I hate Harry Potter

LOL jk (rowling)

 

But I did. When I first read The Philosopher’s Stone I couldn’t suspend reality enough to enjoy it. Specifically, I couldn’t suspend the reality that I was an adult reading a book that was written for children. The first Harry Potter book was written for adolescents and, as such, is a little simplistic. I was also late to the party. I was reading it based on the numerous recommendations that had come from kids and adults alike and, to me, it failed to live up to the hype. I thought the concept was cool and I liked the inclusion of mythological creatures but I was bored by the writing style.

I wish now that I’d listened to people’s suggestions to read The Chamber of Secrets despite my first impressions. If I had picked up the second book then I would have realised my hesitations were unfounded earlier and I could have been swept up in the euphoria of each new book/movie release. Instead, I waited until I was in my late 30s and have had to settle for the diminished fanfare that escorted the release of the scripts of The Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Ultimately, it was daughter who got me to give Harry Potter a second chance. She’s an avid reader but, at seven years of age, most of the books written for her year level don’t offer enough of a challenge so I gave her my old copy of The Philosopher’s Stone. I’d ask questions after each chapter to see if she was grasping what was happening (while I skim read chapter summaries online to remind myself what happened). When she finished the book we watched the movie – which got her younger brother hooked. Well, that and the Lego Harry Potter games on the Playstation. From there our house became a second Hogwarts with witches and wizards becoming key characters of their role playing games.

I knew that my daughter would want to continue reading the series so I picked up The Chamber of Secrets and began reading so we could continue to bond over the events therein. Then, when I finished that book I went out and bought the next one and the next one and the next one and so on. I was hooked. More than that, I am overjoyed by the fact my daughter is hooked too. Thus far she’s read the first four books but we’ve asked her to hold off on the next one until the next school holidays. As a family, we’ve also watched the first five films – I’m sure we’ll see the others soon.

What makes the books so engaging? Why am I excited to have my kids engaged in that world? There are a number of reasons. Here are three of them:

 

  1. Girl power

The protagonist, his best mate, the headmaster, the tormenting teacher, the nurturing gameskeeper, the villain and a slew of other important characters are all male but it is the supporting cast of females that steal the show.

  • Minerva McGonagall is a sass queen and a total bad-ass while also being a fair and nurturing mentor for the students at Hogwarts.
  • Hermione Granger is intelligent, fierce compassionate, independent yet loyal, and is possibly the only reason Harry and Ron ever lived long enough to graduate.
  • Luna Lovegood is kooky and off-beat but she is one of the most observant and empathetic characters in the whole series. Yes, she can often be tactless, but she is a loyal and true friend to Harry and his crew.
  • Bellatrix Lestrange is cruel and unpredictable. She is supremely talented, amazingly powerful and downright scary.
  • Ginny Weasley is a force to be reckoned with despite her age and stature. Like many women who grew up in a house full of brothers, she definitely knows how to take care of herself.
  • Nymphadora Tonks brings light and laughter into dark and dire situations. She is unconventional and damn proud of it.

In each of these women is something for my daughter to aspire to (yes, even in Bellatrix) and something for my son to respect, admire and love.

hermione

 

  1. Oh… What a world, what a world!

In Harry Potter’s London, both the muggle and the magical world are incredibly detailed. Such is the beauty of Rowling’s descriptions that it is easy to imagine what each setting looks like. But when I talk about ‘the world’ in the books I mean more than just the locations. The planning that has gone in to each book and the hidden details that hint at later events that you don’t notice until you return to the ones you’ve already read make the series that much more enjoyable. Here are some of my favourite foreshadowed moments and subtle clues:

