Harry Potter and the Illiterate Wizards: Part II

*Warning: Spoilers for all seven Harry Potter books and movies follow. If you haven’t read the complete series, step away from the computer. Also, did you have a childhood?

On Monday I talked about some major failings in the wizarding educational system.  Today I’m going to discuss another huge absurdity in the Harry Potter universe that I only considered as an adult. Namely…

2. Cultural Xenophobia and Market Blindness

I mean, no one thought this turban was questionable headgear...

I mean, no one thought this turban
was questionable headgear…

First, I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that witches and wizards are a global minority. Considering the fact that Hogwarts is the only wizarding school in all of Britain, and every magical child is obliged to attend, and all the wizarding families all know one another…yeah, definitely a global minority. Now let’s take a look at the wizarding community’s relationship with the Muggle world. That’s right–they don’t have one. Witches and wizards actively eschew any dealings with the Muggle world, and when a witch or wizard (like Arthur Weasley) shows any interest in the technology or culture of Muggles he is assumed to be a bit mental and generally shunned. And that’s the best case scenario.

And when forced to go out and interact with the Muggle world, witches and wizards seemingly take great pains to dress like idiots. The Minister of Magic himself, who is the only prominent magical personage to have any official dealings with the Muggle world, is described as wearing a pinstriped suit, scarlet tie, long black travelling cloak, pointed purple boots, and lime green bowler hat. Lime green bowler hat? Really? Where would one even acquire such a thing? It seems to be a badge of pride in the wizarding world to have absolutely no clue about Muggle customs or culture, and behave as though Muggles don’t exist, despite the fact that they outnumber the wizarding community a thousand to one. read more…

Harry Potter and the Illiterate Wizards: Part I

*Warning: Spoilers for all seven Harry Potter books and movies follow. If you haven’t read the complete series, step away from the computer. Also, shame on you.



Let me preface this post with this statement: I love Harry Potter. My granny gave me The Sorceror’s Stone as a Christmas present when I was eleven, and I was hooked. Harry and friends aged at almost the exact same rate as I did. When I turned twelve having never received a Hogwarts acceptance letter, I was secretly devastated. I was nearly fourteen when Harry, also aged fourteen, entered the Triwizard Tournament, and fifteen when Harry suffered the great loss of his godfather and battled Voldemort at the Ministry of Magic. I have reread most of the books countless times, attended midnight book releases, gone to midnight film screenings and read Harry Potter fan-fiction. I am, for better or for worse, a fangirl.

But while my love for Harry Potter has not lessened as I’ve matured, my ability to be more realistic about certain aspects of J. K. Rowling’s beloved series has grown. Now, when I look back on the series or rewatch the films I find myself bothered by certain facets of Harry’s world. So, with no further ado, I present to you: the first of three absurdities in Harry Potter’s world that I only considered when I was an adult.

read more…


Oh dear, I’ve just remembered that I’ve forgotten (?) to write a blog post today. Now it’s almost bed-time and I have absolutely nothing to write about. I could try to pull together a review of a book in a few minutes, but honestly I doubt it would do the book or the author justice. Bad literary karma, you know.

Instead, I will leave you with this inspiring video. Sometimes you just need someone to remind you that if you believe in yourself, you will get the hang of it! (Also, thumbs up for rock n’ roll.)

Sticks ‘n Stones

Sticks and stones will break my bones
But words will never hurt me.

Sticks and stones....

Sticks and stones….

How many times do we hear this growing up? I don’t remember the first time I heard this simple rhyme, but I know that I have heard it hundreds of times since. And on one level, it is excellent common sense: don’t let someone get a rise out of you, don’t retaliate with violence, don’t freak out over an insult. But on another level, it is one of the most mind-bogglingly false adages out there. Because words hurt. Sometimes far more than a simple broken bone.

Yes, sticks and stones may break a person’s bones, but interestingly enough, the human body does not remember pain. The brain can remember having been in pain, and the emotions surrounding that pain, but the actual physical discomfort cannot be conjured up again without actually inflicting the same pain on the same nerves in the same way. So a broken bone will knit. A bruise will fade. A cut will heal. But anyone who has ever been badly wounded by a carefully chosen sentence or two will know that it is not so with words. The memory of an insult, criticism, or verbal abuse can sting or even damage long after the moment has passed. Often, it will even grow worse with time, burrowing deep into the psyche until nothing can dislodge it.

read more…

How (Not) To Begin a Story

Happy Monday, internetz! I think I’m coming down with something and my brain isn’t functioning properly, so it’s gonna be a short one today. Inspired by bad prologues, pilot episodes, and opening sequences the world over, I give you…

How To Begin a Story in 7 Easy Steps*

1. Flashbacks! Why limit yourself to only one flashback? Start off nice and easy with the first flashback, and then once you’re inside that flashback why not flashback another few years? Then, try a century or two! The more flashbacks, the better.

2. Stereotypes! Listen up folks, this one is important. This is the beginning of your novel. How will anyone be able to relate to your characters if they aren’t obvious stereotypes? Pick conventional archetypes that everyone will be able to recognize. You’ll need a bitchy cheerleader (remember, lipgloss makes you evil), a sensitive guitar-player (no one’s noticed he’s handsome because he’s quiet and writes poetry), an arrogant rich boy (only the right girl can redeem his damaged soul), and a manic pixie dream girl (she makes her own clothes). Voila! A perfect cast of conveniently pigeon-hole-able characters.

