Re-Reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Post-Election

I re-read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire last month, and there were many things that stood out to me as very timely in the wake of the election. (Just to be clear, in case my readers are of differing opinions, I view the election of a man who consistently spews racist, sexist, hateful rhetoric, and who has shown a willingness to protect and preserve his own ego and assets but not our national security interests or constitutional integrity, as a very negative event that will harmfully impact much if not all of our citizenry, and which I am committed to mitigating and resisting in every way that I can.)

Oh, and also, this post contains spoilers for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

trump-voldemort-google-image
Google Image results that confirm I’m not the only one making certain comparisons. But maybe it’s more accurate to say Voldemort represents Facism, which has ‘returned’ in a new body despite lots of people having been under the impression it was defeated decades ago

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Media Literacy: The Reader’s Responsibility

In the wake of the election, there’s been a lot of talk about the role that “the media”* or “fake news”** may have played in swaying voters.  This post is not going to talk about what responsibilities “the media” or individual journalists have, but the equally if not more important obligation that you and I have as consumers of news media: media literacy.

I’m pretty sick of hearing people blame “the media” for mass misinformation, or complain about “the biased media,” because the reality is: everything is ‘biased’!  Every news article, every media source, every movie, novel, or piece of art, every social media post you will ever read, has a bias. Much less important than asking “is this media source biased?” is identifying WHAT the bias is in any particular piece you encounter.  When you consume news media, no matter the source, you are not merely being fed a string of informative facts but also a chosen frame through which to interpret those facts. It is OUR responsibility to digest that frame as well as the facts; otherwise we are merely swallowing somebody else’s perspective whole.

bias-fish-bait-pic

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A Thing I Made For My Science Fiction Class

I took a class this semester called “Science, Technology, and Society: Examining the Future through a Science-Fiction Lens.” For our final project we were to answer, in the form of an essay or creative work, the question “How do scientific discoveries, technological advances, and society pressures drive human change?”  I wrote a song about language change on the internet.

It’s not great production value, the video is just an exported PowerPoint, and yes I know that ASL is not the same thing as English so I shouldn’t have included those visuals in the second chorus without making more of a distinction but I was trying to illustrate the “and/or sight” concept and also I was originally just writing about language in general but then switched the subtitle to be English-specific since all my other examples were and now it is too late to change it because I’ve already submitted the link.

Anyway. There are links in the video’s description.

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Party-Planning Anne of Green Gables

When you want to have an Anne of Green Gables party, (because it is of course when, not if), here are my suggestions for elements that you can include, based on recent parties I’ve organized for myself and some of my friends. First of all, PUFFED SLEEVES!  Don’t let Marilla tell you that it’s a waste of fabric. You know watching Anne recite “The Highwayman” at the White Sands hotel and Gilbert lead the standing ovation afterward will be way more fun if you and your friends are wearing giant puffy sleeves while you watch it.  My easy, no-sew tutorial video for sleeves that you can pop on over any outfit is below, (filmed & edited by Bianca Brown–thanks, lady!). The elastic should keep the sleeves on well enough for movie-watching, but if you’re going to be wearing them while being more active, such as three-legged-racing with your new bosom friend or climbing onto roofs to walk ridgepoles on a dare, you may want to use a safety pin or two to hold them in place.

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Thoughts on Twilight’s Gender-Flip

When I heard the news that Stephenie Meyer had re-written Twilight with (nearly) all the characters’ genders swapped, about three things I was absolutely positive; first, this publication would be an immediate target for pop culture ridicule. Second, there was a part of it–and I didn’t yet know how potent that part that might be–that I myself would mock. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably committed to reading that book in full.

Look, I’ve had as much fun as anyone making fun of Twilight in the past, but I’m also willing to defend certain aspects of the series and I definitely don’t think it deserves the amount of ridicule and scorn it gets. I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment expressed in articles like this one by Daniel Kraus, and even the widespread (and totally deserved) criticism of Edward and Bella’s relationship is I think in a way very positive, because the message of how to identify signs of an abusive relationship reached a huge audience through that common frame of reference, and it gave many young readers a context to push against as they grew.  I put myself in this category, too–I devoured the entire series one winter break, and thoroughly enjoyed it even as I recognized it had flaws.  Later I read more analyses and deconstructed it further and became more demanding and critical of relationship portrayals in new stories that I encountered, thanks to what I had learned from and rejected in Twilight. I’m not saying that was Meyer’s intention, I’m saying it’s a legitimate result for me and I believe for many others that was born out of the series.

