Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Harry Potter and the Hole in the Plot

     It’s a touching story about wizards, magic, and witches, which, upon further reflection, are basically all the same thing, and this sentence has far, far, FAR too many commas. I’m of course talking about Harry Potter, the series of fantasy novels by acclaimed author J.K. “Just Kiddin’” Rowling. I’m sure if you haven’t read them you’re either lazy and waited for the movies, or believe that teaching our children witchcraft is a surefire way to send this country straight to hell. There’s no denying the success of these books, both financially and from a “good for the country” standpoint. Unless of course, you’re of the aforementioned “crazy person” demographic. But even though these books most likely got our newest generation interested in reading, there are still a few bones to pick with the series at large. And heck if I’m not the man to pick those bones.

     Our story starts on an empty street, and we join two figures in conversation. Well, one old dude and a cat, but later something something magic, and it turns into a person. They’re here to deliver a little baby boy whose parents were just brutally murdered by a dark lord, and he was the “boy who lived”. My first point is this. This old guy and cat-lady knew that he was the secret to stopping the dark lord again and still decided to just give him to the uninvolved relatives. This is my impression of Dumbledore (he’s the old guy), “Oh, we’ll surely need this boy again, in case Voldemort ever rises again. Also, he will be recognized the world over by anyone remotely involved in our magical culture. Okay, well, we better drop him off on this stoop with a family of jerkoffs!” Why wouldn’t they keep the ultra-magical boy in safe keeping and let him grow up in a safe, ensured magical upbringing? Jeeze Louise. (In an unrelated tangent, I’ve never seen that phrase spelled out. It looks ridiculous.)

    If earlier you saw the word “Voldemort” and said “But Mick, Albus Dumbledore and WhateverherfaceisI’mtoolazytoGoogleit McGonagleorwhateverthehell would never use that name! They’d only call him ‘He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’!” then I hate you. Who’s the most evil man you can think about? That’s right, lead singer of Judas Priest, Rob Halford. But the second most? Hitler, naturally. Hitler killed millions upon millions of people, and we now use his name as a nickname for “opposite political party”. The worst thing about Hitler’s name was his nephew being rejected from the Army. I have a newspaper from October 2nd, 1942 in my house, and it proves it. I'm serious: 

Bill Hitler, everyone.
     Also, racism.
"One-Man Army Kills 36 Japs
"Would go back for more of the Japs"
I'm not kidding. That's what it says.
      But the point is this- calling Voldemort He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is not only killing my hyphen finger, but is completely unrealistic. This one gets half a pass, because the main character kinda points out how dumb it is.

     Harry thinks it’s dumb because he’s grown up completely outside of this world. Now, when he gets his letters and owls and whatnot, he’s all very confused as any of us would be. New experiences, new concepts, and a total tidal wave of uncomfortable admiration fall on this little kid who just wants to go to school and get away from his totally awful family. It’s a relatable story, kinda. Except the magic parts.

    The trouble starts when it’s the fourth book in the series. Now, Harry has been a wizard at a school full of wizards for four years. But, somehow, he failed to realize that Quidditch had a world cup. You don’t think that Seamus Finnigan (or as I call him Irish McDrunkenson) was talking up how Ireland was going to make it all of the last year? And also how Harry didn’t know what a Mudblood was. What, they don’t have Xbox Live in wizarding school? There’s plenty more, but the point remains that at least once a year, Harry learns something about wizarding culture he really should have found out about before then.

     Especially on the Quidditch part, you think he would research the sport a little bit. Seeing as he’s a freaking prodigy at it. One year, he doesn’t know brooms can fly, and the next he’s the best player at an entire high school. There isn’t much meat to this bone (wait what) so let’s just move on.

    While playing Quidditch, Harry gets most of his exposure to the other houses at the school. He, of course, resides in Gryffindor, and plays the likes of Slytherin, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw. I recited those from memory, so I’m too nerdy to be cool, but that info is too easy to give me actual nerd credit, and I just alienated myself twice in one sentence. Anyhoo, let’s examine the houses for a moment. Gryffindor’s mascot: a griffin. Pretty obvious how that works. Slytherin’s mascot: a snake. Equally obvious. Ravenclaw: a raven, naturally. Hufflepuff: Uh… What the hell is a Hufflepuff?
One of these, but in a rush
     Another think with houses. Why the hell do they let kids from Slytherin go into the real world? I mean it’s so blatantly obvious they’re evil it’s stupid. This is straight from the Sorting Hat, describing the houses in a song. “Or perhaps in Slytherin/ You’ll make your real friends,/ Those cunning folk use any means/ to achieve their ends.” What the heck is that?! “Those cunning folk use any means to achieve their ends”! It might as well say “If you’re evil and like getting stuff done, well damnit you belong in Slytherin. Our mascot is a snake, the animal most associated with evil and sin!”

