Sunday, July 17, 2005

Stress, Heat, and Harry Potter

[Note: For the "Harry Potter" portion of this entry, there will be spoilers below, although I would suggest that anybody who seriously wants to avoid Harry Potter spoilers shouldn't be online anyway!]

I don't know if I've spent a period online in the last five years that I felt more unengaged with what's happening online -- partly because even before I was torn away by real life commitments, I hadn't been doing much. I haven't been paying much attention to the real-world news either. Grandma saw an interview with Juan, where he gave what-for to a real Neanderthal, apparently -- and I'm like, "O.K., I'll catch it online sometime". I'm not doing anything right now, other than behind-the-scenes moderation where I have a commitment to do that.

Part of it has been stress; things with the job haven't gone as well as I'd hoped -- although, I knew from the outset I was dealing with a tough group of kids. It's been damn hard work, and if I'd tried something like this before having a few years subbing experience under my belt, I would have completely fallen apart. However, I've written some minor things that have gone over well; I left a contributor to a newsletter who was extremely sensitive about editing, positively beaming over what I'd done with his article.

The weather has been unbearably hot, with day after day of temps over 100 degrees for the last two weeks, and no end in sight. It was 113 today. This is not especially unusual, although the last few summers have been milder. The record summer high is 122. I'm in a broad valley flanked by mountain ranges; it's like living in a reflector oven. We are far away from ocean breezes. For those of you who live in different climates, when things get this hot, people get short on energy, and short of temper. It's tough to sleep at night. Trevor is living upside down -- awake all night, and sleeping during the heat of the day; Tory spends as much time as she can at the public pool. I really feel sorry for people who have to do physical labor in heat like this. My only comfort is thinking of the soldiers in Iraq, who face even hotter temperatures -- and don't have the luxury of complaining under swamp coolers and fans.

With life being stressful, I've been veering towards mindless entertainment when I do have spare time. There are times when one just needs to veg out. Most of the time, Jim rules the television, with the kids being second-in-command, but I've been watching "The Closer", and "Into the West".

Then, of course, there's *Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince*-- which, just in case you've been living under a rock, was released Saturday admist unprecedented hoopla. The fun part, for me, has been that it's something I've been able to share with my son. He's at an age when kids seem to be beings from another planet, and it's nice to have something to enjoy together. I'm also of the opinion that one must be an adult to truly appreciate children's literature. One of the perks of being a teacher is "read-alouds" of some of the best stories around.

Trevor and I aren't hung up on spoilers. To me, there are very few books or movies that are "spoiled" by knowing what happens. Something like *The Sixth Sense* where one's whole perceptions of the film would be altered would be spoiled by knowing the end, but very few other things would bother me. The part that matters is the experience. So, Trevor and I eagerly watched the chapter synopses appear on wikipedia that night, not knowing whether we'd have a key to a locker (meaning we'd get the book Saturday as ordered), or whether I'd find a card (meaning we'd have to wait until Monday for the post office to be open).

My comments:

-My favorite of the books is still *Prisoner of Azkaban*, and this new book has not altered my opinion.
-It's nice to see Harry behaving a bit more maturely; the adolescent angst was laid on so thick in *Order of the Phoenix* that he was almost unbearably irritating. That it was so realistic, though, is probably a tribute to Rowling's writing rather than a criticism.
-Favorite scenes: When Harry tells the Ministry to take a flying leap, showing the hand scarred by Umbridge's pen; McGonogall telling Neville that his grandmother should be "proud of the grandson she has instead of the one she thinks she ought to have"; the glasses knocking against the Dursley's heads, asking to be drunk; Kreacher and Dobby fighting; Harry supporting the weakened Dumbledore in the cave.
- Unlike some fans, I'm not an ardent "shipper", but I was glad to see Harry hook up with Ginny, and the friendly break-up at the end only makes sense, considering the dangers yet ahead.
-Although it was great to see all the backstory about Voldemort, I was disappointed that so many other questions about other characters have not yet been answered. I guess that Rowling's promise that "there will be all the backstory necessary" will be fulfilled in the last book. In fact, there is a hint of that, as Harry prepares to return to Godric's Hollow.
-Somehow Snape declaring himself "the Half-Blood Prince" just didn't ring right; he doesn't seem the type to make grand declarations about himself. Oh, he's got an ego, but he tends to tear others down while demonstrating his own capabilities, rather than bragging about them.. The fans that are still trying to make Snape out to be a secret good guy are crazy; there was clear foreshadowing in Dumbledore's statement that he makes big mistakes sometimes -- and he made one about Snape, end of story.