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Friday, December 24, 2010

Curious thoughts from beneath the cloak

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Chapter 25

It's curious what people are curious about. Harry took what seemed like forever to be curious enough to check out Cedric's hints about the wailing egg. When he finally headed off to the prefects' pool, he got an unexpected visit from an old friend. And when I say old friend, I mean the kind of old friend who when you see them it's like seeing a ghost.

Well, in this case that is the case. It's always good to see Moaning Myrtle emerge from the plumbing, I suppose. She was quite helpful because of her spying on Cedric. So, we know Harry will have to swim to the bottom of the creepy lake to retrieve something important to him and to meet the merpeople.

In case you're curious, I do have more plans to deal with being curious about what people are being curious about. After leaving the pool, Harry shows an impulsive curiosity to see why Crouch is snooping around Snape's office. And the first lesson he learns about being curious is that you must first watch your step, or at least pretend to be Neville watching for tricky steps.

At the end of his narrow escape from Filch and Snape and his trust-building meeting with Mad-Eye Moody, the reader is left with the same curiosity Harry has at the end of the chapter about Snape and Crouch. There's also the question of how will Harry breathe under water and what will he be diving to save.

Hmmm, this is getting curiouser and curiouser.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New posts coming soon

Hi everyone. Sorry this blog has been so dormant. I'm not under any spells or anything, it's just that the classes I'm teaching and a class I'm taking have kept me busy. (I have read two books for my class, so I haven't forgotten how to read.) Plus, I'm coaching a basketball team now.

My goal is to finish Goblet of Fire over Christmas break, then try to do a minimum of one post a week after that.

I hope you enjoyed the first part of Deathly Hallows on the big screen. I, of course, haven't seen it yet. The pressure is on to have finished the books and all the movies before the final film debuts so I can see it with my family.

I need a time turner. Anybody have one hidden away in their trunk?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

More bad press

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Chapter 23

It's probably good for Harry that Sirius is staying in touch. Not sure what he's going to need him for, but I can only assume he will need his assistance one day.

OK, some observations on the ball.
  • Hey, I got a prediction right. Hermione shows up on Krum's arm. I surmise from the descriptions that Hermione was the belle of the ball or close to it.
  • Harry and Ron turned out to be nothing close to dream dates. They raised ignoring to a new level.
  • Balls are always a good place for eavesdropping. What were Snape and Karkaroff talking about? I won't venture a guess here.
  • Rita Skeeter, or one of her informants, must have been hiding in the bushes when Hagrid gave away his giant secret.
  • Cedric seems like a good bloke after giving Harry a hint about the egg.
  • Hermione had a lovely time at the ball, but in the end she sounds as if she would have rather gone with someone else. I can't imagine why.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Chapter 24

I tried to get Rita Skeeter fired, but she is obviously selling papers. Her hearsay piece on Hagrid has made everyone on Harry's side of things at Hogwarts realize that Rita can be trusted to twist the facts - or simply make them up.

I would have liked to be at The Three Broomsticks when Harry and Hermione told her off. I might have had a few things to say myself.

I do wonder what Bagman is up to, if anything. He's acting strangely, but maybe he's just strange. Maybe it's Crouch we need to keep a Mad-Eye on.

As for Hagrid, I should have known Dumbledore, great man that Dumbledore, could be found at Hagrid's house telling him the truth. I can't imagine Hagrid going against Dumbledore and not showing up for class on Monday.

And Harry's chosen to take Cedric's advice. Everyone can always do for a little pride shelving.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Shall we dance?

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Chapter 21

Are the house-elves of Hogwarts any relation to the Keebler elves? Can they bake cookies?

Sorry, before we get to the question of whether elves should have free-agent status, I suppose we should address the screaming or howling egg. I have no clue. All it made me think of was a howler. That's all I've got.

So Dobby is getting paid. It doesn't appear that the other elves have ostracized him for it. I wouldn't be surprised if after a while of seeing Dobby with freedom that the others won't start to ask for money.

Apparently, Dobby might be one to provide intelligence on enemy movements. It's not surprising that he called the Malfoys bad dark wizards. But what about Winky's slip about Bagman being a bad wizard? Might be that Crouch just doesn't like him, or it might mean something dark. The light of truth will shine eventually.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Chapter 22

The Yule Ball. Now this is starting to sound like my high school days.

The pressure to have a date. Friends telling you who to ask. Getting up the nerve. Being turned down. Acting like you don't want to go, but all the time really wanting to go.

Amid all this figuring out who is asking whom to the ball, Hermione raises a good point once or twice. Harry does need to start working on what the egg is revealing about the next task. He shouldn't put all of his eggs in the basket of figuring it out at the last minute.

In the end, everyone finds a date for the ball. Not everyone gets their first choice, but at least no one will go alone.

And that includes Hermione. She won't divulge her date because why? Probably because it's someone they would either make fun of or be jealous of.

Viktor Krum, perhaps.

Friday, August 6, 2010

If I could be an animal, I would be a ...

Reflecting on The Prisoner of Azkaban

My original intent was to write this post when I finished reading Azkaban, but it's not too late.

I found the Animagus magic to be very cool. At this point in the series, it's the bit of magic that I think would be the most fun. Riding brooms would be a close second.

So I got to thinking: What animal would I choose if I had Animagus powers? Something big. Something small. Something fast. Something strong. Something beautiful. Something regal. Something plain. Something clever. Something sneaky.

My answer might surprise you. But I'm not giving it out until I've heard lots of you. So please leave a comment on this post and tell me what animal you would morph into and why.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Staying on task

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Chapter 19

Rita Skeeter, you have brought shame on all journalists. Yes, Harry Potter is the story for sure, but you have fabricated quotes and blown his story out of proportion and context.

You're fired.

But before you go can I have that device that writes down the quotes for you during the interview. It sure would be nice to not have to decipher my scribble or transcribe from my recorder.

Just when Harry sinks about as low as he can by becoming invisible, his circumstances begin to improve. Mad-Eye spots him under the invisibility cloak but doesn't give him away. Harry has definitely made another friend, who it turns out must also be friends with Hagrid.

Then Hagrid tips him off about the dragons, followed by his conversation with Sirius that tips him off about Karkaroff being a former death eater.

The chapter does end with a run-in with Ron. Yes, Ron started this by not believing Harry. But Harry could stand to be a little more mature and not be too proud to take the first step.

Despite his appointment with a dragon looming, things are starting to go Harry's way again.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Chapter 20

After hours of book research, Harry learns a valuable lesson when he gets advice from Mad-Eye on how to think about conquering the dragon. The lesson is always go to somebody first who might know, then do research only if you must. Sometimes research is needed for validation, but always pick someone's brain first when possible.

So after realizing that being on a broom gives him the best chance to beat the dragon, he has a problem. Second lesson learned is ask Hermione. After hours of training on summoning charms, Harry is ready to slay his dragon.

I have to wonder if someone put a spell on the dragon action figures to make Harry draw the most difficult assignment of the Hungarian Horntail. Right now we're supposed to think that Karkaroff is an agent of Voldemort, but it's probably someone else. Karkaroff is just too obvious.

Bravo to Harry for being the fastest to the egg and the most original. He used less magic than the others, therefore he should have gotten the highest score. But Karkaroff did his best imitation of a Soviet judge during the Cold War and gave him only a four. They should throw out the lowest and highest score and average the rest. Harry would probably be in first place if they had done that.

And having incredibly partial judges is ludicrous. Some department of some kind of affairs at the Ministry ought to launch an investigation.

I am glad Harry and Ron are friends again and that Harry took a high road. It's no fun being a dragonslayer if you haven't got friends to share your triumph with.

The plot to eradicate Harry has thickened again. Somebody tell Rita Skeeter to investigate that story.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wand-ering what's next

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Chapter 17

As I suspected, everyone had two cents to throw into the discussion of whether Harry should be permitted to compete in the Triwizard Tournament.

Ze French tried to appeal to Dumbly-dorr, but he refused to go against ze goblet. Is he just playing by the rules, or does he know something we don't. He's wearing a pretty good poker face if he does know something.

