Archive for July, 2009

K and I watched the five DVD movies and saw the latest in the theater.  We’re now reading all the books one after the other in rapid succession (my mind is a salt water crocodile when it comes to a culture binge).  She and I had a good amount of chuckles and thoughtful moments discussing the various permutations and shortcomings of the movies.

Yes, I recognize the irony of someone who finds the series generally awful exposing themselves to the whole kitten caboodle.  I have no regrets, as it was an internal impulsion moving me to explore the series.  Now that I believe I’ve found an answer to the attraction for people, and had a chance to examine the franchise with my small microchip brain, I find myself less negative about the series.  But don’t ask me to wear the t-shirt or eat those gosh-forsaken beans.

Looking at the fantasy world of Harry Potter in general, as portrayed in the movies, there are several things I find unattractive and a few things I found myself identifying with.

Probably my biggest complaint against the series is the division of people into wizards and non-wizards.  People with magical powers and those without (known as muggles).  The Star Wars prequels made a similar mistake in making one’s power to access The Force dependent upon the number of magic ant-farms you were born with.

This automatically divides people into haves and have-nots.  Almost nobody is going to identify with the have-nots because they don’t get any cool powers.  Meanwhile, the have-nots almost always become lower class in the social structure and thus pawns in the Great Game between the Good Guys (who want the have-nots to remain ignorant and obedient) and the Bad Guys (who want to shoot have-nots into a brick wall with a cannon because it’s fun).

There are stories that take this and make for compelling drama.  The Harry Potter movies, however, treat this with a combination of whimsy and over-the-top theatrics that frankly made me uncomfortable.  Harry’s muggle parents are depicted as outlandishly stupid and hostile.

I mean, I have relatives I’ve wanted to strangle, and some of them have been incredibly clueless at times.  But caricatures are so cliché, I can’t identify with this.  It makes Mommy Dearest look understated and makes light of real family dysfunction.

It’s not clear to me what makes a person capable of wielding magic.  It looks like they are born with it.  Doesn’t that make muggles recessive carriers and thus precious?  Even if they aren’t, they’re people and thus moral agents.  Shouldn’t they be allowed to make decisions about magic too?

I understand the need to control one’s powers around people (though there seems to be a lack in that area among wizards, the makers of the movies need to learn about self-discipline and martial arts with regards to the ability to cripple or kill people with bare hands), but keeping non-wizard people in ignorance?

Well hey, those great wizards are born with superior intellect and thus more capable of making these kinds of decisions.  Kind of like the “men of best quality” who set themselves above their fellows and declare themselves above regular human beings.  It’s the same old republic run by representatives of rich people.  Only in this case it’s wizards.

I have to ask, what do wizards in this world do?  I mean, what are Harry and the other students learning exactly besides the ability to use magic?  I know it’s just a fantasy.  It’s just that if you are going to place magic in a real world setting these things have to be attended to.  Otherwise, the fantasy won’t stand up to even a moment’s reflection.

Do wizards go around building wells and schools for communities in third world countries?  Do they perform shows to raise money for charity?  Do they go around like troubleshooters, protecting non-wizards from monsters and undoing harm by rogue wizards?

Or is it that even in the “upper class” of wizards there must be a janitor class of wizards who maintain all the awesome buildings and enchantments of the folks at the top of the pyramid?  Not everyone can be an ideological gatekeeper teacher with a cushy teaching job molding young minds.

I mean, in a magical world where anything can be conjured (kind of like Star Trek with its matter-replicator economy), why even use coins at all?  The Weasleys are referred to as poor, but their cottage and the farmland around it look pretty nice to me.  They just must not have been born with a lot of magical ant-farms.  Only so many nice pieces of furniture and flying cars per year I suppose.

Well, if you have a hierarchical system of haves and have-nots, then you need a training school for the haves who will serve the wizard management.  The professors and minister bureaucrats need to be educated so they can internalize the interests of the ruling class of wizards after all.

And that means Hogwarts boarding school for the privileged!

This is my other big squirm factor.  For me, the English boarding school system represents harsh discipline and repression of the young.  Both by professors and one’s own peer group.  I always think of the teacher scenes from the Pink Floyd movie The Wall, or the deranged repression of the rebellious students from the movie If…

For me, the main forms of indoctrination displayed in the movies are the enforced identity politics of the four student houses and the violent two-team blood sport of quiddich.

