Sunday, February 10, 2008

It's magic.

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I wrote this article for my school newspaper, on how Harry Potter has affected my life. It's a little sappy, but what can I say, I get sappy when it comes to Harry.

Harry Potter and the End of An Era

As everyone not living in the Amazon jungle or under a rather large rock knows, the seventh and final Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was released last July (July 21, to be exact, a date that had been inscribed in my mind for months beforehand). Across the globe, people lined up at bookstores, many of those people dressed as characters from the books, waiting for midnight to come. Amazingly, the biggest pop culture event of recent memory, perhaps even in history, was not a movie, or an album release, but the release of a book. And this wasn’t just any book—this book could more accurately be described as a tome, weighing in at 784 pages and one-seventh of a very complicated and complex series; not your average breezy summer read.

The book broke records left and right, becoming the fastest selling book in history, but none of this really mattered to the fans who had waited for years for Deathly Hallows. Perhaps the most incredible thing about the Harry Potter books was the effect they had on people, and how they changed so many lives in the process. Some may think the books are just that—books—paper and ink. But to the fans who grew up with these books, they are so much more.
I first picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in 1999, when I was seven, at the recommendation of a neighbor: “Have you heard about these ‘Harry Potter’ books? They’re so good for kids to read.” After I finished the first chapter, that was it, there was no going back. My now-nearly-nine-year-obsession had officially begun.

A huge part of the success of the books, in my opinion, was the huge, detailed world created by J.K. Rowling. From special wizard candies to a spell or potion for just about every purpose imaginable, no detail was overlooked, and as a reader, I felt surrounded and absorbed by this world so much that I started to wish it was real, perhaps even believe, a tiny bit, that it was real. In the books, Harry received his acceptance letter to Hogwarts on his eleventh birthday, so, of course, on my eleventh birthday, I expected the same. The whole day I told myself that I was being stupid, that the books were fictional, and so was everything in it, including Hogwarts. Yet, I couldn’t extinguish that tiny flicker of hope burning in my heart, and I eagerly watched at the windows, hoping, desperately hoping, for an owl to come into sight, a letter addressed to me clutched in its beak. I didn’t restrict myself to waiting for owl post, however, because that would’ve been silly. I also combed the area near the mailbox several times, reasoning that perhaps Professor McGonagall would have wanted to keep things very hush-hush, thus sending the letter through muggle mail.

Obviously, as you are reading this in the [insert school name here] newspaper, that letter did not come. The tears did however. Yes—I, a poor, disappointed eleven-year-old, cried over a nonexistent letter from Hogwarts, all my hopes crushed.

Harry was always with me. Whether dressing up as Hermione for Halloween or habitually inhabiting the fan site Mugglenet, my obsession never subsided. I reread and reread the books, over and over, and with each new book release, I would become permanently affixed to the armchair in my living room, reading for hours on end, desperate to finish before any spoilers could be found out. The characters seemed so alive. We saw Harry grow from an innocent child to an angst-filled teenager to a mature young man, we saw Hermione grow from annoying know-it-all to still-annoying-yet-slightly-more-endearing-know-it-all, and we saw Ron grow from, well…Ron was always a bit of a sheepish, bumbling best friend, wasn’t he? But out of all the characters, I, along with many people I know, loved Ron best. I cried for Cedric Diggory (along with, I’m sure, every other female fan), I cried when Sirius died and literally sobbed for the death of Dumbledore (and loathed Snape with every fiber of my being for said death). With each release, I realized that there was one less book left, that we were that much closer to the end of it all.

