Thursday, July 26, 2007

my very favorite harry potter story

A few days after my boys finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I turned the final page. All three of them started the book around 12:30 am on Saturday (the day it went on sale) and the last one to finish it closed it about 12 hours later. Which put me about three days behind them.

I finished it last night (Wednesday) at about 11:30 pm. Each of the boys was hovering around in the kitchen as I closed in on the end and I shooed them away - telling them they couldn't talk to me, they couldn't interrupt until I was finished reading it.

When I closed the book, I headed upstairs and found two of them in a room and called their brother in to talk about the book. And ask all the questions about the dozens of things that confused me as I read the story.

So here it is: my very favorite Harry Potter moment. After years of reading aloud, years of watching them strike out on their own and race through the books by themselves, years of anticipating this final chapter to the story: this was my very favorite moment of the whole thing. The night I finished the book, we sat in Cameron's room and talked about it for an hour or more. Everything we loved, everything that scared us. Everything that we wondered about, and our favorite moments.

I cherished every second of it. They sort of looked like they were little boys again, excited to talk about a child's story about a wizard. They were older though, and their remarks were not those of children. They were smart, thoughtful, inquisitive, enthusiastic and amazing. I can't even really explain how I felt about the experience.

Lucky, I think. Lucky to know them, to feel like they're friends of mine. I won't forget it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

they amaze me

Okay, so tonight we're sitting around the dinner table, anticipating the Harry Potter book coming out on Saturday (at midnight on Friday, actually), and my boys start to list the first chapters of every book. From memory. Many years after reading them.
Then they start to list their favorite chapters ever...and each one of them not only remembers what happened in that particular chapter, they remember the book it appeared in as well.
I was floored. I can't remember where I left my car keys and they remember the title to the first chapter of the fourth Harry Potter book.

So then answer me this: why can't they remember to start the dishwasher?
Why can't they remember to feed the dog?
Why can't they remember to pick up the mail from the mailbox?

I know why. None of these tasks - or any of the other four dozen I could name in one minute's time capture their imagination and their interest as powerfully as do the stories they found on the pages of each Harry Potter book. I'd love to believe they would accomplish these small duties simply for the sake of doing them; for the sake of pitching in; for the sake of scraps of sanity I'm trying desperately to hold onto.

Then I remember: oh, yeah. They're teenagers. And they're pretty normal. One day, they'll wonder why their own kids can't seem to remember to cap the toothpaste or put the milk away. I hope they won't be too hard on them. I hope they remember the night they sat around naming Harry Potter chapters, and recall the kinds of things that captured their minds and attention as teenagers. It certainly wasn't mowing the lawn.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Let's all buy one rose in her honor

God bless Kathleen E. Woodiwiss.

This prolific author had three decades of bestsellers to her credit before passing away in early July in Minnesota. Her final work will be published this fall. The numbers vary, but total sales of her body of work total upwards of 25 or 30 million copies.

Never heard of her? Check your chromosomes and get back to me. Woodiwiss basically invented the genre of the historical romance novel, and women haven't been the same ever since. I haven't read her books in many years, but I do remember them fondly and with no little sense of romance. Sure, maybe the heroine was originally kidnapped and possibly even raped by the man who ultimately becomes her lover and partner. Maybe it was unlikely the captain of the pirate ship would tuck away a wench for his personal pleasure on a ship packed with less than savory male companions.'re thinking about this w-a-y too much. The novels were pieces of candy women could devour, guilt free. They were a respite from the reality of daily life, where the most romantic thing a woman might encounter is an exchange between Kermit and Miss Piggy as her toddlers watched Sesame Street. They were a vacation you took in your own living room.

Romance novels are the unseen workhorses of publishing. There may be showier steeds out in front of the parade, but these hardworking books keep the business chugging along. They don't need promotion; or endless praise, or cover blurbs or author chats with Diane Sawyer to boost their sales. They just work, day in and day out to make bottom lines look better at publishers the world over and make daily lives that much more fun for women the world over.

Thanks, Kathleen. You made a lot of us very happy to know you.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Abstract from the journal Science: italics my own -

Human-dominated marine ecosystems are experiencing accelerating loss of populations and species, with largely unknown consequences. We analyzed local experiments, long-term regional time series, and global fisheries data to test how biodiversity loss affects marine ecosystem services across temporal and spatial scales. Overall, rates of resource collapse increased and recovery potential, stability, and water quality decreased exponentially with declining diversity. Restoration of biodiversity, in contrast, increased productivity fourfold and decreased variability by 21%, on average. We conclude that marine biodiversity loss is increasingly impairing the ocean's capacity to provide food, maintain water quality, and recover from perturbations. Yet available data suggest that at this point, these trends are still reversible.

Got that? Everybody clear on the message found in the journal Science? Let's move on.

If you read the home page of MSN, and take note of the list of earth-friendly things you can do to make your "carbon footprint" smaller, you'll read that:

"The world's seafood will be entirely depleted by 2048, according to an early November report in the journal Science."

Got that? "...entirely depleted by 2048..." I must have missed that critical point that was somehow left out of the abstract, which, last I heard, summarizes the salient points of a study or a paper.

