Harry Potter

It amuses me that on the same day we all learned that J. K. Rowling's handmade Tales of Beedle the Bard — one of seven copies — sold for nearly $4 million, I (assuming "we" for the major JKR news and "I" for the little nerdtastic stuff) also learned (via Pitchfolk, of course) about this awesome free compilation of Harry Potter-inspired bands rocking against media consolidation. Rocking Out Against Voldemedia is available as one massive zipped file — which, of course, I'm currently downloading. It's all about the free press, man. Voldemort wouldn't like that. (The website is considerably more eloquent about this than I.)

If you've not yet experienced a wizard rock band or twelve, go find yourself some Harry and the Potters, Draco and the Malfoys, Parselmouths, Remus Lupins ... well, if it's a catchy name in the Potterverse, it's probably a band. For serious. And also it's probably kind of awesome.

Good books are not conducive to a proper amout of sleep. Do you hear me, Craig Thompson? I was going to go to bed at a reasonable hour, but then I picked up Blankets and seeing as I was about three-quarters of the way through ... I just kept reading.

And then I couldn't sleep. It's a truly beautiful, heartbreaking, sad, lovely, hopeful book, and it strikes me as an intensely brave work of art, too. Just gorgeous. I also adore Thompson's earlier book, Good-Bye, Chunky Rice, which is one of those things that calls up a very specific memory for me: Sprawling on a blanket in a patch of spring sun in New York's Tompkins Square Park with a pile of comics my friend Toby had lent me. I also read Queen and Country: Operation Broken Ground that day, if memory serves, but it was the story of Chunky Rice, a turtle, and his best friend Dandel that had me sniffling and smiling at the same time. Thompson has a remarkable (though that word is too mellow) knack for the melancholy, the kind of story where change is inevitable, even necessary, but no less painful for that.

But now it's morning, and my coffee cup is empty, and that must mean I've found some interesting reading online, right? Well, sorta. Just a couple of things, really.

• First, something droolworthy: root beer float cupcakes. The same site has recipes for things like pear and bleu cheese cupcakes, which also, not-so-oddly, appeal to me.

• And droolworthy in another way is this set of images from and commentary on the original Oz books at BiblioOdyssey. The site also links to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz online at the Library of Congress, but I'm not clicking on that because, well, I need to do some work today. If only books were still this stunning.

• The Village Voice explores Rudy Giuliani's Five Big Lies about 9/11. I'm sticking this link here despite having not yet read the story, because I think the topic is important (and thus you should read it) and because I want to sit down and read it carefully and in-depth (and thus I don't want to forget about it).

• You realize Stardust opens today, right? And that you should go see it? Walk away from Daddy Day Camp! Don't be tempted by Rush Hour 3!

• If you need more Harry Potter in your life (and honestly, I still do), here are Christopher Hitchens' and Stephen King's takes on the end of the tale. (I confess, I usually can't bear King's Entertainment Weekly column, but I'll give this one a read.)

And with that, dear readers, my need for caffeine has begun to outweigh my love for browsing for more links. These are still pretty ordindary links, from pretty ordinary sources, and I realize that; I've got to get in the swing of things and start finding some funky stuff. Feel free to send in suggestions!

(Also, when I've had more coffee? Links get more commentary.)

OK, so I know there's an empty space in people's lives where they were reading all of the Harry Potter books and rereading obsessively to find out why, say, there's not enough Luna in the final battle or the epilogue or why in the hell ... oh, never mind.

(And the Harry Potter Theme Park isn't open yet either. I look forward to being sorted. Which, it occurs to me, is a lot funnier in British than it is in American. But anyway.)

Point is that people, especially the young ones among us, want something else to read. Something interesting. Something with a brilliant, vivid other world. Something wonderful.

Here are a couple of my faves.

First, as anyone who's seen Ratatouille knows, there's a gorgeous, high-production-value movie coming called The Golden Compass.

That's the film version, one I'm completely excited about, of Philip Pullman's glorious book of the same title (or Northern Lights in the U.K.).

The whole series, rich in world-building and alive with detail and invention, is called His Dark Materials after a line in "Paradise Lost." But more on that later.

Start with Lyra in Golden Compass. She'll take you on an amazing trip.

I just got the fourth and final book (from Molly; thanks, Molly) in Philip Reeve's Hungry City Chronicles quartet. I yelled out "No! No! NOOOOOO!" at the end of the last one, Infernal Devices, and I'm frankly scared to read this one. And it will be good. And I will be sad that it's over.