The first task ought to make the champions want to see Pomfrey for a sleeping pill. Knowing that you will have to defeat some unknown danger can't be comforting. Harry does have experience, though. Plus he's not taking this as seriously as the others, so he ought to be more relaxed. His resourcefulness should be a strength.

Of course, the students aren't buying the truth from Harry that he didn't put his name in the goblet. Even his best friend won't believe him.

So how did Harry's name get in there? Was it a joke? Was it to get him killed? Do I smell a rat?

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Chapter 18

Hermione's powers of observation are still intact. She saw the genuine disbelief on Harry's face when his name was called. Ron, however, is slow on the uptake as always. He typically goes for the obvious, which in this case is that Harry somehow must have put his name in the goblet.

It's really quite flattering if you think about it that all the students think Harry is clever enough to get past Dumbledore and put his name in the goblet. If that's true, then Harry has to be the favorite to win the tournament.

Now Malfoy as we all know is an idiot who does nothing but play on his social status and elevate himself by putting others down. But I will give him credit for being smart enough to pull the stunt with the badges in front of Snape. Had this happened in front of anybody else, Malfoy would have been the one in detention for inciting the incident.

Maybe Ron and Harry will make up in detention and make a plan.

The wand inspection wasn't too exciting until we learned that Harry's wand shares some common ancestry with Voldemort's wand. The entanglement between these two continues. I'll accept anything that comes along as long as Voldemort never says, "Harry, I am your father."

Not sure what's coming next, but we do have the clandestine meeting between Harry and Sirius to look forward to on 11/22.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Only the Goblet knows

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Chapter 15

Obviously you have to get up earlier in the morning than Harry did to fool Sirius Black. I told Harry not to worry about Sirius. Maybe now he will take my advice.

No surprise that Harry was able to fight and beat the Imperius Curse. If you can beat the Avada Kedavra as a baby, then you ought to be able to beat a lesser curse as a teen. Still, I'm sure Mr. or Mrs. Potter had plenty to do with that. That knowledge, I surmise, has a lot to do with Harry's bravery.

The arrivals of the delegations from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang were predictably elaborate. They do like impressing one another, not that it does any real good.

Madame Maxime summoned images of the Queen of Hearts from the old animated Disney version of "Alice In Wonderland." Not just her size, but also her manner.

And Viktor Krum is in the house. How exciting.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Chapter 16

But not as exciting as the announcement of the champions. As I began this chapter and read about Krum's presence, the great welcoming feast, Fred and George's ill-fated attempt at beating the age requirement and Hagrid's crush, I couldn't help but wonder if Harry would end up in the Triwizard Tournament. I didn't think it would be as the fourth, though.

I suppose we will find out how this happened, because I'm sure Maxime and Karkaroff won't like Hogwarts having two players in the tournament and will demand answers. But the Goblet has spoken, so I'm sure there is no undoing what's been done.

Betting and handicapping isn't my thing, but I would lay heavy odds on Harry winning the tournament. He has the instincts, and he's already encountered more danger than the others combined.

I wonder though ... are dark forces at work here.

Counterpunches and countercurses

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Chapter 13

Back to school and what does the first day of classes hold? Squeezing pus from an ugly plant that people are going to use on their face to fight acne. Sounds like a budding infomercial: "Our pus kills your pus for only $19.95."

Then it's off to Hagrid and Blast-Ended Skrewts. Can't imagine what they are useful for.

So what is Hermione up to with all this inhaling of her meals and running off to the library or somewhere else. More time travel? I doubt it, but it must be something important for someone important. Research perhaps.

Then comes the best part of the first day of school when Mad-Eye turns Malfoy into a ferret and sends him bouncing like Tigger. McGonagall had to be secretly liking what she saw, but she couldn't admit it.

When Fred Weasley says, "Moody. How cool is he?" everyone in Gryffindor was saying ditto to that. And looking forward to their first class with old Mad-Eye, the fastest wand in Hogwarts.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Chapter 14

I don't think the ballots have been handed out yet, but it doesn't take one of Trelawney's crystal balls to know that Mad-Eye is the early favorite for professor of the year at Hogwarts.

He doesn't turn a blind eye to Malfoy's evil ways, he has a magical eye and he just gave the most unforgettable lesson on the unforgivable curses. He is unprecedented. Only question is can he outperform himself the rest of the school year.

I was begging the other day for someone to start playing some defense against Voldemort. Dumbledore must have read this blog and called Mad-Eye. I hope he signs up to be a follower.

It's interesting to find out about Avada Kedavra and that it didn't work on Harry. Mad-Eye says there is no countercurse, but his mother must have used one or done something to counter it when Voldemort tried to kill Harry with it. It had to be some kind of reverse curse that all but killed Voldemort.

I was disappointed to learn that Hermione was only working on her elf-rights project. But maybe some elf along the line will help the cause against Voldemort.

Good to see Sirius' letter arrive. Harry shouldn't worry too much. Sirius has done a pretty good job of taking care of himself. And Harry will probably need his help whenever we get around to whatever the goblet of fire is.

I wonder where old Peter Pettigrew is slumming these days? Perhaps not too far away.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Hang in there, the good part's coming

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: The movie

So many things in this movie flew by so fast that it felt like I was watching in fast-forward. I suppose that's because I read the book first. Do others find that when you've read the book first, the movie seems too fast because you realize all that it's skipping and condensing.

I invite everyone's thoughts on the subject.

Otherwise, the climax that begins with Sirius in his dog form dragging Ron beneath the whomping willow was pretty good. Things slowed down a bit. Before that scene, the movie seemed disjointed at times. I wondered that if I hadn't read the book, would I have any idea what is going on. Ultimately this story is about Sirius Black and the moviemakers know that. Obviously, the want to get some other things in there to please the book fans, but it has to be tough to do that without getting bogged down.

So I will work at giving them the benefit of the doubt on the first half moving too fast.

Otherwise, I have quibbles with the portrayals of Black and Lupin. Black wasn't mangy enough and Lupin wasn't pathetic enough. Nor did Lupin look old enough. I know he is the age of Black and Harry's parents and Snape, but I figured he would look more like one who had aged prematurely. And he was the most hairless werewolf I have ever seen.

Peter Pettigrew, however, looked perfectly like the vermin he is.

The Marauder's Map was cool. I want one.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Mad Identity

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Chapter 11

So who was sneaking around old Mad-Eye Moody's yard? There are lots of suspects, but I won't speculate.

Mad-Eye might be the most colorful name yet. He could be a pirate or a pro wrestler or a hitman. With a name like that he has to play a central part to our developing story.

Is it just me or is there more interaction with muggles in this book. We always have the Dursleys, of course, but we had the theatrics at the campground and now we have these poor taxi drivers. I'm positive that veteran taxi drivers figure they've seen it all, but these guys have story to top the others in the garage.

I see Malfoy hasn't changed over the summer. Harry needs to ask Malfoy: "What have you ever won?" Some say it ain't bragging if you can't back it up (not a theory I subscribe to), but Malfoy has nothing to point to that he's ever done on his own. Where would he be without daddy and his sidekick goons?

So what's Malfoy's big secret? Keep reading.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Chapter 12

I'm sorry, but I have a soft spot for Peeves. He has great comedic timing and knows just how to rile everybody. When everybody's wet, make 'em wetter.

What? No Quidditch? I can't say I'm sorry about that. It can get a bit old at times. But now we have the Triwizard Tournament. At first I thought it was a competition for three-legged magic students.

I'm not sure this decision will be good for morale. It's already fixing to get Fred and George Weasley into trouble. I can just hear their mother: "You should be doing better on your O.W.L.'s."

Ah, old Mad-Eye is a teacher. I'm sure Snape and the Malfoys will think this is a terrible idea, but who better to prepare Harry to do battle with Voldemort? I look forward to seeing if Mad-Eye has mad skills.

What will become of Hermione's crusade for house-elf rights? Guess she has to have something else to keep her busy this year because she won't be time-traveling to take extra classes.

And Harry definitely has his first crush. Ain't that sweet.

Clueless people

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Chapter 9

Wizards being scared by other wizards in a muggle campground. Is no safe place anymore.

What these magic folk need is a wizard who can truly do battle with the dark arts on a large scale. Not some dimwit like Gilderoy Lockhart or one like Lupin who can't gain trust because he's a werewolf.

