Monthly Archives: July 2011

Potter’s so hot

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 will hit movie theaters Friday at midnight. In preparation, I have decided to re-read the book — a behemoth-albeit-quick read — prior to watching the last installment. As promised, I also want to share with people — young and old — why this is such a spectacular event.

Last post before I leave for my Harry Potter Extravaganza Night of the Deathly Hallows 1 and 2.

Let’s see, I’ve mentioned how the books are much more than superficial children’s stories. I’ve also mentioned how one of the best characters jumped off the page and was brought to life so brilliantly by a revered thespian.

Honestly, I just don’t have time to sell you on it if you’re not already sold by now. The ultimate barometer — popular culture — has already cast its vote. Its word is golden. No room left for debate.

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Snape to it: Harry Potter’s complex character

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 will hit movie theaters Friday at midnight. In preparation, I have decided to re-read the book — a behemoth-albeit-quick read — prior to watching the last installment. As promised, I also want to share with people — young and old — why this is such a spectacular event.

Naturally, a series that spans more than seven books and thousands of pages will have a hefty number of characters to draw upon.

There are the students, the teachers, the family members, the villains, the officials, the foreigners, the flashback-ers.  The list goes on and on and on.

But of them all, and there are hundreds, by far the best character that Jo Rowling created wasn’t Harry or Dumbledore or Voldemort.  Hands down it’s Snape.  Severus SnapeThe half-blood Prince.

Is he good?  Is he evil?  Is he loyal?  Is he treacherous?  Did he infiltrate the Order or the Death Eaters?

If physical appearance reflects intentions, then he’s definitely shady.  Always in dark robes, slouched with his greasy hair in his face.

If House sorting is a better judge, then he’s definitely suspect.  Snape’s the head of Slytherin House and as Ron put it so succinctly in the Sorcerer’s Stone, “there’s not a witch or wizard who went bad who wasn’t in Slytherin.”

What about ambitions?  The potions professor longed to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts. He waited for years (Book 6) until his wish was granted.  Why the obsession, Snapey?

Nowhere else is there a character that keeps you guessing until the very end… and when that end comes you stop (mouth agape) and let out a long “Ohhhhhhh… I get it. I didn’t see it coming, but I get it.”  Coupled by a, “Daaaamn. That sux.”

Let’s not forget that in the movies he’s played brilliantly by Alan Rickman.  Brilliantly!  How could you hate Alan Rickman??  I dare you to!  Watch the three-minute featurette below and you’ll see why it’s impossible.


Update: The reviews have been consistent. Here’s something from the New York Times:

Pale and unsmiling, his black hair framing his white face like mourning crepe, he has always suggested Laurence Olivier’s Richard III, an ominous thought with children in the vicinity. That Snape has proven worthy of that comparison is partly a tribute to Ms. Rowling, but that he has become such a brilliant screen character is due to Mr. Rickman, who helped elevate a child’s tale of good and evil into a story of human struggle.

Children Schmildren: Harry Potter can teach us all

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 will hit movie theaters Friday at midnight. In preparation, I have decided to re-read the book — a behemoth-albeit-quick read — prior to watching the last installment. As promised, I also want to share with people — young and old — why this is such a spectacular event.

To be sure, the movies have become a phenomenon because of their over-the-top production.  They showcase witches and wizards and the magical world unknown to us mere muggles.  Owls deliver mail.  Sports are played on flying broomsticks.  People hitch rides on the backs of flying hippogriffs (eagle/horse hybrid), thestrals (skeletal winged horse) or dragons.  They duel with wands.

The directors, producers, writers, cast and crew have done a spectacular job creating this landscape.  Nevertheless, they would never have been able to conjure it up on their own (no disrespect).  For that, they needed J.K. Rowling, mastermind and mad genius behind the books.  It’s her world being reimagined in IMAX and 3D.  For that, this first post is dedicated to how amazing the original text is.

If you have never read the books and disregarded them because you considered them a children’s series, you are woefully mistaken.  You should slap yourself on the wrist for, of all things, judging a book by its cover.  Weren’t you taught better?

The books are not a children’s or a young adult’s read.  They are just a read.  There is no adjective preceding it.  It’s a well-written book with serious themes to consider and a commentary on the world we live in.

Take note.

DEATH

Harry’s parents died at the beginning of the series.  Harry is the only known survivor of the killing curse.  Lord Voldemort splits his soul seven times to avoid death and seek immortality.  A prophecy linking Harry and Lord V. states that neither can live while the other survives and that one must kill the other.

Death and its flipside surviving are at the heart of the books.  But it’s more than just a fancy trick to make the read exciting.  It’s about all the emotions that come with it.  Fear of dying.  Coping with loss.  Acceptance as a part of life.

STRATIFICATION

The wizarding world is divided up into purebloods, mixed bloods, squibs and mudbloods.  There is a legitimate hierarchy and Lord V. wants to get rid of those born into non-magical families.  There are other races — house elves, goblins, giants.  At the bottom of the totem pole are the mere muggles, who haven’t the slightest idea that another world exists apart from their own.  When they see something out of the ordinary, like a flying car, they’re confunded into thinking something else.

The stratified society is painted in negative terms.  Those with power and money can trace their lineage to some of the earliest known witches and wizards.  House elves are treated like slaves and their magic (i.e. value) is often overlooked.  Goblins, described with nasty personalities, are charged with keeping money safe, building precious handiwork, like swords and tiaras, but never get a proper place in society.  Regular humans are easily malleable and made to do, see or know whatever witches and wizards want.  Racial prejudice abounds.

