Wednesday, July 20, 2011


It has been brought to my attention that I should be giving my final opinion on the conclusion of the Harry Potter Empire. I’m not sure how much my opinion really matters one way or another, but I guess maybe I could attempt to explain to you why I am in mourning for The Boy Who Lived.



Back in 2000…I happened to mention that I wondered what all this Harry Potter hype was about. I thought Mr. Potter was the author; his name was so prominently displayed on all the book jackets.

I received the first three books for my birthday, finished them within nano-seconds and promptly went and bought Goblet of Fire the day it was released. Then spent the next THREE years reading fan fiction to tide me over until The Order of the Phoenix was published. (My early days of Ernst & Young left me with a LOT of time on my hands.)

I reserved tickets for the opening day of The Sorcerer’s Stone. I had t-shirts. I was “sorted” into Ravenclaw. I stalked the Oberlin book store for a maroon and gold scarf. I drove to Border’s to get my pre-ordered Half-Blood Prince hours before leaving on vacation and I read Deathly Hallows by flashlight when our power went out. I named my dog Potter for Christsakes!

This might seem odd for a grown person to do. I can’t disagree with you.

Why I Love the Books

Would I classify the books as literary works of staggering genius?

Style – No. There is some cringe-worthy dialogue, a few over-used plot devices, and many more pages than necessary for the sake of the story (with the exception of the first three books).

Substance – Yes. There is no denying that she spawned a renewed interest in reading to a generation of kids that may have never seen the inside of a library otherwise. Her books are so rich with characters and her world is so vividly set in front of you, that you have to be dead inside to not want more of it. It’s not Charles Dickens, people. It’s fairy tale.

Is it original?

No – The hero myth has been used since the beginning of time in storytelling and she has one of the most faithful adaptations to it with the thankful exception that she refrained from killing off our hero.

Yes – The depth that she gave to each character keeps it from being just a hero myth. It’s about friendship and loyalty as much as it is about good versus evil as much as it is about choosing your own path. Harry Potter can be a “brave little toaster” (Chamber of Secrets), whiny little bitch (Order of the Phoenix), and a selfless savior (Deathly Hallows). He grows…and sometimes regresses…the whole way. Those heroes are few and far between.

What I like best…

…is what they opened me up to. As a child, I loved fantasy…Roald Dahl (of Willie Wonka fame, but James and the Giant Peach was the best), E. B. White (Charolette’s Web) and Robert O’Brian (The Rats of Nihm) were huge favorites. Guess what? As an adult…I still love them. And I had almost forgotten how much.

It made me go back and read things I missed as a kid…Baum’s Wonderful World of Oz and Lewis’s Narnia.

And it made me pick up new things I would have otherwise ignored…Pullman’s Dark Materials and Collin’s Hunger Games (both of which are stylistically written a thousand times better than HP).

Why I Love the Movies

I thought I would hate the movies. They couldn’t possibly come close the Hogwarts in my head. But they actually managed it brilliantly whether they planned on it or not. The supporting cast alone had us all drooling (Hello! ALAN F-ING RICKMAN!) despite the unknown nature of the three central characters.

Having Columbus direct the first two made the focus on the characters of Harry, Ron and Hermione. Their faithfulness to the book made you become comfortable with the actors. Being comfortable with the actors makes you a little more agreeable to artistic license with the material.

Cuaron got the “coming of age” story, which was right up his alley. Prisoner of Azkaban was my favorite book and my favorite movie, despite the fact that it was the first to start the traumatic separation of church and state (read: book and movie). If Columbus had made that movie it would have been too light (and too long), if Yates had done it – way too dark. And Gary F-ing Oldman!

Newell had the odds against him. Kloves and Rowling had to cut the Goblet of Fire screenplay drastically from the original manuscript. The effects had to be better. The mood had to be darker and take a serious turn away from a “kids” movie (up to PG-13). And this guy’s resume is all over the place. I know there’s controversy over this one, but I thought it was seemless. And I think the trick is to NOT re-read the book right before the movie. I took the movie for what it was and didn’t compare. End of story.

Which brings us to Yates and the last three books.

My second favorite movie was Order of the Phoenix - which is odd, because I was so annoyed by Harry in the book. But it finally left Hogwarts. So, visually, it was the most appealing to me. (Although, it also marked the moment I had to accept that Sirius was really and truly dead, so I had no hope of him returning in the yet-unpublished Hallows). This was Helena Bonham-Carter at her craziest and she rocked it.

The Half-Blood Prince was more about a love story to me, so this is the only film that left me wanting more. Everyone hop aboard the good ship Harry and Ginny. Who cares that the Death Eaters are on a rampage and the Ministry has taken over the school. Harry is finally in love with Ginny and all will be right with the world…That message did not get delivered.