Both encourage students to cooperate only with their in-group and to direct external aggression towards an out-group ritually personified by “the other house” or “other team”.  In the case of the student politics between houses, the professors decide who is most obedient while being the most competitive through the capricious allocation of points.  Students must obey orders after all, while maximizing their ability to serve effectively.

The sport of quiddich blew me away with the terrible risk to life and limb, both to players and spectators.  You have people flying around in the air at high speed, moving projectiles around capable of wrecking large sections of the arena when the magic malfunctions.  There’s no physical or magical safety system of any kind that I can detect.  As long as you are not obvious, magical tampering with the game is possible.

One can only guess at the minds of people who willingly take part in this spectacle, the likes of which Roman emperors could have only dreamed about.  Harry and his antagonists take quite a few nasty lumps while playing.  But I wondered what happened to the players without plot immunity when they slammed into a pavilion or another player.

I think of those Halloween decorations of the witch slammed into a flat surface that people hang on trees or the sides of their house’s wall.

This is the same kind of social adaptation that trained soldiers to charge the machine gun nests in World War I.

Hey!  Teacher!  Leave that kid alone!

There’s a scene in the movie version of Harry Potter And The Order of the Phoenix where Harry saves himself from Voldemort’s magical possession by focusing on what makes him different from the villain.  He chooses to focus on his friendship with people (his proper social adjustment) and that he has something to fight for (a magic system of us and them, wizards and non-wizards).


Voldemort doesn’t have “friends”?  In the movie version of Harry Potter And The Goblet of Fire there’s a scene where Voldemort talks shop with his death-eater buddies.  True, it’s presumably a co-dependent, master-minion relationship.  How is this dysfunctional, hierarchical arrangement different from the one where Dumbledore is forced to allow a minister bureaucrat to torture children (that nasty pen that uses your blood business)?

I would say Voldemort’s relationship with his minions is the more honest one.  He fixes his minion’s hand, even after castigating the guy for not being dedicated enough!  Save for the scene where Harry’s broken bone is fixed improperly (and played for laughs), I never saw anyone in Hogwarts heal Harry of his injuries.

Don’t they at least have a Cure Light Wounds spell at Hogwarts?

Near as I can tell, Voldemort and his evil buddies are all in on the evil plan to do whatever it is they plan on doing.  I never see the evil buddies struggling to share information or share clues with one another.  I get the feeling that unlike the professors, who keep their plans hidden from Harry, Voldemort at least lets everyone know what’s up.

Does Harry share what he knows with his “friends” and “mentors”?  No, when he has dark dreams or finds out crucial information he clams up.  Until the plot demands he reveal what he knows.  And his “friends” never call him out on this.  They seem to take it for granted that he always hoards information.

Voldemort doesn’t have something to fight for?  Admittedly, I’m a little unclear as to what the big dude evil guy’s plan is.  Nobody in the white hat section seems able to articulate much more than “he’s evil, has killed people and is very dangerous.”  Isn’t mere self-interest something to fight for?  We could venture a guess and say he wants to be King and Pope of the wizard republic.  It’s an unhealthy, narcissistic dream.  But still a dream that can inspire someone to go all out.

If its just causes we’re talking about, I’d say defending a repressive, aristocratic republic from a dictator’s coup does put Harry on stronger ground.  This gets to the core of what I think really makes Harry different from his counterpart:  moral choices.

Dumbledore brings this up with regards to the sorting hat and Harry’s choice to override the hat’s decision.  Harry and Voldemort are essentially the same person in terms of character sheets.  But Harry chooses differently.  That’s his point of reference—our choices make us who we are.

You pay the price for what you do in who you become.

The idea that because Harry has “friend” versus “minion” under followers on his character sheet, or “fighting for the status quo” versus “fighting for my supremacy” in the motivation text box, makes him different is ludicrous.  It’s the character of those differences that makes the difference, not the differences themselves.

Both are tinged with a certain degree of good and evil, with Voldemort favoring the shading more than the line.  It’s much less uncomfortable (and therefore easier) to identify with one side or the other.  Who wants to admit to being in the middle of things, between the awful pounding of the cliff sides with teeth?  Yet that is exactly what is required, to recognize the other within one’s own self regardless of the discomfort.

