Thursday, October 10, 2013

Basilisks and other Delights

 I have plenty to say about chapter 16..but first, I just want to brag a bit.

 My potions are ready:

Both recipes:

Our Love Potion (otherwise know as the Elixir for Reduced Internal Chatter and Lowered Inhibitions) is deliciously complete and ready for shipping to those in need. Unless I drink it all and wind up reliving A Midsummer Night’s Dream in my magical-haze, in which case, you’ll need to brew your own. Gather a handful dried Siberian Ginseng, 4 pieces candied ginger, a stick of cinnamon, a split vanilla bean, and five cardamom pods (peel then and drop the seeds on by one into a quart jar with the rest of the herbs and spices. Four dried apricots and an optional three dried cherries are then added to the jar. Pour a cup of good vodka (or cheap, if you like that extra ‘bite’) and a cup of brandy (never use flavored brandy of any sort - especially coffee-flavored brandy!) and a half cup of raw honey. You can also add up to a half cup of distilled water to make a less potent version if you fear overdoing it on the pure potion (there is no shame in that!). Cap the jar tightly and shake well to mingle the flavors and set to rest in an appropriate environment (under the moon, in a cobwebby corner, in the soft light of the rising sun..) Shake and move the jar daily - this potion gets bored quickly- to keep the ingredient will mixed. Taste in 21 days, and if it passes muster - cork it and prepare to enjoy the bliss of a mind quieted by magic. 

The pepperup potion is still around as well! Though I've discovered that when you use really cheap vodka, it's best to use about 3 more peppercorns and an added hour of steeping time. And I used really cheap vodka. But apart from that minor mishap, it's a delicious success. We have two little bottles. And it displays so well!

So while you're stirring a potion of your own, let's talk about The Basilisk. My absolute favorite Harry Potter meme can finally come into the discussion:

From HarryPotterHumor

hahahahahaha!!! I've been holding on to that one since before there even was a Harry Potter book-club! I love it. But more seriously..and even without catchy memes, I think the Basilisk is one of Rowling's biggest successes - myth and symbolism-wise. She pulls a major win here. I know, I know..the actual myth is less dramatic, but you know, artistic license is a pretty essential aspect of storytelling, and unlike some, I'm not about to fault her for a bit of creativity. We haven't exactly seen the basilisk yet - he's still hiding out in the Chamber, but his whole creeping through the pipes of the castle, trying desperately to kill with a glance is delightful. As is the exceptional luck of all Hogwart's students (leading me to wonder about protective spells and charms within the school itself). But, for those like our friend at Unexplained Mysteries (see above link), disappointed with Rowling's basilisk - there are battles worth fighting against Rowling's adaptations, this isn't one of them. Sit back, relax (try some of my potion!), and remember that despite not falling exactly into line with past incarnations, Rowling's basilisk is - at heart - every bit as beautifully evil as any other (though I agree, the sneaky weasel is a way better foe for it than a rooster's crow - best would be having Ron Weasley represent the weasel and kill it..but...well..SPOILER!

The point is, that myth is always semi-fluid, it's the deeper symbolism that ties it all together more than the externals. The real myths of the basilisk are so varied themselves that it seems more nit-picky than even I want to be to cry foul on this particular incarnation. Especially when, at heart, the book's version is a match. Rowling's basilisk is like myth itself - altered by time and place, decorated through her own imagination, and yet an obvious descendent of it's namesake. So Congratulations from me, J.k., on a job well done here. But don't worry, I'll chew her out for something else soon. Promise. 

for now, I'm just having too much fun being Gothic!

 But tell me. WHY exactly do Harry and Ron go to the teacher's loung to talk to McGonagall, overhear everything, then leave without telling her anything at all, and then (as if they can't get any dumber) go to talk to Lockhart of all people - knowing full well he's a hopeless failure. Is there a reason - aside from moving the plot along - that they would do that? Because I can't see one. Ron? Harry? Did your brains die right there in the staffroom?  Hmmm??

Moaning Myrtle - can you tell I'm having an easy time loading pictures?

 Moaning Myrtle is another win for Rowling. Maybe that's why I enjoy this book so much. She writes the house-elves, so I have something to cling to in my Un-Fan-ness, but then she has the basilisk, the dueling club, and Myrtle - whose life is so pathetic, so full of small miseries, and then death..and her death is full of the same collection of small miseries! She's a fantastic character. So very mundane - proof, at least, that it's not only muggles in the series who fail so completely at life.


