This is a personal blog and does not reflect the views or policies of the University of Minnesota.

JUMP to the bottom of this chronological blog.


Thoughts from the Common Room Hearth

Snape and the Slytherins 
in their common room

  • Are you smarter than a liberal arts student? Making the case for the liberal arts. (March 19, 2009)
  • Battle with Charter Cable/Communications (March 7, 2008)
  • Books read (begun March 8, 2007)
  • Illness log
  • Lake baths
  • Choral version of Canon in D
  • In heaven, I will...


  • "This is how you would have
    treated your father."
    You know you're shallow when... Cuttings from the
    Smallest Slytherin trilogy
    Fake fans 'Ship' shape. Daniel does Glensheen
    From the editors "You were right." Laura's swimming hole?


    The Smallest Slytherin       An Obedient House       Salazar's Orphans

    JUNE 17, 2004.
    Okay, we all know most people are so petty, they'll rail insipidly against anything that doesn't support their self-serving point of view.

    Still.

    Why do some Rowling fans insist interviews are as valid a source for understanding the text as the text itself? Don't they notice how often the content of interviews conflicts with the text?

    A blurb from http://cc.cumberlandcollege.edu/acad/english/litcritweb/glossary.htm: INTENTIONAL FALLACY, or INTENTIONALISM: The judging of the meaing or value of a literary work against the external context of the author's stated intentions, deduced purpose, or presumed attitudes. Such a judgment is mistaken from a formalist critical perspective because it mislocates meaning and privileges evidence external to the text.

    Hello. Hello! The reason she badmouths Snape to the press is, she cares deeply what the younger or shallower fans think of her because they're the majority and she doesn't want to piss them off by admitting how often Snape's right and Harry's wrong. If she covers her butt to the press and saves her integrity for the books, she can have her cake and eat it too... popularity now, understanding when the fans grow up and re-read the books at a more insightful stage in life.

    I wonder if Rowling ever worries about the people who can see the discrepancy between what she SAYS and what she WRITES. I guess she can always fall back on, "I was just trying to mislead you to prevent giving anything away." Well, see, that's why we don't seek certain things for ourselves while we write, to avoid having to behave disingenuously.

    JULY 15, 2004
    Hermione Granger and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Hee hee hee. One day, a lot of people are going to regret the degree to which film #3 was about sex and sexuality.

    JULY 26, 2004
    One day, Rowling is going to regret a lot of her behavior on her website.

    AUGUST 6, 2004
    What bothers me most about the trash that dominates cyberspace is how many of them are raising children. Yep, that's what we need, children raised by shallow, self-indulgent weaklings.

    JULY 26, 2004
    Note to creator of Paternal Potions at Yahoo: Lose the "spanking" folder. It's not a dirty word. Why should those who object to corporeal punishment dictate protocol? If their point of view were valid, you wouldn't include the stories in the first place.

    AUGUST 9, 2004
    The Leaky Cauldron had nifty stuff from the set of Goblet of Fire yesterday and it struck me...

    I wonder how the relative failure of PoA is affecting the cast?

    Okay, the numbers in the U.S. weren't THAT much lower than CoS, even accounting for inflation. Still.

    The actors were so excited and pumped for the third film, thought the direction was so brilliant and their performances so advanced compared to 1 and 2. Then boom, the film hits theaters, and yeah, some critics love it, but not enough to mention Oscar, and nobody has much good to say about the performances beyond, "Good news, they're not ugly as teenagers." And the fans, by and large, hate it!

    Ouch.

    (Morons. Yes, AC is obsessed with teenage sex, yes the Snape/marauder content that makes the books literally significant got shortshrift, yes it's really Hermione Granger and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The film still resonates magnificently.)

    Am I wrong? Are the actors under the impression that the film achieved all the success they'd expected? I doubt it.

    Emma's responding intelligently, treating the fans well. That's the strong, positive way to handle the nasty observations about her screen time, character direction, and press coverage. Very American, Em! As for the others, well, maybe it's a good thing. I've always said, actors do their best work when they're down, not when they're coasting.

    And GOBLET OF FIRE is MY favorite book. : )

    AUGUST 10, 2004
    Rowling must REALLY be looking forward to pointing out all the flaws in the logic, questions or observations of her critics.

    AUGUST 10, 2004
    Just glanced at Newsweek's cover article on dreams. One of the most common is "repeatedly trying to do something." Does this include my piddle dreams, and does everybody have them? Piddle dreams are what I call those dreams where I desperately have to urinate. I strive and strive and strive to find a place. Finally I get to go, and it is SUCH a relief, but a few seconds later, the need returns and I have to start all over again. Eventually I wake up to find (guess what) that I really need to go to the bathroom.

    But here's the thing. Without fail, WITHOUT FAIL, the reason I have such a hard time going in the dream is, the facilities are filthy. I mean, really filthy. The toilet is so plugged up it won't hold any more and sewage or used paper are all over the toilet seat and/or floor. What is UP with that? Why are there no clean public bathrooms in my dreams?

    Maybe it's a leftover neurosis from traveling cross-country to Minnesota every summer of my childhood.

    I also dream repeatedly about Glensheen being haunted by frightening, perilous ghosts. I'm never there as a tourist but for more permanent reasons (like I've inherited the property and need it desperately for its monetary value) and I live in fear of what the ghosts will eventually do to me. Once it was part of the Wellesley campus and I had to go there to play the carillon. More recently, it was the setting of 'the show' I'm writing about in my first original novel. In a way, it was ideal, living and shooting there... if it weren't so doggone scary and life-threatening.

    AUGUST 11, 2004
    You know what discussion on some groups has taught me? Most Snape fans... are not Snape fans. Conduct yourself in a calm, straightforward manner and watch people fall to pieces. If straightforwardness troubles them, how can they think they like Snape, who expresses open contempt for shallowness?

    Speaking of shallowness...

    The Snape bashers are cleary lacking in intellectual and ethical development, but let me ask you this. If you dwell in the land of mid-level development, where everything is gray and relative, are you capable of perceiving that some people have advanced beyond you? Can you tell the difference between dualism and committment, or do universal truths look "black and white" to you?

    The reason I ask is, the Snape bashers continually lash out at him, hurling blatant insults or derogatory insinuations lightly disguised as literary inquiries. (By comparison, note the infrequency with which Snape fans attack the marauders.) They seem desperate to validate their point of view. Is this because they are plagued with shame, with a niggling awareness that their thoughts and feelings are inappropriate?

    Intellectual and ethical development are not gifts. They require effort. Why do people resent those who've done the work to achieve the growth?

    [This, of course, is the reason the marauders hate Snape.]

    AUGUST 16, 2004
    If you want good answers, ask good questions.

    There's no point in asking, "Why do people like Snape?" or "Why do people like Draco?" because those inquiries reflect assumptions and frustrations born of resentment or other hateful motivations and rarely yield substantial discussion. Try asking, "Why do people take Rowling's despised characters and write sympathetic stories about them?" or whatever it is they do that causes consternation and maybe you'll get somewhere.

    AUGUST 16, 2004
    I see two possible interpretations of the August 15, 2004 Edinburgh material.
    1. Rowling doesn't know what she's doing.
    2. Rowling thinks she's the only smart person on the planet.

    Have I missed something? Because both of these bother me enormously.

    AUGUST 17, 2004
    Just wrote this for a discussion group in response to someone's discomfort with how Rowling talks about Snape fans.

    New theory on why Rowling disclaims Snape fans.

    Before I begin, let me acknowledge that I'm not the first person to suggest Rowling is merely lying when she discusses Snape publicly, to try and keep readers off balance. Okay. Onward.

    Rowling knows that only those with high levels of intellectual and ethical development can (truly) appreciate Snape.

    Her story, as she made clear in PoA, is about the life-shattering negative consequences of shallowness and dishonesty. Most of the herd didn't pick up on that (and thus were shocked by the pensieve sequence in OP). These same people probably have no idea that Harry is going to pay dearly for his intentionally-embraced invalid feelings about Snape at the end of OP.

    She'd like people to choose truth and thereby move up the developmental scale, becoming nobler, less hurtful beings. That's an outstanding goal and I worship her for it. She thinks if she shocks them hard enough in the end, they'll learn not to be so intentionally shallow (like Harry is being at the end of OP, like Ron is so often).

    That's the key to understanding her behavior. Rowling believes a brutal shock to the system is the only way the shallow will learn. In order to ensure a big enough shock, she has to keep the shallow people off balance about Snape.

    But there's a threat to her plan! Some of her readers are already truthful, and they're responding publicly to queries about Snape! Can she shut them up? Shut down the internet, maybe? I don't think so. So she disclaims them instead, insisting there is no good reason to admire Snape.

    She's banking on two things.

    1. The insightful people will excuse her disingenuousness because "the ends justifies the means."

    2. The shallow won't remember that she used disingenuousness to achieve her goals. Otherwise they'd say, "Why should I take lessons in truth-telling from a disingenuous person?"

    I'm not sure where I stand on the shock therapy thing, but I prostrate myself with gratitude before the message of her books. The disingenuousness thing, however, is probably going to come back to bite her on the fanny.

    AUGUST 24, 2004
    I always figured Draco Malfoy was based on Rowling's first husband.

    AUGUST 26, 2004
    29,000 words so far. 18,000 polished. Another few thousand to be written at least. Am I going to make it by Labor Day?

    I remain suspicious that Dumbledore (the bumblebee) may be a (black and yellow) Hufflepuff. But a commitment must be made, so on with the carocka charm attributes I go.

    SEPTEMBER 1, 2004
    Sometimes I want to list all the stuff I thought of for the Guilford trilogy but had to throw out...

    - Violet, returning to the common room after a whipping, is asked by smirking Slytherins, "What did Snape say? Violet? Violet, what did Snape say?" "SHUT UP!"

    - The "May" chapter of SS was going to end the night the Slytherins marched back into the Great Hall. There wasn't going to be any rescue in Hogsmeade. Instead, the Slytherins would be awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of singing in the common room. It's Violet, and she's singing to her wand, which is etching the words of her song into the wall as she sings. The Slytherins gather around. Malfoy shakes his head and announces, "Violet, Snape's going to whip you pink."

    "I don't think so," the child replies. "It's been done before."

    She strolls off to bed and Malfoy reads aloud what she's written:

    But sometimes in this suff'ring
    and hopeless despair
    My heart cries for shelter,
    to know someone's there
    And a voice rises within me, saying "Hold on
    my child, I'll give you strength,
    I'll give you hope. Just stay a little while."

    (For those who don't know, that's from "Inscription," a poem found carved on a cellar wall by Jews hiding from the Nazis.)

    - During the SO fall head cold epidemic, Snape gets sick last and Madam Pomfrey observes he's the biggest baby of them all.

    - After deflection is discovered, Sprout comes sheepishly to Snape's office. She's embarrassed by her previous attitude towards his house and wants to express her gratitude that he recommended her for Bill's project. Developing deflection with him and Flitwick has been the biggest thrill of her life.

    - During Wednesday night interviews with Snape, Hermione asks how Snape and the Slytherins manage to avoid romantic entanglements (she's not sure she wants to settle down after school). Ron receives permission to reference Snape's Good Friday lecture (the part about some evil people never acquiring tattoos) so he can ask what Snape thinks will become of Percy.

    I think I'll add to this as I remember other stuff I threw out.

    - Violet wasn't going to get a whipping in "The Fall" of SO. Snape was going to catch her just about to evanesco, at which point she was going to push the sprouts away and declare, "Forget it. I'd rather take the six." Snape was going to call her, "Idiot child," then take her by the chin and perform the impedimential odiferous charm himself.

    But then I thought, "Nah, let's go with the symmetry of a whipping on attack day. Say! Do you suppose Lily Evans invented evanesco?

    -In AOH, Marybeth's condition was going to have a physical component. Later in the fall, Violet was going to fake an illness to land herself in the hospital wing. Malfoy assumes she's jealous of the attention Snape is giving Marybeth and visits the infirmary to put a stop to her nonsense.

    "Go away, you slimy reptile!" Violet snaps.
    "Snakes are cool and dry, Violet," Malfoy replies, "and you'd better be the same if Snape finds out what you're up to."
    Snape shows up, of course, insisting, "Child, there isn't a blessed thing wrong with you. Explain yourself!"
    Violet confesses she was planning to crawl out of bed in the middle of the night and break into Pomfrey's files to read his medical record.
    "We've done this!" Snape protests, but Violet goes on to explain that she wants to know if he was ill upon returning to Hogwarts after his years with the Death Eaters. She wants to know what is wrong with Marybeth.
    After a long pause, Snape says, "So do I." And he sends her back to the house without punishment.

    - Oh! Glory! Remember Glory?
    In AOH, there was going to be this incredibly arrogant little jerk, Glory Winston, the daughter of Death Eaters, sorted into Slytherin. Her mission was to undermine Snape whenever possible and try to turn the house against Dumbledore's side. During the "We have two rules in Slytherin" speech, she was going to hurl an incredibly disrespectful insult at Snape. He accios his cane to flog her in front of the entire house but the switch bounces harmlessly off her backside; her parents have charmed her to be impervious to caning. The Slytherins are horrified. Snape, completely unruffled, takes the child over his knee and spanks her instead until she agrees to consent to having Flitwick remove the charm. The sequence ended with this great bit where Snape stood the child before him after spanking her and held up her wand for her to take back. Glory is of course itching to grab it and hex the hell out of him and Snape cautions her, "Think. What do you REALLY want? I sincerely doubt it's another trip across my knee."

    The Slytherins, horrified by the thoroughness with which Snape has reddened this child's bottom, assure her later she made the right choice. "There are only six strokes to a caning," Violet explains. "I thought he was going to spank you all night!"

    A short while later, the girl receives a letter from home berating her viciously for her failure with the caning incident. Turns out Glory has never been valued by her family and is desperate to succeed in this mission and finally earn herself some love. The older Slytherins spend a lot of time with her, telling her stories of Snape from their earliest years at Hogwarts, eventually winning her over. But she was too much like Marybeth (the whole unvalued child thing) and the device (someone Malfoy et al needed to tell their early year stories to) was too obvious so I threw her out.

    This storyline also had a funny scene where Snape sits in Dumbledore's office being subjected to charm after protective charm to keep him safe from Glory until she's won over.

    A scene from Term One of AOH I had to cut after Rowling killed Sirius: The Slytherins were going to find a puppy on the pitch during their match with Gryffindor. "Excuse me," Harry was going to huff to the team as it crowded around the poor creature, "we're in the middle of a match here." Malfoy grabs the snitch from thin air, hurls it at Potter with an absent-minded, "Here!" and leads the Slytherins off the pitch and inside.

    A short while later, they enter Snape's office together. "Oh, no! No, no, no!" cries their housemaster upon seeing the animal, but the Slytherins merely unfurl a roll of parchment with a flourish and recite:
    "Reasons Professor Snape should allow us to keep the puppy.
    1. It will chase Crookshanks.
    2. It will grow up to fight with Padfoot.
    3. It will reject Professor Dumbledore and hurt his feelings."

    They roll the parchment back up and wait. Snape, with a thin-lipped smile, decrees, "You may keep the puppy."

    To his consternation, the dog likes him best and follows him around with nauseating cheerfulness until Snape takes the creature to task in his office one afternoon. "See here!" he snarls, plopping the animal down on top of his desk. "If you're going to keep company with me, you'll be required to conduct yourself with a more circumspect demeanor. Sit up straight!" The dog stiffens neatly on his haunches. "Stop wagging your tail!" The dog curls it neatly around his left haunch. "Wipe that puppy smile off your face! And always remember, your primary responsibility is to watch over the Slytherins. You will return to the common room whenever I command with absolutely no whinging. Is that understood?"

    'Woof.'

    A post New Year's Day note on SnapeSupport reminded me of this one: Goyle lands in Snape's quarters by accident during a game of floo tag and has to hide under his bed to keep from being discovered. Falls asleep, wakes up to the sound of multiple feminine voices. Is Snape having an orgy with the women of Hogsmeade? No, it turns out something has happened in town to frighten them and has kept them up nights so Snape's letting them spend the night at his place so they can finally get some sleep.

    Early on, I imagined the battle coming in June instead of at Halloween. Afterwards, Snape walks into the Forbidden Forest and attempts suicide. But Dobby has tracked him and informs Dumbledore. Snape wakes up at St. Mungo's, devastated to be alive (you can see why I abandoned this idiotic drivel). Then, one night, he hears a child crying. He follows the sound and discovers a 10-year-old living in unceasing pain on the closed ward with the Longbottoms... she got crucio'd by a DE who was killed before he could lift the curse so she lives in constant torture. Snape, murmuring in that silky voice, is able to ease her off to sleep. The next day, he scoops her up and returns to Hogwarts, ignoring everybody except Neville Longbottom, whom he enlists to spend the summer with him searching for a cure. They find one just before the beginning of the seventh year and the child, restored to help and adoring stern Professor Snape, begs to be allowed to stay with him at Hogwarts.

    SEPTEMBER 1, 2004
    10,000 hits for "The Smallest Slytherin!" Not too shabby for a stand-alone-site fic, especially since my counter won't go up if you visit twice or more from the same IP address.

    SEPTEMBER 8, 2004
    The pain it must cause JKR, when people misinterpret her clear messages to indulge their hatefulness AND rant on and on in an attempt to force their hate on others. Imagine hating people with faith so much you'd claim Harry's near-death observation, "And I'll see Sirius again..." is an expression of love only, NOT faith. Clearly, thinking you're going to get to see the dead again after you die is an expression of faith. Why can't people tell the truth? Why can't they be accurate? The world doesn't come crumbling down, it really doesn't!!!!!

    SEPTEMBER 22, 2004
    Those pix of Daniel in white shirt and Gryffindor tie from the filming of GOF... geez, he looks younger and shorter than PA! Tricky, you movie people.

    Found this on-line today (slight editing): "In October of 2002, David Warble wrote, produced and conducted the full orchestral presentation of 'Harry Potter's Magical, Musical and Missing Wand', an educational program for the Philharmonic Society of Orange County and John Williams which premiered at the Orange County Performing Arts Center." Will have to google that, I guess. I've noticed none of the bio info on Uncle Pervy, as he taught us to call him, includes data about his days as a high school music teacher in the 1970s and early 1980s. Hmmm.

    Made the decision to pull Violet out of bed, put her on a windowsill instead, and slice the scene in Minerva's office. Bummer, because Violet's discovery (that she'd borrowed the sketches of Lupin and Snape without asking so she could copy them for herself) was pretty effective. But it mixes the emotions too much. First she commiserates with the old woman, then she goes back to Slytherin and demands Malfoy tell visitors Hermione and Harry the story of Snape's 4th year? Don't think so. But I did some editing on Harry's night at the Three Broomsticks and I'm quite pleased with that. The big unresolved question at this point: Do Crabbe and Goyle (and Millicent and Tracey and Pansy?) get an adventure of their own or do I stick with just the other two groupings. Less is always better...

    SEPTEMBER 28, 2004
    I wish people who need it would get help instead of hatemongering across cyberspace.

    OCTOBER 18, 2004
    Sweet, sweet proof.

    For all those who insist Rowling is infallible when commenting on the Harry Potter books and characters and is therefore as valid a source as the books themselves, I offer the following.

    From www.jkrowling.com, FAQ, "About the books" section:
    You said recently that Charlie was two years older than Percy. If that's so, he would have been the Seeker in Harry's first year. Can you clarify his and Bill's ages for us?
    I knew I'd messed up that question the moment I had answered it, but web chats move fast and I wanted to keep going to get through as many questions as I could. Bill is two years older than Charlie, who is three years older than Percy, who is two years older than Fred and George, who are two years older than Ron, who is a year older than Ginny. Sorry. Maths is not my strong suit (though it's better than my geography, as those who have found the most recent Easter Eggs might already know).

    From HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE, Fred talking to Harry: "I tell you, we're going to win that Quidditch cup for sure this year. We haven't won since Charlie left..."

    From HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN, Professor McGonagall to Harry after returning the Firebolt:
    " Potter, do try and win, won't you? Or we'll be out of the running for the eighth year in a row, as Professor Snape was kind enough to remind me only last night...."

    Since PoA takes place in Harry's 3rd year, that means Charlie is 5 years older than Percy. See? Authors are NOT infallible when discussing their books.

    OCTOBER 20, 2004
    This post is dedicated to Barrie's bud, Jane.

    A 10-year-old girl, Katie Hagen, hanged herself in my rural community on Oct. 7.

    Hanged. I'm 4 times her age and I don't even know how to make a noose but she actually hanged herself.

    No one wants to talk about it. They act like that's inappropriate. The truth, of course, is that they're all trying to avoid any expression of culpability.

    Earth to sissies. If you don't want it to happen again, you have to talk about it, and you have to tell the truth. You have to consider questions like:

    What is her family like?
    Are they poor?
    Are they active in the community?
    Do they have enough intelligence to do more than eat, sleep, work, use drugs and/or alcohol and watch tv?
    Do they drink to excess?
    Did they teach their kid she's a failure if she's friendless?
    Did anybody else teach the kid she's a failure if she's friendless?
    What are her schoolmates like?
    Are there jerks or bullies at her school? What are their names? Who are their families? What do they do to other kids?
    Is the community materialistic?
    Is it really noble to mind your own business? Is it Christian?

    In addition to Katie, a 21-year-old white male named Matthew Warfield recently offed himself, too.

    Suicide is contagious. Therefore, I WILL call Amy Bennett by the end of the weekend to inquire after her state of mind. Amy's a former Mask and Wig Club member, a school star who was a cheerleader and pianist (ooh, aah) at the annual Christmas choir concert (ooh, ahh). Yet she dropped out and no one knows what she's doing now. I will call, I will tell her that I'm worried a winner like her dropped out of high school, I will ask her about her hopes and dreams and plans.

    OCTOBER 22, 2004
    The pix from VANITY FAIR of Angelica Mandy, the chick playing Gabrielle Delacour in GoF, remind me of Kirsten Dunst in INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE.

    I wonder how bathrooms work at Hogwarts. I try not to get too specific about where they are in my fics but geez, you don't have to leave your house to use one in the middle of the night, do you?

    OCTOBER 27, 2004
    According to the Sorting Hat in book 4:

    While still alive they did divide
    Their favourites from the throng,
    Yet how to pick the worthy ones
    When they were dead and gone?

    So, after Salazar was driven out, how did the remaining three sort students into Slytherin before the hat took over upon their deaths? I suppose these are some of the 'mean-spirited' ethics educators criticize Rowling for. Couldn't have been easy being a Slytherin in the days after Salazar was gone. Someone should write a fic...

    NOVEMBER 2, 2004
    Dude! Of the top 6 posters in the past year to a group I won't name, five (5!!!!!) are among those I list (yeah, I keep an actual list) as abusive. And check this out! Use of that group is down 25 to 50% in everything from message lenth to users to repliers, despite the recentness of Book 5, flick 3, and JKR's website.

    Bit of a lesson there, hm?

    I love that they put those decline statistics in red. : )

    NOVEMBER 4, 2004
    To those who claim to have voted for moral reasons:

    God is not mocked.

    Neither is Alan Rickman.

    See you on Judgment Day.

    NOVEMBER 10, 2004
    Finally reached the Bennetts. Amy is in college in Seattle and everyone else sounds fine, too.

    Whoo hoo!

    Things are sprucing up nicely on SO. My favorite line so far: "Violet, I'm gonna paddle you until my palms itch!" And those of you who don't know what it means to box someone's ears may want to rewatch CLOSET LAND. Don't make a fuss, it was just a tap!

    NOVEMBER 12, 2004
    RE: the contest, do you suppose, if I beg and plead, Warner Brothers will let me substitute Snape and 3 Slytheirns for Rowling and 3 Gryffindors?

    NOVEMBER 18, 2004
    This morning, I'm back to thinking the Half-blood prince is a Slytherin, maybe the unnamed kid from OP who can see thestrals. Perhaps Draco is taken out of the picture in Chapter 6 and the kids of Slytherin function differently in his absence. Sounds a little cliche to me but maybe Rowling could make it work.

    "A Merry Little Christmas" has reached 32,378 words, which surprises me, because that makes it longer than "The Last Summer" (32,328) or "The Fall" (31,174) and gee, it only covers 2 months, the first of which, for the most part, is skipped. Of course, I've been working on it since last summer...

    I'm looking forward to writing the spring chapter, because unlike 'Fall' and 'Christmas,' it will permit previews without giving away major plot elements... I think.

    NOVEMBER 19, 2004
    In the bowl or in the hand, kudos to the set decoration people for making apples such a prominent part of being a serpent. I mean Slytherin, hee hee hee.

    NOVEMBER 24, 2004
    Damn. Rather's been my favorite ever since he counseled, "Courage."

    DECEMBER 7, 2004
    Had a dream last night that the HBP release date was announced as August 28, 2005. Hm.

    Interesting, how the Sphinx' clue in GoF claims spies tell naught but lies. What nonsense! They tell the truth half the time! Was that some sort of hint?

    My favorite re-discovery so far - a petulant Percy ending his note to Ron, "Happy Easter." Christians R Us.

    DECEMBER 17, 2004
    As the Slytherins, in their Dumbledorian long underwear, gather before a roaring fire in their common room Christmas morning to make their traditional snake-themed cards for Snape, I wish you all a joyous Noel.

    DECEMBER 28, 2004
    As I pondered the opening sequence of the final chapter of Salazar's Orphans over Christmas (Tracey and Warrington are each receiving a stroke apiece for the gambling, partying, and other forms of cavorting they enjoyed in London while searching for Potter. WARRINGTON: "No fair! McGonall said just two apiece for everybody!" SNAPE: "Noted. Bend.") I couldn't help regretting once again that this couldn't have happened to Crabbe and Goyle instead. That would have been a stitch, the feckless duo suddenly finding themselves the toast of the spoiled London party crowd.

    DECEMBER 30, 2004
    I'm thinking, this time, I will NOT pre-order the next HP book but pick it up at midnight at Walmart instead. Seems like that would be much more fun.

    JANUARY 3, 2005
    Updated the "stuff I forgot" section. It comes before SEPTEMBER 1, 2004.

    JANUARY 4, 2005
    Then, last night on the way to the car, I remembered another one!

    JANUARY 10, 2005
    It's a coincidence, it's a coincidence, it's a coincidence.

    I assert in THE SMALLEST SLYTHERIN that January absolutely, positively is NOT the month of Severus Snape's birthday...and the first chance she gets (i.e. the first time January rolls around after she gets a website), Rowling turns around and asserts it is.

    It's a coincidence, it's a coincidence, it's a coincidence.

    (Of course, it's also a perfect example of her sense of humor...)

    Had my first-ever dream about my own fanfic Saturday night (well, not counting the dream that started it all and the occasional plot bunnies here and there like Snape telling Harry a story on his sick bed). It's Christmas Day, the day after "Merry Little Christmas" ends. Everyone is gathered in a single room together. It's like a big 4-season porch with lots of windows looking out on a snowy day. The mountains that surround Hogwarts are VERY close... what you see when you look out the window is snow coming to rest on the steep granite walls ascending right in front of you.

    There is a HUGE pile of presents in the room... Dumbledore has conjured one for everybody... and he's promised to spend the day teaching each student whatever magic skill he or she has always wanted to master. Only Violet knows why. Turns out that today, Christmas Day, the entire world is amassed against the citizens of Hogwarts (despite their having rid the world of an evil tyrant) and they're coming to wipe everybody out. There's no escaping it, so Dumbledore is trying to give the students the nicest last day on earth possible.

    At one point Violet sees two Death Eaters approaching the front door... and to her shock, Dumbledore and McGonagall let them in! (The few remaining DEs in the world are part of the 'Destroy Hogwarts' plot so they know what's gonna happen). They come into the porch and ask to speak to Draco, and when they pull back their hoods... It's Lucius and Narcissa! How can that be, Violet wonders... they're dead! Oh, wait, these people are really, really old... it's not Draco's parents but his GRANDPARENTS. They've come for a final farewell since they know he's going to die (though they don't really tell him why they're there since the attack is a secret). All day long, kids with DE relatives are visited by them. Eventually they figure out what's going on.

    It was a very sad dream.

    JANUARY 21, 2005
    From PS/SS, Petunia ranting about Lily: "Then she met that Potter at school and they left and got married and had you..."

    I wonder if that means Lily and James had to (or chose to) flee Hogwarts BEFORE the end of their seventh year because of Voldemort? Wonder if that had anything to do with the three defiances?

    February 8, 2005
    Even as I wonder if six months will be enough time to write the final chapter of SO, I find myself pondering how much fun it would be to start a new series about Snape's early years as a teacher and head of house at Hogwarts. The dilemmas:

    1. It would be great to imagine how Snape came to be at Hogwarts, how/why he got the Head of House job, what happened to the former head, how the Slytherins viewed all this, and then what life was like in Snape's house (hinted at in Rachel's letter). But it's best to avoid conflicting with canon whenever possible and so far, we don't have a firm start date for Snape. The period of employment given to Umbridge in OP only confirms that Snape started working at Hogwarts sometime during Death year... the year James and Lily died and Voldie took his hit. Did he come to Hogwarts at the beginning of the school year, supposedly as Voldemort's spy (but really as Dumbledore's), acting on a Voldemortian theory that the part of Trelawney's prophecy he missed was information on who the seven month baby was? Boring. Undramatic. Better that he be in the field with the DEs until Survival Night (i.e the night Harry became the Boy Who Lived). That creates much more confusion/consternation/drama over his sudden arrival and employment at Hogwarts. And for maximum drama, he should become a housemaster immediately, that very night. But if Rowling should provide info in Book 6 that conflicts...

    2. There's no one in my current work I can hang the story on. Megan isn't fit for a central character because of what happens in her 5th year. Rachel Dockman isn't there yet, and I'd really like to show the Slytherins reacting to Survival Night and Snape's arrival as they happen, not let someone hear about it all second-hand. Martha Greinglass, perhaps? She would have been a 3rd year the fall Snape began at Hogwarts (1981-82). Megan would have been a 1st year. Let's make a little chart here. Martha is Mar, Megan is M, HC = House Cup victory and QC = Quidditch cup victory (for Slytherin unless otherwise specified).

    Fall 1981 Snape starts at Hogwarts, Mar3, M1.
    Fall 1982 Mar4, M2
    Fall 1983 Mar 5, M3, (GryffindorQC)
    Fall 1984 Mar6, M4, QC
    Fall 1985 Mar7, M5, R1, F(Flint)1, QC, HC
    Fall 1986 M6, R2, F2 QC, HC
    Fall 1987 M7, R3, F3 QC, HC
    Fall 1988 R4, F4 QC, HC
    Fall 1989, R5, F5, Adrian1, Bletchley1, HC, QC
    Fall 1990 R6, F6, Adrian2, Bletchley2 HC, QC
    Fall 1991 R7, F7, Harry1, DracoEtc1, QC, robbed of HC.
    Fall 1992 QC

    So Snape labors at Hogwarts for 3 full years (essentially) before the snakes start to achieve major success under his tutelage. The question remains: Start with Fall 1981 or start later, closer to the success years? Or here's an idea... don't take a year per book. Let the first book deal with Fall 1981 through Spring 1985 (a quidditch cup for Slytherin).

    Good grief, is that the time? Gotta run!

    FEBRUARY 25, 2005
    Sweet dream that should be shared.

    Snape came across Harry being a jerk in the corridors. Hauled him into his office and thrashed him good. Afterwards, Harry was all teenage belligerence and animosity... "You can't treat me this way, you're not the boss of me, I'm not a child anymore...!!!" He shouted, red-faced, until he saw that Snape was staring at him strangely. "What?" the youngster demanded, only to be told...

    "This is how you would have treated your father."

    Snape meant that orphans like Harry often fantasize about the warm and reassuring moments they're missing with their parents, but they don't generally think that there would have been difficult moments, too... moments of anger and conflict and childish accusations of injustice or oppression. Harry, realizing that yes, this was exactly the sort of moment he probably would have eventually had with his father, broke into a goofy but teary grin, so desperate for any vicarious experience of what life with his parents would have been like that he wanted to grab the moment and hold it forever...

    FEBRUARY 28, 2005
    Oscar thoughts:

    1. What a comfort it must be to Chris Columbus that, despite everybody's comments that AC's flick was so much better than his two, only one of his got nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Here's to GoF doing much better at the big dance (if it's the film it should be) because I just LOVE GoF.

    2. I wonder if Clint and MDB won over Marty and The Aviator because the members of the Academy think Marty's a misogynist just like I do?

    3. Chris Rock's amplified style of delivery did NOT fit with the extremely dignified approach taken with the rest of the show.

    4. A shame Will Shakespeare and John Williams didn't get nominated for Double Trouble. How fun would it have been to have the Hogwarts Choir singing on the Oscar telecast? And has Will won a posthumous Oscar yet?

    MARCH 9, 2005
    Of course it's a pensieve, you half-wits. See the markings around the edge? (to say nothing of the swirling mist)

    I wonder if Peter kills Lupin in HBP and THAT'S how the graveyard comes up?

    MARCH 14, 2005
    What's the term for poor thinkers/debaters who don't have a strong case or valid point so they desperately reference the only quote/piece of evidence they have to support their point of view over and over and over?

    MARCH 25, 2005

    SHALLOWNESS - the source of all wrongdoing.

    You know you're shallow when:


    -You equate straightforwardness with arrogance.
    -You couch your remarks to curry favor with someone famous who might be lurking.
    -You equate congeniality with respect.
    -You value pleasantness over intellectual and ethical development.
    -You falsely accuse those who disagree with you while disregarding the misconduct of those who agree with you.
    -You accuse others of getting riled when YOU are upset.
    -You value loyalty over truth.
    -You fear conflict.
    -You accuse those who disagree with you of taking themselves too seriously.
    -You resort to sarcasm or passive-aggressive insults like "You must be joking" or "Get a life."
    -Your guilty conscience keeps you from accurately interpreting what has been said.
    -You can't handle the idea that someone you admire has flaws, makes mistakes, and does wrong.
    -You deflect your guilt by hurling derogatory accusations like 'arrogant' or 'not canon,' knowing they'll be quickly believed by the nitwits of cyberspace despite your inaccuracy.

    To be continued, I suspect.

    MARCH 31, 2005
    The CBS Morning Show did a story on the upcoming release of HBP. No substantial new info, but they did include a cute segment where the correspondent, a mother of a six-year-old, was shown reading the first book to her kid and quizzing her on the material.

    Mother: And what do the study at Hogwarts?
    Child: Potions!

    First thing out of her mouth! That's my girl!

    I wonder if I could finish SO by Memorial Day Weekend?

    APRIL 8, 2005
    Before I begin, I should point out that I didn't read the part about the chess game because that section of both the book and the film bores me. The Ron/Dumbledore theory stands alone.

    What's fascinating about the reaction to Rowling quashing the Ron/Dumbledore theory is, the fall-out clearly delineates between the trash and the non-trash. Consider the bald-faced lies that 1) the theory had no proof and 2) the creators spammed to bring attention to their site. The facts are:

    A. The site gained attention through the cyber-equivalent of word-of-mouth because of its brilliance.

    B. SO MUCH evidence in the books supports the theory that the fact that it is not correct actually reflects poorly on Rowling's writing.

    So why are some 'fans' rejoicing in the quashing of this theory and being openly insulting in the process? They fall into the category of fake fans (along with, among others, the people who are uncomfortable admitting Rowling has character and artistic flaws). They care not how an outstanding endeavor can make the world a better place. They simply want to be Harry Potter-important, to achieve a position of significance in the Harry Potter phenomenon. Alas, that's a shallow goal, and the more shallow your goals, the less likely you are to make the kind of contribution that will make you Harry Potter-important.

    I've been sensitized recently to the thinly veiled ambition of some fans, of their desperation to achieve recognition and significance. I've recognized the behavior for what it is since my days running the Brad Pitt Mailing List in 1994-95. But never before have I been so tempted to send a copy of ALL ABOUT EVE to so many people.

    APRIL 26, 2005
    My thoughts on the Snape Trial -



    MAY 23, 2005
    Wrote all weekend and I can safely say, I will NOT be finishing SO by Memorial Day Weekend. June 20 is gonna be a stretch!

    MAY 26, 2005
    Memorial Day, Book 6, Movie 4. What a joyous time to be alive!

    Had the bell choir over for the year-end potluck Tuesday (Folio 5 ringer Marybeth Schleuter was the name source for Marybeth Montague). Finished decorating the Slytherin North dungeon (my huge basement that I can't afford to finish... or waste!) just in time. In addition to green walls, green throw rugs, green party lights, green tealight holders, and beds with green pillow cases and teddy bears wearing Slytherin ties, the space boasts a common room with a round green table, green candles in the candelabra on the piano, and a Slytherin art gallery. It's suppose to feel like the Slytherins drew the stuff and stuck it up on the wall for each other to see. Here's a collage of some of the pieces I printed out to hang up.

    No, it's not a clickable image map. People aren't crazy about folks who lift their art and stick it in other corners of cyberspace, you know. Anyway, I love this stuff dearly and am so grateful for the people who share so generously throughout cyberspace. If you have any Slytherin favorites, do let me know. I'd love to see them.

    JUNE 6, 2005
    Some of you are aware that I don't go online on weekends.

    So this weekend, as I'm finishing up one of the final scenes in SO, I make reference to Draco's birthday, designated in the 'Floo Tag' chapter of AN OBEDIENT HOUSE (published October 2003) as being in April. Remembering the 'January' unpleasantness, I smile to myself and think, "Watch. Any time now, Rowling will publish a birth date for Draco NOT in April."

    Arrive at work Monday morning, check the HP news sites...

    MOTHERPUSSBUCKET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    [Update January 5, 2006. I didn't say April! I said 'late spring.' Like, you know... June! Validation!]

    JUNE 21, 2005
    Hey, look at that, my blog is a year old!

    I wonder if Filch's "No magic in the corridor!" policy stems from the marauders' tormenting of Snape? Filch and Snape are clearly friends on some level; Snape felt he could go to Filch for help (instead of Madam Pomfrey) when Fluffy bit him...

    I was driving in the car recently, listening to my ipod, when it hit me like a ton of bricks. The title of a book/chapter/story/whatever about Snape's return to teach at Hogwarts should be called...

    "Suddenly Severus."

    How I hope that, if anything is revealed in HP6 or HP7 about when Snape came to Hogwarts, it will be that he came some time close to the events of Halloween night, NOT at the beginning of the school year. Showing up unexpectedly and suddenly (hee hee) being made a staff member is just SO much more compelling...

    Hee hee. SO. Hee hee.

    ... than going to Hogwarts as Voldemort's theoretical spy...

    If Snape made the potion that allowed Voldemort to survive the bounce-back, that certainly makes the 'Potions versus Defense' dilemma more interesting. He'd have been so unrelentingly pulled in two directions: "Gotta find a way to use potions to compensate for what I've done! No! Defense is the only way to compensate for what I've done!"

    JUNE 28, 2005
    When I was in high school, the band used to tour for a week every spring and compete in a concert and jazz band invitational in western Colorado. We always looked forward to it but by the end of the first day we'd be exhausted and before long, several members would become abusive. Miserable things happened, and many tears were shed, but what really frosted me was, our director was nowhere to be found. He was young, handsome and charismatic; he preferred to spend his free time in bars. He made no attempt to rein in the more barbaric of his charges.

    Without fail, the concert band would lose on Friday but the elitist, exclusionary jazz band (yeah, I was in it, but that's another atrocious story) would win on Saturday and suddenly, everybody was expected to forget the abuse and celebrate.

    And they did!

    But not me. I sat alone in a dark corner of the bus for two hours while everybody else partied at Shakey's.

    A friend came to check on me, pleading with me to come inside, but I wouldn't budge. Some chaperones asked if I wanted a ride back to the hotel. I declined.

    Then she came aboard. A thin, strident girl, she was a year younger but she attacked me confidently nevertheless. How dare I sit in judgment on the rest, she wanted to know. Who did I think I was? Where did I get off trying to make others feel bad about their behavior?

    A year later, she was molested during the band trip. The following month, during a jazz band trip to Greeley, as I sat by myself chewing on a McDonald's hamburger, she came quietly to my table, sat down across from me, and delivered three words:

    "You were right."

    But here's the thing. It doesn't help to tell me that. Those you've previously abused are not comforted to learn you've finally decided to acknowledge the truth (perhaps because you've suffered some consequences from your actions). It doesn't address the real crime.

    You had all the information I had when I had it. I chose to be noble, you chose to be harmful. There is no excuse for taking longer than you should to move down the path of enlightenment.

    Intellectual and ethical development are mutually dependent. Your failure to be as good as you could as soon as you could means you caused untold amounts of unnecessary harm.

    So don't seek my approval or appreciation that you've finally arrived.

    The sin was in your sluggishness.

    JULY 1, 2005
    Oh, yeah! Yeah, baby! 15,000 hits for the stand alone fic, "The Smallest Slytherin." Who's house? Snape's house! Who's house? Snape's house! Mar-TAN! Mar-TAN!

    JULY 7, 2005
    My, but don't I have powerful enemies.

    So ironic, a 'journalist' practicing discriminate censorship.

    JULY 18, 2005
    Well, well and WELL!

    It certainly is a morning for separating the truth-and-beauty seekers from the hatemongers, isn't it? I suppose that's to be expected. Let's face it. Rowling is powerful and the books are a potentially huge influence. She has pitted two very different sets of values against each other (those that flow from being a Perry 4-6 versus those that flow from being a Perry 7-9) and will eventually have to assert which level of development yields nobler, more altruistic behavior. So far, the majority of the evidence indicates she's going to stick with her pro-Snape, pro 7-9 stance (which, in the end, will probably make her a million times more effective at spreading the gospel of integrity than I, and for that, I prostrate myself on the ground and kiss her feet). But the 4-6ers, who are of course a far larger group that the 7-9ers, will no doubt be furious. I see they're already stiffening up as they swing into defensive mode...

    AUGUST 1, 2005
    It's amazing! First the interview, then the response to the verdict. I don't have to lift a finger! All I have to do is sit back and watch as the petty little hate-mongers reveal their true selves to the world.

    (My condolences, by the way, to a certain author's PR person. Allow me to share with you my father's favorite saying. "This, too, shall pass.")

    AUGUST 2, 2005
    You know how Americans occasionally remake recent movies from other countries? What would be wrong with some other country buying the rights from WB and remaking the HP flicks? Don't get me wrong, I love the WB cast, but how fun would it be to see someone else's take, one that focuses on different elements/aspects of the stories?

    AUGUST 4, 2005
    The lies and misperceptions continue, so it's time for the truth.