Somebody's got to rise up and take the bad guys' wands and snap them over his knee. Obviously, no one like that exists yet or they wouldn't be so scared by the Dark Mark and clueless what to do about it.

Someone needs to infiltrate Voldemort's ranks or call him out into the street for a showdown ... wand against wand.

All these Ministry of Magic dudes seem like political appointments. When real problems come along all they point are their fingers at pathetic house elves.

After a night in the woods that makes headlines, only Harry might have a clue. His burning scar, then the Dark Mark appearance. Harry ponders: What did these things mean?

Indeed, what do they mean.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Chapter 10

Like I said, nobody knows what to do. Mr. Weasley said he's just putting out fires. No doubt that's what everybody else is doing. The ministry is in damage control mode.

These magical people do have some of the coolest ways though. Talking to a head floating in a fire has just been added to my bucket list.

Harry is on top of things, which I would expect because his name is in the title of every book. Goofy old Telawney's prediction that Voldemort would rise up more powerful than before certainly has Harry's attention.

Harry is hoping for answers from Sirius, but whatever it is will only be something to help in the next step. There is no magic answer to the problem of Voldemort. It's like how one clue leads to another clue in "National Treasure."

In answer to what I said in Chapter 9 above, form a committee of Harry, Sirius, Dumbledore, Ron, Hermione and maybe even Mr. Weasley. And send a spy.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Irish eyes are smiling

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Chapter 8

"You are looking live at the site of this year's Quidditch World Cup."

Yes, the only thing missing from this event was Brent Musburger welcoming us to the scene. Ah, college football season is only a few weeks away. But for now we'll have to be content with Quidditch.

I have often been asked who I am rooting for while watching a football game. If the Buckeyes aren't playing, I usually don't care. I just want to see a good game. Likewise, I didn't care if Ireland or Bulgaria won. Though, I was nearly drawn to Bulgaria because it had the more interesting names. They all sound as if they could be Big Ten linemen.

The sportswriter in me would have enjoyed covering this for the Daily Prophet. From the antics of the veela and leprechauns (always after me Lucky Charms) to the large crowd, Krum's busted nose and the shocking finish, there would have been plenty to write about.

With DVR technology, something like omnioculars might not be too far off.

Well, three cheers for Ireland. Now let's get on with this Goblet of Fire thing.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I'll sleep outside

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Chapter 7

The poor Muggle running the campground must have thought there was a Woodstock reunion going on. It will be for his own good that his memories will be obliviated.

So these are tents on the outside and whatever you can imagine or afford on the inside. These magical people are so clever. However, I won't be staying with the Weasleys. The smell of cats would put me out under the stars. It's not just the smell, but the accompanying itchy eyes, sneezing and labored breathing that for me accompany the presence - present or past - of cats. Somebody pass the Benadryl.

The joy Percy's siblings must have felt when Crouch called their self-important brother Weatherby must have made the trip worth it already. That's a story that will be retold more often than whatever happens the next at Quidditch final.

The magical folk don't live like the Muggles in many ways, but it becomes more and more obvious that it is a competitive world. We've seen it with Snape, the Malfoys, Voldemort and now in the conversation between Bagman and Crouch. Arthur Weasley is one of the few to be content to do his job and not make a big deal about it. A bagful of galleons doesn't buy happiness, and Arthur has that figured out.

Again I say, let the games begin.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Travelogue

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Chapter 5

Well, it's certainly taken longer for me to get back to reading, writing and arithmancy than it took for Harry to get to the Burrow.

Fred and George, however, waste no time getting in trouble. Their mother is quite right. All of their intelligence, ingenuity and ambition could certainly be put to greater use. Maybe they will by the end of the final book, but in the meantime we can just enjoy their mischief.

Sir Percy continues to be high strung. We can only hope Mr. Crouch appreciates all of his hard work on cauldron bottoms.

Meanwhile, I hope, for Percy's sake, he didn't leave the dragon dung in his to-do tray.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Chapter 6

After 2,500 miles and about 50 hours in a minivan, I wish I had known about this Apparating business. Where do I sign up for this class?

I wonder if Fred and George have developed anything that will send the top half of their brothers to the Quidditch World Cup and their bottom halves to the Starship Enterprise. Scotty will wonder what happened.

The description of the Harry, Hermione and the Weasleys trudging up Stoatshead Hill put a picture in my mind of the Von Trapps hiking to Switzerland. You know, Climb Every Mountain and all that sort of thing.

From the description, the boot doesn't sound like one of anybody's favorite things, but it got the job done. And I'll bet it was a more pleasant ride than what you get with floo powder.

Let the games begin.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Can we leave yet?

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Chapter 3

Maybe I shouldn't be in such a hurry to create the "Anti-Dursley Household League." They do provide comic relief. Now that Dudley looks more like a Weeble than ever before (except that if he does wobble, he will fall down), a letter has been sent home.

A shape-up or ship-out letter is just what he needs, but I do have a hint of sympathy for him. His diet, while healthy, sounds perfectly boring.

Life on Privet Drive is getting better for Harry. Other than Dudley's troubles, he gets permission to join the Weasley's for the Quidditch World Cup. Of course, he had to play the Sirius card, but he got permission nonetheless.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Chapter 4

It is doubtless that Vernon will ever again utter the phrase "Better late than never." He certainly would have preferred just about anything to the entrance the Weasleys made into his living room to pick up Harry. Then again, there is no pleasing this muggle.

But imagine for a moment that someone other than Santa Claus shows up in your chimney. And he's brought a bunch of red-headed elves with him. Two of whom are practical jokers who accidentally spill candy, which your son eats. The candy does strange things to his tongue and thoroughly freaks everybody out.

I'm not going over to the Dursley Side, I'm just saying ...

Monday, June 21, 2010

He's baaaaaack

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Chapter 1

A much thicker book and quite a different beginning, like the start of a movie with none of the stars.

However, after no Voldemort sightings in the Prisoner of Azkaban, our villain makes an appearance. And so does Peter the rat. Voldemort has an appropriate amount of distrust in Peter it seems. Another snake is on the scene and seems to be completely trustworthy and loyal to the Dark Lord.

Voldemort is not out to simply kill Harry it seems. Did I miss that fact before? Presumably, Voldemort needs a wizard to somehow regain his strength/life. And he wants Harry. Is this another case of stupid greedy villains trying to accomplish their ends in their perfectionistic ways? It might be. But maybe he needs another parselmouth to keep that gift alive.

The Riddle House was used for evil once before and it is again.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Chapter 2

The scar continues to act as an alarm for Harry, but this time in a different way. I don't think he lives anywhere near Little Hangleton.

The big question is how did he dream the scene in the Riddle House? The bigger question is what will he actually do with this information? He is always hesitant to reach out to his trusted leaders at Hogwarts. Now he's afraid to tell his friends. But he does have a new friend in Sirius Black. Even with Sirius he holds back some in his letter. But at least he's not keeping this all to himself.

Heading downstairs for breakfast? Must we endure the Dursleys again? Well, they can't be on all 734 pages.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A timely finish

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 21

Shame on Cornelius Fudge for looking for the politically expedient way out of this Sirius Black public relations nightmare. Just send him back to Azkaban no questions asked? How did he get this Minister of Magic job anyway?

Dumbledore, however, always knows what's really going on and is a man with a plan. The time travel rescue operation - a move that could have cost the headmaster his job - was some of the best sleight of hand you could imagine.

I said I wouldn't guess who Harry saw across the lake, but I did figure he thought he saw his dad. But I also figured that wasn't who he saw. I didn't realize it until he did. You would think after seeing the "Back to The Future" series more than once and various other shows and movies that incorporate time travel that I would have figured it out. I'm very disappointed in myself.

The time travel thing is one of the best sequences of the series so far. No wonder Hermione was so tired during the school year living 24-plus hours a day. Jack Bauer could have used that hourglass, then he wouldn't have always been "running out of time."

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 22

Snape for once is right, but he can't prove it. I would say poor guy, but he's really getting on my nerves.

He jumps to conclusions, yells at everyone and is always late to the party. And what's with this calling the students by their last names? Snape isn't the only one who does it. They're kids. Call them by their first names.

