Saturday, July 21, 2007

No Spoilers Here

Having just finished a marathon reading session in which I read 2/3 of Order of the Phoenix (I started re-reading it after seeing the movie but had only managed about 1/3 as of yesterday afternoon), all of Half-Blood Prince, and all of Deathly Hallows (phew), let me just say:

That was singularly satisfying.'s nice to be right about a few things.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Night Before

So, my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows arrives tomorrow.  I have not read any spoilers.  I may even convince myself not to glance at the last page and see what the last word is now that it's not "scar."

I may post non-spoilery reactions after I read it (it took me about 14ish hours to read Order of the Phoenix, so I expect to be done by tomorrow night) but it'll be a while before I do a full review -- not only 'cause I want to digest it, but because I'd kinda like to re-read the whole series and get it in perspective before I either praise or condemn it.

In other news, it was the last day of summer school today, which is always a weird, bittersweet, anti-climactic thing.  The whole school year builds to culmination; we have the whole ceremony, R's mom even smiles at me, and so forth.  Then the kids come back for four weeks, only to just quietly get on their busses on the last day and go home.  It's...weird.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Hopefully, I earned some karma this afternoon.

It was my last day to do my home teaching assignment; I was planning on having A. try out a label maker (his writing, which was always slow, laborious, large, and difficult to read, is probably the area that has suffered the most with him being out of school -- pretty much ONLY his name is legible now, and that's iffy) to ease some of the back to school stress (in other words, practice writing some of the time but not to his "that's it; I'm over this" stage), and assess him on his IEP goals.

I got in the car to leave, and I got a text message saying they wouldn't be there.  Technically, all I had to do was fill out his IEP pages and mail them, but I offered to stop by and assess him personally one day next week.


Well -- assuming he makes it back to school in the fall, it will be only a matter of time before there's Drama.  He's just that kind of kid.  He will also have a new aide and a new inclusion support teacher -- and the latter won't be at school everyday.  This means I will be first on mom's hit list if something goes sour.

So I figure that the more goodwill I can build up with her now, the better for me later.

In other news, 3rd-grade A. (the one with the Mighty Mo) had his first real meltdown of the summer.  I got up to move him away from the table and he grinned -- he grinned! -- and started to move his chair.

Oh, no, buster, no way is that going to work.  

So I spent a few minutes getting punched in the arm (and drooled on a bit -- he was trying to spit at me -- he has been watching R get moved aside or ignored for it, but R is doing it for attention, not escape) but doesn't have the oral motor skills to do so...heh heh).  Once he saw that he'd done no more than drool on my leg, he tried to tell me I needed to go home to change clothes.

I'll give him credit for creativity, at least.

And in other news, our summer school office manager is convinced that Miss T. -- who was out today; I suspect due to registration issues she was talking about yesterday -- just likes to take Thursdays off.  Not that it really matters since she'll probably not be working for the district by next summer (she plans to student teach in the spring), but I defended her anyway.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Random Pet Peeve

Epi.  Piccie.  Linky.

Honestly -- can't you just say (type) "episode," "picture" (I'd accept "pic"), or "link?"  In the last one, it's not even an abbreviation.


Monday, July 16, 2007

In the News

This article on Yahoo! News discusses a lawsuit filed against Germany by the children of Holocaust survivors, citing their own pain and suffering -- caused, in effect, by their parents' experiences during the Holocaust.

I may or may not have said this before on this blog, but I've long had a morbid fascination for the Holocaust.  There's a macabre part of me that wants to explore how -- and why -- humanity could descend into such madness.  There's the cynical part of me that sees it simply as an extension of the prejudices that existed then -- and still exist now.

And there's part of me -- the nascent activist in me, I suspect -- that simply wishes to honor those who died (much to one of my professor's chagrin in college, I include in that all groups targeted by the Nazis, included gypsies, the LGBT community, and those with disabilities) by learning as much about it as I can.

In any event, the gist is, the Holocaust so traumatized their parents that their parents passed on that trauma to them.

