Wednesday, February 24, 2016


Watching it snow like crazy outside the window (I am not at work why would you think that!?) I am reminded that last year at this time I was posting many complaints about the weather and how awful it was to run in the cold. Well this year I have my very sophisticated (and by that I mean cheap) gym membership which allows me to run in doors. Don't worry I'm still running! Or trying rather. 

The gym is OK, it is definitely better than trying not to slip & die on the ice but if we're being honest I miss the outdoors. My eyes are finally starting to adjust to the purple & yellow assault they recieve every time I walk in the door. And I'm getting better at ignoring "those girls" in the locker room. Over all it's been a good choice, I'm running more this February than I did last. Also my knees are less angry about the treadmill than the pavement. Last week it warmed up to almost 60 degrees & I had this brief moment where I thought "it's spring!" before I remembered there are at least 3 trick springs in Michigan before the real one gets here. That's when it hit me how much more I like running outside. 

There smells & things to look at also it's nice to feel like you are physically traveling while you run. However my knees weren't pleased with abrupt switch. I realized I have serious problems settling into a pace (once I get there I can keep it but finding is a struggle), and I had totally forgotten what it's like to run hills. Even with all of that I am still looking forward to heading back out in the spring. The gym has done one thing for me, all this consistancy has me considering trying to improve my distance by the end of the calendar year to 8 or 9 miles. I have my sights set on a half marathon in 3 years and that's a big jump from 6.2. That's in on the running adventures for now but I'll keep you updated!

The Great Harry Potter Reread Part 1

I would say most people have that story that they just keep coming back to over & over. Something about it gets associated with comfort or happiness. Like that first book one of your parents or teachers read to you as a child. Maybe it's the movie you watch when you're sick. It could even be the first story where you found yourself in a character or the first time you were exposed to a world view that is not your own. It really doesn't matter what the reason is we all have that story. Mine is the Harry Potter series. It was half accident & half good timing but those are the books that sparked my love of reading and by doing so opened my life up to so many adventures. 

Over last year I had been talking to my friends about how long it's been since we've read them all consecutively. I mean the last movie  was released 5 years ago already!! I have gotten wrapped up in other stories & adventures since the Deathly Hallows book was released which has been wonderful but it was time to go back. So I pitched the idea of a book club to my friends in which we would spend the year rereading Harry Potter. The loved it and thus The Great Harry Potter Reread was born!

We recently had our first book club meeting, and I feel like I should say I've never been a part of a book club before so this is all new for me. I was pleased that our first gathering went so well, and can't wait till we have our next! We covered The Sorcerer's Stone & The Chamber of Secrets at this meeting planning to cover only one book at each following meeting. I thought I'd share with you briefly some highlights of the things we talked about. 

Sorting & Wands

Of course we talked about what our houses would be & what our wands would be! Have  you met a die hard fan that doesn't?? It was interesting to see what people said of them the tally is thus: Me & C. are as Gryffindors, R. & M. as Hufflepuffs, J. & S. as Slytherines, and A. believes she would be a Ravenclaw. So we are pretty spread out. But we talked a lot more about how just one thing can push you from one house into another. For example I teeter the fence between Gryffindor & Ravenclaw but what tips me over to the Gryffindor is my insatiable urge to explore & adventure just for the sake of doing so. The wand discussion was a little less thought out because not as many people think about it really. My favorite quote was from S. "I think my wand would be something just super powerful." Always thinking of getting stuff done ;) 

What did Dumbledore see?

Fun topic to discuss because we will never really know but we spent some time on what we thought Dumbledore would have seen in the Mirror of Erised. Several of us thought it likely he saw his sister, and one actually suggested that he may have really seen socks but I thought the most interesting point here was when someone asked if what you can see changes as you change. I think it's very likely I used Ron as an example because he sees himself all alone in the first book and I doubt very much if he had looked in that mirror in the last book he would have seen himself alone. 

Bully Behavior & Abuse

We discussed the parallels between Harry & Snape because both were bullied pretty badly. Also since many of us work or have worked in mental health we discussed bully behavior & how remarkable it is Harry chose multiple times not to bully others or seek revenge. Where as Snape continued the circle of bullying by bullying a child as an adult. 

On a related note that led us into a discussion of how abusive the Dursleys actually are to Harry. How did they not get the British CPS called on them? I mean there were some pretty serious signs of abuse & neglect going on even for the 80's. What stands out is Harry's resilience to both the abuse from his aunt & uncle and the bullying he faces at school. 