I thought The Deathly Hallows was much too long of a book. Maybe Rowling had gotten Stephenie Meyer (Twilight) Syndrome. So when I heard Yates was cutting it into two movies, I sensed a little money-making scheme underway. But it was completely the right thing to do. As a non-fan reviewer put it…Part 1 got to be moody and full of despair, while Part 2 got to be all out Voldemort Ass-Kicking War. It would have been strange to mash those together.

Am I Done Yet?

If you’ve made it this far, you either:

A. Really like to read my blog
B. Really like Harry Potter
C. Have nothing better to do

So I will wrap it up.

Don’t underestimate the camaraderie to be formed while waiting to find out if Snape is good or evil. I had a completely bizarre and in-depth conversation with a Border’s employee while pre-ordering my Hallows.

I continue to be amazed when a seemingly non-suspect individual shows up with a Gryffindor mug. Harry Potter is for everybody. Unless you don’t like a good fairy tale. Then it’s not for you. So go back to your CNN and stop reading my blog.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Fish Tank Standard

When Scott was in his first year of law school, we moved into a “gated community” apartment unit. The naivety of that decision I'll save for another post. All you need to know is that, by the time our lease was up, we had come to our senses.

We found a great rental, in what was probably the opposite of a gated community, close to the Toledo hospital.

The main move went very smoothly with a few different trips and various friends helping us out.

There may or may not have been a U-haul involved, because we really hadn’t accumulated that much crap in the period of one year – considering one of us was a full-time student and the other one of us worked the bridal registry at a department store. Ahhh…fun times.

The last item to be moved was the fish tank, which we could clearly handle on our own.

To be more specific…a 55 gallon rectangular fish tank, with an inch and a half of live rock and sand on the bottom that had to be covered in water for the “good” organisms to survive (Note to PETA: All fish were removed for the relocation).

So this tank weighs no less than 10 baby hippos and needs to be moved up to a second floor of a historic-home-turned-duplex. And did I mention there is a turn in the staircase that leads to said second floor?

Remember that episode of Friends when Ross bought a couch and he kept screaming the word “PIVOT!” like if only everyone listened to him it would magically make it around a corner that was much too narrow?

If you imagine that the couch was waterlogged and one of the people trying to move it has the upper-body strength of a fetus.

In this instance the stairway was plenty wide, so pivoting wasn’t necessarily our issue. Our issue was that Scott agreed to be the one that had to walk backwards. This sounds good until you realize the person walking backwards is going up the stairs first, so the person walking forward is baring the weight of 8 out of 10 of those baby hippos.

As opposed to repeating the same word over and over, Scott chose more motivational chants like. “JUST FUCKING DO IT!” and, “ARE YOU CRYING?” which I assume he only yelled to distract me from the fact that I was having a stroke, coronary, and panic attack all at the same time – but most definitely in a manner of love and undying devotion.

Needless to say the fish tank made it. It actually made it on three subsequent moves, but the “live” component was always left behind. (We sometimes learn from our mistakes.)

And now we have a moving standard:

1 Antique (read: broken) Pinball Machine Into the Basement + 4Grown Men + 1 Railing that Should Have Been Removed = 1 Fish Tank (it would have been 2 Fish Tanks if it hadn’t had quite so much “muscle” behind it)

1 New to Us Refrigerator In + 1 Old Refrigerator Out = ½ Fish Tank (nobody’s life was actually threatened by the object itself or the participants...more just an abstract pain in the ass)

1 Washing Machine Into Basement – 3 Grown Men + 1 Female with Fetus Arms = ¾ Fish Tank

There was actually no shouting. Definitely not as heavy. But anytime I assess the situation and ask “Wouldn’t you rather have Phil do this with you?” it’s not going to be pretty.

We had a dolly, so we could "easily" lower it one step at a time.

First problem...our back hallway is narrower than Ross's apartment building and the monster-truck wheels on the dolly would not allow us to slide it over, so we had to take the dolly off.

But because I had been below to supposedly just guide while Scott held the weight of the dolly, I again found myself on the shit end (sorry, short end) of this stick. After my first PTSD flashback tremor subsided, we squeezed our bodies through spaces much too small for us to switch positions.

Again we start moving forward and I can literally see me gently pushing the washing machine forward until it starts rolling on its own free will...down the stairs...crushing Scott beneath it...and I chicken out. There may have been pathetic begging involved.

At this point we realize that if we move it forward somewhat and balance it, we can put the dolly back on. Which we do. Then I have another tremor because now I imagine the added weight of the dolly and washing machine flattening him. Mainly because I can't get enough leverage to tip the dolly back until it's at the very edge of the stairs.

