Monday, September 27, 2010

The Boggart in the Wardrobe

So, I'm going to stop making promises about how often I'll be posting...they just don't work! This time it was a combination of work being too exhausting and my sister sending me the link to a Harry Potter trivia game and subsequently getting completely sucked into the site. Also, my Community DVD arrived and there's commentary on every episode! (Readers of my other blog should keep an eye out there, I'll probably be reviewing the DVD in the next couple days.) Enough excuses! On to the chapter synopsis...

Malfoy continues to be a whiny little baby, finally showing up in the middle of potions class several days later. He's a big jerk to Harry and Ron. Snape's a big jerk to the whole of Gryffindor, Neville in particular. After lunch (on their way to which Hermione seemingly disappears for a minute) it's time for their first Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson with Professor Lupin. All are excited when they discover it will be a practical lesson and Lupin brings them to the staff room to take care of a boggart. Everyone gets a turn but Hermione (who's, of course, disappointed) and Harry, who's hurt when Lupin steps in to keep him from facing the boggart. No one else noticed this though, so it's likely that a part of this was Harry being an oversensitive 13-year-old. (Yes, I know Lupin confesses to stopping Harry from facing the boggart later, I'm saying that Harry probably felt the sting a bit more than was strictly necessary.)

I find the following interesting: "...said Harry, accidentally beheading a dead caterpillar..." Why did Rowling choose to specify that the caterpillar was already dead? I don't have an answer to that question, but it made me think, once again, about how difficult it would be for a vegan to be a wizard. Boomslang skin. Caterpillars. Eye of Newt. Potions certainly aren't very animal friendly! It makes me wonder if there are witches or wizards out there working to vegan-ize popular potion recipes? I feel certain that such an attempt would not have gone over well in Snape's classroom.

Speaking of Snape, I can't help but be impressed by his knowledge. When Neville screws up his potion, Snape knows exactly what it was that Neville did incorrectly. How does he know that an excess of rat spleen and leech juice (there's another couple animal products) were what caused the potion to turn orange? Is it just teaching experience, or is it experimentation on his own? Those of us who can see the future, know that Snape was not averse to experimenting while a student himself, does he still remember all those failed experiments?

As for the rest of the chapter, the boggart stuff is fun, though I really don't see the harm of a boggart if you know it's there, but nothing really jumped out at me as worth discussion in the second half of the chapter.

My previous ramblings on wizard vegans proved to be somewhat controversial...provide your thoughts in the comments!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Talons and Tea Leaves

Well, if any of my readers are still around, I'm back! August ended up being a string of health problems (two trips to the emergency room and a trip to my doctor) but I'm finally healthy again! Now, blogger is being really weird, so I'm going to get right into it.

It's the first day of lessons and the very first class of the day is Divination. Harry, Ron and Hermione find their way up to the Divination tower, which is in an area of the school they've never been to before. They start out reading tea leaves and Professor Trelawney sees the Grim in Harry's cup, a prediction of death. In their next class Professor McGonagall (and Hermione) scoffs and tells the class that Trelawney predicts the death of one student a year and a death is yet to occur. After lunch, they have Care of Magical Creatures with the Slytherins. Hagrid introduces the class to hippogriffs and Harry rides Buckbeak. Malfoy insults Buckbeak and is attacked. At the end of the day, the trio go see Hagrid in his hut, where they manage to cheer him up a bit before Hagrid realizes Harry shouldn't be out after dark and escorts them back up to the castle.

Unfortunately, I got sucked into the whole time aspect of Hermione and her classes and spent most of the time pretty distracted (So Harry and Ron actually sat through the class three times? Was the last time the time with Hermione there? If it hadn't been, would they remember a different version of what happened in class? How do the professors of her other classes know she was there? etc.) I most definitely have time travel issues...I want it to make sense. Generally I prefer sci-fi time travel to fantasy time travel I suppose; I much prefer when they try to explain it with science than magic!

Before my time-related distraction, I did manage to wonder who else is taking Arithmancy and Muggle-Studies with Hermione. Every 3rd year Gryffindor we know of (though I do wonder if there are a couple of nameless girls we never hear about) is in the Divination class. Yes, those classes are most likely with other houses (I'm pretty sure we find out later that Arithmancy is with Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff), but doesn't it seem weird that no other Gryffindor wanted to take those classes? I can tell you right now that if someone were to give me the option of taking Arithmancy, Muggle Studdies or Divination, Divination would be my last choice (of course, I'm a Ravenclaw). It seems odd.

Thoughts? Admonishments for my lack of posting? Anything interesting happen while I was away? Share in the comments!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Dementor

Alright, I am back! I'm not completely healed, but I'm better enough that pain is not the foremost thing on my mind. Though I do continue to rock a look very similar to this. Ah well, enough about my accident-prone self, let's get back to Harry!

Harry wants to talk to Ron and Hermione about what he overheard the Weasleys talking about the night before, but there's far too much going on to do it that morning. At the train station, Mr. Weasley pulls him aside and Harry reveals that he overheard the conversation the night before. Mr. Weasely asks Harry to promise he won't go looking for Sirius Black, to which Harry's all "duh".

