The End of an Era

In the past few days I had the chance to see the final Harry Potter movie… in 3D, no less.

The word bittersweet comes to mind when I think of the end in a series which I really enjoyed watching.

I hated Snape, wished I’d had a leader like Dumbledore, wanted Ron to be good at Quidditch, understood Hermione, and knew that no matter what, Harry would do the right thing for the right reasons.

Being a wizard (or witch in my case) would have been sooo convenient. There have been times in my life where I wish I could use the “Reparo” spell. Of course “Accio TV Remote” would have been cool, or there are so many times I could have used the “Point Spell” which would make a wand into a compass. These spells even worked their way into my everyday conversation. I remember once telling a friend to stop being mean or I would “… get all Avada Kedavra on their ass”.

Not bad for a franchise that in the beginning I had poo poo’d.

When I first heard about Harry Potter it was the as “The Philosopher’s Stone” came out. I worked in morning radio at an “adult contemporary” station (read women/moms 25-45). It was our job to know the pulse of our listener, and these ladies were talking about a movie their kids had been begging to see. A British flick about some teenager who goes to a school to learn magic.

OK, so how do we “own this” as the jock used to say? Well, we could have a look-alike contest on the opening night. Sure. Who’s going to judge it? Um… none of us, we had NO idea what it was even about, let alone what the kid looked like. So we coupled with a local movie theater to give us a party room before the film, found a mom who seemed to know what she was talking about to judge the thing, got the theater to provide a prize package which we sweetened with some other stuff we had lying around. Alright, that’s settled… now who should go? Crickets.

Let’s send Snooker! Yes ladies and gentlemen, our high-priced talent would not be caught dead darkening such a scene… so they sent the producer who had actually put all the other stuff together, so surely she would be the best choice, right? Yeah, my job was pretty glamorous, haha.

The night of the movie premiere the place was swarming with kids. Out of all of them, there were about 20 who had been creative enough to enter the contest. Some had recycled Halloween vampire costumes and wore a scarf in what I later learned to be Gryffindor-colored stripes. Others had gone all out and found round glasses.

One kid – the winner it turned out – had actually used makeup to make a lightning-shaped scar on this forehead. It didn’t matter that he was blond, the judge-mom said that was the best idea, so he was the winner. (I really wish that I still had the pictures I took at these events) The rest of the kids ended up getting tickets and a free popcorn from the theater, they all received radio station bumper stickers… ’cause EVERY kid NEEDS a bumper sticker, you know.

No, sadly I didn’t watch the movie that night. I headed home after a super long day of work (morning radio starts before people wake up… ahem… dark thirty, so to speak). I came to regret that decision.

When the second movie came out, I allowed my curiosity to get the best of me and did a Dollar Theater visit. This was the Chamber of Secrets, and not a bad movie at all. OK, I said, I will catch up on the first one, and watch the others as they come out, which I did faithfully.

Once I made it to Germany in 2005 I found myself with lots of time on my hands which lead me to perusing my new wife’s book shelf. She had purchased the first Harry Potter and gotten partway through it before coming to the conclusion that she doesn’t really enjoy fantasy, and it had been gathering dust on the shelf ever since. I poured through it and hungered for more (like so many others before me). Not having much extra money, and seeing the waiting list after doing some research at the only English library in town, I realized that my options were limited.

I downloaded the 2nd book, yes illegally… no, I don’t think JK Rowling will be hurt by it. Pre-Kindle days, books could be read on an Palm device, and I had a nice one. I had been reading Gutenberg-downloaded classics for a while, so it made sense to try. Google search brought me to a few places where I could download all HP books to date as .pdf and view them on my Palm, so that is what I did. One after the other, I read them. Carrying around my Palm and pulling it out whenever I had an extra three minutes… waiting for a train, standing in line, waiting for a movie to start, anywhere, anytime. I even read in bed, the backlight feature allowing me to read all night long if I wanted to, if my nose was cold I read under the covers… just like Harry. Well, I didn’t have the cool wand and the “Lumos” spell, but it was a close second.

Of course these .pdf’s were usually simply re-typed by some person with more time on their hands than typing talent, so there were errors, but that didn’t matter to me. Then there was the time I started reading “The Order of the Phoenix” and quickly realized that the writing quality was nothing like the magic of J.K. Rowling. It turned out to be a work of fan fiction, written by someone with a love of Harry coupled with a creative mind. I eventually read it all because it was rather interesting. Harry developed a love of jogging, really got back at Dudley Dursley in an evil way, and eventually got into Hermine’s pants. Whew… that was a wild ride, let me tell you!