I'm of two minds about this.  (By the way -- I have no good answer.  This is mostly a thought experiment.)

The first is this: while there's no doubt that surviving the Holocaust must have affected survivors -- and therefore more than likely impacted their interactions with their children, either those born during the Holocaust itself or after -- at some point, the blame must stop.  People must go on with their lives.  If the kids of Holocaust survivors are proven, indeed, to have suffered grave psychological damage because of their parents' trauma -- can't their kids (won't their kids, given today's litigious society) therefore claim that they are harmed by their parents' trauma, which was caused by their parents' trauma?

When would it end?  And at what point do you say: very few, if any, German officials currently in power had anything to do with the Holocaust?  Do you draw the line with those drafted into the Luftwaffe in the last 6 months of the war?  People who participated in the (mandatory) Hitler Youth?  Do you draw the line the child who was 5 when the war ended but who learned to read by reading Nazi propaganda?

At what point do you say: the people who caused the Holocaust are gone, and to hold Germany as it exists now responsible is, at best, excessive?

But then there's the part of me that answers that exact question with this: the Holocaust was an event unmatched in human history (though Dharfur, Rwanda, and Yugoslavia among others have tried to resurrect it).  It was barbaric, and savage, and quite possibly did damage its victims to the point that it damaged its victims' children -- even those born after the concentration camps closed their doors.

If you'll pardon a foray into nerddom, may I suggest the (1990s) Outer Limits episode "Tribunal" as an exploration of the burden carried by survivors' children.  In this case, the main character's father lost his first wife and child in the Holocaust; a large part of the story deals with his mixed feelings towards his father and the grief that still haunts him.

It's stunning in its simplicity -- yes, there is a sci-fi component, but the major drama is the Holocaust survivor's son's -- and when the screen fades to black, you see why.  A dedication plaque comes up with the following:

"To my father who survived Auschwitz, and to his wife and daughter who did not."  -- Sam Egan, Executive Producer

The thing is -- and the reason I have no good answer for the questions I've posed here -- there's no good answer for this question.  The Holocaust continues to haunt its survivors.  It continues to haunt those affected by it.

It would make good sense to at least allow some sort of compensation to the victims' children who filed the lawsuit.

But I have another worry:  people, as a whole, are not good at common sense.

People, as a whole, are greedy.

People, as a whole, succumb to the slippery slope.

So I suppose my worry is: if you grant compensation to this group of survivors' children, what about children of survivors of the Titanic?  Of the Battle of Britain?  Of Pearl Harbor?  Of Dharfur?  Of Yugoslavia?  Of Rwanda?  Of Tiannamen Square?  Of Vietnam vets?

Where would it end?

What about children of children of alcoholics?  What about the children of children of abusive parents?

You could travel down that road forever.

And that's not even taking into account who should be held responsible.  For the Titanic -- the family of the captain?  The descendants of the owners of the White Star line?  For Vietnam vets -- the US armed forces?  The generals that directed the war?

As I said -- there's no good answer.  But it's an interesting moral puzzle.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

A Creative "Power" Pun Goes Here

So I said in my Order of the Phoenix review below that you should come back for my DWP adventures.

BTW, Cat, the movie actually wasn't that crowded -- it was in one of the huge (but not IMAX) screens and I would say a good 50 to 100 seats were left open.  I'm still going again (even if I can't get Patrick to come with; the Sirius stuff was hard on him) to see it in IMAX.

Anyway, I have a bad habit on weekends of sleeping in too late and then having trouble going to bed Saturday and Sunday night.  I tried to go to bed early last night in preparation for going to see OotP this morning, but no dice.  Then, around 2:00 or so -- I'd been attempting to sleep for about 1 1/2 hours -- my window air conditioner started to make weird noises.

I keep it set fairly cool at night; I can't sleep unless I'm 'swaddled,' so to speak, in blankets.  I suppose a deep pressure vest would be a good idea for me, if they made any that fit me.

Anyhow, I figured it'd just frozen -- window ACs do that sometime -- so, since it was fairly cool, I turned it off and didn't think much more about it.  I figured I'd wake up if I got hot and turn it back on.