As prescient as Dumbledore always is, I'm sure that his telling Harry that the day will come whem he will be glad he saved Pettigrew's life will come true.

Harry's letter from Black and an owl for Ron was a nice spirit lifter at the end. Overall, not a happy ending, but something to hope for.

The climax to this story was a lot to digest, but it was a rewarding finish to a book that at times moved a bit slow. But apparently there is purpose in everything that happens at Hogwarts.

Now it's time to drink from "The Goblet of Fire."

You dirty rat

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 19

Becoming a rat was certainly an appropriate alter-ego for Peter Pettigrew. I figured he was the one lying all along.

The funny part during all of this serious goings-on of accusations of who is Voldemort's spy and who is not, is that Snape gets knocked out by his own students. And Hermione worrying about being in trouble now. It just made me laugh.

So, Peter was the lying spy, Sirius was framed and fortunately his happiness left him, Remus was fooled until he saw Peter on the Marauder's Map and figured it out, Snape as usual won't listen to anyone but himself, Ron argues in favor of Peter before thinking the situation through, Hermione is willing to see all sides before making a judgment and Harry does the valiant thing by sparing Peter's life. Nice job of keeping everyone in character.

And a cat, of all things, shall lead them home.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 20

Ah, laughing more at Snape's expense. Imagining him stubbing his toes and bumping his head all of the way through the tunnel is a funny sight. What did he do to make the others not like him? Maybe he just can't help it. When he comes to, he ought to try and get along with folks a little better. Maybe take time to hear their side of the story before jumping off cliffs to conclusions. But then he wouldn't be Snape.

Of course, if Snape had been awake maybe he could have prevented this whole werewolf fiasco. Just when it seems the bad guy is caught, something ridiculous happens and he gets away. I doubt there are enough pages left in the book to catch him again.

Harry is valiant again in trying to save Black from the Dementors. I wonder why Black didn't remain a dog and avoid even the chance of receiving the kiss of death? I guess it gives Harry another chance to be a hero.

So who does Harry see or at least think he sees across the lake? I won't venture a guess.

I just hope the next time I wake up from a nightmare, I'm not shouting "Expecto patronum!"

That might freak the family out.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Going to the dogs

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 17

Hogwarts sure is turning into a zoo.

Sirius Black can turn himself into a big dog, as I made reference to in earlier posts. Peter Pettigrew is a rat. Crookshanks ... I keep waiting for him to be somebody, but so far he's just a plain old cat. Seriously, who besides McGonagall would want to use their magical powers to morph into a cat? And Lupin is a werewolf.

I saw that coming. With a name like Lupin it made sense, because the latin word for wolf is lupus.

So two and a half of the trio (Ron has a broken leg you know) take out the vaunted Sirius Black? Didn't see that coming.

It also made sense that Lupin found his way to the Shrieking Shack. Harry needed help against the dark arts and Lupin is the first competent prof he's had. Plus, Lupin had taken an obvious interest in Harry.

And is there anything happening at Hogwarts that Lupin doesn't know about?

Rats, cats and dogs ... and werewolves ... Oh, my!

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 18

Lupin continues to make a short story long, but the others don't help as they argue about the revelation that Scabbers is Pettigrew.

It's all very interesting to learn about Lupin's werewolfing and how Black, Pettigrew and James Potter tried to turn Hogwarts into Animal House. But even Black gets impatient.

Enter Snape, who can add eavesdropper to his resume the next time he tries for the Defense Against the Dark Arts position.

Snape, he just never gets along with the popular kids. Time for me to turn the page and see what part he will play and if Black gets to satisfy his murderous desires.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Triumph and tragedy

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 15

So the end is near for Buckbeak. Is there no justice for framed hippogriffs? More on this later.

Hermione is obviously ready for summer vacation. I don't condone violence, but I sure hope her face-slapping of Malfoy is in the movie. Next time she should wave her wand in his general direction and say something like, "Off with your tongue!"

Next, she forgets to go to Charms class, then walks out of Divination. Somebody buy her an ice cream cone. That's always the best chill pill.

Not sure what seeing Crookshanks and a big hairy dog is all about for Harry, but I've been keeping a watchful eye on that cat since it entered the story. You can't be too careful with cats.

And you can't be too careful when playing Slytherin for the Quidditch Cup. No surprise they chose dirty tactics over relying on skill. It was like they put all the goons on the ice at once. But fair play and talent won out.

When Malfoy grabbed Harry's broom I decided that Malfoy and Dudley must have been separated at birth.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 16

Finals week is always a mix of anxiety and anticipation. And if your name is Harry Potter there is always the unexpected.

When Trelawney is channeling Voldemort - knowingly or not - questions are raised. Why is he telling Harry? And what is Black breaking free from? Is he trapped inside Hogwarts somewhere? Has it been not that he can't get in past the dementors, but that he can't get past them to get out?

More likely, it's something I haven't thought of, but it's fun to speculate.

Two things we don't have to speculate on anymore is what happened to Scabbers and will Hagrid win the appeal for Buckbeak?

Scabbers lives - and by the way he was acting there seems to be some purpose to his disappearance - and Beaky dies. Chalk one up for the Malfoys. It's unclear why they cared, but I don't think they need a reason to be mean.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Good days and bad days

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 13

We just can't seem to have a day - or a chapter - at Hogwarts where all's well that ends well.

Team Gryffindor has a sterling practice with Harry riding the Firebolt. This new state-of-the-art broom has swept away past thoughts of past failures. Maybe Harry can clean up with some endorsement deals.

Ron is reminded of his lost and presumably dead rat, but at least it wasn't the Grim lurking in the shadows.

Harry has a zinger for Malfoy. Fist bumps all around.

Harry grabs the snitch and Gryffindor gets a must-win. This calls for more than fist bumps. Throw in some chest bumps this time, then off to the victory party.

The day ends peacefully with smiles. Then comes Harry's nightmare and Ron's supposed sighting of Sirius Black. Why would Sirius go to the wrong bed, then run away? Seems odd.

Fortunately, Nearly Headless Neville's mistake wasn't a fatal one.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 14

Harry should be using the map and cloak to get himself out of trouble, not into it. But boys will be boys, even if they are in wizard training. Fred and George are obviously a bad influence. It's all fun and games until somebody gets hurt.

There are nightmares and then there is your worst nightmare of being caught and interrogated by Snape. But while Snape has it in for Harry, he never has the goods on him completely. A lot of bark, but no bite so far.

Some good laughs at Malfoy and Snape's expense in this chapter, but those incidents probably only serve to lengthen their mean streaks toward Harry.

Bad news about Buckbeak it appears, so score one for the Malfoys unless Hagrid can win an appeal. It will take tragic or dangerous circumstances like this to put the trio back together again.

It's time to grow up and stop fighting.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Preparing for more trouble

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 11

We open with Harry feeling sad about never knowing his parents and angry about Sirius Black's betrayal. And you do get the same feeling like Hermione has that Harry - emboldened by his heroism in the first two books - wants to go looking for Black. Her book sense and common sense are coming together as she warns Harry not to play dog catcher.

Harry does get distracted a bit by Hagrid's wailing about the possible fate of Buckbeak. With the Malfoys rearing their ugly heads in conspiracy against Hagrid, our precocious detectives become lawyers as they dig through dusty books looking for precedent. With all the dust, that library would be no place for me. I would have a perpetually stuffy head, always feeling like I had just gotten out of bed in the morning.

Christmas morning is often full of surprises, but a Firebolt sure beats all. It would be like finding a Porsche in the driveway. Of course, Crookshanks ruins the party with another assassination attempt on Scabbers.

There are many things to appreciate about Dumbledore, but his appreciation of a good feast is high on the list. Of all the places I would want to see and experience at Hogwarts, it would be a feast in the Great Hall.

At least Harry got a good meal before the news that comes at the end of the chapter: The Firebolt is confiscated. It's for his own good, but nonetheless a bad ending to the day.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 12

Professor Lupin has turned out to be quite the friend and mentor to Harry. I hope he doesn't become a betrayer. At least he's not completely incompetent like his predecessor.

This boggart-dementor-Patronus thing that Harry is working on sounds quite exhausting. Finding a happy memory is not easy for Harry, and it seems like it takes an happy memory of lasting importance to make this work, not merely a pleasant and fleeting one.

