Tag Archives: Harry Potter

Friday Faves: The Not Amy Edition

29 Jul

Greetings, Backseat Writers, Readers, Lurkers, etc.  I hijacked Backseat Writer this week. Amy is around… somewhere. No, I didn’t put a Petrificus Totalus curse on her and stuff her under an invisibility cloak… she just needed a break and kindly asked me to fill in for her this week. I hope I can do her lovely blog justice!

So, I guess you’re wondering who this Not-Amy impostor is, right? My name is Jen, and I blog about music and books and art and stuff at Divinest Sense. I’ve been a lurker/admirer of BSW for a while, but not so long ago, Amy and I connected over blog comments and Twitter and found out that 1) we both read each other’s blogs and 2) we have an insane number of things in common, mostly of the books, music, and Harry Potter geeky variety.

Other stuff you need to know:

1)  My day job is Audio Ninja for Z88.3 FM, a Christian music radio station in Orlando, FL. It almost seems unfair to call it a day job… usually, that’s how you describe something that you do for a pay check while deferring your “dream job.” I’m truly grateful for a fun, interesting, and rewarding 9-5.

2)  Audio ninja = I do all kinds of programming stuff to make the radio sound cool. And various other things. I am not on the air, except for the occasional snarky comment as “Producer Jen” on our sub-stations The Rock and YHot.

3)  I’m a contributing writer for JesusFreakHideout.com, as well as a blogger and a wannabe poet.

4)  Loves: Coffee, books, going to concerts, my cats, plaid Chucks, deserted beaches, wordplay, Mexican food, colorful eyeshadow, handmade jewelry, indie record stores and used book shops, superhero movies, a wide range of music, my Macbook and Apple stuff in general, office supplies, spiral notebooks, and Twitter.

And now that this is out of the way, I present my Friday Faves!

*  So… music. Music is pretty much my favorite. I work with it, write about it, never leave home without my iPod, and spend an inordinate number of hours listening to it week in and week out. I have a few pre-release albums that are getting a lot of play in my car lately, one of them being the new Downhere. Um, wow. I never listened to a full album by these guys before, but their forthcoming record On the Altar of Love has been winning me over for the past month. Here’s a little teaser review I wrote for JFH.

*  One of the the other great things about Downhere is that they’re signed with Centricity Music. And the folks at Centricity are awesome, committed to putting great art out in the world… and hilarious. A month or two ago, they started a series of web videos called Centricity U, in which Prof. Mays hDRP (aka: John Mays, VP of A&R) teaches their artists all about the magic of radio. (Okay, occasionally these videos drift into the weird world of radio humor, but somebody please tell me you don’t have to be a radio geek to appreciate it.)   Here’s Episode 2, featuring Downhere (while we’re on the subject) These videos crack me up every time. But again… probably radio geek humor. Be sure to watch all the way to the end. “Honorary means Very. Special.”

*  Speaking of music, here’s a little video from one of my favorite websites in the cyber-universe, The Rabbit Room. It’s one of the few blogs I visit daily (so much I got a little twitchy when they were down for a redesign a few months ago. at least it’s a fairly healthy addiction). Anyway, besides their excellent essays and strong, smart web community, they also have a fine roster of musicians including the likes of Andrew Peterson, Jason Gray, Ben Shive, and the delightful Melanie Penn. I bought her album a while back, and it’s a charming collection of sweet and summery pop tunes. Her new music video “Ordinary Day” just debuted and it’s… well… magical! Give it a watch below, and you’ll see what I mean.

*  Another long-standing favorite: quirky handmade jewelry! I am not so girly, but I do geek out over the stuff at ShanaLogic.com. And this week they launched a Necklace-of-the-Month Club!

Oh, if only I could justify the price… basically, for $140 they send you a beautiful handmade necklace a month. What? It’s actually a pretty great deal when you do the math, though I’m sure I can find more… um… practical things to do with that money. But aren’t these samples fantastic?

I do adore and recommend ShanaLogic heartily. Their pieces are artistic and high-quality, the customer service rocks, and you can feel good knowing you supported independent art by shopping there. Everybody wins.

*  Do you like comics? Who doesn’t? I am proud to admit I have more than a little geek in me, even though I don’t indulge it nearly enough. (I have been to a couple of comic conventions though. It’s a fun and fascinating world.) My sister Sherri is just about the coolest geek I know and an artist, and I’m really proud to say she’s about to be published for the first time. W00t!  She’s on board for an upcoming project called Womanthology, a massive collection of comic art and stories by an all female cast of creators, both professionals and newcomers alike. She’s drawing a four-page fantasy story for the anthology. The coolest part is that it’s completely funded by donations through Kickstarter, and all profits from the book will go to charity. I’m so stoked for her! Here’s a great interview with Renae De Liz, the artist behind it all, and the story of the Womanthology project.

*  I never really did get into the Royal Wedding and such, but I do have a thing for all things British! I especially love the accents… sometimes I wish I could pack my bags and move across the pond for whatever length of time it would take to acquire one. (I’m sure I’m not the only one.) If you’ve also ever dreamed of spending a fortnight or more in the UK, you might want to study this list of 50 Annoying Americanisms as polled by the BBC. Some I agree with… others are just hilarious. I especially love the wit in some of these e-mails, like #35 from Nerina in London:  “‘Reach out to’ when the correct word is ‘ask.’ For example: ‘I will reach out to Kevin and let you know if that timing is convenient.’ Reach out? Is Kevin stuck in quicksand? Is he teetering on the edge of a cliff? Can’t we just ask him?”  As Nerina might actually say… “Brilliant!”

*  Since Pottermania is still alive and well at Backseat Writer and I am indeed a proud Floridian, I thought this was worth sharing as a dual favorite. Found via my friend Lindsay’s Tumblr… this is why Florida wins. (According to this handy infographic, I am a Hufflepuff. And “Go BadgerKnights!” is my new battle cry.)