    But first, a quick check. You all know the story about the bird who postpones flying south and ends up in a barnyard being pooped on by the cow, right? The moral of the story is, those who dump shit on you aren't always your enemies, and those who take shit off you aren't always your friends.

    For those who haven't read my fanfics, the other thing you need to know is, I don't ship, and I don't write about the Gryffindor trio. I write about Snape and the Slytherins.

    Onward.

    The reason the Harry/Hermione shippers are so upset by recent events is, theirs is the more noble perspective and it's being denigrated by an egomaniacal Rowling and her toadying sycophants. The sycophants don't really matter, but the idea that Rowling would conduct herself so ignobly, placing gratification of her ego ahead of art and idealism, is horrifyingly painful... and painfully horrifying.

    In a nutshell, what the PR material surrounding the release of HPB has confirmed are the suspicions that were aroused by OotP... that Rowling is preoccupied with fan feedback and speculation about her work to the point that she will alter content to punish those who do not respond as she'd intended.

    The Harry/Hermione fans did not long for their union because they thought that's where Rowling was going. They longed for their union because, in books 1-4, Hermione was presented as an outstanding young woman, and Harry was presented as far nobler than Ron, the petty, jealous side-kick. The idealistic among us, who see relationships not as a source of mere enjoyment, comfort or security but as a means for noble, striving people to support each other's efforts, hoped Rowling would take the highest-minded view possible, thereby empowering millions of readers to rise above the petty, typical motivations people commonly apply to the mating process which generally yield unions that lead to 'lives of quiet desperation' (thank you, Thoreau).

    One day, important dissertations will be written on the topic of how fan feedback influenced Rowling. Scholars have examined influences on artists before, but Rowling is a first. Never before has an author of such enormous popularity had free access to so much feedback. The dissertations will document how Rowling's statements confirming her preoccupation with surfing the internet for discussion of her work coincide with the writing of books 5 and 6... and how her characters' value sets change at precisely this juncture. Harry changes from someone who cares about the truth to a closed-minded bully frighteningly like James at his worst while Ron becomes more and more heroic. Why? Because Rowling, like the more shallow fans who blindly idolize the Weasleys, is furious that readers would criticize Ron.

    Rowling has made repeated statements to the effect that fan reaction to her books often surprises her (leading one to wonder to what degree God and/or editors are responsible for the content of these tomes... but that's another dissertation). The persistent, gloating glee with which she is reported to have celebrated Harry and Ginny's romance with like-minded fans indicates her level of annoyance with those who don't see eye to eye with her values, i.e. who hold Ron far more accountable for his misconduct than she does. (Viewers of televised biographies of the author may be aware that she based Ron on a boy she idolized in adolescence and remains friends with as an adult; he appeared on camera with her.) The result? Fans who shake their heads over the content of books 5 and, especially, 6, asking themselves why in heaven's name she included content and direction so diametrically opposed to the material presented in books 1-4. (Rowling may have an inkling of this; in what seems to be a defensive move, she has begun denigrating the earlier work as 'overrated.')

    The content of book 7 will determine what scholars will conclude about the impact fan discussion had on Rowling and her writing. That makes this her last chance to log off, ring up, and have a nice long talk with her editors or her muse about where she was going in the first place... and whether or not she's still on track.

    AUGUST 29, 2005
    "I expect Potter will be reunited with dear Sirius before I am reunited with Lucius."

    You know, this really doesn't mesh with Chapter 2. I don't believe any monther has true feelings for her own child but speaks openly and casually about wanting other children dead. Fanatics only babble about loving their children; they don't act on it like Narcissa did.

    AUGUST 30, 2005
    Was thinking about Percy on the way home last night. Given his status as a Weasley and a Gryffindor, I wonder if Jo is trying to send a message to the less noble of her fans, those who think they're properly aligned and in the right. Will Percy continue to be a git until the ignoble fans start putting the truth ahead of their petty agendas?

    SEPTEMBER 8, 2005
    I should help them. I should warn them how foolish they're being and what will become of them.

    But then, look what happened the last time I tried to help them.

    SEPTEMBER 15, 2005
    I came up with the greatest idea for a Halloween costume last night. I'm going to have a green (or black, if green isn't available) sweatshirt emblazoned with the phrase, "Team Severus."

    It'll be perfect to wear to the GoF flick as well...

    SEPTEMBER 26, 2005
    As I re-read HBP, the number of 'coincidental similarities' I notice just grows and grows. I combine my awareness of them with the memory of fan criticisms about how badly OP needed better editing and conclude I may be right: The reason books 1-4 are so superior to 5 and 6 is that the critical acclaim for Book 4 gave Rowling the power to diminish the role her editors played in shaping 5 and 6. Without their help to polish 6, she found her work lacking and started harvesting from fanfic.


    Had another disturbing dream about Glensheen being haunted last night. I was watching a TV movie about it. I was startled to see young Daniel Radcliffe in the starring role. Turns out the movie was so controversial that injunctions were filed to keep folks from mentioning it, hence Daniel's failure to include it on his pre-HP filmography.

    Daniel played a little boy whose large, incredibly wealthy family (consisting primarily of siblings 15 to 20 years older) had finally inherited the house, i.e. reached their turn to live there. They were so excited to get to be there; the older ones would sit around the huge parlors and exclaim about how lovely the place was while fires roared in the fireplaces.

    Soon after moving in, Daniel finds a note left for him by a cousin who lived there before. "Go to the second floor, to the big room they converted to an infirmary!" he counsels. "Between the mattresses on the iron cots, you'll find treasure, toys that belong to the sick children who used to lie in these beds." Without wondering why the mansion once included an infirmary for sick children, Daniel rushes upstairs into a large, dark, run-down, eerie room with rows of bunk-bed cots. He plunges a hand between the first bed's rotting mattresses and pulls out a toy. He's delighted... until he sees that the toy is rotting. Suddenly, where no one had been before, there's a little girl with long hair floating up to him. She's all white and transparent, of course, and to Daniel's horror, he sees her face is rotting. "Play with us," she implores. "Stay with us." Daniel tries to flee and suddenly the room is full of an army of ghosts, children sick in bed reaching for adults who lift them out of bed and carry them away.

    Turns out this family's wealth came from vicious oppression of the poor. They fought and won the longest, most brutal campaign against striking garment workers in the history of the world. They did things to those workers too horrible to describe. They enslaved children and, when those starved, beaten children became too sickly to walk to work, they had adult employees carry them from the infirmary to the factories.

    The only member of his family who can see the ghosts, Daniel is eventually driven insane by them. The family takes legal steps to conceal his story so no one will know about their wicked past.

    OCTOBER 10, 2005
    Borrowed DAVID COPPERFIELD again this weeked. Man, is it fun to watch Maggie Smith with Daniel Radcliffe pre-HP. If those two DON'T have a life-long friendship after all this, there is something wrong with them.

    The vet's son asked me why I have 'Team Severus' painted on my garage door for Halloween. We'd had a long chat about Snape and the HBP the last time I took the dog in for a check-up. I explained how it's the people like Martin Luther, who are utterly despised in their lifetimes, who are actually the noblest and do the most to benefit humanity (as opposed to the people who think themselves so nice and are in fact just part of the problem). He claims to have gotten it.

    Every day I'm less sure Rowling does.

    NOVEMBER 3, 2005
    EUREKA!

    I've had a breakthrough. The best ideas come to me while I'm working out!

    These things I knew:
    1) Snape cannot walk out of Dumbledore's office the same man we meet in THE SMALLEST SLYTHERIN.
    2) The primary challenge facing the House of Slytherin in SUDDENLY SEVERUS has to be divisiveness.

    But how to populate the common room when there are so few canon Slytherins to draw upon? Newton and Jane, though new, are solid, but what use to make of Megan? And how would I characterize an unacceptable Slytherin?

    Then it came to me. Thanks to the assholes in the real world, I know precisely what to do with Coleman, Melanie, and Megan.

    And I know what to say about Voldemort, too. : )

    "And I do believe in the power of the Spirit
    Power of the Spirit
    Power of the Spirit
    And I do believe in the power of the Spirit
    Power of the Spirit
    Power of the Spirit"

    NOVEMBER 10, 2005
    Have just witnessed the study hall sequence in which Snape cuffs students upside the head... with a book, no less! ("Enervate!")

    I trust someone intends to remember me this Christmas.

    NOVEMBER 18, 2005
    S--- H--- F--- D--- P---!

    Only one showing per afternoon and one showing per evening! Who wants to watch the movie in a hot, noisy zoo? That would be almost as bad as watching it at a premiere!

    Give me a house half-ful of folks like myself. That way, the theater will be comfortably but not over heated, animated but not distractingly noisy, and filled with a spirit of true camraderie... the perfect atmosphere for taking it all in.

    NOVEMBER 21, 2005
    Is there any such thing as an actor's cut?

    What a crock, all this discussion of Newell being an actor's director. Sydney Pollack is an actor's director. Robert Redford is an actor's director. No one has ever categorized MN as an actor's director, and now we know why.

    Poor Rupert. His work was so crappy by the end, they had to relegate him to the sides of group shots or leave him out altogether. Emma frequently seems cringingly overwrought and only Daniel, who has far too much footage, doesn't embarrass himself.

    The problem has to be the editing (i.e. the choices the director has made about where to cut). We've seen enough hype material to know tons of stuff is missing. I'm reminded of a sequence in IRRECONCILABLE DIFFERENCES. A producer with no artistic ability but a strong instinct for film asks an insightful young film professor what's wrong with his latest movie. The director, the professor explains, has cut brutally, demolishing the performances of his actors. "They start to build something... I can see where they're going... and before they can get there, he cuts! I've ever seen anything like it!"

    You pieced the wrong parts together, Newell. Never has an HP movie felt so pointless, completely lacking in any appreciation for the story's characters. Never before have we so desperately needed an extended DVD release to show us what the theatrical release did not: Goblet of Fire is a story about how enormously wonderful people feel about each other.

    DECEMBER 6, 2005
    Geez, Deb. I ask you to do one darn thing...
    Enjoy that early round draft pick. Hmph!
    Saw a quote that just slayed me today. "My delusion is better than your canon." Thatta girl, Liv!

    DECEMBER 7, 2005
    Man, do I love that piece of art.

    Saw RENT last night. Overall, I was bored and found myself wishing I was listening to (and improving upon) the cast album and imagining the scenes in my head instead of watching the movie.

    I loved the opening graphic and the playing of "Seasons of Love," but I wish, instead of the hokey stage number, they'd showed a montage of film clips of the characters in their current lives, using that as a way of establishing the opening equilibrium.

    Found Rapp painful to watch, too stagey in his acting. Ditto Pascal (for all that he was gorgeous). But the three black leads were stupendous! Consistently more empathetic and effective on screen than Rosario, Idina, Anthony or Adam. Even dreamed about Jesse Martin last night... such warmth! More about Rapp... I was initially concerned that the OBC had aged out of the roles. Watching the film, I found myself thinking, "Hey, this story works for 30-somethings, too, and that's how most of them are playing it. That's brilliant!" But that made Rapp look all the more foolish. Did Chris try to rein him in? Perhaps the actor refused to listen.

    Menzel's Maureen kept reminding me of Chenowith's Glinda. I wonder who got there first?

    I loved the look of the trailer but found the movie Disneyfied by the same candy-apple coloring folks say Columbus inflicted upon the first two Harry Potter movies. I liked some of his choices (the subway staging for "Santa Fe," the choreography and energy of "Today 4 U," the segueway from night club to city streets for "Out Tonight"). But I found that the movie screen exaggerated the problem the story had onstage, i.e., the characters are so meaningless. Who cares about these twits or believes they will ever have anything to contribute as artists? Columbus could have fixed that by capitalizing on one of the movie's strong points... the footage of April. It would have been so easy to tweak things a bit and make RENT a movie where Mark learns from Angel and Tom how to help Roger, the guy with the most compelling story/problem. That's what Mark's efforts and his documentary should have wound up being about...

    I've come to the conclusion that my Beantown buddy isn't really a fan of the show ... she's a fan of the Boston phenomenon. With Harry Potter, it's much easier... you just explain that you're a fan of books 1-4, and voila, integrity is affirmed. But how do RENT fans justify embracing material like "La Vie Boheme," where brilliant music and delightful choreography are inextricably entwined with short-sighted lyrics?

    You can't just hum and gesture.

    DECEMBER 12, 2005
    Okay, I compiled a list of evidence of scenes shot but not used in GoF. And this doesn't even include "Making of" specials! Feel free to contribute and I'll add on as I think of more.

    PHOTOS FROM THE MOVIE OF SCENES THAT WEREN'T INCLUDED:
    Snape and Igor talking outside the Yule Ball.

    Harry walking to the prefect's bathroom with the egg under his arm.

    Harry contemplating the open egg in bed.

    Harry, Ron and Hermione talking in front of the Gryffindor fireplace.

    Malfoy sitting beside Krum and lifting a goblet.

    Gryffindor trio in uniforms, robes and scarves, looking gloomy in an arch, Harry and Hermione sitting, Ron standing behind Harry. Could just be a posed publicity still but the facial expressions seem too 'real.'

    A group of Gryffindors in uniform, inside (or in front of bricks), watching something. Group includes a twin so it can't be the twins trying to enter the competition. Group from left to right is Hermione, Ron, Dean, Neville, Harry, Seamus, Twin, and two black girls with a barely visible white girl sandwiched between them.

    Hermione standing before Harry, smiling down gently on him, both in uniform, seems to be Defense class.

    Harry standing before Dumbledore, Moody and Igor after getting selected, Dumbledore is pointing a finger at him.

    Cedric wearing a yellow hood.

    SNIPPETS FROM TRAILERS:
    Ron muttering, "I love when they do that" about the BB girls. It's what he's referring to later when, after asking Fleur out, he reminds Harry how he's mentioned before that he loves watching them.

    Harry dancing with Hermione and lifting her up.

    Harry saying, "Someone's coming closer. I can feel it." and gripping his scar while wearing robe and scarf.

    SCENES THE ACTORS MENTIONED THAT WEREN'T INCLUDED:
    Ron was described as wearing a "Potter Stinks" button at one point.

    OTHER
    Remember that early publicity shot of the kids processing in matching raincoats? I never understood what that was about. No need to match the kids up by house color off-screen, and when would you dress the characters in plastic raincoats instead of their cloaks?

    DECEMBER 15, 2005
    In response to a file currently circulating in cyberspace. I wonder if any of the future dissertation authors will credit me appropriately?

    ---


    DECEMBER 16, 2005
    Oh, yeah! A contribution had been made in my name to "Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS!" Yeah, baby!

    Beantown did it because I gave her a Grimmerie. What a sweetie!

    JANUARY 4, 2006
    So what do we think? Year 7 at Hogwarts or Godric's Hollow? Both? In what order? Some truth-discovering and training at the Hollow, then back to Hogwarts?

    I confess I don't like the idea of too much time away from Hogwarts. I seldom read fanfics where much of the action takes place away from Hogwarts.

    On the other hand, if Harry's going to interact with Snape, he'll have to do so away from Hogwarts, right? I can't think of any mechanism for putting Snape back into the castle that isn't lame. And I prefer Harry to be present in Rowling's Snape scenes. The early chapters of HBP that abandoned Harry's perspective were less effective for doing so. I prefer how he spied on the Slytherins.

    JANUARY 5, 2006
    See update of June 6, 2005.

    JANUARY 9, 2006
    Updated "Daniel does Glensheen" (September 26, 2005) with a photo collage.

    JANUARY 10, 2006
    Is it my imagination, or has Rowling been absolutely silent on the topic of the GoF film?

    JANUARY 12, 2006
    TV Guide recently ran an article on the 100 greatest sitcom moments. Alas, they left out:

    1. The moment on "Mork and Mindy" when the bigoted members of the Committee to Clean Up Boulder remove their hoods to discover Mork has made them all people of color. Actually, the best bit was the moment of terror when they, in their robes and hoods, walked in on Mindy and Mork, who was vengefully trashing their meeting place (they'd threatened Mindy with violence) despite Mindy's insistence that he shouldn't respond to hate with hate.

    2. A man whose parents were shot in the back by the outlaw visits the Brady household to suggest to Bobby that Jesse James might not be the most appropriate choice for a hero.

    JANUARY 17, 2006
    Sometimes I feel like 'Mad-eye Moody' teaching Defense class. I push a button here, they dance all the way over there.

    JANUARY 19, 2006
    Another story idea I rejected... In the spring of Malfoy's final year, a horrible anti-muggle hate crime is perpetrated at Hogwarts. All evidence points to Violet, who is, of course, innocent. But no one believes her: Snape punishes her brutally and the entire school turns against her. [Twaddle, of course. Rejected accordingly. But one of the things that has always bugged me about the HP books is how there are no consequences for the students when they turn against Harry mistakenly. Harry's failure to hold it against them isn't forgiveness, it's a kind of shallowness that empowers the students to do it over and over.]

    As the Easter Hols approach, everyone begins making plans to go away ("Voldemort is dead and we can finally get out of here and have some fun! Let's go skiing! Let's go someplace warm!"). The orphans are invited to travel with the kids who still have families. Snape makes a week's reservation at the Three Broomsticks. Violet is left firmly and conspicuously out of all the fun. (She is also prevented from using any house lavatories and thus becomes filthy and smelly as she is reduced to cleaning herself via sponge baths in corridor lavatory sinks. The house elves stop cleaning her clothes, sheets or cell, too.)

    Then, Thursday night before the last day of classes before the break, Luna Lovegood, suffering from an agonizing and debilitating brain disease (that has gone unnoticed because of her general loopiness), enters a packed Great Hall at dinner time and repeats the crime she had committed previously. She then collapses and is rushed to the hospital wing; within hours, she is dead. Instead of classes, Friday is given over to an 11 am memorial service before Mr. Lovegood departs with her body.

    There was no end of angst in the various scenarios I imagined as the citizens of Hogwarts struggle with what's been done to Violet. None of them ever satisfied me enough to 'stick.' But last night I imagined the most delightful material. After the memorial service, Violet hurries back to her cell and locks the door. Snape arrives, but before he can knock on her door, Filch calls from the common room, "She's asleep." Snape turns to him in surprise and Filch adds, "She told me she'd be retiring to her cell for a nap after the service."

    Filch, you see, had been asked by Snape to keep an eye on Violet over the holiday. There's a wee bit of smugness in his tone as he speaks to Snape; the man who rescued baby Violet is the only one who didn't persecute her following the hate crime.

    Snape is loathe to leave Hogwarts without at least speaking to Violet, but I never pursued what he did next. Instead, I began to think about the fun of Violet and Filch spending a week together at Hogwarts. Violet tries to teach him magic, without any luck, but they discover he does have a proclivity for drinkable potions. Violet wonders why he stays at Hogwarts and suggests he could be a big hit in the muggle world, tending bar in a pub where he could make extraordinary drinks by adding a little potions magic to the usual libations. She persuades him to take her shopping in muggle London where they have him groomed and shaved. He begins wearing his hair in a fashionable pony-tail and buys new clothes to wear at Hogwarts... dark trousers, dark vests (waistcoats to you Brits), and brightly-colored, solid (no pattern) button-down shirts, all of which make him one stylin' caretaker!

    JANUARY 30, 2006
    I don't believe it. I don't believe it! Filming in North America?!?

    Well, maybe I believe it. Film commissions know these things, after all. They're the ones who help organize the location shoots. And the actors LOVE coming to this country...

    Now I'm wondering why they didn't think of it sooner!

    FEBRUARY 1, 2006
    Well, there goes their traffic.

    The phenomenal drop in usability is bad enough, but geez, what self-respecting designer doesn't know to cross-check the most popular platforms and browsers?

    Just as well, I suppose. The site stopped being about Harry Potter months ago.

    FEBRUARY 2, 2006
    From a discussion group post:

    Wisconsin Deb quoting Book 1:
    "But Snape always seemed to hate me so much."
    "Oh, he does... But he never wanted you dead."


    And since he knew about the prophecy, there's no way Snape could be loyal to Voldie and not want Harry dead.

    I've stopped wondering about Snape's true nature, though, and am far more interested in whether or not anyone (besides me) will ever write about what motivates the Snape bashers, the people who are so desperate for him to be classified as evil and never miss an opportunity to lash out (veiled though their attacks may be). I think the hate-mongering the Harry Potter phenomenon has inspired will come to be its most significant (and obviously shameful) legacy.

    FEBRUARY 20, 2006
    Purchased a Sense and Sensibility DVD this weekend. It came with a free copy of the book!

    Noted the pronounced use of the term "half blood" near the top of the film.

    It's a popular Alan Rickman vehicle, I believe.

    MARCH 15, 2006
    "It's gonna turn over!!!"

    "Smallest Slytherin" count is at 19,999. Someone hit me!

    I wonder why the Harry Potter actors never present at the Academy Awards? Ratings are declining, I'm sure the Academy would be thrilled to attract a new young audience and the WB folks should love the publicity (especially right before the release of a DVD that they're willing to spend kazillions promoting through myriad television spots).

    9:30 am udate. My thanks to the two fans who notified me that Stormy Llewellyn (intothenight176@yahoo.com) has begun uploading chapters of "The Smallest Slytherin" to fanfiction.net, claiming to be the author. How can you live to be that old and not know that, without fail, actions have consequences?

    MARCH 22, 2006
    I'm so disappointed in Jamie Waylett's work on HP3 and HP4. He portrays Crabbe as some sort of Gryffindor wanna-be, a bastardization nearly as reprehensible as Ron warning Harry about the dragons or Snape suggesting Dumbledore let things play out (and one for which, I suspect, Jamie bears most, if not all, of the blame). Behind the scenes footage reveals Tom and Josh regarding him with benevolent forebearance, clearly aware of the consequences of his behavior but unwilling to do him the 'unkindness' of calling him on it...

    MARCH 23, 2006
    A thought on year seven: H---- w--- r----- t- H------- a---- M--------- m---- h-- h--- b--.

    MARCH 28, 2006
    When I'm not thinking about Spitfire Grill, or my next article deadline, or the novel, or "Suddenly Severus," or the "Spookiest Spots in Pope County" tour, it occurs to me how fun it would be to write fanfic about the Harry Potter cast. I first got the idea a couple of years ago when filming was getting underway on GoF. "What if Warner Brothers sent an executive to ShoWest [the annual theater-owners' convention in Las Vegas] with half a dozen kids from the cast of GoF to show some dailies from the initial weeks of filming, start the build-up of excitement for the release?" What would the kids get up to, I wondered, if they were given a long weekend in Vegas instead of just flying in and out the way the L.A.-based celebs do?

    MARCH 29, 2006
    I see http://www.godrics-hollow.net/ is defunct. The decline continues. Damn, I miss Hufflepuff Elizabeth with her O-Cedar broom and her cedar and graphite core wand. Maybe I should stick her in Suddenly Severus.

    APRIL 5, 2006
    Nice deflection, Jo. But seekers of the full truth might want to google an alt.fan.harry-potter thread entitled, "What's so bad about 'trifle'?"

    RICHARD WHITE: "With the exception of Neville, all the fat people are people Harry dislikes."

    RICHARD ENEY: "Rereading her descriptions of Aunt Marge, Dudley, and Vernon, it's hard to avoid the impression that she's trying to drive everyone who reads the books into anorexia from sheer disgust, and then near the end she makes it clear that Sirius survived twice precisely because he was so thin!"

    APRIL 6, 2006
    Well, well, well! Little Bonnie Wright!

    Who'da thunk it?

    APRIL 12, 2006
    I'm so disappointed in (Da Vinci Code author) Dan Brown! How could he reference the Priory of Sion and the secret dossiers as legitimate? Doesn't he know Pierre Plantard, convicted con artist, confessed (in 1993) to the hoax (of planting forged documents in the national library) that was part of his attempt to make a case for himself as King of France? Did Brown think no one would find out about this?

    What we have here is over-reaching, usually an indicator of hatemongering. There was plenty of non-debunked material upon which to craft a kick-ass thriller accusing the church (and rightly so) of centuries of patriarchy and misogyny (in direct contradiction to the wishes of Christ?). But no. Brown had to try and tie some (possibly buried) truths about Mary Magdalene (and the intended role of the female in Christian spirituality) to the notion that Christ was not a Divinity (for which the best proof he can offer is Philip addressing the Lord as "Savior"?). Thus the entire house, built on a faulty foundation, collapses, the book is rejected out of hand by the truthful folks who could have made a difference with more valid material, and the cause of the female in spirituality is set back who knows how many years.

    Putz.

    April 19, 2006
    I had a brilliant idea last night.

    I was walking the dog and thinking about my fanfics. There's a preview posted from "Suddenly Severus," the story of Snape's early years teaching at Hogwarts. But I'm torn about how to handle the material. Cram several years into one novel or stick with my one-book-per-year approach? I want to show several years' worth of events in Slytherin, because they didn't work out their difficulties and become a powerhouse (hee hee) overnight. But good grief, it will take forever to write 3 or 4 more novels about Slytherin.

    I've also contemplated "Violet Goes Fourth," about Violet's inability to settle down and just be a student during her fourth year at Hogwarts. Instead, she's anxious (but unqualified) to fill the shoes of her departed idols. "That child really needs to be more like Newton," a frustrated Snape thinks.

    EUREKA!!!!!!!

    The two books should be one. "Suddenly Severus" should be the story of Violet's 4th year with flashbacks to Snape's early teaching career. Brilliant. But can I pull it off?

    And when the bloody hell am I supposed to find time to work on it?

    MAY 9, 2006
    http://www.jkrowling.com/textonly/en/rubbishbin_view.cfm?id=14

    Omygosh!

    The manipulation! The deceit! The petulance! The vanity!

    AND IN PUBLIC!!!!

    How foolish can an 'adult' be?

    It's odd, because just this morning, I was wondering, doesn't a certain self-destructing redhead have any family or friends who could sit her down and give her a reality check? At the very least, you'd think her Scottish idol, so quick to boast of educational and maternal qualities, would feel compelled. She fed the fire, after all.

    But I guess I can't expect adult behavior from the person who wrote that 'rubbish.'

    JUNE 20, 2006
    Had a great Harry Potter dream last night. I was seeing a clip from movie #5. I was thrilled to see that the screenwriter had produced some original, intriguing material... Snape is seen meeting with Lucius and discussing some scheme. We can't hear them, but we watch Snape 'transform' before Lucius' eyes, through a series of facial contortions. He seemed to be experiencing great pain... I could NOT figure it out... and the next thing I knew, he was at Hogwarts, a different person. He was suddenly incredibly kind-hearted and caring (the citizens of Hogwarts were fooled but we viewers weren't). There was even a shot of him with his arm around Fred's shoulders. Meanwhile, McGonagall had become so mean they were calling her Saigon (supposed to be a rearranging of the letters in her name. Dream incongruity.) I was thrilled with the clip... until I remembered that I'd been thrilled with the GoF trailer... and look how that turned out!

    Then I was in a library, browsing the film and television area. A bunch of photo albums had been added to the end of a row. I wondered who would donate photo albums to a library, and why they'd been shelved in the entertainment section? Then I opened one and found a bunch of candid photos of the young Gryffindor trio, obviously taken by some fan who had attended HP promotional events but then outgrown an interest in HP after a few years...

    JUNE 23, 2006
    What's wrong with this picture?
    Got it from MuggleThai, the best source for HP pix on the net. Wonder where this came from and if folks have discussed it already?

    JULY 6, 2006
    Would it have KILLED them to mention the name of the Spitfire director?

  • Minneapolis Star Tribune story (as a jpeg) on 2006 summer theatre productions

    Guess you had to have your own facility to get mentioned. Tough luck, Showstoppers.

    July 20, 2006
    Thoughts on Snapecast Episode 1 discussion of PS Chapter 8, "The Potions Master." Something the panelists seemed to miss is how the chapter begins. Why is Snape so determined to show Harry that his lack of knowledge proves he does not deserve to be celebrated?

    Because so many people are treating him like a celebrity.



    Even before we know 1) why it's so important for Harry to work hard at his school work and become as strong and knowledgeable AND DISCIPLINED a wizard as possible and 2) that Snape knows why it's so important for Harry to work hard at his school work and become etc etc etc, we are given repeated examples of Snape trying to compel Harry to be a studious, hard-working, disciplined wizard.

    It really shouldn't have taken the content of books 5 and 6 for Snape-bashers and the like to recognize what Snape was doing.

    JULY 21, 2006
    And now, reaction to Snapecast Episode 2. Are you familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator? A lot of people are - it's a cornerstone. Once I tell folks I'm an INTJ, they immediately know a lot about me.

    We need a similar matrix for Harry Potter fans based on which characters we like or dislike. I find it astounding that any Snape fan could like Dumbledore or dislike Hermione... but they do! I'm convinced we could avoid a lot of the hate-mongering Rowling's books and behavior have inspired if we declare where we stand up front.

    For each character, you indicate whether or not you like that person, yes or no. By like I mean, "This is the kind of person I admire, whose values I respect." I included the 9 most significant or contentious characters lumped into three groups. I wanted to put Snape with Dumbledore and McGonagall, but who would I put with Sirius and Lupin? James? He's contentious but not really significant. So I put Snape with the others of his generation and added Ginny. I thought of Draco but people don't fight as much about whether or not you should like him.

    We start off with an H if you like Harry (of course) and an N if you don't (Harry? Not!). Then we do the rest of the Gryffindor trio. All hail Queen Hermione the good! (Are you kidding? A curse on her Bushy head!)

    D is for Dumbledore and V is for disliking Dumbledore because it reminds one of Voldemort, instantly communicating an anti-Dumbledore sentiment. M is for McGonagall (hurray!); turn that M upside down if you don't like her.

    S is for that stupendous Slytherin, Snape (unless you think he's a Git.. feel free to pronounce it like a J, but if you're gel-in', I'm yellin'!). L is pro-Lupin (or Roar like Fenrir if you don't like him).

    The middle vowels are constant.... E is always yes (I like), O is always no (I don't).

    I'm a Hoq Vom Sol, but it should be noted that my type is based on books 1-4. Harry and McGonagall change values in 5 and 6.

    I'd do well to avoid NebDewGers.

    Here's the matrix with a few blank lines if you want to print it out and play with friends.


    Harry Ron Hermione         Dumbledore Ginny McGonagall     Snape Sirius Lupin
    H = Yes E = Yes Q = Yes
    D = Yes E = Yes M = Yes
    S = Yes E = Yes L = Yes
    N = No O = No B = No
    V = No O = No W = No
    G = No O = No R = No



































    JULY 25, 2006
    Another thought about Snapecast. Don't pursue an interview with Rickman. Keep it by the fans, for the fans. There are too many hangers-on in cyberspace now.

    JULY 26, 2006
    Snapecast thoughts continued: "This Slytherin Life."

    This segment traumatizes me.

    It's not because, so far, every confessor has gotten Snape "wrong." On the contrary, the way folks say "Snape is like THIS, and so am I" proves an important point: Writers create characters from experience, from their knowledge of people and the world. Rowling has acknowledged sources of inspiration for Snape, including an unpleasant teacher.

    Now, have you ever heard someone like a neighbor or someone's spouse say, "I've known him for years but now I see that I never really knew him"? Or, "We never really know other people... we never even really know ourselves." How about you? Have you ever said, "I think I'd do BLANKETY-BLANK, but I can't know for sure how I'd react until I'm actually in that situation."

    Rowling is no more an expert on the Snapey type of person than anyone else might be. That's why character development is such a common focus among critics. Even great writers are called on the carpet for screwing up their depictions of human behavior. "You said he was A, B, C... and then you had him do 1, 2, 3. That doesn't follow!"

    What concerns me is the degree to which Harry Potter fans hesitate to criticize Rowling and instead see her as somehow omniscient when it comes to the Potterverse. It's not just the Snape fans. Folks have 'aligned' or 'identified' themselves with any number of her characters. What happens to these folks when the author they perceive as so clever, so admirable, so wise, passes negative judgment on the characters they've identified as being 'just like them'?

    Review her interviews, folks. Scrutinize her documented public conduct. Consider the source.

    And do it before you read Book 7.

    AUGUST 2, 2006
    "It's a pure blood world, you know!"

    HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! Stupendous!

    Seriously, you can really feel the love (of the effort and intentions behind Snapecast) when you listen to a piece like that. Bravo!

    August 3, 2006
    Response to Snapecast 3 segment "Snarky Chapters."

    1. Concerning Megan's theory (based on the "Shoebox Project" fic) that Sirius didn't think Snape would figure out how to enter the Whomping Willow and therefore cannot be judged as intending Snape real harm: One of you read aloud the passage from PoA that contradicts this. Lupin tells us that Sirius told Snape exactly which knot to push to enter the willow.

    I'm also surprised that, in discussing the various intentions and possible consequences of Sirius' behavior, you didn't touch on one of the most heinous aspects of the prank. The killing or transformation of Snape (into a werewolf) would have revealed Lupin's secret, ruining his life. Sirius was willing to ruin his friend's life to harm Snape. I think it's safe to assume that James' behavior ('rescuing' Snape) was motivated more by a desire to protect his friends (both of them... Lupin.... AND Sirius, from the consequences of his actions) than to help Snape.

    2. Concerning the notion that "the marauders got over it and so should Snape" - would you tell a rape victim to get over it because the rapist has?

    Remember, this was not an equal-victimization situation. We know that because a) we never see any evidence that Snape harmed any of the marauders the way they harmed him, b) it was 4 against 1, and c) Remus Lupin is shown to be exceedingly ashamed and repentant of the marauder behavior. I'm not just talking about the 'worst memory' sequence in OP. I'm talking about the way he treats Snape throughout PoA. He is clearly determined to show Snape kindness and respect every chance he gets. He's not going to go so far as to do wrong for Snape (hence his willingness to let Neville do what needs to be done in Defense), but he absolutely refuses to be the source of any more suffering for Severus Snape.

    James, on the other hand, only reined in his behavior to get something he wanted (Lily). And Sirius never outgrew his objectionable behavior (or got over his anger at Snape), did he? In the end, his egomaniacal behavior even got him killed.

    3. Concerning the idea that the prank motivated Snape to become a DE or was the final straw (akin to the notion that gangs prey on angry loners) - this is the common, shallow response to injustice. But Snape, we've seen, is not shallow. He works hard at his school work (note his effort on the Defense O.W.L) - the shallow response would be the cavalier attitude towards schoolwork displayed by the marauders. And there's certainly nothing shallow about refereeing a quidditch match to protect Harry even if it means suffering months of unjust abuse from supposedly adult colleagues. Even his tormenting of Harry and friends is always given justification so we know Snape isn't petty. Why does he torment the potentially academically lazy student who might think fame is enough? Because so many schoolmates are treating him like a celebrity. Why does he lash out at Hermione Granger, insulting her teeth? Because someone very clever just slipped Harry Potter's name into the Goblet of Fire, putting his life at great risk.

    This is the reason I disagree with the owl post caller who said Snape may prove evil and that's just fine since he was mistreated by so-called good guys. I sure hope the caller doesn't think turning evil is an acceptable response to suffering mistreatment and injustice. Again, that's the shallow response, and as I've written earlier in this blog, shallowness is the source of all wrongdoing.

    AUGUST 17, 2006
    Viva Las Vegas!

    Thoughts on Snapecast Episode 4:
    Hysterical!

    "Snapes on a plane."

    Hysterical!

    "This Slytherin Life."
    Clearly I'm different from a lot of Snape fans in that I don't believe mistreatment and isolation predispose one to (or justify) a slide down the dark path. I wonder if that's because I became a Christian at such a young age. I've always known that it's not just the handful of Death Eaters among us who are evil. Most average, every day citizens (including school children) who consider themselves decent but in fact are continually spawning injustice and destruction qualify as evil. (Admit it. Get over it. Clean up your act.) But if you can perceive how certain forms of misconduct damage and destroy, you can also perceive the benefits and superiority of grace. Therefore, there's no excuse for sliding down the slippery slope.

    The ending! So perfect! No intro, no self-congratulations, just the magnificent segue way into "New York, New York" and the delightful montage of clips from the readings. You people could be directors!

    AUGUST 30, 2006
    Through Pennswoods of Snapecast I discovered this...

    http://sc-transcripts.livejournal.com/2052.html


    ... and simply have to respond to it. (I'm also dying to know what brought this up, but I think I can guess.)

    My thanks to Flamewarrior for introducing me to the term (if not the concept) of "BNF" and sharing some thoughts on this very important topic.

    "Big Name Fan." What a positively abhorrent and shameful thing to be. Here's why.

    On the subject of BNFs, Flamewarrior wrote: Flamewarrior is dead wrong for asserting that the rise of a BNF is due solely to the actions of others. Uh uh. No way. I won't name names. But review the conduct of a so-called BNF. Note the frequency with which that BNF makes the news about herself (or himself) rather than the topic of the fandom. Observe the constant name-dropping and repeated attempts to be in the company of the people the fandom is really about. Witness the supposedly 'fond' but unmistakably derogatory terms the BNF consistently applies to other BNFs. Cringe at the subtle emotional blackmail and manipulation perpetrated to sustain the BNF's status. And, of course, there's the endless insistence that the BNF lives to serve the fans... which has to be asserted over and over, since the BNF's conduct no longer bears that out.

    Why do some people idolize these folks? For the same petty, ignoble reasons people pursue BNF status in the first place. They're toadies and wannabes. Wise up, little chicks. You reap what you pursue. Check the evidence. Many people are already regretting their foolish alliances.

    But aren't there people who make substantial, notable contributions to the fandom for noble, altruistic reasons, people who achieve considerable acclaim as a result? Sure. They're called fans. Nothing more, nothing less. They don't require a title to distinguish themselves. They don't crave or pursue elevated status. As a result, they don't engage in the behavior that leads to BNF status. Theirs is a low-key repute. "So and so? Oh yeah! I know about her! I love what she does!" A small smile follows. Communion. Meaningful interaction. Real change.

    Real happiness.

    SEPTEMBER 1, 2006
    Finished watching "Band of Brothers" last night. The flick has special meaning for my family because of great-uncle Orin Haugen. I keep thinking of one soldier's statement (in retrospect) about why WWII resonates through history as such a righteous, meritorious victory. "We were attacked," the Easy Company vet points out. "It wasn't like Korea or Vietnam. We were attacked."

    His statement made me wonder why people don't see the war on terrorism as being like WWII, because it sure is... only more so. We've been attacked:

    We're fighting under guerilla conditions, which are tougher than fronts, and being assaulted with far deadlier weapons. Our enemies kill people over religious affiliation and have declared war on 75% of the earth's population.

    Let's face it. This IS World War III, and the U.S. is once again called upon to save the day for freedom around the globe. Is it that dreaded disease, shallowness, that makes people unwilling to tough it out the way Americans did in the 1940s?

    SEPTEMBER 5, 2006
    This is from a post to paternalpotions in response to V's call for threads based on Snapecast Episode 5.

    Funny, we wound up discussing this very topic at a family get-together this weekend... how sissified teaching has become, and how grossly ineffective it is as a result.

    The question posed by Snapecast was something like, "How would Snape handle teaching in a muggle classroom?" My response is, "He wouldn't teach if he weren't allowed to behave the way he does at Hogwarts. And he's only teaching at Hogwarts to help Harry Potter defeat Voldemort."

    People have lamented the upbringing of each generation since Shakespeare's time at least. But I think it's fair to say that this really is the first generation raising people to be frighteningly weak and pathetic because the parents have no true understanding of right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable, cruel and beneficial.

    Two examples:

    Relatives raising a pre-schooler confessed to locking her in her room at night to keep her safe because she was sneaking to the fridge for late-night treats like carrots. They found pieces of carrot in her bed and were horrified she might choke on a piece obtained after they'd gone to bed. God forbid they should choose to punish her severely enough to make her realize that sneaking food in the night isn't worth it, thereby empowering her to keep herself safe.

    A pre-teen in the movie STEPMOM sits in the snow and cries her heart out, her day ruined, because a boy called her a name in front of others. Crying in the snow and losing a whole day because of name-calling! How WEAK!!!!!! She's WEAK! She's suffering like that because she's WEAK! Her parents have not done her a service with their pathetic, sissified, 'sensitive' parenting techniques. They've made her weak and therefore completely vulnerable, just as if they'd underfed her and left her body vulnerable to disease or attack.

    Snape knows all about weak and pathetic and the true consequences of sissification. Snape would have nothing to do with empowering weakness.

    SEPEMBER 6, 2006
    I wonder if anyone plans to tape EQUUS for sale to television or distribution on DVD? Boy, talk about missing the boat if they don't!

    SEPTEMPBER 12, 2006
    #42? Twenty-four spots behind Rock and Roll High School? Dudes! Fame is the reason Rent didn't matter!

    Had a hot dream about Owen Wilson last night. What a treat!

    Anyway...

    You know that game you play in a group with toothpicks? Each person gets a couple dozen toothpicks. Then you take turns revealing something you've never done. If anyone else HAS done it, he gives you a toothpick. After a couple of rounds of revelation, the person with the most toothpicks wins.

    I always win, because I've never gotten drunk and, being single, I've never had sex.

    I don't get drunk because drunkenness impairs your judgment, putting others at risk. You don't have to get behind the wheel of a car to damage others, especially after you've impaired your judgment. For similar reasons, I've never smoked pot, not even during chemo. It's an hallucinogenic. Impaired judgment.

    I thought fornication might be okay until, in junior high, a cousin informed me that it's a sin, like adultery. Certain the Bible transcribers must have gotten it wrong, I demanded, "Why? It doesn't involve cheating on someone, like adultery." "Just watch," she suggested. "When people have sex outside of wedlock, at least one of them always winds up deeply hurt." So I watched.

    She was right.

    I mention all of this because of Snape, of course. I'm struck by how many fans think they're Snape-like in part because they've got substantial crap in their past to regret, just as a good Snape must regret joining the Death Eaters. So far as I know, not one other fanfic writer or discussion board poster has been able to envision or express a reason Snape would join the Death Eaters beyond actually embracing Voldemort and/or his philosophy, for however limited a period.

    But here's the thing. Folks who respond to misfortune or mistreatment by indulging in destructive or irresponsible behavior do not grow up to be Snape.

    They grow up to be Peter Pettigrew.

    Snapes are not joiners. Snapes are not followers. Snapes do not yield to peer pressure or crave community at all costs. Snapes are loners, crying in the wilderness because no one else is willing to travel the high road. The only way folks with stuff to regret can be Snapes as adults is to admit, "I used to be Peter Pettigrew. Now I'm gonna be Snape."



    SEPTEMPBER 13, 2006
    Attention high school guidance counselors and parents of rural Minnesota.

