Friday, July 22, 2011

HPVII.2, Heat, and Dog Sitting

Well, it's been a while since my last post. I think I was ruminating on what it means to be a true adult now that the Harry Potter franchise has ended. I mean, maybe I should have done this before 27. It really is an end of an era. In related news, I thought that HPVII.2 was pretty great/satisfying. There will always be little things from the book that you would have liked to see in the movie (for me, it was the house elves being the source (or a conversation about house elves) of Hermione and Ron's first kiss as well as them (house elves) coming out to fight when Voldemort and the Death Eaters come back to Hogwarts), but overall I can't complain. They gave McGonagall some good air time, which I was ecstatic about. Anyway, I may or may not be re-reading through the books again.

What else? This heat wave is disgusting. I know it's completely boring to rant and rave about the weather on a blog, but this is getting ridiculous. Everywhere I turn the world is drying out in rusty browns and dried-out yellows; I feel like the world is going to start cracking apart. Yesterday I felt like putting lotion on some of the dried-out and cracking soil. I mean, it works for my skin, right? All we need is the most gigantic tub of Eucerin this world has ever seen. And then these storms at night! Last night there was such a loud crack by my bedroom that I swear if Maria Von Trapp lived in my house I would have ran to her room and had her sing "My Favorite Things" to calm me down. I know this sounds ridiculous, but it reinforces my desires to never live south of Chicago unless I'm on some big body of water that will moderate the weather. You want to know what type of job is not fun in this weather? Moving furniture. Monday was a sweaty mess of a work day.

In other news, I successfully dog-sat for three nights last week. Now, when I was little we had a dog for a few years named Ginger. Ginger was a golden retriever puppy that scared me then with her overabundant energy and willingness to "play," which at that point seemed very similar to what I thought "attack" looked like. Once she even followed the school bus for more than a mile and jumped on when we stopped to pick someone up. My sister was mortified. So, this was a good chance for me to reconcile with man's best friend, and I have. I really enjoy dogs and could see myself having one if it wasn't such a financial/time constraint. Although I don't enjoy the whole bathroom experience. It always reminds me of the Seinfeld monologue which I cannot find so I will quote:
"On my block a lot of people walk their dogs, and I always see them walking along with their little poop bags. This, to me, is the lowest activity in human life: following a dog with a little scooper, waiting for him to go so you can walk down the street with it in your bag. If aliens are watching this through telescopes, they're going to think the dogs are the leaders of the planet. If you see two life forms, one of them's making a poop, the other one's carrying it for him, who would you assume is in charge?"

Anyway, I've digressed all the way from weather to bathroom humor. I better stop before this blog really goes south (I refrained myself from saying "to the dogs"...well, I guess I didn't totally refrain). Stay cool, Chicago!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The End of an Era: Lessons I Learned from Harry Potter

Well, this it it. After tonight, there will be no more new experiences (barring any craziness from JK Rowling) of the Harry Potter series. While I am definitely excited, I'm also a bit sad that this is it. I remember the first time my sophomore English teacher, Mrs. Griffith (affectionately known as Mrs. G), said, "You know, there's this book called Harry Potter that I think you'd really like." I asked what it was about, and she said, "It's about a boy who finds out he's a wizard and goes to a wizarding school." I remember rolling my eyes a bit and thinking, "Really, Mrs. G? You think I'm that kid?" Well, it turns out I was that kid through and through. Harry Potter became a companion on my journey to adulthood and one of the top reasons I want to have kids of my own (okay, a bit of hyperbole). I've devoured the books four times over, seen the last four movies (I believe, maybe not in Iowa) at the midnight showing, and have usually included a reference or two in my sermons. So, I thought today I would dedicate a post to some lessons I learned from Harry Potter.

1. Prejudice sucks. Muggles, elves, goblins, sqibs, witches, wizards, giants, even werewolves - they all have the capacity for works of great good and astounding evil. Sometimes you have ideas about people because of class, gender, race, social status, etc., and if you act out of these prejudices all the time, you may end up hanging out with a lot of Death Eaters. So, don't.
2. (similarly) Don't write people off. Some people seem difficult to deal with, Snapish even, but that doesn't mean you get to write them off. As Katherine Hepburn says in the movie The Philadelphia Story, "The time to make up your mind about a person is never." Some people will seem to be your enemies right up until that time when they aren't anymore, and if you hadn't already put them in a box, you may have been surprised earlier by what you saw in them.
3. Sometimes life sucks, but that doesn't mean you get to give up or despair. Sometimes your parents are killed by the most evil wizard of all time, ditto your godfather (trade most evil wizard of all time to most evil witch of all time). Sometimes it seems like the whole world is against you, and the Daily Prophet will just not give you a break. Sometimes your friends misunderstand you. Sometimes you can't decide what to do about Cho and/or Ginny. Sometimes life sucks that way. Well, you still have to keep soldiering on and not be like you were in the opening 200 pages of the 5th book: a whiny baby. It's not becoming on you, and in the end, there is too much hope and beauty and love in life to give into it. Good will come in the end.
4. Sometimes round glasses are just what the doctor ordered.