*  Finally and on a serious note, good, thought-provoking, hope-stirring writing is my favorite. In the midst of my online travels and sometimes Twitter overload, I found this little gem of a post. I’ve never read this blog before, but Rachel Held Evans (a blogger I read often) tweeted a link to a post The Kingdom of God is Like…” from Sarcastic Lutheran. Beautiful words. Startling reminder.

“We mistakenly may think that the kingdom of God should follow our value system and also be powerful or impressive and shiny. But that’s not what Jesus brings.  He brings a kingdom ruled by the crucified one – populated by the unclean, and suffused with mercy rather than power. And it’s always found in the unexpected.”

So, how did I do? Should Amy never invite me to do this again? Will you come visit my blog? Are you a casual or obsessed music fan? Did you like the humor in the Centricity U video, or just think music people are weird now? How about Melanie Penn? Would you join a Necklace of the Month Club? Are you a comic geek at heart? Don’t you love British accents too? What words or phrases annoy you? What house/Florida university would you end up in? And what is the Kingdom of God like to you? Did I ask enough questions yet?

Friday Faves: Pottermania Edition {probably contains spoilers}

15 Jul

Pottermania is sweeping the nation!  I’m sure you are all wondering when I will go see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2.  My answer: not anytime soon.  See, I dislike crowds, especially unruly ones.  Therefore, while being crammed into a theater with fellow Harry Potter fanatics sounds incredibly fun in theory, the truth is that it would probably result in a panic attack.  When I do see the movie, you will be the first to know…and I’m sure my scream of horror at Fred Weasley’s death will be heard many miles away.

Incidentally, I did receive some flack for my post on Fred’s death, which I posted here and on Backseat Reader.  Apparently the post’s title, “Why do you care so much about Fred Weasley’s death?” is a spoiler.  Not a very big spoiler, but a spoiler nonetheless, which is why I was sure to warn ALL my readers that this post could be spoily.  I would hate to ruin the “fun” of discovering Fred’s death for anyone else.  (Personally, I see my post as a public service announcement to help people know that while it appears that our dear Fred is dreadfully departed, things are not always what they seem.)

A few “lovely” individuals also left mean comments calling me stupid and telling me to get over it.  Since Backseat Writer is a benevolent dictatorship, I deleted those nasty comments and felt sad that those people missed the entire point of why I cared so much about Fred Weasley’s life and death.  Honestly, I don’t mind being called “stupid” (OK, I do mind…just keeping it real), but I do mind when I pour my heart into a post, only to have it dismissed as “silly” or “stupid” simply because it’s misunderstood.

My main point is this–J.K. Rowling created a world with very real and colorful characters.  These characters are so real that the death of one–namely Fred Weasley–is painful.  Not only that, but because of the Harry Potter books, I was able to find an escape during some very painful times.  Such is the wonderful power of literature and imagination!  It reminds me of a quote my friend Hira posted on Twitter.  Alan Rickman, the actor who portrays Severus Snape in the movies said this, “When I’m 80 years old, I’ll be reading Harry Potter. My family will say, ‘After all this time?’ and I will say ‘Always.’”  Me, too.  Who’s with me?

Therefore, in celebration of Harry Potter and the beginning of the end of an era (before Pottermore is launched and we all become obsessed with it), this week it’s all about Harry and the gang.

*Kimberly at Reflections of a Book Addict is hosting the “Harry Potter Blogsposion,” where you can win paperback copies of ALL the Harry Potter books and even a couple of the movie DVD’s.  Personally, I put my name in for my fave book in the series, Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix, since my copy is starting to fall apart.  After giving into my incessant begging via Twitter, Kimberly was also kind enough to let me in on the fun. So whilst you’re over there checking out all the Harry goodness, take a look at my article, “Amy’s View on the Best of the Rest,” where I discuss some of my favorite secondary characters in the series.

I love this graphic and had to use it again. Artist unknown.

*While checking the latest book news on Reading With Tequila, I noticed that Jennifer had various posts on Harry Potter characters that were “loved.” But do you know who wasn’t among the adored?  My very own Fred and George Weasley!  Maybe I volunteered, maybe Jennifer asked, maybe a little of both…who can remember?  The end result is another post by yours truly called, “Why I Love Fred and Geroge Weasley.”

I stole this graphic from Reading Teen. But they won't care because it's a magical portkey to their site.

*Andye at Reading Teen (whose love for all things Potter surpasses my own) and her gang posted some hilarious Harry Potter material in recent weeks, including this video about what it means to be in Hufflepuff (I really did laugh out loud) and the Harry Potter comic parody known as “SummHarry.”  Created by artist Lucy Knisney, the comics depict ALL of the Harry Potter books through comics.  You’ve got to see it to believe it, and believe me, you want to see it. You can download all the drawings FOR FREE on Lucy’s site (you can make a small donation to help Lucy out with website/bandwidth costs…or just because you appreciate her clever artistry.)  My favorite Potter post, written by Andye, is called “Ten Things I Wish Were Real (Harry Potter).”

*This evening I discovered Patricia’s Peculiarity (try saying that five times fast), which is running a month long Harry Potter celebration with giveaways, including HP swag!  Woot!  There are a ton of great posts, items, and memories to be found here.  My favorite giveaway thus far is the Gryffindor swag.  I mean, honestly, would you want to be in any other house? Gryffindor is where all the action happens.

*Are you a bookish, average-looking, intelligent and brave gal?  Then chances are you are a big fan of Hermione Granger. (Personally, she’s my fave member of the trio.  I guess it should be Harry Potter, and I do love my Harry, but I’ve always had a soft spot of Hermione’s amazingness!)  And guys, I know you like intelligent girls who read, so everyone should check out this excellent post by the Huffington Post’s Laura Gibbard called, “Hermione Granger: The Heronine Women Have Been Waiting For.”  The article talks about how Hermione has so much more substance than a Disney princess and also argues that Harry and Ron would be lost without her, which is absolutely true.  We love Hermione!