On the train, the trio ends up in a compartment with the sleeping Professor Lupin, whom Hermione surmises must be the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Harry tells Ron and Hermione about Black being after him and they freak out. Hermione asks Harry to promise he won't go looking for Black at which point Harry is mildly insulted that everyone seems to think he's a giant moron. Harry's sneakoscope goes off and everyone assumes it's broken, they talk about Hogsmeade, Malfoy comes by and gets scared away by the sleeping Lupin, and the train goes dark while stopping in the middle of nowhere.

Neville and Ginny find their way to the compartment in the dark and Lupin wakes up just in time for a hooded figure to show up before Harry hears a scream and passes out. When he wakes up he finds out that the hooded figure was a dementor, an Azkaban guard, and that he was the only one to pass out. Lupin passes around some chocolate, which helps Harry feel better and they finally arrive at the school. Neville wastes no time telling Malfoy about Harry fainting (What the crap, Neville?!) and to make matters worse, Harry is taken upstairs to be fussed over by McGonagall and Madame Pomfrey. McGonagall also meets with Hermione and then the two head back downstairs to find they've missed the sorting. Dumbledore gives his usual speech, mentions the dementors and everyone eats then heads to the dormitories.

This chapter is full of foreshadowing and setups for later; the sneakoscope and Crookshanks both freaking out when Scabbers is nearby, the effect the dementors have on Harry (and Ginny), and all the don't-go-after-Black stuff; but most of that will be discussed later on.

A lot has been said about the dementors by others. Everyone knows that Rowling based the dementors off of her own bout with depression and that they are the manifestation of the emptiness one feels when dealing with that disease. I myself have fought depression in the past and I find the description pretty accurate. But my favorite thing about this chapter is the chocolate.

As you may know, chocolate releases endorphins, which are our body's natural stress and pain relief. It's pure genius to use magical healing properties of chocolate.

On a related note, Ron's list of sweets to be found at Honeydukes makes me extremely excited to head to Florida and try some of them out myself!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Why I'm not Posting...

I sprained my toe last Friday and until I can come home after a full work day and not have my primary thought be "owowowowowowowowowow!" I will not be posting. Mainly because I'm afraid that I wouldn't be able to concentrate on reading enough to have anything interesting to say. Now according to the doctor, I should be feeling better after a week or so, but if I'm not, I'll let you know! A big apology to the few people who yell at me when I don't post often enough (all of whom are related to me) and anyone else who feels put out when I don't post!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Leaky Cauldron

Harry spends much of the next couple weeks wandering around Diagon Alley, purchasing school supplies, doing homework and ogling broomsticks. Eventually, other Hogwarts students start showing up and finally, on the last day before term, Ron and Hermione appear. Scabbers is looking a bit worse for wear and Hermione wants to get an owl, so the trio head to a magical creatures store, where Scabbers is attacked by a cat that Hermione subsequently buys. That night Harry and Hermione join the Weasley's for dinner at the Leaky Cauldron. After dinner, Harry overhears Mr. and Mrs. Weasley arguing over whether Harry has the right to know that Sirius Black is after him. Harry's not really all that phased, it's not like Black's the first person to want to kill him after all, and Harry feels quite safe with Dumbledore around.

This might be one of my top three favorite chapters in the entire series; it certainly makes the top ten. Basically, I desperately want to stay in the Leaky Cauldron and wander around Diagon Alley all day for two weeks, it sounds like the best vacation ever! As I've said before (I think, though I can't seem to find it to link it right now) what keeps me coming back to Harry Potter is the wizarding world and how much I wish I could live there. That's one of the big reasons I so enjoy this chapter, the first half in particular. There's no real plot developments (yes we learn about the Firebolt and the Grim), it's mostly just Harry enjoying the world, and we get to come along for the ride! I'm going to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida with a bunch of fellow Potterheads this winter and the thing I look forward to most is meandering through Hogsmeade, exploring the shops and drinking butterbeer. This chapter is exactly what I'm hoping for from the trip.

Now that I've finished rhapsodizing, I do have a couple questions that came up as I was reading:
*What's the difference between a wizard and a warlock?
*Why can't you just pass through the entrance to Diagon Alley like Platform 9 3/4?
*How does Harry manage to eat a sundae every half hour without being violently sick?
*Why on earth would anyone give away a free sundae every half hour to the same person?
*Where is Mrs. Weasley's sense of humor?

My brain also went off on a more lengthy tangent when the trio went to the Magical Menagerie (pet store). I wondered if there are magical pet rescues where one could adopt magical creatures or whether there were magical creature mills (like puppy mills) turning out magical creatures to meet the high demand. Obviously, as a pet store, they don't seem to bother much about whether the witch or wizard purchasing the animal will be a good pet guardian, just that they can lay the money down to take it home. Also, is the witch working at the store a magical vet? Did she take other courses of study beyond Care of Magical Creatures (which doesn't exactly seem to focus on domesticated magical creatures) for her to be able to give care advice?