Take the dolly off. Switch positions. Put the dolly back on. One more horrifying glimpse of a possible bone crushing incident - this time with me underneath - and we're on the move. One steep, narrow step at a time.

Actual time for completion...a mere fifteen minutes. I repeat...¾ Fish Tank.

Monday, July 11, 2011

It's the Very Best Mustard

Vacuum update: I bought a Shark. I've named it Jaws. The box claims that it never loses suction. Doesn't even have quotation marks around "never", so it must be true.

Twenty minutes after I finish vacuuming with Jaws (and emptying the densely hair-packed canister), the washing machine starts making funky noises. This I can't blame on Potter...yet.

Lucky Break # 1 - It was on the final rinse. The only problem seems to be that the inside isn't spinning when it's supposed to, so all the water drained...except for the water that all the clothes were holding in them.

Lucky Break #2 - It was mostly the girls clothes. So I only had to wring out 100 tiny little t-shirts and shorts, as opposed to large bath towels or 10 pairs of Scott's khakis.

* * *

While eating appetizers on the patio bar at Reddstone...mind you, it was only 7 p.m....

A man roughly ten times my size approached the bar, belched much louder than I have ever heard come out of my cousin Rachel (which is significantly loud), and proceeded to nonchalantly ask for a beer.

I'm sorry, no "excuse me"? Not even the slightest amount of remorse that you made me want to vomit up my calamari?

Five minutes later, he insists that the bartender believes him when he says "you're looking good tonight." She is much more gracious than I would have been.

* * *

Surprisingly, I didn't get any volunteers (except from my two cousins in Kansas that are "hilarious") to help throw hay bales with us on Sunday. I can only assume that you were ashamed of your suburban upbringing and didn't want to admit that you've never worn a John Deere trucker hat with your L.L. Bean rain boots. I don't blame you.

Step journal for Facebook posterity.

Step 2...climb the ladder to the loft. I'm not afraid of heights, but I am deathly afraid of ladders. I have trouble on the girl's bunk bed ladder. This particular ladder is close to a 90 degree angle and ascends about 12 feet in the air. Awesome!

Step 3...yell at the kids, "Stop torturing the turtle!"

Repeat Step 3 until all patience has been eroded and send kids back up to Nana.

Step 4...make note of size and location of all wasp nests that Papa has graciously left hanging from the rafters. Repeat Step 4 after every fifth bale, as swarming wasps continue to multiply.

Step 5...supervise little brother stacking twice as many bales as me, occasionally kicking one towards him to help him out a little.

Step 6...stack bales loosely, so you run out of room quicker and can leave the loft, which gives off the same vibe as a towering inferno.

Step 7...make sure dad doesn't run over any kittens (again) while removing the hay wagon.

Step 8...drink the water that Nana and the kids finally brought us for our "break" after we were already done with the whole damn thing.

* * *

I'd like to officially mark True Blood's "jump the shark" moment on July 10, 2010 approximately 9:30 p.m. when Bill told Jessica to "Vamp up!" Because suddenly, after three whole seasons otherwise, Bill no longer talks like he's from the Civil War era that he died in, but instead uses cheesy slang that you wouldn't even hear on My Babysitter's a Vampire.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

"Camelot" vs. "Game of Thrones" - Part 2

The following contains spoilers.

The most blog hits I have ever received for a single post was my Camelot/Game of Thrones review (250 and counting), which I wrote early in both series. Now that I’ve seen all episodes of both (with the exception of the 9th episode of Camelot, which for some reason isn’t On Demand) I’ll give my final verdict.

So if you are reading this and are not my facebook friend…please comment! I mean, you can comment if you are my friend, but this is the only time that random people come to my blog and it’s kind of awesome.

In Summary (from previous post)
Camelot (Cam) is loosely based on the rise of King Arthur and is historically accurate for the period and geography, regardless of whether Arthur himself is fact or fiction. On the other hand, both Merlin and Morgan practice sorcery. So in that regard, it is still of the "fantasy" genre.

Game of Thrones (GoT) is based on a fictional world which looks almost identical to medieval times but seems to have a large variety of cultures (though mostly British accents) within an unfathomably limited square mile area and some zombie like creatures on the attack.

Gore Factor
Besides the fact that Sir Ector/King Lot was the best death scene ever, there never was the same amount of gory blood in Cam as Spartacus, which I was thankful for. Then they went and decapitated a nun. So now I have the same criticism from GoT that decapitation just can’t be made to look realistic for me.

Closely rivaling Cam for the best death scene ever would be Khal Drogo’s men pouring hot molten gold over Viserys head to give him his “crown” that he begged for – but that wasn’t really gory. I personally love that some of the best bloodiness was at the teeth of the Stark children’s direwolves. And even though I knew it was coming (yes, I read spoilers) they really had me sucked in to Ned Stark’s treason trial…right up until they decapitated him. Ugh.