5. Good friends are priceless; hang on to them. What would Harry have done without Ron and Hermione, Neville and Luna, Fred and George? They are the ones who help you get through the suckiness and may just have the very things you lack when the going gets tough - like a hand bag with an undetectable extension charm that will hold all the stuff you need for a crazy camping trip. As a rule, a few of them probably should be crazy or weird.
6. Don't trust the political establishment to bring about change. Usually they're trying to hang on to their jobs (I'm looking at you, Barty Crouch, Sr.) or are a bit off their rocker (Scrimgeour). You're better off subverting the system and just getting rid of Voldemort yourself. Sometimes you're even going to get someone evil like Delores Umbridge. Then, let 'em have it (figuratively).
7. Don't take yourself to seriously. If you can't laugh occasionally at all the craziness, just pack it up. Think of the beautiful scene when Harry and Hermione dance to the Nick Cave song in the first installment of HPVII. Sometimes you need to do things like that especially when life seems so heavy.
8. Be merciful. Yes, some people deserve what is coming to them, but don't be too eager to deal it out. You're better off being like Harry and disarming someone ("expelliarmus") rather than bringing harm to them ("avada kedavra"). Plus, who knows when mercy will come full circle (Wormtail comes to mind).
(the next two kind of go together)
9. Love wins. It is more powerful than hate, even when it seems to look weak.
10. Good is worth fighting for. Yeah, sometimes it takes a while, looks like it will never actually do any good, and may even cost you a lot. Yet, there is something about good that makes it worth fighting for in spite of all of this. Even when it isn't worth it, it is.

So there it is. The lessons I have learned. After tonight I will probably be in a state of mourning, but I'll be okay in the end. I can always re-read and re-watch at my leisure. So, here's to you, Harry Potter.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Sleep Hygiene, Summer Sickness, and HP

Now, I don't pretend to be a sleep expert, but I do believe there is something to this talk of "sleep hygiene." I'm not talking about keeping your body clean before going to bed (God knows I don't need another excuse to wash my hands) but the bedtime habits that either assist or prevent one from sleeping. Some examples of those things to prevent: alcohol 4-6 hours before bed, ditto caffeine, falling asleep to the TV, having your computer in bed with you (guilty of that right now), etc. Some things that may help: regular exercise (but not right before bed!), a warm bath, a pre-bed ritual (I like rituals!), a fixed bedtime and waking time. So, I fail on most of these counts, but I want to make some strides in the right direction. So, a few rules for myself:
1. No more taking the computer into bed with me.
2. No books save novels, poetry, and holy writ. I spend too much time engaged in a book about liturgy or something and then have trouble shutting my brain off.
3. eliminate outside light. I need to buy something to put under my curtain that can get all of the ambient light out of my room. I end up sleeping with my head under the covers.
4. I've worked my way down to medium on my fan speed, which I think is a step in the right direction.
5. One piece of advice on a website is, "Don't take your worries to bed." I don't think most people consciously try to bring worries into bed with them; I do it pretty naturally. But I think praying the daily office before bed could help with that. Maybe some meditation? Let's not get ahead of ourselves.

I'm annoyingly sick right now - "annoyingly" because it isn't enough to lay in bed all day and watch movies, but it's just enough to make everything a chore. I've got what you would expect to get around February, that sore throat, phlegm, and aching head (also known as headaches). I think I'm one of those people who regularly get a summer cold rather than the winter. It's like my body bucks up during the winter and lets its guard down in the warm weather only to be sprung upon by some infection or bacteria of one kind or the other. Maybe this is what left me in such a bad mood on the 4th of July? At least that will give me justification for my day of lethargy (that should be a national holiday - Day of Lethargy - maybe December 26th or January 2 or July 5 for that matter). My remedy for colds like this is to keep exercising and follow the old adage, "feed a cold, feed a fever."

Right now there's a headline on Huffington Post that reads, "Celebs React in Shock to Casey Anthony Verdict." I know my main concern in this case had nothing to do with whether the jury got it right or wrong or whether we misunderstand what "reasonable doubt" means, but what Snooki and the Jennifer Aniston thought based on their many years of legal experience. Huffington Post is turning more and more into a trashy celebrity tabloid with a liberal spin. We don't need a liberal version of the Drudge Report. A liberal version of crap is still crap (I think I learned that in a logic or philosophy class (pretending for a moment that i took either)).

