Sunday, 30 August 2009

I think I'll be awesome today...

When you post a comment on a Blogger post, you receive the following prompt: "Choose an identity."

Like it's that easy. If you consider the number of struggles, campaigns, wars, arguments, martyrdoms, and institutionalizations that have occured in the search for even a margin of that autonomy and flexibility as regards identity, it seems either cruel and flippant or a dream come true that, as far as Blogger is concerned, you can just pick.

There's obviously a lot more to write about Internet avatars, but I'll stop for now.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Awesome Writing

Do you know what I love?

Read the post title.

For instance, Tycho from Penny Arcade has a way with words that is almost painful in complexity. However, the sheer craftedness of what he writes is utterly bewildering. As someone who fumbles around at this sort of thing, trying to find something like a voice for, what, five different genres? (fiction, blog posts, essays, poetry, letters and e-mails), reading people who have such unique and polished forms of expression is an intoxicating experience. This won't be the first time I've linked to Penny Arcade, but I'll do it again:

And I've just added THE INTERN to my blogroll. Here is an example:

I just wrote a post about blogs containing a person's voice. I get a sense that Tycho is writing in his own voice, while THE INTERN is using a fabricated one. However, I also get the sense that INTERN has so thoroughly inhabited this voice--and bases it partly on her internal monologues and joking speech patterns with friends--that it has become an authentic voice to her, one which she uses at least to herself in the meat world, outside of the blogosphere.

I need a bloody life. I need to volunteer or make some friends or something. I cannot go on living through the Internet for the next year.

7 Quick Takes (VII)

1. On Saturday, I set up a computer in my room. Do you recall reading that my computer is fried? Well, it is, in case you didn't read it or don't remember. Anyway, I got the hard drive recovered--that is, I got it ripped out intact and bought an external reader.
Well, I used my Dad's old tower and keyboard, and my Mom's old moniter and speakers, and a brand-new mouse, and I cobbled together a new computer for my room. I got a desk and rearranged the furniture and plugged everything in and voila, I have a personal computer.
Only it doesn't have the Internet, so for this I'm still using my folks' computer.
And the hard drive? Well, it's apparantly still protected by my old password, which I know, only I can't type it in anywhere that I can find because I am now trying to open it like a file. Yeah.

So, while I do have a computer, it does not have Internet and I cannot use it to read any of those old files I wanted to open.
I still have a few tricks to try, but I gave up for the moment. By which I mean week.

2. On Sunday I again attended St. Thomas' Anglican Church across the road. That's about all I have to say about that, except that it might be easier to pay attention to the front when Sunday school resumes. Children are awfully disruptive there.
Oh, and I'll mention that they are very enthusiastic about sharing the peace. There are some there who want to say "Peace" to every person in the congregation; there are some who hug everyone, too. One woman, who seems quite friendly, noticed the paint on my arms and joked about it.

3. I also decided sometime in here (though there's not really a defined date) that I'm not likely going to school in New Zealand come February, as I had planned. I will still go to school in September, though, if all goes well. I'm not just not really sure for what, yet. This isn't a crisis so much as an indecision.

4. On Monday I got married. Well, ok, maybe not for real. A photographer came into Heritage Park to take pictures, and he/his clients wanted models dressed in historical garb in the buildings. 'Models' turned out to be Heritage Park employees. Some pictures were taken in St. Aiden's Church, which is our 'wedding' church. It has nice white pickets fence around it and is still rented out for marriages. The models were to be getting married. Since I am the only current male employee in roughly the same age bracket as the female staff, I was the groom. A nice girl named Dayna, who I really hardly know, was the bride.

So I now have professional wedding pictures (oodles of them, let me tell you), and eventually these will surface. There is a good chance that they will turn up on Facebook, and there is also a good chance that they will turn up in promotional material for Fort McMurray Tourism and Alberta Tourism. So if you ever see a picture young bride and groom, where the groom has weird sort-of-blond, sort-of-brown hair, and the bride is pretty and quite thin, wearing a hat, and they are walking down a boardwalk with a white picket fence in the foreground, and the picture is in a pamphlet or something which encourages you to visit Alberta or Fort McMurray or Heritage Park, then the groom is likely me.

And if they do get on Facebook, I am sure many of my highschool friends will be congratulating me and asking why they weren't invited and so forth. Only some of them will be joking.