Harry Could Have Been Slytherin

We are told later in the series that the reason the Sorting Hat wanted to put Harry in Slytherin is because of the scar/horcrux leaving residual Voldemort behind. In Chamber of Secrets Dumbledore tells us that really we get to choose our house. I am not disputing either of those factors. Nor would anyone else I think, but we did agree that Harry could have easily been a Slytherin all on his own merrit. He left the Dursley's house determined to prove himself as a wizard. He also proves over & over again that he will not leave things alone until he has proven his case or completed his task. One could also argue that his inability to back down from a challenge is always ambitious and only sometimes brave. We also touched on the fact that if Harry had grown up in the wizarding world he almost assuredly would have been sorted differently. He would have been far more arrogant & likely had a different perspective on life all together. I think Harry was sorted where he should have been but I also agree with the Hat he would have done well in Slytherin.

New Appreciation of Book 2

This one is pretty self explainatory. If you have finished the series (books or movies) you realize when reading through Chamber of Secrets just how many people, items, plot threads, and social dynamics are introduced for the first time in this book. I don't need to list them all here but be ready for us to reference back to CoS when we get to the development of those ideas later. I myself can't wait for the group members that haven't read them before to see just how much they are more developed in the books. 

Random Character Thoughts

Dobby - It was almost unanimous that we hated Dobby in CoS (but that he grows on you later). It felt like just non-stop over the top ridiculousness with him. And as C. brought up how do you get from "I want to save his life" to "the best way to do that is send a bludger after him." 

Dumbledore - We didn't spend a lot of time on Dumbledore because most of the conversation about him has already been posted on the internet. What stood out though was our consensus on the fact that Dumbledore utilized his portrait network way more than you think about when you are reading the books the first time. We did discuss his unique knack for knowing where Harry is under the Invisibility Cloak even though it is never clearly stated if he can actually see him or not. We know he is very perceptive, so it is possible he could over hear small movements & Harry hushing Ron etc, but we did consider that it may have something to do with the fact that as the owner of the Elder Wand he may be able to see him or know where he is because both objects are Deathly Hallows. 

Neville - To be fair we mostly used Neville as a comparison for house traits. What makes Neville great as a character is he reminds us that the traits prized by Gryffindor (and other houses) can be found in all types for people not just the stereotype. He did come up when we discussed how Harry's personality might have been different if he were to have lived in the wizarding world his whole life. We questioned whether Harry was able to break the chain of bullying because he experienced life with the Dursley's or whether that was just his character. We decided on character. Again Neville becomes the comparison because he was bullied at Hogwarts as well but it was decided that if he had to grow up with the Dursleys they most likely would have broken him. Thankfully he didn't because Neville is irreplaceable!

Friday, February 12, 2016

The Divine Comedy

This is a book I have "had on my list" for a long time. I have always felt like The Divine Comedy by Dante was very influential in our society specifically with Western concepts of the Christian after life. I never read it in high school, which is odd because I went to Catholic school, so it went on my list of classics to tackle as an adult.

I really enjoy epic poems so I was pleased that The Divine Comedy was written in that format. I found the language beautiful and amazingly descriptive. So descriptive in fact that I had a conversation with a friend of mine about how to best adapt this story to some kind of visual format. That leads me to what is in my opinion the biggest & maybe only flaw in this story. There is no plot & it parts of it are excruciatingly boring to read! The story is essentially a written tour through the levels of each after life domain. So while the imagery in Inferno is very interesting to read and see how each level of Hell is described with it's various demons & punishments each book gets less interesting. Some of the concepts of how he describes Purgatorio are interesting, I very much liked the visual of the stairs but I got to the point of having to reward myself for finishing it. The same happened with Paridosio.

Perhaps others do not have this issue but I really like to follow some sort of journey, whether it's a classic hero's journey or just any old journey. I enjoy being concerned about the characters & watching the growth happen. I found very little of that in this book which is why I struggled with it so much. I feel like the best quality of The Divine Comedy is how visually descriptive it is. I had no trouble what so every coming up with an image for what the author was describing but as I discussed with my friend it would make a terrible movie. People do not pay to see movies with no plots. We decided that Dante's classic should really be adapted to a manga or graphic novel format (unless it already has been), that way you get the splendor of the stunning images he created and are more engaged throughout the story.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Galaxy Far Far Away

The last couple of decades have really been the rise of nerd culture. It started with the super hero movies and has since spread into many other types of nerdiness. For the last few years I have heard people that I never thought would utter these words say, "I really wish I had the money to go to Comic-Con this year."