Monday, October 7, 2013

Reflections: Saint and Pope

I wonder if some of us American Catholics are going to lose our fondness for St. Francis during this pontificate. So many bloggers and Catholic media personalities are tending toward the "I love him but.." line regarding Pope Francis, that I think we're going to discover just how much we don't actually love the Franciscan spirit when it's lived out right before our eyes. I know I often don't.  St. Francis was God's fool, and that foolish, full-hearted sort of love is terrifying, challenging, overwhelming; it leads us, like St. Francis himself, to strip naked before the whole world and fling ourselves as babes into the arms of God.  Francis embraced martyrdom, poverty, pain, and misunderstanding in an attempt to walk after Christ as a living icon.

 "[Francis] is great because he is everything. He is a man who wants to do things, wants to build, he founded an order and its rules, he is an itinerant and a missionary, a poet and a prophet, he is mystical. He found evil in himself and rooted it out. He loved nature, animals, the blade of grass on the lawn and the birds flying in the sky. But above all her loved people, children, old people, women. He is the most shining example of ..agape"*

Like Francis, this pope is making himself comfortable naked before God and man. He's not trying to show anything, I think, so much as he's simply being himself before God, and God's poor sinner before man. He's decided that he fears being misunderstood and misrepresented less than he fears that each person he interacts with will not see the love of God in him. And so he embraces everyone with that holy promiscuity Francis himself was know for. Every person, not every thing. And the distinction is always there for him. Pope Francis does not seem careful in his words in the thoughtful way a Thomas More, a Thomas Aquinas, or a Benedict XVI might be, his words are careful of their own free will, because they come from a soul already defined, and they are careless because he's chosen to allow them to be. Because this is his calling: to rebuild the Church, not as merely the guardian of morals, but as the true home of each and every soul. And we are a world that misreads careful words as cold and unloving. We need a chance to come home first - to be like that poor, wild boy in the parable, who's father ask questions another day; after the party, after the joyful embrace, after he's fed his starving boy, bathed him, clothed him, and loved him back into safety. 

 "I will show the way, He said. Follow Me and you will find the Father and you will all be his children and he will take delight in you. Agape, the love of each of us for the other, from the closest to the furthest, is in fact the only way that Jesus has given us to find the way of Salvation and of the Beatitudes."*

I am often uncomfortable with those formed by St. Francis. I'm torn between the desire to imitated and the knowledge that this is not my call, not my charism. But I love the squirming sense it gives me, that love really is the answer. And that love doesn't require niceness so much as holiness. And all of us, from the crustiest old imitators of Padre Pio, to the all embracing daughters of Mary Magdalene are called to be holy.

* both quotations are from Pope Francis' interview with Eugenio Scalfari


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Harry Potter again at last! (Oh my goodness, really, I wrote that!?!)

I LOVE these memes!
Poor Harry is getting neglected. I suppose it's best we spend the busy autumn months being slow with book two, as so many conversations and long discussions aren't likely to come up until later in the series, but still, I feel neglectful. My brain has been all in a haze thanks to my husband's long hours, my daughter's enthusiasm, and everything that needs to be done before winter sets in. 

Jenna's recent post, thankfully, brought something to my attention though that I think would be so interesting to discuss. I think we've mentioned Rowling's successful use of place, regarding especially the Hogwart's castle. In this book we see the strength of place growing as we see both Harry and Riddle's relationship to the school. Both boys obviously see Hogwarts as home. And there is a sort of magic to home, both in the series and in reality. Being rooted to a place is powerful and leaves a mark on both the person and the place. It seems too that Dumbledore is very much at home in Hogwarts. It is his place as well. Rowling shows it best when she gives us a glimpse of the school's previous headmaster: Armando Dippet. Dippet is kind, and I'm sure very competent, but he doesn't infuse the school with his presence the way Dumbledore does. The sense is that Dumbledore's emotional connection to the school is similar to Harry's and to Riddle's. It's his place, and because it is his: emotionally as well as vocationally, the change in official status does nothing to damage his magical link to the school and it's students. It's a rich detail, I think, and one that gives a layer of tangible, natural magic to the series. And I hadn't noticed it until Jenna pointed it out.

I wondered what Dumbledore meant by asking Harry if there was anything Harry'd like to tell him.  If Dumbledore does know everything that goes on in Hogwarts--which would be a natural position to assume as children looking up to their wise, knowledgeable mentor--then there is something unsettling in his allowance for things to run their course. 

Christie points out that there's frustration in the role of Dumbledore so far. Rowling writes him almost omniscient and yet he watches and waits and does nothing as his students are assaulted. If I were on the board of governors, I'd be likely to want him replaced by someone with less power but more motivation. Someone who does more than watch and wait. It's a character flaw that's never really dealt with satisfactorily in the series. In part, I think because kid's books need to give the children space to save the world, and in part because Rowling's created a too-powerful character, who knows too much and is too capable to be anything but passive. But because he's so passive, he stands to lose much of his goodness.

Next week, be prepared! We're reading through darker waters, my potions are photograph-able (and load-able!) and I'll be back on a proper writing schedule! I promise.