I have heard that the pictures are quite good. They were somewhat awkward to take. Have you ever tried to fake being in love with someone for a camera? Apparently we did it well.

Some of the other staff saw the photos, and one of them said she wanted to use them for her own wedding. Her guests would say, "These aren't of you," and she'd say, "I know, but aren't these ones so much better?"

5. The rain finally broke off. We got some sun starting on Tuesday, and it's been nice and bright ever since. This means...

6. We finally got painting done! The decks look so much better properly painted. They are oxide red, which is regulation. Before they were a faded oxide red overlaid with black spray and white spray from adjoining surfaces, mingled with dirt and rust. Now they are a solid, strong colour. On Wednesday we did the whole of the barge in one go, and then on Thursday we got a good deal of the Miskanaw deck done. Today my supervisor finished off the Miskanaw and I painted some silver on pipes and vent hoods and things on the D250. My supervisor was very pleased with the amount of work we got done, as was I. However, there was a drawback.

7. Since Wednesday, my knees have been sore. I have spent most of the week on my hands and knees, which means my knees were resting on the bare metal deck. You know, "resting" is such a bad word for this context. "Weight-bearing" is a better one. On Thursday my Dad lent me his kee pads (and thanks again for that, Pa), so it wasn't as bad as it could have been. But oh, man, my knees were stiff and weak both Wednesday and Thursday night, and somewhat this morning, too. Even now I can feel that they're a little weak. Whenever I hit them against anything, they hurt more than usual.
But I can be such a masochist. See, you'd think that the above paragraph is self-pitying, complaining. But, no... it's bragging. I am pleased that my legs hurt. Why? I'm not sure, other than, perhaps, that it's a reminder or badge that I worked hard and that I'm tough enough to take that pain. If it's work-related, I don't mind pain. Discomfort makes me squeamish, but pain I can manage.

And that's 7. See, it's been a busy week. Lots of work, some pain, a wedding, all sorts of good stuff.

Remember to visit the Quick Takes Queen!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

I'm Pointing an Arrow

I'd like to recommend a blog right now. That blog is Conversion Diary. It's been on my blogroll for some time, but I assume that most people don't pour over their fellow bloggers sidebars on a daily basis due to the fact that they're not only bored witless but deprived of the social contact they are used to. (Inhale.) Anyway, in case you didn't see the link, or, having seen it, was for one reason or another disinclined to follow it, I would like to encourage you to take a look over there.

In particular I want to send you there because of the incredible peace and wisdom I sometimes find there. This post (the most recent as I write) is what prompted me to recommend it, but there have been others.

I don't know how a non-Christian of any variety would respond to this blog: it's written by a feminist atheist-turned-Catholic housewife, about her spiritual journey. I started reading it as a fallout from an argument with a housemate over the number of people who were raised in the religious tradition they follow. I was looking for a realistic and detailed account of a conversion that was more than just lapsed --> not lapsed, but instead rabid atheist --> devoted Christian. It turned out that Conversion Diary has just won some Blogger's Choice awards, which I had been perusing to find some cool new sites to follow.

Anyway, go read.

Monday, 24 August 2009


I want everyone I know to blog. Moreover, I want their blogs to entirely capture their own voice... which is to say, I want them to type in the sort of rhythms and patterns that they would normally speak (or at least more formally write) in, without the intrusion of Internet speak (excepting, of course, things like "lol" which have become too commonplace to concern me). Furthermore, I want that voice to express those things about the person that I find most interesting.

Have you ever had someone you just loved to listen to? Sometimes (often) it is their actual audible voice--I could listen to Dustin Hoffman read off binary codes, for instance--but there are also those people whose cadances and choices in vocabulary or figure are so aesthetic that the actual words they choose are as much a reason to listen to them as whatever it is they've chosen to talk about? It's obviously even better if their chosen topics of conversation are equally as appealing. A neighbour of mine in Ontario, Mr. (Rev., to his congregation) Lekx was like that for me. Everything from his scratchy Dutch-accented voice to his language selection to his anecdotes and explanations was appealing to listen to. Easily one of the best parts of the neighbourhood barbeques was John's story-telling.

I would like it if everyone I knew had a blog, and the things they posted exactly expressed all of the reasons I do like listening to them and none of the reasons I might not. I do not want this as a replacement for conversation so much as the fact that a) people often express things on blogs they're too shy to in real life and b) I can't really talk to people all that much from out here.