Well...about 5:30, a strange sound -- silence -- jolts me right awake.

The power's out.

I peer outside.

Not just us.

I look up the DWP hotline on my iPhone (yay for EDGE, even if it is slow) and report the outage; 2 others have already done so.

So, I wet a washcloth, put it over my head, and try to sleep.  I toss and turn, dozing and waking up, and finally give up about 10:30 -- nearly 5 hours since the outage was reported.

I get ready to go to lunch and the movie.  By 11:00, still no power.  The DWP is going from manhole cover to manhole cover (our utilities are all underground) to try to figure out what's wrong.

By 12:00, the power's back on.

The DWP hotline, which I'd called during lunch just out of morbid curiosity, was still set at 7:30 a.m. and didn't record any outages at all.

Which brings me to a point: given the technological development of the last couple of decades, couldn't major utility hubs have a 10 minute generator so that they can phone home and say, "Help!  A transformer blew!" or "Help!  Something overloaded me!" or even "Help!  Error!  Error!  Error!"

In other words, the utility version of a kernel panic or the Blue Screen of Doom.

'Cause, you know, if we were in a less affluent area (where people, say, wouldn't have internet connected cell phones with which to look up the hotline number) and people couldn't report the outage right away -- that would have sucked.

So now I'm sitting her contemplating re-reading Order of the Phoenix ('cause I think I remember a couple of other things that weren't in the book) and silently blessing my AC.

Oh, and Cat -- I've had Deathly Hallows pre-ordered since the day Amazon announced it.  So I'll be reading next Saturday too.  Once you have a chance to see OotP, I'd be curious to hear your reaction to my review.  :-)

Order of the Phoenix Review

Come back later for my adventures with the DWP.

Go back now if you don't want to be spoiled.

I'm serious.

No pun intended.

Also, I have at least one theory related to Deathly Hallows that stems directly from this movie, and things I've read about it.  You are thus doubly forewarned.

Before going too in depth, let me just say something: unscientifically comparing my copies of Order of the Phoenix and The Lord of the Rings reveals that the two are more or less the same size.  LotR was made into three 3-hour movies and still took flack for leaving out Tom Bombadil and the Scouring of the Shire, among other things.  Order of the Phoenix was made into one 2 3/4 hour long movie.  Stuff had to be sacrificed.

All in all, I think they did a reasonably good job deciding what to keep and what to sacrifice.