So will a Dementor's Kiss end this business with Sirius Black? Will the Firebolt, now that we know it's clean of jinxes, lead Gryffindor to the elusive Quidditch Cup? And has Scabbers finally succumbed to the clutches of Crookshanks? Can't wait to find out.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

No secret is safe

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 10

Harry has become quite the unintentional eavesdropper. You almost get the feeling that there's a man behind the curtain orchestrating things. But this isn't Oz.

The map is like a magical GPS with satellite imagery, like watching an episode of "NCIS: Los Angeles" or "Enemy Of The State." Harry uses this magicnology just to buy candy, but ends up gaining more knowledge of his parents, himself, Black, etc.

What will Harry and his cohorts do with this knowledge? Somehow some of it will help them catch Black. After the first two books, that it is what I'm expecting. If the Dementors couldn't dement him in prison and let him escape, then how will they catch him? Only Harry will catch or kill him.

The logical conclusion is that Harry will use the map to catch Black. But logical conclusions don't always happen in the world of magic. Logically, Harry should have died in the first book. But this wouldn't be much of a series if that had happened.

Here's a logical idea. Cast one of those Secret-Keeper spells so Black can't find Harry. That's what I would do.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Is any place safe?

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 8

The chapter opens with Malfoy's critique of Lupin's fashion sense, and if we hadn't figured it out yet, we see Malfoy's upside-down view of people. It's a view he no doubt learned from his arrogant father. But enough about Malfoy. He's hardly worth the breath.

Speaking of irritants, what about this Crookshanks creature. I'm not sure why anyone would want a good-for-nothing rat, but I'm with Ron on this one. Twice Ron calls it "that cat." I understand the sentiment. When Hermione defends the cat attack by saying, "Crookshanks doesn't understand it's wrong!" she displays a naive notion for the first time since she thought Lockhart knew what he was doing. That cat knows it's wrong. I know these things. I can't talk with them like Harry talks with snakes, but you can see it in their eyes and by the way they swish their tail. They know all right.

OK, OK, enough about cats.

The real question in this chapter is what became of the Fat Lady. It's never over till she sings, so she must be somewhere.

Is Peeves telling the truth about Sirius Black? He doesn't seem above lying, but I'm sure if he had news like this he would delight in telling Dumbledore.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 9

The subject of werewolves keeps coming up. Harry saw something dog-like just before the Knight Bus arrived. He saw something like it in the stands just before falling off his broom.

Astronomers know Sirius as the Dog Star in the constellation Canis Major. It is the brightest star in the heavens. Not sure if that relates at all, but names can mean things.

So poor Wood suffers a Quidditch loss, poor Harry ends up in the infirmary again and Harry's Nimbus 2000 is reduced to firewood.

The questions are mounting and adding to the confusion. Where is Sirius Black? Is Harry seeing a werewolf? What role does Lupin play?

And how soon before Crookshanks catches up to Scabbers?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

More clarity is good

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: The movie

No extended version this time. I was informed that one exists, and it's not that we don't have it, it's that we don't have it yet.

Because I am reading the books one after another things tend to run together, but this movie seemed easier to follow than the first.

I do like how the moviemakers jazz up some of the action scenes. When Vernon fell from Harry's window into the bushes, I LOL'd. The ride to Hogwarts in the car was far more death-defying. Harry hanging from the door called for something magical to happen, but Ron gets credit for the save. And the Mandrakes were larger and uglier than I imagined.

Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy was perfectly cast. He can sure play the evil character. He was awful in "The Patriot," and I'm told he's a great Captain Hook in "Peter Pan." I haven't watched that yet.

Lockhart in real life was just as phony as he was in print. Well played.

Dobby, well Dobby, was annoying as he should be. I would think Malfoy would be glad to be rid of him, but he probably enjoyed having someone else to be mean to.

Finally, the killer snake was about what I expected. But when Harry heard the voice it was difficult to understand. The English accents are difficult enough at times. But at least there aren't talking cats. That would give me shivers.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Classes and the classless Malfoy

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 5

Sir Percy needs to stop taking himself so seriously. That's no way to get others to take you seriously. Take Professor R.J. Lupin for instance. He obviously doesn't take himself too seriously, and as we learn in Chapter 7 he proves himself worthy to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts rather easily. He's quite the opposite of Gilderoy Lockhart, may he rest in peace wherever he is trying to regain his memory.

The ride to Hogwarts is going along quite nicely until a Dementor boards the train and Harry passes out. I'm sure that has meaning of some kind that has something to do with his scar or Voldemort or something else evil. And I'm sure we'll learn what it is in time.

I haven't a clue.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 6

It's easy to understand why the Divination class is so far away in the North Tower. The rest of the faculty certainly doesn't want to be around Sybill Trelawney having their fortune told every five minutes.

This reading of tea leaves sure sounds like an exact science. Sounds a lot looking at ink blots and telling the shrink what you see.

And to tell Harry that death is in his future? First of all, it's in everybody's future along with more taxes. Second, if you were going to predict the Grim, Harry is the obvious choice and everyone would believe it. The future is always best left unknown.

I agree with Hermione: "A lot of guesswork, if you ask me."

Hagrid's Care of Magical Creatures class was much better. I hope he gets his job back and that Malfoy is one day proven to be the spoiled brat that he is.

I do have one question for Hagrid: "Do the hippogriffs have large talons?" (Fans of "Napoleon Dynamite will understand.)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 7

Yeah, I'd like to see Malfoy hunt down Sirius Black. Why? So he can run away scared. He gets mouthier by the year.

Anyway, Lupin turns out to be a teacher who is more interested in his students than himself. What a refreshing change.

The long battle with the boggart (not sure how that's pronounced) was an interesting narrative, but I'm not sure why it's important. I suppose Trelawney could tell me.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Back to school

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 3

So Harry sees something big and scary in the shadows after running away from the Dursleys. I don’t suppose it was Dudley following him. Probably not. I don’t think Harry threw the dessert into his trunk.

Harry found a cool way to catch a bus the next time he gets stuck somewhere. Too bad he and Ron didn’t try that instead of flying in the car. Then again, what would have happened to them in the forest without the car to rescue them from the spiders. Things just have a way of working out for these lads.

Stan and Ernie turn out to be pleasant blokes on the bus ride. But Stan could sure use a some language lessons with Professor ’Enry ’Iggins. Stan is useful in educating us on Sirius Black, formerly a prisoner of Azkaban.

It appears Voldemort has foregone trying to regain power through subversive means. No doubt he’s helped break Black out of prison and will make no secret of his attempts to use Black for his own purposes. At least that’s the way it looks in Chapter 3.

Cornelius Fudge is an odd character with an odd name. He doesn’t seem to be a particularly strong wizard, but maybe he’s good enough that he doesn’t have to do much magic to prove it.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 4

If you’re old like me, you remember Mars Blackmon (a k a Spike Lee) selling Air Jordan’s for Nike and saying, “It’s gotta be the shoes.” It really wasn’t. Jordan could have won six NBA titles in hiking boots.

Harry needs to get his mind off the Firebolt and whatever Nimbus model is supposed to be better than his. Harry’s got mad Quidditch skills. And skills are what matter.

Now that Hermione is taking enough classes for three people, it’s time to comment on her academic pursuits. I say she’s driven and wants to make up for not having magical parents. Amy says she’s just enthusiastic. Whatever her reasons, we can be assured she’ll have the answer that Harry needs every time he’s in a tight spot.

Hermione does need help when choosing a pet, however. Crookshanks is a cool piratey-sounding name, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s a cat. Do we really need more cats in this story?

Defeating this Sirius Black character is going to be difficult if we know this early in the book that he is Harry’s enemy. I agree with Mr. Weasley. Harry needs to know, and now he does.

Off to the “safety” of Hogwarts.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Breaking free

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 1

Into the third book already and remembering that the summer always go too fast unless your name is Harry Potter. On Privet Drive, every day is like a thousand.

Even if Ron trying to telephone Harry is about as successful as Lockhart trying to cast a spell, at least there is mail and a trusty owl to deliver it. And at least Harry got some birthday presents this year.