3. Disjointed Mythologies! There are so many world mythologies, and it can be tempting to just pick one. Don’t do it! Use them all. Norse, Greek, Japanese, Judeo-Christian–jam them all together! But don’t bother synthesizing them into one coherent hybrid mythology. Are you kidding? That would be way too much effort.

read more…

Ode to Midnight Feasts

Reading, glorious reading. Illustration by Jon Whitcomb

Reading, glorious reading.
Illustration by Jon Whitcomb

My friend and fellow writer Emmie Mears recently started a Facebook thread about beloved childhood books that quickly spiralled out of control. As soon as I thought I’d remembered all of my favorite books from my youth I thought of another cherished novel or series that had made an impression on me. The Chronicles of Narnia; Into the Land of the Unicorns; the Dark is Rising Series; Redwall; Harry Potter. Each remembrance filled me with a warm nostalgia for days spent curled up in the sunshine, lost in the thrilling pages of some new saga.  But with each new remembrance came a recognition of a thread winding through all these childhood favorites: food.

Yes, food. Midnight feasts in cloistered dormitories. Exultant banquets celebrating the return of the unvanquished hero. Small sweets shared as a token of blossoming friendship. Children’s books celebrate food almost incessantly. Think of your favorite childhood novel and I can almost guarantee that at one point or another the characters will share in some ceremonial exchange of food.

read more…

Pleasure in Fear: The Horror Genre

I should not have googled "under bed scary." *hides under covers*

I should not have googled “under bed scary.”
*hides under covers*

When I was about eight, a babysitter (who had apparently not been briefed on my parents’ ban on all things violent and scary) told me a scary story at bedtime. It was a variation on a classic theme: a young girl is left home alone with no one but her faithful dog. She is woken in the middle of the night by the sound of a leaky tap in the bathroom, but is too frightened to get up and shut it off. She reaches down to her dog, who licks her hand in reassurance. She drifts off to sleep. When her parents arrive home the next day, they find their daughter murdered in her bed, and her faithful dog gutted and dripping in the shower. A cryptic message is scrawled across the wall in blood: Humans can lick too.

With the wisdom granted by adulthood, I can now see that there are some glaring inconsistencies in this story. For instance, why would the murderer slay the girl’s dog and then hide under her bed for an indeterminate amount of time? Was he hoping for the opportunity to lick her hand? Did the message hold some kind of significance for her parents, and if not, why bother writing it? Neither the cleverest nor the most original tale, I’m afraid. But despite all that, I can say with complete honesty that this story terrified me.

Scared. Me. Shitless.

read more…

Onward! Upward!

A lovely sunny day on the Thames

A lovely sunny day on the Thames

Hello again! It has been quite a busy month, but I am happy to say that I am still alive and am ready to start blogging regularly once more! Furthermore, I am able to report that spring has officially sprung in London! Blue skies…tulips blooming in Regent’s Park…sunshine! O, frabjous day! Calloo! Callay!

Ahem. Dear me, I fear I’ve gotten a bit over-excited about the reappearance of that beamish substance known as sunshine. I’m afraid it has been a long, cold, wet, gray sort of winter here in Her Majesty’s England, and considering the fact that May is just around the corner, I think I’m entitled to a bit of childish glee when faced the with the prospect of short sleeves and bare feet. Pardon me while I take a moment to gyre and gimble in the wabe.

read more…

Break-ing Bad?

Get it? 'Bear' with me?

Get it? ‘Bear’ with me?

Hello all! I’m working a temporary job that is quite intensive; I thought I might be able to keep up a regular blog schedule but I don’t think I will be able to after all. Bear with me for the next two weeks, and after that I promise to get back to a regular blog schedule! Thanks for your patience.

Childhood Inspirations: The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T

I’ve been thinking quite a lot recently about my penchant for fantastical aesthetics and surrealistic landscapes, and what, if any, part my upbringing may have had in inculcating those preferences.

Chris Van Allsburg was one of my favorites.

Chris Van Allsburg was one of my favorites.

I was always a creative child, and that creativity was fostered by my parents sending my to Waldorf School, where art, music and all things creative are inseparable from the instruction of less artistic skills like history and mathematics. I also loved reading, even before I could read on my own–my parents used to read to me before bed every night, lush picture books, C. S. Lewis, and later, the Prydain Chronicles and His Dark Materials. And once I could read on my own, I devoured books. Just to give you an idea of my voracious literary appetite, my sixth grade English teacher challenged my class to read and track 50 books over the course of the school year; imagine her surprise when I turned in my list after barely a month and asked for another sheet on which to keep track of my reading.

Intrigued yet?

Intrigued yet?

But among all the amazing art and fiction I consumed in my childhood, one particular thing stands out as having had a huge impact on my delight in all things phantasmagorical. That thing is a musical film, entitled ‘The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T.’ Released in 1953, the movie is created and written by Theodor Seuss Geisel (better known to the world as Dr. Seuss) and is the only live action feature film Dr. Seuss ever created. And did I mention it is a musical? Featuring a bizarre fantasy world right out of one of Seuss’ picture books, the film follows a young boy by the name of Bart Collins, who stumbles into a nightmare world where his strict piano teacher, Dr. Terwilliker, rules with an iron fist.

The Terwilliker Institute.

The Terwilliker Institute.

At the surreal Terwilliker Institute, Dr. Terwilliker is an autocratic madman bent on ruling the world through piano music. The grand hall of the institute features a massive 500 person piano, on which Dr. T intends to force Bart and 499 other boys (hence the 5,000 fingers) to play with no respite. Furthermore, Dr. T has imprisoned all non-piano-playing musicians in a vast subterranean dungeon, where he systematically tortures them for no better reason than they picked the wrong instrument. And worst of all, Dr. T has used his ominous powers to hypnotize Bart’s beautiful mother, Heloise, into being his assistant and bride-to-be!

read more…