Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Ladies and gentlemen, we are floating in space

"To summarize briefly: A white rabbit is pulled out of a top hat. Because it is an extremely large rabbit, the trick takes many billions of years. All mortals are born at the very tip of the rabbit's fine hairs, where they are in a position to wonder a the impossibility of the trick. But as they grow older they work themselves even deeper into the fur. And there they stay. They become so comfortable they never risk crawling back up the fragile hairs again. Only philosophers embark on this perilous expedition to the outermost reaches of language and existence. Some of them fall off, but others cling on desperately and yell at the people nestling deep in the snug softness, stuffing themselves with delicious food and drink.

'Ladies and gentlemen,' they yell, 'we are floating in space!' But none of the people down there care.

'What a bunch of troublemakers!' they say. And they keep on chatting: Would you pass the butter, please? How much have our stocks risen today? What is the price of tomatoes? Have you heard that Princess Di is expecting again?"

from Sophie's World
by Jostein Gaarder
p. 20

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Deathly Hallows: Predictions

Last night was a complete fiasco. I would have thought that the park was more than ample room for an event such as this, but no - it was insane. As packed as it is for the Teddy Bears' Picnic (which is a big deal in Winnipeg). There were security and police everywhere directing traffic. We ended up parking on the road down by the Zoo and trekking back to the Conservatory area. Not a bad walk since it was a beautiful night out.

But anyways, I'm not going to go over the night in detail - the main thing is that it was a pretty amazing thing to be out there with all of those people who were feeling the same excitement that I was and, more importantly, I did end up with a book. It was in my possession for approximately 30 minutes before I passed it along to someone more deserving. All I had read was the introductory page.

When I got home at 3 a.m. I tried to continue reading The Half-Blood Prince where I'd left off but it was no good. I couldn't concentrate, couldn't keep reading it now that the final book was out. I ended up sitting in bed sleepless (unable to even solace myself with the Gilmore Girls since Stephan had fallen asleep on the couch), berating myself for giving up my book (even if it was to a good cause/person).

Today we're having a bbq party at our place and so there was a lot to do this afternoon to get ready. But first things being first, I picked up my own copy of the book at McNally and then proceeded with errand duties. I'm going to start reading it in just a few minutes. Well, unless I get distracted again by party tasks and cooking...

To reiterate - all I've read so far has been the intro page. With that in mind, I'm going to make some very last minute predictions. Maybe reading the first page means I'm disqualified from doing so, but I can't resist.

First, here's what's prompted me to do so. These are the quotations on the preface page of the book:

Oh, the torment bred in the race,
the grinding scream of death
and the stroke that hits the vein,
the haemorrhage none can staunch, the grief,
the curse no man can bear.

But there is a cure in the house
and not outside it, no,
not from others but from them,
their bloody strife. We sing to you,
dark gods beneath the earth.

Now hear, you blissful powers underground --
answer the call, send help,
Bless the children, give them triumph now.

Aeschylus, The Libation Bearers

Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still. For they must needs be present, that love and live in that which is omnipresent. In this divine glass they see face to face; and their converse is free, as well as pure. This is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal.

William Penn, More Fruits of Solitude

After reading these quotes - these extremely moving, powerful quotes, my predictions are as follows:

1 - Snape is going to die saving Harry
2 - Dumbledore had a master plan all along
3 - Regardless, Harry is going to die
4 - Voldemort is going to die
5 - Ron, Hermione, and Ginny will live
6 - I'll be crying by the end of the book

Friday, July 20, 2007

Harry Potter's significance

So, this is it. In five and a half hours all will be revealed.

Actually, that's rather an exaggeration since the book is over 500 pages and I'm not necessarily extreme enough to stay up all night reading until the end. (Although perhaps that would be a nice way of paying homage. So maybe I will stay up, we'll see.) But still, for those who flip to the last chapter - all will be revealed very shortly.

I don't think I'm the biggest HP fan out there. Not even close. I do love the books. I think the movies are mediocre but I still go to see them either opening night or week. I've gone to a book release party - the 2005 one at McNally for The Half-Blood Prince. I've dressed up as a Gryffindor student for Halloween. I've got an HP poster on my bedroom wall.

But this is all unusual for me. I don't usually dive into fandom like this (seriously). And not all of my HP memories are nice, happy ones.

In fact, my first memory of HP goes back to before I'd ever picked up the first book. Dip into the pensieve and you'll see my mom sitting at our old kitchen table, reading the Winnipeg Free Press. The third book has just been released and the article describes the frenzy of fans rushing to Chapters to get their copies. My mom is exclaiming in a dismayed voice about how troubling it is to see so many people are interested in a book filled so blatantly with witchcraft. She sees it as another sign that we're living in the Last Days.