*I almost forgot to tell y’all about Potter Puppet Pals, this crazy web series by Neil Cicierega, featuring a parody of Harry Potter using puppets.  Sometimes they’re a little off-color, so throw the kids out of the room and watch.  You’ll love your guilty pleasure.

*One of my favorite singer/songwriters and author of the Wingfeather Saga, Andrew Peterson, wrote an absolutely lovely post this week called, “Harry Potter, Jesus, and Me.” Peterson reflects on how he came to read the Harry Potter series, why it’s awesome, and how it can point us to God.  

*I know it’s hard to believe, but there are other movies releasing this weekend, including the one seen in the trailer below.  It’s a cute spoof on DH2.

One more thing, congratulations to Janelle, the winner of last week’s Freedom Giveway Hop!  Out of the 273 of you who entered the giveaway, only a shameful seven truly think Fred Weasley is no longer with us!  I even have this nifty graph to illustrate how we all voted, and I’m sure you all voted that Fred’s alive because you believe it in your hearts; the extra entry had nothing to do with it, right?

Look at that! 97% of us know that Fred’s alive, which must mean…he’s alive!  Hooray!  We saved Fred, had an awesome giveaway, and proved to the world that you can get people to agree with crazy theories for an extra entry into a contest! (P.S. Jen [who also wrote this awesome post on her blog, "Harry Potter and the End of It All"] was totally ready to go with our contest and I flaked out on her.  It is a’coming, so stay tuned!)

Let’s discuss!  Tell me in the comments section when you plan on seeing Deathly Hallows, Part 2.  Who’s your favorite Harry Potter character?  What does it mean to be in Hufflepuff?  Do you support house elf rights? Do you think I should have made the text for this post red and yellow to celebrate Gryffindor? (I thought that would be hard to read.) And…at what age will you stop reading the Harry Potter books? 

Why do you care so much about Fred Weasley’s death? {Deathly Hallows “Spoiler” Warning!}

13 Jul

Artist Unknown

But the question people really want to ask is—why do you care about Fred’s death so much?  Most people think I’m just being silly or passionate, since I’m often both silly and passionate.  But I am absolutely serious in my denial of Fred’s death.  When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released on June 21, 2007, I was still reeling from my grandmother’s death, which happened on July 31, 2005.  It was a tumultuous time in my life for many reasons, but I do get emotional around the dates of specific events, like April 23 when I almost died (2001) and October 31 (also 2001, rough year) when my parents’ divorce was official.  So when I started reading Deathly Hallows, I was already emotional.

By the time I reached page 637, I knew that Fred was going to die.  Several friends who read the book ahead of me told me that this was going to happen, so I steeled myself for one of the worst death scenes in the book.  I mean, a flash of whatever and Fred’s dead?!  Not even an individual reaction from George?  If you’re going to kill off one of the Weasley twins, at least give me some space to react to it.  Same with Tonks and Lupin…and their deaths didn’t even warrant an explanation.  To say I cried is an understatement; I mourned the death of Fred Weasley.  I carried it with me like a sickness, and I knew it was stupid.  I knew he was just some character in a book.  And I knew that crying about him wasn’t going to change the world.

Despite how I berated myself for having such a strong reaction to something so small, I wasn’t just reacting to Fred’s death.  I was reacting to the pain of my grandmother’s death—how the process of her death actually took a week, how she begged to die, and how God didn’t make any sense to me at that time.  I also reacted to my grandfather’s death (January 6, 2006).  He broke his hip and died of renal failure after hours of suffering.  I sat beside him holding his hand as he moaned in agony while my mom made plans to move him to a nursing home—plans which never came to fruition.

Also, if Fred and George could be separated, then why not Amy and Sarah?  Sarah is my dearest, closest, most-beloved friend.  She is the sister I never had, the friend I’ve always prayed for, the best roommate in the world and one of the most important people in my life.   If George could lose Fred, then I could lose Sarah.  I always thought that either both twins would die or neither would die, but that’s not what J.K. Rowling chose to do, and I do resent her for it.  I really do.  Because I cannot imagine losing Sarah, I cannot imagine George losing Fred.  It is simply too much for my heart to bear.

Plot wise, Fred’s death bites at the heart of the Weasley family, and the tragedy reunites Percy with his estranged family.  Fred and George are generally harmless, even in their trickery, so killing one of the twins shows the cruelty of war and how it affects families.  Fred’s death also sets up Mrs. Weasley’s showdown with Bellatrix Lestrange.  Bellatrix taunts Mrs. Weasley with Fred’s death, goes after Ginny, producing one of the best scenes of all—Mrs. Weasley blasting Bellatrix to smithereens.  No one can deny that “Not my daughter, you b—-!” is a great line, even if it does involve a naughty word.

Artist unknown. But the twins have freckles, like they do in the books!

While I understand why J.K. Rowling chose to kill Fred Weasley and a lot of other great characters (apparently choosing them to die from the beginning), I simply don’t want to live in a world where Fred Weasley doesn’t exist.  That world seems like a sadder, crueler, too real a place to live—generally not a place I like to be when I read fiction for amusement.  It was, in fact, the Harry Potter books that helped me after my grandparents’ death.  I’m not saying that I didn’t trust God or read my Bible.  But when I needed a relief from all that emotion, I read the Harry Potter books.  I could momentarily escape into an adventure that didn’t involve my finances, my grandparents’ deaths, my mental illness, my mom’s marriage to a sociopath; it was my escape.  What happens, then, when your escape is met with the death of a favorite character?  Do you revel in the good times?  Do you ignore it?  Or do you simply write your own happy ending?  I do all of the above.

I like my happy endings tied up with a bow, and that didn’t happy for Fred Weasley (and I only found out about George’s through some random JKR interview).  This is fiction, which means anything that is written can be re-written, particularly in the world of fantasy!  My mind can simply substitute “Fred” and put in “Percy”—looks like Percy’s dead and Fred’s alive.  Or I can conjure up a way for George to bring Fred back using a Time Turner (or maybe read a fan fiction where someone did just that).  There are a bazillion reasons why Fred doesn’t have to be dead—the only limit is one’ own imagination.