This is the problem I have with most major "news" stories that reach our collective consciousness. We accept everything we read, hear or google, or nearly everything we read, hear, or google, as the absolute truth, when in fact, it is neither. It took me about six minutes to find the article that was being used to engender fear on the MSN homepage and compare what the two documents stated.

The larger problem is that someone will begin spouting off about not be able to have shrimp scampi in 2008 and everyone around them will nod in horror as they denigrate and deride all the eco-rats who are destroying our planet (i.e. everyone who cares enough to voice a syllable of doubt about the "news" we're fed.)

Do I want the oceans to be healthier? Yes. Do I want to encourage bio-diversity so all aquatic life will flouish in this century and the next several dozen centuries? Yes. Does that mean to do that, I have to embrace a climate (you'll pardon the word) of fear and destruction in order to effect some change? No.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Wow, that was quite a message.

The news on the Gore front isn't so great today. At least from the West Coast. The arrest of Al Gore III, for speeding, possession of prescription narcotics sans the prescriptions and the scent of pot lingering in his car during an early morning driving citation doesn't do much to start the Live Earth weekend off with a big hug to daddy.

Quite the opposite if you think about it. I don't care what anyone says, the timing of this matters. Here stands Al Gore, former almost leader of the free world about to launch his weekend of worldwide attention on climate change (aka global warming) and mingle with some of the coolest people on the planet (rock stars of several generations, playing at his request around the world) and what happens? His son drives his hybrid vehicle about 100 MPH on a California highwway and gets pulled over, then runs into all kinds of extra trouble about what he's carrying in his car (and perhaps his system.) To the tune of an arrest and $20,000 bail.

Jeez, if that isn't a "Daddy notice me" cry, I don't know what is.

My favorite part of the story is the "help" Al III is going to get for his problems. It's funny to me. The regular schlubs who get pulled over for speeding and possible narcotics possession just go to court and possibly to jail. If they manage to avoid serving time, they have to figure out how they'll get the money to pay a fine, get themselves to their jobs and conduct their lives while living with suspended licenses.

The famous ones pay the fine, and "get help" for their problems. I appreciate the idea of family supporting family during troubling times but I'm not convinced that this is the first sign of trouble with young Al. In fact, it isn't. He has run afoul of the law in the past as well.

The timing on this one, however, says it all.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

it almost worked for me

Because my children know me very well, they know they can not go wrong by giving me anything with a connection to Hugh Grant. They're right about that. There's almost never anything not to like about Hugh Grant if you ask me.

Which is why, when they gave me his movie, Words and Music, for Mother's Day, I appreciated their thoughtfulness. With my usual glacial speed, I finally watched the movie the other night and it almost worked for me. Almost.

Hugh was, of course, brilliant and adorable, and even Drew Barrymore seemed to work as his soulmate-to-be. The story unwound just a little too quickly for me - there weren't nearly enough near misses or "what if's" for a typical romantic comedy but that was okay. There were plenty of amusing lines and repartee to keep me interested.

Here's where it fell apart for me. When they were finally going to have their moment - the memorable first kiss that usually indicates the high point of the movie as it draws to a close (see Pride and Prejudice for the best one of all time - I don't care what version you watch but the latest one works pretty well to illustrate that point) - or the point at which the story takes a turn into confusion and miscommunication, which is always resolved in hour two.

In this case, it was the latter. There was plenty of movie yet to come so I knew there was conflict ahead. But the fact is, I couldn't really get past the kiss itself. How can I put this? It just wasn't sweet enough. It was a little too fierce. I don't mind fierce but this wasn't the place for it. We're not talking about the elevator scene in Fatal Attraction for god's sake. We're talking about two adorable people who have discovered they just may be falling in love.

I wish I had been on the set. I'm convinced this is the reason the movie didn't do better at the box office. All the other elements were there. But if you get the kiss wrong - you're doomed.

Next time, I hope Hugh's people call me. I'd be delighted to help.

great moments that didn't happen in judicial history

If only.

In an unprecendented break from my vow to write not so much as one word about one Paris Hilton, I'm taking this opportunity to make a plea to every judge sitting on a bench today to impose severe sentences where appropriate, particularly if he or she serves in a particularly upscale district filled with particularly upscale clients who can't seem to stay on the right side of the law.

The judge who sentenced Paris Hilton to a meaningless fourteen days in jail - or whatever it was - would have made judicial history with the following pronouncement. Instead of having her serve out her remaining days, and then subject all of us to a relentless rehash of her ordeal and then have to endure the nonstop news cycle that will surround her every move for god knows how long to come, what if he had said this to her:

Miss Hilton. In the name of everything that is holy, I sentence you to the following:
You will not serve any more time in jail. In lieu of serving time, you must become immediately and completely absent from the media that surrounds you. For the next ten years, I don't want to read an inch of type about you, see your image on any existing or on any not yet developed piece of electronic equipment. I don't want to hear your voice, see your photo or
read one word written by you for any medium. You don't need to do anything except disappear from our collective consciousness.

If you do re-appear prior to July, 2017, you will immediately be detained and made to serve a full six months before you come before me again.

How great would that have been? We all get the break we deserve from this vacant woman, she gets to stay out of jail, and we never have to hear from her again until she's ten years older. At that point, maybe even she will have grown up.

In anther world perhaps. But I can dream.