Will he get the permission slip signed? I have read the next chapter, so I know the answer. But I didn't have to turn the page to know there was a fat chance of Vernon scribbling his name for Harry. I'm sure Harry will have some sneaking around to do under his cloak when his friends are in Hogsmeade.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 2

Thankfully, I never had an aunt like Aunt Marge. Aunts, like mothers-in-law seem to get picked on a lot in books and movies. They're not all bad.

But this one? Oh, she's definitely related to the Dursleys. She wears the same blinders when looking at Dudley and Harry.

I hope Harry learns that blackmail never works. I know it seems impossible to expect any kindness from the Dursleys minus coercion, but it always falls apart.

You might say it blew up in his face.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Another happy ending

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Chapter 17

This book has been a lot like an NBA game for me. The first three quarters are played to get to the fourth. That's when - if it's going to get exciting - it gets exciting. Maybe it's because it was the second book and the novelty is wearing off or maybe it just moved more slowly and cryptically than the first, but the payoff at the end was worth it. I found myself reading faster than usual.

So I guess from now on I will always suspect that Voldemort/Quirrell/Riddle/????? is behind whatever threatens to close Hogwarts, threatens Harry or anyone close to him, threatens any student or just generally causes mayhem of any sort.

Voldemort's problem is his cockiness. How many times have we seen it in movies when the villian wants to make his prey suffer and delays the deed. Goldfinger could've shot Bond, but he had to elaborately try and kill him with some kind of laser-beam thing. "Do you expect me talk?" asks OO7. "No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die." And Goldfinger walks out of the room and Bond escapes. The Dynamic Duo did this all the time. It is a fatal flaw for fictional felons. It's not enough for them to kill. They have to make you suffer.

So the Dark Lord (don't get confused with Star Wars here) is revealed to be a former Head Boy at Hogwarts aptly named Riddle, the heir of Slytherin and once again inept at killing his nemesis. When it comes to killing Harry, Voldemort is as inept as GilLo.

BTW, did I laugh when Professor Gilderoy Lockhart de-memorized himself? LOL, for sure on that one. Now he can't take credit for making the school a Voldemort-free zone. Excellent.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Chapter 18

This chapter could've been anticlimactic, but after the Weasley reunion and the usual Dumbledore debriefing and the Hagrid homecoming, we get to see Lucius Malfoy taken down a few notches on his self-importance scale. I think he's trying to make up for not being the heir.

When Harry tricks Malfoy into freeing Dobby, he displays a more observant side to go with his resourcefulness and bravery.

It is nice to know that Dobby really was trying to help Harry. He's no Phoenix, that's for sure, but maybe he will be of more use in the future.

I would tell Harry to enjoy his summer, but that won't be easy where he's headed. Maybe being a Prisoner of Privet will prepare him for the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Going a little batty

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Chapter 16

You know how the title track on an album is often not a hit. You will remember it as the album title, but the song itself is completely unmemorable.

Chapter 16 is the title chapter of this book, and it is one I will remember in years ahead when I reflect on this book. That is if I have any brain cells left at the end of this summer reading program. I barely have any functioning as I write this after a long, yet wonderful, day at a Sunday school class cookout. Played my first game of ultimate Frisbee and we won, and these aging legs actually contributed to the victory a time or two. The rest of the time I was waiting for the action to work its way back to me as I tried to pace myself. Believe me, it was a slow pace.

At least I didn't try to run from the fray as GilLo did. I figured he was either a big faker or would unexpectedly come through. He's the worst kind of snake, the big crybaby.

I'm amazed I got the snake thing right about that being the creature of the chamber. Now Harry just has to avoid rolling snake eyes as he takes his next step into what seems to be the true chamber.

Getting there through pipes in a girls' bathroom was certainly unanticipated, but something that odd certainly fits the story.

Harry is on his own again, just as he was when he fought Voldemort/Quirrell for the Sorcerer's Stone. This time he has to rescue Ginny Weasley, who already has a hero-worship thing going on. This could be something straight out of a Batman episode:

"Is this the last hurrah? Will our boy wonder find a way to stop the snake and save the young lass? Or will the snake have him for lunch? Tune in tomorrow - same Potter time, same Potter channel."

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The boys are on their own

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Chapter 14

Too bad Hermione didn't take time to tell Harry and Ron what she had just figured out before running off to the library and getting herself petrified. It's not like her to not share her knowledge.

The mirror that was found must mean something, but what about a voice that only Harry can hear. We already know Harry hears snakes, and as far as we know no one else in Hogwarts has that ability. Maybe a snake has something to do with this. It would make sense, so I'm probably wrong.

The invisibility cloak sure is getting a workout. Harry and Ron are like the proverbial fly on the wall every place they go. Too bad for Hagrid and Dumbledore that they wouldn't fit under the cloak when magic-school politics erupted in Hagrid's house.

There are two kinds of politicians: those who react and make poor decisions, and those who act decisively to gain control of the ones who react. Cornelius Fudge is the former, Lucius Malfoy is the latter. It can't be good for any of the good-guy characters that Malfoy has shown himself to be most powerful.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Chapter 15

As big and creepy-crawly as Aragog and family are, I could handle that a lot better than a room full of you-know-what. That was quite an adventure Harry and Ron took into the forest even if Ron feels the same way about spiders as Indiana Jones does about snakes.

Now they know where the car is in case they need it again, they know Hagrid didn't open the Chamber (but they still don't know who did) and now they have a witness - good old Moaning Myrtle.

I wonder how soon Hermione will be able to rejoin the case. Maybe Professor Gilderoy Lockhart and his award-winning smile could help. Then again he'd be about as much help as Dobby.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Magical things

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Chapter 12

Why won't Harry tell Dumbledore everything? Is he afraid of expulsion? Does he have trust issues with adults because of the Dursleys? Is he simply a scared kid and doesn't know why?

I am surprised that the Polyjuice Potion worked and that Hermione's plan did as well. It must have been difficult, though, for Harry and Ron to look in the mirror and see Crabbe and Goyle. But it did get them the answer they needed from Malfoy even if it wasn't the one they wanted. Fortunately they didn't blow their cover when Malfoy showed them the news article about Ron's father.

Poor Hermione. How horrifying it must be to be Polyjuiced into a cat. If that ever happens to me, I'll be allergic to myself and scared of myself at the same time. Of course it might cure me of both if it doesn't kill me first.

Meow.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Chapter 13

Finally, there is a point to Moaning Myrtle. If she's not there, then Harry doesn't find the diary and Riddle's story ends up flushed to the bottom of the lake.

Riddle me this: Is a diary that writes back and allows you to observe 50-year-old events trustworthy? Or is it some sort of magic designed to throw Harry off the trail, or worse yet, entrap him or incriminate Hagrid?

I do think what Harry saw was true, or at least mostly. Hagrid does have an affection for odd creatures, so it's believable that he would let such a monster out. But he also said the monster wasn't a murderer. That's probably the truth too.

So what has escaped the Chamber that Harry should be most afraid of and who let it out? That's a riddle that doesn't have any answers yet.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Speak Dumbledore, speak

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Chapter 10

A lot of words are thrown around that Harry doesn't know because of his Muggle upbringing. It's good that these words have to be explained to Harry because it in turn explains them to me. Git was used to describe GilLo (that's Gilderoy Lockhart for anyone new to this blog), but I had not heard that word before. I asked my daughter Michelle who said, "You could Google it." So she did, and says that a git is a foolish or a contemptible person.

I agree with Ron that GilLo is a brainless git. Either that or he is playing the fool to keep us off guard like Quirrell did. Whatever that case, at least he's somebody to laugh at.

On to more important things. Our detectives get GilLo to get them the potions book, a possessed Bludger nearly kills Harry, Harry catches the Snitch anyway, GilLo is worse than a first-year at fixing Harry's broken arm, Dobby the masochist makes more admissions of guilt and Colin is petrified.

All that to lead us to Dumbledore revealing that the Chamber of Secrets has indeed been opened. I don't think it's a coincidence that he said it so Harry could hear it.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Chapter 11

Allowing GilLo to start a dueling club will undoubtedly go down as one of Dumbledore's poorest decisions. Everything this guy tries sets magic back a thousand years. He should have his wand license revoked and be made Filch's apprentice.

