Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett

After going out of reading order, I finally read The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett.

Like Jingo and Monstrous Regiment, The Fifth Elephant is Discworld story involving political intrigue and the looming threat of war. Lord Vetinari, Carrot, Angua, and - of course - Sam Vimes will have to save the day.

The hilarious Leonardo da Quirm (Discworld's Da Vinci - he doodles perfect circles and invent airplanes while daydreaming) also makes an appearance, as do Nobby Nobbs and Sergeant Colon.

Vimes is sent as an ambassador to Überwald, a realm of dwarves, vampires, werewolves, and Igors*. Vimes's official job is to negotiate favorable trade terms for fat**. Vimes tells his wife that this political outing will be a vacation. However, Vimes's real mission is to have a firsthand look at the tenuous political situation involving the crowning of the new Low King of the Dwarves.

*Igors are humpbacked humanoids made from the sewn-together parts of those who have shed their earthly bonds. They tend to find employment with vampires, werewolves, and mad scientists. Igors make great doctors and medics, as they have no difficulty restoring a severed hand to an arm (provided you can find it, of course) and have an excellent working knowledge of the human body. Bodies can go far if you take care of 'em and use 'em right. "Waste not, want not," as the Igors say.

**When the Fifth Elephant*** fell from the sky and crashed into the young Discworld, it burrowed deep into the ground and left huge deposits of fat and other precious materials. Fat is a huge part of Überwald's economy.

***Everyone knows that there were supposed to be five elephants on the back of the Great Turtle A'Tuin.

Standing in Vimes's way (or standing behind him in the dark with a knife) are mysterious figures who oppose the new Low King. The Scone of Stone, the great symbol of the dwarfish monarchy, has been stolen, and the Low King cannot be crowned without the Scone. The Scone isn't the only thing that's gone missing. An Ankh-Morpork citizen has been murdered, posts are deserted and soldiers killed, and some of Vimes's own men go missing. Then Vimes himself is targeted...and the treacherous dwarves, vampires, and werewolves of Überwald do not play by Ankh-Morpork rules.

Here, there is no law.

Meanwhile, this political trip is a homecoming for Angua, the City Watch werewolf, whose parents are nobility in Überwald. It also might be a reunion with a former boyfriend, making things awkward for Captain Carrot - who, as usual, will have no problem getting along with everyone. No problem at all.

Meanwhile-while, Sergeant Colon is left in charge of the Watch while Vimes and Carrot are away. Let's hope the power doesn't go to his head. And the entire Watch doesn't go on strike.

The Fifth Elephant was an entertaining read. I give it a 6/10.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

For the Sender

Tonight I was reading Taylor Guitar's Wood and Steel Magazine, and I came across a touching article about a musician named Alex Woodard and a ground-breaking project called For the Sender.

This project really catches my attention because:
1) I think it's heartfelt, honest, sincere, powerful, moving - everything that art and expression should be.
2) It's brilliant from a community, social-networking perspective; it's art for the 21st century, where you have to develop a relationship with your audience.
3) Jon Foreman is involved. (You know who he is, right?)

I'll briefly summarize the story, but you can download the issue through the Taylor website - and you really should read it. (Also read the author page on the website.)

In 2008, Woodard going through a rough patch in his music career and personal life. He wondered if there might be an "expiration date" on his dreams of making it (something that looks every aspiring and professional artist in the face).

When his most recent CD was about to be released, Woodard promised to record a unique song for everyone who pre-ordered the album. He would write the songs on whatever they wanted it to be on. As a result, he wrote over 100 individual songs.

This experience exposed Woodard to some heartbreaking stories of tragedy, loss, and perseverance - the death of a policeman, father, and husband; suffering and relief after the earthquake in Haiti; the death of a woman's soulmate.

Woodard developed a relationship by mail with some of the people who really appreciated his songs. Then he started writing songs with other musicians based on the stories. He was in the San Diego area at the time, and one of the musicians he began to work with was Jon Foreman: frontman of Switchfoot and personal hero of mine.