People had mixed feelings about my concerns about mandrake ethics, I'm curious to know your thoughts on other magical creatures. The domesticated ones in particular. Also, if anyone would like to take a crack at trying to come up with an answer to any of my other questions or just agree or disagree with my thoughts on the awesomeness of Diagon Alley, I'd love to hear from you in the comments section!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Knight Bus

Once again I must apologize for my somewhat prolonged absence. I unexpectedly developed a social like last week. Not to worry, it's unlikely to happen again soon. At any rate, when last we left Harry, he'd just stormed out of the Dursley's house... is common after any rash action, Harry soon realized he might have made a mistake. His Aunt and Uncle were likely pretty cheesed off and the Ministry of Magic was likely to expel him. Harry had just decided he may as well do a bit more magic to get to London so he could retrieve his money and begin life on the run, when he felt a presence nearby. He lit his wand and saw a huge black dog in the bushes across the way, but before panic could set in too badly, a purple triple-decker bus nearly ran him over.

The conductor of the bus, Stan, soon explains that the Knight Bus picks up stranded witches and wizards and takes them where they need to go. Harry climbs aboard and sees that instead of seats there are beds which slide around as the bus itself jumps from location to location with a loud bang. Stan is reading The Daily Prophet and Harry sees that the escaped prisoner he'd seen featured earlier that week on the Muggle news is in fact a wizard, Sirius Black. Stan tells him that Black was one of Voldemort's followers and he was sent to Azkaban for killing 13 people with one curse.

Eventually they arrive at the Leaky Cauldron, and Harry is surprised and nervous to find Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge waiting for him. Fudge tells Harry that Aunt Marge has been set to right and her memory erased, that the Dursley's have agreed to let him come back the following summer, and that Harry will be staying at the Leaky Cauldron for the last two weeks of the summer (though it should be about August 7th at this point and the Hogwarts Express departs on September 1st, so it should actually be 3 weeks, but who's counting?), just asking that Harry not stray into Muggle-London, but stick to Diagon Alley. After Fudge leaves, Tom takes Harry up to his room, where he's delighted to find Hedwig waiting for him. He falls right to sleep.

I've always wondered why the Knight Bus drives at all if it can just jump from one place to another. The only thing I can come up with is that perhaps it needs to reach a certain speed before it can make the jump (like a Delorean) and then it needs space to decelerate. It doesn't seem to have anything to do with the Statute of Secrecy, since stationary objects like buildings keep jumping out of the way.

To a lesser extant I wonder why they don't magically bolt the beds (and armchairs) to the floor to keep them from sliding around. You'd think that it might help with the illness many passengers seem to experience. While it seems likely that Stan (and Ernie) might not care enough to bother, I see no reason the passengers themselves shouldn't cast a quick charm on their furniture.

Still, I love the Knight Bus and Stan and Ernie, it's one of my favorite magical methods of travel. It's certainly the most interesting to read about, since we get to hear about more than just the way it makes Harry feel and provides time for conversation, which few if any do (an argument might be made for brooms).

How do you feel about the Knight Bus? Love it? Hate it? Would you want to take a ride? (Might make a better roller coaster than a Hippogriff anyway).

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Aunt Marge's Big Mistake

At breakfast on Harry's birthday Harry and the Dursley's see a news story about an escaped prisoner by the name of Black. Harry then finds out that Vernon's sister, "Aunt" Marge is coming to stay for a week and that he'll have to pretend to be "normal" and attend St. Brutus' something or other. Harry uses this to blackmail Uncle Vernon into signing his Hogsmeade permission slip (if Harry behaves himself). Marge shows up and is more horrible than Vernon, Petunia and Dudley, which is amazing. Eventually, she ticks Harry off so much that he accidentally turns her into a human balloon. While the rest of the family is distracted, Harry grabs his stuff. After a final exchange with Uncle Vernon, Harry heads off into the night...

While in some ways, this could be a good opportunity to talk about the Trace again, there will be better ones in the future, so just know that this is another chapter that makes my head hurt the the wacky Trace rules.

A few years ago, I ran a church book club where we talked about the theological and biblical implications of Harry Potter. I'm someone who likes to get both sides of an issue, so I read both pro-Potter books and anti-Potter books. The guy who wrote one of the anti-Potter books seemed not to have read the books at all. He had all kinds of specious arguments that were easily refutable by anyway with the reading comprehension level of an 8-year-old. For some reason, it was his arguments regarding this book that really stuck in my mind, and this chapter was one of the biggest. You see, the author had a big problem with all the cursing in the books. You know, like when it says "Ron cursed" and when they call people "gits", which he had to look up. His biggest problem though was with the word "bitch" in this chapter, when Aunt Marge says, "You see it all the time with dogs. If there's something wrong with the bitch, there'll be something wrong with the pup." This argument drove me mad! Apparently, he could take the time to look up the word "git" but not the time to look up the word "bitch" and see that it was being used correctly. He completely lost me at that point. If anything, I would argue that seeing the correct usage of a word that has been co-opted to be insulting and degrading is a positive thing for children, giving parents a wonderful chance to teach their children about words and context.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Have you ever read a "review" or critique of a book or movie and wondered if the author had actually read or watched what they were talking about?