Does the Green apple signify all the money that Stephenie Meyer is making with this

Does the Green apple signify all the money that Stephenie Meyer is making with this “rewrite”?

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Alternate Title Suggestions for The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies

Even though I had already decided that The Hobbit definitely didn’t need three films, I just want to reiterate that position; having seen the final installment, I remain utterly convinced that it never should have become a trilogy. The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies is entertaining for sure, but like in a “let’s get drunk and watch it with friends while we make sarcastic comments” kind of way. Remember how the last one failed to include the desolating of a certain dragon, even though that was the title? And originally the third film was supposed to be called “There and Back Again”, but it became “Battle of the Five Armies” in a change that Jackson called “completely appropriate.”  I have some suggestions of my own for alternative titles that I believe would have also been completely appropriate:

The Hobbit: More Thranduil Please!

The Hobbit: Every Creature In Middle Earth Is Probably A Mount: A Pig, A Moose, A Goat, A Bat, You Name It!

The Hobbit: My Strange Addiction: Dragon Sickness

The Hobbit: Do I Have To Try To Melt A Dragon To Get A Solid Gold Floor Like That? Because It Looks Awesome

The Hobbit: Everything In Middle Earth Has Been Bred For A Single Purpose (And That Purpose Is War)

The Hobbit: The Laws Of Physics Don’t Apply To Legolas

The Hobbit: Only Half Of The Dwarves Get Speaking Roles

The Hobbit: Martin Freeman Is A Treasure In Every One Of His Scenes Even In This Stupid Movie

The Hobbit: Thirteen Dwarves Without Helmets Make All The Difference In A Literal Battle With FIVE F–KING ARMIES!

The Hobbit: Elvish Fathers And Sons Are Too Pretty To Hug It Out

The Hobbit: It’s Always Eagles To The Rescue At The End Of A Middle Earth Story. IT’S ALWAYS F–KING EAGLES!

MY FAVE! He's so gloriously disdainful of everyone else.

MY FAVE! He’s so gloriously disdainful of everyone else.

(Seriously, can we get a story that is just an exploration of the eagles inner politics and why they never get involved until the last dire minute?) I did like seeing Galadriel wield her ring of power, I LOVED Thranduil and his ostentatious moose, Smaug was terrific, and the credits sequence was beautiful.  But all the good, necessary parts in this bloated, fan-fictiony trilogy could have easily fit into two films, An Unexpected Adventure and There and Back Again.  And the titles would have made more sense.

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Yarn Craft in Catching Fire

There’s really not much doubt in anyone’s mind at this point that Catching Fire is a fantastic film, (it was the highest grossing film of 2013), but did you notice the knitwear theme to Katniss’ wardrobe?  The first time I watched the movie I was sitting next to my friend and fellow yarn-enthusiast bowrene (check out her etsy shop) and she kept hitting me in the arm whenever a new bit of yarn-crafted clothing showed up on screen, whispering things like “look at that cowl!”, “that sweater is gorgeous!” and “this movie is ruining my life!”  Tumblr user feminerds posted a collection of pictures of the knitwear from Katniss’ wardrobe in Catching Fire and captioned it with the brilliant pun “Katknits,” a term I am intensely jealous not to have thought of first.

Readers of the book will know that fashion is a big part of the Capitol audience’s focus surrounding the Hunger Games, and stylists play an important role in the strategy behind a Tribute’s (or Victor’s) public image.  Continue reading

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The Hobbit: Less Desolate On Second Viewing

I was finally able to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug for a second time, and I have to admit it was better watching it again.  Whether that was because I knew what would happen so the disappointment/annoyance wasn’t fresh, or I was able to focus on the elements that I did enjoy since I’d already cataloged the things I didn’t like, I don’t know.  And I did notice a few new things that I didn’t like.  But I don’t want to let my first reaction to the movie be my last post about it, because I neglected to include any of the things that I did like about the film in that post, and there were some really great moments.