The reason this thought/wish/fantasy came to me was that I realized I would like to read the blog of a particular co-worker. Her speech-patterns, topics of conversation, and general tone are wonderful to hear, and I hope that they would come across in a blog, were she to have one. I don't know if she does, because I just added her to Facebook when I got home from work and she hasn't yet accepted. By which I mean, if she has a blog and if she has the address on her Facebook profile, I wouldn't know, as I haven't been able to see it. But there are very many people whose blogs I would like to read and comment on.

On another note, I twice accidentally typed "Facenook" instead of "Facebook" in the above paragraph. Do not put that into your address bar and hit enter. I did once by mistake.

Friday, 21 August 2009

One Year Ago

Jon just wrote a post about this, so I'll take his germ of an idea and see if I can turn it into a bandwagon.

One year ago, I would not have thought I would lead a fellowship.
One year ago, I would not have expected to coach kids in athletics.
One year ago, I would not have thought I'd know so many of my classmates.
One year ago, I did not ever listen to metal.
One year ago, I did not go to bars with friends.
One year ago, I did not know (or know very well) either Kay or Yolanda, who read this blog, or Will J or Will N or Cindy or Sarah Diamond or Abbey the brat or Kurtis in Grade 1 or any number of people who have in one way or another made me grow and learn about myself.
One year ago, I had never published my writing.
One year ago, I thought I knew what I wanted to do with my life.

7 Quick Takes (VI)

1. As it has been doing almost all summer, it has rained a lot this week. I had some painting to do, and now I can't get it done because of this cursed rain. I understand that much of the country's agriculture and livestock is suffering because of plants' general inability to grow in standing water without sun.
Working outdoors really makes you appreciate the weather more.

2. I have realized that I am a graduate who spends most of his time on the computer in his parents' basement. Even though this is temporary, the fact that this has come true is depressing.
Though I'll actually note that "most of my his time" is an exaggeration. I spend maybe an hour and a half a day, which is far better than some people.

3. I attended an area church this past Sunday. I think I will attend here regularly. This church (Anglican--not what I'm used to) mixes the more ceremonial vestments and altars and hand-washing with more up-beat Bethel-like (for Queen's students and alum) music. It is a small church. I will discuss more in time, because I think it is an interest environment/community, but need to know more before I gain any insights.

4. Let's see. You've read about my computer and such.
Oh! I used a pressure washer this past Tuesday. I was removing paint from the side of a historical building (per curator's orders, don't worry). Not that this is a hugely exciting task, but, you know, it's one more piece of equipment I can use.

5. That reminds me: I am now spending every morning working at Heritage Park (cleaning washrooms, doing garbages, watering flowers) before going to the Marine Park. This isn't for sure, but I might just have an interesting project at work at the end of September. It may have to do with on-line design, too. Which means the completed project will be link-able.
In fact, my work on this project (if it happens) will immediately follow the next entry...

6. I am going to go to Ontario for a visit in late September. Destinations: Oakville, Kingston, Windsor. I am getting excited (but it's still a bit away). This will also mark a cusp point in my work: before this, I am still mainly at the Marine Park, while after this, I will be beginning the afore-mentioned project.

7. I am still reading Book Three of The Faerie Queene, though I will soon move on to Book Four. I am now on Nehemiah in the OT, and dabbling occasionally into Prince Caspian. I am feeling like I want a new book.
And, incidentally, I think I traced a prototype of Gollum in Canto Ten of Book Three of the Faerie Queene. I'm dead serious. We know that Lewis and Tolkein read The FQ, and likely read it in depth. I think we can see an early precursor to Aslan in Book One. So I don't think it's a stretch that one particular character in Book Three was the ancestor of the ill-fated Smeagol. Of course, Tolkein expanded the relevance of the character and made him far more interesting, and made him fit into the schema of the work, but we've got the basic elements of a person, overwhelmed with jealousy, turning bestial and sub-human as he crawls into a damp cave, feeding on toads and frogs, forgetting his name, and always blindly watching.

Wow, that's an uncheerful note to end on. Oh, well!

Have a good one!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Minor Obsession?