    But of course not everyone turns out to be a majorly evil dick like Malfoy or… um.. Crabbe? We only get access to a couple characters from the other houses, most notably a hot Asian and Edward Cullen. But of course there’s a whole 3/4s of the school’s worth of kids missing here. Someone could write an equally large series of books about these unnamed, unmentioned characters dealing with Harry’s bullcrap. “It was my fourth year when all of a sudden, people started getting frozen into rocks. Turns out it was a big snake. But it all works out because some second year student climbed down the plumbing and stabbed the crap out of its face. Then, they were honored for breaking every single rule in the whole school. My house was going to win the cup till that friggin’ stunt. God I hate that kid.”- Average Hufflepuff student.

     Speaking of the Chamber of Secrets, where the heck did that whole thing go to? “Yeah, there’s a major labyrinth of tunnels and huge rooms somewhere underneath this school dedicated to supernaturally gifted teens. Ah, whatever. Leave it. I’m sure no one evil again will come to this school." It spreads to more than that. Think of all the crap Harry and them had to deal with in the first book to get to the Sorcerer’s Stone. Life-size Wizard Chess, plants that try to rape you, and a three-headed dog straight out of Greek mythology. They’re all gone and mostly forgotten by the next year. You know, the year with a mythological snake that freezes people into stone. A basilisk, something else I recited from memory. Boom.

     Another thing. Harry bangs his best friend’s sister. What the heck, man?

     And the bankers? I can’t be the only one who sees this.

     Harry Potter might as well be called Chekov’s Gun: The Novel.” It’s like, “Hey, Harry, here’s this book. I know it may sound insignificant now, but… no, no, it probably won’t turn out to be anything. Don’t worry about it. At least not until only about a month is left in the school year.”

     Maybe I’m being unfair. I mean, it’s still 1000x better than Twilight ever was, and the fact that I have to even make that distinction makes me cry a little bit. Even while writing this article I really realized I want to read the books again. So, to Jamaican Kitchen Rowling, I say, good show ma’am.

He doesn’t spend time like he really should,

Mick Dickinson

Also, here are the answers to all my qualms. 1. Without Harry out of the wizarding world, we can’t join him as outsiders. 2. The air of mystery surrounding Voldemort is half the fun. 3. Harry has these things explained to him as a relatively un-clumsy way of explaining them to us, the reader. 4. Seven chapters about Quidditch practice would be really friggin’ boring. 5. Hufflepuff’s mascot is a badger, although that still makes no sense. 6. Without Slytherin, there are no minor villains. 7. I really want to read a book of Harry Potter, written from a 3rd party’s perspective. 8. They’re gone because there’s no point in bringing them back up again. 9. Who wouldn’t bang Ginny Weasly? 10. The bankers are like that because J.K. Rowling is an anti-semite, duh. 11. That’s how books work, stupid. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Steve and Lefty (pt. 4)