Working like this with other musicians, writing songs and letting other people sing them - this was outside of Woodward's musical comfort zone. But it produced huge blessings - both creatively and personally.

This music-in-community gave rise to the book, album, and concert event that is For the Sender.

There's much more to say, but you really must check it out on your own.

Reading this article came at a great time for me.

Every night and morning, I think (or "worry") about my artistic career - and the expiration date. I'm a published author and an aspiring musician looking at a man who's been plying his guitar trade for a while and hit a rough spot. And then, after opening up his heart and singing for other people, found his music and life heading in a different - and more wonderful - direction than he could have imagined.

Additionally, I've been thinking a lot about music-in-community recently: producing great works that you could never do on your own power and creativity; creative important art (with personal and eternal value) with like-minded people.

It's exciting - so exciting that I had to blog about it before I could move on with my life.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Storyboarder Podcast

Last week Jelani Sims and Darren Jaworski invited me onto their awesome Storyboarder Podcast. On this episode, Jelani and I discuss:

a) How I developed and wrote my novel
2) The writing and creative process
d) Terry Pratchett, the TRON: Legacy soundtrack, Oxford, and other influences

Friday, November 9, 2012

Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett

On Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, the gods come into existence when people believe in them. Similarly, Death manifests itself as the Grim Reaper because people believe Death is a skeleton, in a hooded black cloak, with a scythe.

In Reaper Man, the Powers That Be have relieved Death of his duty on the grounds that Death has become too sympathetic of his clients (us: the dying and the dead).
They send Death off with his hourglass* and let him keep his horse, Binky. For the first time in his existence, Death has a life, and for the first time in his life, Death has Time.
And he’s going to spend it.
But first he has to get a job.

*Do you get the joke? He’s been a faithful employee so they send him off with his hourglass. It’s hilarious.

Soon after, a tall dark stranger appears on a farm in the country. It’s harvest time, he’s looking for work...and he’s good with a scythe.

Meanwhile, chaos runs through the City of Ankh-Morpork. Death (an important public service) is gone, so the dead are queuing up in the increasingly crowded space between this world and the next.
Windle Poons, a 130 year-old wizard from Unseen University, has been waiting to die and reincarnate for a long time. (So has the faculty member waiting to take Windle’s room.) But without Death to escort him to the afterlife, Windle Poons just...comes back.
As a corpse.
“No wonder the undead were traditionally considered to be very angry.”

Windle must adjust to his new (un)life by:
a) Attending a support group for the undead.
2) Enduring the antics of his kind academic colleagues, who help him out by repeatedly trying to kill him
d) Suffer the influx of poltergeist activity and other phenomenon resulting from Death’s absence.

And a sinister power is feeding on this new energy...and growing within the city.

Reaper Man is an entertaining story that fires on all Pratchett cylinders - save one.

Firing cylinders:
a) The premise is hilarious and the execution is brilliant
2) Death’s life as a human provides a humorous and profound angle on the human condition (This is what pain feels like? How do you keep living when you’re just going to die? Are you tricking me into drinking an alcoholic beverage for your personal amusement?)
d) Death is simply one of the best characters on Discworld

The “save one”:

While the Windle Poons storyline is humorous (especially with the antics of the Unseen University faculty), the silliness-level goes out of control - á la Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – so that at some point you stop knowing or caring what’s going on…except that someone’s rushing about doing something exciting and it’s all very entertaining.

I rate this book a solid 7/10.

And I must say: I was very impressed with the ending.
With the final paragraphs.
With the final sentence.

That’s what you call a memorable ending.

Well, done, Mr. Pratchett.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Thud! by Terry Pratchett

Unlike what I said in my last Discworld-related post, I did not check out The Fifth Elephant from the library. Instead, I took Thud! (the seventh book in Terry Pratchett's Watch/Vimes series) off my bookshelf and read it.