In the months leading up to July, my feelings about the release of Deathly Hallows ranged from anticipation to despair, from excitement to sorrow for the quickly-approaching end, which must come for all wonderful things. Finally, July 21 came, and I ran to mailbox, an odd parallel to my actions on my eleventh birthday, hoping that Amazon had shipped the book on time. I opened the mailbox, and there it was, in its own special box. I ran inside and slowly opened the box, relishing each moment. This was equivalent to Christmas times ten for me. I pulled the book out and felt its weight in my hands. Now more excited than sorrowful, I plopped into the armchair that had seen so many hours of Harry Potter, and opened the cover, expected to find a summary of the book as usual. Instead I found the simple inscription, “We now present the seventh and final installment in the epic tale of Harry Potter.” It was too simple, beautiful, sad, and poignant for me to handle. If before I had been excited, now I was utterly and completely depressed again. I started crying a bit (the vast majority of those reading this are most likely astounded at what a freak I am, but hopefully a select few fellow freaks can relate to me), and literally could not bring myself to turn the page. A few minutes went by, until I sucked it up and just started reading.

The book was incredible, and I was constantly in awe of J.K. Rowling’s story writing abilities, and how objects and storylines dipped, dived, and were woven within the fabric of each book, and how small, seemingly insignificant details made so much sense when explained in Book Seven. Loose ends were tied up—Ron and Hermione together, now who could’ve predicted that one?—many characters died (Dobby! Fred! Lupin! Tonks!) and, in the end, good triumphed over evil. Though, truthfully, we wouldn’t have accepted it any other way.
The story of Harry Potter is finished. There is no other way to say it. No more plots will be created, no new characters will be introduced, and, frankly, the fans will always have a small feeling of emptiness. While there will be no more anticipation, think of how lucky we are. Our children and grandchildren will read these books already knowing how they end, but we got to grow up with these books, and they are such a part of so many people’s childhoods. These stories will be classics, there is no doubt in my mind or anyone else’s of that, and they will survive as long as ink and paper do. Historians are having a lot of trouble naming the current generation—the Myspace Generation? Generation Next?

Perhaps the most accurate and telling name of all would be the Harry Potter Generation.

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And in honor of my good old dose of die-hard Harry Potter-lovin', I give you my favorite groups out of the peculiar, over-the-top, and downright hilarious musical genre known as Wizard Rock. I must say, I kind of feel bad for these bands because they only get gigs when a bit Harry Potter event is occurring, and those will soon be nonexistent.

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The originals: Harry and the Potters (Ironically, not one of the best)
The Remus Lupins
Ministry of Magic
The Whomping Willows
The Moaning Myrtles
The Parselmouths
Romilda Vane and the Chocolate Cauldrons
The Mudbloods [Check out "Freedom Is Only A Hippogriff Away)
Ginny and the Heartbreakers
The Cedric Diggorys

There's so many that it's slightly ridiculous. For a complete listing, check out

I'm going to Apparate.


Thursday, February 7, 2008

And you TOO can have hot sex against a bookcase!

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That's right, friends, the what-I'm-sure-will-be-iconic green dress from Atonement can be ALL your for just $3,200! As of now, I'm SURE the bid will go up. Oh, and you need to be able to fit into Keira Knightley's slightly ridiculous size 2. Good luck. WHERE, you might ask, can you get this dress? At none other than the charitable site, Clothes Off Our Backs. Here's the link, if, you know, you wanted to open it on the way to gathering your money together:

Oh, and here's a really interesting video of Keira discussing how important the costumes were to the story and movie as a whole.

Not related, BUT: Who's ever seen Godspell? We're watching it in religion class (yes, I actually receive religious instruction in my school) and it's one of the weirdest things I've ever seen on film but it's also kind of awesome.

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I kind of feel like they're all on acid.... or just REALLY high on Jesus's love. But I love the clothing. There's this scene in a junkyard where they go around picking up old things and putting them on, creating a bohemian wonderland (wow, that was bad) of clothing. If I can get specific stills, I'll do a more specific post on it.

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Oh, and it features a young Victor Garber as Jesus. With clown makeup. And a fro. Wow.

And for a bit of wow factor, check out this picture from Face Hunter in Stockholm.

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Damn. I love Sweden.

fred. (Would you believe that means "peace" in Swedish?)

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Gold teeth and a curse for this town were all in my mouth.

HAPPY GROUNDHOG DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Nothing like a poor, confused animal being forced out of their hole only to be met with tons of flashes and news crews. Of course the animal's going to see it's shadow. Are you dull? Boy, am I proud to be a Pennsylvanian on Groundhog Day....