Sure, there are some purists out there who argue that Fred’s death is part of the Harry Potter canon and blah, blah, blah.  That’s fine.  If you want to live a boring life without Fred Weasley, so be it.  However, I choose to live in a world where Fred and George run Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes to a ripe old age passing it down to their daughters, where Dobby learns to knit and opens his own sock company, and where Teddy is raised in a loving home by his parents, Tonks and Lupin.

You might say I’m living in some sort of fantasy world, and I’d have to agree.  It’s called the world of Harry Potter and you should visit it sometime; your imagination is feeling neglected.

Oh, and one more thing—don’t worry about what you read in the book or see in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2; Fred is very much alive!  George and I would have it no other way.

“When I’m 80 years old, I’ll be reading Harry Potter. My family will say, ‘After all this time?’ and I will say ‘Always.’” – Alan Rickman (actor who portrays Severus Snape. HT to Hira!)

Click to view full size. Artist unknown.

Freedom Giveaway Hop (July 1-7)

30 Jun

Let freedom ring in North America (and throughout the rest of the world) because we’ll just use any ol’ excuse to have a bookish giveaway, won’t we?  Personally, I love it, and I’m sure you do, too.  That’s why you’re here, isn’t it?  To enter my bookish giveaway?  I’m sure it is.  I’d like to think it’ s because of my witty writing, good charm, and fantastic social networking skills, but you want the goods.  In fact, it’s the middle of the hop, so you just want me to GET ON WITH IT already. (Most of you have probably scrolled down to where it says “Fill out form,” by now anyway.  I thank those of you still reading.  It’s a writer’s nightmare not to be read.)

Last time, I gave you a bunch of humorous ways to earn extra entries for my giveaway, but this time, they’re actually going to count. Again, this is “extra” so you don’t actually *have* to do it, but if you do, you get 1 extra entry.   As many of you know the final Harry Potter movie releases on July 15, and in the movie (as in the book), Fred Weasley supposedly dies (I’m not giving anything away because most, if not all of you read the Harry Potter books.  Plus, there’s an excerpt from an article about it right here).  However, I think we should take a vote as to whether or not we truly think Fred is dead.  If you vote “no” you get an extra punto, if you vote “yes” you get NOTHING, NOTHING AT ALL!  At the end of this highly scientific and completely unbiased poll, we’ll see what the readers of Backseat Writer think.  I’ll announce the winner and the poll results on July 8.

Click on image to see larger version.

(Note:  A few of you have remarked that even though Fred is “dead,” you are going along with me to get the extra entry.  Andye at ReadingTeen.net and I discussed the matter of Fred’s death over Twitter and came up with more observations–1. We never get to see George’s response to Fred’s death, just a generic Weasley family response.  Therefore, Fred cannot be dead. 2. Tonks and Lupin’s death remain unexplained, so they can’t really be dead either.  Because they’re two of my favorite characters, it only makes sense that Fred isn’t dead either.  3.  It’s too mean to kill Fred and not George and vice versa.  My mind cannot comprehend the cruelty, so I just deny it.  4. As Andye pointed out, Percy should have died in Fred’s place because no one likes Percy and it would have been his final heroic act.  Plus, it would make Fred a better person.  If you’re STILL not convinced, you can read this fan fic called “Fox Ears,” in which a writer actually undeads Fred.  I don’t read much fan fic, but I really enjoyed this story.)

What can you win, you ask with baited breath?  Besides the satisfaction of knowing that you saved a fictional character from an unfair and untimely death in the blood bath that is the second half of Deathly Hallows, you can also win….

OR

Book of Choice (up to $10)

To enter, you have to fill out….

THE FORM!!!

Or you can click on this picture of movie Fred and George (I picture them a little differently, but this will do) to get to THE FORM. I like to give you options.

Now here are  the boring details.  The giveaway ends on July 7 at 11: 59 PM EST and the winner will be announced on July 8 (or so).  The winner can choose between a $10 Amazon gift card (delivered via email) or a book up to $10 from The Book Depository.  If The Book Depository delivers to you, then you are eligible to enter this giveaway. One entry per person.  Double entries will be deleted.  You might want to leave a comment to remind yourself that you’ve entered here. Thank you to our the lovely Freedom Giveaway Hop co-hosts, Kathy of I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Stacie of Simply Stacie.

Naturally, if you want to hang around Backseat Writer and read my posts, follow me on Twitter, or just leave me flattering remarks, you are more than welcome.  There is only ONE way to extra that EXTRA ENTRY…and you know what it is.  Thanks for stopping by!

Don’t forget to enter the over 200+ other giveaways–full list of participants right here.

Let James Tate & the Tatens Go to the Prom!!!

11 May

An important issue has come to my attention, so important in fact, that despite my sickening sinus/stress headache, I had to drop everything to let you all know about it, so we can act fast….

James Tate has been banned from his high school prom.

Stop the presses!  What did this teenage miscreant do to deserve such a punishment?  “Tate” (that’s what the cool kids call him) taped his prom invite to the FRONT OF THE SCHOOL!  Come on, you know that the teenage girl in you just swooned! (Unless you were a teenage guy, then you’re thinking, “Man, all I did was make a nervous phone call!”)  While the object of Tate’s affection–one Sonila Rodrigues did say “yes”–the “man” (down with “the man”!) Shelton High School Headmaster Beth Smith gave Tate and his merry band of helpers in-school suspension, meaning they are barred from the prom because they received their in-school suspension after April 1. If only Tate had committed his act of rebellion a few weeks earlier…

Evidence of James Tate's heinous crime.

While I agree kids can’t recklessly climb around on ladders on school property (hear that stage crew, no ladders), Tate says, “I wore a helmet and brought friends along to hold the ladder and hand me the letters with tape on them.” (Source)  I mean, come on, he wore a helmet and had his friends hold the ladder!!!  Furthermore, the high school student even comes up with his own punishment, “I offered to collect litter around the school and argued other options.Give me a week of detention, but don’t give me an in-school suspension so that I can’t go to prom.”  Perhaps my favorite Tate quote from The Patch article is this: “I feel like a jerk for getting my friends in trouble and for screwing Sonali out of a date.”