    These are the nation's best universities.*

    Princeton University(NJ)
    Harvard University(MA)
    Yale University(CT)
    California Institute of Technology
    Stanford University(CA)
    Massachusetts Inst. of Technology
    University of Pennsylvania
    Duke University(NC)
    Dartmouth College(NH)
    Columbia University(NY)
    University of Chicago
    Cornell University(NY)
    Washington University in St. Louis
    Northwestern University(IL)
    Brown University(RI)
    Johns Hopkins University(MD)
    Rice University(TX)
    Vanderbilt University(TN)
    Emory University(GA)
    University of Notre Dame(IN)
    These are the nation's best colleges.*

    Williams College(MA)
    Amherst College(MA)
    Swarthmore College(PA)
    Wellesley College(MA)
    Middlebury College(VT)
    Carleton College(MN)
    Bowdoin College(ME)
    Pomona College(CA)
    Haverford College(PA)
    Davidson College(NC)
    Wesleyan University(CT)
    Vassar College(NY)
    Claremont McKenna College(CA)
    Grinnell College(IA)
    Harvey Mudd College(CA)
    Colgate University(NY)
    Hamilton College(NY)
    Washington and Lee University(VA)
    Smith College(MA)
    Colby College(ME)

    *U.S. News and World Report, 2007.


    Note that they attract students from all over the country.
    Note that they attract students from all financial backgrounds.
    Note that none of them are Augsburg, Bethel, Concordia, NDSU or St. Cloud State.
    Don't you think it's possible our students might be worthy of the best?

    SEPTEMBER 19, 2006
    I've always wanted to put something like this on a sweatshirt. It's a reference to the May chapter of The Smallest Slytherin. Original artwork by SnapeSnogger. I embellished the implement.

    SEPTEMBER 20, 2006
    An addition to "You know you're shallow when..."

    You deflect your guilt by hurling derogatory accusations like 'arrogant' or 'not canon,' knowing they'll be quickly believed by the nitwits of cyberspace despite your inaccuracy.

    SEPTEMBER 26, 2006
    Must... resist... temptation to peek on-line!

    Lucky me. I subscribe to Newsweek. I think the Oct. 2 issue will hit my mailbox tonight...

    Two theories from cyberspace have impressed me recently.

    #1. The birthday greetings on Rowling's Web site are an indication of who's good and who dies. (Story ends in 1998. Birthday greetings begin in 2004.) Note inclusion of Snape and Draco, exclusion of Albus Dumbledore, Lucius, Narcissa, Bellatrix...

    #2. The liquid in the cave was a horcrux. That's why Dumbledore screams, "Kill me!" That's why Snape regards him with loathing before hurling the AK. It's not Dumbledore who begs to have his life spared with, "Severus, please."

    It's Voldemort.

    OCTOBER 13, 2006
    I've decided to track how many times I get sick in a year. We'll use the academic year since I haven't had a cold since Sept. 1.

    Head colds, etc, Sept. 2006 - Aug 2007
    Oct. 12, sneezed all morning, headache and fever in the evening, worsens overnight. Not exhausting (i.e. didn't want to stay in bed Friday morning), didn't impact appetite. UPDATE: Miserable Friday, worse Friday night, lots of resting over the weekend. Stuffed up, headache, fever, malaise, sore throat, itchy ears. No body aches! Utterly miserable without pain relievers. UPDATE. Took a solid week to go off pain relievers. Midway through week 2, I'm still plugged to the gills with phlegm.
    Nov. 13. Started sneezing again after a visit from relatives. Babied myself all week, thought I'd dodged a bullet. Then, Monday, Nov. 20, stomach flu hit. Terrible abdomen pain while sleeping Tuesday morning. Left work at 10am, went home and slept for 5 hours, ate only tea and soda crackers. Worked half a day on Wednesday, recuperated slowly over long holiday weekend. Some sneezing and stuffy nosedness, but maybe that's from the drought.
    Jan. 1. Towards evening, headache and face pain (usually a sign of sinus trouble/impending headcold). Feverish all night. Better in the early morning. Worse in the late morning. On pain relievers. Hoping it will be a short virus, not a full blown head cold.
    Feb. 23. Nasty sinus infection. Lots of face pain. Ears so itchy!
    Mar. 12. Three days! Three damn days! After a head cold so bad (see Feb. 23) I was sick for two weeks and missed 3.5 days of work, I recovered just long enough to see CAMELOT. Then, on Monday, I went back in the pool, and BAMMO! Another week-long sinus infection/head cold!
    March 27. Sneezing again. I skipped the pool all last week (since March 14, actually) in favor of walking. But my back missed the pool, so yesterday, in I went, and today, I'm sneezing, despite meticulously avoiding water up my noise.
    July 4 and 5. Call it the Crucio Bug. Nothing but pain, vicious, unending pain, from the top of my head to the tips of my toes, setting my bowels aflame. But hallelujah, it's been nearly 4 months since my last illness!
    September 2007 - August 2008
    September 5, 2007 Home sick with headache and nausea. Gee, I wonder why? Boss called in the afternoon to check on me. Described a stroke-like sinking spell the dog had had the night before, which didn't help.
    February 1, 2008 Scrathy, itchy throat began Wed. evening. Face pain, headache and malaise full blown by Thursday night. 3 aspirin, 2 ibuprofen and a 12-hour sudafed (careful with those!) around 2 a.m. made me functional. Actually, I'm very pleased this is my first head cold/respiratory ailment of the school year. Guess it helped, reducing the water aerobics and introducing stationary biking.
    September 2008-August 2009
    Fall 2008 Look at the improvement! I credit Beantown's suggestion about nasal spray (saline solution to keep the the mucous wet...can't trap cooties if you're not sticky!) and my new habit of popping two echinacea capsules and a zinc tablet twice a day when I feel illness coming on. Only thing to report - serious stomach trouble the night of the election (Nov 4). Was fine until midnight. Then went to bed and grew more and more nauseous (just like chemo!) until I rose at 2pm to vomit...and kept throwing up for 2.5 hours. My first thought was bad poultry (treated myself to a Swanson pot pie while watching the returns). But lingering supplemental symptoms convinced me it was a 24-hour stomach virus.
    Feb. 13 Two-day earache. Some pain, lethargy and insomnia, but nothing like the week-long sinus infections from hell.
    March 8 A full-blown sinus infection or similar respiratory ailment, complete with unrelenting headache, itchy ears, scratchy throat and phlegm. Started March 2, still raging March 15. Here's hoping I haven't trashed my immune system with the echinacea!
    April 14, 2009 Just like election night (except I was fine when I went to bed). Woke up in the middle of the night spewing from both ends. Chills and aches, too, suggesting the flu. So unfair! I got the shot! I never get the flu! But my Easter guests included an elderly grandmother who doesn't wash her hands when she goes to the bathroom, so chances are it was some kind of bug. Overall, I attribute the rough spring (health-wise) to months of bad weather and weeks of prolonged stress waiting for UMM to announce its layoffs. I may eat healthy foods, exercise 5-8 times a week, get plenty of sleep and refrain from drinking or smoking, but I'm still not weathering life's health hardships as well as I used to. I've got to get in better shape.
    September 2009 - August 2010
    November 5, 2009 I need a name for the recurring low-grade unpleasantness that marginalizes my days but is nowhere near as rough as the head colds/sinus infections documented above. How about 'crud'? Missed a day of work because of crud. Symptoms generally include sneezing, headache, some body aches, sore throat, coughing, mild nausea, lethargy, no fever. Greatly helped by OTC pain relievers, and I probably could have gutted this out with enough aspirin and ibuprofen, but the unwellness would have shown and these days you're scum if you come to work sick. Staying home a day fulfills the anti-contagion obligation.
    Tuesday, November 24, 2009 Crud. Tummy-focused. Came on Sunday, Nov. 22, after the cousins left. Complicated by interminable cough that's just recently become productive. Nausea, lethargy, diarrhea, aches. Had to go to bed at 8:30 p.m. Monday evening. Considered breaking out the antibiotic stash (one outdated course of that drug you take for just a few days) because I want to be healthy for Thanksgiving AND maybe nuke some lingering bug that's caused me to feel sick more often than well this fall. But I decided not to. Better to wait until after the massive Thanksgiving gathering, just in case I pick up something there. Besides, now that I'm monitoring the crud, I may find out it's not really that big a problem. I'm better today.
    April 28, 2010 Went home sick at noon Wednesday after sluggish Monday and Tuesday. It took such a long time for the symptoms to take hold (hurray!) that I didn't realize at first it was another sinus infection. The Zithromax was getting older every day (exp. 2007) so I decided to take it. BAMMO! All better by Friday evening, a process that normally takes 2 to 3 weeks.
    September 2010 - August 2011
    January 18, 2011 Holy cow! Laid low by a stomach bug so viral (vomitting, diarrhea, aches, chills, headache), it reminded me of chemo (enough to make me cry). But it went as quickly as it came and a day later I was back at work.
    April 25, 2011 Beginning Week 2 of a strength-sapping, low-grade bit of respiratory and muscle misery. Primary complaints are fatigue, aches, congestion and coughing. This could be the ailment that's been landing some folks in the hospital with pneumonia. I feel fortunate that aspirin or ibuprofen keep me essentially comfortable and functional.
    September 2011-August 2012
    November 28, 2011 Hellacious headcold sweeping west central MN. I know 4 people on campus currently battling it and everybody who hears I'm sick asks, "Do you have the bad head cold?" Yes. Yes, I do.


    OCTOBER 26, 2006
    Nope. Now I'm thinking SUDDENLY SEVERUS is a book all its own, and VIOLET GOES FOURTH can combine Violet's 4th year with the story of 1984, the year Violet was born, confirming the survival of Voldemort.

    NOVEMBER 1, 2006
    I find myself thinking a lot about the 'Main Street Players.' I promised myself after ANNIE I'd never direct community theatre again. I broke that promise to do SPITFIRE and wound up suffering so badly I feared my cancer might recur. "Don't do it," I tell myself. "Never again! NEVER AGAIN!"

    But I find myself thinking a lot about the 'Main Street Players.'

    NOVEMBER 3, 2006
    This would be a good time to remind readers that this is a personal blog and does not reflect the views or policies of the University of Minnesota.


    So? The Nazis held their beliefs sacred. Some points of view ARE less valid than others; no one has to respect someone else's point of view just because it's held sacred.

    Now that I've checked out David Harvey's The Condition of Postmodernity, it's become clear to me that postmodernism is just a highbrow term developed by those who seek to elevate the status of multiculturalism. The only positive thing I can find to say about it is, it puts science and religion on the same side of the fence. Beyond that, the moron-making approach appears to be as destructive and pervasive as my sources have suggested, which accounts for the huge number of idiots in cyberspace who misuse the word 'arrogant.' It also explains the so-called Snape fans who become enraged when confronted with Snape-like conduct in real-life.

    Snapes are modernists.

    NOVEMBER 9, 2006
    Beantown, my theatre source and buddy from Boston, saw COMPANY early in November. For fans of the show and/or Raul Esperza, here are her notes on a conversation with him at the stage door and a couple of pictures of him with her mother.

    The new production of COMPANY is truly revolutionary. These actors are quadruple threats! They sing, dance, act, and play multiple instruments throughout the show - moving seamlessly from one to the other. Raul is the only one who doesn't play an instrument until the final number - his solo finale "Being Alive." At that point, he symbolically makes the gesture of fully participating in the performance by playing the piano. This is his character, Bobby, finally opening up and coming out of his shell to join his friends in the performance of love and life.

    [Raul] acquits himself beautifully [despite his concerns about a lack of training in instrumental music]. He asked me if I had seen other productions of COMPANY (I have), and we talked a bit about that. He spoke of Doyle's brilliance and the joy of working with him.

    The rest of the cast is superb, but many are making their Broadway debut here. You could sense an air of excitement and anticipation as they exited the stage door.

    Even though the show got rave reviews in Cincinnati, they are making many changes for the Broadway run. Raul said he is exhausted as they are rehearsing all day and performing 8 shows a week - incorporating new material daily. They have a rather long preview period with their official opening on November 29th.

    As always, Raul was incredibly sweet and very open to conversation. He's quite an intelligent guy and it's always a joy to speak with him.


    [She also mentioned something about 'the most gorgeous blue eyes' she's ever seen...]


    Raul Esperza with Beantown's mom.


    NOVEMBER 27, 2006
    Another thing I need to track: how I spend the holidays. Otherwise I can't remember what I did for Thanksgiving from one year to the next.



    DECEMBER 1, 2006

    Go or stay? Go or stay?

    It's hard to admit the real reasons. I thought we were so great. When you're 'it,' and everybody makes a fuss, and adult co-stars say you're better to work with than kids from other countries, it's easy to believe you're great.

    But someone taught me a trick recently. "Don't look," he said. "Listen. Stick your movie in a DVD, pick a good scene, shut your eyes, and listen to your acting."

    Do you know what I discovered?

    I suck! We all suck! We're so bad, the younger set, especially compared to those kids from other countries. It's mortifying! Demoralizing! The others wonder what's wrong with me, and I can't tell them. I can't tell them about the trick. It will destroy them.

    And we're not getting any better. Our highly-esteemed adult co-stars (among others) say we are, but they're lying, aren't they? Why? At first I thought they were being kind. Now I realize it's because they don't want us to improve. They're threatened by us, resentful of our stardom.

    If I go now, that'll be two less movies to be embarrassed about.

    But what if they replace me with someone who's actually good? One of those 'other country' kids to whom they teach the accent? They're probably already making plans to position such people, putting them forward in such a way that folks will say, "Gee, that person would make a good _____."

    And then there's him. Mum says he's not good for me, he treats me like I'm so lucky to be with him. She's right. I see it in the candid footage. Me reaching for him, never him reaching for me. Me looking at him, him looking at the director. Why? Why does he think so highly of himself? Well, because everyone, EVERYONE, the movie folks, the wannabes, the fans, they all tell him it's all about him, and as time goes by, they MAKE it more and more about him and him alone. But he's not really good-looking. I'M good looking! And there are 3 guys in the young set the fans are crazy about, whereas I'm the only girl. By quitting, I quit him, and that would be what's best for me.

    I should teach him the trick. Before reaction to his other projects knocks him right through a brick wall. "Gee, didn't you know? You suck!"

    We all do.


    DECEMBER 15, 2006
    I wouldn't live in New York for all the galleons in Gringotts. But I do wish I could apparate there for COMPANY and SPRING AWAKENING.

    JANUARY 2, 2007
    Updated Nov. 27, 2006 holiday reminiscences and the October 13, 2006 record of illnesses.

    JANUARY 16, 2007
    Do all writers fear their endings won't be good enough? Just finished Sally Beauman's "The Sisters Mortland." Disappointing (unless I missed something). I enjoyed the ambiguous ending of "Limbo," but "Mortland" seemed like an example of a book whose author who didn't dare wrap things up concretely for fear she wouldn't do it well enough. Full circle? Don't think so. We should have been told conclusively:

    1. Where the three dead babies came from
    2. What man (or tall woman) installed the Squint and why
    3. What became of the abby founders and why the nuns haunted Maisie
    4. Why Maisie jumped

    Approximately 3 months left in the great experiment. Bummer. I thought I was closer to the end than that!

    JANUARY 22, 2007
    Let's see if I understand this correctly. According to The Queen, Brits are such pomo morons, they can't tell the whole truth about Diana, they can't tell the whole truth about Iraq, and they can't tell the difference between appropriate and inappropriate. And the queen, if she truly considers herself a leader, must (and apparently does) judge herself a failure (for all her admirable traits and conduct) because her people became this stupid under her reign.

    Imagine someone making a movie like that!

    It occured to me, while watching, that Diana died the year Harry Potter was 'born.' Far more startling was the realization, after reading Rickman's play, that Rachel Corrie died the month The Smallest Slytherin was born.

    That nearly stopped my heart.

    JANUARY 29, 2007
    I think GOSFORD PARK may have replaced LIVING IN OBLIVION as my favorite movie.


    Don't feel bad, Tom. You had the longest run yet.

    *What am I, nuts? How could I forget LONE STAR? LONE STAR is my favorite movie by far!

    FEBRUARY 2, 2007
    The release date incident has me pondering the ring. Could the anti-American be setting up the snake (and those like her) for a fall? It would have to be the greatest ending of all time to justify the means (in the eyes of anyone who counts) (and even that might not be good enough)...

    FEBRUARY 13, 2007
    My godfather (and uncle) has died. He never fulfilled the role in the traditional sense (beyond, I assume, being present at my baptism, since his son and I were baptized together in the chapel at Our Redeemer in Benson). But he always seemed to take special pleasure in the way I chose to live. I suspect, after his kids and grandkids, I'll be the one he's usually keeping an eye on from above.

    From the "Why didn't I think of that sooner" file: What do you suppose the chances are EQUUS will eventually come to Broadway?

    FEBRUARY 16, 2007
    This has been such a shitty damn week. Uncle Gary's death was difficult and exhausting. My new Magnavox DVR is the most non-functional piece of technology I've ever seen. My new office iMac crapped out for good within hours of firing it up (with lots of confidential material on it, of course... hope that password I set took hold). It's going to snow and blow on family members traveling out for the funeral. And now the U of M is closing down its Usenet server. Shit shit shit shit shit.

    FEBRUARY 23, 2007
    Nasty sinus infection. Well, at least the funeral is over and all deadlines are met. With a major storm bearing down, may as well be snug in the cabin reading and watching television. Hope I also feel up to some writing.

    MARCH 8, 2007
    Just ordered a CD of Marty Haugen's "Holden Evening Prayer." Can't wait!

    Books I've read beginning this winter:
    2007
    Haunted
    Sisters Mortland
    The Keep
    These is my Words
    Papa Married a Mormon
    The Historian
    What the Dead Know
    Infidel
    The Secret History
    HP 5, 6, 7
    The Golden Compass
    Will to Murder (about the Glensheen killings)
    Subtle Knife
    Escape (by Carolyn Jessop) (finished 12/18/2007)
    2008
    Diary (Chuck Palahniuk)
    Shattered Dreams (Irene Spencer)
    D.B. Cooper: What Really Happened
    90 Minutes in Heaven
    All the Shah's Men
    Hold Tight (Coben)
    The World is Flat
    Three Cups of Tea
    House of Spirits and Whispers
    The Season (Goldman) (Wow)
    2009
    What Your Poo is Telling You
    Goodnight, John-Boy
    The Family Nobody Wanted
    The Onion Field
    Obedience (Lavender)
    Justice at Dachau
    A Short History of Nearly Everything
    Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming
    Prairie Tale
    The Old Curiosity Shop
    Hard Times
    When Ghosts Speak
    2010
    The House of the Seven Gables
    Starving for Attention
    Losing It (Bertinelli)
    The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
    Frauen
    The Screwtape Letters
    Fearless (Lucado)
    In the Lake of the Woods
    Old Town in the Green Groves
    Walden
    Lullaby (Palahniuk)
    Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
    Dark Places (Flynn)
    Pride and Prejudice
    The Way I See It (M. Anderson)
    O Pioneers!
    The Hunger Games
    This I Believe (Allison ed.)
    Confessions of a Prairie Bitch
    Catching Fire
    The Big Short
    Mockingjay
    Kim (Kipling)
    2011
    Joined bookclub (selections in bold)
    Why? Because We Still Like You!
    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
    Age of Innocence
    The Girl Who Played with Fire
    Bel Canto
    Let the Great World Spin

    Someone Named Eva (July 4)
    Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children,
    Giants in the Earth (July 18)
    Water for Elephants (August 20)
    Anna Karenina (August 22)
    A Midsummer Night's Dream (August 31)
    Richard II (September 12)
    The Thirteenth Tale (September 30)
    Sarah's Key (October 25)
    At Home (October 26)
    Gone with the Wind (December 7)
    Henry IV Part 1 (December 12)
    2012
    Room (January 3)
    The Wilder Life (January 17)
    The Help (February 6)
    Making Sense of the Christian Faith (February 13)
    Lady Macbeth (March 1)
    (Skipped Round Ireland)
    The Lovely Bones (March 30)
    Making Sense of the Cross (April 2)
    Henry IV Part 2 (April 6)
    The Kite Runner (April 11)
    The Snow Child (May 9)
    Wolf Hall (July 26)
    The Glass Castle (August 6)
    Witch and Wizard (August 20)
    To Know as We Are Known (August 20)
    Bringing Up Bebe (August 30)
    Wuthering Heights (September 17)
    The Facts of Life and Other Lessons my Father Taught Me (Oct. 5)
    The Dibbuk Box (Nov. 19)
    The Language of Flowers (December)
    2013
    Atlas Shrugged (Jan. 14)
    Visiting Tom (Jan. 17)
    True Haunting (Jan. 25)
    Possession (Byatt) (March 20)
    Both of Us (March 27)
    The Grapes of Wrath (April 10)
    The Sign of the Four (April 24)
    A Study in Scarlet (May 28)
    Elinore's Choice (Jun 26)
    True North (August 5)
    Notes from a Small Island (Sep. 3)
    Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Sep 17)
    Orange is the New Black (Oct 13)
    The Hound of the Baskervilles (Oct 14)
    Thirty Rooms to Hide In (Oct 25)
    A Light in the Ruins (Nov 13)
    Jane Eyre (Dec 6)
    The Testament of Mary (Dec 12)
    Call the Midwife (Dec 25)
    2014
    The Complete Maus (Jan. 3)
    Never Let Me Go (Jan. 13)
    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Feb. 12)
    Shadows of the Workhouse (Feb. 24)
    The Long Secret (Mar. 31)
    The Tenth Gift (Apr. 14)
    Ten Little Indians (May 22)
    Five Days at Memorial (June 16)
    Bleak House (July 23)
    People of the Book (Aug. 11)
    The Buddha in the Attic (Aug. 27)
    Anya's Ghost (Sep. 10)
    The Scarlet Pimpernel (Sep. 19)
    2015
    Little Dorritt (Jan. 26)
    Farewell to the East End (Jan. 30)
    The Lincoln Myth (Mar. 3)
    The Skin Collector (June 1)
    Suspicion (Finder) (June 9)
    The Heist (September 4)
    The Dead (Joyce) (September 12)
    The Sonnets (Shakespeare) (September 18)
    The Girl on the Train (September 22)
    The Dead Will Tell (October 26)
    Emma (November 10)
    A Christmas Carol (November 17)
    2016
    True Haunting 2
    Tales from Shakespeare (March 22)
    The House We Grew Up In (March 27)
    The Competition (Clark) (April 11)
    The Woman in White (July 7)
    The Canterville Ghost (July 12)
    Uncle Tom's Cabin (Sep 7)
    Great Expectations (Dec 12)
    2017
    The Girls (Cline) (Jan 6)
    The Devil in the White City (Feb 2)
    The Jungle (Feb 17)
    The Wind in the Willows (Feb 24)
    The Life We Bury (Mar 6)
    David Copperfield (May 17)
    The Luckiest Girl Alive (May 24)
    Pretty Girls (June 10)
    One Kick (July 6)
    Karolina's Twins (July 13) and Tear Soup
    Stay Where You Are & Then Leave (July 31)
    The Stranger (Coban) (August 31?)
    The Renegade (Jackson) (September 28)
    Brokeback Mountain (October 5)
    Royal Jelly (October 5)
    The Necklace (de Maupassant) (October 5)
    French Creek (November 5)

    MARCH 23, 2007
    Thank you, James Barbour, for honoring my request, and for sharing the Nut Goodies with your castmates, especially my new fellow American, Michael York! Beantown, you deserve it.

    MARCH 27, 2007
    You know, I purposely chose NOT to go see CAMELOT a second time because I remembered what happened with multiple viewings of A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT. Enjoyment will suffice, thank you, I don't need a new obsession at this time. (Plus, I was sick again, but that's a different section.)

    Then I learned about special anniversary recordings of THE SOUND OF MUSIC with additional tracks including fuller cues and instrumental music. Can't wait to hear that! So I ordered one of them through inter-library loan, and I've been checking my account every day since to see if it has arrived yet. The result?

    Last night I dreamed about an incredible touring revivial of the play starring James Barbour and Kristin Chenoweth, featuring child actors who were talented, selfless, and in the habit of addressing their adult co-stars as 'Ma'am' and 'Sir.'

    Can't get it out of my mind.

    APRIL 13, 2007
    So I'm finishing "The Historian," disappointed to discover that a book that seemed so promising turns out to be just a mediocre story with an anti-Christian, pro-Islam agenda. ("That Turgut and his fellow Janissaries... what a great bunch! Those Order of the Dragon folks... what bastards!") I search for intelligent discussion of the topic in cyberspace and find none. One reviewer, from "a journal of culture and politics written from a classical liberal point of view," picked up on the hostility. Anemic Bloodlust

    Then there are the morons at HPfGU who assert that "Religion does not figure at all in the lives of the muggles or the witches and wizards who populate the Harry Potter books" and "Everyone is largely in agreement that the Christmas Day celebrations at Hogwarts are completely secular and Dickensian in nature." How obvious is the agenda of those responsible for this 'fantastic' post?

    Postmodernism - treachery without consequence.

    APRIL 25, 2007
    As if the evidence of daily living (with its never-ending parade of groups and individuals flummoxed by altruism and integrity) weren't enough, the year-long Team Severus experiment comes to an end, providing substantial (if not conclusive) proof that there are precious few people in the world with values like mine.

    Jonathan Mathers may be one of them.

    APRIL 26, 2007
    Per http://www.broadway.com/Gen/Buzz_Story.aspx?ci=544714: Minneapolis and Boston! Minneapolis and Boston! Come on, Jim... tell them about Nut Goodies!

    [Afternoon update. Beantown says ATOTC, which I think should be TOTC so one can simply say 'totsie,' will never try out in Boston because the local critics are show-killers. Feel pretty bad for her, even if she was the final Nellie Forbush in "Back from Broadway."]

    APRIL 26, 2007
    Ahem ahem.


    Never mind Rice, the Texas school where my brother went, which is how I heard about this story from a Dallas paper.

    LOOK AT THE LIST OF THE TEN BEST VALUES IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS!!!!!

    Do you see the Twin Cities campus of the U? Uh uh. Do you see Duluth? Uh uh. Do you see the state colleges, Mankato or St. Cloud or Moorhead?

    Uh uh!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Pull your heads out and spend your money wisely, people. With mediocrity running rampant in this nation, it's your duty.

    APRIL 27, 2007
    July 2007 draws near, so listen up.

    This is a story about Tim Higel. A junior from the Denver suburb of Broomfield (Broomfield Higel, I used to call him), he started at Colorado's Clear Creek Secondary School in the fall of 1978, just like me. He was quite a nice boy... but that's another story.

    Tim was a year older but we shared a few classes and I, still on the rebound from my 9th grade crush, developed a mad passion for him. I wasn't alone. Within days of his arrival, a mythology sprang up, enshrouding the boy in an otherworldly aura his mediocre academic performance could not dispel. He wore nothing but corduroys (grey, white, navy, beige, and brown). His father owned his own business in Denver, which had to mean he was rich; Mrs. Wally, the library assistant, assured us everyone from Broomfield was. The family was rumored to have seven vehicles parked on the property of their secluded Central City residence. Each morning, students would line the railing to watch him climb the circular ramp of our octagonol three-story school buildling. In no time at all, he was elected junior class homecoming royalty.

    Looking back, I can see that between my cuteness, my virtue, and my clever spunk, I was probably one of the most desirable girls in my class. At the time, however, I thought I was a toad. Besides, the competition to be part of Tim Higel's circle was fierce. Take Cindy Armbruster. A stick-figure cutie with an attractive older brother, Cindy boasted of her friendship with Tim... and had the promise of one of his class photos to prove it. I would have loved one of the glossy little 2x3 keepsakes. But I had only an acquaintance with his girlfriend, a band-mate named Adele; it proved insufficient to secure one of the treasured items.

    I mentioned the vexing situation to my friends, fellow geeks and toads from the advanced academic classes and journalism club. Then I moved on. I'd learned all about the nonsense of cliques and 'in' crowds in junior high; at 15, I knew what true friends were and that they were worth far more than a class photo of a darling boy.

    Then one day, as I sat in the auditorium watching Tim play cowbell during jazz band, a voice called his name and we both looked up.

    CLICK!

    My student newspaper photographer friend, John Fiveash, had just snapped a photo of darling boy.

    You should have seen Cindy's face when she saw
    it. It was five times bigger and ten times more gorgeous than his class photo. She sputtered in fury, outraged that a person like me could wind up with something so much better than an insider like her.

    If you haven't figured it out yet, this isn't really a story about Tim Higel. But it's everything you need to know to have a wonderful time in July.

    And if anybody knows whatever happened to that cute buddy of Tim's, Richard Feather, do let me hear from you.

    APRIL 30, 2007
    Just finished Laura Lippman's "What the Dead Know" last night. Loved it. It reminded me of an incident from my childhood. While a grade-schooler living in McLean (a prosperous suburb of Washington DC), I heard rumors about a couple of girls disappearing from a shopping mall. Queried my folks about it, but they had no memory of it. Turns out I was remembering Shelia and Katherine Lyon, mentioned at the end of Lippman's book in the author's notes. What my folks do remember is the disappearance of Julie White's mother, a crime from our very neighborhood.

    Julie was older, a 5th or 6th grader when I was in 4th grade. Popular and friendly, the pony-tailed girl served as a crossing guard in my neighborhood. She always had time to talk to me and tease me about how my red vinyl coat with white trim made me look like Santa Claus.

    Then her mother disappeared.

    She'd been in a bridge club with my mother, and when we returned from a summer at the lake, she was gone. No trace was ever found, and I remember my father speculating bitterly that her second husband, a C.I.A. agent, had probably murdered her and buried her in the yard. My best friend from across the street, Jennifer Hamrock, told me that the night the woman disappeared, her older sister, Sue, woke up in the bedroom they shared and looked out the window to see Julie's stepfather sitting in a car parked right in front of their house, smoking a cigarette in the dark.

    After that, Julie disappeared, too. She probably went to live with her father, also an employee of the C.I.A. I saw her once more, at a spring carnival at Franklin Sherman Elementary. Perhaps she was back for a visit. I spotted her near the cakewalk, her hair loose and wild, her eyes haunted and bewildered. "What's become of her?" I wondered sadly.

    I guess I'll never know.

    MAY 4, 2007
    Rewatched "Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" recently. Clearly an influence on Rowling.

    You know what product WB really needs to produce/release? A photo book of candid/behind-the-scenes images of the Harry Potter cast.

    MAY 5, 2007
    There's no denying, it's an impressive piece of animated suck-uppery. But will it yield the coveted invitation?

    MAY 7, 2007
    Had a great dream last night.

    I was in a doctor's office waiting room on Friday, July 20. There were other people, too, including some kids. As we sat watching television, an unadvertised special came on promising footage from the 6th and 7th Harry Potter movies, currently being filmed simultaneously. I was stunned! I'd had no idea the movies had gone into production months ahead of schedule. And how could they possibly have obtained a copy of Book 7 far enough in advance to develop a screenplay and begin filming without any information leaking? But there it was, a spoiler crawl right across the bottom of the set, warning folks who didn't want any aspect of Book 7 revealed not to watch. The whole thing was clearly a final publicity stunt to maximize hype about the release of the last book.

    The majority of the footage was from movie #7, and I was thrilled to see no material whatsoever showing the trio away from Hogwarts hunting horcruxes. Instead, the twins had come back to school and were busy adventuring with Ron, Harry, Hermione and Ginny. They were trying to get down into a subterranean world beneath the school, a filthy, dimly-lit labyrinth of tunnels and large dirt rooms reminiscent of Cathedral in the film, LOGAN'S RUN. They were descending via rickety devices like home-made dumbwaiters and rope/pulley systems to rescue young children who had been imprisoned and enslaved beneath the castle and had created the devices to sneak up into Hogwarts to acquire food and medical supplies.

    Once our heroes had infiltrated the underground slave encampment, we saw Snape lurking in a dark alcove, watching them. He looked truly sinister, not at all the long-suffering villain of the books and movies who never does anything really wrong and instead helps Harry again and again. This guy inspired real fear and dread, like the Boston Stranger or political terrorists. The message was clear. "Yep, turns out he's evil." He promptly gives chase, terrorizing our heroes, who flee before him up the slippery, scaly red surface of a sheered subterranean mountain, the Cliffs of Insanity, if you will. The impression we're given is that Snape is Voldemort's man below Hogwarts. He oversees the slave camp, and he killed Dumbledore on Voldemort's orders. Voldemort's plan? Capture Harry, Hermione, and the four youngest Weasley children, cast a charm that will keep them young forever, and enslave them with the rest of the children below the castle.

    When the special ended, the folks in the room began babbling about the definitive answer provided to the great mystery of Snape's loyalties. I explained to the children that the footage had not, in fact, given us any conclusive information about Snape's position. It was, once again, all inference. I didn't add that this was probably one last effort on Rowling's part to mislead as many people as possible so she could feel really smart later about fooling them. But there was no doubt in my mind that, when I lined up at Walmart at midnight, this television special would be the sole topic of conversation.

    MAY 30, 2007
    Buddy Beantown returned to the Big Apple recently. Saw Spring Awakening and Company (again).



    "God, I'm so envious, I can't even talk."



    She got some fabulous pix, like this one with Jonathan Groff/Melchior.


    JUNE 1, 2007
    Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!

    Raul 
Esparaza autograph

    The vicarious life aint all bad!

    Thank you, Raul. Thank you, Beantown.

    JUNE 11, 2007
    A weekend of treachery. The signal for CBS went out and I didn't get to see the Tonys. But then, David Hyde Pierce's win probably would have killed me, anyway. The audience at the New York Mills Great American Think Off voted to trust heart over head. And then there was that revolting display by Julie Piekarski on E!'s MMC documentary (an episode of True Hollywood Stories). Has she no shame?

    JUNE 15, 2007
    Because it is a DISGRACE that no soundtrack was ever released, here's "Heart and Soul" (the closing credit music) from BIG (Howard Shore, soundtrack composer).

    JUNE 22, 2007
    Is that statement an accurate indication of your astuteness, or are you indulging your feelings?

    JUNE 25, 2007
    Updated January 29, 2007 entry to reflect that LONE STAR is, in fact, my favorite movie. How could I forget?

    JUNE 28, 2007
    The prophecy label is written in spidery writing and refers to Voldemort as the Dark Lord (which, if Harry is correct in asserting that only Death Eaters call Voldemort the Dark Lord, means a DE made it). Does that mean Snape wrote the label? That's what the clues say, but why would that be important?

    JULY 3, 2007
    THE SMALLEST SLYTHERIN crossed the 30,000 mark. Whoo hoo! Even more thrilling, the sequel, AN OBEDIENT HOUSE, is right behind with 29,000. Sweet.

    JULY 6, 2007
    Survived the Cruico Bug! See Oct. 13, 2006 illness log for details.

    JULY 10, 2007
    This quote means one of the following:

    1. Rowling does not understand how others can possibly be as smart as she is.
    2 Rowling does not understand Snapes.

    For the last time, fans ought not to be discussing, "Will Rowling make Snape good or bad?" They ought to be discussing, "Should Rowling make Snape good or bad?"

    The author may not realize it, but the significance of her series lies in its monumental affirmation or condemnation of postmodernism, as indicated by the fate of Severus Snape. If she concludes that Snape is ultimately selfish or in some way reprehensible despite any heroics, she embraces the indulgent and meaningless approach to all things that is postmodernism. If she depicts Snape as a shallowly maligned, long-suffering bastion of integrity, she condemns that which has the potential to doom us all.

    And so we wait.

    JULY 12, 2007
    Thoughts on screening of film #5, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, in Alexandria, MN:

    Well Done
  • Finally some fans! Where have you people been all these years? Lots of folks in Gryffindor garb, audible sobs from women upon 'the death' (surprising considering how ineffectively it was portrayed... why would anybody care if that guy died, based on what we'd seen of him?). Two adults sitting next to me also took time off from work to attend the screening. Lots of tweens in attendance. "How did they get here at 1 p.m. on a Wednesday?" I wondered. "Their folks are at work and they can't drive!" Turns out they camped. Parents were spotted dropping off supplies on their way to work this morning.
  • Killer work by Harry Melling in his first real chance to deliver some dialog. And what a physical metamorphosis!
  • Loved Snape dragging Harry down the stairs by the arm for his first Occulumency lesson.
  • Loved Snape's response to Dolores's inquiry about Padfoot in the place where it's hidden.
  • Nifty shot of lurking twins in the Filch montage.
  • Good music, especially in montage sequences.
  • Nice work by Rupert Grint, strongest of the trio performances this time around.
  • Hysterical cut from snarfing young thestral to snarfing young Weasley.
  • Loved Ginny's reducto in the Ministry. Oops!
  • Strong casting of Luna. May not like the actress off-screen, but the portrayal was spot-on.
  • Ginny's longing watchfulness - clever, subtle.
  • Cover of Defense text is reminiscent of "Fun with Dick and Jane" primers. Hee hee hee.
  • Tyrant poster of Fudge. Very Orwellian!
  • As the kids enter the Hog's Head, a goat makes a quick exit. Hee hee hee.
  • During a montage, Inquisitorial Squad is shown standing proudly in line in Umbridge's office as she pins on their badges. Nice touch!
  • Insinuation that entire D.A. is subjected to quill torture. Complete bastardization, of course, but effective.
  • Lovely emotional content in the dismissal of Trelawney (ruined only by Dumbledore's out-of-character bark at the end) (and one wonders why footage was wasted on this sequence in light of more important things that were glossed). So sad, that the director/writer/editor seldom had the courage or discipline to slow the f-ck down and require the audience to concentrate, thereby providing the rich emotional experiences that are film's greatest achievement.

    Craptacular
  • Lousy editing and writing, destroyed most potential for emotional build-up.
  • Lots of stuff from previews missing from movie. Always a bad choice.
  • Exit of the twins woefully undermotivated and therefore wasted.
  • Muddled scene of twins comforting crying child late in film. Would have been a nice addition if they'd been sincere, but writing and editing made it choppy and unclear. Had they made her cry that plaintively with their vicious snack products?
  • Snape bears ultimate responsibility for the discovery of the D.A. because it's revealed he gave Umbridge real veritaserum for interrogating students.
  • Insinuation that McGonagall has discovered the torture (medieval methods) but is powerless to stop it. Yeah, right.
  • Early on, the twins appear to be part of the crowd in the Gryffindor common room who have a problem with Harry. Yeah, right.
  • Neville's parents look joltingly unlike their child.
  • Continued use of Nigel. If there was some nepotistic need to hire the young actor, why not have him play Dennis Creevey?
  • Snape's explanation of why Harry needs occulumency. Claims without it Harry might be tortured or driven insane. Nothing about the strategic pitfalls of Voldie voyeurism.
  • Harry and Cho: disgustingly excessive for a first kiss and therefore completely ineffective.
  • Use of Percy - So unexplained as to be pointless.
  • Use of Phineas Nigellus portrait. Completely generic and therefore worthless. Would have been better to leave the character unnamed and avoid the disappointment.
  • Snape's Worst Memory - so quick and sterile it might as well have been omitted altogether. It certainly had no impact on Harry. Perhaps this is why so many kids and young adults are obtuse these days. They are constantly exposed to massive quantities of rapid-fire, low quality entertainment material and they seem completely unable to discriminate before consuming.

    JULY 16, 2007
    Had such a GREAT time at Theatre L'Homme Dieu last Thursday night. Judi Morton and I went to see YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU and who should sit down next to us in the front row but Ari Hoptman, TLD regular and one of my favorite Twin Cities actors. I told him how tickled I was and asked him to sign my program, which tickled him! At intermission, following a piece of advice my father once heard about what to say to a celebrity/actor, I asked him what he's working on. He's been trying to get permission to adapt a film for the stage, so I mentioned a similar rejection I'd had in grad school, trying to get the rights to MY FAVORITE YEAR, only to learn they were in the process of creating the musical. Turns out Hoptman is a big fan of the film, even wrote to Lou Jacobi (Uncle Morty) and received an autograph. We spent the rest of the break riffing comedic dialog from the film... Ari was so delighted I knew it well enough to set up punchline after punchline that he applauded every time I nailed something. Break a leg in LITTLE SHOP, Professor!


    JULY 20, 2007
    A cyberfriend who's familiar with my fanfic novels just sent me a PDF of book 7. As of 8:55 a.m., I'm not going to peek at it. I'll distract myself with other things.

    Had such fun watching the letterbox verion of THE TROUBLE WITH ANGELS courtesy TCM. The influence on THE SMALLEST SLYTHERIN is screamingly obvious but not as embarassing as watching THE SOUND OF MUSIC or OLIVER. With TWA, it's more like, "Good choice, Rebecca!"

    Killer production of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS at L'Homme Dieu last night. Shortly after Audrey discovered her namesake plant can talk, the power went out. No air conditioning, no microphones, no orchestra, no lights except for a spot. Delightful, watching those talented youngsters cope (and a shout out to Ari, who helped the chorus find its entrance on "Don't Feed the Plants"). The electric guitar player strummed as loudly as he could to feed the singers their notes, and of course, the trapset still worked. Bravo to all!

    JULY 23, 2007



    I so wanted the Harry Potter books to end well so I could look forward to re-reading them throughout my life like I do the Little House books or the Caddie Woodlawn books or the Great Brain books. Will it really be any fun to re-read 1-4 knowing I'll have to stop there because the books crap out after that?

    The two things that really destroyed book 7 for me:

    1. Harry, Ron and Hermione go camping. SOOOOOO tedious! It would have been so much more effective to send them back to Hogwarts. Think how powerful the revelation that the cloak was a DH could have been if Harry had been using it to hide himself at Hogwarts for months. Imagine the intensity of seeing first hand the impact of the Ministry corruptions on Hogwarts students. Hermione would eventually have been driven into the Room of Requirement herself. The kids would have had to deal with Snape as headmaster (and his secret efforts to help them escape Hogwarts each time they needed to perform a Horcrux chore would have added such zing to the big reveal). It just kills me to think how much better a story it would have been.

    2. Snape's heroics stem from a childhood infatuation with Lily? So lame. Imagine if his motivations were left unspecified instead. We get only the confirmation that he was good (coupled with that delicious discovery that there were moments of parity and hostility between himself and Dumbledore). Then the reader is left to speculate on what makes a person behave the way Snape did. SOOOOO much more powerful and effective than trying to suggest that friendship or romantic love is the key to altruism.

    JULY 30, 2007
    Hee hee. Having such fun, creating a play list to complement my post-DH mood. So long, Potterverse! I did everything I could for you.

    AUGUST 1, 2007
    AARRGGH!!!!!!!!! This is driving me crazy! WHAT could be causing the skyrocketing traffic to AN OBEDIENT HOUSE? I've gotten 100 hits in the last 4 hours alone. I got 5,000 visitors in July, up from 800 a year ago. What in heaven's name suddenly makes a 3-year-old fanfic so popular?