Waiting for the last book was the hardest. A friend and I queued at the bookstore for the midnight release. I read the entire book in one weekend, laughed, cried, yelled in frustration, and generally had a lovely time. Poor Sweet No just kind of drifted in and out of my life that weekend, making fun of me as she passed the vacuum cleaner under my feet.

Not to introduce any spoilers, let’s just say that the movies were great but the books were still better. Character development was fantastic and the stories felt so believable. J.K. Rowling is rolling in money, and I am happy for her.

I really WANT to find out that there REALLY IS a Hogwart’s or something like it, even if I wasn’t invited. Am I alone? What about visiting the Harry Potter Theme Park in Orlando? Would you spend your hard-earned money to visit the studio where much of the film series was made?

And what of JK Rowling? There is a 19 year gap to fill, as well as the possibility to write about what happens to the kids of the magical trio. Would she, could she, SHOULD she write more about the adventures of Harry Potter?

Bittersweet indeed. But our ride on the Hogwart’s Express has been enjoyable.

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I Got It!! I Got It…

Yup, another ride on the Random Tuesday Trolly. Keely the Un Mom has inspired me, maybe she can do the same to you. Oh, and her site got a redesign and even moved. Hmmm. That reminds me, I’m a bit tired of this blog’s look and feel. Maybe I should give it a re-work… … hmm… sounds like work. Maybe I won’t worry about that right now and get down to the bullets.

  • I have a nagging fear that everyone is out to make me paranoid.
  • Over the weekend I watched 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later back to back directly before going to bed… the zombies chased me all through my dreams. Oh, and let me just say… if the blood FROM the zombie is going to turn YOU into a zombie… then maybe the killing method should not be a knife. I’m thinking that is WAY too close contact. Perhaps a gun… or machine gun.
  • It’s getting just a bit nippy to be riding to work on Mimi the scooter. Come on! It’s just late August! I’m not ready for summer to be over yet!

Movies, movies… what to see? Some friends and I were planning to go see the new Angelina Jolie flick tonight, Salt. But we keep hearing that it is crap. Now we’re considering Stallone’s “The Expendables“, about which reviewers have also thrown around the crap word. Something tells me that it will be a choice between bad action flick with vagina or bad action flick with testosterone.

Heck, Cats & Dogs and the A Team are playing tooo… maybe we’ll be so drunk by the time the movie starts, we just won’t care what we’re watching.

(Imagine Snooker dancing around the office on Monday morning… singing to the tune of “You Did It” from My Fair Lady) Monday morning I got it! I got it! I got it! I asked Sweet No to get it! She said that she would do it, and indeed she did. I thought that it would be top heavy, but it isn’t, and now I must admit, that it’s really cool. WHAT IS IT you might ask? A coffee mug that looks very much like a Nikon camera lens. It’s the little things.

Sweet No suffered all weekend with a bad bout of lumbago. I’d heard the word before, but had no idea what it was other than the lum- prefix which I think means back or lower back or something. She leaned over a desk at work for a few minutes and suddenly stood up
causing a nasty back pull. The German doctor mentioned the feared word, “Hexenschuss”. It sounds a little sinister even if you don’t know the translation. But literally it means “shot by a witch”. Fun, eh? Love those Germans and their descriptive terms. She’s doing OK now… Who am I fooling? She’s as fit as a fiddle to begin with… 25 sit ups every morning, 25 push ups every evening, jogging 2-3 times a week. She’s already back to 75%. I, however, would STILL be lying down at the doctor’s office begging for a pain shot.

OK, that’s enough of my babbling.

> Update… we went to see “The Expendables”… um, OK… but I could have lived without it. One of the girls said that she felt she was watching a video game that she wasn’t allowed to join in and play. 
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Random Tuesday Thoughts – Uninspired Edition

Due to lack of interest, I’m thinking about canceling this blog post. The lack of interest is mine, or maybe the lack of initiative is a better choice of words.

This is one of those days where I feel like doing nothing. Oh maybe I would be happy curled up in bed with a good book, (I’m reading one now – “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson) but reading is the extent of my desire today.

OK, I will make a decidedly half-hearted attempt at a RTT.

Because of rain in the forecast I chose against riding Mimi (baby blue scooter and my summer joy) to work today. The really bad aspect of this is that the morning was beautiful, and now as of lunch, the day is still quite lovely with nary a cloud in sight. Geeze.

We are boxing up everything and packing it away. How on earth am I to decide which DVD’s I am comfortable not having close to me for as much as two months? Books are easier, I just keep out the ones I haven’t read yet.