So I've watched this trailer every night since I saw it in front of Coraline.What can I say? Tim Burton? Fairly accessible metal soundtrack? Ragdoll apocalypse? Utterly random elements, and yet I still think it will be very cool.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

A New Poetic Form

For a piece of world-building I'm working on, I made up a poetic form called an "aubadina."

An aubade, in real life, is a morning poem, usually about lovers seperating. Think the morning scene in Romeo and Juliet. The aubadina, then, is always an aubade, but has a particular form. It has three stanzas of eight, six, and four lines. They rhyme abacdbdc eefggf hhii, though I will also allow ababcbcb ddbeeb fbfb or abacdbdc eefggf hihi or abacdbdc efegfg hhii or some other subtle variation.

A traditional aubade uses somewhat alliterative accentural meter. There are (usually) five accents per line with any number of syllables. They do not count in feet. Usually, accented syllables begin with the same letter, though this is not strictly followed. It is not iambic or trochaic or amphibrachic or what-have-you, though iambs and trochees may show up in some lines because we're included to hear meter in that way. (The sort of meter I described is common to Middle and Old English poetry.)

I'm here imagining that the aubadina was developed in the city of Aubade (on the river Aubade), where travellers often came and went, such that a poem about parting lovers is appropriate to the environs. This form was popularized and spread under the name aubadina by the afore-mentioned travellers. Among these travellers were a few groups of seasonal nomadic peoples, who adopted the aubadina and developed their own tradition with it. While a classical aubadina usually has one lover remaining in the city while the other must leave, the nomadic aubadina generally has both halves of the couple leaving in different directions, as they are parts of different nomadic groups which occasionally meet. Thus the lovers will meet again whenever their clans do--but that might not be for a while.
Of course, as in the case of sonnets, heroic couplets, etc., different poets will do different things with their aubadinas. Some write religious ones to saints or shrines that they made pilgrimage to and now must leave, others write bawdy ones (like "The Sailor's Farewell to His Lady of Wages"), and others, often scholars, write highly formalized ones in alliterative iambic pentameter. Sometimes they would be written in dialogues, where the lovers alternate lines until the final verse, where they each take one couplet.

You can't see if a form will work unless you've written one. This is, of course, the first aubadina ever written for real, and as such I've just established the conventions as I went along (though you can see I've stolen a lot of Renaissance sonnet ideas because I understand formalized poetry through the lens of Renaissance sonneteers). So conventions include mention of birdsong, reference to the astronomical and meterological phenomenon of dawn, the belief that the dawn dispells evil creatures, jealousy about what lovers are doing in towns, looking at the horizon, concerns of truth and fakeness, and complaining about the passage of time.

Here it is:
The dawn disperses the pale ghosts in the dark,
The purple sky, blushed by the hidden sun,
Weakens, whitens, and wakens the wild lark
Whose serenade stirs the city's new amours
To make those early delights last ‘til the rise
And rush they their rest with their kisses and fun
But we watch the time on the weakening skies
For when the day breaks, so does my road from yours.

The horizon’s rosy and the rooster’s head raises,
Now our tents are folded while the townie lad lazes.
Say that’s not the sun’s lip on the distant knoll,
Put our lips together while that sundog there hangs
A fool of a hound who sells us false pangs
That we feel split when we’re whole.

Say that’s not the green beam breaking the gloam
Hasting us thither to our far wandering homes.
That is not the halo that mimics the star;
That is the mean lark that sends mine afar.
Or, if you want me to mark the stresses for you...

The dawn disperses the pale ghosts in the dark,
The purple sky, blushed by the hidden sun,
Weakens, whitens, and wakens the wild lark
Whose serenade stirs the city's new amours
To make those early delights last ‘til the rise
And rush they their rest with their kisses and fun
But we watch the time on the weakening skies
For when the day breaks, so does my road from yours.

The horizon’s rosy and the rooster’s head raises,
Now our tents are folded while the townie lad lazes.
Say that’s not the sun’s lip on the distant knoll,
Put our lips together while that sundog there hangs
A fool of a hound who sells us false pangs
That we feel split when we’re whole.

Say that’s not the green beam breaking the gloam
Hasting us thither to our far wandering homes.
That is not the halo that mimics the star;
That is the mean lark that sends mine afar.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Computer Issues

So my old computer that I used throughout university is pooched. The tech doctor says that the motherboard and ram are fried, so I'm going to need to get a new one. I haven't used it since April, see, as 1) it had been in Ontario before Convocation and 2) I hadn't been able to get the tower to work with my Dad's moniter once I got it to Alberta.
When my Mom came up, she brought her computer, so I gave the tower a whirl with my Mom's moniter and peripherals. That was a no-go. So, we go to the computer place, and I've already told you what we learned.