ACCEPTANCE and SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

Harry is rejected by his actual family the Dursleys, but accepted with open-arms into the very large, very dynamic Weasleys.  Harry, along with Ron and Hermione, are the few students who accept and befriend Hagrid, the half-giant games keeper.  They stick by his side, even when he’s charged with opening the Chamber of Secrets.  Though ostracized by her classmates for her weird beliefs and nutty accessories, Harry accepts Luna Lovegood in all her crazy glory.

Though mistreated as a child, Harry grows up to be considerate and accepting of others.  He takes it a step further.  Harry sees himself as a protector of the weak.  He won’t stand idly by while watching someone being unfairly treated.  It doesn’t matter if the mistreatment stems from a classmate or a teacher.  If someone is being wronged, he’ll stand up to power to fix it.  Often, alone.

So yes, Harry Potter is set in a world of magic.  The story has an obvious hero in Harry and villain in Lord V.  But it isn’t a straight-up tale of good versus evil fought with wands.  The evil is layered — like in our own world — with varying degrees of intolerance, bigotry and hatred, power-hunger and greed.  In short, the worst of us.  Likewise, good is represented with acceptance, loyalty, stewardship and empathy.  Don’t believe me?  Read and find out for yourself.

PHOTOS (from top): Harry Potter in The Order of the Phoenix holding the prophecy that connects him to Lord Voldemort; Ministry of Magic statue in Deathly Hallows Part 1 with humans in the “rightful place” at the bottom; Luna Lovegood’s sporting headdress for the quidditch match in Half-Blood Prince.

If Baby can do this, put her in a corner

Twice this week, I’ve seen an Olympic goal.  Once on television and once live from the stadium.  One in the most dramatic of situations and one, just slightly less so.  One was from a scrawny teenager and one was from the creme of the soccer crop.  Olympic goals are rare. So rare, I haven’t a clue what they’re called in English. I’m using the Spanish terminology here — gol olimpicoSo here’s a definition:  A straight-to-the goal, unassisted shot off a corner kick.

The first one was earlier in the week during the U-17 World Cup semifinals in Mexico.  Host Mexico was down 2-1 to favorite Germany.  A crazy shot from 16-year-old Jorge Espericueta’s corner in the 76th minute goes high up in the air, arcs perfectly and finds a tiny open spot between goalie, defender and even a fellow teammate rushing to pushing it in, if need be.  Brilliant.

That teammate — Julio Gomez — threw himself into that play and into a player. So hard he ended up bleeding all over the place and needing to bandage his head.  What a way to end a game, right?  Wrong!  Fool came back and, well, here’s a snippet from Dirty Tackle…

Then, to take the already dramatic situation to a level that would even make Hollywood vomit over the sheer perfection of it all, Gomez returned to the pitch with a massive bandage around his head. And on another corner in the 89th minute, Gomez executed an excellent over(bandaged)head kick to score the winner and his second goal of the game.

[btdubs… if you find a replay of this game, watch it. Yeah, they’re kids. But one of the best games I’ve seen]

Onto the second.  It happened last night when the Galaxy were playing Chicago Fire.  Galaxy scored their first goal early on in the second half, but Chicago came back to even things out again.  Then, enter David Beckham. Enough said.  He takes a corner kick; defense kicks it out.  Another corner from the other side of the field.  Beks runs to the other side.  Takes a breath.  Takes a step.  Takes a kick.  Takes a GOL!!!!!

HP: The book you can’t/won’t put down

It never matters what your intentions at the beginning of a journey.  Without a doubt, there will come a time when you’ll have to reevaluate those goals.

Whoa.  That sounded deep.

It’s most definitely true in my case, but not life-altering.  The goal I’m reevaluating is my 2011 resolution where I vowed to read 30 NEW books this year.  Yeah, that’s not gonna happen.  The only way I’ll make it to 30 is if I throw in some beloved re-reads.

The first of the year is my treasured Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  I have to prep for what is a life-altering moment.  Yes, I speak of the release of HP7PT2, the conclusion of a series, the end of an era.

Oh God, I just might cry or scream or hit something out of fury.

These books are amazing and J.K. is ridiculous.  The characters she developed and the world she created exists.  And now that I’m rereading the last book, I can appreciate so much more of it than the first time I read it four years ago.

If you’re on the same page as me, mazel tov.  You know a good thing when you see/read it.  If you’re not, then I’m going to pepper you with nuggets of Why Harry Potter is Awesome.

Not now. Let me get my shit in order.

Mexico comes in 9th and I change my tune… for now

After blazing a trail a victories through the last couple months, Mexico’s national team has punched through to the Top 10 in FIFA’s world rankings.  Vacillating between a meaningless ranking or a prestigious honor (largely dependent on where my team lies), today we’re squarely in the Hell Yeah camp.

Since the last time the rankings were published in May, Mexico jumped 19 points.

Here’s a little bit of history on Mexico, courtesy of FIFA:

  • Best Move: +19 points woohoo
  • Highest Position: 4th place (the latest in May 2006)
  • Worst Position: 33rd place
  • Where we spent most of the year: 27th place
  • Overall average: 13th place

Frankly, the best part about these rankings is that Mexico’s ascendance pushed Argentina down.  It’s petty and nondescript.  But I like seeing Mexico above Argentina after how much they’ve wronged usHello, goal-line technology.

And speaking of Argentina….

That’s a nice little segue into the Copa America that started late last week.  On paper it’s a tournament of the 10 CONMEBOL teams plus two invitees.  This year, it’s Mexico and Costa Rica.  Mexico — of course not one to join a party without a little scandal — is not considered a favorite.  And that’s because this tournament is like a mini World Cup.  Brazil, Uruguay, Chile and, yes, Argentina brought out their A games and A teams.  Slow start with 4 ties in the first matchups, but I fully expect this to rev up soon enough.

If my recommendation isn’t enough, Bleacher Report has five unimpeachable reasons to tune in this month.