(all the above was written last night; everything below is this morning)

Well, remember all that talk about annoyingly sick? It turned to just plain, old sick during the night. It started with chills, moved on to radiating heat off my legs, and moved right up to my head. This morning I woke up feeling unseasonably warm. It should be a good day overall.

You know what day will be a good day? July 14th/15th when I see the midnight showing of the final Harry Potter installment. I mean, it will be good until it is over, at which point I will enter a season of mourning. Kassi sent me this picture, which I got really excited about.

I really hope that McGonagall/Maggie Smith gets some good air time. She may be my favorite. Look at her! She's going to be taking some Death Eaters' names!

Well, I will be spending most of today either on my couch or bed, so if you need me, you know where to find me.

Talking 4th of July Blues - Saved by Woody Allen

Yesterday I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, possibly on the wrong bed altogether. Part of it was the fitful nature of that particular night of sleep. It was one of those nights where you wake up every hour or two and sleep about 6 hours even though you have nothing to get up for. When I finally decided to surrender to the inevitable and just get out of bed it felt like I had gone 12 rounds in the heavyweight division rather than completed any type of sleep cycles.

So, I dragged myself out of bed and decided to finally finish Joseph Heller's Catch-22. Up to this point the book had been a bit dark but fairly comical in its satirical look at war, patriotism, and the military bureaucracy. However, the last few chapters, especially chapter 39, are extremely dark. Chapter 39 has the main character, Yossarian, AWOL and wandering through the ruins of Rome. Here he encounters all the evils of society including starvation, cruel violence, and even rape and murder by one of his US compatriots. While it ended on a happy note, this portion of the book left me feeling that the world is a cold and meaningless place, if I may hyperbolize my emotional state. So, I decided to go for a run.

While it was good to get exercise, it didn't give me the endorphin bounce I was hoping for to jump start my day. I got home and tried to take a nap, which was only partially successful. I didn't feel like doing anything and sat home listlessly passing the day until I decided that I was going to do the one thing I had wanted to do for the last month: go and see Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, even if this meant going to it alone. So I checked show times and decided on the 9:45. Then, I decided rather than sitting at home feeling sorry for myself until 9:30, I would go and have dinner with Amy and Pete. This was a good call and even better barbecued chicken.

So, around 9:30 I headed down to the theater by myself. I think I've only gone to one other movie by myself and that was Fellowship of the Rings. All my friends had already seen it, and I wanted to see it in theaters. One day basketball practice was cancelled and I decided that was the day to make it happen. Now, going to a movie alone could have worsened an already sour mood by projecting my present friendless state in the movie theater to a larger friendless state in the entirely of my life, but for some reason I was happy to be alone watching Woody Allen.

Woody Allen is my favorite director period (I always wonder whether to just put a period at the end of a sentence or write out "period;" I think you have to write it out for it to carry the same linguistic weight). There is something about his movies that resonate with me and put a smile on my face no matter the mood. From the opening credits that are always in black-and-white with Windsor font (I finally looked up the name of the font he always uses) to the amazing music that begins such works - from Manhattan's "Rhapsody in Blue" to Love and Death's "Romance and Troika" to Hannah and Her Sisters' "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" - the movies' humor (usually) and light-heartedness in the midst of the main character's (usually Allen in the older ones) foibles and existential despair undergirds most of his works with something resembling hope. It at least helps me take myself less seriously.

For instance, how can this opening not make you: a. want to go to New York, b. do something beautiful with your life, and c. smile?

Well, last night proved to be no disappointment. Midnight in Paris is Woody Allen's best movie in quite a while (since Scoop maybe - and probably better!). It revolves around an unhappily engaged man who finds himself in Paris with a fiance who is more interested in one of their friends than in him. He decides to take a late night walk through the streets of Paris, and when the clock strikes midnight, a vintage 1920s car pulls up and people invite him to get in. Once he does, he is transported to 1920s Paris complete with the cast from the "Lost Generation" - Hemingway, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Picasso, Cole Porter, Salvador Dali, and many others. This is his golden age, the place and time he always wished he could inhabit. Anyway, he does this every night he's in Paris and learns a valuable lesson in the end that I won't ruin because it won't do it justice. It was a beautiful and even heart-warming film that changed my 4th of July attitude. Here's the preview:

Then, I got in the car, turned on the radio, and got an amazing combo of Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings"...

and Randall Thompson's "Alleluia," which I had never heard before and was blown away by (ignore the pictures).

So, my evening ended with me beginning Steinbeck's For Whom the Bell Tolls and downloading Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook. Things are looking up!