Sunday, July 29, 2007

Is Harry Potter a PHENOMENON?


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows book cover artwork by Mary GrandPré!
(courtesy of Scholastic.com)
PHENOMENON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
phe·nom·e·non /fɪˈnɒməˌnɒn, -nən/
Pronunciation[fi-nom-uh-non, -nuhn]
1.a fact, occurrence, or circumstance observed or observable: to study the phenomena of nature. 2.something that is impressive or extraordinary.
3.a remarkable or exceptional person; prodigy; wonder.
(Definitions courtesy of dictionary.com)
As any fan of Harry Potter will most wildly proclaim, these three definitions are fitting of all things Harry Potter: The books, the movies, the fans, the parties, the games, the websites, and so on.__________________________________________________________________________________
Number 1 - Easily Observed - Millions of people worldwide waited with baited breath for the release of the fifth movie Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix which opened this summer. Also Easily Observed - Millions of people worldwide anxiously awaited the release of the seventh and final book of the series Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. These are facts and occurences that are well-known, thus qualifying the HP sensation as a phenomenon. __________________________________________________________________
Number 2 - J. K. Rowling is an extraordinary author, able to weave a tale about The Boy Who Lived so seamlessly from books one to seven, drawing on prior events with a consistency that is remarkable yet with a fresh perspective in each book and always adding new twists and turns to surprise and thrill her readers. Her descriptions are vivid and her characters realistic. Their motivation is not always obvious at first glance, but is revealed in such a way to make the reader sympathize with even a dastardly character (not necessarily The Dark Lord, but other dark characters who appeared unredeemable may not be all that they seem), and she never fails to amaze her fans. Her writing is clever and entertaining; her storytelling, superb. Harry Potter qualifies as a phenomenon as it is both extraordinary and impressive. ________________________________________________________________
Number 3 - Harry Potter himself is a prodigy, a wonder, a remarkable and exceptional character. The author's characterization never ceases to amaze me that she can keep twisting, turning, adding layers, creating depth. HP himself is a phenomenon. _____________________________________________________________
If you had asked me what I thought about Harry Potter when the first book came out, I wouldn't have had much to say. Like most muggles, I thought there was something almost dangerous about reading about wizards and witches. I was unimpressed, and I didn't understand how anyone could get so worked up about the release of a book or movie, for goodness' sakes. However, by the time the third book came along, and I actually had time to read it, I was hooked. I started with number three and went back and read 1 and 2 within less than a month. My opinion had changed drastically. ________________________________________________________________
There is a message in Rowling's books - one that really has nothing to do with wizardry, and that is the conflict of good versus evil which has been with us (even Biblically) since the beginning of time. There is nothing dangerous about the way in which she tells her story of good and evil, as any true fan can tell you. I want to tell anyone who denies their child the opportunity to read Harry Potter because it deals with magic - don't! The book is not teaching witchcraft any more than I am . It's simply a good story. Reserve judgment of the book until you have actually read it. Rowling has created an enduring hero, someone we can all root for, not because of the way he looks, not because he is particularly strong, smart, rich, or clever (though he becomes many of those things), but he is an ordinary boy who becomes extraordinary through his own struggles. ____________________________________________________________________
So fans of the Harry Potter phenomenon, let's cheer for The Boy Who Lived!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Wordless Wednesday


Wimberley, Texas Hill Country at Sunset.
Peaceful, serence, relaxing...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Dilemma

I have a dilemma... 2 actually. I am a sixth grade teacher, and my twins are going into sixth grade this year. It is the only time we will ever have the opportunity to be in the same school. They are not zoned to go to my school, but a different intermediate school in our district where all of their friends are going. I believe my school is better academically, but they won't know anyone going in. I will have to drop them off for school almost an hour early every day, and someone will have to pick them up about 15 minutes after school gets out every day. We don't have bus service, yet it's not really close enough to walk, and it's through some tough intersections for bicycles. Anyway, if they go to my school, they will ride with me every day. If they need me during the day, I will be there. I can keep an eye on them.

Down side: I will have to work with teachers who have my children in their classes, and there is a fine line between being a co-worker and being a parent. Some teachers want to come and tell you things you don't want to know, while others don't want to tell you anything, and you have to maintain a different sort of professionalism in this situation. Another down side is will they get "made fun of" being a teacher's kid? I don't know. Probably not, but who can be sure? And another is that all of their friends are going to the other school.

I have tried to leave the decision up to them, but they are having a hard time deciding, too. They want to be with their friends, and they want to be with mom. What are your opinions?

The other issue is a step-daughter who is going into high school. She is zoned for a different school than her sister just graduated from. Supposedly, there are some bad neighborhoods zoned to the one she should be at, and it is farther away, (figure that one out!). She would have a ride to school every day if she goes to the one she's zoned to go to. If she goes to the one her sister went to, supposedly, there are people who are more socially acceptable, but there is also stiffer academic competition. Her dad would have to take her every morning, and we would have to ask her grandparents to pick her up every day. Personally, I think that's an imposition, but they did it for their other grandaughter. Most of her friends are going to the school we're zoned to including some upper-classmen she already knows, but a few people she knows are going to the one her sister went to. It's all very confusing. Any advice?

