28 March 2013

Harry Potter HFriday - Post the All Hermione All the Time

My brain has done its best impression of a sieve lately, which is perhaps my psyche’s way of punning on pensieve? So I’m really glad that I made a bullet list of the things in the first 3 chapters of the reading. Here it is in all its minimalist glory: 

  • Percy’s letter – UGH so offensive. Pompous Percy the Prat.
  • Hermione is mean to Luna. Boooo Hermione.
  • Knitting!

 I'm telling you. Sieve. That last point is something you guys won’t know a huge amount about, but in a nutshell, for years I was a bigger knitter (and spinner) than reader; this is where my dedication to audiobooks really became A Thing. I focused my BA in Art History on textiles, and for a long time wanted to be a textile historian; when we’re all living comfortably in the Enchanted April castle, all my yarn and fiber will come with me. And while my fiber arts have taken a backseat to books in the last year, the mention of knitting still makes me really cheerful.

MOVING ON. The twins in this section kick ass. When everyone’s in the Hogs Head and that jerk is all, “Are you trying to weasel out of showing us some stuff?” and Ron tells him off and then the Twins get all knuckle-cracking Crabbe-and-Goyle-but-AWESOME?

That is what having brothers is like (sometimes). Other times, it's worms in your bed and your liquid laundry detergent bottle filled with dish soap. 
And then later, Ginny has a BOYFRIEND and Ron reacts eeeeeeeexactly the way older brothers have been reacting since the dawn of boyfriends. And even though we hate Cho the Interloper because Harry is clearly Ginny’s, I like that he doesn’t suddenly look at her now that she’s unavailable. Way to not fall into that shitty romance trap, JK!

More bullet points:

  • The slide to the girls’ dormitory is one of my favorite details about Hogwarts.
  • Neville charging Malfoy in front of Potions is ROUGH. Malfoy is at his most vile in this book, and I don’t care that his family has a good structure or whatever – he was not raised to be a decent human being and I loathe him. Later I will pity him, but for now? LOATHE. 
  • Sirius passing that message from Molly to Ron – something about it makes me laugh
  • Fred and George’s boils. Bwahahahah!
  • Hermione talks about being nearly put in Ravenclaw for cleverness – I suspect that if that had been the case, she would have become COMPLETELY INSUFFERABLE.

Ok, these last things aren’t bullet points because I’m bored with those now. How about some nice dashes instead? Good.

- Hermione kisses Ron on the cheek before what is HANDS DOWN The best Quidditch match of the series. Oohhhhhh those Slytherins make my blood boil. Why didn’t some RESPONSIBLE ADULT just silencio their whole section? I kept waiting and waiting for it but no! 

- Poor, poor Trelawney. She's an old bat and (mostly) a fraud, but she didn't deserve to be taken down in front of her students like that. No teacher does; that is not how adults behave. 

- MacGonagall and Umbridge’s nearly-silent showdown scenes are just purely fantastic. Every time Umbridge hem-hem’s, I want to light her on FIRE. 

- Hermione again: planning Hagrid’s lessons! She would be the best EA... until she took over your company.

You weren't running it properly anyway.

26 March 2013

Bonk - Mary Roach

This book is subtitled “The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex,” and right from the subtitle the puns and jokes flow from Mary’s pen like… water. I said water! Get your mind out of the gutter!

I was giggling madly, hooting with laughter, or cringing while reading this. Roach’s style is that of Interested Observer (and Occasional Test Subject) of Science. Thankfully, the laughing and giggling happened more often than the cringing.

The guiding thesis to this book is pretty much what it says: where do science and sex overlap? And Roach found out some pretty interesting, often hilarious, things. I’m just… I’m just gonna give you a bunch of quotes and then maybe a list of the stuff that made my eyes go wide for one reason or another:

Theodoor Van de Velde on nurturing “the perfect flower of ideal marriage” and “combatting the forces of mutual repulsion,” which include “fermented clitoral smegma” [Ed. Note: UM WUT] and “bad breath,” which does not apparently include semen breath.
Because according to Van de Velde, a “slight seminal odor” can be detected on a woman’s breath within an hour after intercourse, and it can be “very arousing” for the man. (75) 

 Robert Latou Dickinson’s Atlas of Human Sex Anatomy included 14 thumbnail “Coital Diagrams” with titles like “Pillow Lifts Hips” and “He Diagonally Across,” but the publishers still objected so he tried to appease his publisher by replacing human forms with – I can’t even – entwining robots. (76)
Perhaps the publishers were worried about people using the book to put a spark in their sex lives?