  • Remus Lupin’s name is a dead giveaway. “Remus” comes from the Roman tale of Romulus and Remus who were raised by a wolf and “Lupin” comes from the Latin word for wolf. Other characters also have names that hint at their nature.
  • When Arthur Weasley takes Harry to the Ministry of Magic the secret entrance is a phone-booth in which Arthur dials 62442. If you were ‘lucky’ enough to grow up in a time when letters and numbers shared the same keys on your phone, you’d realise this spells out the word “MAGIC.”
  • The Vanishing Cabinet (so important late in the series) first appeared in The Chamber of Secrets, Sirius Black is first mentioned at the start of The Philosopher’s Stone, in the same book Snape’s mind-reading abilities (revealed in Book 5) are alluded to, and the relationships between Bill and Fleur, Hermione and Ron, and Harry and Ginny are all hinted at much earlier than you might first think.
  • The Marauder’s Map is signed by Mooney, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs who die in the exact reverse order of when their name is listed.
  • Shaun of the Dead fans know that the whole plot of the film is encapsulated in a conversation at the start of the movie. Well… The Goblet of Fire does this too. Harry’s made up prediction that “on Monday I will be in danger of, er,  burns… Tuesday, I’ll… erm… lose a treasured possession” coupled with Ron’s addition of “Why don’t you get stabbed in the back by someone you thought was a friend?” mirrors the events of the Tri-Wizard tournament.
  • 3s – 3 Deathly Hallows, 3 Unforgiveable Curses, 3 friends (Ron, Harry, Hermione), 3 bullies (Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle).
  • Harry is a horcux – hinted at by Dumbledore in The Chamber of Secrets and Trelawny in The Prisoner of Azkaban.
  • In The Prisoner Of Azkaban, Trelawney refused to sit at the table where she would be the thirteenth person sitting as she believed that the first person to stand up from that table would be cursed and die which eventually happens to both Sirius and Lupin.

But enough of the spoilers. The point is, Peter Pettigrew sized plot holes aside, J.K. Rowling is a genius.

snape

 

  1. Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

I have always loved Greek, Roman and Norse mythologies; the tales of their heroes and the fantastic beasts they fought. As such, the Harry Potter universe is an absolute delight with all the allusions to these myths and creatures. There are a number of other parallels that can be drawn too – Voldemort is Hitler, Dementors are depression and the effect mental illness has on a person, Hermione and S.P.E.W. represent various human rights movements, muggles/wizards/goblins/house-elves/giants and so on represent different races, Hogwarts (with its bullies, exams, homework, tormenting teachers, nurturing teachers, relationships, etc.) represents the typical school experience.

Naturally, with all of this real-world reference, there is also real-world relevance. The Harry Potter series teaches us so much about what it means to be a good person and about what it takes to survive in this cruel world of ours. Don’t believe me? Check out this link.

voldemort

 

Maddie Godfrey’s body IS a poem

and her fringe show is a body of work that is definitely worth seeing. I first met Maddie on the 18th of March, 2015 – I know because I blogged about it and I’m only really mentioning that this is when we met because I want it known that I knew Maddie before she became an internationally acclaimed, kick-ass poet. And kick-ass she does. She’s won slams in Australia and the UK, performed at the Sydney Opera House, competed in New York and featured in multiple festivals.

 

Anyway, today is the first day since our first meeting that I’ve seen her perform live. If My Body Was a Poem is 45 mins of intimacy. Yes, she performs in short shorts and a bra and does these little sexy dances between poems but that’s not the sort of intimacy I’m talking about. Maddie invites you into her life, tells you the details of her birth, shares (with nostalgic reverie) aspects of her childhood and spills the secrets only her body knows.

 

She opens with some provocative dancing before welcoming the audience into her show, telling the story of how it came to be a seamlessly blending into the titular poem. If you’re happy to have this spoiled for you, a video of this particular poem can be found on her Facebook page. We clap at the end of this piece but it’s one of the few times we do. Often tonight I found myself so awestruck by the power of Maddie’s words that I literally forgot to applaud; I was too busy picking my jaw up off the floor that by the time it was back in place it was no longer the right time to clap. At other times, clapping was just not appropriate. When I said earlier that Maddie spills the secrets only her body knows, she spills all the secrets and some of them are pretty dark.

 

Not that it’s all doom and gloom. There were genuine laughs from the audience. My favourite one of these (SPOILERS) was when the words “my dad” were uttered directly after some sultry dance moves and the juxtaposition of these two ideas brought nervous laughter out of everyone in attendance.