What lies between the twin pillars of fear and desire?  Can one pass through the gap created by the two guardians and into the sacred space of nothingness?

How much more complete Harry might have been if he had admitted his own shadow?  The good guy with a scar of evil running across the side of his forehead, the voice of his conscience and the source of his destiny (the evil figure is always charged with the irresistible life-force of fate).  Is not the tarnished good guy, the anti-hero, an intriguing and interesting figure?

How much more human Voldemort might have been if he had accepted his own inability to carry collective expectations?  To admit weakness and failure brings a cost as surely as refusing to do so, but it’s a human cost rather than an archetypal one.  Is not the bad guy who acts for others despite himself a compelling figure?

Voldemort could not expunge the good in his nature no matter how often he tried to kill his enemy, his only true friend.  Harry ultimately defeats the figure that does not conform with our image, but at the cost of losing what might be the best part of himself.  Love thy enemy, for thy enemy is the instrument of thy destiny.

Each, by repressing the other destroyed themselves.  The keepers of the grail groan to themselves and do a facepalm.

The two ought to have joined forces.  These irreconcilable opposites are precisely the ingredients for the mysterious solution.  The world of the non-wizards needs magic.  This locking away of magic by the forces of ministry ogre-know-it-alls and their patrician-professor gatekeepers is the reason our world is a ball of confusion.

And perhaps only Voldemort and Harry working together might have stolen the fire from the false gods of wizardry and given it to the public, to the people.

May the old fart loser-evil failure Voldemorts and young impressionable good wizards recognize each other.

Because we need magic today.  Many lives are so often not magical.

Flash back to when there were only three Harry Potter books out.  I decided to buy the first in the series—Harry Potter And the Sorcerer’s Stone.  The cover art looked compelling, the titles seemed catchy enough, and I enjoy fantasy fiction.  Most of all there seemed to be a buzz about the books.

I’ve read much worse (as in literally incomprehensible), but I still found the book a chore to read.  It made me never want to read another Harry Potter book again.

The sixth Harry Potter movie came out this weekend.  For the umpteenth time the communications channels have been abuzz with the excitement.  The whole phenomenon leaves me wishing it would end.

It’s like having a friend of the family show up every year with their enormous brood of brats and eating your brain.  I’m looking forward to the seventh and final book to appear in movie form (although the book will be split into two movies to prolong the thrill).

I decided I ought to get caught up on the source of all this legerdemain, and actually watch the movies.  Despite what I might think of the books, we are talking about one of the defining events of culture for the generation after mine.  These new mutants get to have it all—the past movements of creative wonder as well as the freshly minted attempts at civilization.  They are growing up with tremendous potential, and great things are expected of them.

As was said in the Spider-Man movie cash-in of sixties experimentation, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  I’m reminded of the mature numerological cycle of the twenty-one, wherein one has the same potential for ultimate creation and destruction as the ten.  However, there is accumulated wisdom in the world symbol as seen from space, so there is hope.

I believe that is the core of why this series is so popular.

You have the professors of the school of magic who represent an earlier, older generation who carried with them similar expectations as today’s generation.   But their race is run, their choices are made, and their failure remains supreme:  The student who turned to the dark arts and became Voldemort.  He Who Must Not Be Named.  The carrier of the ten, which is the first number to combine the one (human beings) and the zero (the divinity).

The highest fall from the highest pinnacle of achievement.  Dumbledore gets a vomit flavored bean.

Then you have the new student generation with Harry representing the hope that the dragon of the past can be overcome.  Great things are expected of him, and in no small part his friends Ron and Hermione.  Here you have a collective teen group of friends, which is not unlike the roleplaying adventure parties of today’s online games and dice-rolling dungeons and dragons crew.

The fellowship is as age-old as we can imagine.  Bands of hippies, parties of adventurers.  Carrying the ring to destruction, trying to level up.

You have the four student houses, which represent the four pillars of the world, the universe, the world, twenty-one.  The magical school Hogwarts is the setting in which choices the professors faced will play out again, in similar form.  Harry is carrying the thwarted dreams of the past and the pensive expectations for the future.

Slay the dragon that slew us, say the professors.  Give us a toffee bean.