Koom Valley is the legendary battleground where, centuries ago, the dwarves ambushed the trolls. Or the trolls ambushed the dwarves. No one actually remembers.
But every dwarf and troll, whether he was alive at the time or not*, swears that the Other Guy started it.

*And none of them were alive at the time.

Now a dwarf has been murdered in secret tunnels underneath Ankh-Morpork - and a troll club was suspiciously left at the scene of the crime! Commander Sam Vimes has to solve the case before race riots flare up and burn the city down. Unfortunately, with Koom Valley Day just around the corner, every dwarf and troll is already set to pick a fight. Or start an all-out war.

To add onto Commander Vimes's worries, he has to deal with the politics of the Watch's first vampire (part of affirmative action), he must endure the audit of an annoying bureaucrat, and - no matter what's on his schedule - Vimes has to be home at 6:00pm sharp for the most important event on his schedule: reading Where's My Cow? to his little boy.

This book has the Ankh-Morpork City Watch.
It has Sam Vimes.
It's entitled Thud!
How can it go wrong?

It can't. And it didn't. Thud! was a solid 7/10.

Now I have to go back and read The Fifth Elephant...and then read Snuff, the eighth Watch book.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Last month I read Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi.

Ship Breaker is a young adult post-apocalyptic novel about a boy named Nailer with a dangerous job: tearing old ships apart to scavenge their parts. Scavengers must belong to a tribe and meet their quota of scavenged materials - or face exile, starvation, and death. But they have to survive the scavenging too - and some will drown in pockets of oil or get trapped inside the damaged ships.

Nailer's life is changed when a rich clipper ship is blown onto shore. It's a lucky break for him, because he can get rich off the scavenge. But a girl inside turns out to be alive, and when Nailer decides not to kill her (against the pragmatic advice of his friend), he finds himself caught in a high-stakes war.

The rich girl's enemies are hunting her. Her dangerous friends are trying to rescue her. Nailer's colleagues on shore want her ship for spoil - and her life for ransom.

Nailer wanted to do the right thing...but soon he may just want to stay alive.

I rate the book 6/10. The author did a great job of setting up Nailer's desperate situation throughout the book. He's a sympathetic and admirable protagonist who tries to do the right thing when he could easily benefit by doing wrong.

There are some compelling villains in the story, including Nailer's father: a man who used to be decent but became dangerous and unpredictable due to drug abuse. He is scary.

I read the book for my Writing the Novel class. It kept my interest throughout - partly because Nailer's situation seemed very plausible.

If you like any of Cherie Priest's steampunk books, like Dreadnought, then you might like Ship Breaker.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Remembering Dr. Fears

On Sunday, I heard that Dr. J. Rufus Fears passed away. He was one of OU's most beloved professors.

I spent 5 semesters with Dr. Fears. I took Freedom in Rome, Freedom in Greece, Letters Capstone, Honors Reading, and Honors Research with him.

He was a hero, a mentor, a brilliant professor, an entertaining speaker, and one of the greatest teachers of our era. He cannot be replaced, and he will never be forgotten. He taught me so much about history and life. 

I'm glad that I spent so much time with him, and I'm glad that I completed my Senior Honors Thesis on the Mysteries of Mithraism with him last semester.

But I wanted to spend more time with him. I can't believe I won't speak to him again.

I miss him a lot.

 Dr. Fears and I after a "Freedom in Rome" class in the spring of 2010.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Night Watch by Terry Pratchett

Today I finished reading Terry Pratchett's Night Watch, the sixth in his Sam Vimes/Ankh-Morpork Watch subseries. So that means I've read...

1. Guards! Guards!
2. Men At Arms
3. Feet of Clay
4. Jingo

You'll notice that #5 (conveniently named The Fifth Elephant) is missing from that list. That's because I had #6 on my shelf waiting to be read...and The Fifth Elephant was on a library shelf somewhere.