I don't know if this was the moment I became intrigued by Harry Potter. I honestly can't remember when that was or what went through my head when I decided I wanted to read the books. But I know it was sometime around then that I bought the first book from our local Chapters. This was probably around 2000.

This wasn't the first contraband book I'd ever read (or even the first that I'd read and kept in the house). My reading of literature that went against the JW grain started in Grade 4 when my class read The Witches by Roald Dahl. I wasn't allowed to read it, of course. So while my class would gather on the floor around my teacher while she read, I was sent to play Winnie the Pooh on the computer.... all the way on the other side of the room. Noteworthy is the fact that the other side of a room is rarely out of hearing distance. It certainly wasn't in this case. As I played I couldn't help but hear the story being read aloud and finally I didn't even bother trying not to listen. To this day, The Witches is one of my favorite "kids books." (If you've never read it, read it - its fantastic!)

The next "turning point" (although at the time I'd never have called or recognized this as such) was reading the Chronicles of Narnia. My teacher had the entire set in our classroom reading section and she recommended them to me (she remains one of my favorite teachers to this day... unfortunately I can't remember her name).

I picked up The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and couldn't put it down. I was so into that book! I had never, ever read a book as good before and I was in heaven. I went through the whole series as fast as I could. I brought them home from school with me - getting them past my parents somehow. In fact, I remember reading them on the couch just before our family study began and being reprimanded by my dad - not because of the book but because I was reading when I should have been getting my Bible. They didn't even notice the title (that time).

And so it went - through our entire time at home, my sister and I read books that deep down we knew our parents and our congregation (church) wouldn't have approved of us reading. But that didn't stop us.

Why? Were we just willfully disobedient and rebellious? Well, partially yes - we were pretty stubborn kids and I feel sorry for my parents somewhat, in hindsight, and hope that my kids aren't as stubborn and bratty as we were at times. But at the same time, I've always thought of our stubbornness - when it came to challenging authority - as rather special and something to be proud of. It meant that we always questioned things - even things we were told we shouldn't question and that we were being taught as "gospel truth." This didn't mean that we didn't believe - at least, I know I did - but we never saw a problem with debating our beliefs in order to understand them more fully or to see if there was another way of doing something or interpreting something. (For me, this was particularly when it came to the JW interpretation of womens' role in the church - it began when I was 12.) I don't think it was until much later that we realized that there would never be another way and that challenging would never do any good because this was very definitely not a democratic or egalitarian religion. And I never would have thought that asking questions would ever get us into so much trouble.

Of course, we weren't reading books because we wanted to get into Satanism or the occult or even because we were purposely trying to piss off our parents'. We were reading because we couldn't help being drawn to good books and that was that. Coincidentally, the good books were often the ones with the timeless stories of good verses evil. Just because the books featured magic didn't mean we weren't going to dismiss them. We refused to believe that magic in itself was an evil thing (or, in my case, that it even existed in real life and not just in a story as something fictional and intangible). In all of the stories we read, there were always two sides and the good side always won - the right side, the god-approved side, or even, in my interpretation of things, the "JW side."

Plus, our friends were bending the rules, too - only in slightly different ways. They'd listen to music with explicit lyrics (I still remember the first time I listened to Shawn's Redman CD and my horrified reaction) or get drunk at parties or go to dance at "worldly" clubs or "school date" worldly boys (oh, man, I can't believe we had a term for that), and they had no problem with watch the Lord of the Rings movies when they came out. What we were doing seemed pretty tame in comparison.

Of course, ultimately it ended up being the reason for everything.

So back to Harry Potter. One of my other not-so-sweet memories is of my dad finding one of my HP books and ripping it into pieces in front of my sister and I. Another not-so-sweet one is of my dad going through the books that my sister had been given by the Claw and taking all of the ones he thought looked questionable, putting them in the car, and tossing them into random dumpsters. For two girls who loved books as much as we did (do), this was a travesty and there were tears and rage.

Its weird to remember all of this right now, actually. But as I think back on it, I notice that we were always on the side of the books. Always. Knowledge - no matter what the cost?

When we were called in for "questioning" before our church elders, I defended the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter even then and chimed in when Karina defended herself for having taken out "questionable" books on evolution out from the public library. (I remember using the good verses evil argument, but comparing Frodo to Jesus - not explicitly, but I guess it was pretty much implied - didn't really go over very well.) In hindsight, this was of course incredibly stupid of me and I should have realized how it would have been taken as a sign of deviance and rebellion.

But then, I've never been very good at keeping my mouth shut when I think that someone or something is wrong. Something wells up inside of me and I have to speak out (Jeremiah 20:9). And, even though it ultimately ended up with our leaving them, I still credit the JWs with giving us all this boldness. I still see it in each of us and I think that its one of the more admirable parts of our characters.