There is erectile tissue in the lining of the nose. Sooo… nasal congestion is an erection inside your nose. (135)

In medieval times, it was believed that both women and men had “seed,” and that it was the mixing of the two seeds that created babies. Men, as we learn earlier in the text (and probably earlier in life), need to… err…. expel… their seed regularly. (There’s actually a scientific reason for this: if sperm get held in for too long, they start doing weird shit like growing extra tails and heads and probably hair and opinions.) So I suppose it follows that under the same paradigm women would also need to release their seed – apparently not connected to menses at this point – and those who could not would get hysteria – literally “womb fury – from lack of sex. At this point, I kind of picture my uterus waving its little fallopian tube arms about in RAGE, but I digress.

A medieval physician concluded that “By a long Detention there, [the seed] may be converted into VENOM, or a Poysonous Humour…” (Roach describes this guy as “typographically deranged,” which seems pretty accurate...)  Thus, one of the midwife’s jobs in regards to widows was to take “various oils with her fingers,” and “rub the part gently for a long time.” To expel the she-semen and prevent brain injury, you see. (214)

In conclusion, even though I usually refuse flatly to read non-fiction because life is non-fiction enough thankyouverymuch, this book was great, and Mary Roach lives in the Bay Area so I might have to email her and beg her to be my friend.

8 out of 11 Medieval Sex Manuals

*A final tidbit of learning for us all: “Nominations for a Nobel Prize…remain secret for fifty years. You make the claim, and nobody can prove otherwise until after you’re dead. Add one to your resume today!” (263)  

24 March 2013

Harry Potter HFriday - Part the It's Finally Here

Oooorder of the Phoenix!! This one is my favorite (I may have mentioned). A lot of people seem to feel like this one is too angsty; that Harry whines and then rages too much, that it's too dark, or whatever.

That may be true, but in my fairly extensive experience of teenagers, ALL 15-year-olds are angsty and whiny and rage-y. Especially when they have some serious PTSD from the utter LACK of true adult supervision at their school and the fact that their surrogate mother/aunt NEVER HUGGED THEM. Petunia, you are awful. Remember my last, indeed.

I have like 20+ notes on this, so I may have to just resort to bullet points.

  • Even though Harry's a bit of a prat here (lookit me, using English slang like a prefect!), he continually re-evaluates and tries to be honest with himself. This makes him a FAR better teenager than I was - based solely on how I remember nothing but feeeeeeeeelings from about age 13 to 19. 
  • Hermione and Ron are Good and Loyal Friends, and it is great how they aren't afraid to tell Harry when he's taking shit out on them. Harry, in turn, throws a little inward fit but does try to be better. 
  • I'm always surprised by Hermione's insights in this book. She's growing up to be quite the intuitive young lady, which is rare for someone as book-smart as she is. Hermione's a catch, is what I'm saying.
  • HOW GREAT is all the dark magic stuff in the pre-Hogwart's chapters? 
  • Molly and the boggart.

  • Umbridge: worse than any teacher any of us could possibly have ever had, and the worst is yet to come. She makes me want to rub my hands together and cackle with glee every time she shows up because I know it's going to be so delightfully infuriating. 

  • "...but [Harry] was impatient with all [Mrs. Weasley's] mollycoddling..." 
  • I see what you did there, JK.

16 March 2013

Harry Potter HFriday - Part the Turning Point

When I first read this book in the year 2000 (holy crap), I blissfully charged through up until this moment:

Then a very strange thing happened. My forehead got all prickly, my jaw dropped open, and this strange salty liquid started leaking from the corners of my eyes. And it didn’t stop until the giant Hex Fest 2k happened on the Hogwarts Express.

So the last quarter of book 4 is the big turning point in the series, right? And it’s going to be hard for me to keep things light because I have ALL THE FEELINGS about this bit. First, how genius is JK? (We already know the answer to this, her difficulties with math and dragon heartstring farming firmly aside.) Cedric’s character arc is utterly perfect; he’s set up as this generic do-gooder, and it’s not till he and Harry end up together in the center of the maze that he gains some depth. Along with Harry, we start to genuinely like Cedric for himself, and then JUST KIDDING!