    AUGUST 2, 2007
    Those of you to whom this does NOT apply know who you are. I can count you on one hand.

    AUGUST 6, 2007
    Okay, the number of fans I've seen with the integrity to suggest that Rowling's values as expressed in the HP series might warrant debate has risen to more than five (though I've yet to see any professional critics or reviewers with that much spine).

    It's ironic, of course, that so few of them are Snape fans. I'm aware that the number of self-professed Snape fans who don't really like Snapes at all has risen dramatically the last few years. So, as far as SUDDENLY SEVERUS goes, I remain leery of potential swine rending.

    Oh, crap! Hagrid! Hagrid and the first year boats! Better go take care of that.

    AUGUST 7, 2007
    HOO-UH!!!! Just got my invite to the premiere of the Ken Burns documentary, "The War," in Luverne on Sep. 6. Been hoping all summer we PPTV board members would get to go! Burns will be there. Wonder if Tom Hanks will show?

    AUGUST 15, 2007
    In honor of Sigune, another Snape fan who dares to publicly question Rowling's idea of goodness: a hard to find, hauntingly beautiful and appropriate mourning tune.

    AUGUST 27, 2007
    Funny. I dreamed about Owen Wilson last night.

    Twice.

    SEPTEMBER 4, 2007
    FYI, the AFSCME employees of the University of Minnesota (that's me) are scheduled to go on strike tomorrow. That will take me off-line for a while, as I, like so many AFSCME employees, cannot afford internet access at home (or a cell phone, or travel, and have I mentioned I work three jobs?).

    SEPTEMBER 12, 2007
    Greetings from the picket line!

    Here's a photo of the only vacation a University of Minnesota AFSCME employee like me can afford - a two-day road trip to the southwest corner of the state.

    Wading in the footsteps of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Plum Creek, September 7, 2007


    Where's the missing 1%, Bruininks? Just call him Bobbin Hood - he steals from his poor to give to his rich.

    1 pm
    Back on the line after lunch, and if I live to be one hundred, I'll never forget the image of all us UMM strikers, packed elbow to elbow around Bonnie's dining room table, devouring chicken and dumpling soup Pat had been brewing for us since 6 am.

    SEPTEMBER 24, 2007
    And we're back. Ironic to think that the one Snape fan who doesn't respect Rickman is the one Snape fan Rickman would probably respect.

    4 p.m.
    Unbelievable. An image search of "Snape" at Google shows "Snape Snugglers" from AN OBEDIENT HOUSE as item #3. #3 out of 167,000!

    SEPTEMBER 28, 2007
    What do you suppose the bigots at HPfGU make of Newsweek's August 6 Deathly Hallows observation that, in Rowling's work, "the Christian parallels are glaring"?

    OCTOBER 5, 2007



    The altruists of UMM.
    My eyes were closed so I pasted on another head.


    OCTOBER 16, 2007
    Giving up sugar takes a lot of planning.

    OCTOBER 19, 2007
    Omygosh! I found her! I found Melissa Miller! She's the one whose "Just Desserts" did so much to inspire my writing about Slytherin! Just look at those kids. So unified, so completely unconcerned about what the rest of Hogwarts thinks.

    Alas. The artist, I've discovered, is red of head and goes by Mel. Suddenly a problem. Heh heh.

    OCTOBER 22, 2007
    Day 2 without sugar.

    I do not like going without sugar.

    Had the greatest idea while driving to work, listening to the WHITE CHRISTMAS cast album. Snape and McGonagall are in the headmistress's office, discussing the financial woes at Hogwarts. Suddenly (heh heh), Snape murmurs a few words from a song under his breath:

    "Hm?" inquires Minerva. "What was that?"

    Snape pauses. What was that? And then he remembers. A blizzard. A window. A muggle television set. An inquiry that set Hermione Granger to sputtering. "Nothing," he assures McGonagall with a small smile...and a completely unexpected affirmation of his esteem for their friendship.

    OCTOBER 31, 2007
    Happy birthday, trip. Welcome to 44.

    So yesterday was day 10 and my first cheat - 3 graham crackers. Not bad! I've decided to give up searching for an acceptable and palatable cookie recipe and just have a few graham crackers when I need to. Note to self: Figured out that Neville's crisis needs to come on Halloween, just like Violet's. (So the Colin project should be complete by then.) But Neville's is bigger and should come second. Yet it's Violet the 4th year that puts Snape in mind of Newton. Oh, well, I'll think of something.

    NOVEMBER 2, 2007
    Well I'll be darned. My oppressors are starting to suffer right and left! Hoo-ah! Give it up for Romans 12:19!

    NOVEMBER 14, 2007
    Labor strikes are what happens when too many people get too poor, of course. I'm proud of striking a blow for the shrinking middle class. But more importantly, I suspect we're saving lives, we strikers...if you believe in Santayana...or the guillotine.

    UPDATE: I have the solution. Send both sides (in both strikes) back to the table (in a real dialog). Let each side provide a transcriptionist for the proceedings.

    Publish the transcripts.

    Then we'll find out who's telling the truth and who's lying, who's being selfish and who's being victimized. Only the immoral fear accountability.

    NOVEMBER 15, 2007
    I wonder if Rowling's anti-Snape bias, which really got rolling (heh heh) about the time the films went into production, might have been inspired by Rickman's general lack of interest in the character?

    NOVEMBER 27, 2007
    Such fun weather-watching last night! Unexpected blizzard conditions swept into the state, driving temperatures way below normal. It was especially exciting because 1) I'd already taken my walk and 2) it's EXACTLY what's going to happen to the poor, unsuspecting citizens of Hogwarts in part 2 of SUDDENLY SEVERUS. Heh heh heh.

    DECEMBER 5, 2007
    Had the niftiest dream about Sawyer last night, no doubt inspired by reading Jessop's "Escape" as I rewatch "Lost" Seasons 1 and 2 on DVD. Sawyer was the son of a polygamous Muslim patriarch who was infuriated by his son's refusal to submit to the father's will. The father was trying to beat some humility into him, and since it was Sawyer, it was clear he would probably beat the son to death before Sawyer would yield. So I, a half-sibling decades younger (about 10 years old, I think), fired a poisonous dart into our father's neck and killed him. Sawyer snatched me up and we fled on horseback. As we rode off, he was trying to figure out if we would need fake identities to avoid capture, i.e. would he have to pass himself off as my father rather than my brother as he raised me to adulthood.

    DECEMBER 20, 2007
    Updated the holiday remembrance section.

    DECEMBER 26, 2007
    When I was in high school, my debaucherous band director had enough clout in the music world to secure positions for his best musicians in a respectable junior drum corps. He hesitated to send me, however. I had a reputation for ethical and idealistic behavior. I would not thrive, he feared, in a world of negligence, deprivation, bullying, drunkenness, drug use, and sexual misconduct.

    Twenty years later, I wrote an article about the appearance of the Madison Scouts at the now-defunct Vikingland Classic. It staggered me, how much the drum corps experience had changed. There were no dramatic stories of abusive section directors bullying teenagers into submission. Instead, parents traveled with the corps, maintaining discipline and supervising activities every minute of every day. Gone were the emaciated faces of children starving their way through six months of sacrifice in pursuit of their dreams. A chuck wagon traveled with the Scouts, providing three meals a day and snacks that included freshly-baked, frosted brownies. After the show, Christian kids from every corps gathered midfield to pray together.

    Some of the changes were clearly shortsighted. But there was no doubt, the importance of the story lay in chronicling the differences to reveal the patterns of change, both wise and foolish.

    On Christmas Eve, I finally got to see Life After Tomorrow, the Julie Stevens documentary about the little girls who appeared in the original Broadway or national touring company productions of Annie. I liked the opening credits. Beyond that, I could only lament the way the film's focus obscured the true significance of the material, completely wasting access to incredible historical footage and resources.

    The film's premise, that the little girls were somehow victimized by their participation in Annie because the associated glory didn't last a lifetime, disregards three important realities:

    1. The children depicted in the documentary weren't all that admirable to begin with. The reasons they provided for wanting to join the production were clearly covetous: Other little girls had something good and the aspirants wanted it for themselves. Yes, it's a shame some adult didn't say, "Your reasons for wanting to be in Annie are purely selfish and nothing good comes from pursuing selfish motivations." But that's hardly Stevens' point.

    2. Except for McArdle (and maybe Quinn and Pacitti), the children were never famous. It was the show people cared about, not the specific actresses. The performers were completely expendable and interchangeable in the eyes of audiences and fans. Ironically, the film contains anecdotes proving this very point. But the actresses remain convinced that they, themselves, were famous, as if thousands of people actually knew their names. Ladies, most people couldn't even name the orphans, much less the actresses who portrayed them.

    3. Professional actors know fame is fleeting and employment sporadic. And because most people just aren't that interested in theatre, few actors have assimilation problems that aren't self-inflicted.

    The real value in the film lies in revelations that are almost after-thoughts:
    So what we really need to know is, "Has anything changed?"

    Eh. My time is better spent with Deputy Severus and his fearless leader.

    DECEMBER 27, 2007
    Here's the scam with emusic.com. You sign up for a free trial period. I cancelled my free trial on Nov. 27, 24 hours BEFORE it expired. I received a cancellation confirmation and hung onto it.

    On December 2, they charged my credit card for a month's service. I contacted them, sending them a copy of my cancellation confirmation. I received an automated response telling me how to cancel an account and informing me they did not give refunds for subscription-related charges. It included this sentence: "Per Section 6.4 of eMusic's Terms of Use which you agreed to when you registered for your account, all charges made during your subscription period are nonrefundable." I responded, pointing out that the charges were assigned days AFTER I cancelled my subscription.

    A week later, I received a boilerplate notification that my account had been cancelled (like it hadn't already been cancelled a month earlier!) and a follow-up message saying charges incurred during my subscription could not be refunded and if I had proof I'd cancelled before the charges were assigned, I should send it in (like I hadn't already done that! In fact, the follow-up response INCLUDED the text confirming my cancellation from my initial email sent after discovering the Dec. 2 charges!). I sent a response pointing out that their request for proof of my cancellation already had proof of my cancellation quoted further down in the message! I received a boilerplate response requesting the same information I'd been asked for initially! Apparently, the strategy at emusic.com is, "Cheat them, then hope they'll get too tired of jumping through hoops to get their money back."

    I'm off to contact the Better Business Bureau.

    JANUARY 3, 2008
    You know what I'd do if I were the plaintiff in the James Barbour sexual misconduct case? I'd publish my name to prove that I do not have a history of making false allegations against men, that revealing my name would not result in an onslaught of phone calls to the defense attorney's office from other men I've victimized. That would prove to all those doubters that I am not afraid to stand by my allegations, that I am not an opportunistic cow who went after a guy because his kindness and success (and recent inheritance) made him an easy target.

    JANUARY 8, 2007
    It doesn't matter who wins. Bad people don't deserve good leadership.

    JANUARY 10, 2007
    So I'm searching SUDDENLY SEVERUS for the word "evil" to insert a note at one of the jumps between past and present, and what do I find? Dozens of references to Neville. Never noticed before that his name contains the word 'evil.'

    No wonder Trevor prefers Snape. :)

    JANUARY 14, 2008
    Updated March 8, 2007. Nothing like starting the year off with a little Chuck Palahniuk!

    JANUARY 18, 2008
    At Wellesley, I had this English professor named Terry Tyler. He used to say, "The great thing about Wellesley is, it's so much better than Harvard."

    I never believed it until now.

    JANUARY 25, 2008
    So I wonder if this new book,"Faculty Incivility," has the spine to tell the truth: The reason today's professors (among others) are immoral jerks in 'nice' packages is because they were educated under postmodernism. It taught them that anything they feel or want is acceptable, as long as they envelop their activities in a drape of 'respectful' behavior. Note to current ESL students: 'Respectful' now means 'Pleasant, but devoid of integrity.'

    Meanwhile, those old enough to know better are caving at an alarming rate. How many worthy Americans are left in this country?

    JANUARY 30, 2008
    It's a metaphor, all right.

    This week's episode of "This American Life" includes the story of a U.S. reporter, Adam, whose 'brilliant idea' to rent a house in Baghdad rather than live in a green zone hotel supposedly mirrors our involvement in Iraq: A misguided 'can-do' attitude ultimately leads to disaster. What the episode actually reveals is how shallow, weak, indulgent citizens are sapping the strength of our country. It's a good thing we already won the war (when we ousted Saddam Hussein); once the majority of our citizens become like Adam (through the relentless efforts of postmodern educators and parents), we'll be hard-pressed to help ourselves, much less anybody else.

    The distinguishing American characteristic is not optimism. It's persistence. Does Adam really think World War II was free from any of the miscalculations, accidents, or mistakes he bemoans in Iraq? Then he's never heard of Operation Market Garden. Only the ignoble speak in ignorance. World War II included far more incidents of mismanagement, corruption, and poor leadership than the war in Iraq ever will. But we won anyway, because we persisted, despite hardships and deprivations far beyond what the average American has endured during this war. We were strong and good back then. Now we're losers, the kind of whiny, spoiled morons who will gripe in public about being treated inconsiderately instead of handing out the discipline appropriate to our positions (like, say, initiator of a 'brilliant idea'). We're self-congratulatory reporters who claim to care about the truth but drink a lot anyway (stories never break in the evening?) and bolt at the first signs of danger.

    "This American Life" did a story a while back on a woman who stocks vending machines for the troops 12 hours a day. When I read about the episode, I thought, "Twelve hours a day? A military candy stocker has to work a 12-hour shift?" Then I remembered something Vernon, the stable director from English Squire Farms, said as she hauled a car-load of adolescents to a riding lesson back in 1977: "Military personnel are disciplined, and they instill that discipline in their children." You know what that means?

    This war may save our country.

    FEBRUARY 1, 2008
    Updated Oct. 13, 2006 head cold log.

    FEBRUARY 4, 2008
    Attention, suck-ups: You're wasting your time. I'm not like Melissa...or Jo.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I left Trevor, the warty paperweight, sitting on a pile of parchment on Snape's desk.

    FEBRUARY 11, 2008
    It's ironic, what made my furnace go out on the coldest night of the year (temps in the double digits below zero Fahrenheit, winds howling over 30 mph). The intake pipe, which brings air into the furnace from outside, got clogged with ice (or maybe a snow drift!). Gas can't burn without air. And since that's a key plot point in Part Two of SUDDENLY SEVERUS, wouldn't you think, as I shivered in a house barely a dozen degrees above freezing, it might have occurred to me to ask the furnace repair dispatcher, "Is it possible the machine is not getting air?" Poor technician had to drive 25 miles in blizzard conditions at 6am on a Sunday just to disconnect the pipe (it lifts easily out of its socket) and let the furnace draw air from the room instead. He says it's fine to leave it that way for a while, which is good, because the intake pipe probably won't clear until spring.

    Updated list of books read.

    FEBRUARY 12, 2008
    Attention, Jonathan Ian Mathers: I started losing faith in independent film when Bob Nelson, a director of graduate studies at BYU, told me Sterling Van Wagenen and the Sundance Institute had tweaked their definition of an independent filmmaker to mean, "someone who has achieved significant financial success in another area and now wants to try his hand at movie-making." The theory was, lab projects developed by someone with a proven financial track record might be more likely to achieve commercial success.

    That was 1985.

    FEBRUARY 14, 2008
    Ricky, you schtick-enslaved moron! Karl's movie idea was brilliant! Imagine the questions you could have posed if you'd just been willing to admit that!

    1. Is the brain the only source of a person's identity? Or did Clive Warren's soul reside in his brain?
    2. Is it possible to be attracted to someone apart from physical appearance?
    3. If so, then isn't the adulteress attracted to Clive's brain, not Rebecca's De Mornay's body? How can she be a lesbian? What questions does Karl's brain-sharing idea raise about sexual orientation?

    I'm Monday-morning quarterbacking, I know, but I do mourn a fine opportunity lost.

    Speaking of opportunities lost, anybody got mp3 files of the Podfather Halloween or Christmas episodes?

    FEBRUARY 21, 2008
    Updated books read.

    "An Obedient House" is less than 200 hits from 50,000 visitors. Whoo hoo!

    FEBRUARY 22, 2008
    Ta do! 50,006! Much of the credit goes to Barrie, of course. Imagine! The #1 item in a Google image search of Snape!

    Had the most startling dream last night. I was back in high school (at the new building on the hill off the highway) but looking young enough that the kids couldn't tell I was 25 years older than they were. Warble was back, too, and looking magnificent. He was mostly grey now but slim and firm with a killer hairstyle parted down the middle and feathering (sorry, but that's the word) subtly back on either side. He reminded me of Alan Rickman in An Awfully Big Adventure.

    He was the polar opposite of his old self, strict and demanding, so harsh the kids were genuinely scared. They hated him. They were just typical high school mediocrities, but somehow they were sure Warble had no right to use them so meanly. I was scared, too...scared of what would happen when he spotted me and realilzed there was someone present who knew about his past. My, those kids got excited when they found out there was someone in their midst who knew about those days that didn't appear on their director's CV.

    Could just be about SUDDENLY SEVERUS, I suppose. But it felt like much more.

    FEBRUARY 27, 2008
    That's right. There's no Alcott, no Blume, no Dahl and no Twain among Rebecca's 50 favorite children's books. #1 is a cheat but including it was the only way I could decide what comes first. It also raises the question of what makes a book a children's book (Jane Eyre? Gone with the Wind? Brave New World?) but that's another post. For the record, I've read no L'Engle and only 1 Nancy Drew book.



    For those who prefer the tube, kudos to Season 2 of Slings & Arrows for its jab at postmodernism (particularly endearing because it came from Canada; I remain convinced that postmodernism is, at heart, an attack on the U.S.).

    MARCH 3, 2008
    So there's this pivotal elf from a secret forest in the Fens. He doesn't like to be called by the 'wizard' name his mother gave him. He prefers something that reflects his background, his identity, the source of his knowledge. So of course he decides on...

    ...Fenswood.

    HA HA HA HA HA HA HA I kill myself.

    On a related note, should I make Newton's first name 'Neil'? You know, because of that Potter Puppet Pals episode ("The Mysterious Ticking Noise") where Voldemort taps out the beat with his wand, then sings to the tune of "Lollipop"...

    MARCH 7, 2008
    Charter Communications
    400 Lakeland Drive NE
    Willmar, MN 56201-2605

    RE: Account for Rebecca Webb
    Upgrade Order Confirmation number
    Account number

    To Whom It May Concern:

    On Nov 26, 2007, I took advantage of an on-line special and upgraded my Charter cable television service to digital service plus 5Meg internet service for $54.98 for 12 months (Dec. 4, 2007 through Dec 4, 2008). I chose wireless access, bringing my guaranteed monthly fee for those 12 months to $64.98 per month.

    When I received my 2/1/08 statement, it requested $81.80. I used the instant messaging function at charter.com on 2/7/08 at approximately 11 a.m. central standard time to discuss the situation with maribeth, a billing representative. She confirmed that my special price was good until December of 2008 and confirmed that I should pay only $64.98, referencing our conversation on my stub when I returned it with my check. She assured me that future bills would reflect the appropriate amount due each month: $64.98.

    Yesterday I received my March 1 statement. It showed an amount due of $98.62, broken down as follows: $81.80 for monthly service, $16.82 carried forward from the 2/1/08 statement, and a penalty of $3.83.

    As your Web site and its instant messaging function prove, you had the time and the technology necessary to communicate between offices and correct my account information before sending out the March 1 statement. One can only deduce, therefore, that Charter subscribes to some sort of corrupt policy whereby customer service personnel are permitted to promise verbally that unfair bills will be corrected while accounts personnel are instructed to continue overcharging in the hope that customers will eventually become frustrated and just pay the unfair amount.

    To resolve this issue, within 10 working days of the date on this letter, I expect:

    1. a new bill reflecting the correct amount due ($64.98 for service from 3/13/08 to 4/12/08)
    2. a $50 Barnes and Noble gift card (like the one I received for upgrading my service) to compensate me for my inconvenience. If that's not possible, I would also accept a one-time $50 reduction of my bill.

    Please be aware that, if this matter is not resolved to my satisfaction as specified above, I will share the contents of this letter with the Better Business Bureau, which did such a fine job handling my complaint against e-music.com. Also, I will be posting the contents of this letter and a summary of its effect in my blog.

    I look forward to your prompt reply.

    Rebecca Webb
    Address deleted

    MARCH 12, 2008
    TO THE EDITOR (of my local paper):

    I did not sit down with the group of Pope County citizens who, in anticipation of the state's upcoming sesquicentennial celebration, recently discussed what individuals can do to benefit humanity in the future. This gives the gentle readers of this paper every right to ignore my letter on the subject. However, for those who choose to indulge me, may I suggest that, on a private and unofficial level, we replace two of the personal initiatives mentioned in the March 10 article (which I paraphase as 'making people feel good about themselves' and 'fighting youthful sloth with backyard romps') with the following:

    In order to ensure the highest possible quality of life for future generations, I pledge to...

    1) ...discipline myself against all petty, selfish, egotistical, shallow and cowardly conduct, striving unceasingly to compel others to do the same, as such behavior is the only true measure of respect for others.

    2) ...discipline my children to ensure they understand they are no more valuable or important than any other member of my family, community, state, nation, or planet, and that they are not entitled to any recognition, consideration, compensation, service, or privilege they have not earned through effort or appreciation.

    MARCH 14, 2008
    Begorrah!
    Happy birthday to my St. Paddy Daddy and thanks to whoever sent the American Cancer Society Daffodils of Hope.

    MARCH 24, 2008
    Had a rare treat last night, a dream about my fanfic.

    Harry is still living in the castle after Christmas (wrong). At one point, he thinks he sees something suspicious disappear around a corner and takes off after it. He doesn't realize there's a werewolf trapped in the castle with everybody else (wrong). A kid has gone missing, but Snape thinks it's the result of a prank by children who may be going a little stir-crazy being shut in together for so long. He lines them up in neat rows in the Great Hall and strolls menacingly among them, switch in hand, but no one confesses despite their certainty that he's going to beat them all if they don't. He doesn't. Instead, he leaves, commanding them to remain where they are. When he returns an hour later to find there's still no confession forthcoming, he begins to suspect something more sinister may have occurred. So do the kids, many of whom begin to cry silently. Protocol changes immediately and from then on, the kids are kept together at all times, making it extremely difficult for the werewolf to secure his next meal.

    MARCH 26, 2008
    Those who know me at all are aware I'm a theatre person. So imagine my reaction when the following memo crossed my desk: CS means civil service, not community service (ahem ahem). Still, my heart skipped a beat. :)

    Monday marked the deadline for a response from Charter. Nothing in writing yet. But it takes a while for the gift cards to arrive, so maybe I'll still get one. I did receive a phone call a few days after sending the letter from "John" in the Willmar office who assured me he'd corrected my account and noted that my monthly fee should be $67.87 when the appropriate taxes were added to $64.98.

    APRIL 1, 2008
    Yes, Ira, this country is filled with unrelentingly contemptible liberals and conservatives in positions of power (or empowerment) who inflict no end of damage upon one another and the few decent Americans struggling to survive the Postmodern Dark Age.

    You do understand what Renison was trying to say at the end, don't you? He's not afraid the legal wrangling will drag on forever. We have a regime change coming in 9 months, after all. He's afraid the Bush administration will have him killed. And since your show broadcast his story, that makes you folks the watchdog. Good luck with that.

    APRIIL 1, 2008
    Actually, it's April 2. But you know me...


           Snape found Malfoy on his bunk, reviewing a chapter on Finite Incantatem from an ancient charms text. On the bunk above him, Neville tossed in his sleep.
           "Anything?"
           "Not yet, sir."
           Snape sighed. From the upper bunk, Neville echoed him with a moan. It appeared his nap was being disturbed by a bad dream.
           "That happens a lot," muttered Draco.
           Snape could just imagine.
           "Perhaps, when you're finished..." He found himself unable to replicate Malfoy's offhand tone. "Join me in the dungeon, please. I'm culling edibles from the stores in my office."
           At that, Draco looked up, the old insolent grin making an unexpected appearance on his sharp features. "Just imagine," he drawled, "if flobberworm flesh weren't poisonous. You could use that curse to grow them from our ears and all our problems would be solved."
           Snape nearly smiled. It had been ages since he'd done that to a Slytherin! "It's a transplanting spell," he told Draco with a shake of his head. "You have to have the worms on hand. Bundle up before you come down."
           He was hard at work a short while later, transferring bottles of daisy roots from a cupboard to his desktop, when footsteps approached. But they didn't sound like Draco's. They were light and quick, Snape observed, more like...
           Before he could finish his thought, an elf swaggered into the doorway, hands on hips, a haughty expression on his oddly familiar face.
           "I seek the elf called Dobby," he announced.
           Snape stood rooted in place, a bottle of daisy cuttings in each hand. For some reason, his pulse quickened. Odd, he mused. The creature looked too young to be a house elf. Draped in a rough-woven fabric resembling burlap, he had the shaggy, unkempt appearance of youth, more of an age to be apprenticed than employed at Hogwarts, home of the most prestigious appointments in elfdom. Until recently, Snape corrected himself, his thin lips twisting into a wry smile.
           He studied the elf at length. There was a lump under his tunic above the sash around his waist. He had a long, thin nose and vibrant green eyes. There was nothing in his appearance to inspire concern. Yet Snape's heart pounded in his chest.
           Perhaps it was his tone. The creature had addressed the wizard assertively, almost aggressively.
           "I seek the elf called Dobby!" he repeated, his hostility barely masked. "Do you know him or not?"
           Know! There was something about that word that set off bells in Snape's head. His heart banged against his ribs. Why didn't this elf know Dobby wasn't in the castle? Any Hogwarts elf would know Dobby wasn't in residence. His pulse raced, desperately telegraphing a message to Snape's protein-deprived brain.
           It finally arrived.
           This elf isn't from Hogwarts.
           And that meant...
           He came in through the barrier.
           The realization rendered Snape speechless. A living, cognizant creature had traveled through the barrier. It was a gift from Heaven, a one-time opportunity. He had to do something. But what? The weight of so many lives at stake pressed down hard on Snape's mind. One false move, one wrong word, and this elf would slip away, irretrievably gone, perhaps forever...
           Already, he was turning to go.
           "Yes!" Snape cried. "Yes! I know him! We're... we're good friends."
           He held his breath, praying it had been the right thing to say. If the elf and Dobby were enemies...
           But the elf was turning back. Snape breathed again. He longed for the wand in his pocket; one quick spell and the elf would be his captive. But his hands were full of daisy roots.
           "Where may I find him?" the elf wanted to know. He watched Snape closely, observing the full hands, the wand protruding from Snape's pocket...
           Just keep him here, Snape lectured himself. That's all you have to do. Keep talking and keep him here.
           Where the bloody hell was Malfoy?
           "May...may I know who inquires after my friend?"
           It seemed like a reasonable move. Who wouldn't want to ascertain a stranger's identity before supplying information? But the elf was not inclined to introduce himself.
           "He was a friend to my mother," the creature informed Snape. "She has died. I am obligated to tell him."
           "Please accept my condolences, Mr...?"
           This time, the ploy worked. The elf folded his arms across his chest and tilted his head to one side, thrusting his chin in the air.
           "Dobby would know me by the name my mother used. She christened me in honor of someone he admires. But I will not use a wizard's name. I prefer one that reflects my own greatness, the skillfulness acquired in the hidden forest of my birth. You may address me as Fenswoods."
           Snape almost laughed. The arrogance of youth! Could there be a more obvious tell? This elf was little more than a child. Still, the potions master had to admit, the creature had invented an elegant name for himself. He moved slowly towards his desk, hoping to put down the daisy roots. The elf immediately fell back, taking a defensive step into the corridor. Snape retreated, resigning himself to a conversation throughout which he would literally have his hands full.
           "You're from the Fens?" he inquired with just the right hint of admiration. "The creator of Hogwarts' finest house came from the Fens." Never mind the obsolete conceit; with any luck, this creature would have heard of Salazar Slytherin. The founder may even have played a role in developing the clandestine enclave from which he sprang. An offshoot of the Royal Forest, perhaps...
           Of course, that meant the interview might soon be over. The Dobby Snape knew could not possibly be the creature this elf was seeking. Fenswoods had defeated the barrier. He commanded powers unknown to the magical brethren, house elves included. Dobby, on the other hand...
           Dobby...
           "Dobby has been working to recover the skills we possessed when we were 'happy hunters and gatherers.'"
           A proud boast made on guard duty to explain an impressive display of magic. Snape nearly gasped. That..that little... There was no other word for it. Rascal! What else, Snape wondered, had the house elf gotten up to during all those years of seemingly slavish...
           "I wish to see the elf called Dobby as soon as possible. My business is important."
           "Of course." Snape made a hasty bow; it looked ridiculous thanks to the glass jars in his hands. "Forgive my distraction. I..."
           At last! The very opportunity he needed! Snape took just a moment to compose a smooth segueway in his mind.
           "I beg your indulgence. We, too, are concerned with extremely pressing matters. Surely you noticed the barrier enshrouding our castle..."
           The elf gave a hearty snort.
           "It would take far more than your incendiary gelatin to keep me from fulfilling my filial obligations."
           Snape blinked. Unbelievable. He thought it was a security device!
           "Oh, no!" the wizard protested. "No, no, no! We are not the creators of that substance. We are the victims. Unless we can find a way to defeat the barrier before our food and fuel run out, the inhabitants of this castle will certainly..."
           "That is not my concern."
           The words cut the air like a whip. At first, Snape thought he must have misunderstood. But there was no mistaking the look on Fenswoods' face. Snape had seen such hardness before. They could die, as far as the elf was concerned...every last one of them.
           He wanted to throttle the little visitor.
           But he steeled himself against the feeling, commanding himself to think. The elf would not help them willingly. All right. There were other options. A bargain, perhaps?
           The elf's hands were back on his hips. Snape could see he was running out of time. Dozens of lives hung in the balance. What could he possibly offer this creature? Before he could think of anything, Fenswood spoke again, for the last time, apparently:
           "Do you know where I can find my father or not?"
           At that, Snape nearly fell over. His father! No wonder the elf looked familiar! Snape recognized it now; the long thin nose, the bright green eyes...
           The deputy had no idea which shocked him more, that Dobby had sired a child, or that the child didn't care whether Dobby lived or died. But for the moment, the most recent insult weighed heaviest on his temper, heavier than all the other priorities he'd brought to the conversation...the orphans, the staff, the Creeveys, the Weasleys, Hermione, Draco, Neville...
           Later, he would decide that it was a toss-up between Dobby and Neville, what finally drove him to act. But he was just about to, when...
           "Severus?"
           It was Minerva, calling from the floo system to check on his progress with the edibles.
           Snape jumped. So did the elf. And for the first time, to Snape's complete surprise, the tiny creature lost control. His face turned red, his eyes bulged out of his head, and the nails of his tiny toes cracked and broke as he jumped up and down, shaking with fury.
           "HOW..." he shrieked at the top of his lungs..."DID SHE KNOW MY NAME!!!???"
           If he could have afforded the luxury, Snape would have collapsed. It was all too much to deal with...they were trapped and starving, a wild elf had broken through the barrier, he was Dobby's son, he was named for Snape, he refused to help them... But he couldn't fall apart now. Fenswoods' tantrum was an advantage. It was time to act. He briefly considered appealing to the elf with the truth about his Christian name. But that wouldn't work. Fenswoods had already made his lack of sympathy clear. Besides, Snape liked his original plan better.
           He hurled a jar of daisy roots at the elf as hard as he could.
           Under different circumstances, it might have worked. But Snape was off his game, and Fenswoods was firmly on. The little bastard jumped so high, Snape's impromptu missile sailed right under his feet. He came down running and was safely out the door before the beleaguered Snape could retrieve his wand and take aim.
           The wizard marveled at elf's determination to find his father; he'd been certain Fenswoods would disapparate immediately if the jar missed him. Instead, he was racing across the office after the wretched intruder, leaving Minerva to wonder why on earth her deputy would hurl a bottle of edible potion ingredients at an elf.
           He'd had just reached the door when a shout echoed down the corridor
           "Ouch!"
           Snape sprang into the hallway. There stood Malfoy, blocking the corridor, rubbing his leg as he glared at the elf. Trapped between two wizards, Fenswoods decided to depart after all. He was gone with a pop, leaving Malfoy to duck a stunning spell that came shooting from Snape's wand.
           "Bloody hell!"
           The teenager threw both arms over his head and leapt aside just in time. When the jet of red light had shot safely past him, he turned to Snape, watching curiously as potions master staggered down the corridor towards him.
           "Are you all right, Professor?"
           The older wizard seemed on the verge of collapse. He slumped wearily against the wall. Malfoy shook his head.
           "Why were you chasing a house elf, sir? Were you trying to find out where he got his vial?"
           "His vial?" It seemed to take Snape all the strength he had to lift his head and peer at the boy. "What vial?"
           Draco tapped himself on the chest. "The pewter vial around his neck. He ran right into me with it. Didn't you recognize it?"
           But no, the teenager realized, Snape wouldn't have done. He gave them to Slytherins right before they left.
           "I saw them around dozens of Slytherin necks last fall at the squire's. Honestly!" He shook his head again as he joined Snape in leaning against the wall. "People criticize us, then all they do is try to be like us. Even elves! I wonder what..."
           He broke off beneath the intensity of Snape's gaze. The deputy was staring at him, open-mouthed, and Malfoy thought that, if he'd had the rest of the week at his leisure, he would not have been able to count all the ways the potions master looked ill.


    APRIL 7, 2008
    TV on DVD I've enjoyed thanks to Netflix:

    How disappointing is it that Upstairs, Downstairs isn't subtitled/close captioned? Gave up after just 20 minutes or so. Too bad. Those predictions by 'Sarah' were intriguing...

    APRIL 14, 2008
    RAT BASTARDS!!!! Those bums at Charter cut off my movie view channels! They seem determined to stand by their assertion that the sale price I signed up for was good for one month, not one year. I contacted the St. Louis Better Business Bureau. And I disconnected the cable in the bedroom to see what kind of reception I get without it. WCCO comes in very nicely! Stay tuned (so to speak).

    APRIL 15, 2008
    Sycophant: a servile person with concealed motives who curries favor among the influential at the cost of his or her own integrity.

    So here's a little reality check for the Scottish tyrant and her sycophants, all of whom appear to be too stupid, spineless or selfish to tell the truth:
    Those of you who think you're actually going to benefit from supporting a manipulative megalomaniac might want to google Rosencrantz...or Vincent Crabbe.

    Or Steve Vander Ark.

    APRIL 21, 2008
    Bizarre dream about HBP film last night, though I woke thinking, "No, that's more like what the story could have been if Rowling had placed the trio at Hogwarts in the last book (where they would have eventually sought refuge in the RoR) instead of sending them on the perpetual camping trip." As the film opened, everyone was in an auditorium, not the Great Hall. We were there to hear a performance by a visiting band and choir of short Eskimos. From where I was sitting, I could see no one except the Slytherin trio (Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle) sitting together near the back. No sign of anyone else...until Hermione Granger was passed over the crowd mosh-pit style to be declared Head Girl. No mention of a Head Boy. Lisa Whelchel was there, struggling to learn names (and speak in a British accent?). Couldn't tell if she was a teacher or a student. But she seemed intimidated by this click of senior girls who looked like they belonged in that Private series of books, not at Hogwarts.

    APRIL 23, 2008
    This is just to say, "This American Life" episode 354.mp3 ("Mistakes Were Made") was outstanding, right up there with "Matchmakers" and "The Super."

    My favorite parodies of William Carlos Williams:

    by Tom Phillips

    by Shalom Auslander


    APRIL 29, 2008
    Updated books read.

    MAY 6, 2008
    The Steven Vander Ark situation continues to persuade me that I must never share the full text of Suddenly Severus with anyone. Harry Potter fans are simply too ignoble. Here's a partial list of the folks you can blame:



    MAY 8, 2008



           The students gasped, and rightly so. This had to be the last straw. Was Snape finally going to take the truculent Ginny Weasley in hand?
           Yes, he was.
           "My office," the potions master hissed at the head girl. "Seven o'clock."
           She hissed right back with her snotty, "Yes, sir," and Snape got the distinct impression she was looking forward to it, already planning her attack. He dismissed them all and waited until they were all safely out the door to drop into his chair with a sigh.
           The confrontation was inevitable but he dreaded it nevertheless. Ginny Weasley was a problem. He had no idea why. Her fellow head student, Colin Creevey, was easily managed, and so were the other children. Even the retros and the four inhabitants of the alumni wing were no chore for the deputy to keep in line. Why was the Weasley girl posing such difficulty?
           He sat quietly as his desk, pondering the question. Minerva's face came to mind, and Lupin's, but he pushed them away, concentrating instead on Ginny's pale freckled visage. Remember her consternation when Bill lorded it over the Great Hall two years ago? Remember her subtle plea across his office desk last fall for sanctification of an illicit intention to protect her father?
           Snape smiled at the memories. She confides in me like Minerva, he mused. Then he sat up with a jolt. There it was! That was the answer!
           Ginny Weasley held an adult's opinion of him. She thought of him the way Minerva did, or Molly or Lupin. And she had since her fourth year. That made her the youngest person ever to develop a full appreciation for him. That's why it was so unpleasant to treat her like a child. But that's what she was, for the next several months, anyway. She was his charge, his responsibility. He could not conduct himself as if she were a member of staff or one of Longbottom's financially secure wingmates.
           He was still pondering this epiphany when she burst into his office at the appointed hour, red hair flying, a tirade already spewing from her lips.
           "Why did you bring him here?" she demanded, so angry she actually kicked his desk. "This was supposed to be my year, my chance, my time to shine!"
           She threw her wand down on his desk so she could thrust both hands on her hips.
           "For the rest of my life, I'm going to live in the shadow of the great Harry Potter. No one's going to care who I am, what I contribute. I'll just be a side note to a cultural phenomenon, the closest hanger-on to a figure of unending hero worship. And that's fine!"
           The sharp rise in tone belied her words.
           "I've accepted it," she insisted, even as her arms folded belligerently across her chest and her toe began tapping out a punishing rhythm against the stone floor. "I love Harry Potter, and if that's the price of being with him, so be it. It's the path I've chosen. But I was SUPPOSED... to HAVE..."
           Her arms came undone and she actually slammed one first down on his desk as her voice rose to a shriek.
           "...a YEAR!!!"
           Snape studied her curiously from behind his desk. Why do the women of Hogwarts always shout at me? he wondered as he waited to see what she would do next. Perhaps she was going to shake that freckled fist beneath his majestic nose.
           "This is supposed to be my year!" Ginny continued, her tone modulating before the impassive stare and unwavering composure of the potions master. "I'm Head Girl! I'm the star of the school quidditch team! I'm the one everybody's supposed to be listening to! I put in years earning some time in the spotlight. Then you go and invite Harry Potter to live here and you ruin it. You bloody RUINED IT!!!!"
           She stamped her foot like some hopping mad little house elf and Snape finally permitted himself a dismissive chuckle.
           "Mel," he began with a condescending shake of his head, "you are unspeakably pathetic, you stupid, stupid..."
           "What did you call me?"
           The change in her demeanor was startling. Gone in a hearbeat was the blistering Weasley temper, to be replaced by a face full of simple curiosity. Snape missed a few beats, then continued more sharply than before.
           "I called you stupid, you stupid child. I will say nothing about the complete lack of intellectual and ethical development that motivates one to seek notoriety, however briefly. But Harry Potter is not here to overshadow your glorious final year at Hogwarts. He doesn't want to stand in your way or dog your footsteps. He just..."
           "No." Ginny not only interrupted, she waved the entire subject away with one hand. "Who's Mel?"
           Mel?
           Snape stared at the girl, dumbfounded.
           Did I actually call her Mel?
           His irritation melted away as a wave of emotions washed over him, not the least of which was giddiness. He had confused Ginny Weasley with a child from another generation! It was the first time such a thing had happened to Snape, and it thrilled him. To confuse one generation with another was a badge of honor at Hogwarts, an indication of the substantiality of one's tenure. The teacher could not help smirking as he drew himself up to his full height, his eyes fixed on some distant point as if he could suddenly see through the walls to the horizon beyond.
           I have arrived, he thought.
           On the far side of the desk, Ginny chuckled.
           The genial sound brought Snape's attention back to the matter at hand. It was her red hair, he realized, that had inspired the slip. Ginny faintly resembled a student from his first year of teaching, a girl who had seemed important at the time but had faded so rapidly and completely into insignificance that her face was difficult to recall. Beyond that, the two had little in common, this uncharacteristic burst of ego notwithstanding.
           "I apologize," he announced so abruptly that Ginny's eyes flew open wide. "Your behavior has been more than a little foolish of late. But your auburn tresses aside, you are nothing like the grasping, self-centered person I mentioned. Sit down."
           He nodded at the chair across from his desk, taking his own as he did. Ginny dropped quickly into her seat, her expression a mixture of confusion, curiosity, and eagerness.
           "Your feelings are your servants, not your masters," Snape lectured the girl sternly. "A hot temper is not an asset, and your recent inability to control yours is a disgrace. There is nothing to stop you from making whatever you want of this year, not even the presence of Mr. Potter, who, if I may say so, seems far more interested in pursuing his secret academic ambition..."
           There it was again, that delicious glow. Harry Potter was being studious. It just warmed the cockles of his heart!
           "...than in fraternizing with you," he finished, much less sternly than he'd intended.
           He paused for a response but Ginny just nodded, so quickly it was clear to him that she'd already put the whole thing behind her and moved on to something else. He wondered what it was. That reminded him of Potter, and he further wondered if he might be able to use her to discover what the boy was up to.
           No, Snape scolded the unceasingly curious part of his mind. You can't bring up Potter again! Counterproductive!
           "One thousand lines," he declared instead. "'I must learn to control my temper.' I will spare you the humiliation of any public punishment. You will, however, inform the school quidditch team that you will not be participating in their next practice. When they demand to know why not, as they surely will, you will inform them you are being punished for rudeness to a teacher. Understood?"
           Ginny rose so quickly to her feet she practically jumped out of her chair. "I'm sorry, Professor," she assured him with a rapid-fire delivery, "and I'll apologize again in front of the whole class, I promise."
           She practically raced out the door when he dismissed her and a few moments later was pounding on the entrance to the common room.
           "Checking up on us?" inquired the Slytherin who answered her knock.
           "Looking for someone," the head girl replied. But she didn't see him in the house, so she took off again, hurrying to the potions classroom, the great hall, the staff room, and finally up the stairs to the Astronomy Tower. There she found the personality she sought, staring morosely over the grounds.
           "Baron!"
           The silvery spectre jumped. He turned to Ginny, who fixed him with her most winning smile.
           "Who's Mel?"
          
