But mostly it felt like fan fiction to me, and that's because of the plot, not the format. However, it was delightful seeing the trio, Ginny, and Draco as adults. Some of the lines made me laugh out loud. Some made my heart twinge a bit.

It wasn't the type of experience that made me a devoted Potterhead for life, but it was still a continuation of a story I love so much. And that's enough. Just knowing that Harry and co. are still out there, dealing with parental struggles and magical problems while we stalk them with the best of our Muggle capabilities, is comforting. JKR didn't have to let us into their lives again, but she did, and honestly, I'm grateful for whatever I can get.

Now, I wanted to do some kind of recap of my reactions to the play, so I took some notes as I went along.

Again, there aren't any blatant spoilers, but depending on how well you know me and Harry Potter, you may be able to guess what some of my vague exclamations mean. I doubt it, though.

Be ye warned.

pg. 17: WHAT.
pg. 29: JKR, do you really want to go down that road again?
pg. 48: Oh no!
pg. 52: This is starting to sound like that Harry Potter Musical on YouTube.
pg. 55: Now this is the kind of magical backstory I was hoping for.
pg. 59. Wait, did I read that right? ::Pauses:: Actually, that's not surprising.
pg. 67: Oh, Ron. Nobody can lighten the mood like you can.
pg. 78: Okay, this scene would be hilarious to watch.
pg. 81: Don't touch those books!
pg. 82: I told you not to touch those books. What would Grandpa Weasley say?
pg. 91: This better not mean what I think it means.
pg. 106: WHAT? It actually worked?
pg. 115: Oh, Harry. Dumbledore was right about you.
pg. 118: Gosh dang it, look what you did to Ron!
pg. 122: Ugh, Harry, stop being such a jerk.
pg. 125: See, this is why Hermione needs Ron.
pg. 135: Harry cooks?
pg. 136: Who would have thought that Draco and Ginny would have something in common?
pg. 144: Always. Sniff.
pg. 160: Okay, I know that wasn't supposed to be funny, but I can't stop laughing.
pg. 183: Did _____ seriously just crack a joke?
pg. 187: Stop trying to make me like _____.
pg. 195: I mean it.
pg. 223: This play is worth it for the Ron and Hermione scenes alone.
pg. 224: I hope canceling on the goblins doesn't come back to bite you.
pg. 249: Awwwwwww.
pg. 258: Awwwwwww. ::fake cries::
pg. 273: Yay! Ron gets to go with them this time!
pg. 274: Draco learned that from Voldemort, I'll bet.
pg. 277: #TeamBookGinny
pg. 280: This just got really weird.
pg. 287: I KNEW IT!
pg. 298: Finally! I've been waiting for _____ to show up.
pg. 306: Hmm. That's new.