Here is my open appeal to Headmaster Smith:

Look, Headmaster Smith, give the kid a break.  He feels like a jerk.  He offered to scrape gum from underneath desks.  And I’m pretty sure he’ll never do it again. Tate seems like a good kid with the purest of intentions.  Show some good humor and give Tate and his friends a reprieve.  No one will doubt your authority, but see you as the benevolent dictator that you are.  Mr. Belding from “Saved By the Bell” would do it for Zach Morris and the gang and he was a princi-”pal” and I know that Professor Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts wouldn’t have banned Harry Potter (or the more likely offenders Fred and George Weasley) from the Yule Ball.

Look at Mr. Belding and the kids. It's just so right. Be a Mr. Belding.

In fact, I do believe that Professor McGonagall sets a precedence for benevolent punishment when Harry flies around on his broomstick to help a fellow classmate retrieve his Remembrall in Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone.  She lefts Harry Potter join the Quidditch team!  (Incidentally, McGonagall does become temporary headmaster in Dumbledore’s abscence and subsequent death.  As a female headmaster yourself, I’m sure that McGonagall’s example of female leadership is an inspiration to you.)  See, Headmaster Smith, you can be a Mr. Belding or a Professor McGonagall–not a Principal Vernon from The Breakfast Club.

Let Tate and the Tatens go to the prom–for the teenage girl you used to be–and because you know you secretly think that what James Tate did was hilarious.

But if that doesn’t work, we can always further the cause…

If you want to lend your support to Tate, you can join the Facebook group: “Let James Tate Go to the Prom” (over 25,000 members and going strong) call these peple: Shelton High School – 203 922 3004 ext 512, Board of Education – 203 924 1023, Mayor’s Office – 203 924 1555, Superintendents Office – 203 924 1023, extension 302, sign this petition: “Let Tate and His Friends Go to Prom!, write a humorous blog post, or come up with a hilarious idea of your own.  In fact, I have a few of my own.

Perhaps, we can get 80′s teen icons like Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, and John Cusack to lend celebrity support to the cause.  I mean, John Cusack was in Say Anything, right?  One look  at that famous boom box scene and Headmaster Smith’s heart will melt.  She will realize that teenage boys will do anything–and I mean anything–to get the girl.  Perhaps John Cusack could go to Smith’s house with a boombox and re-enact the scene.  Come on, John Cusack, Hot Tub Time Machine was a wash, get yourself some major publicity here.

Or we could just send her the movie Say Anything along with some Saved by the Bell DVD’s and a few Harry Potter books so she can see first-hand how to be a Mr. Belding or a Professor Dumbledore (or McGonagall).

Maybe we could just remind Headmaster Smith and the school board that teenagers are silly, foolish, and reckless, which is part of what it means to be a young adult.  They are learning to be adults, but haven’t quite reached the maturity [some] actual adults possess.  Instead of making James Tate and his friends an example, why not show them some grace?  Perhaps the most valuable lesson you can teach these teens and the rest of the student body is that, yes, people do mess up and sometimes, not always, people don’t have to face the full punishment for their follies.  Sometimes, Dr. Smith, it’s OK to be human and to let teenagers be the same.

Update 1: According to this Fox News article, the town’s mayor thinks James Tate’s case needs to be “re-examined.” Also, I sent John Cusack a Tweet and posted a message on his Facebook wall, but so far the actor has remained silent on the issue.

Update 2: James Tate & the Tatens are going to the prom!

Do you think that James Tate and his friends should be allowed to go to the prom?  What is the likelihood of John Cusack taking on our cause?  What is your favorite “Saved By The Bell” epsiode?  What does Shelton High School have a Headmaster instead of a principal?  What are you going to do to help James get to the prom? And, finally, do you think that Matthew Morrison and I could chaperone this prom together?

My Thoughts on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

17 Jul

Note to readers:: I am a hardcore fan of the Harry Potter series, so not all of what I write here will make sense to casual HP fans.  Also, please remember this is my opinion and my opinion only.

For an excellent review of the film with plot synopsis, check out the NY Times review here or Chris Kohler of Wired.com’s review here.  The following is merely an explosion of thoughts.

Everyone’s been asking me if I’ve seen the latest Harry Potter movie yet—even though it’s only been out for 3 days!  Well, today I hit a super matinee ($5.75 a ticket, baby) and checked out my favorite boy wizards and the gang. By boy wizards, I mean Fred and George Weasley (James and Oliver Phelps), who appeared in the movie for all of five minutes.  I mean, really?  To be fair, the movie is called Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, not Fred and George Weasley’s Magical Joke Shop.  Frankly, I’m surprised the scenes of glee and merrymaking at Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes (that’s the name of the joke shop) weren’t cut out of the movie…like their older brother, Bill, and his fiancé, Fleur Delacour.  I’m beginning to doubt the two eldest Weasley brothers even exist.

Fred and George (James and Oliver Phelps) talk to a customer (or maybe that's the director)

The tone of the movie was supposed to be serious and scary—there are big things happening in both the Muggle and wizard worlds, but the movie’s plot seemed largely focused on the drama of teenage romance. Of course, there’s that pesky Voldemort guy and his legions that kept ruining perfectly good opportunities for the kids to snog (that’s the term Brits use for “make out”).  For example, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Ginny (Bonnie Wright) go in for a “Merry Christmas” kiss when all of a sudden the Burrow (the Weasleys’ home) is attacked by Death Eaters.  Wait a second!  That doesn’t happen until Bill and Fleur’s wedding in the final book.  I thought there were supposed to be charms and enchantments protecting the Burrow—hence why it was safe for Harry to stay there in such troubling times. But none of that was explained earlier in the movie, so it made perfect sense for the Burrow to be set ablaze by the Death Eaters, right?  At least we got to see Fred and George for 6 more seconds.  I only hope the Burrow can be magically rebuilt before Bill and Fleur’s wedding since that’s where the wedding takes place.

