11.25.2008

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Attention: there are spoilers.

My two main problems with this book have to do with feeling a certain sense of betrayal. First, this is a very long book, and yet, to me it really built towards nothing. Thus, after finishing it, I had the feeling of being duped. The ending doesn't have the same power of the others compelling me to find out what happens next. There is a prophecy. Neither can live while the other survives. Did I just read 870 pages to find that out? Did anyone doubt that good and evil must be headed toward a confrontation? What we learn at the end of this book is something we knew from the first page even if we didn't have all the details, and that frustrated me.

(You may point out that there is an unexpected death of a "major" character. I had an issue with that, too. Sirius dies in battle. I think the handling of this death was almost careless. On the one hand, I can see an overall message in the way that the depiction is without fanfare in a chaotic fight scene. The scene is in line with the increasingly dark tone of the series, not to mention one of the book's underlying themes that life isn't fair. On the other hand, I didn't feel much as a result. There hasn't been much development of Sirius' relationship with Harry to make me feel like he is a "major" part of his life. Harry doesn't find out his true identity until the end of book #3, but Sirius is in hiding for book #4 and interactions with Harry are limited. Similarly, in this book, he is basically under house arrest. I think we are supposed to feel something because of the character's loss, but he has essentially been wasted.)

The second way I feel betrayed is by the fate of Dolores Umbridge. Umbridge and her relationship with Harry and Hogwarts overall are given much attention in the book. She is the character we love to hate. (Isn't it interesting that the most evil person we have met after Voldemort is not actually affiliated with him?) I see no reason why Umbridge survives, to the point that I'm angry that she does not die. I would never say that evil characters have to die for me to be satisfied with a story, but I think in this case it prevented me from connecting with the book. If my expectation that there would be a more rewarding ending was not met, my expectation that Dolores would suffer a satisfying demise was entirely contradicted. In earlier books, the unexpected twists and turns (e.g. Sirius' identity and Pettigrew's appearance at the end of #3, the death of Cedric in #4) furthered the story along. Here, there seems to be less method to the madness.

And there is more madness. Grawp? Lockhart? Perhaps some of the untidy threads of this volume will be addressed in the future. Maybe there is a reason for the giants; maybe Umbridge is revisited; I'm no Firenze.

This was my least favorite of the series, but there was enough to keep me reading. Shout-out to the good bits I liked: the woes of Mrs. Weasley (the boggart changing into her dead sons and husband), Hermione's curse on the DA list, the Room of Requirement (I think I just like the name), Dumbledore's escape. Luckily, things rebound in the Half-Blood Prince.

Showtune Tuesday: Fiddler on the Roof

I like a lot of songs from Fiddler, and this isn't my favorite, but I'm in the mood.

11.19.2008

Berlin

After London, I visited Sue in Berlin.

I have never been to Berlin before, so I did do a lot of the sightseeing thing. One of the first things I did was go to the Reichstag, since it is open late. You can walk up into the dome at the top.




On Day 2, I walked down Unter den Linden. I started at the Brandenburg Gate, then headed down to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. This was a place that actually made you want to linger. Something about the blocks, the haphazard sizes, the way the paths rise and fall. If you check out my flickr, you can tell I spent a bit of time here just taking pictures.

I stopped at Bebelplatz, the site of the Nazi book burning in May 1933.

I spent a good portion of the day at the German History Museum. I got the audio guide and wandered from the Middle Ages to Reunification. I was in there for a while. In the Middle Ages section, I was drawn to the Augsburg Globe. There was also a disturbing crucifix. The entire thing was made of wood, but there were gaping wounds in the sculpture, so you could see ribs and bleeding arms. In the 20th century, I was interested to see how World War II would be portrayed. You move from the section on WWI, where they talk about how the Treaty of Versailles was harsh to Germany and that they had a problem with accepting full responsibility for the war(confirming what you learned back in World History classes), into the WWII section where they essentially say, "We accept full responsibility; we fucked up."