The odd and perplexing story reaches its even odder and perplexing...er conclusion in this installment of Steve and Lefty. Part one can be found here, along with two and three. I just wanted to say, thanks for playing along with my (possibly mindless) self indulgence. I know how devastated ya'll are about not hearing unnecessary history facts.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever had your nose broken, your nose reset, and been slammed in the head with a wrench by Bigfoot with a nasty disposition all in the same day, but it’s not a fun experience. I had never been knocked out before, so I can’t tell you which one of these factors brought on the space that managed to be fluffy and empty, light and dark, comfortable and off-putting all at the same time. The only one thing I was sure of was that I was not alone in whatever space I now resided. It wasn’t that I could see the other person, but there was a definite sense of another person inside my special little unconscious hole.
The time spent wondering how best to avoid the touchy subjects of strangers in my special holes could have best been used waking myself up, but I can’t change what happened.
Suddenly, a figure materialized out of the mist inside my mind. Guys, please don’t be mad at me here, but it’s almost impossible to describe how everything except me and this new figure could be pitch black, and yet still be obscured by a mist the same non-color. If you want, I can come over and hit you in the head with a wrench, and then maybe you’ll see. I’m sorry, I’m getting confrontational. I hope you can understand I’m going through a stressful time at this point.
The figure that I’ve been avoiding talking about stepped closer. He was a deeply black man, with an unlined face that didn’t match with his aged eyes that looked as if they had seen everything the world had to offer. He was about my height, as if size had anything to do inside of the non-area I now occupied.
I raised a hand. “Hey,” I said, amiably if awkwardly. Squinting for a moment, I looked down at the hand I had just used to wave to the stranger. It was my left. Eager to test the limits of this new ability, I wiggled the fingers, still staring at the back of my hand.
In my outside vision, I saw the stranger also raise a hand in greeting, my mirror image in motion if not skin tone. He also looked at his hand with a little bit more than normal enthusiasm, which would have been none.
“Hey,” he said almost as an afterthought, like he was simply sparing a greeting my way in order to avoid a major confrontation.
He didn’t have anything to worry about, because I was still enamored with the new control over my body.  Now I was picking up my left foot and twirling it to my heart’s content. Never did I think that I would get the sudden urge to Hokey Pokey, but I felt it was time for shaking it all about.
Finally, after I had taken my left side for a test drive, I looked up at the stranger, who looked up at me.
“So this is weird,” I said, somehow finding a way to be more awkward than my “Hey”.
“You’re telling me,” the man said in a voice that seemed better fit for your high school English teacher. I don’t know what that means either, I just know it was true. Like the mist. “As always,” the man continued, “I seem to be a guest in your house.”
“But that must mean,” I said, “You’re Lefty.”
“I’m Lefty,” he said, overlapping my startled conclusion.
For awhile I couldn’t think of anything to say. Here was the force that had, for lack of a kinder word, infected my body piece by piece, depriving me of a normal life and forcing me to remain in my home for fear of damaging myself or others. The force that, amidst all this tragedy, had become my best and only friend over a considerable amount of years, and had remained concealed away inside my own body, shielded away from any sort of investigation. I’ve had dreams before, and Lefty has appeared in none of them. Apparently it took blunt force trauma to my frontal lobe to finally free him enough to appear to me incarnate. Well, as close to incarnate as he can get, I suppose. The force that had started in my toes and now resided in everything left of my breastbone was standing in front of me, calmly waiting for me to overcome this overload.
“You’re black,” was the profound, symbolic, and wholly well spoken statement that sprouted from my mouth like a cactus from a clay pot.
“Yes, I am.” I had to commend Lefty, he was remaining remarkably calm throughout the whole ordeal. I, on the other hand, was left with my mouth slightly open as I tried to work my way through the labyrinth of thoughts and feelings that had now entered my mind. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Well, I mean, I’m not.” It’s true, I’m not. I’m so pale I have trouble tanning at a leather hide shop.
“I think it’s become pretty clear that I’m not you,” he said. I could only nod in agreement. Lefty was a pretty good arguer for being mute all these years.
“So, uh,” I stammered, eloquent as always, “How are you?”
“Not too good, and that leads me to what I wanted to talk about. Right after you passed out I managed to punch the guy that hit you in the head with a wrench. Unfortunately, he simply hit us again until I passed out too. Not my proudest moment.”
I didn’t know all this. I blinked a couple times and wondered two things; 1. Had all those blows to my head purged me of all conversational skill? and 2. What the hell had Lefty and I gotten into?
“So right now what you’re saying is,” I began, “I’m double unconscious.”
“You’re double unconscious,” he finished, repeating my similar conclusion at the exact same time.
“Stop doing that! It’s getting really annoying.”
“Sorry, but we do kinda have a special connection. Hell, I’m your other half whether you like it or not,” he said, taking a step closer to me. Lefty began poking me in the chest. “And right now, Steve, there is a very big man that is most likely about to do even worse things to us when we double come to.”
“I’m double scared crapless.”
“This is no time for jokes. We need to figure out a plan. I think I might have something, and since I’ve got you here in front of me, this is the best and possibly only time to put it in motion.”
I’ve always said Lefty is the more instant action half of me, while I’m more of the “Let’s just wait and see if everything works out” persuasion. This time, I could see he was right, although I have to say I think the scoreboard was still in my favor from the time he was demanding we go to the doctor to check out a rash on his leg. It went away like I said it would, and it should have gone away sooner if he hadn’t been itching it all the time. But that’s neither here nor there. I asked him what his plan was and he started talking.