It seems like the friendship of the trio—Ron (Rupert Grint), Harry, and Hermione (Emma Watson)—is diminished in Half-Blood Prince as well.  While the trio is seen together, they don’t seem like a cohesive unit.  And when they are together, Hermione’s sighing about Ron and Ron’s acting like a goofball.  Instead of serving as Harry’s friends, they’re more like companions that come along for the ride.  Other characters like Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch) and Mrs. Weasley (Julie Waters) have bit parts, yet embody their literary counterparts.  Alan Rickman, Helen Bonham Carter, and Michael Gambon  reprise their parts as Severus Snape, Bellatrix Lestrange, and Albus Dumbledore marvelously.

Yikes! Harrys all grown-up and kissing Ginny!

Yikes! Harry's all grown-up and kissing Ginny!

While I love seeing the books come to life (amazing CGI), Half-Blood Prince seemed to focus more on teenage romance and less on actual plot.  J.K. Rowling’s writing is so colorful because her main plot—the story of Harry Potter and Voldemart—has side plots that add flavor to an intricate story line.  Her characters have more life and breathe on the pages of the books than they do through the actors that portray the characters on-screen.  I do appreciate that the vast majority of the main characters have been portrayed by the same actors, which adds continuity to the plot.  I’m just disappointed that the script for Half-Blood Prince sadly departs from the book—it’s more of a romantic comedy/drama with some explosions and wizard battles.  We barely had time to wipe a tear for Dumbledore before the credits started rolling.

If I were to give this movie a score, it would be a 3.5 out of 5.  Why so high, you ask?  Because Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is still a good movie; it’s just not a great Harry Potter movie.  We hardcore HP fans do ask for a lot from our Harry Potter movies.

So much to say, so much to say!

19 Aug

This week I’m “unofficially” on vacation, which means I’m backing off from writing a bit to step back and consider the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. Or it could be that Sarah has off all week and we’ve got great plans like an overnight beach trip with two of our pals! Well, whatever, I’m not really here, am I?

However, in prepping to be away I’ve been making sure that Backseat Writer can move along swimmingly and have been negligent of my poor little corner of cyberspace here and I’ve got SO MUCH TO SAY!

Heres is one of my concert photos.  The dimly lit room and my lack of a $500 camera made for mediocre photos.  But theyre my mediocre photos so theyre special.

Here's is one of my concert photos. The dimly lit room and my lack of a $500 camera made for mediocre photos. But they're my mediocre photos so they're special.

First order of business–Derek Webb!!! As I’ve announced via Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, text message, and in random conversations with strangers, I saw Derek Webb for the first time in concert on Sunday night. I was thinking you always remember your first time–the first time you rode a bike, the first time you went on a date, the first time you saw Derek Webb live in concert and so on. I wrote up a review which will be posted on Backseat Writer later this week, but–WOW!–what an exciting experience for me (and Sarah)! It was such a low-key laid back event. The fact that Derek could command an audience in his white t-shirt/blue jeans ensemble, his voice, and an acoustic guitar was impressive. So, yes, it was everything I thought it would be and I can hardly wait to see him and the rest of his gang on Oct. 4 on the Art*Music*Justice Tour. Christa Banister told me last week that she met her husband at a Derek Webb concert, so I was very hopeful the same would be true for me. It so wasn’t.

Second order of business–baby rabbits everywhere! On Saturday, I stumbled upon a nest of baby rabbits in the

Heres the first escapee on the run!

Here's the first escapee on the run!

large grassy area behind our apartment, which is frequented by small children and hairy dogs. Since I had my camera with me, I snapped a couple pictures of the little dears. As I walked away, one of the babies decided to hightail it out of the nest. I ran into the house to get a towel, caught the escapee, and put it back in its nest, which caused bunny #2 to jump out. I caught bunny #2 and put it back in the nest, when bunny #1 apparently wanted another taste of freedom. At this point I decided they were in a phase of rebellion and used a stick to cover the nest as best as I could. I checked on the baby-on-the-run a couple of times, who had decided to set up camp under the water spout. A little before midnight, the babies were safely nestled back in their little nest because their mother had come to feed them and care for them. How sweet!

Last night when Sarah and I took the dogs for their nightly bathroom break, the nest had once again been torn asunder. And one of the babies was hanging out near the nest which Maddy the shih tzu found especially interesting. She seems to think they’re “her babies”. As we headed back in, the little trickster had moved back into its nest! How they don’t get run over by the lawn mower is beyond me! Yet I know the best thing is for them to be where they are so they can be taken care of by their mother. Although smuggling them into the apartment and raising the little ones has crossed my mind.

Cover of This Beautiful Republic's latest, Perceptions.

Third order of business–crazy album releases! It’s like everyone who wanted to release a new album sat down and said, “August 19! That is the day we shall all release a new album in a show of solidarity!” There are sophomore albums from the likes of Brandon Heath, Family Force 5, This Beautiful Republic (A shout out to my friend Ben Olin!), and Jimmy Needham as well as new albums from Mercy Me’s Bart Millard, Charlie Hall, Ten Shekel Shirt, and my old buddies, The Wrecking (formerly Kingpin Wrecking Crew). Lots of new music to check out–no wonder I need an unofficial vacation!

Fourth order of business–what’s up with the release of the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’s release being moved back to June? Didn’t they just release the trailer? Are the powers-that-be toying with us? (Article)

And lastly, did you hear about these yahoos who claimed they found a Bigfoot corpse in the woods and it turned out to be a hoax? Surprise, surprise! The funniest part of the whole thing is that the “body” was, in fact, a sasquatch Halloween costume. I mean, did they really think they’d be fooling anyone with that? Believe me, the full story is worth reading.

So, that’s about it, sorry to lump it all together like this, but I’ve got some R&R to do. Have a nice day!