On my desk under one of the monitors is a cute little Berliner Bear Sweet No painted for me. He puts a smile on my face every time. I’m not sure if it is the bear or the thought of No painting it, but the smile feels lovely.

I think I will take the last half of my lunch today to get out of this office. Maybe a nice walk with the camera will inspire me.

OH OH… and thinking about the camera. No and I have been agonizing over the idea of purchasing a super cool new digital single lens reflex camera (Nikon D90 for my camera geek friends). It is not TOO HORRIBLY priced (€800/$1,145) but with moving and a long October vacation in Tahiti/New Zealand as well as going to Texas for Christmas, we’ve decided to curtail unnecessary spending. Today No emailed me that a local electronics store is going to celebrate an anniversary and that “if they offer a good deal on your camera, maybe we should just take the opportunity to buy it”. AHEM! I almost dropped the mouse.

Been surfing:
The Women’s Crusade – This article has really got me thinking about how good I have it. when compared with so many other women in the world. I’m going to look into the Microfinancing that Adam has spoken about in the past. It is about time to start giving back to my fellow woman. “In many poor countries, the greatest unexploited resource isn’t oil fields or veins of gold; it is the women and girls who aren’t educated and never become a major presence in the formal economy.” The article is long and involved, but it has really started me thinking about how simple things can help to change the world.

That’s about it for me. Head on over to Keely to see what she’s up to. She’s the one who started me on this whole Random Tuesday Thoughts thing.

Oh, and before I leave, I must shamelessly steal something from a friend/blogger Cliff from Regensblog.
For everyone out there who deals with computers and asks help from those of us “geeks”.
For all of you geeks who are tired of being the king of the computers.

I offer to you the Tech Support Cheat Sheet!
(click the pic to embiggen)

Random Tuesday – Slightly Chauvinistic version

Yes lads and ladies, it’s time for another round on the random wheel. It seems as though my life is all random these days, it’s been a busy few weeks. But let’s give this a go and see if the stuff rattling ’round in my head can make it out through my fingers without sounding toooooo crazy.

This year’s holiday spot for the Snooker and No will be both Tahiti and New Zealand. We will meet a friend on Tahiti and spend a good bit of our time there underwater taking in the incredible sea life. This morning I had a COOL video link in my mail to give me an idea of what awaits us in the ultra-blue waters around the atoll Rangiroa… ahem, sharks… lots of sharks… and LARGE WAVES (yes, I know it is a bit silly of me to be a diver and yet get seasick in big waves, but that’s JUST the way it is – stop laughing), and bottle nose dolphins, did I mention the sharks?

Oh, and other things that made my heart skip in the past week. I dragged took Sweet No to Beelitz-Heilstätten Sanatorium (official German website) which in the early 1900’s was the largest hospital complex in Europe. The fun part… it has been abandoned for 19 years! You guessed it, creepy! Photos from a Flickr group.

How do you get into a boarded up and abandoned building? Well, you hope that some enterprising punks have been there before you and have “paved” the way. Usually a window or a door has been broken or pried away from the building allowing access. In the case of this building we managed to get into a cellar window.

May I just tell you that falling into who knows what in the dark, with little or no ambient light, and having forgotten an important urban exploration tool (flashlight), we were treated with quite a heart pounder. Sweet No and I were walking blindly around the huge basement of a rotting corpse of a building trying to find a safe set of stairs leading upward with nothing but our cameras as a light source. (note, if you are ever in a similar dark situation, press your camera’s “take picture” button down halfway – this throws out a quite bright light which is supposed to check for focus. COOL and in this case, a life saver)

The rotating gif is me not so gracefully climbing out of one such window. And no, my jeans were not green… by this time of the day however they were quite dusty and still very blue. Gifs just suck that way.

We spent over two hours investigating just ONE BUILDING out of 60! Yes, it was illegal, yes it was like something out of a horror movie, yes we got dirty and dusty, (and the Monk side of No came out BIG TIME!) yes I filled up a 2GB memory card with photos which by and large remain unedited, yes I will post more of them Flickr, yes I will blog more about the entire experience, and YES it was FUN! I’m digging this urban exploration thing and will do it again.

I’m reading a book by R.J. Ellory named “A Simple Act of Violence” which is a crime-thriller wrapped around a secret program of the C.I.A. where trained killers are sent out to eradicate enemies, heads of state, up & coming people of power, and whoever else they deem necessary. The story itself goes back to Nicaragua and the Manuel Norriega scandal – Contras, drugs and Oliver North. How fracking interesting to see this crap popping into the news cycle all revolving around Puppetmaster Dick Cheney and his secret group of trained C.I.A. killers and how it was all kept on the lowdown by Tricky Dick II.