I had them take out the hard drive and I bought one of those exterior/case/reader things for an external hard drive. Sometime when I feel like hooking it up, I will, and then I'll at last be able to get at my files.

Also, there are developments in the "getting a private computer department" for me. Maybe I'll be able to write somewhat more productively then. Not that I'll be able to produce lots of time from the aether (though I could perhaps cut down my hour-long Internetting each night--Webmail doesn't need to be checked every single day), but there are weekends, right?

In other news, I watched Gran Torino and Coraline yesterday, and went to St. Thomas' Anglican Church (which is across the road). All three are surely comment-worthy, but I might not actually get around to it.

And I've written a post to be published on Wednesday, so you can be sure there'll be at least one thing to read before the next 7 Quick Takes. Maybe I won't have to check my blog again until then! I could write! Or read! Or something.

Penultimately, grammatical errors still drive me insane. Today I almost volunteered to edit a local periodical for free every week just to prevent the comma misplacement. OK, so maybe I didn't have the phone in my hand, but it was still irksome. I need to work on this.
Lastly, I'm starting on Ezra tonight.

Lates, my home-fries,

English Clergyman

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Marine Park Photos

I have included photos that will not "open" the Marine Park prematurely. These are more showcasing details than wholes. The moths invaded one day, and the swallows soon followed. The lady porn is the inside cover of a Viking historical romance I accessioned in the Miskanaw galley. I thought it was funny. The close-up of the moth was actually taken at Heritage Park. So sue me. I hope the rest explains itself. Much of this is in-process on the boats.

Hopefully these pictures don't come out too jumbled.

Friday, 14 August 2009

7 Quick Takes (V)

1. My brother's gone back to school.

2. As I said before, the dog is here. She's getting on in age, but she's still doing well. She was tired last week, but now she has much more energy and constantly craves attention (and treats).
Her back legs are stiff, though, so sometimes requires assistance when trying to stand up on the linoleum floor.

3. On Wednesday evening, I went to a staff (Heritage Park) potluck. I made a pasta: penne with two parts alfredo sauce and one part tomato sauce, mixed with fresh diced tomatoes, oregano, basil, and thyme, covered in grated cheddar and baked in the oven for fifteen minutes at 350 degrees. The food that the others brought was quite good. There was a curry-base dish with chickpeas which I quite liked, numerous excellent desserts, perogies... I can't remember it all, but I quite enjoyed the food. I spent most of the time with Brett and Brody (sons of the receptionist and, interestingly enough, my brother's co-workers) and Ross and Ben (brothers of co-workers). These are pretty agreeable guys. I barely knew Ross and had never met the others, but I enjoyed it. I didn't really spend much time talking to the girls. They seem to have established cliques or social patterns which I do not fit into. That's fine, of course, and understandable. Most of them will be leaving in a few weeks.

4. I have received a number of old books, most of which I will not read. Josh (my coworker at the Marine Park) and I cleaned out an old trailer full of stuff, and in it was a box of books that were going to be thrown out. Books! Of course I had to rescue them. Most are your cliche fantasy types (at least half have "Dragon" in the title, and one has "Elf"). I don't think I'll keep a single book (they'll go to the Salvation Army or the used book store), but I will likely keep the Archie Digests. What a nostalgia trip, reading those. I'm going to write a post about them at some point. The social dynamics in them are fascinating.

5. We've been having trouble getting work done at the Marine Park. Guys from Ceda came to blast off the old paint and rust from the deck of one of the barges, using a high-pressure washer. This was on Wednesday. We were planning to paint the deck on Thursday, but that was a no-go. It was too rainy. So we worked at Heritage Park instead (during which the previous entry happened). Then today we were going to paint it, but in the morning we saw water standing on the deck and it was too damp when the supervisor made the call. Not half an hour after the supervisor left it warmed up enough, dried up enough, and the water evaporated. If it weren't for half an hour of rain after 1 o'clock, it would have been perfect painting weather. What do you know? I'll be painting Monday, I suppose.