It was dark by the time I left the History Museum, and I finished my walk at Alexanderplatz in front of the TV Tower. I had some kebab, some coffee, and was going to meet up with Sue, but first ended up getting pleasantly lost on Oranienburger Strasse.

Then I met Sue at The Bird. I got to meet the crew, I went on an ice run, I had a delicious patty melt, and I got drunk. Sue showed us a chimpanzee riding on a Segway. By the time we arrived at Privatleben (no link?), I had already lost count of drinks. At this bar, they had wonderful strawberry + vodka shots that are alone worth a trip to Berlin. I ended up very drunk and concerned about texting gibberish to my boyfriend. I think I successfully avoided this but instead sent myself an e-mail via Blackberry that said, "At private life in stall." Text yourself before you wreck yourself, I always say.

The next morning I woke up late. I had experienced a "typical night out."

On Wednesday, Sue and I biked all around town. It was a beautiful sunny day. We rode by Checkpoint Charlie, the Jewish Museum, and the East Side Gallery, the largest remaining chunk of wall. We had a snack of shawarma. Later, Sue's friend Paula came over. I enjoyed a lesson in how Germans learn, from 4th grade art (kids are thrown into a tizzy if they have to paint a tree blue) all the way to university. Germans, like the French students I saw in Lyon, are meticulous note takers. For example, they have different color pens to take notes with depending on the subject. I think someone must teach them this. How else do you end up with an entire nation of people who pull out rulers to underline words in their notebooks??

We dined at a great Turkish restaurant in Kreuzberg with Paula and Megan. We had a drink afterwards at Franken Bar. I had a Magners, but in Germany it mysteriously had a different name. We talked of self-hating Americans ("Where are you from?" "Everywhere."), the extremely frustrating visa process for entering the United States, what Los Angeles is like, traveling to Asia and South America, sex with teachers, and other teachers with small fingers. Megan told us about a brilliant perk of living in Kreuzberg: in the night, when drinks have been consumed and you start getting hungry, a man with a basket of fresh samosas goes from bar to bar and sells them. She had finished her story, and not ten seconds later Samosa Man was at our table asking us if we wanted some! It was like her story had conjured him! I loved that.

On Thursday, I roamed the Tiergarten and visited the Victory Column. I took a break at a Dunkin' Donuts near Potsdamer Platz. In the evening, Sue joined me for Art Madness: Berlin Edition at the New National Gallery. The top floor had a Jeff Koons exhibit, which looked pretty cool in the space; I got to see another balloon dog this year. The Paul Klee exhibit was great. I tried to dig up the paintings I liked, but not all of them were available. It probably doesn't help that I didn't write down their German names:

  • A Face of the Body, Too: This was early in the exhibit, and I laughed when I saw it. It reminded me of those eternal words: "The nipples are the nose of the breast face BUT the breasts are the eyes of the torso face and the navel is the nose OR the mouth...depending on if a chach is involved. If a chach is involved it can be considered the mouth." (The link is to some essay that has images accompanying it; the one in question is called "A Face Also of the Body.")

  • Fishes in a Circle: Exactly.

  • Snake Paths:I loved the colors and the snake's open mouth. Mehhp!

  • Black Herald: The herald with a giant red exclamation point that makes me smile.

  • Uncomposed in Space:Maybe a little too like an art project, but I liked it.

  • Architecture: Colors and shapes. It made me nostalgic for art class. I haven't had one since middle school.

  • Emigrating Bird: I think this is the one with fading pyramids, but I can't be sure.

  • Architecture of the Plain: The exhibit had an interesting section on Klee's travels to Egypt and other places, and how he developed abstract compositions of what he had seen. This is an example of that style. Personally, I just liked the colors. (It is the second picture in the link to a random blog post.)

  • Rock-Cut Chamber: When I first looked at this, I thought it was stupid. The more I looked at it, the more I liked it. It just seems to calm me down to look at it. I got a postcard of this one and the previous one.

  • Villa R: What can I say? I like that big R.