Back to Harry Potter again. I've lost a lot in the way of family and friends, but I've gained the freedom to read whatever I choose. I think my indulgence in HP fandom is the way I exercise this right.

And now, with that abrupt conclusion, I'm off to the release party in the park. Its going to be a historical night.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A conflict of interest

Emma Bull and Will Shetterly are going to be at the Grant Park McNally Robinson next Wednesday at 7:30pm. Going to see them would be so deliciously ultra-geeky. I don't think I've ever met an author I've loved in person before. The closest I've ever come was talking to Carol Matas on the phone (by total fluke). That in itself was a pretty neat experience. (I think I even gushed a little bit.)

However, Wednesday night is also my final Religious Studies class... and we're going to be reviewing for our final exam.


Oh, what to do...

Sunday, July 15, 2007


"This morning I took the train to work as usual. The U-Bahn carried me gently west from Kleistpark to Berliner Strasse and then, after a switch, northward toward Zoologischer Garten. Stations of the former West Berlin passed one after another. Most were last remodeled in the seventies and have the colors of suburban kitchens from my childhood: avocado, cinnamon, sunflower yellow. At Spichernstrasse the train halted to conduct an exchange of bodies. Out on the platform a street musician played a teary Slavic melody on an accordion. Wing tips gleaming, my hair still damp, I was flipping through the Frankfurter Allgemeine when she rolled her unthinkable bicycle in.

You used to be able to tell a person's nationality by the face. Immigration ended that. Next you discerned nationality via the footwear. Globalization ended that. Those Finnish seal puppies, those German flounders -- you don't see them much anymore. Only Nikes, on Basque, on Dutch, on Siberian feet.

The bicyclist was Asian, at least genetically. Her black hair was cut in a shag. She was wearing a short olive green windbreaker, flared black ski pants, and a pair of maroon Campers resembling bowling shoes. The basket of her bike contained a camera bag.

I had a hunch she was American. It was the retro bike. Chrome and turquoise, it had fenders as wide as a Chevrolet's, tires as thick as a wheelbarrow's, and appeared to weigh at least a hundred pounds. An expatriate's whim, that bike. I was about to use it as a pretext for starting a conversation when the train stopped again. The bicyclist looked up. Her hair fell away from her beautiful, hooded face and, for a moment, our eyes met. The placidity of her countenance along with the smoothness of her skin made her face appear like a mask, with living, human eyes behind it. These eyes now darted away from mine as she grasped the handlebars of her bike and pushed her great two-wheeler off the train and toward the elevators. The U-Bahn resumed, but I was no longer reading. I sat in my seat, in a state of voluptuous agitation, of agitated voluptuousness, until my stop. Then I staggered out."

by Jeffrey Eugenides
p. 41

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Abduction

Some things I do not profess
to understand, perhaps
not wanting to, including
whatever it was they did
with you or you with them
that timeless summer day
when you stumbled out of the wood,
distracted, with your white blouse torn
and a bloodstain on your skirt.
"Do you believe?" you asked.
Between us, through the years,
we pieced enough together
to make the story real:
how you encountered on the path
a pack of sleek, grey hounds,
trailed by a dumbshow retinue
in leather shrouds; and how
you were led, through leafy ways,
into the presence of a royal stag,
flaming in his chestnut coat,
who kneeled on a swale of moss
before you; and how you were borne
aloft in triumph through the green,
stretched on his rack of budding horn,
till suddenly you found yourself alone
in a trampled clearing.

That was a long time ago,
almost another age, but even now,
when I hold you in my arms,
I wonder where you are.
Sometimes I wake to hear
the engines of the night thrumming
outside the east bay window
on the lawn spreading to the rose garden.
You lie beside me in elegant repose,
a hint of transport hovering on your lips,
indifferent to the harsh green flares
that swivel through the room,
searchlights controlled by unseen hands.
Out there is a childhood country,
bleached faces peering in
with coals for eyes.
Our lives are spinning out
from world to world;
the shapes of things
are shifting in the wind.
What do we know
beyond the rapture and the dread?

by Stanley Kunitz

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Eggs Benedict or Jesus?

WaiterRant has started doing some "Ask the Waiter" style blog entries. His latest is from a guy who writes:

"Dear Waiter,
Over the past year, my girlfriend and I have forsaken going to church in favor of the other American Sunday morning ritual—brunch..."

AHA! A Sunday morning ritual: brunch in lieu of church. Interesting...

Not that I go to church much anymore but when I did as a JW, it was quite an ordeal to get my sister and I out of bed. I'd much rather go in the evenings then in the mornings. So yes, brunch over church on Sunday mornings any day!