In Night Watch, Vimes is sent back in time when a magical incident takes place during an attempted arrest. Vimes finds himself in the Ankh-Morpork of his youth...just a few days before an historic revolution is set to take place. He needs to arrest the criminal and get back to his own time - but he can't just abandon his younger self, or the pathetic Night Watch, to the injustices and dangers embroiling the city.

Vimes knows what happened in the history books, but now he's living the history, and he doesn't know if Doing The Job In Front of Him will change the timeline. If he does the right thing, he could change history, meaning that his present would cease to exist.

...unless it never happened.

And if the criminal reveals Vimes's identity- particularly to Young Sam Vimes - the consequences could be catastrophic.

Pratchett manages to juggle the time-travel conundrums with cleverness, suspense, and wit. The stakes continue to rise throughout the book as the revolution rises, the soldiers are mustered to keep order, people panic, and Someone Does Something Stupid.

Vimes has always been a strong character in the Discworld series, and this book explores further the depths of his ethics, honor, and hard-earned experience.

Also, since Vimes traveled to the past, Night Watch is a great opportunity to see a lot of our favorite Ankh-Morpork characters as they were Back In The Day. Without giving away any major spoilers, we meet Fred Colon, Nobby Nobbs, Young Havelock Vetinari, and, of course, Young Sam Vimes. (The interaction between Vimes and his younger self is very well done.)
With his typical insight into human nature, Pratchett provides great commentary on mob mentality, revolutionary idealism, Glorious Last Stands (and the corresponding intestines) and the identity of The People.

Truth, Justice, Freedom - and a Hard-Boiled Egg!

A great read. I give it a 7/10.

And now I guess it's off-to-the-library for The Fifth Elephant...?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore

Today I finished a reading group, led by my friend Michael, for Alan Moore’s and David Lloyd’s graphic novel, V for Vendetta.

This blog post will have SPOILERS.

Also note that I will use the words “graphic novel” and “book” interchangeably.

V for Vendetta

It’s impossible for me to talk about V for Vendetta without also mentioning the movie based on the graphic novel. In a break with stereotypical comparisons between books and movies, I can say with absolute certainty that the V for Vendetta movie is far and away the best version of this story.

First of all, the movie has Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman.
I’m a huge fan of both actors (Hugo Weaving is Elrond and Mr. Anderson. ‘Nuff said. And Natalie Portman is...Natalie Portman. ‘Nuff said.) Their performances really defined the film.

Second, the book is full of Stupid Anarchy.

One of the biggest contrasts between the book and the film is the anarchic bent of the book. In the book, V’s infatuation with anarchy (and presumably Alan Moore’s) really annoys me. That's because I find any obsession with anarchy to be juvenile, naive, and angsty.
It’s all well and good to point out the corruption of a system and decide to overthrow it, but what are you going to put in its place? You can break things and provide no solution if you want - but all you've done is broken what's in place. Someone else will come along and put something else in its place. The vacuum won't be empty for long.

In the book, V overthrows a corrupt, totalitarian regime and puts...nothing in its place. He creates chaos and allows the people of England to make their own choices about the future.
V claims that the people should have the right to make their own choices, so he creates chaos and anarchy. He makes a clean slate.

But the last time England had a clean slate, they chose a totalitarian government. So they exercised their choice...didn’t they?

Oh. But V didn't like their choice last time. So he punched the reset button. And he left them with nothing—he just created another vacuum.

...and we’re to expect a different outcome this time? Is V going to help with the glorious new future? No, he's dead. He did leave Evey in his place though. That's good...right? (Not as could as it could be, because Natalie Portman is not Evey in the graphic novel).

Presumably, Evey is supposed to help with the rebuilding now that she’s taken over V’s identity, V.

"People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people."

That's probably the most memorable line in the movie. I don't recall reading that line in the book.

I might have missed it (let me know if I did), but if it was there, it obviously didn't make much of an impression. It certainly was not the main point of the book, while it was the main point of the movie.

The movie was very English and American in that respect: the people have the right (and, some philosophers would say, the duty) to overthrow a corrupt government that has ceased to represent its people.