           She made one last stop before retiring for the evening, at the alumni ward, where she was pleased to find the door to a particular study propped open.
           "Hello there."
           Harry, bent over the parchments on his desk, looked up in surprise. The site of a cheerful Ginny made him grin from ear to ear. But he swallowed that pleasant expression as quickly as it had appeared, assuming instead an air of mock severity.
           "You stay right where you are," he ordered, shaking a finger at the toes she had neatly aligned on the far side of his threshold. "'No fraternizing.'"
           "'No fraternizing,'" Ginny echoed dutifully. They held their sober, austere expressions for as long as they could, then burst out laughing.
           "You would not believe," Harry confided, "how much time Luna spends on the far side of Neville's threshold."
           Ginny pointed at the parchment scrolls on the study desk. "What are you doing?" she asked.
           Harry hesitated only for a moment. "I'm trying to find somebody," he replied, an admission that made Ginny gasp.
           "For the Saturday Night Seminar? Me, too!"
           Harry couldn't have been more surprised if she'd announced she was going to give up sports to concentrate on her NEWTs. His eyes narrowed in an unintentionally but undeniably Snape-like manner.
           "I thought you didn't approve of the 'two new areas of inquiry,'" he teased. "'Too much distraction from interscholastic quidditch.'"
           Ginny shrugged off the quote with a grin. "I got inspired. Who are you looking for?"
           "Four guys from different houses," Harry explained. "Ogo, Logo, Zulu and Viggy. How about you?"
           "A red-headed girl named Mel. Any luck?"
           "No. You?"
           Ginny hesitated. The Baron had indeed told her a story, or the first chapter of one, anyway. But it began with the death of Harry's parents. She would need some time to figure out how to share it with him. She leaned forward, careful not to cross the magic line of propriety.
           "Let's meet up after a bit and check our progress," she whispered. "You know...keep each other up to date."
           Harry nodded, clearly pleased with the idea. "Someplace private, though," he suggested. "More private than this."
           He glanced toward the corridor and Ginny looked down the hall. All three of Harry's floor mates had their study doors propped open.
           "It lets in the heat," Harry explained.
           "I had another idea," Ginny continued, whispering more softly than before. "Let's go on a date. You know, over the Christmas hols."
           "Where?" Harry wondered.
           Ginny thought it over.
           "Someplace we can talk the whole time," she decided. "Like last summer."
           In August, Harry had joined the Weasley family for a shopping trip to Diagon Alley a few days before Ginny's 17th birthday. Mrs. Weasley, fiercely protective of her only daughter, had yet to grant the couple permission to spend time alone together away from home or school. They'd managed to slip free of her watchful eye and, desperate to escape the stares of Harry's fans and admirers, had sneaked off to a Muggle department store where they'd sat for half an hour in the appliance section, laughing and chatting through the rebroadcast of an American sitcom episode about four friends who park in a handicapped spot to buy an engagement gift for a friend.
           "How about the British Museum?" Harry suggested. Ginny liked that idea, but it begged another question.
           "How will we escape the burrow?" he wondered.
           His girlfriend grinned. "We'll make that part of the fun," she whispered conspiratorially, and Harry grinned back, so long and hard he looked downright silly.
           Ginny pondered him for a while, sitting at his desk, his hair a mess as usual, his green eyes unusually happy behind his round glasses. He wasn't very handsome, and he wasn't always sure of himself, this perpetually gawky teenager. But he was so brave and so kind.
           "I love you," she announced.
           Harry's smile faded, to be replaced by an expression of complete wellbeing.
           "I love you," he replied.
           Almost immediately, a condescending drawl assailed them from down the corridor.
           "That's enough," called Draco Malfoy.
           If the two lovebirds were appreciative of the check, they didn't show it. Ginny tossed a perturbed scowl in the general direction of Draco's study door, then thrust her head boldly across the threshold to whisper to Harry.
           "'Hate the Drake!'" she hissed.
           "'Hate the Drake!'" echoed her boyfriend with a grin.


    MAY 19, 2008
    Updated books read.

    MAY 27, 2008
    Cancer. I wish I'd known. I would have written to him. He wrote to me, after all.

    Twice.

    I wanted so badly to write my graduate school thesis about Sydney Pollack. But that worthless Utah film school I attended, clueless in its desire to become [known as] the "Harvard of the West," cancelled one project after another. After three and a half years, I left, eventually completing my degree elsewhere, in theatre and education. Independent filmmaking had become corrupt anyway, thanks in large part to the influence of the Sundance Institute. I don't blame Sydney. I blame Bob, and the brilliant Sterling Van Wagenen, who has yet to live up to his potential.

    Before I departed, I attended an open rehearsal of Twyla Tharp's dance company in the rehearsal hall pavilion. It was especially thrilling because, as a director, I've always had trouble moving actors across a space. I like to plant them in compelling tableaus downstage, as close to the audience as possible, and let them draw people in.

    I brought along a housemate, Amy Neff, who used to listen raptly to my discourses on Sundance and knew all about my letters from Sydney Pollack. Ever hopeful of catching a glimpse of Robert Redford, she was always glad for an excuse to travel up Provo Canyon. It would take her a while to learn what I already knew: Sightings mean nothing. Photo ops mean nothing. Meetings and autographs and interviews and brief conversations mean nothing. You might as well drink salt water.

    We sat side by side among the spectators who filled rows of folding chairs, laughing when Tharp scolded us for not raising our hands fast in response to her, "Questions?" While I watched the great choreographer coach her dancers, Amy scanned the faces of the audience members, searching for Ordinary Bob. She was studying the latecomers standing along the wall when she stiffened with a gasp, and, in an instant, I knew. Only one person could inspire that kind of reaction, and it wasn't Ordinary Bob.

    Sydney Pollack had entered the building.

    For a long time, Amy turned back and forth, first looking at Sydney, then me, then Sydney again, trying desperately to get me to follow her gaze. I kept my eyes glued to the stage. Finally, she hissed.


          "Psst."
           I ignored her.
           "PSST!"
           I ignored her.
           She nudged me. My heart was racing, but I ignored her.
           Desperate, Amy resorted to speech.
           "Look...over...there," she whispered.
           She pointed with her index finger to the row of latecomers standing along the wall, careful to shield the gesture with her other hand.
           I shook my head.
           So she started to trace his name with her finger, spelling it out on her hand. "S," she wrote so hugely she could barely remain within the margins of her palm.
           "I know!" I hissed out of the side of my mouth. I took one quick peek at the bespectacled man with his steely curls and a dark purple sweater. Then I returned my attention to the front of the hall and kept it there for the rest of the afternoon.
           Amy got the message. She quieted down. But for some reason, she just couldn't let it go. Her head continued to turn, first to Sydney, then to me, then to Sydney again. Finally, unable to contain herself any longer, she leaned in close and whispered behind her hand.
           "He keeps...looking...at you."
    Sydney Pollack with baby 
Amy from 
TOOTSIE


    I must find a way to memorialize him.

    MAY 29, 2008
    Ah, you're all wrong.

    In the latest issue of Newsweek (what a biased rag that's become! I get it automatically for supporting PBS), Sharon Begley and Jeneen Interlandi blast Mark Bauerlein for asserting in his new book ("The Dumbest Generation") that digital technology has made folks under 30 stupid. They are stupid, of course...too shallow to think things through and too spineless to make a point. But the fault lies with postmodernism, which has rendered most of its victims too undisciplined to make effective use of digital technology.

    JUNE 5, 2008
    So Cousin Jim Johnson is gonna help Obama select his vice president, eh?

    I vote for Jim Webb, the senator from Virginia. He's a Vietnam vet (Hi, Dad!), a novelist (do Harry Potter fanfics count?), a military brat (ahem), and an extremely straightforward person (ahem ahem). Hard to believe he isn't a relation!

    Jim Johnson's and my mutual ancestors are buried at Six Mile Grove cemetery between Benson and Montevideo. The legs reflected on the stone are mine, from a Memorial Day 2006 visit to decorate the site.


    JUNE 6, 2008
    UMM is allowing employees to alter their work week to save gas this summer. So I'm working at home for 4 hours on Fridays (and using vacation the other four so I can skip a commute). After a stormy night, guess what I saw preening on my dock this morning?



    Then, a few hours later...

    "At Rebecca's Mallard Hotel, you'll enjoy the finest in lakeside accommodations. Book early for choicest sections of the dock."


    JUNE 9, 2008

    The Tonys approach, so here's my tribute to Stephen Sondheim: Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, for being another person who knows "nice is different than good."


    JUNE 10, 2008
    The lifespan of an iPod: 2 years, 2 months.

    Because I think this data would prove useful if compiled, here's what happened with my first iPod:

    May 2005. Purchased 30Gb iPod photo, used approx. 2 hours a day for listening to music and interviewing subjects for newspaper articles.

    July 2007. Battery crapping out. Can recharge all night and still not have enough power to last a 30-minute commute the next morning. Ordered a replacement from ipodjuice.com. Came with a 10-year guarantee (but who knows when it was originally manufactured).

    May 2008. Replacement battery crapping out. iPod getting full (27Gb). Ordered an 80Gb iPod Classic (or, as I think of it, an iPod Video).

    JUNE 18, 2008
    I was thinking this morning about Zippies, the up-and-coming Indian workers Thomas Friedman says were described in that country's weekly magazine, Outlook, as young city or suburban residents, between 15 and 25 years of age, with zip in their stride. Students or employees, they ooze attitude, ambition, and aspiration; are driven by destination (not destiny); and are gregarious, not introspective. In other words, they're shallow. But they're different from their American counterparts. They're hardworking. So I was wondering, what's a good term for their American counterparts, those wide but shallow postmodern morons whose intentional stupidity has cast such a pall over my future?

    Dippies!

    This morning's example: I recently bought my second iPod, an 80Gb Classic with video capability. But a video I purchased from iTunes in 2006 won't play on it. I included the proof of purchase info (for the video) when I contacted iTunes about the problem. Here's the moronic response I got:

    This is a prime example of postmodern stupidity and immorality. The folks at Apple used to have integrity. But by the time I got my 24-inch iMac at work last year, they'd become so corrupt they were unwilling to admit something might be wrong with a machine that had to be replaced 3 times before I got my hands on a functioning model. Now they refuse to address the content of my e-mail, responding instead with some vacuous appeasement boilerplate developed on the distinctly postmodern premise that any response is good enough because quantity and speed are what counts; an expectation of standards or quality is nothing more than a bigoted value judgment. What's ironic, of course, is that the iTunes response assumes I'm either incompetent or dishonest...the byproducts of postmodernism.

    UPDATE June 24, 2008
    So Apple Louis writes back and insists it's not his job, as an iTunes music store help person, to troubleshoot a problem with their product. (!!!!!!!) He offers appeasement instead - 3 credits for videos (not movies or season-only television shows).

    I consider repurchasing the problem video. I even go so far as to fire up my account and click the purchase button. And Apple asks me, in effect, "What the heck are you doing? You already bought that! Do you really want to buy it again?"

    No! No, I do not! It's ludicrous! So I ponder and I ponder and then I get an idea. What if I drag the problem video from my iTunes library to my desktop (BLOINK! Copied!), reload it into the library, and re-synch my iPod?

    Success! Except it deleted my one episode of "Lost" in the process. Took a few rounds of dragging, reloading, and synching, but eventually, both videos agreed to play on my iPod.

    All that remains is the denouement. Do I write back to Louis, tell him the solution, invite him to share it with others, and insist that he take back his stupid 3 credits ("Thanks for nothing.")? Do I leave them in my account, in case my solution turns out to be short-lived? Or do I spend them, as reimbursement for having to do their job?

    And do I ever buy another iPod?

    JULY 9, 2008
    Here's a question: Why is the Harry Potter fandom, which benefited enormously from its concurrent development with exponentially-increasing use of the internet, dying off so quickly while other fantasy fandoms grow and thrive decades after the publication of their source material? Throughout the Potterverse, blogs are abandoned, commenting decreases, conferences have been cancelled, sites have shut down, and communities have added vacuous activities in a desperate attempt to maintain traffic.

    Here's a hint: Look to the regime change. There was a major changing of the guard among Harry Potter fans after OP came out. A bunch of people who'd been around since the beginning lost interest in the novels while a whole passel of new folks signed on. So ask yourself this. What kind of person would be repelled by books 5, 6, or 7, and what kind of person would be attracted?

    The postmodern Harry Potter fan is too vacuous and shallow to create or sustain meaningful dialog or interest. They lack the character, intellect and integrity to do what members of other fandoms (and all decent people and true adults) can do with ease: criticize, judge, and condemn. When speculating about plot developments, they considered only what Rowling might do, not what Rowling should do. As a result, they had nothing more to talk about following the publication of book 7.

    Their conference sessions are a case in point. Cautious and innocuous to the point of meaninglessness, they eschew true exploration in favor of self-indulgent fawning flimsily disguised as intellectual activity. You will never see a fan gathering explore the most pressing issues of the Harry Potter phenomenon: Vacuous human beings who just want to be happy and have fun can't produce or contribute anything of value.

    JULY 29, 2008
    Updated books read.

    JULY 30, 2008
    Beantown sent me a link to photos from the Little House musical I'm seeing next month. Wonderful pix, but they really have me concerned about Melissa Gilbert. Sometimes, when a big star joins the cast of a musical, like say as Big Jule in GUYS AND DOLLS, he really mines the part AS WRITTEN, finding far more in it than a lesser actor would, and it's a real asset to the show. But they don't corrupt the original material. They just enrich it.

    In these photos, Ma looks funny and spunky and lively. Could the role possibly be written that way? How foolish that would be. Ma is NOT funny and spunky and lively. Melissa Gilbert often plays characters like that, but for LITTLE HOUSE to work, Laura has to be the funny, spunky one and Pa the lively one. Make Ma funny/spunky/lively and Pa and Laura will come across as ineffective or washed out. This is Gilbert's chance to stretch, to find the reserves to play a character we never see in society or art these days, the steely, convicted, determined woman who was Caroline Ingalls, quietly pulling the strings of a secret promise made to enrich the lives of her children, shaping her family's destiny through fastidious integrity.

    She doesn't cutely press the tip of her daughter's nose.

    AUGUST 6, 2008
    Deb, you cheesehead, where the hell are you when I need you?

    August 8, 2008
    You know who brought down the Soviet Union? It wasn't Ronald Reagan. It was Nadia Comaneci. Her success in Montreal (and subsequent triumphs) gave Romania the courage to boycott the boycott, and that gave all the other countries the courage to rise up from behind the Iron Curtain.

    AUGUST 12, 2008
    The act break music in radio episode 218 of "This American Life" ('Act V') is from the soundtrack to A Christmas Story ("Oh, FUDGE!").

    You're welcome.

    AUGUST 13, 2008
    We're certainly learning valuable things about those up-and-coming economic players, the Chinese, by having the Olympics in their country, aren't we?

    Makes me wish the 2012 games were in India, to see how they compare.

    August 15, 2008
    Sure glad I don't need Warner Brothers in order to spend time at Hogwarts.


           "One, two, three...NOX!"
           The last syllable, shouted in unison by a dozen voices, plunged the warm, steamy chamber into darkness, and everybody cheered.
           It was Ginny's game they were playing. They'd been lounging about the cavernous warm pool one night...the only place besides bed where one could feel truly warm these days...discussing how glad they were that the Harper/Vaisey Saturday Night Seminar on Hogwarts' plumbing had led to such a luxurious improvement of the dark harbor beneath the castle, when Ginny had observed,
           "Wouldn't it be brilliant if we could extinguish the lumos lights from the water?"
           Thanks to the barrier, it was no longer permissible to use the ever-dwindling fuel supply to light the many torches attached to the cave-like walls of the harbor. Nor could they afford to illuminate the prefects' lavatories. Colin still used one, though. He simply bathed by wand light, which is how he figured out they could still visit the warm pool if several people went swimming at once. Multiple illuminated wands, placed on strategic outcroppings and ledges, provided an enchantingly luminescent environment for a toasty group soak.
           So they'd started swimming again, and after Ginny made her casual comment about hands-free noxing, they'd chatted at length about games played in the dark. Inspired, the seventh years had cracked the secret of hands-free wand illumination within days.
           "I'm amazed!" Professor Flitwick had observed when they'd demonstrated in front of the Ravenclaw common room fire. "I once tried for hours to master that skill with no luck whatsoever!"
           "Here?"
           The question had come from Snape who, when all eyes turned to him, continued,
           "Did you try here, at the castle, or someplace else?"
           "In a tent," a surprised Flitwick had responded, "at the Quidditch World Cup. How did you know?"
           "Hunch," murmured Snape. When Professor McGonagall asked if it was the same hunch he'd applied to the fiendfyre, he'd smiled his thin-lipped smile and meandered away to the nearest bookshelf.
           After that, Ginny had set to work inventing her game and the younger students had labored mightily to master hands-free illumination. It wasn't easy. Often, at the beginning of a match, their incantations would 'miss,' sending them out of the water to retrieve their wands and extinguish their lumos lights by hand. That meant having to sit out the rest of the game on various slippery stone surfaces; it was too dangerous to try and get back in the water in the dark.
           Once the lights were out, the game consisted of merely bobbing quietly in the blackness, seeing how long they could go before someone spoke. Often they played tricks on each other, slipping below the surface to grab a wary ankle or tickle an unsuspecting foot, trying to force each other to be the first to talk. But not tonight.
           Tonight was the first time all the wands had gone out at once, and the young witches and wizards of Hogwarts were determined to make the most of it. They shouted and shrieked with excitement until Colin hissed,
           "Ssh!!"
           ...and the silence began.
           Well, not silence, exactly. The surface of the water made constant lapping and gurgling sounds. Occasionally, someone cleared a throat or sniffed. And everyone splashed a bit, treading water.
           In her spot near the tunnel to the hole in the cliff wall, Violet spun in place, reveling in the caress of the warm water against her skin. She loved the warm pool. It felt so safe in the dark harbor chamber, despite the impenetrable darkness brought on by the game. It was like being in a womb, a great big womb where she was cozily surrounded by a protective phalanx of...
           What would we be called? the 4th year wondered as she floated in the darkness, imagining eleven other witches and wizards bobbing alongside her. Dodecatuplets?
           Theoretically, the whole castle was like this. The inhabitants of Hogwarts could wander anywhere, anytime, without fear of harm or reprisal. Their suggested bed times were a conservation effort, not a safety mechanism. It was the one good thing about the barrier.
           No one could get at them.
           Still, only the dark harbor felt really safe. That's probably because it's so warm here, Violet reasoned. But that didn't really make sense, did it? What about all those comfort-seeking trips to chilly, lonely Slytherin?
           A few feet to her right, someone coughed. Violet turned in the direction of the sound, listening for further indications of respiratory distress. She hoped the swimmer wasn't becoming ill. It was miserable being sick in the cold, dark castle these days. But contagious infections and viruses weren't much of a problem in a school cut off from the world.
           It was emotional illness that plagued the castle these days.
           When something happened to upset one of them...a dream, a conversation, a failed work session...the effects proved toxic, impacting the sufferer far more deeply and lastingly than distress ever had before the barrier. Cheering charms were no help; the efficacy of mood-altering spells was generally tied to the suggestibility of the recipient, Flitwick had eventually confessed. Since calming draught ingredients were in limited supply, they had to develop other methods to cope with the wretched, persistent feelings that clung to the edges of their hearts and minds. Dark harbor swimming was a popular one. But there were others.
           Whenever Violet got upset, she liked to wander down to the cold, dark dungeon and slip into Slytherin house. Even without torchlight or fire, it was comforting to be home. She would wrap up in some spare bedclothes, climb onto a ledge in the common room or her cell, and sit for hours by the light of her wand, recalling happier times, until she felt better...or until the sound of the storm through the enchanted windows became too distracting. They hadn't bothered to reinforce the dungeon. Cold air didn't rise, after all.
           Thinking of all this, Violet suddenly became aware of the storm raging beyond the dark harbor tunnel. It was louder in the chamber than in the castle, of course. But it was muffled by the long tunnel and she was so accustomed to tuning it out. As the game wore on, however, she found herself listening to it.
           The storm never sounded the same from one moment to the next. The wind changed constantly, rising and falling in different tones, pitches and intensities as it roared. Listening to it from the warmth and security of the dark harbor, Violet found herself enjoying the ceaseless noise. It reminded her of lying snug in bed in Slytherin, drifting off to sleep while an October rainstorm pummeled her enchanted window.
           She swam a few feet closer to the end of the tunnel. As she did, a strong, eerie gust blew a cloud of snow across the cliff face. That one sounded like a thestral! Violet giggled to herself. She held her breath and waited to hear what the storm would do next. The wind broke forth with a long, intense arc that grew to a shivery cacophony of mournful moans and whispers.
           There's a phoenix! Violet grinned in the dark. There's a basilisk hiss!
           She wished she could tell the others what she was doing. It was fun, listening for sounds in the wind! Maybe this could be a new game. They could all listen in the dark, calling out what they heard, and whenever two or more people called the same thing at the same time, they could be awarded...
           Violet gasped. A voice! She'd heard a voice in the storm!
           She froze in horror, her pulse quickening as she waited to hear if the person would shout again. Yes! There it was! Someone was out there! Someone was out there in the blizzard beyond the cliff wall, shrieking loudly enough to be heard above the roar of the storm.
           Violet tried to speak, to tell the others, but no words would come. The person might be lost, or dying in the cold. Perhaps it was someone trying to rescue them. But something about the voice gave Violet pause. It didn't sound like a rescuer, or a person desperate for shelter from the merciless snow and wind.
           It sounded angry.
           The voice sounded menacingly angry, in fact...threateningly, psychotically angry. It reminded her of every horror story she'd ever heard about inbred human monsters, mad, sadistic animals who killed with terror and butchery.
           Her heart pounding, the 4th year strained to make out words. Was the person in the storm angry with them, with the inhabitants of the castle? Did he or she know they were in here, that there was a hole in the cliff wall with a tunnel that led right to them?
           The voice dropped low, guttural and snarling, then rose to an even higher shriek. Violet was just about to shove her face below the surface of the water to open her mouth and wet her terror-dried tongue and scream when her heart nearly stopped.
           She'd heard another voice.
           There's more than one, she thought with a whimper. There were two...no, three...no, four or more, screaming at each other, eager, maniacal, frenzied.
           "KILL THEM! KILL THEM ALL! I WANT TO! I WANT TO!"
           Who could they be, she wondered desperately? How had they survived outside all this time? Had they been coming into the dark harbor? Had they been warming themselves in the refuge of the warm pool, just missing their chance to attack the unsuspecting inhabitants of the castle during one of their frequent swims? She thought of Snape and McGonagall, staggering about in the storm after Christmas, and started to cry.
           As quietly as possible she backed away from the end of the tunnel, tears rolling down her cheeks. Didn't anyone else hear them, she wondered? Why wasn't anybody saying anything? Were they still playing their stupid game, oblivious to the fact that they were all about to be destroyed by psychotic, sub-human monsters?
           They were always invincible, insanity-fueled criminals. They were going to torture the people of Hogwarts, bury them alive beneath the floors, sever their limbs and feast on their living flesh. There was no reasoning with the criminally insane...and no defeating them.
           And they were right outside the tunnel.
           Help us! she cried out in her head. Professor Snape, help us! Please, please help us!
           Why, oh why, had they ever thought it was a good idea to go in the water without their wands? She would gladly take 12 or more on a wet backside for being so foolish if only Snape would help them.
           "KILL THEM! KILL THEM ALL! I WANT TO! I WANT TO!"
           I have to do something, Violet urged herself. What should I do? WHAT SHOULD I DO?
           She simply could not think. Should she shout to the others, warn them? Or would that bring the furies down on them in one swift, butchering swoop? Perhaps she could find her schoolmates in the dark and lead them silently, one by one, out of the harbor and back into the castle. Was that possible? Would the others understand what she was doing? Or would they resist, make noise, alert the butchers to a human presence?
           Then a thought occurred to her. Maybe the others did hear. Maybe THAT was why they were maintaining silence. Otherwise, wouldn't the game would have ended by now?
           She concentrated on the sounds inside the chamber. Yes. They'd heard the voices. She was sure of it. That's why they were keeping so quiet. No one was breathing out loud anymore. No one was splashing the water. They were all listening as hard as they could, silent and terrified.
           A puff of wind pushed another cloud of snow down the tunnel and Violet nearly shrieked. She couldn't stay by herself for one more second. Swiftly she moved through the water, groping for another human being. She found one and searched that person for a hand, clinging to it in the darkness. The bone-crushing squeeze she received in response assured her that the others had, indeed, heard the same thing she had.
           Professor Snape! she screamed to herself. Harry Potter! Dumbledore! Anyone! Please help us!
           They would not be able to escape in the dark. They would have to shout for light, and the moment they did, the monstrous beings beyond the tunnel would descend upon them, ensnaring them before they could even escape the warm pool. They would butcher the students, those murderous furies, and then they would lurk in here, killing off the citizens of Hogwarts one by one as they came to the dark harbor to swim or seek the missing. Eventually, the heating charm would wear off. They would die here, and lie here, preserved forever in the darkness and the cold.
           Darkness. Cold. The words stuck in Violet's mind, repeating themselves over and over like a recognizable but rarely recalled refrain. Darkness. Cold. Darkness. Cold.
           Suddenly, she remembered. A wave of relief swept over her, so strong that she cried out far more loudly than she should have.
           "They're not real!"
           Her screech terrorized those she sought to reassure. A few feet away, poor Marybeth screamed.
           "Lumos!" shouted Ginny in a rare strident tone, and one by one, her schoolmates followed suit, filling the dark harbor with bright, beautiful wand light. They all turned to Violet and no one berated her for ruining the game. Instead, Ginny demanded,
           "How do you know?"
           "I read about it," Violet hiccupped, sucking down deep breaths of relief. "It was a book about a family that lived through a long winter of prairie blizzards."
           The central character had been about Violet's age and the entire family had been terrorized and deluded by the aggressive animosity of the wind. But eventually they'd recognized the truth.
           "There are no voices in the storm."
           Relief spread throughout the chamber, loosening the muscles of the young witches and wizards. They climbed out of the water and took up positions on various ledges to bask in the glow of their wands.
           "New rule," Ginny announced as she stretched out near the shore. "At least two players sixth year or above have to keep wands with them at all times."
           No one argued.
           They sat quietly in their steamy chamber, waiting for the light and the heat to dissipate the wretched effects of hysteria coursing through each young body. Violet wondered how long it would take. Quite a while, she supposed. Go away! she snarled at the miserable feelings washing over her, polluting her soul with insidious despair. I hate you! I hate you! Go away!
           Several minutes passed.
           When too much time passed without anybody saying anything, Ginny spoke again. "We're suggestible," she called with what was intended to be a casual shrug. "It's perfectly understandable under the circumstances."
           That was true. But it didn't help. Violet needed help. The vile emotions brought on by the intense bout of terror were making her bones and muscles ache. It was too quiet in the cave-like harbor, too easy to notice the winds raging beyond the tunnel. She cast about for something to discuss, something heartening, reassuring, and comfortable.
           "Do you know why I love this chamber?" she blurted suddenly. "It's just like the one in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang where the villagers hide their children."
           "I know that movie!"
           Ginny sat up, delight filling her pale, freckled features.
           "Harry told me all about it. He watched it every chance he got when he was little." A ticklish smile lifted her lips. "Something about that flying car really spoke to him."
           The bathers chuckled, even the ones who knew nothing about the Ian Fleming story. They began to share their own memories of happy stories they'd loved when they were little, eventually moving on to the light-hearted tales they were reading now. This went on for a long time. Their hope was that if they talked long enough, calm would be restored to their souls.
           It didn't help.
           Eventually they headed back into the castle, and on her way to Ravenclaw, Violet paused outside the stone entrance to Slytherin. It was too late to visit, she knew. She had to hurry to bed, to conserve the heat she'd absorbed in the warm pool. If only that bed could be in a cozy cell in Slytherin, on a corridor full of housemates. It would help so much if she could just be back home.
           In Ravenclaw Tower, she found Snape perusing a shelf full of books near the staircase to the girls' dormitories. She paused at the entrance to the stairway, wondering if anyone had revealed what had happened in the chamber. Unburdening herself to Snape might relieve some of the torment surrounding her heart and mind. But she held her tongue. There were only three things the inhabitants of the castle could do to improve their situation: work hard, take care, and be brave. Whinging about an outbreak of hysteria in the dark harbor would not be brave.
           But she couldn't bear to go to bed with a heart full of distress. She stared beseechingly at the full-grown Slytherin, her eyes overflowing with longing. He would understand. More than that, he would help. She was sure of it. And without thinking how cowardly it would sound, she cried out in a moan that was nearly a sob,
           "I want to go home!"
           Snape turned his head only as much as was necessary to study her over his shoulder. His imperiousness was impossible to decipher. Had someone told him about the voices? Was he angry at their foolishness? Disgusted by her sniveling? Annoyed at the interruption? Violet couldn't tell. With an inscrutable, steely murmur, he delivered his response.
           "You are home. You're just not sleeping in your own room. You're residing in a sibling's chambers. Most children would consider it a treat."
           If she'd been older or wiser, like the two Gryffindors standing near the fire listening to every word, Violet might have noticed what Ginny and Minerva observed: That was a surprising sentiment to hear from Severus Snape. But, overwhelmed by a sudden sense of contentment so strong it bordered on cheerfulness, only two words reverberated through her mind as she climbed the stairs to the dormitory where Marybeth was already asleep in the lower bunk.
           That helped.


    AUGUST 21, 2008
    Tomorrow I get to see the new Little House musical, and in the fall I'll see EQUUS, IN THE HEIGHTS, A TALE OF TWO CITIES, SPRING AWAKENING, and, God willing, SPEED-THE-PLOW. Except for Jim Barbour and Raul Esparza, my expectations aren't very high.

    For those of you who don't know, there's a hierarchy to theatrical production, to how impressed people will be to see something on your resume. The best work is theoretically produced on Broadway or London's West End. Just below them are off-Broadway and its equivalents, including prestigious festivals. Next come regional playhouses like the Guthrie followed by summer stock (Williamstown, Theatre L'Homme Dieu). At the bottom of the upper tier are college campus productions.

    Everything below constitutes the dregs - community theatre, college productions staged by students, high school and elementary school programs. But you know what?

    The best pieces of theater I've seen in my life have come from the dregs!

    Break a leg, Melissa.

    AUGUST 24, 2008
    Diluting Laura


    I don't think LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, as performed in Minneapolis on August 22, 2008, will be coming to Broadway. The woman sitting beside me, in fact, wondered how such a show could be presented by a prestigious venue like the Guthrie.

    The problem lies primarily with the script, a vacuous and muddled survey of the books in desperate need of a point, plagued by the occasional ill-fitting attempt to convey a political message. Without some sort of focus... the men in Laura's life, a tale of two sisters, the Homestead Act as government conspiracy, what Ma wanted most for her daughters...the show unfolds as a random and generally ineffective series of vignettes, never really developing its characters or engaging its audience.

    Only a handful of the songs seem stage-worthy:
    Though she never mortifies herself, Melissa Gilbert does not sing well enough to solo in a professional musical. The actress should be permitted to express herself through dialog, preferably in a beefed-up part. She currently has the most poorly written role in the show. Kara Lindsay doesn't fare very well as Laura, either. Instead of revealing the disciplined, tenacious pioneer she was, the writer and director have chosen to portray her as a sort of Hannah Montana on the Prairie, using every obvious stage direction in the book to convey her free spirit, sarcasm, and rambunctiousness. When the homicidally unhinged Mrs. Brewster wields her knife, Laura, who should be watching her every move with a terrified determination to survive, merely shakes her head, rolls her eyes, or sneers with contempt.

    A few actors rise above the material. Kevin Massey is always appealing as Almanzo. The delightful Sara Jean Ford understands all the complexities of Nellie, and Jenn Gambatese brings real growth to Mary. But in the end, the show feels like a really well rehearsed elementary school language arts program. Only your Ma would be proud.

    AUGUST 25, 2008
    Updated books read.

    SEPTEMBER 2, 2008
    SWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEET!!!!!! I'm going to be reprinted in the Sinclair Lewis Society newsletter!

    SEPTEMBER 3, 2008
    We lost Joanna Lee in 2003. Her tv movies, 1977's Mary Jane Harper Cried Last Night and 1976's I Want to Keep My Baby, have never been commercially released on home video but remain among the most effective and insightful programs to date on child abuse and teenage pregnancy.

    Baby featured a wonderful song, "Child with a Child," brilliantly rendered by Salli Terri (music by Craig Lee, lyrics by
    Hermine Hilton, score by George Aliceson Tipton). Here it is, including the lyrics. Thanks to Hermine Hilton for her assistance.



    Love came around the day she saw it in his smile
    He was a young boy, Sue Ann just a child.
    Weaving sweet dreams made everything seem real
    How gently he held her, how warm he made her feel.

    She wanted to love someone
    There'd be so much to share
    And what about tomorrow?
    Was there promise there?

    The song of their loving
    He gave her for her own.
    He didn't stay to sing it
    She'll have to sing it all alone.

    Child with a child
    There'll be no time to laugh and run wild
    She'll work it out, at least she wants to try
    And which asks more, hello or goodbye?

    (Dialog)

    Elizabeth's the sweetest doll Sue Ann has ever seen
    She's playing hard and hanging on
    But the playing's getting mean.

    Oh where is her love now?
    Loneliness is setting in
    She fights back the tears for what is
    or might have been.

    She dreams in the darkness that he'll come back to stay
    He told her that he loved her. He gave her today.
    How many mornings when dreams don't come true
    Can she keep it all together, feeling old and yet so new?

    Child with a child
    There'll be no time to laugh and run wild
    She'll work it out, at least she wants to try
    And which asks more, hello or goodbye?
    The song tells the protagonist's entire story while playing over a montage of just a single day in her life. Sue Ann Cunningham, appealingly portrayed by a young Mariel Hemingway, is a coltish, fatherless, love-starved high school freshman who falls for a senior star athlete. The product of a fundamentalist upbringing, she refuses to have an abortion after finding herself pregnant and begs Chuck to marry her. He runs away and Sue Ann is sent to a supportive facility where a social worker explains that she can surrender her baby temporarily after it is born if she needs time to make plans (for the child's upbringing or adoption). Her mother forbids this, insisting Sue Ann make the same choice she did, even though it led to years of poverty and hardship. Sue Ann brings the child home and, in the crowded apartment inhabited by a stepfather and two toddlers, the mother interferes in harmful ways, driving Sue Ann to move out. Clinging to the idea that Chuck will come back one day, she takes up residence in a crime-ridden slum, the only area she can afford on her welfare checks. After she is attacked and nearly raped, her social worker finds her a room at the McClellan Home, a halfway house for teenage mothers. Sue Ann is ecstatic - the home is safe and clean and provides daycare while the mothers are at school and/or work. She has no idea how exhausting and demoralizing her schedule will be.

    As the song begins, baby Elizabeth is waking her at dawn with her cries. Sue Ann greets the child with a smile and prepares her for the nursery, then rushes off to the kitchen to help cook breakfast for the entire community. After a few hurried bites of her own, she scurries away to school where she marches doggedly through her schedule, thin and bleary-eyed. Back at the home, she grabs a few moments to rock Elizabeth, unwittingly cataloging a litany of sacrifices as she tells the baby about her day (there's no time for her homework or the cute boy who likes her, and there's no money for nice clothes like the stylish vintage dress worn by a classmate). Then it's time for laundry and dinner prep before she leaves for her swing shift job at a drive-in. She makes her way home in the dark, collapsing into bed with her books. Several yawns and a brief nap later, it's morning...time to start all over again.

    Images from I Want to Keep My Baby

    I Want to Keep My Baby!
    Sickened by her pregnancy, freshman Sue Ann takes refuge in a high school bathroom while her 'high school hero' boyfriend, senior Chuck Ryan, wins the track meet.

    I 
Want to Keep My Baby!
    Chuck is horrified to learn Sue Ann is pregnant. With college and a full life ahead of him, he has no desire to settle down with a teenaged wife and a baby.

    I Want to Keep My Baby!
    "How could you do this to him?" Chuck's parents blame Sue Ann for the unwanted pregnancy.
    I Want to Keep My Baby!
    To hide the shame of the impending illegimate birth, Sue Ann is taken to a facility where she watches with envy as other pregnant teenagers receive visits from their boyfriends.
    I Want to Keep My Baby!
    The title comes from a line of dialog that Sue Ann, coached by her mother and minister, obediently asserts at her daughter's christening when asked how she responded to the misguided people who suggested surrendering the child for adoption. This scene is frequently cut from television broadcasts.
    I Want to Keep My Baby!
    Unable to bear her mother's interference, Sue Ann decides to try and get by on her own via the welfare system.
    I Want to Keep My Baby!
    Her lack of maturity shines through during the emancipation discussion with her social worker when she admits she named her baby after 'the cute little girl on The Waltons.' (Joanna Lee worked on the acclaimed television series.)
    I Want to Keep My Baby!
    Social worker Rae urges more schooling.
    "Did you ever think about what you wanted to be when you grow up?"
    "Yeah," nods Sue Ann. "A mother."
    I Want to Keep My Baby!
    Rocking Elizabeth after morning chores and school, before evening chores and work at the drive-in.
    I Want to Keep My Baby!
    Worth all the sacrifices?
    I 
Want to Keep My Baby!
    There's no time to accompany Greg to the lake; what little free time Sue Ann has each week must be spent with the baby.
    "How old are you, Sue Ann?"
    "Fifteen."
    "Wow. You might as well be fifty."
    I Want to Keep My Baby!
    Chuck finally returns...to drop off a check. He'll fork over child support but wants nothing to do with Sue Ann or the baby.
    "Don't you even want to see her?"
    "No."
    I Want to Keep My Baby!
    Devastated by losing Chuck forever, Sue Ann breaks down, throwing Elizabeth forcefully onto the mattress of her crib, knocking the wind out of her. Rae is called and Sue Ann decides to relinquish the baby.
    I Want to Keep My Baby!
    From the mouths of babes: Elizabeth, perhaps knowing a better thing when she sees it, says "Mama" for the first time...in the arms of her adoptive parents.

    I Want to Keep My Baby!
    Silhouetted against the light of a new day,
    Sue Ann returns to school...
    ...and looks forward to a better future.


    SEPTEMBER 4, 2008
    High Anxiety! Every day, I look forward to my trip to New York. But every dream I have about it is a nightmare in which everything goes wrong!

    Last night I dreamed the two Jonathons from the original cast of Spring Awakening were staying in my apartment building. The morning I was to attend a matinee of IN THE HEIGHTS (which they'd rescheduled for 10 a.m.), the Jonathons asked to use my shower. Assuming theirs were steamy from use by visiting friends, I agreed. Little did I know they were pigs who'd filled their own bathrooms with garbage before proceeding to make a swamp out of mine! I searched all morning for a clean place to get ready, which made me 20 minutes late for the show. I missed the big opening number! "Good morning, Usnavi," my ass!

    I also forgot money for a metro card.

    Even the landscape was disturbing. Forget the shiny hustle and bustle of Times Square. The whole city was a ghost town of narrow, crime-ridden alleys and crumbling buildings populated primarily by drug dealers and homeless women.

    I wonder what my subconscious is trying to tell me? Could thoughts of adversaries who reside in the Big Apple be casting a shadow over my trip?

    SEPTEMBER 8, 2008
    Updated books read.

    SEPTEMBER 9, 2008
    Man, are the Google co-founders cute and appealing and buff or what?

    VERY pleasantly surprised this morning to receive a most gracious e-mail from Hermine Hilton. She's clarifying some "Child with a Child" material for me. Update coming soon.

    SEPTEMBER 10, 2008
    Fixed the lyrics to "Child with a Child."

    SEPTEMBER 19, 2008
    I can't believe that Rebecca Brooks and Kevin are the first people to figure out and publicly post that Edinburgh Castle was probably the inspiration for Hogwarts. Hello, castle high up on a rock overlooking a lake? I mean, some Harry Potter fans have even BEEN there!

    SEPTEMBER 25, 2008
    Listen to Thomas Friedman.
    Listen to Lee Branstetter.
    Listen to my father.
    Listen to me.

    China and India are coming on strong. They only way Americans can remain economically significant is through innovation (like the development of clean, home-grown energy sources...one week until the biomass dedication!) Innovation springs from a mind functioning at maximum capacity, a mind that never stops learning, a mind that gets smarter every day. Only a liberal arts education produces that kind of mind - and only public liberal arts colleges provide that education at an affordable price.

    So here are your maching orders:
    Then get back to work.

    OCTOBER 1, 2008
    Note to self: Description of kick-ass Owen Wilson dream is in the appropriate folder.

    OCTOBER 9, 2008
    There's this video on YouTube of the "Solidarity" number from BILLY ELLIOT. I know it has to be a professional production because the show hasn't even opened on Broadway yet. That means it's not available for licensing by amateurs or educational productions. But geez, my favorite song from the cast album is staged so poorly, it looks like some under-rehearsed community theatre number! Some examples:

    Starting around 1:50, Billy struggles to keep up with the girls in ballet class. As they leave him further behind, he finds himself sandwiched between two menacing rows of men, the miners and the police. Is he really there? Have we jumped locations? Or are the two situations playing out simultaneously? Either way, the staging of Billy is pathetic! He just turns and walks downstage, hitching up his jacket. If he were suddenly among the warring men, there should be an emotional reaction (and the staging and blocking to accompany it)...fear, anger, panic, something! If he's still in class and so frustrated he's given up, THAT should be reflected in his behavior. Instead...nothing. It makes the whole invasion of the adults into the ballet class space pointless and ineffective.

    Beginning around 3:45, the cops sing incredibly vicious lyrics about how their scab-enabling behavior is benefiting them to financial extremes...at the miners' expense. The staging/choreography? Hand-holding, jump-rope hopping, skipping and cavorting together like kids on a playground. It's cringeworthy!!!! [During the next chorus, the men disperse and the girls return center stage and dance. Billy is missing. Remember this!]

    Around 4:50, the boxing teacher reveals that Billy hasn't been attending boxing class for 4 weeks. Then where has he been, wonders his dad? At the precise moment he finishes his question, the little girls burst forth with their first rendition of the chorus:

    Moronic staging seen in the video: the men obliviously perform ballet with the kids during and after the dialog.