6. Oh! I nearly forgot! My mother and I went to interPlay on Saturday. It was entertaining enough. We saw a performer in the little open-air theatre where the library used to be. He juggled impressively, at fire, that sort of thing. Good performer. Then we saw another busker on the street. He was an escape artist type, though he also swallowed a balloon and did a strange trick with his hands, where he bent them backwards oddly. It was hard to tell what he did. It was neat.

7. Today was my co-worker's last day. I'll be alone at work much of the time. It was good working with him. He kept me entertained. Jon, he'd remind you of Dave Griese, in that he says racist and sexist things all the time, and you're never sure if he means them or not. He drives some people nuts (quite intentionally), but I don't get offended easily. I'll enjoy the solitude for a while (I always enjoy solitude at first), but perhaps I'll start to get lonely in time.

That's seven. Go see the Quick Takes Queen. And while I'm making plugs, I encourage you to read PA's Automata series. The first page is here, and the second is here. The remainder you can get to by hitting "Next" from the second page.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

A Quick Word

What with my brother headed to Oakville, my co-worker leaving by week's end, and the frequency of blog updates surrounding the concept of going to school, it has at last sunk on an affective level that I am not returning to Queen's.

I am not upset--that would require more emotion than I'm willing to muster--but I do feel somewhat hollow. Or bored, maybe. Not in a "I can't find anything to do" way, but a "I won't be doing anything I really like for a substantially long period of time" way.

I am not trying to cultivate pity, here. I just mentioned some time ago that I was waiting for my graduation to sink in, so I figured I'd indicate that it did. Also, if I don't post something tonight, it'll likely be until the next 7 Takes before I do.

Friday, 7 August 2009

7 Quick Takes (IV)

1. As you can infer, I'm sure, Nick and I went to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on Saturday. We took the bus back home and I realized that twilight is about the one time of day that I'm at all pleased to be in an urban environment. The lights do it.
That night, it was a blood moon.

2. I worked Saturday and Sunday in preperation for Heritage Day. As I think I indicated previously, I had hoped to avoid it, but to no avail. I had particularly wanted to go to a church here in Fort Mac that morning, as a co-worker's sons were leading worship. Instead, however, I was working at the Park, in part because the other maintenance/labour-type coworkers had both come down with physical maladies (dehydration sickness, thrown back). Despite that fact that it most emphatically was not my job, I wound up doing a lot of the preperation. Fortunately, two of my staff-mates called in their boyfriends to help me. I really struggled not to be resentful that weekend.

3. Heritage Day was busy, of course. I was a runner and also the guy in charge of washroom cleaning and garbage pick-up (my usual role during events). Part of the responsibilities of the runner is to sub out the volunteers for their breaks, which lead to my leading a child-bearing pony around for twenty minutes. The pony's name was Crackerjack, and he quickly learned that I was not very experienced in pony-leading. He went as slow as he could go, and tried to sneak bites of grass as often as he could. Troublesome pony. The donkey, Chocolate, wasn't much better, as whenever she was unattended she'd trundle her little cart right in my way.
Due to the traffic Conversion Diary will bring, I should explain Heritage Day: at the Fort McMurray Heritage Park, a museum/park where I sometimes work, we host assorted events. Our largest event is Heritage Day, in which we invite cultural groups to come in and express their heritage through dance or music or vending art and food. We also have lots of games for the children and a petting zoo. Maybe this weekend I will make a whole post about this day.
Anyway, it was quite exhausting.

4. That same weekend (on the Sunday), my father returned to Fort Mac, bringing my mother and our (elderly) dog. That's right: the family is now officially moved to Fort McMoney, Alberta.

5. Due to my working through the weekend and the less-than-ideal weather after it, I got Tuesday off. Good thing, too: I needed it.

6. On Wednesday, I was walking down the street and a homeless man gave me a book. It took me a while to figure out what he was trying to communicate to me. He had received a book from a Chinese woman but didn't intend to read it. Did I want it? I took it and thanked him, but it was a while before I realized that he really didn't want money for it. He simply wanted to give it to someone who would use it. I am very use to being propositioned for money (or food, or empties) here, and I admit I was somewhat startled to be given something by those who usually ask for something. It might have had something to do with the fact that I had said "Good afternoon" to him earlier that day, of course.
Incidentally, I said he received the book from a Chinese woman. What happened was that she, a complete stranger, approached him with a shopping cart full of clothes. She asked him if he wanted them. He said he'd take them, as a friend of his (a woman there during his retelling) could use some new clothes. In the bottom of the cart were the book and some kiddie card games. The woman said that some of the clothes were new; they'd never been worn. I am very intrigued by this. Did the woman realize she had too much stuff, including clothes she'd never worn, and so decided to give them away to those who could use it--not to the Salvation Army, but directly to people who needed it? Or did she go out and buy the stuff expressly to give away? Or some other possibility I haven't thought of?