The movie ends on a hopeful note: the people have spoken, the corrupt regime has been overthrown, and it is implied (from my point of view, at least) that a newer, better government will be put in its place.

I can't remember the book providing any good examples of leaders or authority figures. Probably because it's anarchic.

Good Scenes in the Book and Better Scenes in the Movie

There is a particularly good book-exclusive scene in which V roleplays with a statue of Lady Justice. V tells Justice that she has betrayed him (because she allowed the totalitarian regime to masquerade as justice). He adds that he has taken a new mistress: anarchy. Then V blows up the statue of Lady Justice. Ha ha! How do you like that breakup?

Aside from that memorable scene, which demonstrates V's flair for the dramatic, the best scenes in the graphic novel are also in the movie—and they’re better in the movie.
Case in point*: Evey’s moment where she stands in the rain - after discovering that “last inch” within herself - is one of the best parts of the entire story.
It's good (even great) in the book...but it’s a soul-elevating, tear-inducing moment in the movie. It's one of my favorite pieces of cinema. Put it up on the wall for those young impressionable students to say, "This Is How It's Done."

*Isn't that such a useful phrase?

I guess I can at least thank Alan Moore for writing the book so we would have the movie. Thanks, Alan. You're a great writer. Your characters are very well developed. You wrote a memorable story that thousands and thousands (millions even?) of people love.
But the anarchy is annoying.

Other Things That Annoyed Me About the Book:

a) Lots and lots of nudity. Lots. Didn’t want to see that.

2) V is a very well written character, but he “Wait and see...the answers will will all be revealed” probably irritated me just as much as they annoyed Evey.\

d) The ending was unsatisfactory. Why did V let himself get shot by Finch?
I did receive a very good explanation for this from my friend Sam, who said that V understood that his purpose was fulfilled, since he was a killer and the time for killing had ended. As the new V, Evey’s role was to rebuild.
In that case, I would hope that Evey would have less of an obsession with anarchy.

Final Thoughts

Uno: Thanks Michael, for leading a great reading group.

Dos: If my country is in peril and I need a hero to lead my people into the bright uplands of freedom, I'll take the Founding Fathers over V any day.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Going Postal by Terry Pratchett

This weekend I watched the film version of Terry Pratchett's Going Postal.

The movie held very close to the book, which I greatly enjoyed reading earlier this year. (It might also interest you to know that the book is ranked among the Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books.)

Moist von Lipwig is a con man who's come to the end of his rope (which, unfortunately, ends in a noose).

He's given a choice: die or become the new postmaster general.

That sounds like an easy decision - but not when you've seen the mess that the post office is in...and not when you know that the last four postmasters have suffered terrible deaths.

Moist undertakes the task to restore the post office to its former glory. His challenge will include:

a) Surviving the curse that's killed the other four postmasters
2) Surviving the cutthroat business tactics of his rivals
d) Overcoming his con-artist instincts before he destroying a relationship with the first person that he's ever cared about

Seeing Discworld in a movie for the first time held a similar wonder to seeing Narnia, Middle-earth, and Hogwarts onscreen. The makers of the film did an excellent job with their sets and costumes. They created a very convincing Ankh-Morpork in the film.

One of the best character in Going Postal is Mr. Pump (or "Pump 19"), a golem who serves as Moist's parole officer. I was very pleased with how Mr. Pump and the other golems were represented in the film. Mr. Pump's voice was particularly satisfying. I always cast the voice of André the Giant for Mr. Pump when I read the books. This wasn't André in the movie, but I suppose it was the next best thing.

All of the casting was good. Richard Coyle (Moist von Lipwig) and Claire Foy (Adora Belle Dearheart) were great together, and Charles Dance did a superb job as Lord Vetinari (although I always thought that Vetinari's hair was black...)

Terry Pratchett was deeply involved with the making of the movie, and he was quite pleased with the outcome. I can see why.