I wonder if anyone’s back is that strong.  So often adults, parents in particular, put their fears and hopes into children.  Choke the child’s life out of them and make the child live a life that isn’t theirs.

Even Voldemort seems to have this problem.  His evil plans invariably end up involving Harry in some way or another.  See, there is a larger problem at hand than any of the principal players of the story can comprehend.  There is a need, I think, in this series for a Promethian act.  A stealing of fire is required, which they all only faintly grasp.

The professors tried to realize this unconscious dream and ended up serving the system.  Or dispossessed in some fashion.  Sirius Black is a framed criminal, Hagrid is a loner go-fer, the Weasleys are “poor” and Harry’s parents end up as corpses.  The Voldemort buddies?  Those who threw their lot in with the bad guy appear to have descended into fanaticism.  And there’s the bad guy himself who has probably gone mad and likely doesn’t remember what he was meant to do anymore.

Victims, fanatics and crazies.  You could say that the weight of the world has made them what they are.

Jung talks about this in his psychological studies.  Every child bears with it the pressures of the dead to succeed where countless millions have fallen down.  Those who have failed and yet still live, pray for deliverance before they die.

No wonder the books are so popular!  Talk about relevance to today’s moral problems.  The books are telling a story that the new mutants feel in their bones because it’s of their time.  One the professors of the sixties still hope will blossom into a rain-song sunrise.

Alas, in the Harry Potter books they are all doomed.  No one here gets out alive.  Have an earwax bean.

I believe that’s why I reacted so strongly against the series.  Even in the first book, it speaks of hope (projected images on the backs of youngsters rather than ourselves), but delivers inevitability (meet the new kid, same as the old kid — but with more obedience).  Starting at the very beginning, it perpetuates the illusion that there can ever be good without evil.

Can nature create an individual who can lead us out of darkness and redeem our previous attempts?  That is, can the terrible furor and despair of the times lead to a new imagining?  In The Road Warrior, it’s in the wasteland that Mad Max learns to live again.  Perhaps what is needed is a Parzival-like characteristic—a natural empathy, an opening up of the heart.

While the starship Snipe rests in dry dock, getting it’s superstructure and engine stress points repaired, I’m on some much needed psychic shore leave.  Still lots to do, in a generic survival kind of way.  K and I are moved  in to the new honeycomb hideout, and have physical object issues to work out with all of our stuff.  But the new place is welcoming us in and it’s as if we never left our beloved neighborhood before the haunted house jackup.

My mental brain calibrations return to a less terrified “all guns-blazing” mode.  And I go through the task of setting up my creative work center all over again.  I know I have chip-lights going off on projects all over the place.  The panic is part of the process, so it’s cool.  This is a good energy to have bugging me.  K and I go to a bookstore and buy some reading material.  At the end of the day, we just need to sit on the Puff Couch and read, with cats all together at peace loafing on the slack vibe.

Picked up this awesome huge volcano picture book for ten bucks.  I’ve been on a volcano kick for the last few weeks, imagining the explosive power and brilliant glow of molten earth.  I swear, bargain books have some of the best overlooked books ever.

I decide a good search on the internets would be to find out what happens when a person falls into lava.  I mean, what really happens?  As I type in “What happens when a” into the gooble-gobbler search box, it suggests “volcano erupts”, followed by “girl loses her virginity”.  Whoa, the things on people’s minds and the free form associations with nature shows.  What is going on in the collective unconscious that I’m picking up?

Turns out finding an answer to this person-in-lava question is harder than it looks.  I really have to search with the sensors to find a second hand story about a geologist who fell up to his waist in lava accidentally, and was pulled out quickly by a friend.  He suffered third degree burns and lived to walk again (with a hint that he’d lost the ability to have children, ouch).

Mind you, he was wearing one of those heat protection suits.  If I understand correctly, the difference in temperatures caused a thin layer of lava to cool around the body, absorbing heat from the outer layer of lava preventing the flesh from burning immediately.

I see a lot of speculation that a person would die almost immediately from the heat, probably float on top of the lava (density issues, like swimming in a salt-saturated body of water), and combust into huge amounts of smoke.  The flesh would shrivel up (the body’s liquids blasting out as steam) and probably explode (because of the fat), the bones charring straight to ash.

