Friday, July 27, 2007

That would be the present mommy wants

So Mr. Fraulein has been in Europe for five days on a work trip, and the Peanut is soldiering on even though she misses him terribly. But we've been talking to him on the phone every night, and he has promised to bring her a special surprise. Last night I asked her if she wanted to guess what it might be.

"A new car!" she shouted.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Harry Potter and the Scarily Accurate Allegory

Now plowing my way through "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," and, as always, I'm amazed at the level of detail--and accuracy--in Rowling's allegorical juxtaposition of the political strife in the wizard world with actual current events. Whatever criticisms you can make of her as a writer (and, though I haven't yet finished it, I'm already convinced this one could have been edited with a much heavier hand) you can't doubt her skill in this area. She's got Orwell's instinct for using fiction to make a political point.

This series may have started long before 9/11, but it would never have finished the way it does if not for the events of the last few years. There would be no corrupt Ministry of Magic without Abu Ghraib, no morally bankrupt Daily Prophet without FOX News.

Also, the "Lord of the Rings" references are even thicker on the ground than usual in this installment, which is saying something, since Tolkien's influence is all over the earlier books too. But again, you've got to hand it to Rowling--she's also making nods to C.S. Lewis, the New Testament, the Star Wars movies, and her beloved Jane Austen here. And sticking the anteroom to the afterlife in King's Cross station was a marvelously Woolfian touch. Of course, Rowling is pulling not just from fiction (and, as I've said, current events) but from history. The Nazi imagery and metaphors are everywhere, and they're like a punch to the gut. The "Magic is Might" and "Muggle-born Registration Commission" chapters took my breath away.

And it's not giving away too much to note that the stunning thing about the passage where Harry expresses an explicitly suicidal thought was that this was the first time I could recall him longing for death, in the entire series.

I wonder what else Rowling has up her sleeve, once she moves on from the Potterverse and takes on a new topic. It should be pretty exciting to see.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Sports builds character!

Why are so many professional athletes such unremitting dirtbags?

Vick Indicted Over Alleged Dogfighting

HANK KURZ Jr. July 18, 2007 07:39 AM EST
RICHMOND, Va. — NFL star Michael Vick was indicted by a federal grand jury Tuesday on charges of sponsoring a dogfighting operation so grisly the losers either died in the pit or sometimes were electrocuted, drowned, hanged or shot.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Thoughts on Potter

Some random observations on the new movie of "Order of the Phoenix," plus my "Deathly Hallows" predictions (for what it's worth):

  • I LOVED what the filmmakers did in telescoping the opening scenes of "Phoenix" into a single confrontation between Harry and Dudley on the playground. That scene was so moving that I'm still haunted by it, days later. The kid who plays Dudley is maturing into quite a powerful actor. (Dudley's thug-lite costume was a brilliant touch too.) To my thinking, Harry's longing for his dead parents is the absolute emotional heart of the series--everything else that happens in the books stems from, or is somehow related to, that issue of loss. They really nailed this aspect of the series in the new film.
  • I understand why they had to cut out the Quidditch, but why such severe chopping of the scene of Fred and George's flight to freedom? They obviously spent a gajillion dollars on the CGI for that scene anyway. Adding five more minutes of dialogue from the novel wouldn't have broken the bank.
  • I realize it specifically says in the book that the re-born Voldemort has no nose, only slits for nostrils, but what they've done with the makeup on Ralph Fiennes to pull this off in the film makes Voldemort look more silly than menacing. I just don't find it that scary, and that's a big problem, given that this is supposed to be the most frightening villain of all time.
  • I wasn't that thrilled with Helena Bonham-Carter as Bellatrix. The dominatrix look they gave her was not at all how I pictured the character. She should have been much more posh--like a member of the royal family gone horribly bad, and coming apart at the seams. The overly sexy thing didn't quite work.
  • As Hausfrau pointed out--why no mention of the Percy subplot? And why so little exposition about what the Order of the Phoenix actually does?
  • That said, I very much liked the scene of the final confrontation at the Department of Mysteries. Did anyone else catch Sirius saying, "Nice one, James" as he fought alongside Harry--mistaking him for his father? In the book it's just "Nice one." Very poignant adaptation of the original text. And the portion of this scene where Voldemort is possessing Harry, and they replayed actual footage of the trio as younger kids, made me bawl--so moving.

Final book predictions:

  • Hagrid is going to die fighting for the Order. As will Neville--but not before he dispatches Bellatrix in what I expect will be a powerfully emotional scene. I'm also not convinced Luna is going to make it out alive.
  • Snape is on the side of good but, regardless, is a horrible person, and will remain so until nearly the end, when Snape will die a hero's death performing some critical act that will enable Harry to kill Voldemort yet not die himself in the process. If Harry's scar is a Horcrux, Snape will turn out to be the only one who will know how to destroy it without killing Harry, but something will go wrong in the process and Snape will die.
  • I think Ron and Hermione will make it, but on the other hand, we know some other major character is going to get the axe, so...if one of them dies I'm not going to be hugely surprised either.
  • I'm not going to be shocked if somehow Sirius comes back, if only for a visit. I think it's very significant that in the book, his "death" is accompanied by neither an "Avada Kedavra" nor a flash of green light.
  • It should go without saying, but Voldemort is toast.


OK, so I was wrong on several counts, but right on a few crucial things. And while Bellatrix's end was undoubtedly satisfying as Rowling conceived it, why in the name of Merlin's most baggy Y-fronts (as Ron would say) wasn't Neville the one to kill her??? I was extremely disappointed by that.

Monday, July 09, 2007

No sex reassignment surgery in our future

This weekend I took the Peanut for a day trip to the seaside. As she usually does, the Peanut kept up a non-stop banter for the hour-plus ride. She likes to have a brief back and forth on a given topic followed by a series of declarative (non sequitur) statements. Such as:

"I'm not going to be a boy, ever."

"Um, that's right. You're always going to be a girl," I responded. It was as if this had just occurred to her. She sounded pretty psyched about it.

"And when I'm a big person, I can be a mommy, and take care of my babies," she said.

"I bet you'll be a great mom," I said. And I meant

Friday, July 06, 2007


May there be a special place in hell for these two. And for the fuckup cops who "accepted the mother's story" that her 3-year-old child got scratched by the cat rather than beaten to a pulp by her scumbag boyfriend. Nice.

Five years

Mr. Fraulein and I have been married five years, so to celebrate we took a trip to Martha's Vineyard, sans Peanut. This was our first overnight trip without her, and we weren't sure how it would go, but she handled the whole thing like a champ. The friends who tag-teamed to take care of her for the three-day weekend said she behaved admirably--not a single time-out over the whole weekend, which is clearly some kind of record.

So off we went, taking the ferry from Hyannis to Oak Bluffs, which has a honky-tonk side reminiscent of the Jersey shore. We stayed at this place, which was delightful. And ate the best meal we've had in years here. For dessert we had a creamy cheesecake-y concoction that was filled with lemon curd and fresh berries--awesome. We're still talking about it. I'm going to see if I can recreate it at home.

So amazing, after nearly three years of non-stop parental craziness, to have time to sit and read a book and to look at the ocean and just be.

And then we came home and the Peanut ran down the courtyard to greet us, arms outstretched, grinning and yelling. Lately she's taken to shouting, "I love my mom! I love my dad!" She's getting taller by the minute and her hair is finally getting longer. It's got a little curl in it like mine did when I was a kid. Her eyes are still like melted chocolate, and she giggles all the time. She is delicious. It was so lovely to come back home to her.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Save America