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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.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A natural wizard

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: Chapter 8

Hogwarts is definitely no place for me with all those stairways, hallways and doorways. My sense of direction inside a building is ... well, to call it a sense of direction is an overstatement. When I walk out of a store in the mall, Amy goes one way and I go the other. I don't even ask, I just change direction and follow her.

I remember the first days in a new school building. I would think there were more hallways than there were. I couldn't find my locker. I'm sure every corner I would have turned in Hogwarts, there Norris the cat would have been. Gives me the heebie-jeebies just thinking about it.

Snape, Snape, Severus Snape ... . There's a video that you have to watch if you haven't seen it that will explain that little jingle.

Anyway, I have seen a couple of scenes from a couple of the movies, so I know that Alan Rickman plays Snape. He is one of my favorite actors (Diehard, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, Galaxy Quest), but for a reason I can't remember I started pretending not to know who is. Of course, somebody would begin to explain to me who he is before remembering that I was pulling their leg. Maybe one of my daughters remembers how this all started.

So what is Snape's deal with Harry? I suppose that will unfold over the summer. And what's Hagrid hiding?

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: Chapter 9

I might have had trouble finding homeroom, but I could find gym class. Gym class at Hogwarts, however, is nothing like any gym class I ever took. It would have been fun to fly around on brooms, but it seems like all we ever did with Mr. Howe was play softball.

So Harry is "The Natural" when it comes to broom flying. Something tells me he will get the big hit - or the equivalent of a big hit in Quidditch - when his Gryffindor mates need it the most.

Harry's temper paid off when he took the broom ride, but not when Malfoy challenged him to a duel. He took the bait, but Harry seems smart enough to learn from his mistakes. Good thing I wasn't trying to lead them back to Gryffindor in the dark. We might have been dog food.

Hermione seems to be one to keep her cool under pressure. And whenever the time comes to see what the three-headed dog is guarding I'm sure she'll go along. Curious as a cat, that one.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Home is where the hat says it is

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: Chapter 6

I felt sorry today for kids like Harry who don't have a mother to love and depend on. There was no one to help him find platform nine and three-quarters. And here he was going off to boarding school and he had no one to miss.

OK, on to happier things. We need snack carts on airplanes like they have on the Hogwarts Express. Amy has made pumpkin pasties and I can attest that those are tasty. I would be just as adventurous as Harry with the Every Flavor Beans. And I'd be looking for that Harry Potter rookie card in the Chocolate Frogs. Sure to be a valuable collectible one day.

I suspect Ron Weasley will be a true friend for Harry. Right now he's Harry's only friend in the world, so I'm pretty sure Harry already knows he would die for his friend. Reminds me of Doc Holliday in "Tombstone" when he says he is risking his life "Because Wyatt Earp is my friend." Someone else says they have lots of friends. Doc replies, "I don't."

Hermione Granger is certainly booksmart. Ron hasn't taken a shine to her, that's for sure. But not many boys his age are going to be tolerant of a know-it-all girl who talks a lot. Not saying Hermione doesn't have redeeming qualities, but it's pretty obvious Ron's first impression isn't favorable.

Harry, though, knows obnoxious. As long as her last name isn't Dursley I'm sure he'll like her just fine.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: Chapter 7

This was my longest day of reading yet, and I admit that I drifted off into two naps before I could finish my assignment. But I might rate Chapter 7 as my favorite so far.

I do have one question. Why do all the wizards and witches have such strange names, while most of the students have regular names? Do they get a new name when the graduate? And where did the name Hogwarts come from? Are those the warts on Warthogs? Sure doesn't sound like a place you'd plan a vacation to.

Anyway, the sorting hat thing was clever. It was interesting how the hat listened to Harry's wishes. Did it listen to anybody else's wishes? I'm guessing he has special powers, and I'm wondering if he's exercising them already without knowing it. He's already famous because he did so as an infant.

How about that banquet. Sounds better than any school cafeteria I've ever heard of. I guess even wizards and witches have to eat.

Have you ever wondered where the hat would have sent you? I think I would've been sent to Hufflepuff. What about you?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A lot in common

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: Chapter 5

The great Oscar Wilde said, "Life imitates art far more than art imitates life." As far as I'm concerned you can turn that quote around. Same difference, I say.

We took a little pre-Mother's Day family trip this morning to Waynesville where the local chamber proclaims its town to be "The Antiques Capital of the Midwest." After a bountiful buffet at the Der Dutchman Amish restaurant, it was time to walk off the only meal I've needed today (6:15 p.m. as I write this).