7. And on the topic of books, I am currently reading Spenser's The Faerie Queene: Book Three. In second year we (that is, my Renaissance Poetry & Prose class) were required to read the first book, and I found it terribly difficult. This past academic year I was required to buy books three and four, but then the books were dropped from the reading list. I was intrigued, however, by the premise (a lady knight, or "martiall Maid", seeking the man she is destined to marry but has only ever seen in an enchanted mirror, all as an allegorical tale demonstrating how she learns what it means to be the Knight of Chastity). After having read far more Renaissance texts and, even more importantly, Middle English texts (in the original), Spenser's "antique" language seems far less daunting than in second year. I am quite enjoying it, actually.

And that's seven! Look at that. It was a busy week, and so the seven takes were easy to fill.

Be sure to check out the Quick Takes Queen.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Movie Review

I had wanted to title this review with a quotation from the book, something like "Step into the Night" or "That Flighty Temptress, Adventure," but like neither. The first is uninformative and the second is misleading, and hopefully you'll see why I think so as I examine the movie.

This movie is significantly better than the other five. I have written elsewhere (that being Jon's blog) that I liked the third, did not care so much for the first two, and can hardly remember the fourth or the fifth. I think the strength of this movie, besides the improved acting on most of the cast's parts (some may disagree about Harry, but I didn't notice one way or the other about him), has a lot to do with my preference for the third. Most people did not like Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and, while I can understand their response, I think the third demonstrated a significant amount of merit on the filmmaker's part because of creative insertions and alterations. The third movie, unlike the others, had something of a direction, agenda, or atmosphere. The director took the haunted house, werewolf, the Dementors, the escaped prisoner, and the other "scary" elements and combined them with Harry's increasing broodingness. Harry's inner darkness was coming out more clearly in the books that were released around the time the third movie was, and I had felt even at the time that the director added some of this angst into the third movie, even though it was a bit early in the series' chronology. It fit the atmosphere well, though, and so we have a pervading sense of growing darkness in the movie.

This sense of darkness fits well in the overall trajetory of the series, of course. The first two books are much more like romps than the rest. The second one is a bit more menacing, as there is the constant threat of someone dying... but in the end the novel does not play for keeps, and all is righted. The third one, however, promises that all is not well. Even though everyone is safe and alive at the end, we know (via prophecy) that it is dusk, that darkness is growing, that (in the context of the movie) "something wicked this way comes." A sense of darkness is appropriate. More importantly, the sense of darkness helps unify the film, makes it more memorable, and gives the director a chance to do something of his own with it. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the book which does play for keeps. It does more than fulfill its promise that Harry's life is in danger and some Death Eater plot is affot. It kills an "extra" character and brings back the Dark Lord himself. In this book, the darkness arrives in person, so the atmospheric promise of growing dusk in the third is fitting. The remaining books are then to be concerned with living in the darkness, fighting against it, and in the seventh, attempting to dispell it at last. Thus the fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix, is about the first waves of resistence, as the Order fights against Voldemort and Harry's gang resists the regime of Professor Umbridge. This is the first victory of the "good guys," though there are casualties of many sorts--both in lives and alliances.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince does have this atmosphere and, unlike the fourth and fifth movies, the film utilizes it. The atmosphere is one of sadness. The first few attempts to push back the darkness seem to be working: the protagonists, by the end of Order, have landed on their feet. The sixth book raises those stakes so that the seventh can be truly gripping. To do this, we have tragedy. That is the pervasive theme of Half-Blood Prince: sadness.