For the record, the major plot points that I can recall and pinpoint as being sacrificed are, in no particular order:
  • Weasley is Our King: Quidditch
  • Ron and Hermione being Prefects (note that they may have obliquely referred to this for just a tiny moment)
  • Percy (also obliquely referred to by having him show up twice with Crouch)
  • Most of Kreacher's storyline (see below)
  • Luna's role in the Quibbler is much reduced here
  • Meeting Neville's parents (who are referred to but not shown)
  • Firenze teaching Divination
Things that were abbreviated or shortened:
  • The Weasleys' Revolt (though what it shown is awesome)
  • Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes
  • Harry's angst at the beginning
  • Grawp
  • The Torture of Professor Trelawney
  • Sirius chafing at his enforced confinement at Grimmauld Place
  • Harry and Cho
  • Mrs. Figg being a squib and looking out for Harry all along
Things that seem to me to be different than in the book:
  • I don't recall Cho being the one to betray Dumbledore's Army, even under Veritaserum
  • Likewise, I don't recall Filch camping out in front of the Room of Requirement waiting for the DA to leave
Things that rocked:
  • Professor McGonagall:  "Oh, there are quite a few things I would like to say to you, Sybil!"
  • The Weasleys' Revolt.  Just 'cause.
  • Fred and George comforting the boy that was in detention.
  • Believe it or not, the Occlumency lessons.  I liked the visuals.
  • The thestrals.  How cool are they?  I would just liked to have seen the others' faces after flying to London on animals they couldn't see.
  • Ginny destroying the Department of Mysteries with one spell.  Heh.
  • Hermione flattening Ron, and the twins betting on it.
  • The poster of Fudge getting shredded during Voldemort and Dumbledore's battle.  I just liked the symbolism.
  • Harry's angst.  I defended it when the book came out, and I defend it now.  The kid had been through a lot and was entirely entitled to be cranky.
  • The acting, especially from the Trio.  While still not Oscar-quality actors, they improve with each film.  In this one, Emma Watson seemed to show the most improvement.
Things that were okay:
  • Sidestepping showing Neville's parents by having Sirius and Neville both speak about it.
  • Luna.  The actress was good, but not great.
  • The visual effects.  Some were awesome, some not so much.  I particularly liked the Veil; I particularly disliked the obvious replacement of Emma Watson with a CGI'd image when Grawp picked her up.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Weasley.  "Daddy's home?"  Mwuah?  But on the other hand, the enduring affection they have for Harry -- off-screen, you can hear Mrs. Weasley saying something like "he's like one of our own" -- is lovely.
  • Dumbledore.  I just can't buy the new Dumbledore.  He's too...forceful.  At least he didn't grab any kids this time.
  • The Snape-James incident...the point of that was what it taught Harry, and that got left out entirely.
Things I didn't like:
  • Bellatrix.  I admit that this is the first Harry Potter movie I've seen without re-reading the book, but I don't recall her being so over-the-top crazy.  I recall her more as being...well...quietly, scarily crazy.
  • Shunting McGonagall off to the side...I really didn't like that they didn't show her part in the Wesleys' Rebellion.  But given that I recall production stills show her sitting, exhausted, in a wheelchair, perhaps she couldn't handle more than her role was.
Overall, I thought this was a very successful film, though it takes the film franchise further from the story in the books, particularly in regards to secondary characters.  Ron, especially, has suffered from the parts that have been dropped.  But, like Lord of the Rings, these films are creating a universe separate from that created in the book.

They're related, certainly, and they tell the same essential story, but the narrative is focused on Harry and Voldemort almost exclusively.  While the books are written from Harry's point of view, their focus is broader.

But that brings me to a point of speculation.  Sci-Fi Wire had an article a while back that said that while J.K. Rowling isn't greatly involved in the movies, she does offer suggestions and information, including a sketch of the family tree in Grimmauld Place, and suggesting that they not remove a character from Order of the Phoenix because they would have trouble when they made the film version of Deathly Hallows.

My suspicion, based on how little both are in the film, is that the character is either Kreacher or Percy.

Kreacher is suspect, of course, because of the Black family's history as Dark Wizards, and because he has already betrayed the Order of the Phoenix once.  I can envision many roles for Kreacher to take in Deathly Hallows; of course, I won't know for a week.  But the fact that house elves are powerfully magical makes him a suspect.

The other is Percy.  Percy is shown very little in the film, and the drama with his family is largely ignored.  Unfortunately, I don't see his story ending well: he seems solely focused on procuring power.  He's also seemed to be very suggestible and not very savvy.  When Percy is shown in the film, he's acting directly against Harry, and is always shown with Fudge and members of the Ministry.

It could be that Percy plays a prominent role in the last book -- and therefore film -- and that J.K. Rowling felt that it was important that his shift in attitude at least be briefly addressed.

Ironically, despite the almost ritual reports now of people complaining that Order of the Phoenix is just getting too dark (there was even a Yahoo! headline a few days ago to that effect), I found it less intense and certainly less scary than Goblet of Fire.  The scene in the graveyard in the latter was so well-done, and the atmosphere itself so frightening, that it outdoes the Department of Mysteries in my mind.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was a good book that moved the plot of the larger story along, but it lacked the introspection of Prisoner of Azkaban or long-awaited answers of Half-Blood Prince.  It's a good, but not great, book.

I'd say the same of the film.  It's a film that had to happen to progress the story into the coming climax.  It's good, but not great.

I'd say, ultimately, give it a 6 or a 7 out of 10.  I may change my mind after seeing the Department of Mysteries stuff in 3D (the IMAX theaters were sold out).