And then the echoes come out of Voldemort’s wand and Harry’s dad shows up – is it weird to anyone else that James died after Lily? Hmm cultural doxaaaaaa! – and then his MUM and for some reason, that’s more heart-wrenching.

Sooooo veritaserum – JK is super-good at planting definitions of magical stuff earlier in the books so when it’s dramatically relevant, she doesn’t have to spend time explaining – and I really hope someone covered what a freaking GREAT teacher Barty Crouch Jr. was, dark motives aside, because dang. Fudge is a jerk, but it’s kind of understandable (though unacceptable) from his point of view; how many people do we all know who will stick their fingers in their ears and shriek that they can’t hear sense?  But seriously, dementors as protection, Fudge?

But then this:

“He had no memory of ever being hugged like this, as if by a mother.”

That’s where I lose it, every time. I have to go make a fresh cup of tea and blow my nose and ugly cry for a minute because how tragic is it to get to fourteen years old and never have been hugged by a mom? Just TYPING that sentence makes my throat swell and my eyes burn.  Couple that with the speech Dumbledore gives at the feast later when he says, “Remember Cedric Diggory” and I want to stand up and say, YES! I will remember! My emotions, JK, you manipulate them so hard.

And then I cried.

Quick query: why can't Harry see the thestrels at the end of book 4? Someone has surely explained this anomaly...

08 March 2013

Harry Potter HFriday - Part the It's Still Friday!

It's Hfriday! HURRAH! It has been A. Week. and then today was A. Day. on top of that. In honor of International Women's Day, I have a Lady Confession for you all, which is that I occasionally feel superior because I do not have Monthly Lady Problems, and while I try to offset my internal chortling over how free I am of Girl Troubles by preaching the Magic of the IUD, it's definitely an unattractive quality. Scientists will tell you that it's never been proven that women who hang around each other sync up, but women will tell you that particular group of scientists are bollocks. I can tell when someone is on the rag after hanging out with them for 15 minutes, because my uterus is all, "what's SHE doing over there? That looks like FUN!" and I am all, "THAT IS NOT WHY WE DO KEGELS, self!"

Basically what I'm saying is that I count it as a personal victory that I only cried twice at work today.

And then I came home and did what any reasonably sane person would do: poured a bowl of comfort olives, a giant glass of wine, knocked back a bunch of ibuprofen, and sat down to write about the last totally happy chunk of Harry Potter.

I had forgotten how much I love this section of GoF. How genius is the title of Chapter 21? JK's description of how helpless boys must feel about girls traveling everywhere in groups is so wonderful; she captures the bewilderment they must feel when they first realize that girls are... Girls. I've always been a little bummed about Hermione's debut at the Yule Ball - because make no mistake, that is what was going on there (especially for Ron)

because Emma Watson has always been an obviously pretty girl even under her "bushy hair" form the first movie, and in the book, Hermione looks so different from her usual self that Harry doesn't even recognize her. And then afterward, she goes back to her usual routine, because she doesn't care enough about her looks - even after she's validated by all the Slytherins - to work so hard at it. We could all stand to take a leaf out of Hermione's book once in awhile, I think. *looks sideways at her morning routine*

Plus, how great is it when she tells Ron off afterward?

GoF is where JK's ability to write adolescents really shines. They're funny and gross and ridiculous and weird and still don't quite know what's funny and what's offensive, they yell at adults (so much yelling at adults!) and throw fits and don't know why they're doing half of what they're doing, and JK captures it all in a few well-written chapters that might as well have been titled, "Remember What it was Like to be Like This?"

You'll have to forgive me - the ibuprofen is making me sentimental. Let's take a turn for the What Bothered Me:

I know the Bandwagon of Dobby Loathing is pretty well populated. But dudes, he knitted Harry socks with broomsticks and snitches on! Do you know how difficult that is? I am a Reasonably Accomplished Knitter (and even More Accomplished Yarn Buyer); I have made shawls that stretch to SIX FEET square (that's almost 2 meters, Laura) out of what is essentially thread. I make garments that can be worn multiple times without falling to pieces. And yet Dobby the House Elf can knit a pair of intarsia socks - a technique that scares me silly - and Harry has the GALL to say that his other presents are more satisfactory! And then RON, whose mother knits all of his siblings a sweater EVERY YEAR, just gives it away.