I am not saying that the movie was entirely sad. There were funny and adventurous parts. But there were fewer of these than normal, and I would argue that the comedic parts were usually undercut by sadness. When Ron is hilarious as a Quidditch Keeper and is, for once, the centre of glorious attention, Hermione becomes heartbroken, and we have the wrenching scene of her crying at the stairs. At the end of that scene, the camera pans to let us see the silhouette of Ron and Lavender--and then Malfoy on the balcony, scared, miserable, and sleepless. When Ron is grinning with the love potion, we laugh. But immediately after he is cured, he almost dies. When Hermione is drunk from the Three Broomsticks, Katie Bell is nearly killed in a really creepy sequence. One of the parts I thought was funniest, and was quite important to the plot, takes places at a funeral, and the wake afterwards. Note this: a comedic part took place at a funeral. This is either and indication that everything is funny, or that which is funny is also sad.

Further, Harry Potter books (and even more so movies) tend to involve swash-buckling with wands and other forms of adventure. Generally, adventure is light. In this case, there is less adventure, and none of it is light. We do see the troublesome trio sleuthing after Malfoy, but it is down gray, rainy passages. There is a wizard's duel between Harry and Malfoy--but this was not adventurous. It begins with Malfoy struggling to remain composed, Harry losing control, and Harry using dark magic to lethal effect, save for the rescue of Snape. Speaking of Harry losing control, there is also the scene in the cornfield, which I don't recall from the book, at the end of which the Burrow, the symbol of warmth, simplicity, and family, is destroyed. The Burrow is a second home to Harry, after Hogwarts. To Harry, in fact, the Burrow defines what a home should be. This is burned to the ground.

And this brings us to the double-climax of the movie. First, we have the cave, in which Harry is forced to torture an old man whom he loves. This section does not have much high adventure, as most of us recognize it. This section mainly involves Dumbledore being hurt and weakened. Second, we have the scene atop the observation tower. In this one, Harry is finally proven to be right... but that's hardly good news, as it results in his protector and mentor being killed. I don't think I need to enumerate how this scene is sad.
I'll also point out that the theme of sadness is underscored by what was removed from the movie [spoilers for those who haven't read the book]. The battle in Hogwarts between the Death Eaters and the faculty/Dumbledore's Army was replaced instead with Bellatrix desecrating the Great Hall. We do not see a contest between good and evil; rather, we see evil desecrate that which is good. Also, the semi-tragic but ultimately rewarding romances of a few pairs of characters might seem like a familiar concept to someone who saw the movie but did not read the book. What I want to mention is that happens with at least double the amount of couples in the book than in the movie [spoilers over]. Adventurous and uplifting scenes were cut out of the movie, and, in places, were replaced with sadder versions of those scenes.

This is what I liked about the movie. First, it worked in ways the others didn't: one of those ways is the one I elaborate above. Second, it made me feel, even if that feeling is sorrow. At least it is a sorrow of a sweeping variety.

But even this sadness was remedied a bit in the final scene, which was reminiscent of Sam's speech to Frodo at the end of The Two Towers (as so much of this movie was reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings). There is sadness, but also hope at the end of sorrow. In the book, there are two lines which come to mind. Both are Dumbledore's. The first is, "Let us step into the night to pursue that flighty temptress, adventure." While stepping into the night is an appropriate idea, "adventure" is not as much. The second line, however, fits the bill far more perfectly. It is, "We must try not to sink beneath our anguish, Harry, but battle on." While it did not appear in the movie, it seems to me the movie still used this line as a guiding premise. Great sadness does occur, and does undercut many of the lighter parts of the movie, but hope, friendship, and love then undercut that sorrow, regardless of how dark it might be.

Good thing, too, because there's another movie yet.


So there was a lot more that I wanted to talk about in this: the character of Slughorn, Emma Watson, the scenes which I found borrowed from Lord of the Rings and Star Wars (and maybe Waking Ned Devine), Emma Watson, the romance stuff between Harry and Ginny, Emma Watson, the role of Luna Lovegood's friendship (which I think is awesome), and Emma Watson. But I tried to keep on topic.

Oh, and if you try to post spoilers to people who haven't read the books, I won't let you. Bwahahahahaha comment moderation!

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I saw the Half-Blood Prince. I want to say that I enjoyed it far more than any of the other movies (FAR more). I will write a review, but I don't really have time tonight as, alas alack, I work tomorrow. Hopefully I will have time this week to write the review.

Until then, this is a placeholder post, acting as a reminder to myself to write the review and a guarantee to you, the reader, that I will write it.

In other news, it is a harvest moon tonight.
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