  • We had pizza for dinner and talked about travel. So many places left to see. Sue is planning more biking adventures. One day I want to do the Appalachian Trail.



    I covered a lot of ground in a short time, but like in London, I had a good time sitting on the couch and catching up. Over the days we talked about mutual friends and our siblings and our shared appreciation of "It's Always Sunny..." (Sidenote: if you have not seen the ladies' night scenes from the "Who Pooped The Bed" episode, go to FX or hulu and download NOW.) We talked about languages, YouTube usage patterns, exes and the health craze, running, and how we really should have taken Small Engines in high school. These foolish things have been lifting my spirits all week.

11.18.2008

Showtune Tuesday: Cabaret

Ah, it's late, but just think: it's so much earlier in Pacific Time.

Berlin much?

(Alas, old links are broken.)

11.16.2008

London

Hello, 'mosketeers! I have much to discuss: London, Berlin, Harry Potter 5, the Prop 8 protest! I'm not sure if I have the discipline to stare at a computer screen long enough to cover all that, but let's talk about vacation first.

This vacation was about visiting friends in foreign lands. I went to London to visit Tini.(Her account of the visit can be found on her blog). On Friday, T had to work for a bit, so I did the touristy things on my list.



I started with Westminster Abbey. So many people who have been a part of history buried there it's unbelievable. I finished at the National Gallery. I wrote down the name of the paintings I liked:

After the National Gallery, I met Tini at work and got the chance to see our global headquarters. We adjourned to the office bar, hung out with Steve, Jim, and some other folks. We discussed the results of the election. ("America's BACK on top, baby!") We enjoyed some titillating music videos courtesy of MTV Dance. Then, Art Madness continued at the Annie Leibovitz exhibit currently at the National Portrait Gallery. It was interesting to go from painting to photography all in one day. There were celebrity shots mixed with family ones; a bunch of family photos with her mom in a black "mom bathing suit" made me smile. Belgian for dinner!

On Saturday it rained. We had a lovely lazy morning at Tini's (very nice) apartment. We watched a rerun of "Dancing with the Stars" and chatted about work. When we finally left, it was to eat and to walk. I was introduced to the wonder that is Borough Market and their on-the-fly raclette. The rain cleared. We walked across the Thames via Tower Bridge, discussing vacation spots. We met up with Tini's friend at St. Paul's and headed back to the bridges to watch the fireworks at the closing of the Lord Mayor's Show. Ah, but our show was just beginning. We stepped into a pub to regroup, drink cider, and play foosball. We tried to have a drink at Gordon's, but it was too crowded. The London American crew went for dinner in Chinatown. Then we barhopped, ending at Bedford & Strand. I did my part to polish off the bottle of scotch.

T was kind enough to go for a run with me on Sunday. We ran from Embankment into Hyde Park, then down to Clapham, then straight to brunch. (Eating is the best motivation for running.) Later in the afternoon we went to the exhibit on Ian Fleming at the Imperial War Museum. In between these events we had some good chai tea and biscuits.

I went into the office on Monday morning to see my London Boyfriend and London Girlfriend for 15 minutes because they were not in on Friday. We agreed to face-to-face meetings once per quarter, although I think they should come to New York next time.

For photos, check out my flickr page here.

11.06.2008

America the Beautiful

Tuesday!

Obama's speech was moving, even though I caught it on DVR. (I left Matt's just before the election was called and was stuck in the subway for the next hour and half.) Wednesday, on the morning walk to work, I was singing the national anthem in my head.

As I leave the country for vacation, I know I can hold my head up high. I'm happy and hopeful.

11.04.2008

Showtune Tuesday: Waiting for Guffman

For this Election Day, oh how I wish that I was either familiar with 1776 or that there was some "Wave the Flag" action from Teddy & Alice. But sidenote to the haters, it does exist. Surely you can trust the combined validation of Wikipedia and YouTube:



Anyway, let's hear it for Blaine, a real American town in the tossup (as labeled by the NY Times electoral map) state of Missouri!