I still think the movie is way too long, and there are inclusions that I will never understand–like, do we really need so many lingering shots of the giant bumblebees at Beorn’s house?  And how are the orcs so fast they can keep up with and at times run ahead of the dwarves, who are traveling at the speed of the rushing river?  (And how is there a seemingly never-ending supply of orcs anyway?)

Thranduil is PERFECT, though.  He might be my favorite thing about this movie.  I know I already said that but it was just doubly reinforced watching his scenes a second time.  He’s majestic and petty and knowledgeable but sassy and selfish and beautiful.

perfection

perfection

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Sherlock: ACD’s “A Study in Scarlet” vs. BBC’s “A Study in Pink”

As a fan of the BBC Sherlock show, I recently decided to read Aruthur Conan Doyle’s original mystery stories.  I’ve never read any of them before except for “The Hounds of Baskerville” in a high school English class.  I’m going to tackle them in chronological order of publication, so I started with A Study in Scarlet.  Having finished this first book I can definitely see a lot of exact parallels between it and the first episode of the modernized BBC show, “A Study in Pink,” but also some obvious omissions or alterations.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson

The first episode starts off very similar to the beginning of the first book; John Watson is a recently returned military doctor, wounded in a war in Afghanistan.  I’m not really familiar with the particular war that would have been going on at the time, but I think it’s too sad (that the region is still/again plagued by military unrest over 100 years later) for it to be cool that this factoid lines up perfectly with modern times.   Anyway, everything about the way Watson and Sherlock meet and become roommates happens pretty much exactly the same way in the book as in the show, and one of the first things Watson learns about his soon-to-be companion comes up in this conversation  between a mutual acquaintance and John Watson, about Sherlock Holmes:

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the pages that pagelady read in 2013

Well, 2013 was not the best blogging year for me on here, was it? I’m way behind in writing up posts on the books I’ve read, but it’s a new year now so I have a fresh chance to do better in 2014.  Here’s a summary of the books I read last year and a brief reaction to them.  I still hope to post a full reaction to Allegiant soon, and a book-versus-movie comparison of The Book Thief.

In case you don’t want to read all my sub-cateogires, I’ll put my favorites first:

Favorite New Reads of 2013:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  So overwhelmingly, heart-breakingly beautiful.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancy.  I read this book one Saturday while home alone and the first half of it scared me to death; it seemed like a pretty realistic possible scenario if an alien invasion was to happen on Earth.  The latter half of the book got more cliche and predictable, but I like Cassie, the protagonists, and I’m still interested to see what happens next, although I’m not sure when the sequel is scheduled to be published.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.  As a shy fangirl who is more outgoing online than in real-life social situations, this book’s protagonist was totally relatable to me.  I’ve never really been into fanfic much but I am in multiple fandoms, I know these terms, I understand and partake in these obsessions. Plus, the Nebraska college-town setting was very similar to some of my own experiences in Kansas.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell.  Read this one because I loved Fangirl so much, and it did not disappoint.  From my review:

and i think that maybe it’s partly best explained by the answer Park gives in english class about the longevity of the story of Romeo & Juliet: “because people want to remember what it’s like to be young? and in love,” but this version is maybe a lot more relateable to an audience that isn’t part of a wealthy feuding italian family centuries ago, and to anybody that feels like kind of a misfit.

Rainbow Rowell is officially my new favorite author, not only because of her books but because of her twitter and tumblr which just made me instantly feel like “ah, yes, she’s one of us!“, which is too bad for David Iserson (author of Firecracker), because until I discovered Rainbow Rowell in the last weeks of December he would have been my choice for “favorite new YA author that I started twitter-following in 2013”.  He’s snarky and witty and I did love his book but I feel like I could spazz out about Rowell’s books in real life in front of her and she would be like “I know, me too!” but if I did that about Firecracker in front of Iserson he might just be like “wow, ok…” or say something cynical.

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