Winner: It’s actually a tie. With one much-mentioned exception, all the violence effects were very well done in both of them.

Incest Themes
I said it all before…GoT is way heavy on the incest themes for reasons I can’t quite fathom. Cam did finally seal the deal with Morgan shifting into the shape of Guinevere to make a baby with Arthur (her half-brother) so she could “give birth to a king”. But since that’s the closest they have ever come to the actual Arthurian legend, I can’t fault them for it.

Winner: Camelot.

Cam did finally catch up to GoT on this one. And I’d say they even surpassed by the mere fact that all of the main female characters got naked. (It is possible that Claire Forlani had a body double from the way they edited that scene together.) GoT on the other hand (with the exception of that first episode with Daenerys), left it to the whores, which I thought was sweet.

Winner: Another tie. It all washed out in the end.

Cam had some really good moments. Some were great re-imaginings of the legend - pulling the sword from the stone, the lady of the lake, and the beginnings of the round table. Some were completely new concepts that fell right into place. But some just went too much against my pre-conceived notions – Arthur stealing Guinevere from his champion. And then there were places where I could tell the plot was trying to be good, but the dialogue was so horrible it couldn’t quite get there. The storyline rallied in the final episode (And it looked like it may have in episode 9, too. Did I mention that On Demand sucks?), but like Scott says, anyone can write a premiere and a finale, it’s the in between stuff that’s the real measure.

I just downloaded GoT to my nook, but I heard that they really didn’t stray too far from that first book (of course True Blood didn’t stray far either and now it’s a cluster fuck). I thought episodes 3 and 4 were incredibly boring. And yes, I get that they were needed for character development – doesn’t make them any less boring. That being said…wow. In the end, there were no less than five essential plots occurring simultaneously and I was sucked into every one of them (another note to True Blood). Still love Daenerys and Arya the best, but John Snow’s moments at The Wall have been right up there.

Winner: Game of Thrones

So, my favorite actor of the Cam series (Leontes) sacrifices himself for the king in the final episode (presumably so he can go do his own show on Cinemax called Strike Back, which was apparently stolen from the UK). I still do not like Arthur, but he did become pretty bad ass in the finale, so when he’s not actually speaking, he’s okay. Or maybe it was because he had his horribly nasty hair pulled back in a pony tail. Gawain and Kay did a great job, but otherwise they might as well have brought in a whole new batch of knights. Honestly, the writing is so poor in parts that I can’t really tell whose fault it is.

If you’re not into SciFi and Fantasy you might not know who Sean Bean is, but to the rest of us, he is a god. Rest in peace, Ned Stark. I will definitely miss you. Again, it always helps to have good writing and I hear that most of the dialogue was taken directly from the book. But all these actors are amazing, even the children. If I had to pick the best out of the cast, not counting Sean Bean, just based on whose screen time I enjoy the most…Peter Dinklage as Tyrion (no shocker there), Maisie Williams as Arya, Rory McCann as Sandor Clegane, and – wait for it - Iain Glen as Ser Jorah in by far the best supporting role.

Winner: Game of Thrones

Naturally, the overall winner is GoT. HBO rarely disappoints me in the first season. And their second seasons are almost always better, because they don’t have to deal with that pesky character development. But that leaves GoT in a bind. With the death of Ned Stark, King Robert, Viserys, and Khal Drogo, there are new characters that are going to come into play. They are going to need some slick skillz to introduce them without derailing the momentum.

As for Cam…it’s been cancelled. Apparently, everyone hated Arthur as much as I did.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Martha Stewart Floor Cleaning Arsenal

In honor of my first-born's ninth birthday. Never thought he would make it another year. We apologize for letting a cat into what should be the sweet life of your twilight years.

Broom and dustpan
Uses: Oreo crumbs, cobwebs, dog hair, ant colonies, dried up Play-Doh, dog hair, piece of string cheese left under the couch last week, dog hair.

Uses: Dog hair

Wet Swiffer
Uses: Dog hair stuck to floor with slobber

Electric Broom
Uses: Dog hair off the hardwood floors and low pile carpeting

Little Green Machine
Uses: Dog hair stuck to furniture upholstery with slobber

Uses: All of the above - most notably, dog hair - off the high pile rugs

Shop Vac
Uses: Dog hair off the stairway runner.

Lint Roller
Uses: When your regular vacuum and your shop vac both stop sucking in the same weekend because they have too much dog hair that has made it into the actual motors.

1. Get down on your hands and knees.
2. Swipe lint roller across rug one time.
3. Remove no-longer-adhesive layer from lint roller.
4. Repeat as necessary.

Note: One full lint roller will clean about 3 square feet of high dog hair traffic.