Monday, July 23, 2007

"Wicked!" (for Sunday Scribblings)

From the outside, the house was silhouetted by eerie, yellow moonlight. The gold-plated letter “A” was burnished on the crown of the arched entryway. A row of ornately sculpted columns adorned the veranda. The dormer windows on the second floor reminded me of eyes, evil intent, beckoning me to dare cross the threshold. The rose window caught my attention momentarily, its beauty in contrast to the general atmosphere surrounding the structure. Lightning blazed across the sky sending a spectral glow over the entire home, particularly the widow’s walk at the top of the building.

I could hardly believe it. I had found it! This ancestral home, which I thought only existed in my head, had haunted my worst nightmares for years, and I had never stepped foot inside it. But tonight… tonight, I would. I would dare this house to repeat my dreams to me.

I approached cautiously and tried the knob. The door was unlocked as if the house had actually invited me to enter. The corridors trembled as if heaving a heavy sigh as I entered. I kept reminding myself, “It’s only a house. It’s only a dream.” That was my mantra. My boots echoed dreadfully through the vast hallway as I headed for the stairs. “It’s only a house. It’s only a dream.”

Suddenly, I was jerked backward by an unseen force. Back, back, and back down the hallway I took from the entry. I turned to run, but the door was sealed with a deadbolt locked from within. There was no key in the door. I ran forward down the hall again trying to reach the staircase, but I froze in fear. The walls in the hallway were closing in on me. “I am going to suffocate!” I thought aloud. I pushed on a wall with all my strength trying to keep it from crushing me, as I continued to scoot my way forward. At length, I was free. I was at the stairway, the hallway left behind. I climbed the stairs hurriedly looking for the source of my nightmare. It was something on the second floor, that I was sure of, but I didn’t know what I was looking for. I believed I would know it when I saw it.

When I reached the landing, there was water leaking from the sides of the walls gushing to the floor pooling around my ankles. There were too many leaks to attempt plugging them, so I continued forward to the room straight ahead. There was the soft glow of lamp light emanating from the room, and it drew me near. In my dream, this was the end. I would wake up in a cold sweat having endured the suffocating hallway and the water creating a small river at my feet.

I couldn’t let it end here now. “It’s only a house. It’s only a dream,” I repeated. The door was ajar on the lamp-lit room, and I slowly pushed it further open. It creaked in resistance. There was an oil lamp radiating on a circular table set next to a chair covered in gold brocade. On the right side of the room was an ancient bureau adorned with cologne bottles, a silver brush, and a silver mirror. “Those aren’t what I’m looking for,” I told myself, though how I knew that is a mystery. To the left was an armoire. I would have to open that to see what was inside. Then I realized that the oil lamp was my beacon. Next to it, sitting lonely on the table, I see it! An amulet. This was what would set me free from my nightmares. I grabbed it from the table and jammed it in the pocket of my jeans. My heart sank when I realized I had to find a way out of there.

The hall from which I came was completely flooded with foul-smelling water. Besides, it would lead to the hallway that I care not to enter ever again. There must be another way. I searched the room I was in for clues. There HAD to be some other passage. All of a sudden, the thunder cracked outside the room. A gust of wind blew out the flame of the oil lamp. My heart thudded in my chest, and my palms grew sweatier. Beads of perspiration were forming on my lip. Lightning lit the room every minute or so, and I was able to find my way to a wall and search for some sort of door or entryway to lead me to safety. After about five minutes, I felt a change in the pattern of the wallpaper. It seemed more like paneling, cold and smooth. I groped in darkness waiting for lightning so I could catch a glimpse of what the change meant. Crack! A knob! I turned the knob, and it felt as if someone pushed me through the opening, and I freefell into a dark tunnel of nothingness. My head hit something hard, and I was knocked unconscious.

Two days later, I awoke in my own bedroom just as my friend was walking into the room with a tray. On the tray were tea, biscuits, strawberry jam, and… the amulet! “Where did you get this?” I managed to squeak.

She responded, “We found it in your jeans pocket when we found you lying on the side of the road out near the Interstate. How in the world did you get there? Do you remember anything?”

Oh, I remembered being in the house and finding the amulet, but I didn’t remember a thing after hitting my head. The doctor said I was a lucky lady with only a mild concussion and a few scrapes and scratches. I believe I am a lot more than that.

I believe with all my heart that the amulet saved my life that night. I believe with all my heart that the amulet prevents my nightmare from reoccurring. And I know I shall never part with it, nor will I ever return to that wicked, wicked house.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Like many women, I hate my hair. I seem to have more bad hair days than good ones. Those of us with thin hair want thick, luscious strands. Those with thick hair often get tired of having it thinned. Those of us with straight hair would give our eyeteeth to have flowing, curling locks. Those with curly hair spend countless hours straightening it. It really makes no sense.