Since I just got Netflix, I've decided to do a post, a sort of review, on each new movie I see. Let me just say that Netflix has officially made me even more of a hermit than I previously was. On the weekends, I actually have an EXCUSE to stay in: "Oh, I've got a couple of movies I wanted to watch." It's brilliant.


Garden State

Starring: Zach Braff, Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard

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I've heard so much about how incredible this movie was from the select few who could possibly be labeled as "indie" in my school. I always expect so much from movies, and am usually disappointed. I was kind of disappointed with this movie. There were really good parts, but there was just something missing, that spark that makes me sell my soul to the creators of the film.

Good: This is probably one of the most quotable films I've ever seen. Sometimes really simple lines can just be so absolutely pithy and perfect that they beg to be put in away messages. And I answered that call, friends. Because I have no less than 8 away messages with Garden State quotes alone. What's that? You want to know what they are? I was just thinking the same exact thing.

Sam (Natalie Portman): "You know what I do when I feel completely unoriginal? I make a noise or I do something that no one has ever done before. And then I can feel unique again even if it's only for like a second."

Sam: "What's the word that's burning in your heart?"

Tim: "By the way... it says BALLS on your face."

Sam: "This is your one opportunity to do something that no one has ever done before and that no one will copy throughout human existence. And if nothing else, you will be remembered as the one guy who ever did this. This one thing."

Sam: "I haven't even lied in like, the past two days."
Large (Zach Braff): "Is that true?"
Sam: "No."

Mark (Peter Sarsgaard): "I'm okay with being unimpressive. I sleep better."

Large: "Good luck exploring the infinite abyss."

Sam: "My hair is blowing in the wind."

They're even better in context.

I also liked the setting, and the little quirks that made the film so Jersey. The entire maternal side of my lineage comes from Jersey, and I have to say, I really can't stand that state. It's all highways and highways and highways and construction. But the film did a good job of showing what life is like there, I think. New Jerseyans have a lot of heart.

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I couldn't help but like the character of Sam. A lot of people will find her incredibly annoying and unrealistic, but I just liked her. In less talented hands, Sam could have been given a thousand idiosyncracies to make her quirky, and it just would've been over the top. But Zach Braff gave Sam just enough--epileptic, a complusive liar, dead pet graveyard in the backyard--that she seemed real, like a girl you might actually meet. If Sam was a little less peppy, I might want to be her.

Also, the soundtrack. Who hasn't heard of this soundtrack? It really is gorgeous, with each song fitting each scene perfectly. From the odd haze of The Shins to the Indian-feel of "Lebanese Blonde" to the hushed sleepiness of Iron & Wine's cover of The Postal Service's "Such Great Heights," it is indie perfection.

But, there are always cons. One of things I didn't like was the story--it kind of confused me a little, and sometimes seemed to jump, leaving me with my head cocked staring at the screen with an extremely attractive "Whaaaaaa?" look on my face.

Oh, and the ENDING. I HATED THE ENDING. I won't give it away, because I'm just so kind, but my friend and I kept saying, "That was the end? Wait, THAT was the end? I was expecting... MORE." And it's true. I was definitely expecting more.

Garden State was a quirky, interesting film, but left me wanting that indescribable something. 3 1/2 stars.

In other movie news, check out the Prince Caspian trailer (Chronicles of Narnia, for those of you will more adult interests.)

Too bad there won't be any James McAvoy as a faun in this one. But I want to see it, because any movie with mystical lands, epic battles, New Zealand, and haunting choral music in the trailer is just fine with me. And William Moseley is really freaking hot.

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Why are all French woman born with this chic gene? Marion Cotillard's dress is so simple and understated, but she looked more beautiful than all the woman in dresses that looked like someone had gotten their hands on a Bedazzler. I can't help but compare that dress to this painting, a favorite of mine:

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The woman in the painting is French. This is so not fair.

I suggest Cheap Trick's classic, "I Want You To Want Me." How can you not love this song?