What the fuck. Knitting is not hard, but it takes a long-ass time! There is genuine love in every stitch of those garments, and you're just throwing them away! BE GRATEFUL, you little pricks.

Wine makes me shouty.

Ok, moving on. The moment when Percy runs into the lake, robes and all, looking "younger than usual," is so sweet. You're not often a Good Brother, Percy, but it makes me happy when you are.

Seriously, Sirius? Snuffles is the best you could come up with? Wandering around talking about SNUFFLES as if he were a PERSON whose parents chose THAT NAME certainly isn't going to raise some eyebrows. Why didn't you just have them refer to you as "Lee"?

04 March 2013

Sapphire Blue - Kerstin Gier

I want to kiss whoever designed these covers on the mouth.

Remember how I got all excitable about The Fire Chronicle being a Good Middle Book in a trilogy, and how that is rare? (Review of Book 1 here)

This is another example! I am tickled pink. I may like this one even better than the first book, but at the very least it’s a photo finish. 

So do you, David. So. Do. You.

All right. There have been 10 time travelers before Gwen (the Ruby) and Gideon (the... Diamond? I had to return the book to the library...), and two of them went rogue. They - Lucy and Paul who went rogue, not Gwen and Gideon - stole the chronograph with the blood samples of nearly all of the previous time travelers and disappeared with it into the past so that the final travelers couldn’t be “read” in - that is, put their blood in the machine - and complete the Circle of Twelve, which we learn could be a Very Bad Thing instead of the Goal of the Circle as we previously thought. Those of us who have read Justin Cronin's books will immediately recognize the number twelve as a very. bad. number. indeed.

There’s a page in the book where all the gemstones are attached to their correct people, along with their musical notes, spirit animals, and a VERY VAGUE reference to their specific magical power. I am lazy and forgot to mark it, but Gwen’s magical power is something about speaking with the voice of the raven, and I am like “I KNOW WHAT THAT POWER IS” because waaaaaay back at the beginning of book 1, Gwen reveals that she sees and interacts with ghosts. And ravens, in case you come from a different place where this is not canon, are messengers between the world of the living and the world of the dead.

This guy also saw ghosts!   
Ok, but lest we forget, Gwen is a teenager, so she is ALSO busy figuring out what on earth Gideon is doing, because he makes out with her one day and then berates her for not knowing how to properly gavotte the next – and really, who can blame him? Doesn’t everyone know how to gavotte? Silly Gwen.

I imagine it looks something like this.
And in the mean time, there is more time travel and more costuming and more creepy 18th century shenanigans, along with the Drinking of Punch at a Ball! And Gwen gets adopted by the ghost of a gargoyle named Xemerius, who says things like this:

“Leave her alone, can’t you see she’s unhappy in love, bonehead? All because of you!”
I need one of these little guys to follow me around and yell hilarious things at bonehead dudes. Or just people in general, even if I'm the only one who can hear him.

I basically laid in bed for an entire Saturday and read this book, and I wasn't even sick! The pacing is brilliant, the Golden Rule of Show-Don't-Tell is followed scrupulously, and everything is brilliant. Book three can be published any time now. Do you hear me publishers? ANY. TIME.

8.5 out of 11 Glasses of 18th c. Punch - Alcohol Included for Fun! 

02 March 2013

Harry Potter HFriday - Part the It's Actually Saturday

Goblet of FIIIIIRE! You are so good.

Oh man you guys, my post is late and I have no excuse. BUT, I spent a thoroughly hilarious hour on gchat with a bunch of you during which we identified our own nemeses. And much like Harry Potter growing up in ignorance of his past, these nemeses trundle on through their existences without knowing that we labor against them at all times.

This whole experience has given me a new Voldy appreciation.

SO! Seven more chapters down, and Harry has made it through the first task, which was admitting to himself that he misses Ron and then wishing they could duke it out like guys instead of Not Speak like girls. UGH HIGH SCHOOL, right?

Speaking of high school, is polishing wands really a thing that wizards do? Because if so, that would deeeeefinitely end up being a euphemism for… polishing your wand.