As many (not all) of my fellow nerds will corroborate this comes with pros & cons. We get to look forward to new movies, television shows, and easy to find merchandise for all of the things we love! But popularity also comes with people making decisions about established franchises that just don't care as much as the loyal fans.

I am far over due on this one but Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie was released in December. I had the pleasure of growing up on the original trilogy & was in high school when the prequel trilogy was release. I went to all three at midnight like a giant dork. When I watched them the first time I was just full of youthful naive excitement and left the theater buzzing that I just saw a brand new Star Wars movie. I mean come on it had been 16 years since a Star Wars movie was released! But the more I watched them & the material settled into my brain I realized they weren't that good. Not like they could have been anyway. Despite quality acting, & some moments of true brilliance the prequel trilogy did not have the same depth as the first trilogy. It did not flow as smoothly and it felt like there was a lot of extra, "stuff" that the plot could have done with out. Things that George Lucas said, "Oooo special effects can do this now we should try." And if you watch them in numerical order (as I recently did) you will find careless inconsistencies with the prequel trilogy.

This time around waiting for the sequel trilogy I remained excited, because I mean STAR WARS! But my excitement was far more cautious knowing that sometimes more of a good thing is just over kill. Sure sci-fi is cool again and that means this movie is going to kill at the box office but will it really add to the franchise or will it buried in the sand like the Star Wars Christmas Special?

After seeing it, and then seeing it again, and THEN letting it settle in my mind a little here are my pros & cons.



This is something I anticipated because Star Wars is and has always been a classic hero's tale. I was not upset by this but it was a challenge at some points because this was the first installment of this trilogy. The "pay off" is still so far away and it is difficult to (at this point anyway) to look at this installment as telling it's own story. Sadly there were points where I was watching that I thought "Wait I've seen this movie already."

Rey's Jedi "On Switch"

I know Jedi abilities are a natural gift & the main character was bound to show above normal talent but there were a few times that I could not help but feel her sudden ability to master various Jedi skill was too good to be true. There were a few, like her piloting ability, where it was obvious the Force was enhancing a skill she possessed that I felt were good indicators that this was our heroine & she will be the wave of the future. As the title suggest the Force was awakening in her but I feel like she should have struggled more considering she had no training & thought the Jedi were a myth at the beginning of the film.

Another Whiny Man-child

I don't think this needs much explaining. I really should have expected, it all the Star Wars movies have one. Luke was pretty whiny in A New Hope & Anikan whined for the majority of the prequel trilogy. My hope is they develop Kylo Ren more in future installments and make his journey to the dark side believable. I like my villain's tough and scary not petulant & whiny.


The Look

One element I noticed more as I let the prequel trilogy settle was that it looked and felt more sophisticated & technologically advanced that the original trilogy despite being set in the past. This was arguably due to the fact that the prequels came out after & there WAS better, more sophisticated technology. I really enjoyed that The Force Awakens looked and felt like the original trilogy despite even more technology being available today. Everything about from the costumes to the sets & props felt like a Star Wars movie.


Before you jump on my case for hypocrisy, what I mean by this is characters & plot lines were consistent from the end of Return of the Jedi to the beginning of Force Awakens. As a writer & an actor it can be challenging to revisit an old story after such a long time. With so many of the characters coming back the viewers are expecting them to be the same, older but the same. There was no conflicting plot points the information we have about the time in between movies made sense & the characters were true to their original depictions. It was like visiting with friends after being apart for a long time.

Girl Power

The Star Wars franchise has always had strong female characters but I loved that we get a female as our main character this time. Not do we get a female lead this time but she is more than just a pretty face or a snarky attitude. Rey is strong (mentally & physically), intelligent, motivated, caring & likable. The writers put enough mystery in her back story to keep the fans guessing and hypothesizing in between movies. I for one can't wait to watch her become a kick ass Jedi!


There will be some, even many that will disagree with me & that's OK. For me though I love the puns, easter egg's, & jokes specifically to throw long time fans back to the originals. It is hard to pick just one but think my favorite throwback was the joke about the garbage compactor. So hate them if you want but I hope there are many more to come!!

When it comes down to it my reaction to this film can be summed up in just one sentence: This is the film we were all hoping for when Episode I was released.