I learn about convection.  That’s when hot liquids or gases make currents that spread their heat into the environment.  Lava is so unbearably hot convection would burn you up before you reached it.  Never mind the poison gases and crippling ash emanating from it.  Wow, the force of nature contained within the molten earth is unbelievably sublime.

I’ve always been fond of volcanoes.  Part of me finds the vein of clues within Pele compelling.  But my current interest is spurred along the lines of some of the things my friends have been talking about.  Much as horses was a theme that was roaming the fields a few months ago, now it appears that volcanoes are the new symbol.

There’s the aspect of psychological force building up in the deep depths and erupting forth (violently, with tremendous force).  There’s also the part that relates to creative process, with the ejected contents providing new land to live upon and plants to grow in.  And there’s also the facet to personality, having a charisma that is intense and awesome in scope, much as a fountain of magma can draw attention.

In the external world it can stand for events that overwhelm us with their gigantic power.  The popular image of human sacrifice to volcanoes comes into play.  Human being marries deity in the literal sense, ka-fwoosh.  Taken down a notch it can be any personal tragedy or self-sacrifice that traumatizes the soul.

What happens when a person falls into lava psychologically?  Destruction of the ego, of the self-image.  The raw truth of one’s innermost interior being burns the consciousness to the crisp.  You might recover from a brief contact, but with a deep scar.  Total psychic immolation would mean you descend into darkness and only a greater, living spirit power can draw you back from the depths.  But this is getting into scary stuff, where the real possibility exists your pieces of the psyche (ashes) will remain at an elemental level.

Elemental as in, if you reduce all the biological processes to chemical processes, what you are left with at the foundation of all life is dirt.  That is, matter.

Out of matter come shapes, and one of the most fundamental is the stone.  When the lava has cooled you are left with rock, which chips, breaks and is worn into shapes.  The stone has been a symbol of the deepest self for a long time.  But we’re talking geologic time here when it comes to natural processes (even though lava itself can cool within a human being’s lifetime).  A person might have to endure a time of unconscious cooling and shaping before assuming a proper psychological shape.

Which is an emerging from the unknown.  Then, one day, a person finds you and goes, “Wow, what a cool stone.” and puts you in a pocket to take you home.  It’s as if the human image of ourselves is something that happens to us, appears to come from the outside, when that body has been formed from dirt itself in a much longer and mysterious process, moving up the chain from matter to chemical to biological to psychological once more.

I’m staring at the volcanoes and listening for the clues, just for the Hek of it.  Past the awesome force and cyclic transmutation, at the emptiness of nothing from which all that heat-matter and liquid-matter is spilling forth from.

What happens when a person falls into lava?  The unnecessary stuff burns away and you’re left with you.

Went on a walk with the parental units and K.  The last month and a half has been hard core beat-down, on the outside world stage as well as the personal stage.  There’s a lot of decompression and decontamination procedures to go through.  Our meditative walks together help massage out the bad brains.

I spot a robot at the top of this hill under someone’s raised porch.  “Hey check out that robot,” I say.  K says, “What robot?  That’s a mermaid.”  After a few minutes of everyone seeing different things and wondering whether reality has shifted underfoot, it dawns on me this is one of those weirdo random whackazoid encounters of doom.  I switch positions and see next to the robot is a red-haired waving mermaid.  The trees and the way the hill is situated combine to make it hard to see both at the same time.

We all laugh at the absurdity.  Who (or what) posts technological and magical beings along the meditative route people take?  That’s just how it is when all you get is the Spanish Inquisition.  Robots to the left of us, mermaids to the right.  Here we are, stuck on one side or the other, unable to pass between the guardians of the change in consciousness.  Except this time I figured it out and we saw both sides.  And laughter, the fool, comes along to take us back to the beginning, to our roots.

The haunted house closes it’s doors today sometime after 5 PM, and then that strange and terrifying ordeal will be gone forever.  My folks wanted to take pictures of the Chucky doll and us waving bye-bye to the house, but K was like, “No way.”  We flushed the evil toilet for posterity and laughs, but the monstrous apparatus was strangely subdued, it’s poltergeist-like slamming sounds hardly detectable.