Now everyone knows that Harry is a snake charmer. Seeing him talk to a snake would freak me out almost as much as a black cat following me around the castle would. There's obviously a setup going on to make Harry look like the heir.

Now he's being taken to Dumbledore, who seems to be a true ally for Harry. Maybe Harry will get some answers about the Chamber.

Yesterday I was beginning to get a bit bored with this book, but today was like a good rally in a game of Quidditch. I'm looking forward to the second half.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pass the Polyjuice

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Chapter 8

Trying to buy a championship - as Malfoy's daddy is trying to do with state-of-the-art brooms that have bought his boy a spot on the team - doesn't often work. But the Gryffindors had better buy into Wood's plan to outwork Slytherin - even if Wood is exercising a Patton complex - or they will be swept to the proverbial Quidditch curb.

But there are much more serious and sinister things going on in the hallways of Hogwarts. (BTW, say Hogwarts to yourself over and over and see how funny it begins to sound.) Harry is hearing a voice, and I don't think it's a ghost because they are all partying with Nearly Headless Nick. After seeing the first movie, I hear John Cleese's voice every time he speaks.

Now that the Chamber of Secrets has been revealed and something about an heir, it will be time again for our detective trio to figure out how to save somebody or something.

And I hope I don't have nightmares about Mrs. Norris or any other cat hanging from anywhere. If I had seen that, it would have time to fetch the smelling salts.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Chapter 9

So is the legend of the chamber fact or fiction? Well, obviously it's fiction, but you know what I mean. Binns is kind enough to enlighten us about the legend, and he certainly didn't convince Harry and company that it is just a legend.

When you hear things like Harry has, you're going to think it's true. So it probably is, unless we're in the middle of a Scooby-Doo episode and at the end of the book they remove Filch's mask to find Dumbledore and he says, "And I would've gotten away with it too if it hadn't been for you meddling kids."

But I don't think that will happen. I do hope the Polyjuice attempt works. Sounds like fun, especially if it's Lockhart they try to trick. A little bit of flattery should go a long way.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Gilderoy the Great

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Chapter 6

I'm sure Gilderoy Lockhart would be tickled to know an entire chapter was named in his honor.

But before we deal with GilLo, lets deal with the Howler and the Mandrakes. The Howler gets the point across to Ron, but I would urge all parents not to embarrass your child in this way. And those of you that garden, I would leave the Mandrakes to someone else.

As for GilLo, it will be interesting to see how his story progresses. He certainly didn't seem to know what he was doing when he let the pixies loose. I can see Ron and Hermione arguing endlessly about this.

GilLo is as full of himself as ... I can't really think of anyone to compare him to. He has set a new standard for self-promotion. And the things he assumes and says to Harry are ridiculous. When he said Harry was a tad big-headed, I LOLed. Oh well, GilLo does provide comic relief, and they could sure use a touch of that at Hogwarts this school year. Everybody is so tense.

By the way, I hear GilLo will be signing the first page of his chapter at Flourish and Blotts on all the big book-shopping days from here to eternity.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Chapter 7

Like I said, everybody is so tense.
  • Wood is obsessed beyond reason with the pursuit of the Quidditch crown.
  • Colin and GilLo are driving Harry batty.
  • Ron wants to slug Malfoy (no pun intended).
  • We haven't seen Snape in a while, but surely he's mad at someone.
Not sure what the significance of the voice is that Harry heard. Seems strange that GilLo didn't hear it. GilLo is quite a character, but he's obviously hiding something. And isn't it odd that someone of his fame wants to spend so much time with Harry. There's something going on here, because under normal circumstances GilLo would be perfectly happy spending time alone with his favorite person - himself.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The story takes flight

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Chapter 3

Do you find it odd that the Dursleys want to keep Harry around? You would think they would rather be rid of him and the accompanying magic that spooks them. Blood, I suppose, is thicker than magic. That's my only explanation for Vernon hanging on to Harry's leg over a window sill.

Malfoy should see the Weasleys now, flying around in a car. I'll bet Malfoy doesn't have one. Even James Bond has never been given a flying car by Q that I can remember. If Dudley saw it, he's probably demanding one right now.

Anyway, it was good of the Weasleys to break out Harry The Wizard like he was Billy The Kid and fly him to the Weasley homestead. It's a strange-sounding place, but it sure beats Privet Prison.

When the Weasleys are done de-gnoming the garden I could point them toward some yards that could use a little de-gnoming and general de-lawn ornamenting.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Chapter 4

Like a dusting of Floo powder I'm already well into the second book. Traveling through chimneys certainly doesn't seem like the only way to go. Seems like one of those things you do once to say you did it.

The Weasleys are about as nice and selfless as they can be, but I have feeling Professor Gilderoy Lockhart sees only himself when he looks into the Mirror of Erised. I just might have to work "Magical Me" into my summer schedule.

Our friends are going to have to learn that the Malfoys aren't worth listening to. Now we know where Draco gets it. The rotten apple didn't fall far from the tree.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Chapter 5

Why couldn't Harry and Ron make it onto platform nine and three quarters? Who cast that spell? It can't be a coincidence.

But hey, they got to fly in the car again even if it was a long and uncomfortable flight. Ron does need to work on his parking skills. It's usually a good idea to avoid trees, especially ones that try to beat you up. Who knew they'd hit turbulence after landing.

Snape just can't wait to get Harry expelled. You'd think he would have softened a little after Harry's heroics at keeping the Sorcerer's Stone away from Voldemort. But he probably hasn't found a seeker who can compete with Harry and win back the house cup.

Now that school has started, the real story begins.

One thumb up

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: The movie

Most of my busy life has been to watch the movie, then maybe read the book. I have rarely done the opposite approach. I'm not defending that approach, it's more like I'm admitting it.

If Jeff was a masochist like Dobby, Jeff would get the books in hardback and beat himself over the head with them after such an admission. But I am neither house-elf nor masochist, so I will happily watch a movie before reading it in paperback in the future. (Just not the Harry Potter series.)

This time I am glad I read the book first. I know that movies cannot mirror books exactly, and that it's like comparing apples to oranges, or wizards to muggles, if you will, but the book is better.

A few observations from the extended version:
  • Less of the dreaded Dursleys is OK by me, but they are more obnoxious in the book than in the limited screen time they got. (I did laugh when Dudley fell into the snake's cage.)
  • Robbie Coltrane was well cast as Hagrid, but not as large as I imagined.
  • Alan Rickman was the perfect choice to play Snape.
  • Overall, the movie was well cast and the actors were largely true to Rowling's characters.
  • The action scenes were pretty good. Some things were added for visual reasons, which is fine.
  • I liked hearing things said that are verbatim, or at least close to it, from the book.
  • The Quidditch match could've been better. The shots of Harry seemed more artificial than the other parts of the match.
  • They explained some things after the fact in the movie, which tended to throw me off a little.
  • If I hadn't read the book, I would have been more surprised than I was when Ron made Hermione cry and take refuge in the restroom. Ron and Harry's early dislike of Hermione should have been played up a little more. (Though she was good at being obnoxious.)
  • Visually, things looked about like I imagined at Hogwarts. And Privet Drive was perfectly antiseptic. You would have no clue driving down that street what was going on in Number 4.
I believe if I had not read the book first, the movie would have been difficult to follow at times. If I was going to write a screenplay, I would make sure those who hadn't read the book got a clear picture of the story from reading the script from the first word to the last. Not an easy thing to do, but worth the effort.

Back to the "Chamber of Secrets." It's a rainy day in Jamestown. Perfect for reading.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Dobby, dobby, doo

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Chapter 2

First, Dobby refers to himself in the first person repeatedly. If I were to write, "Jeff thinks Harry should ... or If it were up to Jeff, the Dursleys would be ...." Annoying isn't it.

I'm sure any of us could come up with some punishments for Dobby to inflict on himself every time he talks in the first person. Like, have to sit down to dinner with Vernon, Petunia and Dudley. Or pretend to be Dudley's chair.