I have shoulder length dishwater blonde hair (I always hated that term “dishwater”) with remnants of light blonde highlights. I tried my style with no bangs for a long while. I had to face the fact that my forehead is not pretty enough to go without bangs. And I let my hair become fairly long, but it only looked stringy, and I developed dry, split ends.

My hair is thin and getting thinner with age, thus the title “Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow.” At the rate it’s going, I could be bald in a year! It is also straight (read – flat). Hairdressers with thick hair are always trying to get me to layer it. It doesn’t work. That is why I had the same hairdresser for about fifteen years. She had hair like mine, and she was able to give me flattering styles with minimal fuss. She was also the only one who could get my highlights exactly right. But, she decided to quit her business and enjoy life. My hair misses her mucho.

I’ve always wanted to try a daring, new color, but I am chicken. How about a glossy, chestnut brown or a fiery red? What would be totally amazing would be to be able to choose the style, type, and color of my hair. If I could do that, I would choose a silky shade of dark brunette or a carrot-orange mop of shiny curls. If I could choose any style, it would have to be one with versatility. Long and flowing with soft waves. A pretty updo or twist for the night life. A ponytail for lazy summer days at the beach.

But, alas, these are things than cannot be changed, so I must learn to be content with what I have. I suppose there are far worse things than not liking your hair.

Monday, July 09, 2007

A Slippery One! (for Sunday Scribblings)

“He’s a slippery little eel!” That’s what mama always said about my cousin Jake. From the time he was two years old, and now all these years later, he’s definitely slippery. I don’t know how he does it. Or why. But if he wants something, he is going to get it. And he’ll get away with it! Oh, he might get caught, but he’ll get away with it. He could talk his way out of a mime-fest.

Even in school, he had such charm with the teachers that the lamest excuses would work when he didn’t have his homework. He’d say, “I lost my homework when I got into a fight with Brian over who the best teacher was. He said Mrs. Cook, and I said you. I won.” By the time he went through all the details, the teacher had forgotten what she had asked him. He had such delivery of his lines that it actually worked for him. Or he’d say, “I lost it when I jumped in the river to save my baby sister from drowning.” He’d change the subject so quickly, to how much he loved his baby sister, and how she didn’t know how to swim when she fell in the water, and how it would just kill him if anything ever happened to her, that the teacher would be cooing over his bravery and soft heart instead of being angry at him.

He could always sweet-talk his way out of doing chores. One minute he’d agree to do the dishes and take out the trash, and the next minute he’d be out on the playground with the rest of the kids, somehow using his slippery tricks to get out of any of the hard work. He never would reveal his secrets, though.

It’s funny how he’d be in trouble one minute, and the next minute, you’d be asking him for advice. Like the time when he was fifteen and he took his daddy’s truck out for a joy ride in the middle of the night, probably to see some forbidden sweetheart. Aunt Lilly called momma about 4 in the morning. She was beside herself, and mama had all of us kids get dressed and go over to their house. While Aunt Lily was sick with worry, Uncle Bill was hopping mad! I’ve never seen him so angry! I was afraid he was going to bust that vein that was sticking out on the side of his neck. Along about daylight, here comes Jake meandering up the pebbled driveway like it was the most natural thing in the world.

“Get out of that truck right now, boy!” Uncle Bill hollered at him.

“Yes, sir,” Jake replied.

“You best meet me out back of the garage, son.”

Mama and Aunt Lilly thought Uncle Bill was going to beat his hide. They kept waiting and waiting to hear the bawling until they finally gave up and came back inside with the rest of us kids. About an hour later, here come Uncle Bill and Jake from around the side of the garage. Spying from the windows, my brothers, sisters, and cousins jaws dropped to the floor. Uncle Bill had his arm draped around Jake’s shoulders. The two of them were laughing and grinning, and instead of coming into the house, they headed inside the garage and didn’t reappear for about another three hours. I just smiled. Jake must have spent hours concocting a plan to get himself out of that one. Turned out, they went in the garage so Jake could show his dad how to fix the transmission problem on the truck.

And girlfriends? He never had less than two, but he never got caught. He’d find a date spot a particular young lady enjoyed, and he’d stick to that same place, and no one ever caught on. And he’d never run into both of them in the halls at school. He was too slippery for that!

Luckily, Jake was basically a good kid. With his deception skills, he could have ended up taking a terrible turn down a long road, but he mostly stayed on the straight-and-narrow. No drinking or drugs. No theft. Oh, he could talk a shopkeeper into giving him something he wanted, so he never had to steal. I had my own nickname for him: The silver-tongued devil-cousin.

It should come as no surprise that Jake eventually went off to college and law school and chose a career in politics. As mama always used to say, “He’s a slippery little eel, that Jake!”

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