Nowadays, brunch on Sundays is probably one of the few "rituals" I have with my friends. (Although since one of the key players often doesn't get home until 5 am and another has a predilection for sleeping until 1 pm, the brunching usually doesn't happen in the mornings; so I guess its more like... lunner? dunch? Hmm.) We'll generally go to Stella's, but sometimes we mix it up with Baked Ex or Cora's or The Nook or The Pancake House. I've noticed that Winnipeg suffers from a deficit of quality all-day breakfast spots. I mean, Stella's has great atmosphere and their French toast and cinnamon buns are awesome but their omelettes aren't the greatest and their hash browns are awful (just ask Colin).

But anyways, go and read the Waiter's response to the letter - its pretty hilarious.
Small Things

A few little things that I'm happy about right now...

- the free tickets I got from work for a Fringe play & the fact that Fringe Fest is coming up soon and I should have the money to see a bunch of plays

- getting to talk about the Bible and debate the gospels this week in class (I might even bring my JW Bible in tomorrow)

- Elliot's post about his awesome Folk Fest experiences (I wasn't there myself but its nice to share happiness)

- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix comes out today (in which Helena Bonham Carter plays Bellatrix Lestrange)

- I've started watching the Godfather movies for the first time ever and so far they're amazing

- I have an overabundance of good books to read (The Man Who Was Thursday; Tender is the Night; The Other Boleyn Girl; I, Claudius)

- tomorrow is my registration day at the UofW and I might sign up for an English class called Fairytales and Culture and possibly another called Art & Ideas

- the"High A" I received on the season-myth/story/research paper that I wrote for my Religious Studies class

I think that last one is the most satisfying for me. For the assignment, we had to write our own myth story on how the seasons came to be. We had to show a "why" for the seasons and we had to back-up our mythology with scholarly, researched footnotes. I didn't have that much trouble coming up with the story but after I'd written it I started to wonder whether I'd really followed the assignment well enough or if I'd gone off on a different track. Plus, I stupidly left the writing of my footnotes until the last minute and then ran out of time to add in all of the great stuff that I'd wanted to say/reference.

Then to make things worse, our prof prefaced the passing out of the papers with this long spiel about how they had found three papers that had been plagiarized and would the people with special notes on their papers please come up and see him after class.

Of course, I hadn't plagiarized anything. But one of my paranoid fears when I write something fictitious is that I'm unintentionally going to rip off something that's been thought of or written already. So when he said that, I started to panic and mentally ran through all of the stuff in my story trying to think of whether I might have subconsciously grabbed ideas from a real myth or from something I'd read. (Gene Wolfe's The Knight was probably my main inspiration in that I went with a medieval-esque setting, but I don't think anyone would ever think my writing was anything like his.)

Anyhow, finally my name was called and I went up and looked at my paper and saw the High A (a.k.a. A+ - I don't know why, but in this class they call the grades 'low' or 'high'). I think I probably had an appalled expression on my face that was actually just shock/disbelief/relief.

Another bonus to this grade is now that now I'm not going to bother doing the make-up assignment (I missed two of the "pop quizzes") - my grade is so high right now that if I do well on the final exam I should pass with at least a B+/A-. Yay!

P.S. Sometimes when I contemplate the idea of me teaching junior or high school I find myself wondering whether someone like me will ever be able to relate to kids who don't care what kind of marks they get... *sigh*

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Two more good ones...

"Moe is every jerk I've ever known. He's big, dumb, ugly, and cruel. I remember school being full of idiots like Moe. I think they spawn on damp locker room floors."

"I've never understood people who remember childhood as an idyllic time."

Bill Watterson
from The Calvin & Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book
Bill Watterson on licensing...

"The world of a comic strip ought to be a special place with its own logic and life. I don't want some animation studio giving Hobbes an actor's voice, and I don't want some greeting card company using Calvin to wish people a happy anniversary, and I don't want the issue of Hobbes' reality settled by a doll manufacturer. When everything fun and magical is turned into something for sale, the strip's world is diminished. Calvin and Hobbes was designed to be a comic strip and that's all I want it to be. It's the one place where everything works the way I intend it to...

My strip is about private realities, the magic of imagination, and the specialness of certain friendships. Who would believe in the innocence of a little kid and his tiger if they cashed in on their popularity to sell overpriced knickknacks that nobody needs? Who would trust the honesty of the strip's observations when the characters are hired out as advertising hucksters? If I were to undermine my own characters like this, I would have taken the rare privilege of being paid to express my own ideas and given it up to be an ordinary salesman and a hired illustrator. I would have sold out my own creation. I have no use for that kind of cartooning."

p. 10-11
from The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book

And here's an interesting fan website detailing the history of legally produced Calvin & Hobbes merchandise