So Dobby claims to be a warning signal, but he's just a big pain in the rear end for Harry. Dobby could be a double agent who just wants Harry to stay away from Hogwarts. And now Harry's locked in his room like a full-fledged prisoner. Somebody call social services and put the Dursleys behind bars. I'd like to see Dudley be demanding with a 6-foot-4 prison guard carrying a club.

By now I'm obviously quite sympathetic toward Harry. The Dursleys are as unlikable a lot as you could imagine and they've just about touched my last nerve.

But Ron is outside the window as we close this chapter. A rescue can't be too many pages away.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

There's no place like home

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Chapter 1

I have a feeling that Harry's bedroom isn't going to be a Chamber of Secrets when Vernon's hoped-for client comes to dinner. Whoever is in Harry's room is bound to cause enough trouble to let out the secret of Harry.

It will be fun to watch the Dursleys squirm in anger at Harry and try to remain pleasant for their company. I expect them to fail miserably. If you have to rehearse being nice and saying lovely things, what's that tell you. Handling adversity gracefully probably isn't a Dursley virtue.

Too bad Harry hasn't heard from his friends, but my guess is that his mail is probably being intercepted by Vernon and Petunia.

Even worse is that Harry doesn't at least get cake for his birthday. But Dudley probably would've eaten it all anyway. He certainly is a growing boy.

School's out for the summer

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: Chapter 17

So Dumbledore outsmarted them all. Or should I say outmagicked them. He allows the praise to be heaped on Harry and his sidekicks at the banquet, but it was Humbledore's forethought of how to handle the mirror that ultimately stumped Quirrell and Voldemort ... or is it Voldemort and Quirrell.

Every good story has a good conclusion that answers lots of questions, and this one did.
  • Snape is not the enemy but not quite a friend.
  • Warped thinking is revealed: "There is no good and evil, there is only power ...
  • Quirrell/Voldemort find Harry to be too hot to handle.
  • The manifestation of Voldemort was as creepy as you had hoped.
  • Dumbledore has answers, but he keeps the biggest answer from Harry and us.
  • Gryffindor wins the cup. It would have been a downer had Slytherin won. The author wants us to put the book down completely happy with the outcome.
  • We haven't seen the last of Voldemort in any form.
So now Harry gets to spend summer vacation with Dursleys. He will soon think of the school year as vacation despite his plans for Dudley.

I would say poor Dudley, but I won't.

Friday, May 14, 2010

An unexpected conclusion

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: Chapter 16

So how is it that three first-year Hogwarts students get past Fluffy and decipher spells and riddles to get at least near the Sorcerer's Stone? That stone is about as well protected as a quarterback with a bad offensive line.

If two heads are better than one, are their three heads really that much better than Fluffy's three heads? Was the trapdoor really the beginning of a trap to snare Harry?

Katie warned me not to turn the page and read the beginning of the next chapter until tomorrow. I intended to heed her warning, but this chapter ends at the bottom of the page. You can guess what happened. I turned the page and saw the words: It was Quirrell. So I won't lie awake tonight wondering who Harry saw. Then again, I don't usually lie awake thinking about anything. It is rare that anything meddles with my ability to sleep during the night or any other time of day. My wife can verify that.

Not sure what it means that Quirrell is in the room, other than he is likely to stutter when Harry asks him why he is there.

So tomorrow I finish the first book and start the second. I plan to write separate posts, plus one about the movie when I get time to watch it.

For now, it's time to work on my to-do list. Somewhere in there, I sense a nap coming on.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I want a pet dragon

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: Chapter 14

If there is any part of fantasy stories and legends that I always wished to be true, it would be that dragons are real. The fire-breathing part would be problematic, but clinging to the back of a flying dragon would be my ultimate thrill ride.

My story would be to raise my own dragon like Hagrid wanted to, tame it, then fly around on it and slay the mean dragons. Then I could be a knight like St. George in Stan Freberg's Dragnet spoof. And I would give it a better name than Norbert. Something like Blaze or Heater or Wildfire or Dragon Breath.

It doesn't seem like Norbert has much to do with the story other than serve as a way to put Harry, Hermione, Neville and Malfoy in detention so that they end up in the forest. Maybe there will be more dragons later.

I had detention a couple of times, probably for being tardy. No late-night forest adventures though. We just sat quietly in a classroom with a teacher and our lunch. Too bad I didn't have a Harry Potter book to read or a dragon to break me out.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: Chapter 15

So if the forest is forbidden, why does Professor McGonagall send them out there in the middle of the night? I think it's because she's part cat.

It's interesting, though, how in such a dark forest so much can come to light. Voldemort is only mostly dead after all, and there is little distance between him and the Sorcerer's Stone.

But the shadows in the forest can play tricks on you. The centaur's story convinces Harry that Snape is Voldemort's mole, but that seems too easy. That's probably just what we're supposed to think. Clouseau once said, "I suspect everyone and I suspect no one."

There has to be a mole, though. If you've ever watched "24," you know there's always a mole. But who is it? Is it really Snape? Have we even been introduced to the mole?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

More than meets the eye

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: Chapter 12

I didn't expect Christmas to be part of a story about wizards and witches. I'm really not sure what I think about that.

Now I've received some wonderful Christmas presents but never an invisible cloak. Then again, I've never been to wizard school, so I haven't had much need for one. What would I use one for anyway?

I don't hunt, but I can see how one would come in handy during deer season. Soldiers and spies would certainly love to have an invisible cloak in their bag of tricks. Magicians could do real magic and not just sleight of hand.

The next time I have one of those "You want to get away" moments like the airlines commercial, I will wish I had Harry's cloak. Other than that, I'm sure it would only serve to get me in trouble, like sneaking around in libraries in the dark of night.

As for the Mirror of Erised, or desirE, I think Dumbledore is right. Not much good can come from spending too much time in front of that window into your soul. (I was told to read the inscription on the mirror backward, so in case you are wondering if I figured that out by myself I had a little help.)

Imagine what you would see if you stood in front of the mirror inside the invisible cloak. Hope that thought doesn't keep anybody awake tonight.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: Chapter 13

Nicolas Flamel, the Sorcerer's Stone, Snape's clandestine activities ... it's all starting to come together for our little detective trio. At least there's three of them, one to do battle with each of Fluffy's heads.

The plot is thickening like those potions that they are cooking up in Snape's class. Dark things are going on in the secret places of Hogwarts. It makes sense of course. If The Harry Potter is training to become a great wizard, then it's time for Voldemort and whoever is working on his behalf or whoever he has manipulated to get busy. I'm pretty sure he's only mostly dead, so I suppose the Sorcerer's Stone might be on his shopping list.

I have no idea if I'm on any of the right speculative paths or just wandering around Hogwarts looking for my 9 o'clock class. Usually, stories don't turn out the way you expect, so I'm sure many surprises are coming.

If I only had one of those invisible cloaks ...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Quidditch, questions and quick wits

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: Chapter 10

So how long do you think it would take Dudley to break a Nimbus Two Thousand? About a minute. Once he realized not even the Cadillac of brooms could budge him off the ground, he would snap it over his knee like Bo Jackson and toss it next to his other broken gadgets.

What was the most anticipated thing you ordered through the mail as a kid? I remember when I was 10 or 11 and had saved up enough money to order a complete set of Topp's baseball cards. How cool was that. I didn't have to buy packs and packs of cards to go for a complete set, which was impossible. I still have that set.

But if I had been born a wizard, then I can see how the arrival of a Nimbus Two Thousand could almost make you wet your pants.

That is until you are face to face with a troll. But bravery and courage prevailed as Ron and Harry rescued Hermione from certain death. Then she took the blame.

Hmmm ... willing to die and willing to take the blame. What does it all mean?

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: Chapter 11

Interesting game, this Quidditch. The sports fan in me is probably why I finished my reading so early today. I never leave a game before it's over (never know what you might miss), so it was hard to stop reading.

I was disappointed by how the match ended. There's no explanation of how Harry caught the Snitch in his mouth or if he even meant to. A good reporter wouldn't leave that out. Oh well, I won't play editor or professor today.

Now about this Snape business. Hagrid is keeping something hidden, which I assume is the sorcerer's stone or something related to it. Snape wants it and we can only assume for evil purposes.

But not everything in Hogwarts is at seems. T'will be interesting to see what is real, what is imagined and what is magic.