Going Postal was well-worth watching, and it would be a good introduction to anyone who has yet to experience to humor and fantastical adventure of Discworld.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Jingo by Terry Pratchett

Today I finished reading Jingo by Terry Pratchett, the fourth book in the story arc of Samuel Vimes and the Ankh-Morpork City Watch.

Jingo was a delight. I rate it 8.5/10. The characterization, the humor, the pacing, and the characterization were brilliant.

A previously submerged island rises to the surface in the sea between Ankh-Morpork and Klatch. Tensions, nationalism, prejudice, and war-fever rise with the island as both nations claim it for their own.

Commander Vimes isn't a soldier, but he's swept into the chaos when angry Ankh-Morporkians vent their xenophobia against Klatchians living in the city. Death threats, mobs, assassination attempts on visiting dignitaries, and burning embassies ensue. Lord Rust, a war-hungry noble, wants to invade Klatch without further ado.

The Klatchians might wear funny towels on their heads, but their numbers and weaponry are far superior to Ankh-Morpork's. If Ankh-Morpork is to avert or survive war, it will need Vetinari's cunning, Leonard da Quirm's genius, and the loyal stupidity of Sergeant Colon and Nobby Nobbs.

And what's Vimes to do? He's a copper. He can't arrest an entire army for disturbing the peace...

...can he?

"It's time to teach Johnny Klatchian a lesson!"

Friday, August 24, 2012

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (and Top 100 SF and Fantasy Books)

Today I finished Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.

Ender's Game was ranked by NPR as #3 in the Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books.


In the book, humanity has survived two invasions by aliens, the "buggers*." Mankind survived the last time through the genius of a mysterious admiral named Mazer Rackham. But Earth might not be so lucky this time. The International Fleet has been trying to find the next Mazer Rackham to stave off extinction before the Third (and probably final) Invasion takes place.

*How did that name go over with British audiences?

Ender is the newest boy in a line of many who have been chosen from a young age to become commander of the fleet. If he can survive sibling rivalry, the rigors of training, his dangerous peers, and the intense demands of his officers, Ender will be put in command of the International Fleet.

Then he'll have to survive the battle against the buggers. Because if he falls, all of humanity falls with him.

Serious Literature

This book is a perfect example of how genre fiction can be serious literature. Ender's Game reminded me of 1984 (George Orwell) in its depiction of totalitarian minds and world domination. It also ranks alongside Starship Troopers (Robert Heinlein) as superior science fiction.

The humans vs. bugs storyline, and the examination of the military mind, further remind me of Starship Troopers. Both books focus on humanity's need to expand and conquer - and what happens when mankind comes into contact with rival species.

Like 1984, I occasionally had to put Ender's Game down because the insights into human nature were so incisive and condemnatory.

The characterization in Ender's Game is the strongest part of the book. The characterization really drives the narrative, which would be far less interesting without empathetic characters (because most of the book is spent in training). Ender is a deep and involved character, and setting him in a believable science fiction world creates a compelling story.

If I read the book again, it will be for the characterization, and for Card's insight into the human condition.

Blog Post Easter Egg: Another Look at NPR's List

I've read the following books from the list:

#1 The Lord of the Rings
#2 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
#3 Ender's Game
#6 1984
#7 Fahrenheit 451
#11 The Princes Bride
#13 Animal Farm
#31 Starship Troopers
#32 Watership Down
#40 The Amber Chronicles (only the first book)
#46 The Silmarillion
#60 Going Postal
#67 The Sword of Shannara Series (The Sword of Shannara and First King of Shannara)
#70 The Time Traveler's Wife

Noticeably lacking from that list is The Chronicles of Narnia.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams

The entry for Earth in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (the universe's most complete and exhaustive encyclopedia) reads as follows:

Earth: Mostly harmless.

Mostly Harmless is also the title of the fifth (and final) book in Douglas Adams's Hitchhiker's trilogy.

After a series of misadventures, publishing arguments, and sandwiches, Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent find themselves on Earth once again.

Earth is still mostly harmless - although the same cannot be said of the Vogon fleet.