Take 5 with Capital Lights

14 Aug

By Amy Sondova Capital Lights won’t take “no” for an answer. Instead of accept rejection when they sought a record deal, the band continued to perfect their craft, eventually ending up with a spot on Tooth and Nail’s coveted roster. Releasing their first album, This Is an Outrage in July, the guys in Capital Lights—guitarists Brett Admire and Jonathan Williams, vocalist Bryson Phillips, and drummer Michael Paul Phillips—have had a busy summer touring across the United States. Bryson was kind enough to take time out from re-reading his Harry Potter books to “Take 5” with Backseat Writer.

A lot of bands don’t realize the hard work that actually goes into getting a record deal. You guys sent several songs to Aaron Sprinkle, who eventually ended up producing the album, but what was it like, for lack of a better word, to deal with all that rejection?

Oh, yes, it took a lot of work for us! We sent emails out to every label and producer out there. Rarely did one of them email us saying they weren’t interested; we just hardly ever got a response at all. This was something we all wanted really badly so no matter how many times something didn’t work out, we kept trying.

Actually, Sprinkle was one of the few that actually responded. He said, “Keep me updated when you guys write some new songs.” This basically meant “These songs aren’t very good.” Now most people would take that as rejection, we took it as someone finally taking the time to respond. We kind of celebrated. I think Sprinkle responding sort of gave us hope because whether he meant it or not, we took him up on his offer. I emailed him every song we ever wrote after that. Haha, it finally paid off!

Capital Lights definitely has the sound of early Relient K, yet you started with a screamo base eventually deciding to pull together your own sound—how did this come about?

It’s really weird because, yes, three of us played in a Story of the Year-styled screamo band, and Jonny came from a metal band. We aren’t really sure how pop music was formed here. Actually, before we got this group together, I was just the bassist, and when we were looking for vocalists I decided to give writing a try. I wrote a couple songs and they ended up coming out pretty pop rock sounding. This is the kind of music I mainly listen to and all the other guys love it too, so everyone decided to stop searching for a vocalist and make this happen.

People keep asking me what “Let the Little Lady Talk” is about—so what’s it about?

Haha, OK, well most of our songs, including this one, are pretty sarcastic. This one is basically just about couples fighting. Not a specific couple, just in general, boyfriends and girlfriends getting into it. I say the word “I” a lot but I’m usually not referring to my actual self. I just put myself in the place of the character in the song. This being said, I’m not a jerk who likes to come over late to my girls place and fight with her. It’s just a song.

There are a ton of songs on this album, and since we only have five questions—can you give me a run-down of a couple of my favorites—”Return” and “Mile Away”?

Sure! “Return” is one of the few songs that actually means something deep to me. Like I said, most of the songs are pretty sarcastic and don’t deal with anything too serious. Well I remember while I was writing the album, one day our A&R guy, Jon Dunn, called me and said he and Sprinkle wanted me to write a song that wasn’t so fast-paced on the vocals. They wanted me to slow it down a bit so people could actually understand what I’m saying. So I thought, if I’m going to slow it down just for people to easily understand what I’m saying, I better have something good to say. So I wrote “Return” based on Matthew 24. As this world is gets worse–no matter what tribulations may come, we Christians will stand firm to the end. We can see many things happening in the world today that may very well be signs of this happening soon. Basically, it’s a song of encouragement.

“Mile Away” is a completely different song. Although it may sound serious, it really isn’t. I don’t have a girlfriend, so I don’t have much drama in my life. If I want to write a song about that kind of stuff, I create my own stories. I wrote “Mile Away” about a guy who leaves his girl and runs off to California. Once he gets there, he misses what he had, and realizes that he belongs back home… and home is with her. There have been people who have told me they got something completely different and more meaningful out of this song, which makes me happy. I’m glad a song can have different meanings to different people.

Bryson, why do you thank J.K. Rowling in your liner notes? Are you a big Harry Potter fan? (I’m personally a HUGE Harry Potter fan and even have a silly blog dedicated to letting people know that Fred really isn’t dead…just a little FYI.)

Oh goodness… I LOVE Harry Potter! Jonny and I are the only Harry Potter fans in the band. I’ve been waiting for the trailer to Half Blood Prince to premier for so long! I watched it literally minutes after it was posted online 2 days ago. I really need to find this blog you speak of because Fred’s death was the saddest to me… of all the deaths in all the books, I really did not want that to happen. BUT, I do have to say the way J.K. Rowling ended the 7th book was amazing! I was shaking all the way through the last 3 chapters!

Have you heard of Wizard Rock? The genre of rock bands that write all songs about Harry Potter? Yeah, I started a WR band. We are called The Boyz Who Lived. We already have 2 songs. We wanted to be called Hufflepuff-daddy. Or we were thinking maybe The Rowling Stones but we were afraid she may somehow sue us. She does that a lot. The Boyz Who Lived is a cool name though, don’t ya think? Especially how “Boyz” is spelled with a “z” instead of an “s”. Makes us look kinda gangsta, like it makes me want to start Wizard Rap. Anyway… yes, HUGE Harry Potter fan. Check us out on myspace.com/theboyzwholived.

Print copy of Take 5.

The Bible Still #1 for Americans

9 Apr

Growing up in church, I’ve always heard the Bible given promotional tag lines to make it sound more appealing to non-readers– “It’s the best-selling book of all time” and “You need your basic instructions before leaving earth”. I’m fairly certain that these statements only appeal to people who already love the Bible. Then again, I love the Bible and I disdain reducing the Word of God to a P.R. campaign.

Yet the Bible is the top choice for people across demographics according to the results of a recent Reuters study (read article). While I enjoy other books on the list of the 10 books Americans love most, I have to say that I’m pleasantly surprised the Bible is numero uno. When asked the question, “What is your favorite book?” I generally answer, “Philip Yancey’s The Jesus I Never Knew, Henri Nouwen’s The Inner Voice of Love, and the Harry Potter books.” I used to say the Bible when I was in high school, but it seemed so cliche. Of course I love the Bible, I reasoned, I’m a Christians and all Christians love the Bible.