I don't know why 11 million people would buy HP7 on the first day it was out and not go for Darkling Plain, but I'm excited, nervous, thrilled and quite, quite invested. What happens to Hester?!?!?!?!? I like Tom and I sort of like their daughter, but really, Hester's had a bad deal. WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN?

As Flora Segunda says, "The only way out is through."

Good morning, Friday! With a pale, pale imitation of the Stranger's Slog and the Portland Mercury's Blog Town PDX, here's a tiny news roundup.

1. Rebel college students say, "Fuck your greedy lawsuits, RIAA & ASCAP!" Or more likely, they say, "Hm. I'll just go off-campus to a nice free wireless place and do my file-sharing anyway. And by off-campus, I mean the coffee shop a block away." But here's an idea:
Von Lohmann advocates a system in which universities pay blanket licensing fees directly to record labels to cover their students’ existing download habits.
All right! More fees for students!

2. Bridge rescue dude: The whole country is in love with this guy right now. And I hope that someone, say the Dayton Hudson (aka Target, and no, I'm not linking to them) people, gives the dude the money to get back into that auto mechanic training program he's interested in. You know?

3. Harry Potter is Christ?
Here's a convincing argument that Harry Potter is a Christian series? (Just in case you hadn't noticed how ... oops, sorry, no spoilers here.)
Warning: This column might make you want to read Dante's Divine Comedy. Who says the Harry Potter books aren't gateway drugs? I only wish I could reproduce the crazy Harry Potter/Christ comparison chart I found on Beliefnet. You'll have to go there yourself.

4. Crazy suburban development makes people happy!. Seriously, Oregonian, what in the world is this fluff? I mean, Bridgeport Village?! Oh, oh, wait ... it's all the fault of Californians.

When real estate agent Tom May wants to sell a home in Tualatin, a visit to Bridgeport Village usually cinches the deal. The new, glitzy "lifestyle center" is a big hit, especially with Californians who are excited to see high-end boutiques that are rare elsewhere in Oregon.
...
Yet, residents still don't have a central gathering spot like a community or recreation center. The city's downtown, the Tualatin Commons, holds a man-made lake surrounded by condos and apartments. But downtown has few restaurants and stores, and many people driving through the city do not realize a lake even exists.

5. Small town police are harder on illegal immigrants than Seattle police. What are the consequences?

One police officer says she enjoys working "hand in hand" with ICE. An attorney says, and I quote the article here, immigrants are being turned over to ICE even in cases where local police aren't prepared to bring criminal charges against them.

That's cheery. Maybe I'll end on a cheerier note. For instance, the Saturday Market corn guy will probably be there this weekend, which means yum. I mean nom.

Enjoy your weekends, people!

• Confession: I've never read Beowulf. However, the trailer — stellar cast aside — doesn't exactly make me seventeen kinds of excited for the movie. Note to Zemeckis: That Polar Express-style animation? It still looks stupid, even when you're doing strange things to an ancient classic instead of ruining a classic children's book.

• In alt-weekly news, the Chicago Reader has been sold to Creative Loafing, which publishes papers in Atlanta, Charlotte, Tampa and Sarasota. Blog reaction from the Reader is here.

It's really good that Molly works here so I can run into her office or chat her about every little detail of every little plot point and writing choice (some OK, some very bad) in my library copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Molly is writing about it for our, you know, print edition, but I want to talk now!

No spoilers here. Only some disappointment in the writing, the plotting, the plan and narrative arc.

When I figure out how to do a jump/cut? Then we'll get spoilers!

Also: Going to see OSU's Much Ado About Nothing tonight. Is not my favorite Shakespeare (I confess, sinkingly, to adoring the language of Richard II and the whole thing, plus Tom Stoppard commentary, of Hamlet), but I look forward to the Rosie the Riveter uniforms of some of the actors (or so the press release said!).

I've finished.

It was worth it and then some.

I can't wait to get through this busy week and start all over again.

I thought it was such a good idea to blog reading Deathly Hallows. I thought it'd be all this, that and the other thing every hundred pages or so.

I CAN'T TEAR MYSELF AWAY.

Not to do other work that needs doing. Not for the complicated project. Not to clean the house for the friend that's coming tomorrow. I did make dinner, and then I ate too much of it (downright decadent homemade mac & cheese, if you were curious).

Even now, the book is calling. Things are happening. Darkness and strife. Excitement and downtime.

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