...or of the infinite number of parallel universes and the ensuing consequences when they collide. (Just ask Trillian and Tricia McMillan).

Earth, while mostly harmless, still boasts:

a) oodles of existential angst
2) ravenous media outlets
d) New York City

And as long* as there's an Earth, that's the way it will be.

*As long as.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Day 20: Harry Potter, Pirate Staircases, and The End

Dylan’s Children:

a) Dylan is going to have 11 children. All of them will be boys*. They will form his own personal soccer team.

*It has been pointed out that this is statistically improbable**, but Dylan doesn’t believe in statistics.

**It has been pointed out that this is a gross understatement.

2) Dylan will have another son who will coach. (This son does not count among the 11 children*.) He will be the youngest, and he will be able to coach because he will be a prodigy.

*Because he's the coach.

d) Dylan has picked out the names of his first six children:
1. Thundersnow
2. Number Two (This is a dishonorable name. It will teach him not to come in second.)
3. Boom-Post! (That kid will never score.)
4. Dylan Jr.
5. Dylan Jr. (Both will be named Dylan Jr.’s in case one of them sucks.)
6. [The editor cannot recall the name of #6]

Numbers 7 through 11 are currently unnamed. This, presumably, will teach them not to come in 7th through 11th.

The coach's name is “the coach.”

Question and Answer:

What if a woman doesn’t want to have 11 children?
Dylan: Then she’s not the One.

What if a woman wants to have 11 children, but she wants to choose different names?
Dylan: Then she’s not the One.

What will your children look like?
Dylan: They can choose what they look like.

This whole thing is ridiculous.
Dylan: Then you’re obviously not the One.

Oxford Strikes Back
Day 20: Harry Potter, Pirate Staircases, and The End

Stardate: Friday, July 20, 2012

Harry Potter Returns to Christ Church

I like sequels, as long as they’re good.

I decided to write a sequel to my last Harry Potter adventure in Christ Church, site of numerous scenes from the Harry Potter movies.

So on Friday morning, I went to Christ Church with John, Christian, Linda, Sarah, Michael, and Whitney.

Folks were filming a TV show or movie outside of Christ Church. I was looking at them because I was on set. They were looking at me because I’m Harry Potter.

St. Michael defeats the Devil in the stained glass window of Christ Church Cathedral.

Harry Potter on the staircase from the films: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Does that picture look familiar at all...?

Can you spot the difference?

“So the rumors are true. Harry Potter has come to Hogwarts.”

This is probably where Neville found Trevor.

Harry Potter in the Christ Church Dining Hall. It’s very posh. It provided some inspiration for the Hogwarts Dining Hall.

"Frame the picture like this!"

Harry Potter finds perspective on the staircase.

The photogenic faithful who went to Christ Church.

By Stamford House in Brasenose? Or in Diagon Alley?

Going shopping, walking down Brasenose Lane.
Every time I walk that road, I think of Dr. Velie.
“Have you ever heard of ‘Murder on Brasenose Lane’?”

R2-D2 is no longer at Boswell’s, but Darth Vader is.

Darth Vader, meet the TRUE Chosen One.

He didn’t marry Natalie Portman, but he didn’t fall into a lava pit either.

Tickets and A Quick Detour to the Ashmolean

After going shopping, Christian and I bought tickets to see the Globe’s traveling production of Hamlet at the Bodleian Library (which houses the Hogwarts Infirmary).

Then I took an hour out to see the Ashmolean. I walked through their Egyptian exhibit again, and then I spent 30 to 40 minutes taking in their phenomenal collection of paintings.
There is far too much to see in that wonderful museum. #sensoryoverload

Fine. I Will Pay Money to Tour Magdalen College

Last year, one of my (few) regrets was that I didn’t pay a few pounds to actually tour the grounds of Magdalen College. This year, I forked over the money. Dylan and Blair came along with me.

On the way, it* rained on us.

This wouldn’t have been a problem if I had my 58 inch golf umbrella that I bought from JJB Sports.