A large spider has taken up residence in the sliding back door, spinning a long tunnel-like web, probably two and a half feet in length (the web, not the spider!).  We decided to leave it be.  Somehow, a yucky looking spider with dried insect husks gives this empty, smelly, and disorienting place character.  I tried to open the secret door, but the ghosts were having none of that.  The creaking noises and dust seemed to increase as if to say, “You’re done dude, just go.”  I understand.  Sometimes it’s better not to know.

I decided to strangle the spooky gift bag in the kitchen (sorry Hexe Witchiepoo!).  A gift bag that had alarmed so many people by playing at random times (including K).  Even though the battery should have died years ago.  It seemed appropriate.

We delivered a note to our neighbor on one side of the haunted house.  Her friend, with strangely diseased-looking hands accepted with politeness.  I was like, whoa, is this whole neighborhood full of halloween characters and we just didn’t know it because we didn’t see it?  Now that’s just darn creepy.  If I look at it, victims and skulkers living in the same deserted cul-de-sac.

I shoot off a firecracker.  Time to move on.

K and I moved a veritable buttload of George Carlin micronized “stuff” for the last ten days.  Detaching all cables, ectoplasmic ghost tentacles, and gravitational psychic suctoids has been a real pleasure I can tell you.  Tractor beaming it out of the haunted house while the ghosts gnash their teeth and scream and cry, Wild Thangs style, “oh please oh please don’t go we’ll eat you up we smash you so”, is an exercise in self-pyro-flagellation.

How many twisted ankles, auto-inject splinters, cloudy day sunburns, phantom mosquito bites, miniature cuts, blunt skin scratches, smooshed toe blister, achy-breaky muscles hit points you got?  Well, looks like K and I ain’t down and out yet, though wow what a slow ride, take it beastly.

But the alcohol saints have been keeping us in plenty of in-between meal snacks.  A little muscle relaxant goes a long way in keeping the insanity people and android soul creamulators away.  I’m using my soulsword on full power, banishing those demonoid phenomenons from Chucky doll’s foul orifice (which one?).  Maybe the alcohol saints are loving the spectacle.  Who will challenge McCoy in THIS day and age, eh?  Luck of the Irish I suppose, with a heap of K’s fatalistic viking plunge ahead with all-out Excalburt whammo.

The animals are all over the place right now.  Last night while driving home a load in the trans-dimensional hatchback Micro-blue, a deer with horns crossed the street.  During the day there’s tons of hawks everywhere, looking for munchy mouseguts or delicious bird nuggets.  If you can’t see them, you can sure hear them screeching like the cartoon in Hawk The Slayer!

Driving through traffic on the way to the store for the umpteenth time to get lightbulbs, or cleanser, or any number of post-haunted house tidy-up you can’t remember because your brain is on auto-pilot, I heard the baying of a goat.  It’s a freaking two road with two lanes each multi-hyperspace bypass full of droids in cars, for Goodness sake.  It must have been in somebody’s vehicle, but I didn’t see any vehicles but four doors and minivans.  Chaos!

On UFO Girl Hill, the rabbits were playing with each other, jumping and prancing about while munching on the rarified fairy grass that surrounds the hill.  Chippie was maneuvering about, collecting seeds.  And huge yellow damsel-fly like bug was waiting for us on the door handle.  Can you dig it?  BUG city.  As in bugging out and calling it even, bugging out and losing your marbles, bugging off because this house for dwarfs and dimensional shamblers just ain’t got it for us no more.

Still, K and I have gotten a few walkies in around the magic lake.  Bats everywhere eating the bugs buzzing our skulls.  We found their lair, and its a perfect spot.  Heating and cooling all in one, water, bugs, all the whole nine yards.  These bats are batty batty batty!  They are getting down, they are rocking the mike, they are eating their faces full of bugs!  Eat them all up yum, dudes and dudettes, we’ll keep walkin’ on and bring ya the summer BBQ livin’ is easy howlaroo.

The cats have been transfered, and are taking the new honeycomb hideout well.  The lack of haunted house doom agrees with them, and how!  New bed, new rest, deep sleep.  I dreamt K and I had climbed out of a sewer-cave, ancient forgotten waterway with a sack full of dimaonds.  Everyone was wanting to know how we did it, where we were.


The option to override vanishing procedure has now expired.

Occupants now have nine days to abandon the haunted house.

The haunted house will automatically vanish in T minus nine days.