 

Beyond the words themselves, Maddie is an expert performer. Her shadow is deliberately cast onto the wall behind her in such a way that it becomes a persona of its own. It is a powerful image. She also uses silence in a manner that makes the absence of sound carry its own meaning and its own weight. As for the words themselves, they’re beautiful. I said after the show that you would hear an image so striking you wanted to commit it to memory but before you could do so there’s another line equally as poignant. I wanted to keep so much of what was said so I could share it with people but there was too much gold to try to hold on to.

 

When I caught up with Maddie afterwards I said I chose to come to opening night so I could see the hiccups. There were some, apparently, but I didn’t see them – only those involved in the production and rehearsal would’ve noticed the missing pieces or muddled parts. Honestly, even if Maddie did mess up, how could you be upset by it when one of the messages you’re meant to walk away with is the notion that we should embrace our imperfections? And not just our own. Maddie encourages her audience to acknowledge people’s body shapes as being like various flavours of ice cream; we all have different tastes. Likewise, she expresses ideas about sexuality and feminist ideologies and the need for encouragement beyond acceptance.

 

Anyway… this isn’t even what I wanted to write. I feel like I’ve undersold it. Maddie’s show was phenomenal and I don’t feel as if I’ve given it justice. What I want to say is you should see it. I don’t know what I paid for my ticket but I would’ve gladly paid double. It was worth it. I don’t care that the carpark’s sign said there were 500+ bays available and when I drove down to the boomgates they wouldn’t open because it was full. I don’t care that I walked past the venue and continued walking for several hundred metres before realising my mistake. I don’t care that the two main roads I use to exit Northbridge were closed and I struggled to find my way back to the freeway. I had a bloody good night and I wouldn’t change a thing because I got to see the magic that is Maddie.

 

Bravo, Miss Godfrey!

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Rogue One: a belated review

Growing up, one of the jobs I dreamed about having as an adult was a sports reporter because it combined two of my favourite things – sport and writing. Following close behind was the idea of being a video game or movie reviewer. Obviously that didn’t eventuate but it appears it may not be too late. Sanity is looking for reviewers.

 

If this fits into your interests, the link is HERE. Meanwhile, here’s the review I’m sending in – I’ll let you know their response when I get it.

 

swro

Rogue Wonderful

 

A long time ago in cinemas pretty much everywhere George Lucas introduced the world to a galaxy full of royalty, space knights, aliens and loveable rogues. In 2015, J.J. Abrams took us back to this world with (essentially) an updated version of the original Star Wars film. The success of The Force Awakens erased the memories of the much maligned prequels and paved the way for a slew of new Jedi movies. The first of these is Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It’s marketed as a stand-alone film but there’s a ton of Easter eggs for the hardcore fans. If that’s not you, don’t worry – you could have zero knowledge of this universe and still have an enjoyable time.

 

Is it perfect? No.

 

The exposition is really busy. Honestly, you don’t want to arrive late to this movie. The opening sequences have you planet hopping at an incredible pace meeting all the key players so you’ll need to be concentrating. Comparatively, the middle of the film is quite slow (perfect for a toilet break).

 

Is it great? Yes.

 

Our protagonist, Jyn Erso, is an independent woman who don’t need no man. She follows a tradition that began with Ripley in Alien and has found a home in YA dystopias. In doing so, she also mirrors the role Daisy Ridley played in The Force Awakens. As the father of a daughter, I’m hoping powerful women that kick ass will continue to light up our screens. Anyway… back to the review. The action sequences are phenomenal. Air and land battles are brilliantly shot, really putting the audience in the moment, but it is the smaller scale fights featuring Darth Vader and Donnie Yen’s blind ninja that steal the show.

 

Obviously, because it’s set just before A New Hope, people who love the original films know how it’s going to end but that shouldn’t dampen your enthusiasm. In fact, the denouement is the best part.

 

To borrow from Marvel, this is the “All New, All Different” Star Wars. It’s a war movie, it’s a heist movie; it’s space opera on a grand scale. Rogue One sets lofty targets but, unlike stormtroopers, it doesn’t miss.

 

By Ron Barton