We perused some curious shops with lots off odd and curious antiques and collectibles.
That's where my day stopped imitating Harry's day. No thrill ride with goblins or a vault of gold or a giant for an escort.

We shopped, but we bought a decorative wooden cross for the wall in our bedroom and a little green jar for the kitchen. If we can find a screw-on lid with holes in the top, it will make a perfect cinnamon-sugar shaker. We won't be putting silver unicorn horns or glittery-black beetle eyes in it from the Apothecary in Diagon Alley.

I saw some interesting canes and walking sticks, but no magic wands. Then again, we didn't explore any alleys.

My favorite Hagrid line: "I don't like cats, they make me sneeze." More life imitating art there. I've never met a cat that didn't cause an allergic reaction to either my nose, eyes or lungs.

And props to Harry for choosing an owl over a cat. Wise beyond his years, that Harry.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A giant welcome sight

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: Chapter 3

Dudley with something called a Smelting stick? That's as dangerous as Vernon and Petunia being parents. Parliament should pass a law.

The image that Dudley brings to mind is that rotund kid who wins a trip to Willie Wonka's chocolate factory and falls into the river of chocolate. Same shape, same obnoxious attitude, same penchant for whining, same mean streak and same appetite. I truly hope the Dursleys fade from the plot lines sooner than later. Don't know how much of them I can take. I say give Harry the stick and the license to use it. He would probably be more accurate with it than a wand at this point.

And let Harry read his letter for crying out loud. There is no justice in the home of Vernon and Petunia Dursley.

But someone's at the door. Maybe Harry will get some help.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: Chapter 4

A gentle giant ter the rescue, an' just in time. Not only fer Harry, but fer me as well. Just when I was startin' ter get impatient about what this was all about, Hagrid filled in some missin' pieces.

He looks scary, but if he's on yer side I imagine there's nothin' ter be scared o'. This guy was definitely never a cat, yeh can be sure o' that.

I have the feelin' that Hagrid is going to help Harry out o' more 'an one scrape this summer. Every aspirin' wizard needs a little muscle once in a while.

Glad Harry fin'lly got ter read his letter. Hogwarts, eh. Sounds like an interestin' place.

I'm wonderin' if Voldemort's last name is Dursley an' if he used ter be a cat.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The cat people

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: Chapter 1

I have no idea what I'm getting into by beginning this summer-long foray into the world of Harry Potter. No one is more mugglish than I.

I have avoided reading J.K. Rowling's best-selling series on the boy wizard. I have found something else to do when one of the movies was playing on our DVD player. No reason other than I'm just into different things. I spent 22 years in sports journalism, and now I teach journalism at my alma mater, Cedarville University. I read good manly fiction like Louis L'Amour and John Grisham. But mostly I read a lot of nonfiction like most journalists.

These are kids books, right. I didn't expect the creepy quotient to be high. But what do I find on page 2? A cat.

Nothing creeps me out more than cats. This cat is just like every other cat I've crossed paths with.

When I was about Harry Potter's age, we stayed with some friends who had a three-story Victorian house that could have been on Privet Drive. They had a black cat named Simon. Everywhere I explored in that glorious home, the cat was there.

Simon sat and stared at me just like that cat sat and stared at Mr. Dursley. I know from Chapter 2 that Vernon Dursley is not a likable chum, but I found myself identifying with him in Chapter 1.

I know how unnerved Dursley must have felt went he got home from work and saw that same tabby with staritis. I would have said "Shoo" as well. Any cat that's ever wandered into my yard has heard me say that or "Scat" and clap my hands.

Dursley might not have pondered what that cat was thinking. But I know. I know they sit there and think that I am stupid and that as soon as I turn my back they will do what they've always wanted to do to me: attack me and scratch my eyes out.

I can't help my feline phobia, so I was relieved when the cat became a professor. Of course, now I will look at cats and wonder who they really are.

I'm not sure I'm any better off.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: Chapter 2

I began Chapter 2 with great expectations of no more cats. After learning that Harry has to live most of his days in a cupboard under the stairs, I'm glad I'm not claustrophobic.

And I'm glad I don't know anyone named Vernon, Petunia or Dudley. What an awful lot this bunch is. Harry is already a hero. No matter what he does the rest of the summer, he will get the benefit of the doubt.

It's very clever of the author to make us like Harry from the start. How can you be against an orphan who has to grow up in such dysfunction. They are afraid of him, so they treat him like a leper. I don't think I will grow to like the Dursley clan.

Maybe they were cats in a previous life.