But, obviously, I didn’t have my umbrella, so it* rained on us.

*What exactly ‘it’? Who sent ‘it’? Why is ‘it’ there? English grammar, provide me with the answers to Life, the Universe, and Everything – don’t make more of them.

Outside Magdalen Chapel

Inside Magdalen Chapel

I like the “sepia tone” of the painted window. It sets the window apart from so many others we’ve seen.

The Cloisters in Magdalen College


A Pirate Staircase

Every staircase had that little black sign on it. Blair kept asking why there were so many pirates at Magdalen.

Eventually, Dylan and I pointed out that it said, “private.” Not “pirate.”

But maybe Blair was right after all. Pirate sounds so much cooler.

Magdalen Dining Hall. Harry Potter was not here.

Dylan, Blair, and I wanted to see deer at the famous Deer Park. Magdalen has huge grounds, and its Deer Park is famous for actually having deer*.

Fortunately, there were precisely three deer: one for Dylan, one for Blair, and one for me*.

*As opposed to not having deer, which is the case with some deer parks in Oxford.

**It took me a while to work out the math, but I got there eventually.

We rode the deer and went on many adventures.

At the end of the adventures, we found a lamppost and some thick trees.

We went through the trees and found our way back in the wardrobe.

From the wardrobe, we walked back to Magdalen College and found a gate.

The gate to Addison’s Walk

Along Addison’s Walk

C. S. Lewis became a deist after having an important conversation with J. R. R. Tolkien and another friend along this path.

Magdalen Tower

To Be or Not To Be

For dinner, we had all planned on going together, but then the people who were going to see Hamlet realized that we didn’t have enough time for a big meal. So a small group of us went to Beefeater* for a quick meal of fish and chips, and then we rushed over to the Bodleian Library to see Hamlet**.

*You don't have to eat beef at Beefeater. You don't even have to eat meat. Once I just had tea and scones.

**Hamlet was there, but we actually went to see the entire play - not just Hamlet.

It didn't rain.

We were rushing because I had read that if you didn’t pick up your tickets sooner than 20 minutes before the play started, you couldn’t get your tickets*. Well, that was definitely wrong. So we stressed out a bit for nothing (ha! What a surprise).

*In a better system, you could just pick up the tickets when you purchased them, but under this system you got neither tickets nor receipt when you handed over the money. Pssh.

Christian and I saw Hamlet* with Kristiani, Megan, and Julie. There were food and drinks in the Hogwarts Infirmary (actually the Divinity School).

*Note the i-talics this time.

Hamlet was phenomenal. Probably the best play that I’ve ever seen. The actor playing Hamlet did the best performance of Hamlet that I’ve ever seen. He moved me to tears during Hamlet’s soliloquy.

It* threatened to rain, but it didn’t.

* ‘It’ again…

This traveling production of the Globe was a marvelous piece of theatre. There was a small cast, so most of the actors played multiple roles. The scene changes were flawless: the actors moved some strategically-designed props while dancing to music. The movement of the props provided some percussion as well.

The choreography was brilliant, and the music was delightful.

It was a marvelous end to the day, and to the trip.

The End of Episode V

On Saturday, July 21, I took the bus to London Heathrow with Leah, Leah, and Linda. We had a slight delay at the airport (I took the time to eat a Magnum bar), and then we had our 9 hour and 15 minute flight to DFW. It was, thank God, entirely uneventful.

The most exciting thing on the flight was that I had to pinch my headphones at the perfect position in order to hear any sound, and the position kept changing over the 9+ hours. (So I didn’t hear most of Liam Neeson’s dialogue during Wrath of the Titans.)

When I got through immigration, the officer asked me where I come from.

“England," I said.
“Welcome back to America," he handed me my passport. "Go eat some good food.”
“Yes, sir.”

And I did.

Thanks for the memories, Oxford, England, U.K. (and Paris).

I went There and Back Again.

Oxford Strikes Back!