    Now imagine this instead. Earlier, when Billy is missing from class, it's because he's witnessed the 3:45 confrontation (staged much more aggressively, please!). He scoots into class during the boxing teacher-Dad dialog where he is surrounded by the girls and pantomimes what he saw in the street. When the Dad-Teacher dialog ends (with the Dad demanding, "Where the hell has he been?"), the girls suddenly burst into the picket line chorus Billy has just taught them as they practice. The men overhear it, of course (the boxing teacher's class is in the same building as ballet) and react with appropriate "Where the hell did they hear that?" gestures and expressions. Hysterical...AND much more reflective of the song as written.

    Around 7:30, the men prance in (to deliver and counter a series of brutal physical threats) as the kids prance out. They then proceed to mince around the stage, waving their weapons (and thrusting their torsos) like Chippendale dancers. Cripes! Why on earth would you want to emasculate the miners and the cops? Who could possibly think that's what the show or the song are trying to communicate? How about contrasting them with the ballet dancers instead of goofily aping them? The miner/cop conflict is NOT supposed to be played for laughs, is it? Do I completely misunderstand this show? Is the strike being mocked and ridiculed?

    Also, there are too many people in the set, even when they open it up by sliding the walls. Looks amateurish.

    What really frets me about all this is, I've never considered myself to be a gifted director. I'm a strong director for community theater because I'm really good at interpreting scripts, coaching actors, and maximizing limited resources. But I'm not brilliant or gifted, like John Doyle or Peter Brook or George Wolfe. So it really, really horrifies me to think professionals are becoming so inept, I could improve on their work! It sure didn't used to be that way.

    That bloody well better not be how it is in New York. No pressure, Daniel and Jim and Raul and Lin-Manuel and Hunter and the rest of you.

    [See update OCTOBER 30, 2008]

    OCTOBER 27, 2008
    "How was New York City, Rebecca?"

    It was a very rich experience. So I might as well start with the financials. A five-day visit to midtown Manhattan cost me about $2,300, including airfare, tickets to Forbidden Broadway and five Broadway shows, admission to a few key attractions, and a $175/night studio apartment all to myself in Hell's Kitchen (a block or two from the theatre district). Economizing measures: I walked everywhere or took the subway (including to and from JFK) and ate only 3 meals in restaurants. The Broadway shows cost about $120 each (half that for Forbidden Broadway).

    The order in which I thought I would enjoy the shows:
    The order in which I actually enjoyed the shows:

    Coming up: my thoughts on each. Here's a photo to tide you over.


    Actor James Barbour at the stage door after the October 22, 2008 evening performance of "A Tale of Two Cities."
    The pictured fans have seen the production 14 times between them, primarily in Florida.


    OCTOBER 28, 2008
    I saw EQUUS on Tuesday, October 21, 2008, at the Broadhurst.

    I disagree with the reviews that praise Richard Griffiths. He wasn't understated. He was bored, just going through the motions, leaving me hungry and grateful for every moment the other adult cast members spent onstage......and furious to think of all the British actors who could have done more with the role. Michael Kitchen, anyone?

    Daniel Radcliffe, on the other hand, performed better than expected. His less dramatic moments were lacking, somewhat empty, as if there were little behind them. But the extreme moments were outstanding, especially the orgasmic ride at the close of Act I.

    He should have been left alone in the main playing area throughout his frenzied, climactic attack. Overall, I liked the play's staging...the blocks, the horseshoe-shaped playing area, the jarring sound effects and the unnerving lighting. But we didn't need the horses 'upstaging' him during the final, escalating terror. The initial blocking worked great - a naked teenager racing psychotically back and forth, shooting straight up the stall walls to drive his spike home while the music shrieks and the horses scream, their blinding stares extinguished as the darkness closes in...

    I thought a lot about whether or not the production managed to make a case for the continuing relevance of Alan Strang's story. I'm on the record as loving the psychiatrist's point, that the majority's obsession with social success is horrifyingly destructive, never more so than under postmodernism. But who is like Alan now? Those kids from polygamous cults?

    At one point I contemplated trying to capture in words the experience of seeing Harry Potter's lead actor live on stage, close enough to touch. I've done this in the past following significant or unique celebrity encounters, even when I'm not a member of the fandom. The process involves recalling the dizzying inspiration true fanaticism can provide and figuring out which details will sustain and enrich such feelings. But then I thought, "Who feels that way anymore?" Most HP fans I've encountered indulge in unhealthy, narcissistic fantasies or glibly follow the herd, shrieking disproportionately at any cue until the next distraction pops up. Their fellow human beings aren't much livelier.

    I guess that means they'll never have orgasms like Alan's.

    Up next: In the Heights.

    OCTOBER 29, 2008
    Perhaps the poetry goes over my head, but I've never liked the cast album from Spring Awakening as much as the one from In the Heights. So I was very excited to see this production, my first Broadway musical, at the October 22, 2008 matinee. The set was stupendous. (A fellow audience member told me Broadway shows are putting heavy emphasis on production values these days. That was certainly true of all five I saw, few of which were as inspiring as the unrelenting talent and brilliance of the low-budget Forbidden Broadway.) But the show itself came off as somewhat amateurish. The first half of the first act was too clogged with ensemble members who got all the intricate staging while the principals, whom I really wanted to focus on, were left sitting or standing pointlessly during their initial numbers, arms flailing, songs delivered at a uniform high intensity that left them nowhere to go as the drama increased. I never noticed these problems in Spring Awakening or A Tale of Two Cities. But it should be noted that Heights was the only show that made me cry and its male leads were very endearing.


    I suppose I should be grateful for my stage left orchestra seat to the October 22, 2008 evening production of A Tale of Two Cities. Sidney Carton spent a lot of time right in front of me. But I suspect the lucky Barbour fans who got to see Jane Eyre a few years ago had a much more rewarding experience than I.

    Tale seems to suffer from the same problems as the Little House musical I wrote about on August 24, 2008. The story is too large to translate to the stage without a specific focus. That focus was supposed to be Sidney Carton according to comments made by the director and author during a Playbill podcast. That would have worked really well. So might the perspective of Madame DeFarge, or even little Lucy. The show needs some kind of brilliant approach that permits an effective winnowing of the novel. But so far, as best I can judge by comparing the Broadway production to the concept recording and the publicity material from its out-of-town try-out in Florida, attempts to tighten the show without any specific focus have resulted only in the incising of its humor and edgy freshness (a perception confirmed at the stage door by folks who'd seen it in Sarasota).

    Never mind that opening night is behind you, Jill. Be brave. Rewrite your musical in the voice of Little Lucy, telling the heart-breaking tale of how she lost the very best friend she'll ever have.


    There's no denying that original casts are often the best. But in the case of Spring Awakening, I say:

    "They're all yours."

    I adored the cast I saw on Thursday, October 23, 2008. In general, I disapprove of aiming younger when casting youthful roles, a lesson I learned from viewing multiple productions of Annie. Older actors perform better. The younger kids have less depth and wind up substituting precocity for insight, which becomes boring after 10 minutes. But in the case of Spring Awakening, the added tenderness and vulnerability really work.

    Never mind that so much of the show is ludicrously anachronistic and gratuitous (though it does vex me to think how much more effective "I Believe" could have been if we'd seen no more than that wonderful move between the legs and a bit of hip as the hand pulls at the trousers). Never mind that the staging itself is such a star, so energetic and generous. Never mind that some of this cast's passion, pain, and determination may have sprung from the discovery that their show would close in three months (an announcement made public the following morning, so presumably the cast learned Thursday night before curtain...or does Ilse always have tears in her eyes throughout the entire production? Anyway, it works.).

    I just loved spending time with these kids. Loved every minute of it. No other group (not even the Forbidden folks) seemed so disciplined, hard-working and generous. It was a privilege and a thrill to see their performances.


    OCTOBER 30, 2008
    Finally got a substantial response to my BILLY ELLIOT concerns from good ol' Beantown, who saw the show on Broadway last weekend. She says the staging is intended to reflect the difficulty the ballet teacher fears she will have making a dancer out of Billy because the boy is so conflicted about the endeavor: He doubts the challenging circumstances of his life (not just his gender and financial situation but the need for toughness brought on by the strike) will permit him to pursue it. The mimicry between the dancers and the men is meant to suggest that the problem is more surmountable than either Billy or his teacher might realize at this point in the story...a kind of foreshadowing, if you will.

    I'm not convinced (it's the best choice for the song), but I can see the possibility.

    Now this is what I'm talking about when I say a Broadway show should be so good I shouldn't be able to second-guess a single aspect of the production. I saw Speed-the-Plow last, on Friday night, October 24, 2008. Hilarious, enlightening, magnificent!

    Esparza was hands down the strongest performer, a source of constant, explosive laughter. I found Moss's work a little thin, though some critics insist she meant to do that. It seemed to me she just isn't quite as good an actor as Piven or Esparza (yet?). The guys could be a little smoother finishing each other's sentences (and in time, they will be, which will upgrade the show from stupendous to flawless). But Esparza's cynical, lightning-quick dismissal of Elizabeth's last stand will stay with me forever. I never would have thought to take such a manic, rapid-fire approach. When a show comes out better than anything I could have imagined while reading the script or listening to the cast album, that's Broadway quality.

    And my front row center seat was pretty boss, too. Shout out to Beantown Mama.


    OCTOBER 31, 2008
    The tie?

    What Snape doesn't know won't hurt me.



    NOVEMBER 3, 2008
    NYC photos.

    NOVEMBER 5, 2008
    So sad to learn of Michael Crichton's death. He's the reason I know there is no global warming, only local. And it thrilled me to see him and his political opposite, Michael Moore, reach the same conclusion: The media and politicans have abandoned truth in favor of manipulation through fear. Postmodernism strikes again.

    DECEMBER 3, 2008
    Watched 4 movies over Thanksgiving, including THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA. I'm still not over it. I can only think of 2 explanations, and they're both horrifying:

    1. The folks involved are so morally bankrupt they have no idea that every major character, including and especially Andy, is contemptible.

    2. The folks involved are so ignorant about aesthetics, they don't know how to incorporate contempt in their art.

    Does the report on this morning's news shows (about the huge percentages of kids who lie...and cheat..and THINK OF THEMSELVES AS GOOD PEOPLE!!!!!) confirm my rants or what?

    Updated "Head colds, etc" (October 13, 2006).

    DECEMBER 9, 2008
    Morons.

    You had the perfect opportunity to engage in a substantial discussion of the Gospel of inclusion. Instead, you stooped to the usual deceptiveness and biased manipulation, like any other hatemonger.

    You will make no difference at all.

    One of my ELCA Lutheran ministers has been discussing the Gospel of inclusion (that everybody is going to Heaven regardless of whether or not he or she has accepted Christ as his or her savior) at Bible study. The argument is, salvation comes by grace, and if you have to accept Christ, that's an act, a piece of work, contrary to the notion of grace. I would argue that a gift is not yours until you accept it. If someone tries to give you Yahtzee, you won't be able to play it if you've left it sitting on the doorstep. Nevertheless, I'm open to the possibility of inclusive salvation. But I don't think it precludes the existence of Hell.

    The Inclusives argue that the suffering the results from not following Christ is punishment enough for sinners on earth (that's all of us, by the way). For the most part, I agree. But I also think that some people sin far less than others. They 'get it.' They understand that sinful behavior hurts the self and others and that the best way to show love for God and others is to refrain from sin as much as humanly possible. As my pastor puts it, we don't need the 10 Commandments to get into Heaven. We need the 10 Commandments to love our neighbors on earth.

    But those who make shallow, selfish, indulgent choices (like putting family first, which God specifically forbids) cause unceasing agony among their brothers and sisters on earth. Imagine a justice system that chooses not to criminalize rape. What message does it send to the victim? "People may harm you with impunity because you don't count." Well, you count to God, and nothing makes him angrier than sinful behavior that springs from an attitude of entitlement. It is denial of the Holy Spirit, the ultimate sin, and you will suffer for it, if not here, then someplace else.

    Do you really want to spend that much time in Hell on your way to Heaven?

    DECEMBER 10, 2008
    Updated books read.

    DECEMBER 18, 2008
    I've been trying to decide what to do with the wishbone from this Thanksgiving's turkey. It's still propped up on my counter, drying. In the past I've done things like take it to the nursing home to pull with one of the shut-ins. (Yes, of course I let them win!) This year, I decided to pull it all by myself. I'll think of two great wishes, one for each hand, then pull and see which one wins. This morning, I finally thought of the first wish.

    Since Melissa Anelli hasn't been able to, I wish for Steven Vander Ark to make U.S.A. Today's "Top 150" bestseller list when his encyclopedia is released in January.

    One more wish to go.

    DECEMBER 31, 2008
    "My" cast, as Beantown calls them. Alas, no good shots of Moritz.



    JANUARY 5, 2009
    Updated books read. The Poo book, a Disrud Christmas Party gag gift, is outstanding. The Hamner book is too self-congratulatory for my taste. I would have preferred more substance about the show and the author, whose career I really admire, especially the breadth of his experience.

    JANUARY 6, 2009
    Okay, Al. I voted for you. But kindly refrain from any more bigoted, hatemongering behavior (like when you claimed, while broadcasting from here, that any Republican committee chair would have to be a liar). You're not Daniel Radcliffe, after all.

    JANUARY 15, 2009

    "Look, Ma! No hat hair!"

    The secret is putting the ski mask OVER the coat hood.

    This is the worst winter since 1997, and it started right after I got back from New York in late October. Air temp this morning was 29 below, with a windchill of -56. In those conditions, your brakes freeze up as you drive. You have to think ahead and start tapping every time you approach a town or major intersection.

    In 1997, we had 8 blizzards. One of them covered Highway 28 with a drift as tall as a house. They dug an open-topped tunnel through it to get the road open. It was a death chute barely two cars wide that filled with white-out snow at the slightest breeze. It took about 10 seconds to travel through it; that's a long time when you can't see and there's no room for error. The death trap tunnel stood for one day. Then, in the middle of the night, huge plows from South Dakota came rumbling into the state. They beat back the killer drifts, dumping mountains of snow onto farmers' fields, so large that, by the time they melted, it was too late to plant anything. Fields need time to dry out, you see, or your tractor will sink into the mud.

    JANUARY 16, 2009
    I can't believe I never thought of this before. I can use the Internet to solve the mystery of my missing memories.

    In the winter of 1990 I was working on the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota and living in an apartment in southeast Minneapolis. It was snowing hard one evening as I walked home from the bus stop in Dinkytown. As I passed the Chateau, the only skyscraper in the area, I noticed how the wind picked up speed behind the building, blowing the snow off the sidewalk.

    The next thing I knew, I was standing half a mile away, just down the block from my apartment, my head aching, talking to some guy who said I'd been talking to him for at least five minutes. I'd walked several blocks and crossed a major thoroughfare and a busy highway, all without knowing it. It was like coming back to consciousness from one of those dissociative, multiple personality blackouts you see in the movies. I was in pain, I was frightened, and the only person with any clues as to what had happened was now across the street and moving down the block at a rapid pace, fleeing from me as if I were a deranged homeless woman. "Hey!" I shouted, determined to bring him back, "Hey! How long have I been standing here?" That wasn't exactly what I yelled. I forget what I really said. I was trying to persuade him to come back by shouting something that communicated what was happening, that I'd been victimized somehow, that the person he'd been talking to wasn't the real me, that the real me was just now returning, that she was sane and injured and in desperate need of his assistance. But what I yelled sounded strange and he just kept walking.

    The terror grew as I made my way home and let myself into my studio apartment, sitting down on edge of a cot to massage the bump on the back of my head. I knew where I lived and I knew how to get inside. Why couldn't I remember important things, like where I worked? What had happened to me?

    I searched the apartment for a constant, something to clue me in, and found it in the face of a clock that read, "5:30 p.m." Yes! The time! The time could give me an idea of what had happened! It came to me now that I usually arrived home at 5:15 p.m. I knew that because I always watched the second half of "Family Ties," which started at 5 p.m. I was only 15 minutes late! Whatever had happened, it had taken only 15 minutes.

    More information started coming back. I worked at the vet hospital on the St. Paul campus. I'd just started there after six months with the Department of Agronomy, which was why it was so hard to remember any details about my job.

    Images came, too...strange images that made little sense. I was down, on my back, in agony, and people came rushing at me across the snow. They pushed and prodded, eager to get me on my feet. "No," I tried to explain. "I'm hurt. Something's wrong. I can't get up. You mustn't get me up."

    But they insisted.

    After sitting on my bed for a few minutes, sobbing, I called my cousin Kim. She brought me to the ER and then let me spend the night at her place where, every few hours, her husband, Bill, woke me up to check my neurological status.

    It was days before I dared to return to my usual route to the bus stop. But I had a theory I wanted to investigate. Beyond the Chateau stood an abandoned brick house, old, with a large covered porch (or veranda) on two sides. It was a strange place, filled with the screaming of birds, as if someone had left a window open upstairs and a flock had moved in. Rumor had it the property belonged or had belonged to some sort of cult. In the many trips I'd made back and forth in front of it, I'd never seen a single living soul, inside or out.

    A large tree on the opposite side of the public sidewalk marked the edge of the property. Trees, as you know, hold water in the ground, and the sidewalk always had a little patch of ice on it as a result. My theory was that I'd slipped on the patch of ice as it lay hidden beneath the new snow. When I reached the tree, I saw the strangest thing.

    A line of footprints extended diagonally through the snow from the front of the brick house to the tree.

    "Maybe someone's inside," I thought. "Maybe they saw me lying there, unconscious, on the edge of the property, and hurried over to get rid of me, to hasten me onto my feet and on my way." But why do that? The normal procedure is to call an ambulance for an unconscious person. That way, she wakes up in a hospital where someone tells her what happened. Why would anyone force an unconscious person to her feet and send her on her way?

    Perhaps they weren't supposed to be there. Maybe they were miscreant squatters, afraid emergency personnel would ask a lot of questions that would eventually get them evicted. Or maybe they were part of some shadowy organization, the kind that doesn't buy property insurance and thus would rather send a young woman with a head injury staggering down the road towards a major highway than call 911.

    Years later, while working for the Department of Pediatrics, I met a chief resident named Chip who assured me this sort of memory loss is well known to healthcare professionals. "We see it in the ER all the time. A kid gets hit by a car while riding his bike. When he wakes up in the hospital, we ask him what happened and he invariably says, 'The last thing I remember, I was riding my bike down the street and I saw this car turn a corner.'"

    Retrogade amnesia, he called it. Just a little loss of memories.

    I'd like them back nevertheless.

    JANUARY 26, 2009
    Updated books read. The Family Nobody Wanted was recommended and glowingly reviewed, but I found it overrated. The only parts that really impressed me were the depictions of hardship, like nursing dangerously ill toddlers through a chicken pox outbreak in a blizzard-bound Chicago home without heat. Amazing people. Mediocre book. I really need to buckle down and plow through Judgement at Dachau and The Onion Field without stopping for light-hearted relief.

    JANUARY 27, 2009
    How bigoted. Yes, I realize he's just a child, that most humans are counterproductive at his age due to lack of experience. But he's old enough to know about double standards...and not speaking in ignorance.

    On the bright side, now I have a name for the Ravenclaw twit who leads the revolt.

    FEBRUARY 9, 2009
    We're deep into Part 2. The pale citizens of an entombed Hogwarts are frightened, cold, and starving. They've eaten the school's owl population, including Draco's prized golden eagle. Marybeth lies comatose in the hospital wing while Snape is forced to sacrifice medicinal potion ingredients to the ever-dwindling supply of foodstuffs in Fleur's understaffed kitchen. Ginny and Colin try everything they can think of to bolster the spirits of the students and staff huddled together in Ravenclaw Tower. Still, Violet prefers the shivery solace of an abandoned Slytherin common room. But for Draco and Neville, grappling with the possibility that they are responsible for the calamity, there is no comfort anywhere.

    Meanwhile, in his makeshift accommodations at the Three Broomsticks, Harry Potter takes heart in the handful of citizens who have joined his efforts to save the residents of the castle. But every plan or mission he sends them on fails. Time is running out.

    If Suddenly Severus were a movie, this would be the perfect place for a montage, a sequence of scenes accompanied only by music to express the emotional content of an extreme situation more effectively than dialog ever could. The problem is, every one images the characters differently. Any attempt at capturing emotion would be compromised by the jarring effect of contradictory portrayals.

    Unless you could get people to see it in their minds.

    FEBRUARY 13, 2009
    Updated illness record.

    FEBRUARY 17, 2009
    Joy! Enough to go round! If you're one of the losers like me who failed to find www.stockuponjoy.com in time to download that great 2008 Walmart holiday commercial Coke song (sometimes known as MusicMix_WalMartCoke_ExtendedFamily60_Oct6_2008, Stock up on Joy, Enough to go Round, or Extended Family), take heart. It took some extensive searching, but I managed to find an active Walmart directory that still contains a public copy of the mp3 file sung by the delightful John Marago. Enjoy.

    FEBRUARY 18, 2009
    This week's TV Guide has a picture of Sterling Beaumon, featured child actor from Lost, that reminded me once again how Warner Brothers should have handled the Harry Potter franchise. It should have been a tv show, 7 seasons long, 1 book per season, with enough episodes per year to allow for additional scenes and footage and a DVD release that includes an hour-long "year in review" behind-the-scenes documentary (among other extras). Television, after all, has become the source of the best writing around these days (so how hard could it be to fix the last three books?). The show should be produced in the U.S., taking advantage of the bountiful resources and practices that send so many hypocritical anti-American British actors scurrying to work here every chance they get.

    And if WB abandoned plans to distribute Half-Blood Prince and shut down production on Deathly Hallows to start work on the show right now, that would be fine with me.

    MARCH 8, 2009
    Updated illnesses.

    MARCH 9, 2009
    As the U gets ready to make substantial lay-offs, I'm sure a lot of people are contemplating the destruction of economic forward momentum typically associated with job loss. Will a new position start me off at equal or superior salary and benefit levels? Probably not. But instead of dwelling on the ways in which my life might become diminished, I've decided to inventory just some of what I've acquired or enjoyed at the halfway point of my career, after 20 years with the University of Minnesota.

    -I own a beautifully renovated $300K+ cabin on Lake Minnewaska that's 75% paid for.
    -I got a free masters degree!
    -I battled and overcame ovarian cancer.
    -I've acquired and enjoyed technological access and expertise far beyond that of most citizens. I was an Internet pioneer!
    -I have several thousand dollars in FDIC-insured savings accounts.
    -I have a retirement fund containing $45,000.
    -I've earned severance pay, a vacation payout, and unemployment benefits.
    -I've earned 18 months of health coverage continuation.
    -I've taken business trips to Portland and San Francisco.
    -I've enjoyed 2 dream vacations to Vegas and New York City.
    -I've listened to dozens of cast albums I might otherwise never have enjoyed (including rare old Sondheim shows) thanks to interlibrary loan.
    -I have initiated and maintained an aerobic exercise program, working out 3-5 times a week for 10+ years.
    -I've improved my blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
    -I've enjoyed 20 years' worth of paid 4-day holiday weekends at Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's.

    That's a lot to get from a job - maybe even enough to balance out the prospect of having to worker harder for less.

    MARCH 10, 2009
    Updated books read.

    MARCH 16, 2009
    Holy Moses! My cable bill just went up 20%!!!! $120/month for basic cable and internet! I have got to dump Charter, get internet from Qwest, and look into DirectTV.

    MARCH 18, 2009
    I watched Banking on Heaven last night, which isn't so much a flick about the finances of polygamist sects as a call for our government to do something definitive about polygamy. "The religion oppresses women and children in the same manner as the Taliban," the film suggests. "If we can go to war with Islamic fundamentalists over such oppression, why can't we fight polygamy?"

    It's a faulty argument, of course. We haven't gone to war against FLDS polygamists because they haven't attacked us first, like the Islamic fundamentalists did when they blew up the World Trade Center. It's the welfare fraud where we need to nail them. But that seems almost impossible. How are you going to gather evidence that people who live in remote isolation are earning money under false identities, giving it all to their 'husbands,' and then applying fraudulently for food stamps and welfare? It would cost more to plant spies to gather the evidence than you'd save by ending the fraud (not to mention the enormous expense of rehabilitating any recovered or displaced members of the sect). It would have to be viewed as a humanitarian effort, and probably a very expensive one.

    That being said, I have an idea. It has to do with the wealth of abandoned farmsteads in this country (and Canada and Mexico, perhaps?) and the need for healthier foods. Since these people are accustomed to hard work and deprived living conditions, why couldn't we offer any of them who want to break free and start over somewhere else an abandoned farm house to fix up and live in, with a little land for organic gardening? Since they're used to living on so little, it seems to me they'd have a fine chance of making a go of such a life, which would in turn provide them with the time and security to grow and acclimate and educate themselves in whatever manner they chose. Wouldn't that be a major and manageable step forward for them, capitalizing on strengths they already have? It would make them assets, which would help them break free of their conviction that they are sub-human freaks. And it would bring much-needed children into rural school districts.

    Everybody wins!

    March 19, 2009
    Are you smarter than a liberal arts student? RW makes the case for a renewable, sustainable education.

    These are jpegs so the links in the larger images won't work.)








    MARCH 29, 20009
    Updated books read.

    I was disappointed by Will Lavender's Obedience. The premise seemed promising: A philosophy professor proposes to teach his students logic by having them solve an abduction case over the course of the term. If the case is not solved, the victim dies. The author is attempting to update public perception of Stanley Milgram, the Yale psychologist who, partly in response to war atrocities, investigated the human tendency to obey authority figures. He discovered that 66-92% of the general population will shock a person even unto death to prove him- or herself a cooperative, reliable research participant and therefore a good person.

    That's right. Up to 90% of you will KILL innocent victims to please those you've chosen to empower with authority.

    This behavior reflects stage 3 of Kohlbergian moral development, the "Good boy, good girl" orientation. At this level, people behave the way they do because they think it's appropriate to their role. In other words, they do what they have to in order to be seen as a good soldier, a good parent, a good friend, a good citizen of planet earth...

    ...a good flist member.

    Psychologists will not judge people for their level or lack of development. But I will. I think 3s are dangerous, destructive people. Carol Gilligan, Kohlberg's Harvard student, attempted to prove otherwise in her book, In a Different Voice. Apparently concerned that women were more likely to be 3s than men, she argued that true morality is the ability to balance concern for self with concern for others. This touchy-feely approach contributed to the postmodern idea that values and standards are forms of oppression that should be abandoned, which in turn led to the notion that anything a person desires or feels is acceptable, like, say, wanting to get rich without working by flipping real estate. Hello, mortgage crisis!

    I prefer Milgram's willingness to judge. After completing the experiments, his subjects, who'd been led to believe they were testing the effect of negative reinforcement on learning, were informed that, while they'd never actually shocked anybody, they had, in effect, revealed themselves to be on the same moral level as the most despicable, torturous, butchering Nazis. Needless to say, they were devastated, and Milgram's work was deemed unethical. Now it's standard procedure that human experimentation CANNOT result in the participant gaining any sort of insight or knowledge about himself. But when Milgram's participants were asked years later how they felt about participating in his study, more than 90% insisted they were glad they'd learned the horrible truth about themselves and gained a chance to become better people.

    In Obedience, we don't get to see the postmodern student's reaction to Milgram's theory. The situations just aren't comparable. These kids aren't being asked to hurt someone to get a good grade. They're being asked to help. True, they do commit murder in the end, vexed to insanity by the postmodern rejection of universal standards like absolute truth. But if you want to find out whether people are still as likely as they ever were to obey an authority figure to the point of butchery, you'll have to look someplace else. Like cyberspace, for example. Ever see a member of a social networking community attack a dissident to please an idolized authority figure?

    Now you know exactly how far they'll go.

    APRIL 3, 2009
    My kingdom for a follow-up question!

    University of Minnesota system president Bob Bruininks came to campus for the Jazz Fest. He held an open meeting this afternoon where, during this time of severe cuts to higher ed by Governor Pawlenty, I asked his thoughts on Thomas Friedman's theory about the value and potential of free undergraduate education. Friedman asserts that the U.S. survived the shift from an agrarian to an industrial economy by recognizing the need for more educated citizens and providing free public high schools. Now, he says, in order to survive globalization and outsourcing, the U.S. will have to provide free undergraduate educations to stimulate widespread innovation and creativity. Bruininks disagrees, suggesting people will only make the most of such an opportunity if they pay for it.

    If I'd been permitted a follow-up, I'd have asked, "Can't people pay with something besides money?" What if those free undergraduate educations were only available to folks who achieved substantial levels of academic success in high school and refrained from illegal activity? You have to pass 8th grade to attend high school, after all. I bet the amount of money we'd save on gang violence, teenage pregnancy and underage drinking would more than cover the cost of the program.

    [I also like Judy Korn's idea. Expand on the military academy concept. We give you four years of education, you give us four years of labor. But you still have to have a high level of achievement in high school and a clean rap sheet.]

    APRIL 10, 2009
    Updated books read.

    APRIL 15, 2009
    Updated illness record.

    APRIL 21, 2009
    Thinking about hardship a lot these days? Me, too. What's the poorest you've ever been?

    In graduate school, I used to walk the streets of Provo, despairing that I would be trapped there forever in a cycle of destitution.

    I lived in the Brown house with Amy Neff, Kris Nebeker, and our landlord, Dorothy, one of several children the Brown family planned to put through BYU cheaply by having them live in and manage this off-campus bungalow during their school years. During the winter of 1987, all of us hit rock bottom (except for Dorothy).

    We had prospects. Each of us had a job and the promise of a paycheck in two weeks. But Amy had barely begun her work at the sewing factory, I'd just paid my winter tuition, and Kris owed lots of money to a local hospital where she'd been treated for appendicitis without insurance. Until we got paid, we'd have to get by without spending a single penny, living off supplies we already had on hand.

    We ate the easy stuff first - cold cereal, mac & cheese, sandwich meat. Then we started cooking. Slowly and surely, the foodstuffs disappeared, first the canned foods, then the flour, the beans, the rice, the seasonings, and even the condiments. By Friday night of the first week, we were down to crackers and butter. Saturday we went hungry. That night, desperate about the week ahead, we sat down and took stock.

    Amy had a package of egg noodles but nothing to season them with - no butter, no tomato sauce, no vinegar, no cheese, no seasonings. I had a bag of frozen peas. And Kris had nothing...or so she thought.

    To take our minds off our troubles, we decided to clean out the freezer, a hellish repository of hoary frost, undiscarded wrappers and empty containers. What little food we found belonged to Dorothy who, despite her Mormon beliefs and the fact that the majority of our income went to her family in the form of rent checks, was not sharing. Then, in the very back, buried beneath a cave of conjoined ice cubes, we found a treasure. It was a chicken, whole and naked and exposed, that Kris recognized as her own.

    The bird was shot through with freezer burn, white and rubbery and useless. We plopped it down in the middle of the kitchen table and sat with our chins on our folded arms, staring at it. Then, in our best attempt at culinary first aid, we rinsed it off, wrapped it in plastic, put it back in the freezer, and went to bed.

    On Sunday morning, the Mormons got up and departed for their usual three hours of church. Kris and Amy straggled out the door, pausing first to roughhouse in the living room, or so I deduced from the sounds of laughter and thumping furniture. As soon as they were gone, I tumbled out of bed and got to work.

    I pulled out my paisley 10-quart pot and let it fill with water in the kitchen sink while I retrieved the chicken from the freezer. I set the bird to boiling on the stove, stealing a few pinches of bullion crystals and celery salt from Dorothy. For two hours it simmered while I washed clothes and tidied my room.

    For those who don't know, this is NOT the way to make chicken soup. You don't use a WHOLE chicken! You use leftovers, boiling scraps of meat off the carcass. But after two hours of cooking, our frozen rubber chicken was beginning to look edible again. I pulled it out of the broth, stripped every morsel of flesh from the bones, and threw it back in the pot. A short while before the Mormons were due back from church, I added the noodles and the peas. By the time they walked in the door, the house was filled with the aroma of the heartiest, savoriest, most satisfying pot of chicken soup ever brewed in Utah.

    A few moments later, Amy and Kris bounded into the kitchen, their hands miraculously filled with loaves of bread. They'd torn the cushions from the furniture that morning and scavenged one dollar in change, enough to buy three loaves of cheap white bread at the poor folks' bakery on North 200 West Street. We feasted on bread and thick, rich soup, eating our fill, so cheered by our bounty that we actually acquiesced to Dorothy's brassy request to join us. When we were done, we put the pot in the fridge where it didn't so much cool as congeal. For the rest of the week, whenever we were hungry, we scooped a cup of chicken sludge into a pan, added some water, heated it up and gobbled it down with a slice of bread. Delicious.

    The soup lasted through Thursday night. On Friday we went hungry. Saturday morning was torture. The hours and minutes dragged by as we waited for the banks to close up tight at noon. The second they did, we flew across town to Smith's, cramming our shopping carts full of goods to restock our cupboards, goods that would be paid for with kited checks. To this day, I can't remember a single thing we bought.

    But I've never forgotten the soup.

    APRIL 22, 2009
    You're driving down Federal, you're turning on Speer
    You're listening to KIMN and you love what you hear
    Loren and Wally are full of good cheer
    KIMN is the best show in Denver.

    Thanks to http://kimn95.tripod.com/sounds.html for the memories. I used to love how the DJs would set off a buzzer every ten minutes during the summer and remind the tanners, "Roll over!" Right up there with the WNEV-TV (Boston channel seven) promo theme. Feel good about that!

    APRIL 23, 2009
    I made one movie in graduate school and I'm devastated to find I have no decent copy of it. I thought it was on a half-inch video tape I recently transferred to DVD. But the beginning is at the end and there's no proper start to the music-backed opening credit sequence...and no credits! Plus the night scenes are so degraded they're too murky to see. So I sent the Video8 source tape labeled "Edited final" to Digital Pickle, hoping for something better. What I got back was worse. How is it possible the "Edited final" is devoid of order, credits, AND background music?

    The script was based on acting student Kyle Sumner's description of a spooky incident that happened in a cabin at Sundance. I developed the idea into a story about the detrimental effects of giving way to your fears. It begins when a young man named Michael (played by Darwin Seed, who appeared in more student projects than you could shake a wand at) emerges from a convenience store one night only to be plagued by strange sounds coming from behind as he makes his way home. Growing more and more fearful, he eventually breaks into a dead run, watching in terror over his shoulder as he hurls through the night. He runs straight into a car door being opened by a stylish young woman (played by a housemate, Angie) who, because the incident was entirely Michael's fault, apologizes with a rather snide, "Sorry," after he's knocked off his feet by the impact. Injured, embarrassed, and incredibly resentful (though he's not quite sure why), he can only stare sourly back.

    Cut to the opening credit sequence. A lovely and pastoral but somewhat haunting melody by Glenn Larson (I wonder if he ever married Debbie?) plays against the backdrop of a beautiful fall day in a Rocky Mountain town as we watch a pair of well-worn cars travel from house to house. Enthusiastic college students spill out into the sunshine and pile into the vehicles for a trip into the hills. They frolic and horseplay as they make their way up mountain paths, finally reaching their destination at sunset - a dark, isolated cabin.



    Inside, by the light of a single candle standing in a fish bowl, the kids play Assassination, the card game where the person dealt the ace of spades murders other players by covertly winking at them. An increasingly tense round has dwindled to just three players, two of whom are trying desperately to stay alive, when a loud pounding makes everybody jump. The front door is opened to reveal a giant who demands to know, "What are you doing?"

    The kids stammer that a friend has loaned them the cabin for the evening. The giant, who appears to be armed with a large stick jutting from his back pocket, cuts them off. "Your cars are in the way," he growls. "You have to come with me to move them now."

    The drivers, played by Shane Fortune and Darrell Stewart, make an ostentatious show of remembering to bring their licenses, removing them from their wallets before tossing the wallets to the rest of the group. If the giant had hoped to lure the boys into an ambush and rob them, he's just been thwarted. But after they leave, the folks left behind (Suzanne Buck, another housemate named Karen, and a girfriend of Darwin's named Amy...how I wish I had a record of their last names!) grow increasingly fearful. "We should follow them," they insist to Michael. "We should get out of here. We should put the wallets in a bag outside the door in case the scary guy comes back."

    Michael tries to focus on a new game but the group is assailed by an escalating series of spooky incidents as they wait for the drivers to return. A red light appears in the window followed by a bang on the wall. Someone laughs outside, unhinging one girl so badly she races to the door, throws it open, and screams into the darkness. Michael coaxes her back and tries to light a fire but can't find any matches. More sounds come from outside...and another from in the bedroom. The kids bolt.

    They run panicked down the mountainside, falling and crashing into things until they emerge from the woods bruised and battered. When they find their original parking spot abandoned, Michael sets off down the road. "I'm sure they just moved the cars further down the lane," he insists when Amy shrieks at him, demanding to know what he's doing. But he has no answer for her hysterical inquiry as to why they didn't pass the boys on their way back to the cabin.

    They eventually find the drivers sitting sheepishly on the reparked vehicles, too unnerved to make the return trek to the cabin but too embarrassed to say so. Michael berates them, pointing out that all the injuries he and the girls have just sustained resulted from a panicked descent inspired in large part by the drivers' failure to return to the cabin. The drivers suggest calling it a night, demanding their wallets so they can buy gas for the drive home. That's when Michael and the girls realize.

    They've left the wallets in the cabin.

    Bickering ensues. No one wants to make the return trip to the cabin, not even for something as significant as wallets. The attacks and hostility escalate until Michael can stand it no longer. He scrutinizes his newly divided friends, the blood dripping from knees and noses, and remembers his painful, fear-fueled encounter with a car door.

    He picks up a large stick.

    "You won't make it 10 feet into the woods alone," one driver suggests. But Michael makes the trek, all by himself, lashing out and lunging and shouting the whole way, swiping viciously at trees and plants and anything else that disturbs him. He looks ridiculous, roaring at nothing and mercilessly beating thin air.

    But he gets the wallets back.

    APRIL 28, 2009
    Observe Jack Wild and Mark Lester in Melody. There's a lesson here, for Daniel and Rupert, for Tom and Josh and Jamie, for all young performers and fans and filmmakers everywhere. But I think I'll save it for the book.

    MAY 8, 2009
    I've been listening to Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything recently, brushing up on my science. Later chapters seem to focus on how we're all about to die, either from asteroids or an extinction-level volcanic eruption (Yellowstone is 400 years overdue and exhibiting signs) or from microbes. HIV is a simple tweak away from killing us all; it merely has to learn how to survive the digestive system of a mosquito and we're toast. And here's something else he wrote in 2003:

    Flu normally devastates the elderly and very young. But the swine flu epidemic of 1918 was deadly to those in their 20s and 30s. We have no idea why. There's a disagreeable Russian strain known as H1N1 that caused severe outbreaks in 1933, the 1950s, and the 1970s. It seems to hide out in animals before trying out a new generation of humans. No one can rule out the possibility that the great swine flu epidemic might once again rear its head. Too bad we've rendered drug therapy so ineffective by overadministering it to animals.

    Have a nice weekend.

    MAY 29, 2009
    How can I be the only one to notice and comment on this? In Bill Bryson's book, A Short History of Nearly Everything, in the chapter on genetics and the human genome project, he lists a series of traits theoretically controlled by genes that he, Bryson, chooses to categorize as frailties. The bolding is mine. Do scientists (and not Bryson) view homosexuality as a frailty? Or does the word 'frailties' appears in single quotes or something? [I'm listening to the book on CD.] Because I'd hate to have to dismiss outright the powerful case Bryson's making for intelligent design...

    JUNE 6, 2009
    Updated books read.

    JUNE 16, 2009
    Halfway through June and I still haven't been in the lake. That's how cold a spring it has been. I've only mowed twice. But it's warmer and stickier now. I definitely see a lake bath in my near future.

    I cannot get over how much I've discovered about A.J. Sawyer and his family thanks to one little $500 grant.

    JUNE 23, 2009
    Updated books read. Terry Frei's 2002 book, Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming, about the 1969 national championship college football game between Texas and Arkansas (hush up, Pennswoods), seems to be sending a message to a country about to embark on war with Afghanistan and Iraq: You have to be strong, disciplined, and united to accomplish anything of great import. What I don't understand is why he repeatedly juxtaposes the introduction of black team members with the end of that behavior. Is he saying black people are partly responsible for the breakdown in American character, that we learned our indulgent, undisciplined behavior from them?

    JULY 1, 2009
    "DEATH....COMES...UNEXPECTEDLY!"

    My favorite Sundance story about Karl Malden: Screenwriting teacher Sterling VanWagenen used to stress the importance of refraining from writing script directions actors couldn't possibly be expected to perform. His favorite ludicrous example from a Sundance project: Guy walks out of a building looking like he wants to make a phone call. "Looking like he wants to make a phone call?" Sterling would groan. But Malden had the opposite philosophy. "Let me try...just let me try," he would reportedly insist, urging that writers never underestimate what actors could do.

    My favorite Karl Malden performance: Pollyanna. The sermon! My God, the sermon! Not a single cutaway to an alternate plot line. They let him deliver the entire thing without interruption. Name another movie where an actor gets to continuously deliver an entire sermon! And that scene with the note wasn't bad, either. "Do you like being a minister?"

    I think I used a variation of that line on Sterling once.

    JULY 6, 2009
    Which would you prefer, living in fear that I may write about your sins or discovering I don't think you're important enough to write about at all?

    JULY 8, 2009

    Attention, John Hawkes. If you have any insight into what's happening at Theatre L'Homme Dieu, please share it at your earliest convenience.

    I'm repeating myself, but I'll do it in list form this time. Here's the general hierarchy of quality in theatrical production, from best to worst:

  • Broadway and similar venues (London's West End)
  • Off-Broadway
  • Regional theatre (Guthrie, Taper Forum, Cincinnati Playhouse. In addition to hosting national touring companies, they often serve as the springboard for new Broadway shows.)
  • Reperatory and summer stock
  • Educational theatre (This means colleges. High school and elementary programs don't even make the list.)
  • Community theatre.

    There is some room for debate. Occasionally, regional stuff may be better than Broadway. The nation's largest cities put on community productions to rival the best colleges. Some well-endowed high schools outshine the worst colleges. Reparatory is generally a cut above summer stock because the company members are all professionals, not a mix of students and pros. But by and large, community theatre is the dregs, way way way down at the bottom of the heap (where I wallow). So here's what I don't understand.

    WHY IN GOD'S NAME WOULD L'HOMME DIEU GIVE UP ITS STATUS AS A SUMMER STOCK FACILITY TO BECOME JUST ANOTHER COMMUNITY THEATRE????!!!!!