Not only do Christians love the Bibles, lots of people do–for its rich history of the Jews, its moral lessons, and the enigmatic figure of Jesus Christ. Full of narrative, poetry, history, and theology, is it any wonder that the Bible fascinates so many?

Yet I realize that the Bible really is my favorite book. When I feel hopeless, I turn to Psalm 46. As part of my discipline as a Christian, I read the Bible to hear from God. I look for answers to questions (and end up with more questions. When I misplace my Bible (it usually falls under my chair or bed), I feel panicked. I need my Bible with my notes, my highlights, and my familiar cover which I decorated with pictures using clear mailing tape. I take it on trips with me and hold it over my heart when my eyes are too full of tears to read. No book has ever provided as much comfort for me as the Bible. It’s a power that far transcends the book as it is the living, inerrant Word of God, the breath of life, the one thing that is true.

Here’s America’s Top 10:

1. The Bible

2. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (I could never get into it.)

3. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (Love ‘em! Especially the fact that the characters break out into random song so much, which is sadly downplayed in the movies.)

4. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (America’s got taste!)

5. The Stand by Stephen King (King’s a genius, but I’ve not read this book. I do like the purple raven on the cover though. Read about my fascination with ravens.)

6. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (I could not get into this book at all!)

7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (On my must-read list)

8. Angels & Demons by Dan Brown (Not going to bother)

9. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (never even heard of it)

10. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (Love it!)

Naturally, I know that you are all dying to know why my Top 10 favorite books are…

1. Bible

2. The Jesus I Never Know by Philip Yancey

3. The Inner Voice of Love by Henri Nouwen

4. Harry Potter books

5. Dangerous Wonder by Mike Yaconelli

6. Bad Girls of the Bible by Liz Curtis-Higgs

7. Gnomes by Will Huygen

8. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

9. Bunnicula series by James Howe

10. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

Honorable Mentions: Captivating by John & Stasi Elderedge, Jesusland by Julia Scheeres, Sex God by Rob Bell, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, Til We Have Faces& A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis, Under the Overpass by Mike Yankonski, Wicked by Gregory Maguire, Where is the Mango Princess? By Kathy Crimmins, LIfe: The Movie by Neal Gabler

So what books do you love from America’s Top 10 or My Top 10?

Fred’s Death: Still in Denial

27 Mar

You think I’d be over it by now.  I mean, the book came out last July.  I’ve had months to deal with the death of Fred Weasley, and yet I still refuse to except it.  In fact, I’m more adamant now than I have ever been–Fred Weasley is not dead.

To find more evidence from the general public about Fred’s undeath, I hit Google.  But, alas, you fanfic writers have let me down.  You are SUPPOSED to be explaining why Fred is still alive, goshdarnit.  There were a bunch of memorial sites, a girl who made a profile about how Fred’s alive and in love with her (very creepy), and my blog.

However, there’s a lovely fanfic author out there by the name of “YellowRosePetals” who explains that Tonks gave Fred a potion to save his life…you can  read about it here.  It’s not the best explanation out there, but at least someone’s trying to undo this grave wrong thrust on the Weasley twin fans of the world.

I also found this interview with J.K. Rowling about Fred’s alleged death, which I found slightly amusing.  Here’s the excerpt from the MSBNC interview dealing with Fred…

Why Fred and not George?
Lupin and Tonks may have taken the fall for Arthur Weasley, but the entire Weasley clan could not be saved. Fred Weasley, one half of the fun-loving twins, was another casualty in the Battle of Hogwarts.

But why Fred and not his brother George?

“I always knew it was going to be Fred, and I couldn’t honestly tell you why,” Rowling said.

Rowling guessed most people would have expected George to die before Fred because Fred was the ringleader, George the “gentler” twin.

“Fred is normally the funnier but also the crueler of the two. So they might have thought that George would be the more vulnerable one and, therefore, the one to die.”

She didn’t make her decision because it was easier to kill one twin over the other, however.

“Either one of them would have been terrible to kill,” she said. “It was awful killing Fred. I hated that.”

She hated it, but doesn’t regret it.

“The deaths were all very, very considered,” said Rowling. “I don’t kill even fictional characters lightly.”

Maybe I’m old school, but if I don’t want to kill off a character, I don’t.  As explain previously, I like the idea that fiction needs to be believed in order for its storyline to be accepted.  Therefore, my inability to accept the death of Fred Weasley means he is not dead.  Now some of you might think this topic is a ridiculous waste of space, and I could’ve written about something important like Hillary escaping sniper fire in Bosnia (oh, wait, that was fabricated) or “American Idol” (what’s up with Chikezie going home?) or something meaningful.   Unfortunately, I wasn’t inspired to write about any of those things…I was inspired to write about Fred Weasley and his non-death.

I understand that “war” is senseless and good people die.  I realize that J.K. Rowling considered her choices carefully.  And I know that my obsession with a fictional character is rather unhealthy.  However, deep in my brain, it seems better for me to envision a happily ever after, at least for two brothers, who are best friends.  I like to think of a bright, hilarious future for the Weasley twins–perhaps because I have a best friend, who is closer to me than a sister.  The seriousness of such a loss in my own life is unimaginable, a grief I cannot imagine bearing.  So maybe I’m just railing against death or fighting for friendships that last forever (or maybe I just need to get a life).  Whatever the reason, be assured of this, friends, Fred Weasley is not dead.  In fact, he is alive and well.  My sources tell me that it was all a publishing error, a big ol’ hoax like when everyone thought Paul McCartney of the Beatles was dead (read about the “Paul is dead” hoax).

Fred and George Weasley are running their joke shop, inventing wonderful things, and living happily ever after…at least in my mind.  And that’s really all that matters.

Feel free to share any theories or fan fiction proving Fred Weasley is still alive. 

Previous post on this highly important topic (plus I mentioned it in a few other posts)…

Fred Weasley’s Untimely “Demise”

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