    If St. Cloud bailed like rats deserting a sinking ship, screw 'em. L'Homme Dieu deserves to be disdained by no one. Any decrease in the quality of recent productions probably reflects the impact of postmodernism on education, anyway (not to mention childrearing and general human conduct). But if L'Homme Dieu's board members think their facility can survive and thrive as a community theatre, I urge them to look down the road...to the Quad A, or Roosevelt Hall, or the Barn. Those perpetually struggling bastions of frequent mediocrity are equally attractive, better located AND open year-round. How can L'Homme Dieu hope to compete?

    I admit, the crowds and support this season have been staggering, but I doubt they're sustainable, as they seem to spring from some sort of bias or grudge. And your programming? Pandering, mindless offerings with all the emotional impact of an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies, acceptable as rare diversion but not as a facility's featured product.

    It's possible you could parlay your current support into a new model for community theatre, one I realized was desperately needed after I saw Wicked. The only thing more shocking than the abysmal script was the sticker price of a ticket: $125 for a nosebleed seat. "Theatre will perish if only the rich can afford it," I speculated. "What this country needs is community theaters that do excellent jobs staging the best of the most recent or seldom-seen material they can afford to produce." I don't want to pay a fortune to see a lackluster national touring company and under-rehearsed orchestra perform last season's Broadway hit. Nor do I want to watch insipid stagings of tired old shows that don't hold up without fresh energy and insight. I want to pay an affordable fee to see a local production do justice to Jane Eyre, Sweeney Todd, Aida, Follies, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Urinetown, Merrily We Roll Along...

    Barring that, L'Homme Dieu, you really should aim to stay higher on the list.

    JULY 9, 2009
    My buddy Beantown is one of many desperate to see someone craft a Broadway musical from Newsies. She thinks certain young cast members from Spring Awakening and Billy Elliott would be perfect in some of the roles. Me, I'm mindful of how hypocritically desperate the Potter kids are for any excuse to spend time in the U.S. And I think at least one of them can sing...

    JULY 14, 2009
    The nice thing about writing without a deadline is, you can wait as long as you need to for the perfect plot resolution device to come along.


           In a way, it was like a pothole, four feet wide, four feet deep, and perfectly square, surreptitiously tucked among the passageways of the Chamber to form some sort of den or retreat. The basilisk would have had to build up speed upon approaching to sail across it without injury.
           Violet crept to the edge and peered down into the little space. There were a few candlesticks lying about, knocked over on their sides, and some dried out old quills. The broken-legged skeleton of a rat lay in a corner where it had crawled to die, a warning to the other vermin that the drop into the pit was steep and should be avoided. And strewn here and there, covered in slowly decomposing fabric, were four round pillow cushions, too tiny to fill the seat of any chair Violet had ever seen. She wondered if they might have come from barstools.
           "What's that?" she whispered, pointing with her lumos light to the only other object visible in the square pit, an instrument propped on the remains of one of the decaying pillows. "Is that a guitar?"
           Dennis wriggled forward to lie beside her. "Not exactly," he replied, leaning into her a bit to free his arm and point. "See how the strings are in pairs? I think it's some kind of Spanish instrument."
           The information made Violet shriek with excitement. "Salazar is a Spanish name!"she cried. "Maybe this was his artistic retreat!"
           "I doubt it, Violet."
           Budging past her, Dennis lowered himself carefully into the small square space. He made his way across the little room and gingerly picked up the ancient wooden instrument.
           "He could have had a lute or something," he murmured, cautiously testing the strings. "But guitars are only a few centuries old."
           An image popped into Violet's head, of her and Dennis meeting here secretly throughout the school year. She saw herself wrapped in a house blanket, perched on one of the cushions while the Gryffindor serenaded her with the Spanish guitar. The idea made her blush; she was glad the Chamber's dim light hid most of her face.
           Dennis handed the instrument up to his illicit co-investigator.
           "You found it," he announced. "You keep it."
           "I can't play it," Violet protested.
           Dennis tip-toed to fold his arms on the edge of the ledge, resting his chin on them as he smiled at her, nose to nose. "Maybe you'll learn," he suggested cheerfully.
           Violet wriggled backwards to make room for him to climb out, clutching the guitar even as she pondered the unlikeliness of his suggestion. Between schoolwork and Saturday Night Seminar efforts, who had the time?
           Well, there was one person, and wouldn't you know, he was exactly the one Violet ran into, strolling casually through the corridors at just the right moment to intercept her as she smuggled her new acquisition back to her cell.
           "Where did you get that?" Malfoy demanded, rudely pulling the item from her shoulder. His scrutiny of the instrument kept him from noticing Violet's gulp.
           The fourth year's mind raced to come up with a deflection. What mattered most was keeping the project a secret, of course. To that end, what popped out of her mouth was so brilliant she would marvel over it for days. It was the one response guaranteed to prevent any further inquiries.
           "Do you want it?"
           As she watched him saunter away, a blonde devil with too much time on his hands happily strumming his new prize and humming to himself, she wondered how long it would take him to generate his first composition - and who the unfortunate subject would be.


    JULY 30, 2009
    The curtain has fallen on another season at Theatre L'Homme Dieu. I didn't care for Marsha Norman's adaptation of The Secet Garden. I realize she was trying to translate the book's emotions to the stage, not its narrative (artistic license with the adult love story aside). But I think that only works in music, not music-enriched dramatic art like theatre. And the imposed multiculturalism was offensive. Still, I appreciated the opportunity to see the show performed by a professional company at a reasonable price. If Theatre L'Homme Dieu can sustain such a practice, it might prove an excellent use of their facilities.

    Between acts I read another chapter of The Old Curiosity Shop. I've been wanting to read this book since finishing The Smallest Slytherin because of the characteristics Dickens' serialized novel shares with fan fiction. But its use of the third person omniscient point of view reminds me of some questions I've been puzzling over for a while.

    1. Doesn't anyone know any more that third person limited is superior to third person omniscient? Terry Rossio puts it really well: "The more limited the point of view, the more elegant and effective your story."

    Remember in the first Harry Potter book when Hermione set Snape on fire during the quidditch match? Fans on-line wondered why in the world some editor didn't point out to Rowling that she had abandoned her strong third person limited choice (Harry's perspective) and gone with the lesser omniscient approach just to reveal the broomstick curse. She should have been coached to reveal Snape's chanting another way.

    Rowling avoided this mistake in the next three books; the Riddle House sequence in Goblet of Fire turned out to be Harry's vision. Only after Goblet made her a powerhouse did she decide she was above the rules, switching from limited to omniscient at will. I suppose her editors were powerless to stop her at that point.

    But consider the Robert Langdon novels of Dan Brown. In Angels and Demons, the use of omniscient third person is embarrassingly amateur as Brown hops from one character's perspective to another, even between paragraphs. By the time Da Vinci Code came along, he'd figured out that if he was writing about Langdon, he should STICK with Langdon, not suddenly pop into the minds of Sophie or Teabing to reveal what they were thinking. Why the heck didn't some editor clue him in earlier so he wouldn't be embarrassed by the ineptitudes of Angels? Isn't that an editor's job? All writers need editing, after all. This brings me to question #2.

    2. Aren't editors supposed to serve their clients? I recently saw an autobiography in which the author, clearly unaware of what she was doing, made a complete ass of herself while attempting to present herself as some sort of estimable leader among a select subset of society. Instead, she documented a perfect example of a spoiled, petty, self-serving product of postmodern parenting and education. Perhaps the publisher reveled in this fact, willingly sacrificing the interests of the writer to make the larger point and thereby serve the greater good. But shouldn't the editor have whispered in the writer's ear, clarifying the discrepancies between her efforts and her goals?

    AUGUST 2, 2009
    Check this out. I am... Awesome.

    AUGUST 3, 2009
    Updated books read.

    AUGUST 5, 2009
    C'est moi!

    AUGUST 18, 2009
    Deb! You worthless bloody cheesehead Slytherin, where the HELL are you? DEB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    AUGUST 20, 2009
    If you'd known me in junior high, I would have written the following above my picture in your yearbook:

    Remember me when this you see:
    Togoroam/ILYT

    Those last four letters refer to a crush I had on a trumpet player, a rather poignant story that explains why, if I ever finish my children's novel, I'm going to dedicate it to Tammy Russell (along with Robert Finnegan). But it's Togoroam I want to tell you about.

    When I was a kid, I was into child stars...Mary Badham, the kids from the old Mickey Mouse Club, Shirley Temple, Mark Lester and Jack Wild. In 1974, this new television series, 'Paper Moon,' came on, starring one of the most reputable child stars of the 1970s: Jodie Foster. I loved it! I loved her! What a great show!

    Alas, it got cancelled after just 13 episodes and I became a woman scorned. That worthless Tatum O'Neal, famous for her excessive, decadent, and highly age-inappropriate behavior, got an Oscar for her portrayal of Addie while my estimable Jodie got cancelled!

    I hated Tatum O'Neal.

    For months, I entertained rabid fantasies in which a poor, beleaguered Jodie, brutally oppressed by a vain, spoiled, over-empowered Tatum and her father, managed to triumph both professionally and socially over her peer, leaving the O'Neals embittered and resentful. Then, at the beginning of my 7th grade year, my mother took me to a re-release screening of Peter Bogdanovich's film about confidence man Moses Pray and his 'daughter.' Guess what?

    I loved Tatum O'Neal!

    Jodie was banished to my heart's land of has-beens (a good thing, too, since just a few years later I would take up residence in Evergreen, CO, where a lingering affection for Jodie Foster would have proven awkward at best) and Tatum settled in. On a Friday night when I should have been attending one of my brother's high school football games, I stayed home to watch a movie on tv called The Thief Who Came to Dinner, just because her father was in it.

    Whoa!

    I swear, that man jump-started my puberty. From then on, it was Ryan and his daughter, not Tatum and her father, and the O'Neals became an obsession. I lived in the perfect place for it, too. Naive speculation about completely foreign concepts like a 'bitter custody battle' or a 'playboy lifestyle' ran through my mind while I hiked the imagination-stirring neighborhood forests surrounding a federal penitentiary in my back yard or climbed the rattlesnake-infested cliffs where outlaws used to roam...just across the street from my cul-de-sac. There I envisioned a large-eyed, starveling waif knocking unexpectedly on the door of her handsome young movie star father's mansion (where a party seemed to be perpetually in progress). They bonded, they worked together, and they took picnics that were always tragically cut short by Tatum's platinum blonde mother, a hip-booted gun moll (!) accompanied everywhere by machine-gun toting thugs in pinstripe suits (!!) who pursued and pummeled Ryan relentlessly (!!!).

    Never did my parents have to suggest a bedtime or curfew. I climbed beneath the covers by 8 p.m. each night, huddling in the dark beneath a cave made of stiff, carefully shaped bedspread, and concocted stories of one man's family. I still remember the PBS television series I invented for Ryan to star in; a hot-tempered indentured servant, cast out by the Puritans for his rebelliousness, is adopted by the local Indian tribe and assimilated into their culture. The episodes about his warrior quest and the conflict between the tribe and his white girlfriend were really pretty good!

    I guess that's the year I became a writer.

    The media conspired with me as well. It was during this period that Rona Barrett chose to feature Ryan in one of her fabulous retrospectives, filling several pages of her magazine with photos and anecdotes, including the time a belligerent O'Neal sent her a tarantula in a tennis ball can. Newsweek put father and daughter on their cover, informing me that a woefully neglected Tatum had grown up on a drug-infested hippie commune populated in part by dead chickens and a dying horse. The starving child had organized a bicycle-thieving ring at the age of 7, netting the equivalent of $50,000 in today's currency to feed herself and her brother.

    But life in Hollywood wasn't proving much better. The O'Neal careers tanked, seldom to flourish again; the Oscar-winning Tatum's work on Caged Fury proved downright embarrassing while Ryan became a has-been at 35. He lost Angelica Huston to Jack Nicholson while Cuckoo's Nest bested Barry Lyndon at the Oscars (how my brother mocked me for rejoicing in cinematography and art direction wins..."And now, the Oscar for best trees..."). A rare celebrity drug bust for possession of marijuana left me inconsolable.

    It's not that I thought the O'Neals were innocent victims. I just ached for what might have been - and for the way they suffered consequences that seemed so savagely out of proportion to their actions.

    For a short time, I thought Griffin might prove the family's salvation. Photos taken on the set of International Velvet revealed this seldom-seen sibling to be a sunny blonde boy with an infectious grin. I loved his cameo in Nickelodeon: "Don't hit me, mister! I got a sick mother!" Soon after, he played to strong reviews in Caleb Deschanel's directorial debut, The Escape Artist.

    It was to be his only triumph.

    The O'Neals seemed cursed by a toxic sort of success, meteoric but agonizingly short-lived. The magazines and newspapers were shifting their attention to television personalities I found ludicrously undeserving. In 1978, I quarreled fiercely with my only female cousin about how some "Charlie's Angels" poster girl, a celebrity whose dominance of the media made her Ryan's enemy in my eyes, could possibly be more deserving of magazine covers than my Oscar-nominated favorite.

    A year later they started dating.

    Little lesson there, I guess.

    My passion for the O'Neals lasted three years. Timothy Hutton, Christopher Walken, Brad Pitt and Dermot Mulroney enjoyed similar tenures, but none of them can boast the lingering hold the woebegone O'Neals have on my heart. To this day, somewhere along the shores of Lake Minnewaska, a fallen tree lies, engraved for more than three decades with a secret word that testifies to a futile but unfailing affection for the possessors of these initials:

    ToGoRoAm

    I will always grieve for the misfortunes that befall the O'Neal family.

    AUGUST 21, 2009
    Have I mentioned this is a personal blog and does not reflect the views or policies of the University of Minnesota? This is a personal blog and does not reflect the views or policies of the University of Minnesota.

    If I were making policy for the ELCA, I would:

    1) strongly encourage each congregation to decide for itself whether or not to perform marriages for homosexuals and to place that decision in its constitution;
    2) strongly encourage each congregation to forbid any member who engages in sex outside of wedlock to hold ordained or constitutional leadership positions.

    That's right. Bring on the dialog and accounability. If you won't put your perspective in writing in public over your signature, you don't deserve respect or consideration. Only those with indefensible positions are afraid to subject their opinions to scrutiny and debate.

    AUGUST 26, 2009
    Currently enduring smoke detector hell, apparently brought on by a cool, wet summer in Minnesota. Did you know humidity can set off smoke detectors? Did you know they generally start chirping in the middle of the night? Did you know if your smoke detectors are hard-wired, there's nothing you can do about it?

    I tried replacing the batteries. I tried replacing the unit. I tried putting the unit out in the garage. The hole in the ceiling that contains the connecting wires went right on chirping. That's got everybody stumped, including the electrical company that installed the detectors.

    I do not cope well with house problems. I freak out far beyond proportion, convinced the problem is catastrophic, expensive, permanently damaging, and will never be fully resolved. So this morning, as I drove sleepily to work, I gave myself a pep talk:

    SEPTEMBER 1, 2009
    Smoke detector update: My ears were playing tricks on me. It was the interconnected alarm in the bedroom that was chirping. I pulled it down, removed the battery, depressed and held down the testing button to drain all remaining power from the capacitor, and enjoyed a chirp-free night. Neither replacing the battery nor the unit resolved the trouble. It either kept on chirping or couldn't get AC power at all. Vexing, since the living room replacement went just fine (in terms of AC power, anyway). Settled for putting up a battery-operated detector in the bedroom.

    SEPTEMBER 9, 2009
    Updated books read. Wasn't too moved by Nell or her grandfather. But I did admire Dick, the Marchioness, and the ghastly villainy of Quilp. Favorite passages: abusing Kit's likeness, describing Quilp's nose, and rousing the single gentleman from an extended slumber.

    SEPTEMBER 15, 2009
    Today my thoughts are with Wellesley sister and fellow class of '85 theatre major Cathy Garland, for reasons I'm sure she would understand, given the news from Yale. I've often wondered what became of her - and relished the memory of actually breaking through that pained exterior to make her laugh one fine spring night during junior year as the underclasswomen gathered to select next year's accommodations:

    SEPTEMBER 18, 2009
    Wish I'd started tracking these sooner.
    First lake bath Last lake bath
    2009: cold summer, warm September After June 16 September 16
    2010: High lake this year May 29, after Saturday cemetery crawl with Kim. Hot visit to Sunde farm, hotter bike path hike. So cold I could only soak at neck depth for about 5 minutes. August 21, after overexerting my sickly self mowing the lawn while Mom and Dad rode Steve's $65,000 pontoon. I had some hope of braving the icy depths (and I do mean depths) on September 28, but that didn't quite work out.
    2011: Lake now disasterously high. First windstorm cost me $5,500 in lost shoreline footage. June 5. Climbed in to take photos of the riprap restoration project. September 11. Leafy lake bath after frantic hours of unpacking and tidying following return home from Wyndmere trip and phone message from Cousin Greg announcing a visit.
    2012: The lake has dropped several feet (thank God!) following a winter drought. May 27 (Sunday). Kim again! We made the cemetery crawl on Saturday, then walked Sunday morning through oppressive heat and humidity, only to get eaten alive by biting flies as we waded into icy waters for a cooling bath. August 28? Refreshing swim after mowing during which I observed a suspiciously brief GLOW cruise. No, September 3, after 20-mile Labor Day bike ride before pancakes at Perkins.
    2013: Latest ice-out ever. June 14 after mowing. Freezing! Passers-by who heard me yowling kept reminding me: the ice only went off 4 weeks ago. Sep. 18, after steamy, sweaty bell choir rehearsal.
    2014: record-breaking winter. May 28, afer hearing Mandi's verdict. So cold my forehead ached. Thought it would be Saturday, August 23, 1 a.m. in Lake Owasso after hearing Aretha Franklin at the state fair. Nope. Late September heatwave allowed a starlit swim last night, September 28.
    2015: Gone on road trip first two weeks in June. June 21, after cleaning a braided rug, before church in the park. Had gone jet-skiing the day before. September 6, after a particularly sticky dog walk Labor Day Weekend.


    SEPTEMBER 23, 2009
    Opportunity missed.

    I'm a lot like House. So I know the degree to which the writers chickened out and failed to address what it's like for Houses and Snapes to live in this world. The only line that came close was the one where House said something like, "I don't want to lose who I am." He's talking about his goodness, his nobility and integrity. Nothing else matters if he betrays or abandons those attributes. But embracing those qualities is precisely what got him where he was at the end of Season 5, not the leg pain and vicodin addiction. Those just heighten the complications that come with choosing the high road. House is me, 5 or 10 years angrier and more critical.

    The idea that he needs to connect with people is wrong. I know because I tried after the brief bout of panic attacks I suffered in 1998 following chemotherapy. Unless they change, people are the source of the anger, not the cure. That's what the show should have addressed: Can House find peace in a world where people misconduct themselves more and more? By making that the question, they could have explored his inability to receive adequate help and comfort from the people in his life who are pretty good - Wilson and Cuddy, for example.

    OCTOBER 9, 2009
    Greg Mortenson was robbed.

    OCTOBER 20, 2009
    Can't say I'm pleased with the soundtrack from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie that I digitalized to put on my iPod last night. People must have been sick with disappointment when this album came out. All that lovely music in the movie, and hardly any of it is represented on the soundtrack album.

    The overture is okay. But most of the other tracks aren't recognizable from the film. Perhaps this is an ego album, crammed with material Rod McKuen composed for the movie that didn't get used. It certainly seems indulgent that the lovely theme that plays behind Brodie's recitation of "The Lady of Shalott" and her near breakdown in front of Clara is reproduced here only as a whispery vocal number by McKuen, "Bend Down and Touch Me with your Eyes." Only Teddy Lloyd's theme, "Lloyd's Room," is familiar and welcome.

    It would have been so wonderful to hear that delicious instrumental version of "Jean" with its poignant recorder (?) solo that opens the film, the sprightly theme that plays while the girls are spying at Cramond, the actual Sandy/Jenny tango music, "Somebody's Crying" from the spring dance, the instrumental "Jean" that accompanies the closing credits on the VHS release, and the school hymns (even sung by a studio choir).

    Guess I'll have to make my own version.

    OCTOBER 21, 2009
    Fox newscasters and new atheists...two peas in a pod.

    OCTOBER 27, 2009
    Attention, Richard L. Gibbs or Kathy M. Gibbs (Richard Gibbs, Kathy Gibbs). Having been unable to contact you any other way, I've resorted to putting your names in my blog and hoping you've set up regular Google searches on your monikers. I need to talk to you about why you left the red-roofed white stucco house after just one year. Haunted, right? Please get in touch.

    OCTOBER 29, 2009
    Lou Jacobi died Friday. Condolences, Ari.

    OCTOBER 30, 2009
    And now, just in time for Halloween, a public safety announcement from the world's sexiest cross-crushing vampire:


    "You have to have faith for that to work on me."
    Dang, that movie holds up well.

    NOVEMBER 9, 2009
    Updated illness record.

    NOVEMBER 17, 2009
    Updated books read.

    NOVEMBER 24, 2009
    Updated illness record.

    NOVEMBER 30, 2009
    I am a chick who has a dog and Fargo is her name, oh...

    F-A-R-G-O....


    DECEMBER 1, 2009

    Here's downtown Alexandria, decorated for Christmas. These over-the-road decorations have become irreplacable, I guess. Maybe they're illegal now. None of the other towns in the area have them anymore. Once they wear out, the towns have to replace them with the kind that attach to light posts. Thanks a lot, pomo safety nuts. So I thought I'd better capture these for posterity. As you can tell, I'm standing in the middle of a four-lane road, taking all the time I need to frame and compose the shot. Precious little traffic on the roads on Thanksgiving in my neck of the woods.


    DECEMBER 8, 2009
    I'm pretty sure this delightful exchange, featured in a recent airing of the Tale of Two Cities concert on PBS stations, was NOT part of the Broadway production script:


    Sidney Carton, an evening guest at the home of the Darnays, puts little Lucy to bed.

    SIDNEY: You're not missing anything downstairs. I promise.
    LUCY: Pretty dull?
    SIDNEY: Boooooooooring!
    LUCY: They should drink more.

    Pause.

    SIDNEY: You don't have to repeat EVERYTHING I say.
    LUCY: Sorry, Sidney.


    DECEMBER 18, 2009
    Ho Ho Ho.


    DECEMBER 22, 2009
    Updated books read.

    JANUARY 8, 2010
    I'd like to say a few words about my coat.

    I've worn the same coat for 20 years. I bought it for a dollar at a garage sale in Starbuck the same summer I purchased the cabin. It was light grey then, a disastrous color that showed every speck of dirt it touched. Since Minnesota clothing comes into close contact with filth all winter long (every time you enter or exit your car, to be precise), I remedied the situation by dying the coat blue. But it still suffered from a ludicrously dented hood (it was too big and I had to sew part of it shut), the visible repair of an enormous L-shaped rip, inexpertly hemmed sleeves, and the woefully outdated look of nylon with stretch polyester trim. I don't know what I'm going to be about the increasingly frayed cuffs. But I'll have to think of something, because this is my coat for life. It cannot be replaced. Believe me, I've tried. But this coat is:

  • warm (the hood protects me from the meanest windchills)
  • light-weight and roomy, never binding the neck, shoulders or belly no matter how many layers I wear
  • the perfect length
  • machine washable
  • So I've decided to try and be proud of having the same coat for a lifetime, even if it's not some wool or leather masterpiece. Other coats get cherished for a lifetime. Why not one this servicable?

    JANUARY 13, 2010
    Dang. I really love How to Succeed. Listened to it last night while walking the dog in the basement. I can't get over the timelessness! A lot of older musicals don't hold up dramatically, but decade after decade, wherever we're at with corporate America, How to Succeed is there. Flash vs. substance? Got it covered. Gender issues in the workplace? All over it. Our love/hate relationship with hard work? Check. And now, when we could really use a show about what employers and employees owe each other, How to Succeed delivers a tale of workplace altruism so tender (yet biting) it warms the heart. But Daniel Radcliffe won't be able to see that. He's too polarized to step outside his philosophical orientation and see the accuracy of the subtext, no matter how well a director might explain it to him.

    I wonder if Hunter Parrish has the cool, clear eyes of a seeker of wisdom and truth?

    And now some crumbs for the Snapecast bums. Wanna hear a coincidence? The first time I heard "Star Trekkin' Across the Universe," I was hanging out with some Dr. Demento fans in 2005, waiting to buy... The Half-Blood Prince.

    The reason they cut "Clouds Gathering" was so its effectiveness wouldn't compete with the impact of the cave sequence (which featured the film's star...unlike "Clouds Gathering").

    FEBRUARY 11, 2010
    The bad news: Kraft and General Foods International have apparently decided to discontinue French Vanilla Nut coffee. Hard to understand. It flew off store shelves. Same does not seem to be true of the replacement flavors. Bad news for my guests - the beverage has been a highlight of folks' visits to the cabin for quite a while.
    The good news: Since I recently decided to cut back on caffeine and cut back even further on sugar, I suppose I'm better off.
    Even better news: I've come up with a recipe for a replacement drink that I think will actually fill the bill (for me...my guests are probably out of luck). To make one cup (cup, not mug) of sugar-free, decaf French Vanilla coffee, add 1/2 teaspoon of instant decaf crystals and 1.5 tablespoons of sugar-free French Vanilla Coffee-mate to 6 ounces of hot water. Pretty good!

    Recently finished the Kreisauer Kreis chapter of Frauen, so of course I had to find out what was so gruesome about Peter Yorck's execution for his role in the assassination attempt on Hitler. Mercy.

    FEBRUARY 19, 2010
    We're having one of those single-degree mornings when every object is coated with hoary frost. Took these on campus this morning. I'm especially proud of the banner shot.

    Miller Field
    Frosted tree against prarie sky
    Vintage dorm in winter
    Banner

    Looking forward to the new Ricky Gervais show on HBO tonight. I'll get to see about 3 episodes before my subscription runs out. The idea (animating the podcast material) reminds me of Seinimation. I love Seinimation.

    FEBRUARY 26, 2010
    If this is a blatant attempt to impress Academy voters, then it's the first time I've been impressed by such an effort.

    MARCH 1, 2010
    Updated books read.

    MARCH 2, 2010
    The news about USPS possibly cutting back on delivery days reminded me of an incident from graduate school. I was sharing a (former polygamy) house with 12 other girls, one of whom stuck an envelope containing her tuition check above the mailbox late one night for our letter carrier to pick up. "Aren't you worried," we asked her, "about leaving an envelope containing a check outside all night in a college town?" She blinked her owl-like eyes a time or two before sending us into hoots of laughter with her absent-minded response. Has there ever in the history of the United States Postal Service been such a thing as a midnight pickup?

    MARCH 5, 2010
    Updated books read. I wonder how Cherry's doing these days?

    MARCH 10, 2010
    I can't be fully disclosing in this post because I don't want to share everything that's going on with me at the moment, but I need to make a note of this because I think it might be evidence of a milestone. I had good dreams last night. I didn't realize it, but it's been a LONG time since I had dreams that delighted and enchanted me, leaving me thrilled upon waking.

    In this first one, I discovered that Priestpoint was a completely different place than I'd remembered. It was an enormous but simple pine cabin with a huge screened sleeping/dining area flanked by 2 two-story towers of bedrooms (for bad weather). The place was horrendously run-down because of its simplicity and exposure to the elements, but as I crept around the grounds surveying it, seasonal employees and tons of Randall relatives (resembling the Disrud boys) showed up to prep the place for summer. They were completely open and welcoming of my interest and answered all the questions I wanted to ask about the place.

    The second dream was even better. I and several other Harry Potter fans went to a screening of the sixth movie dressed as Hogwarts students. The movie was created with some miraculous new technology that allowed audience participation and improv; any resulting changes would become a permanent part of the film. When Minerva confronted a distraught Severus with her hands full of love letters he'd sent to Lily (like most dreams, the plot didn't conform to reality or logic), they spilled all over the place and one of them fell right into my lap. I was going to be able to keep it, an item that, like the rest of the letters, would become one of props most desired by collectors. Then there was a scene in Potions class. Hardly anybody was present. Snape was quizzing his students, using a pointer to indicate abodes on a large painting that had small, horizontal double-windows. The students were supposed to be able to identify which wizards of importance had lived there. I found it all very confusing. Then a really cute student spotted me and got up to come over and sit by me. I nearly gasped out loud. Because he'd done this, I now fell within the frame of the scene and would be incorporated into the film as one of the students in the class. And because hardly anyone was there, I'd be onscreen throughout the entire scene. As I type this, I realize it doesn't seem like a big deal, but because of the intense and heart-breaking emotions surrounding Severus in this movie, it was a really big deal to be made a part of it...and an even bigger deal to have a dream I enjoyed so much.

    MARCH 15, 2010
    Updated books read.

    MARCH 17, 2010
    I moved yesterday. Now I actually reside in the department where I work. It's just me and the boys: Matt, Matt, Mark, Doug, and Dave. Kind of weird, sharing a unisex bathroom with five guys. "Mark! Rebecca left the toilet seat down again!"

    MARCH 22, 2010
    Updated books read. Guernsey made a fitting break from Frauen. But I didn't care for the romance. Would have preferred the editor tell Juliet her book needs a focus without spoon-feeding her the actual choice. Let Juliet discover it's Elizabeth's story by (more painstakingly) unraveling the mystery of her death, and let the realization that Elizabeth is never coming back inspire Juliet's decision to make a sacrifice and stay on the island to raise Kit. The possibility of romance with Dawson can be the ray of hope that makes it a happy (but not sappy) ending.

    MARCH 23, 2010
    Updated books read.

    MARCH 24, 2010
    Got a complimentary message today from a Smallest Slytherin fan calling herself Violet Voldemort. Did a search on her real name and discovered she patronizes the Guilford Library. Heh heh heh.

    MARCH 26, 2010
    Updated books read.

    APRIL 12, 2010
    Updated books read.

    APRIL 13, 2010
    Congratulations to Snapecast, first among Harry Potter fan organizations to secure an interview with Alan Rickman.



    APRIL 19, 2010
    Well, whaddya know! Thomas Felton was in Date Night. Heh heh heh.

    Henry Fonda in Vietnam
    Anyone familiar with my site will understand that what makes this shot of Henry Fonda with my dad in Vietnam particularly interesting is the timing. Dad was in Vietnam from the summer of 1966 through the spring of 1967. That means he chatted with Henry Fonda right before or right after the star filmed Yours, Mine, and Ours. Perhaps they discussed the company mascot, a three-legged monkey this M.A.S.H. unit fixed up. His name was...Philip.
    APRIL 27, 2010
    Had the neatest dream last night about The Sound of Music (the film). When Maria arrived at the Von Trapp villa, there were a dozen applicants waiting to be interviewed for the position of governess. So she had time to look around, exploring a lot more than just the ballroom.

    There were six wings of bedrooms including a children's wing. Their rooms there were shockingly sparse compared to the public rooms in the home. They were painted an unappealing aquamarine and sparsely furnished. Each contained a single white iron cot dressed with plain white bedclothes. There was little else in the way of furnishing and absolutely no decorations. But the oddest thing was that, despite the plethora of rooms, all the girls shared one oversized chamber with 5 white cots in a row. They were napping, backs to the door, when Maria discovered them.

    The morning after the thunderstorm, the Captain gave Maria a second dressing down for allowing the children to visit her after 'lights out.' He'd had to thrash them all for breaking the rule about bedtime and was furious the punishment would be their last memory of him as he prepared to depart for a summer with the Baroness. If Maria had sent them straight back to bed, he pointed out, the infraction would have gone undiscovered.

    "Well, what about you?" she retorted angrily. "You told Reverend Mother you were in dire straits when in fact you had a dozen applicants for the position of governess. You pulled me from a house of God under false pretenses, a place I never would have left willingly just to be with you!"

    In reality, she'd already decided to marry him.

    Throughout the dream there was a mild underlying sense of dread, like it wanted to morph into one of those 'large scary haunted house' dreams that disturb me so. But it never did! Apparently, there's just not enough anxiety in my system these days to power such a nightmare.

    Awesome.

    MAY 5, 2010
    Thoughts, Master Felton?

    Here's a screen grab in case the link dies.

    MAY 7, 2007
    Just in time for LauraPalooza 2010: my thoughts on the Almanzo Wilder/Cap Garland wheat trip controversy.

    You remember the story. DeSmet endures a brutally long winter. No one but a distant farmer has managed to raise any sort of substantial crop. The townsfolk are dependent on outside supplies to survive their first winter on the prairie. Blizzards stop the trains. Food and fuel run short. Only a life-threatening trip to the distant farm will provide adequate grain to feed the populace until spring. Who steps up? Brave Almanzo Wilder and his #1 fan, the daring young Cap Garland.

    The controversy concerns whether or not the life-saving trip actually occurred. It is reported that, during a visit to DeSmet for an Old Settler's Day celebration, Laura went looking for the distant farmer, perhaps seeking definitive proof to counter evidence that the trip did not take place. Much of this contraindicative evidence is documented in nancy cleaveland's magnificent 'Pioneergirl' blog (wait for the 'October Blizzard' page to load). Numerous personal and published accounts of the Hard Winter fail to reference the trip. Nor does it spring up in any sort of Garland family mythology that surely would have come into existence following the tragic and premature death of Cap in a threshing accident if his short life had been such an admirable one. If it really happened, why doesn't anybody mention it except Laura?

    It could be because Midwesterners prefer to avoid conflict, especially with authority figures like prominent citizens or published authors. You see, the question isn't just, "Did Almanzo go?" The question is, "Why did Almanzo go? And did going make him more of a bum than a hero?"

    Almanzo, after all, had wheat. People saw him plant during the spring thaw that followed the blizzards, before the arrival of the first supply train. And people saw him harvest a glorious crop. Even Laura's novel admits that Almanzo thought his seed wheat superior to any that might come on the train. He was determined to plant his wheat; selling it to hungry people and replacing it later was not his preference.

    What matters is the numbers. There are discrepancies concerning the amount of wheat Almanzo had on hand versus the amount he bought for the town. In some accounts, the numbers match. Now, we all know how easy it is to make mistakes with numbers, especially when you're passing along an anecdote. But if the amount of wheat Almanzo bought was anything close to the amount he and/or other locals already had in their possession, then he made the trip purely to protect his personal profits, all the while endangering the life of young Cap Garland.

    No wonder nobody wanted to talk about it.

    Laura does not paint Almanzo as some sort of flawless saint in The Long Winter. She lets Royal call him on the carpet in front of Pa for not offering to share with the hungry Ingalls family fast enough. And Pa gets to deflate his youthfully arrogant conviction that he fooled the entire town with his false wall. But she does insert some math to suggest his ultimate heroism. As yet another blizzard rages, the Wilder brothers calculate the possibility of disaster in DeSmet:

    80 settlers X 4 more months of blizzards ÷ Almanzo's full supply of wheat = STARVATION!

    That's why Laura went looking for the distant farmer during Old Settlers Day. It wasn't for proof of the trip, because the trip didn't matter if it was just about money. She wanted documentation of the amount of wheat purchased - a hand-written receipt, a ledger entry, a note in a diary - anything to prove the amount needed to feed the town was larger than the supply on hand. Substantially larger.

    Heroically larger.

    Without that number, Almanzo was just greedy and Cap a hero-worshipping fool. The whole subject would have been too painful to bring up. But with supportive data, the brave young men become hope for us all.

    It's all about the number.

    MAY 10, 2010
    Man, that's bizarre. Every time TCM broadcasts Yours, Mine, and Ours, traffic to my Web site increases a hundredfold. A hundredfold! What are they doing, superimposing my URL over the credits?

    MAY 17, 2010
    Attention Sydney: I have your book, and your little friends, too!

    For my birthday, I decided to treat myself to hard copies of the Little House books. None of the major vendors (Amazon, half.com, abe.com) sell them by the set, and they cost far more than I can afford at the various Laura/Little House gift shops. So I bought them individually, used, at thriftbooks.com (no shipping costs!).

    Little House in the Big Woods arrived today with two bonus items: class photos of little girls, Ashley Joslin and Shelby, who, a dozen years ago, looked to be about the same age as Mary and Laura...and the same coloring, too! They'll make endearing bookmarks...until Sydney demands them back.

    Amy Solowicz, your nameplate is far too New Age to reside in a Little House on the Prairie.

    MAY 28, 2010
    Entertainment Weekly recently published a list of the greatest characters of the past 20 years, inspiring the following letter to the editor:

    Entertainment Weekly 
leditor protesting Harry over Snape


    Updated illness record.

    JUNE 1, 2010
    Updated lake baths.

    JUNE 3, 2010
    Here's Snapecast Jeff from episode 37 singing "Suddenly Severus" from Salazar's Orphans (the 'Spring Forward' chapter).

    Here are the lyrics and a midi in mp3 format if you want to sing it yourself. If you know who made the midi, I'd love to give credit.

    If you know who made the karaoke version used by Jeff, I'd love to own it.

    If you make a recording of your own, I'd love to hear it.

    No, it won't earn you the right to read Suddenly Severus.

    JUNE 7, 2010
    Updated books read.

    Speaking of books, I bought a bunch books (from 1882, mostly) at our local historical society museum this weekend, including Milton's Poems, The Scarlet Letter, The Prince and the Pauper, and the Sunnybrook Farm sequel, New Chronicles of Rebecca. Anyone familiar with my passion for local history and my obsession with one man's family will understand how delighted (and gobsmacked) I was to lift the cover and find a certain glorious illustration by F.C. Yohn. Not only is there a chick named Rebecca in a barn named Sawyer...

    ...SHE'S WRITING!!!

    JUNE 21, 2010
    Updated books read.

    The faux 'Little House' book (that I quite liked by the end) was partial preparation for another trip to Walnut Grove, this one to scout unmapped landmarks on Plum Creek. Alas, after an extremely wet winter and 15 days of rain in June, the creek was swollen, muddy and flooding. In September of 2007, I set my camera on a rock and skipped to the other side of the creek to take my photo beneath the dugout sign. Yesterday, the water was too deep, the bottom too muddy, and the current too swift to cross from one side to the other. We climbed in upstream of the dugout site and traveled about 30 yards, just downstream from the bridge, before reaching an impasse. I wonder, if I'd been in the company of less vulnerable companions, if I would have been willing to lift my feet and let the current carry me downstream to more navigatable spots? Or would that have been foolish in light of the plethora of downed trees tangling the watery traveling paths?

    JUNE 30, 2010
    Attention Julia Duong and Cheryl Suzuki, otherwise known as VS1 and VS3. I have an mp3 file I'm dying to share with you. Get in touch.

    JULY 7, 2010
    Updated books read.

    JULY 13, 2010

    Dog-sitting for the neighbors for a week. She's got this weird thing where she's not willing to walk through clear space to get from one side of the bedroom to the other. Instead, she insists on climbing under and walking beneath the coffee table that serves as a bench at the end of my bed...

    ...but on the whole, she's following my parents' example and making herself comfortably at home.


    JULY 19, 2010
    Updated books read.

    JULY 21, 2010
    Behold what may be the only public photos of Laura Ingalls Wilder's swimming hole along Plum Creek. Nansie Cleaveland spotted the area yesterday (July 20, 2010) as we hiked the creek from the dugout site north/downstream to the 140th Street bridge. It was a treacherous process requiring sturdy, water-friendly shoes, life jackets, hiking sticks, a safety buddy, and a month-long wait for the water level to recede. No wonder the Ingalls family preferred to access the 'beach' by land. Of course, that's no longer practical due to immense overgrowth.



    There's a good deal of evidence to suggest this is the spot. It corresponds to Laura's hand-drawn map. It's the widest part of the creek we saw...



    ...with the biggest (only?) sandy shore area. It has comparatively low banks on either side. Then, north of this section, there's an enormously high bank, just like it says on Laura's map.



    The hole is not as deep as Laura suggested, but it has probably filled up with sediment over the years, especially since the addition of agricultural irrigation ditches running into the creek.


    We were hoping to find the swimming hole, fish trap waterfall, and 'real' tableland. Here's a graphic with my final analysis...as of today! Stay tuned for Nansie's take on the day.


    JULY 27, 2010
    Do you ever get the feeling that, sometimes, Peggle just starts feeling sorry for you?

    AUGUST 3, 2010
    Updated books read.

    AUGUST 12, 2010
    Just in time for the new version of the show, here are the lyrics to that killer theme song from "Hawaii Five-0," written by none other than the "Child with a Child" lyricist, Hermine Hilton (and recorded by Sammy Davis, Jr.).

    If you get in trouble, bring it home to me
    Whether I am near you, or across the sea
    I will think of something to do
    I'll be on the lookout for you
    And I'll find you
    You can count on me

    And don't you let 'em get you up against the wall
    'Cause I'll be there to catch you, and I won't let you fall
    Call me if they hit you below
    Call me when there's no where to go
    And I'll be there
    You can count on me

    And if they all desert you, and you start to bend
    You know I won't let them hurt you, and I don't pretend
    Don't call if you've got nothing to say
    Don't call me if you just want to play
    But call me on Devil's Day
    You can count on me

    My family loved this show during its initial run. It's so much fun to watch a series filmed where you live! I'll have to get the DVDs and watch a few episodes with my parents while they're visiting, see what landmarks they can remember. Me, I remember outriggers. Weren't there Polynesian outriggers paddling menacingly to the percussion music during the opening bars of this theme? Where are the outriggers?

    AUGUST 15, 2010
    The outriggers, it turns out, were in the closing credits of a later season. Thanks, winterweib.

    I've commented briefly before on how mortifying it is to repeatedly rediscover the degree to which The Smallest Slytherin was co-opted (from various childhood influences and experiences) rather than created. Here's another example.

    Recently I was mulling over what life in Hawaii was like during the early years of Hawaii Five-0, including the presumably rugged conditions at KMC, a military vacation camp on the Big Island near Kilauea Volcano. Everything about the military facilities where I grew up, from bowling alleys to shopping centers to nursery schools, seemed a tad simpler and rougher than the civilian counterparts, as if they'd originally been designed for use by soliders and eventually co-opted and converted for family members and civilians. Take the baby-sitting service my folks used when I was four.

    In many ways, the military takes good care of its personnel, and I'm sure civilians would envy the resources my parents had as a young married couple. The base provided daytime and evening childcare, presumably free or dirt cheap. Eager for a night on the nearest town? Don't bother lining up a sitter. Just drop your pajama-clad children at a decommissioned barracks staffed by stony-faced strangers and take off. The kids will enjoy a character-building evening of no snacks and not enough toys to go around followed by an early bedtime after which you can retrieve them at your convenience and tuck them, still slumbering, into the back seat of your station wagon for an easy and oblivious transition to their own beds at home.

    I once described the facility to my father, who chuckled and observed, "It must have been like an orphanage!" You'd spend the first part of the evening in this big public room at one end of the building, trying to persuade earlier arrivals to share the limited supply of toys. There would be no fighting or crying whatsoever - misconduct meant immediate banishment to the sleeping quarters. When it was time for bed, you'd be led to a corridor beyond the common room where dark little spaces opened off the hallway, into which two or three young children of matching gender, usually complete strangers, would be expected to climb uncomplainingly into hard iron cots with well-worn military-issue sheets and rough woolen blankets...

    Rough... woolen... blankets...

    OMYGOD!!!

    Slytherin House is a childcare center in Fort Rucker, Alabama!

    I had no idea.

    AUGUST 16, 2010
    Fifteen months ago, when the great American head-rolling horror began, I decided to try and pay off my house in 4 years rather than waiting until June of 2018 per my original 15-year mortgage (technically a home equity loan that tripled the size of my 600 square foot cabin). Now it looks like, barring any major financial setbacks, I might be able to finish up by the fall of 2012. Meanwhile, I'm compiling a list of items to be purchased or replaced at that time (or as soon after that as I can afford). The question is - will everything hold out another two years?

    Item to be purchased or replaced Purchase date of current item
    Used car 2005 (currently 125K miles)
    Lawnmower 2007?
    Laptop 2007 (January)
    iPod 2008 (June)
    Travel out of North America Have never done
    HDTV Have never had
    Tooth #31 Came with body.
    Snow blower 2009 cheap plastic model from Walmart. Broke first time I used it.

    To be amended, I'm sure.

    AUGUST 20, 2010
    For UMM employees, summer begins and ends early based on the mid-May departure of students and the mid-August return of faculty. This was supposed to be a great summer because of my brother's purchase of a townhouse on the lake just down the street from my cabin. And for the most part, it was. My experiences felt richer, a break from the same old same old, with emotional content that resonated more deeply, if not always pleasantly. Some highlights:

  • Walks, dinners, and play-going with family members whose previous brief visits never allowed these activities to be pursued on such a casual, frequent basis.
  • A two-week visit by Uncle Ned and his family that let me get to know these people all over again.
  • A 90th birthday celebration for my grandmother that let me spend time with long-unseen relatives
  • Two glorious trips to Walnut Grove to explore Plum Creek
  • Fascinating new insights into the Hobans and the Richters (not to mention the Halvorsons and the Sundes)
  • Quality time with Bonnie before her death
  • Good books read
  • Steady, substantial progress addressing the behaviors that have damaged me throughout my life.

    AUGUST 23, 2010
    Updated
    books read.

    AUGUST 27, 2010
    Updated books read. Well done, Elizabeth Klett.

    SEPTEMBER 3, 2010
    Updated books read. Another autobiographical embarrassment. Can't help noticing that's 3 Melissas in a row.

    SEPTEMBER 8, 2010
    Updated books read.

    SEPTEMBER 17, 2010
    If only, if only, iTunes and iPods had folders for touch and click-wheel models. If only I could put all my cast albums, Christmas albums, and soundtracks into folders. I have 424 playlists. 266 are Christmas, soundtrack, or cast album playlists. I use Xes and ZZes to force them to the bottom, but still. On the bright side, my copy of The Hunger Games finally arrived at the public library. Still 53rd in line for Dragon Tattoo, however. And they say print is dead.

    SEPTEMBER 20, 2010
    Updated books read. When District 11 sent the loaf of bread, I burst into tears. Can't remember the last time a book made me cry.

    SEPTEMBER 28, 2010
    Updated books read. I especially enjoyed Brian Grazer's essay about overcoming fear by regularly stepping out of your comfort zone.

    SEPTEMBER 29, 2010
    Updated lake baths.


    Greetings from my neighbors on the shores of Lake Minnewaska. You may remember the dog from a puppy-sitting gig earlier this summer. We're checking out the ludicrous height of the water; as you can see, it's flush with the bank, leaving no beach whatsoever. That's unheard of! After a particularly snowy winter, the water may start this high in the spring. It's happened once in the 20 years I've lived here. But it's NEVER high in the fall because the rain generally can't keep up with the warm weather evaporation. This rare situation is actually quite undesirable. Without a beach, there's no place for the lake to sluff organic waste (like weeds, leaves, or dead fish). So they pile up in the water at the bottom of the bank and rot there. Makes the water too murky and stinky to swim in. No more lake baths for Rebecca this year!


    October 19, 2010
    Ever wanted to hear that choral arrangement of Pachelbel's 'Canon in D' like they sang in Ordinary People? You know... Try to find it somewhere in cyberspace. Go on. I dare you. Well, it's finally available, thanks to a celebration at Glenwood Lutheran Church of more than 25 years of service by our organist, Renae Brown. Given permission to select all the music for the October 16, 2010 service, she brilliantly chose that very number and here she is, accompanying the choir on the piano. That oughta hold ya until the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has the good sense to record it.

    OCTOBER 20, 2010
    "Is there no one we can trust?"

    Cut to Snape.

    Gotta love it.

    Today is ten twenty twenty ten. Or, if you prefer the European approach, twenty ten twenty ten.

    OCTOBER 22, 2010
    Updated books read. Arngrim's book is my favorite 'Little House on the Airwaves' autobiography so far, but can her chilling portrayal of Melissa Sue Anderson be accurate?

    OCTOBER 27, 2010
    Lamont Johnson died! I interviewed him for Senior Perspective about Glensheen, the Congdon mansion, where he filmed You'll Like my Mother, a movie that eerily foreshadowed the murder of Elizabeth Congdon. He told me about a blizzard that trapped the cast and crew, including Patty Duke and her visiting husband, John Astin, in the mansion for two days. "We had to pitch emergency camp and sleep in until the snow abated." They made themselves comfortable with roaring blazes in several fireplaces and a hastily-assembled bar in the billiard room (point of entry for the murder a few years later). "Quite a party," Johnson remembered, noting that they dutifully completed their shooting requirements each day despite the gala atmosphere.

    OCTOBER 28, 2010
    Behold, Ellery Queen, finally available on DVD.


    Is he the anti-Snape or just an antidote? Every bit as brilliant as the potions master, this absent-minded genius of a mystery writer assists his father with criminal investigations on behalf of the NYPD circa 1947. But where Snape is stern, cold, harsh and sarcastic, Ellery melts me into my socks with his ceaseless warmth, kindness, and courtesy. I love his affirmative invitations to reveal the solution ourselves at the end of each episode ...and the casual way he pulls a slender branch off a tree and proceeds to strip it of leaves and twigs when a precocious rich brat pushes him too far.

    He's got a bitchin' theme song, too.

    I think I'll start Kim when I finish the Hunger Games trilogy and The Big Short. I've never read any Kipling.

    NOVEMBER 2, 2010
    Updated books read. Pro-hunting and anti-socialism. Interesting.

    NOVEMBER 3, 2010
    The ignorant cannot harm me. I can handle anything.

    NOVEMBER 4, 2010
    Updated books read. Loved the meeting towards the end where the speaker is warning of the impending doom of Bear Stearns while a listener sits in the back and actually sees the stock price begin to freefall on his smart phone.

    NOVEMBER 15, 2010
    "Does this bark make me look fat?" The trees beside Long Lake pond check their reflections on a rare still day on the windswept prairie.

    Updated books read.

    DECEMBER 1, 2010
    YES! I have interviewed an Independent Spirit Aware nominee! Now if he can just hook an Oscar nomination! For your consideration, Academy members: John Hawkes, Winter's Bone.

    DECEMBER 10, 2010
    Updated books read. Enjoyed the history lesson and the British perspective on India's religious diversity, but I find it hard to believe young English boys delighted in 'adventure' stories like Kim. The writing style doesn't seem very child-friendly.

    JANUARY 5, 2011
    Direct responses via e-mail from readers of this blog are also welcome.

    UPDATE - the folks from rec.photo.digital proved useless but a member of a yahoo digital photo group suggests the face in the exterior window is caused by the reflection of the budding tree in the foreground.

    JANUARY 19, 2011
    Updated illness record and books read. You know what kind of con (i.e. fan conference) the world needs? A Mickey Mouse Club gathering dedicated to the first two incarnations of the show.

    JANUARY 25, 2011
    HOO-UH!!!!!! Go, John Hawkes! I wonder if there will be a special Oscar-watching party in Alexandria?

    Thoughts on This American Life episode 424, 'Kid Politics,' and the segment about the life scientist trying to persuade adolescent Erin that global warming is real. "What would it take to convince you?" Ira asks the girl. Well, how about if both political parties agreed?

    In the 1970s, there were two Chicken Little causes being preached to school children: pollution and overpopulation. Pollution had good science behind it; the air and water truly were becoming a problem. While the environment is traditionally seen as a liberal cause, the truth is, gun nut sports enthusiasts like to torture animals and fish in pristine conditions. So both ends of the political spectrum supported regulations to clean up our act. Bodies of water improved and brown clouds receded.

    Overpopulation, however, was strictly a political issue, supported only by bad science. People refused to believe and the sky never fell. Do you suppose one day An Inconvenient Truth will feel as kitschy as Z.P.G.?

    Updated books read.

    FEBRUARY 14, 2011
    Had a tooth pulled. Watched The Social Network. Updated books read.

    MARCH 4, 2011
    Three thoughts:

    1. Do people who were bad or cruel in high school believe they have to cover it up to have a respectable adulthood?

    2. Did the war in Iraq convince citizens of other Middle Eastern countries that they, too, deserve democracy?

    3. Did the wealthy conservatives who are trying to deprive future Americans of prosperity-building public services take advantage of those very same services in order to reach their positions of affluence?

    MARCH 31, 2011
    Slogging my way through Anna Karenina. Absolutely adoring A Girl Named Vincent. What a brilliant way to instill a love of poetry in those who don't enjoy reading verse. I think "The Penitent" is my favorite. And in honor of April Fool's Day, here's looking at you! (Burst a blood vessel in church on Sunday. Guess that's what happens when you sneeze during the Bible readings!)

    APRIL 4, 2011
    U of M Googlemail let a message from admin@leakylounge.com come through even though it's the top entry in my 'Denied Senders' list. Disappointing.

    I should have commented on the passing of Elizabeth Taylor, whose performance as Helen (right) in Jane Eyre greatly influenced the development of Marybeth Montague.

    And there's a good deal of Peggy Ann Garner's Jane (left) in Violet.


    APRIL 13, 2011
    Updated books read. I'm more impressed with the Hunger Games trilogy than the Millenium trilogy. Still slogging through Anna Karenina. But I'm going to try Bel Canto concurrently for a new campus bookclub.

    I doubt I'll ever let Snape and McGonagall sleep together in Suddenly Severus. But I enjoyed concocting this nevertheless.

                As the others departed for bed, Minerva lifted one end of Flitwick's bearskin rug, inviting Snape to join her on the sofa.
                "If you could go anywhere or do anything right now," she whispered when they were snuggled together beneath the only truly warm covering in the Ravenclaw common room these days, "what would it be?"
                Snape wrapped his arms around her chilled, bony frame and, pressing his lips against her ear, whispered,
                "I'd seduce you."
                Her high, tinkling laugh was as gratifying as ever. It occurred to him to wonder just how unappealing the starving, shivering inhabitants of this castle must look after months of blizzard-bound hardship. Rather repulsive, he surmised. But there was nothing revolting about the skin of Minerva's wrist beneath his thumb, cool and aged though it was.
                He stroked it a time or two.
                The headmistress of this castle full of doomed children suddenly deflated, her eyes filling with pain. Her lower lip trembled. A tear gleamed in each eye. She turned her gaze from the fire to bury her face in Snape's chest.
                They spent that night together on the sofa beneath the bearskin rug.
                When Malfoy entered the common room at daybreak the next morning, he assumed the lumps buried beneath the thick animal hide were lascivious older students, desperate for a little extra warmth.
                "Roust 'em out!" he drawled from the hearth, rubbing his hands before cooling embers. "Time to crawl back into your own beds."
                The lumps beneath the bearskin remained perfectly still.
                Draco sauntered over to the presumed fornicators, eager to chase them away and assume their spot on the sofa.
                "Better get up before the heads find you," he counseled, shaking a lump he assumed was a shoulder. He grabbed one end of the rug and pulled it back from the sofa-dwellers' heads, only to find himself staring into the stony faces of Hogwarts' ranking administrators. After a startled moment, he whirled away with a scream of pain.
                "My eyes!" he cried, throwing his hands to his face to protect his precious peepers from further assault. They also provided a convenient curtain behind which he could hide his barely suppressed mirth.
                "Oh, do shut up," Snape snarled, whispering a reassuring, "Don't worry," to Minerva. Draco peeked at the two of them over his shoulder and Snape snapped his fingers at the teenager.
                "Turn around!" he commanded.
                When the boarder's face was safely hidden, he and Minerva made themselves presentable and climbed out from beneath the rug. The three of them stood there, resigned to a moment of extreme embarrassment.
                It never came. Instead, Draco just stared at them, his face suddenly filling with pain similar to that which had overcome Minerva's features last night. Snape needed no magical power to read the boy's mind.
                If I have to die, Draco seemed to be thinking, it would be nice to have parents nearby to ease me through it.
                Without a word to the two administrators, he dived beneath the bearskin and pulled it tightly around him, reveling in the warmth Snape and McGonagall had left behind.


    APRIL 25, 2011
    Updated illness record.

    MAY 5, 2011
    This week, I've lost...


    ...250 square feet of lakefront property...


    ...a major molar (yes, another one)...

    ...and a pair of shoes. But I'm calm and cheerful, even about the financial implications, so I guess I win.

    MAY 6, 2011
    Happy birthday to me! My sister-in-law finally sent her photos from last summer's trip to Plum Creek, including a photo of Laura's hand-drawn map of the Ingalls farm. I was eager to confirm my location of the swimming hole. But I spotted something even better...

    No, I didn't. Previous material on the potential location of the Wonderful House has been removed. As Nansie Cleaveland eventually pointed out, I went too far south, until I was in the southwest quarter of Section 18. Pa owned the northwest quarter.

    MAY 16, 2011
    I am moved to love and gratitude and tears by generous actors who give their all to brilliant staging.

    MAY 18, 2011
    I was under the impression that all television programs, whether they are tv shows made for American television or content produced in other countries or for other venues (like theatrical movies), are required to provide closed captioning if they are to be broadcast on American television. To my great surprise, I discovered recently that the Twin Cities public television station, TPT, does NOT provide closed captioning for Masterpiece Classics while Pioneer Public Television does. Who ya gonna join?

    MAY 19, 2011
    Updated books read. Like many philosophers, C.S. Lewis asserts that sin comes from living in the future or the past. Thoughts of the future are frequently selfish or materialistic while musings on the past are rife with destructive resentment and regret. Only those who focus on today are able to treat others with a maximum of kindness and thereby fill the world with love. I learned that while dealing with a recurrence of panic attacks last year.

    I wonder how Ann Patchett learned it?

    JUNE 1, 2011
    Rough day on Minnewaska.

    JUNE 3, 2011
    Hoping that other people will create something similar, here are my top 10 favorite moments of Harry Potter fanaticism, in no particular order.

    1. Finishing Goblet of Fire in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Talk about increasing the intensity!

    2. Discussing the books on alt.fan.harry-potter, 2000-2003. There has never been a discussion format to rival Usenet. And the fans who stepped up during "the gap" have always impressed me the most. See 3, 4, and 5.

    3. Reading "The Growing Pains of Severus Snape." There was a time when I actually had this paragraph memorized:

    The students at this godforsaken hellhole that passes for an institution of learning are getting nastier and more impertinent by the second. Case in point: the infernal seventh-year who today apparently decided to celebrate the onset of her eighteenth birthday by secretly painting several well-handled surfaces in the Slytherin common room with undiluted bobotuber pus. How Blaise Zabini managed to get the stuff on parts of his anatomy that should, by all rights, never come anywhere near the vicinity of the fireplace's stone gargoyles must needs remain a mystery (at least, it must if we are all to manage to keep our breakfasts down); but at least the culprit was found out before I myself was affected, and it was with a wholly justified sense of rage that I dragged the willowy, golden-haired practical joker back to my private chambers for as sound and severe a punishment as it has ever been my pleasure to deliver.

    4. Discovering the fan art of Didodikali. Snape in the green and white scarf on his way to the quidditch match remains my absolute favorite, I think.

    5. Memorizing Mariner's "I Am the Very Model of an Anti-Hero Archetype" and finding an appropriate midi to sing along.

    6. Viewing Vanity Fair's photo spread for the first movie. The shot of the quidditch team gave hope, however brief, that the films might actually deliver.

    7. Writing The Smallest Slytherin in just three months. So little sleep. Such slovenly, irresponsible behavior. That must be what life is like for bipolars in manic mode. Like cancer, I'm glad I went through it but I hope it never happens again.

    8. Listening to Snapecast. I have some enemies there, but the content is consistently fabulous.

    9. Opening Book 6 to THE page at the midnight release in Walmart. I still don't understand how someone could successfully leak a copy of the "Snape killed Dumbledore" page without being prosecuted.

    10. Bargaining for Slytherin bracelets at the Deathly Hallows release. "But you don't understand" the bewildered Walmart employees told the angry mob. "If you switch your red Gryffindor bracelets for green Slytherin ones, you'll be in the last group to get books!" No, you don't understand, clueless drone. A lot of fans would much rather have a Slytherin bracelet than a release-night copy of Book 7.

    The slytheriest among us managed to get both.

    JUNE 6, 2011
    Updated lake baths.

    JUNE 8, 2011
    No, I'm not the Becca who doesn't want to bother with the final HP movie (though more sympathetic I could not be). I'm the one person (2:51) who noticed the editing cue. (How is that possible? Are the rest of the listeners as tipsy as the podcasters?)

    Brilliant as this segment was, I don't see how it's possible for Shannon to be up for tenure already. It takes six years and she's been at it for less time than Snapecast has been around! Of course, it IS a lengthy process. So here are some props, just in case. Just add heads and adjust arm tint.

    1 2 3


    JUNE 13, 2011
    Updated books read.

    JUNE 24, 2011
    Questions from the HP8 trailers so far:

          1. Why is Harry in a school robe when confronting Snape about the death of Dumbledore?

          2. Why is Bellatrix along for the ride at Gringotts?

          3. Is that delicious one-note-at-a-time version of Hedwig's theme going to be on the soundtrack?

    Reading Giants in the Earth for a book club. On Book 5 of Anna Karenina. Cannot WAIT for my copy of Miss Peregrine's School for Peculiar Children to arrive.

    JULY 5, 2011
    Updated books read.

    JULY 18, 2011
    Updated books read.

    JULY 26, 2011
    Is this a real song, or did my Aunt Grace make it up? She sure could bang it out on the piano, and my Grandma Gretchen just loved it.

    I found a horseshoe
    I found a horseshoe
    I picked it up and hung it on the door
    It was rusty
    And full of nails
    Good luck, good luck it brought to you and me.
    Oh...

    Chickety chickety chime-o
    Chickety chickety chime-o
    Chickety chickety chime-o chime-o
    Chickety chickety chime-o
    Chickety chickety chime-o
    Chickety chickety chime-o chime-o

    AUGUST 2, 2010
    I can't take much more of this.



    On Thursday night, I took a break from the chaos of Waterama to attend the world premiere of Munger Road in Benson with my grandmother. I won a t-shirt for knowing the highest-grossing movie of 1984 off the top of my head (take that, all you kids with smart phones!) and nearly had a heart attack over the nickname of the villain. What does Nick Smith (left) know that I don't? I've been investigating the guy for years!

    On Saturday I entered the Rotary 5K race. Cripes, I haven't jogged in a dozen years! I walked most of the route, making it up Heartbreak Hill with no trouble and missing my goal of finishing in under an hour by only 48 seconds. Then I participated in yoga on the beach, figuring I'd have all afternoon to recover. But Mary was alone at the Pope County Humane Society hog dog stand during the lunch rush, so I had to help out.

    It was hot and humid on Sunday afternoon, always a drag for those of us who announce the Grande Day Parade. Then, just when I thought all the hard parts were over, we got socked by the worst storm to blast Glenwood since that tornado in the 1960s. Here's the Baycrest Marina, or, as I like to call it now, the Baycrest Nautical Junkyard, filled with mangled docks, overturned lifts, upsidedown pontoons, and capsized watercraft of all sizes. Seems like most of the boats that tore loose during the storm wound up here, save for the lucky few that stayed afloat only to drift aimlessly by themselves in the calm following the storm like eerie, silent ghost ships.



    At least the power's back on.

    AUGUST 3, 2011
    Photos of the August 1, 2011 storm.

    AUGUST 19, 2011
    The students return to campus next week, so here's my report on what I did this summer:

  • Wrapped up interim chairship of the Pope County Humane Society
  • Coped with massive storm damage and oppressive heat
  • Announced Waterama parade for the 7th year in a row
  • Located Hendrick Johnson farm
  • Hiked two wetlands trails
  • Scouted fall trip to Wyndmere
  • Read two classics (Giants in the Earth, Anna Karenina)
  • Attended a church-in-the-park service
  • Underwent a dental implant
  • Enjoyed another summer season at Theatre L'Homme Dieu and Pope Art
  • Celebrated with family at Ellie's graduation, Danette's baby shower, and the premiere of Munger Road
  • Completed the Waterama 5K (1 hour, 45 seconds)
  • Uncovered qualifying lineage for the Daughters of the American Revolution
  • Reduced mortage debt to $22,000

    A final goal - knock on the door of a certain scary property by the end of Labor Day Weekend.

    AUGUST 22, 2011
    Updated books read.

    AUGUST 31, 2011
    Updated books read.

    SEPTEMBER 12, 2011
    Updated books read and lake baths.

    SEPTEMBER 20, 2011
    Tom Felton reminds me of Aaron Paul.

    SEPTEMBER 29, 2011
    Attention, Rickmaniacs. All of you attending Seminar in previews on Halloween are commanded to show up costumed as Slytherins. That is all.

    OCTOBER 3, 2011
    Updated books read.

    OCTOBER 10, 2011
    I think the folks at Glee have made a mistake. Kurt would have been a better choice for Tony. Here's why.

    I've yet to see a production that actually makes the case for Tony as the former leader of a gang. He always comes across as a sensitive, uncertain pacifist, no matter who plays him. That's not surprising. He's based on Romeo, after all. As my theatre professor at Wellesley pointed out, you NEVER want to play Romeo. All he does is run around listening to stronger characters. Mercutio, Tybalt, Juliet...even the nurse is more decisive and effective than Romeo.

    Now imagine a production of West Side Story where Tony struggles throughout the show with the constant and escalating consequences of his kind but ineffective enlightenment. Who could play a role like that? And what would it be like to watch?

    Awesome.

    Besides, Darren Criss leaves me cold. I agree with the critic of A Very Potter Musical who says his Harry comes across more like arrogant, heartless James. Still, as I work on the architecture for the revised French website, where I'm noting how the faculty lead annual student trips to the Festival du Voyageur in Winnipeg, it's killing me not to add,

                            "That's in Canada!"

    OCTOBER 10, 2011
    Yes, it's true. I am the product of a mixed marriage.

    OCTOBER 26, 2011
    Updated books read (twice).

    NOVEMBER 3, 2011
    Picture this.

    Now picture yourself inside, alone, at night.

    This is the abandoned, gutted, reportedly haunted Ogdahl farmhouse that sits at the end of a country lane, just southeast of our city cemetery. This is where I spent the Friday evening before Halloween, all alone in the dark, just me and my trusty laser pen.

    Have I mentioned I don't own a cell phone?

    So who says the house is haunted? Lane, for one. He's a highly successful local photographer whose family rented the place when he was young and reportedly heard inexplicable organ music floating through the house. As a young man, Lane brought three friends to see the structure. The girls refused to enter the abode and watched from the safety of the car while Lane and his buddy toured the interior. At one point, a curtain flickered upstairs and someone peered out. Convinced that Lane was checking on them, the girls sighed with relief...until both boys emerged simultaneously from a downstairs door that very second.

    Our mayor, who lived at 2439 Pleasant Avenue South in Minneapolis as a young man and therefore knows a thing or two about sharing a residence with intimidating paranormal presences, has never sensed anything supernatural at the farm he now owns. But he's never lived there, either, and his mind is wide open, especially to any supernatural witnesses who might be able to tell him what happened to the missing brass doorknobs.

    I scouted the dwelling on Saturday, Oct. 22. Much of the ground level flooring is secure. The staircase is questionable and the attic is treacherous, its floorboards being only an inch thick. There's some dangerous debris scattered about, but that didn't matter. I wasn't going to be traversing the dwelling in the dark. All I needed was a secure corner in which to sit and project my thousand green points of light.

    The laser pen is a ghost-hunting tool, intended to help you see paranormal activity in dark conditions. It has a grid on the end that disperses the green light into hundreds of dots. If a ghost or shadow person moves through the darkened, green-speckled space, it breaks up the dots, enabling you to see it. But let's be clear. I didn't actually want to see a ghost. I probably would have had a fatal heart attack if I'd seen or heard a thing.

    What I wanted was to become someone who isn't afraid to go inside a structurally safe abandoned country house by herself in the dark. I wanted to be someone who isn't afraid to be out and about alone at night. Other people aren't afraid. They may not intentionally put themselves in harm's way, flaunting criminals or bad weather. But they're not afraid to drive down isolated country roads or explore strange sounds that go bump in the night or walk up to a darkened property that is not their own. And they're not afraid of ghosts, either. I want to be that fearless. I want to be somebody with an enormous comfort zone. So I did it. I climbed into a reportedly haunted abandoned country house and conducted a little paranormal investigation. All by myself.

    I lasted 15 minutes.

    NOVEMBER 14, 2011
    Here's what my investigation corner of the Ogdahl farmhouse looks like during the daytime. And here it is in the dark, courtesy of Prairie Smoke.

    DECEMBER 1, 2011
    Updated illness record. Major motherf-cking headcold. But the timing is fab, AFTER Thanksgiving and before all the Christmas fun starts.

    Had the most fascinating couple of days right after Thanksgiving investigating the decades-old Fremberg murders just south of Pope County, a tragedy worse than In Cold Blood if you ask me. I'd heard the property was abandoned and thought it might be a good place to hang out with my trusty laser pen. Turns out it's been inhabited all along. The good news - the place has been so darn haunted the first post-Fremberg family moved out after just a month. They didn't like the way their furniture kept rearranging itself in the night. The bad news - the haunts have been quiet since the current owner's children moved out over a decade ago.

    Actually, maybe that's more good news.

    DECEMBER 2, 2011
    There are too many damn death, divorce, and dislocation adjustments to my Christmas card list this year.

    DECEMBER 7, 2011
    Never mind the chocolate frog. It's the card you want.

    Updated books read.

    DECEMBER 12, 2011
    Updated books read.

    JANUARY 3, 2012
    Anybody else being scammed by People Magazine with their 'four free issues' deal? I cancelled well before the deadline but they continue to send me bills. Am I really going to have to go to the Better Business Bureau on this?

    Updated books read.

    JANUARY 17, 2012
    Updated books read.

    FEBRUARY 6, 2012
    Updated books read.

    FEBRUARY 13, 2012
    Updated books read.

    MARCH 1, 2012
    Updated books read.

    MARCH 21, 2012

    The anxiety diet - lose weight through fear.


    MARCH 30, 2012
    Updated books read. And here's my feedback for anyone who might be wondering, "How long does it take for Citalopram to work?" On 20mg per day, I felt some effect after 10 days and significant effect after one month. One month is also how long it took for the dry mouth, dizziness, sleepiness, and daily headaches to cease being a really noticeable problem. I still feel some anxiety when I let myself think catastrophic thoughts about my health, but its manageable with deep breathing and appropriate counter-thoughts.

    APRIL 2, 2012
    Updated books read.

    APRIL 6, 2012
    Updated books read.

    APRIL 11, 2012
    Updated books read.

    MAY 9, 2012
    Updated books read.

    MAY 25, 2012
    Thoughts on "Glee" season finale that I shared with a friend. She loved how Rachel's arrival in NYC featured a prominent display of the "Once" marquee, but I remain very leery of Cristin Milioti...

    1. Glad Rachel and Finn broke up (and loved how). Finn hasn't been much of a character for the last 2 years. They should let leaving for the army be the way they write him out. Ditto Mercedes. Never liked her much and hated her attitude in Season 3. Send her to Hollywood and forget her.

    2. Glad Kurt didn't get in to NYADA because I thought his audition was actually one of his weaker performances for the year. But he should still go to NYC. He should share an apartment w/ Rachel so we can watch two constrasting paths to Broadway - school verses work. Santana could live with them, too. Hearing about her auditions and encounters could provide Rachel with conflicting feelings about remaining in school.

    3. Normally, a person like Will would be offered a better job after winning Nationals. Let it be a position as vocal coach at an NYC performing arts boarding school (like the Perpich Center for juniors and seniors in the Twin Cities suburb of Golden Valley, but the NYC school would be open to kids from across the country). Will, realizing from what happened to Kurt and Santana that his glee kids could benefit from such an education, takes the job (which includes a counseling position for Emma...spousal hiring is a common recruiting tool) and encourages the kids from McKinley to attend to give themselves a better shot at performance careers.

    JUNE 15, 2012
    Now that Citalopram has the anxiety under control, my appetite has come roaring back. So I had blood drawn at the clinic to see if my A1C might still be high enough to qualify me for Metformin, a blood sugar drug that suppresses appetite. Alas, it's all the way down to 5.4. Am I bummed?


    Guess not.


    JULY 2, 2012
    Greetings from the Luther Crest Bible Camp Women's Week Retreat!

    ziplining
    "Nearer, My God, To Thee..."


    They say baby-boomers are desperate to relive the good parts of childhood. So here's a million-dollar idea you're free to steal: summer camp for grown-ups. Themes are fine...paranormal investigation, music, creative writing, weight loss, or enhancement of psychic abilities/spirituality would probably be popular...but aren't really necessary. What is necessary are the physical components:

    -An isolated setting with fields, forests, hills, and a lake

    -Large wooden dormitories with two rows of bunk beds, hardwood floors, overhead fans, lots of screened windows, and a big airy room full of toilet stalls and sinks.

    -A large wooden dining hall with hardwood floors, overhead fans, lots of screened windows, and long wooden dining tables with benches.

    -A well-lit, thoroughly ventilated, completely tiled, roomy shower facility with lots of dressing benches and grilled lockers.

    -An air-conditioned auditorium/lecture hall with work areas in the lobby with wireless access.

    Campers would arrive Sunday evening and depart Saturday morning. Weekdays would feature the following schedule:
    A two-week option would be available where the weekend would be spent hiking to a remote location, preferably with a waterfall and a swimming hole, for a Saturday overnight in tents.

    JULY 26, 2012
    Add me to the list of people dissatisfied with the Chase Amazon credit card. They claimed a payment was late and assessed a fee (plus interest on the fee!). Goodbye!

    Updated books read.

    AUGUST 6, 2012
    Updated books read.

    AUGUST 20, 2012
    Updated books read.

    AUGUST 29, 2012
    Updated lake baths.

    AUGUST 30, 2012
    Updated books read. Next up: Wuthering Heights! Can you believe I've never read it?

    SEPTEMBER 11, 2012
    Updated lake baths.

    SEPTEMBER 17, 2012
    Updated books read.

    SEPTEMBER 20, 2012
    Here's another one of those entries that will need updating. I'm currently dealing with a suspicious calcium deposit in my pelvis. Could be an aortic aneurysm. Swell. CT scan failed to rule out vessel involvement so I'll have to have an ultrasound. The medical professionals do not seem to be in a hurry so I'm trying to believe I'm not in any imminent danger. But I'm remembering what I learned in therapy. For any negative thought that enters your mind ("My life might be far shorter than I'd like"), try to compensate with two or three positives ones. My best option, I figure, is to imagine that heaven is the way they portrayed in on Lost...you get to live our your fantasies and wishes. Therefore, whenever a medical condition suggests I might not live to the average life expectancy, I'll remind myself of all the great stuff I'll get to do in heaven. In heaven, I will...

    ...see all the 2002 Kennedy Center productions for the Sondheim Celebration
    ...see Annie in its Goodspeed Opera House and original Broadway incarnations
    ...see all the tv episodes of Paper Moon
    ...learn everything I ever wanted to know about the Sawyer Ranch House
    ...see my grandparents again!
    ...meet all the relatives I've studied in my genealogy work
    ...poke around Priestpoint, the Randall house, our old cabin, the Overlander cabin...
    ...spy on anyone I want


    To be continued.

    OCTOBER 5, 2012
    Updated
    books read. Rumor has it Lisa Whelchel makes the final three on "Survivor" this season, along with Mike Skupin.

    NOVEMBER 19, 2012
    Updated books read.
    Note to Jason Haxton: More sympathetic I could not be. But the hunt is the best part, isn't it?
    Note to those who respond so hostilely to innocuous inquiries, paranormal or otherwise: You'd feel less shame if you'd stop being so hard on yourself.

    Atlas Shrugged is tediously long and didactic, isn't it? There's not a single character I like. Too much Dumbledorian smugness. And I'm getting pretty tired of that patronizing dialog, too.

    DECEMBER 31, 2012
    Forgot to update books read but I finished The Language of Flowers some time in December.

    JANUARY 10, 2013
    Still slogging through Atlas Shrugged. In the meantime, enjoy the Mystery of Lake Hassel Island.

    JANUARY 14, 2013
    Updated books read. Lucky William Straub. He figured out much faster than I did how atrociously Atlas Shrugged is written, so he was able to quit before he became vested in finishing. Worst...dialog...ever!!! All the 'good guys' (and I mean guys) speak exactly the same! You can't tell one character from another! They are relentlessly condescending and self-important. They know everything without being told and their emotions (Dagny's, too) are always at extreme pitch. And the author feels compelled to interpret every line of dialog. It's excruciating!

    The misogyny is pretty revolting, too. The men love each other more than any woman and every word they speak to Dagny is contradicting, correcting, or condescending, just like Robert Redford's Denys Finch Hatton in Out of Africa.

    Rand got one thing right, though. Christianity and capitalism are antithetical. Anyone attempting to practice both must refine one with the other. I wonder which one folks would ultimately choose?

    JANUARY 17, 2013
    Updated books read.

    JANUARY 25, 2013
    Updated books read. Uncovered the names of the mentally unstable folks who lived in the "True Haunting" house before (and during...and after...) Edwin Becker's tenure, but can't find out a thing about them (so far). If databases prove fruitless, Becker will have to acquire the material by establishing relationships and pursuing conversations, something he seems to be good at. Then he can write two follow-up books, one about the Seitzes and one about the realtor who took over his mortgage.

    FEBRUARY 4, 2013
    Oh, god. I'm Sherlocked. Crap. Crap CRAP CRAP !!!! But Shannon's right to be obsessed. It's the perfect upgrade for a Snape fan. Talk about a league of gentlemen.

    FEBRUARY 28, 2013
    I confess I am tempted to return to Suddenly Severus if only to envision Benedict Cumberbatch as the young Snape.

    MARCH 20, 2013
    Spring, my ass.

    Updated books read. Long and dense!

    MARCH 27, 2013
    Updated books read. Such a hoot, to think that Ryan O'Neal spent Christmases just a hundred miles down the road from me in rural Minnesota!

    APRIL 10, 2013
    Updated books read.

    APRIL 24, 2013
    Updated books read.

    MAY 28, 2013
    Updated books read. Oh, and I'm back from England.

    MAY 29, 2013
    Got my promotional material for the June pledge drive from Pioneer Public Television in the mail while I was gone. I was on the board of directors for 9 years and now I pitch for them on air during pledge drives. Scares me to death, being live on camera all by myself for 2-3 minutes at a stretch before millions of potential viewers.

    When I discovered Sherlock would be in production for over a month before my trip to England, I got the most brilliant idea. Since it would be incredibly convenient for Hartswood Films personnel to gather autographs while the show was in production, I asked if they would be willing to have Sherlock cast members and creative artists sign a publicity still I could offer up during the pledge drive for my financially beleaguered little PBS station on the prairie. They wouldn't even have to come up with the funds to mail it! I could drop by the production office in London and pick it up from a clerk while I was in town! That way, other PBS station supporters would not be able to burden them with the same kind of request. Not much return on the request if you have to go to London or Cardiff to pick up the photo!

    They didn't even offer the courtesy of a reply.

    Since I told the folks at Pioneer I was working on a surprise for them, I'm wondering what I should do now. I suppose I could try the folks at Downton Abby. That show has far more fans in my viewing area, anyway.

    Catch the irony there?

    JUNE 7, 2013
    My photos finally arrived from my trip to England!!!


    Knock knock knock
                    "Benny."

    Knock knock knock
                    "Benny."

    Knock knock knock
                    "Benny."



    JUNE 12, 2013
    Dear God, I love this shot. British youth in Cranbrook chill outside the tower door (see them down below?) to St. Dunstan's, the church where my grandpa William Eddy (Mabel Purdy ancestor) was vicar from 1591-1616.



    JUNE 26, 2013
    Updated lake baths and books read.

    August 5, 2013
    Updated books read.

    SEPTEMBER 3, 2013
    Updated books read.

    SEPTEMBER 16, 2013

    I skipped the summer report last year. Here's the list for 2013:
    -Visited England and wrote a bitchin' photobook.
    -Found Silver Lake! Forget the paved path. Drive out to the gravel pits and look for protruding junk.
    -Moved Grandma to a better facility in my hometown.
    -Completed the Waterama 5K in under an hour.
    -Enjoyed another season at Theatre L'Homme Dieu (but no PopeArt due to renovations).
    -Read The Grapes of Wrath and some Arthur Conan Doyle.
    -Swam lots in the Lake Linka aquarium.

    SEPTEMBER 17, 2013
    Updated books read.

    SEPTEMBER 19, 2013
    Updated lake baths.

    OCTOBER 13, 2013
    Updated books read.

    OCTOBER 14, 2013
    Updated books read.

    OCTOBER 25, 2013

    What a friggin' waste, that I wasn't a child actress.


    Updated books read.

    NOVEMBER 13, 2013
    Updated books read.

    DECEMBER 6, 2013
    Updated books read.

    DECEMBER 12, 2013
    Updated books read.

    DECEMBER 25, 2013
    Updated books read.

    JANUARY 3, 2014
    Updated books read.

    JANUARY 13, 2014
    Updated books read.

    JANUARY 30, 2014
    Check it out! It's Spellwad!


    FEBRUARY 12, 2014
    Updated books read.

    FEBRUARY 24, 2014
    Updated books read.

    MARCH 31, 2014
    Updated books read. Loved the exploration of spirituality in The Long Secret, but why on EARTH didn't some editor take Fitzhugh in hand and say, "You can't pop back and forth between perspectives like that. Show some guts (and some skill) and commit to telling this story from Beth Ellen's perspective." Seriously! Why didn't that happen? Isn't that an editor's job?

    APRIL 14, 2014
    Updated books read.

    MAY 29, 2014
    Updated books read and lake baths.

    JUNE 5, 2014
    I've kept this newspaper photo for more than 25 years and it still fascinates me. It was published in July of 1987 or 1988 (I think) by the Daily Herald and shows a family sitting on the porch roof of a venerable two-story brick home on Center Street in Provo watching the annual Pioneer Day parade. From right to left, we have Amy Hart Redford as a blonde-haired teenager, an older woman I gotta figure is her Grandma Phyllis Van Wagenen (owner of the home), the former son-in-law (Robert Redford) who recently divorced Phyllis's daughter, and the former son-in-law's girlfriend (Sonia Braga). Dang, Phyllis, that is LIBERAL, even for the first woman to run for mayor in Provo!


    JUNE 16, 2014
    Updated books read.

    JULY 23, 2014
    Updated books read. I liked BLEAK HOUSE much better than HARD TIMES and a bit more than YE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP.

    AUGUST 11, 2014
    Updated books read.

    AUGUST 27, 2014
    Updated books read.

    SEPTEMBER 10, 2014
    Updated books read.

    SEPTEMBER 19, 2014
    Updated books read.

    SEPTEMBER 30, 2014
    Updated lake baths.

    JANUARY 26, 2015
    Updated books read.

    JANUARY 30, 2015
    Updated books read.

    MARCH 2, 2015
    Updated books read.

    JUNE 13, 2015
    Updated books read.

    JUNE 26, 2015
    Updated lake baths.

    SEPTEMBER 9, 2015
    Updated lake baths.

    SEPTEMBER 4, 2015
    Updated books read. I am MORTIFIED that I only got one book read between first and last lake baths this summer.

    SEPTEMBER 12, 2015
    Updated books read.

    SEPTEMBER 18, 2015
    Updated books read.

    SEPTEMBER 22, 2015
    Updated books read.

    OCTOBER 26, 2015
    Updated books read.

    NOVEMBER 10, 2015
    Updated books read.

    NOVEMBER 17, 2015
    Updated books read.

    JANUARY 2016
    Updated books read.

    MARCH 22, 2016
    Updated books read.

    MARCH 27, 2016
    Updated books read.

    APRIL 11, 2016
    Updated books read.

    JULY 7, 2016
    Updated books read.

    JULY 12, 2016
    Updated books read.

    SEPTEMBER 7, 2016
    Updated books read.

    DECEMBER 12, 2016
    Updated books read.

    JANUARY 6, 2017
    Updated books read.

    FEBRUARY 2, 2017
    Updated books read.

    FEBRUARY 17, 2017
    Updated books read.

    FEBRUARY 24, 2017
    Updated books read. Count me among those who find THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS woefully overrated.

    MARCH 6, 2017
    Updated books read. Life story of Amanda Peltier much? On to this year's Dickens entry: David Copperfield.

    MAY 17, 2017
    Happy Syttende Mai! Updated books read.

    MAY 24, 2017
    Updated books read.

    JUNE 10, 2017
    Updated books read.

    JULY 6, 2017
    Updated books read. Next up: Karolina's Twins and Tear Soup, both suggested by Nancy Haugen at Bible camp.

    JULY 1, 2017
    Updated books read. For those who love spoilers as much as I do, here come some for Karolina's Twins.

    1. The girls threw Rachel and Leah from a moving train in an attempt to save their lives. They were on their way to a death camp where the babies would be shot upon arrival.
    2. Lena gave birth to the twins, not Karolina. They were David's children. She kept the secret for years because she couldn't bring herself to tell him she might have killed his only daughters by throwing them from a moving train.

    JULY 31, 2017
    Updated books read.

    SEPTEMBER 28, 2017
    Oops! Forgot an entry or two. Updated books read.

    OCTOBER 5, 2017
    Updated books read.

    NOVEMBER 5, 2017
    Updated books read.


    I'm Rebecca Webb and I can be reached at webbrl@morris.umn.edu.
    This is a personal blog and does not reflect the views or policies of the University of Minnesota.

    The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author. The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by the University of Minnesota.