Sidenote… This book is excellent. I think I’m in love with this R.J. Ellory guy. The first book I read was “A Quiet Belief in Angels” which I think I sailed through in about 3 days – all of that while working and having a life…. I’m not sure I slept during that time.

Speaking of books that I inhaled… Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is coming out at the theaters this week!!! Whoo Hooo! Yes, I’m a total spaz. (see how easily I revert back to the 80’s?) Yes, I already have my tickets. And YES I plan to see it more than once. Duh!

Prepare… I’m going to mention the King of Pop. For those wanting out, just skip to the next paragraph. OK, for those two still reading… We all know that Michael Jackson spent the last part of his life trying to keep the faces and lives of his children out of the media. Has anybody given it a second thought that over his dead body the kids were trotted out onto the stage at his memorial service… by his loving family? Isn’t it interesting to find out that Prince (who names their kid that, come ON) and Paris are not biologically his?

On to other things which are happening this week which excite me yet probably don’t do anything for anyone else… Berlin is getting its first HOOTERS! Yes, I know it is basically a shitty American restaurant known for its mega-breasted waitresses in orange spandex and required to wear hose no matter how hot it is. Yes, I know that it is a step backward on the evolutionary scale for womankind as a whole. But do you know that they have the best wings in this world?

OK, now it is official… I can stay in Berlin the rest of my life. No longer do I have to fill the refrigerators of my family with delectable hot wings every time I go back to visit the States… No longer do I have to explain my strange love of ranch dressing (not available in Germany) to my family. Now I can have my (10 hot and 10 three mile island, thank you) wings in the privacy of my own home! Whoo hooo! Don’t hate me because of my love of GOOD WINGS!

In slightly related news: brothels (totally legal) in Germany are being hard hit by the crappy world-wide economy. As a promotion stunt, a Berlin brothel owner is offering a discount to anyone arriving by bicycle. What a riot!

Is anyone else worried that the U.S. Budget gap has now topped $1 trillion?

Speaking of lots of money going into the air… The Pyromusikale kept the skies close to my home quite bright and LOUD this past weekend. I live very close to the Airport Tempelhof which was the staging point for the HUGE fireworks competition.

Really it kind of snuck up on us. We had forgotten that it was even going to happen… that is until around 10.00 pm on Thursday night when two of the largest explosions I’ve ever heard rattled our windows and caused things to move about in our living room prompting the following stimulating conversation: Snooker to No, “Whoa, what was that?” No to Snooker, “I have no idea but it was LOUD!”. These booms were followed shortly by the telltale signs of further fireworks, thus bringing us to the conclusion that there were no buildings being bombed (Berliners are a little skittish that way) and we were going to be treated to some lovely noises for a few minutes. HA! That night it went on 40 minutes. Not bad if you are outside enjoying them, (can’t see them from our balcony or windows on the other side, too many trees and our building is facing the wrong way) but if you are trying to sleep on a work night, um… not so nice.

The next night was even longer, I think it lasted over an hour, but this competitor wasn’t using the BIG boomers, just the normal ones. Finally on Saturday night I managed to be at home and have some time, so my FIL and I walked to the nearest vantage point (of course I got pictures, just no really nice ones) and enjoyed an hour of world-class fireworks. Next year, I will pay the 25 Euro entrance fee and be on the field for this festival of fireworks and music!

OK, so there ya have it. Head on over to the UnMom for her take on the Random Tuesday Madness and see how she manages time travel… No Doubt.

The New Star Trek Movie

Click to see this image of the outside of the Prince's Trust Star Trek Premiere biggerPeople are beginning to ask more and more frequently what I thought of the new Star Trek movie I saw at the premiere in London almost three weeks ago. I suppose it is reasonable to put it down here.

You are hereby warned that I will do my best to not give away the whole thing, and I will not give away major story points. But little quirks which I found pleasing are possibly going to make it into the next paragraphs. If you wish to enter the movie with no preconceptions, read no further until you’ve seen the movie.

I will start my comments by saying that in my eyes this is the best prequel ever, bar none. As a concept the movie itself is genius. The entire setting is an alternate, parallel universe in which the screenwriters and director are now free to do what they want and play around at will without upsetting the fanboys too terribly. Kirk and Spock meet each other in a completely different way than we learned about years ago while watching the episodes (historical documents – Galaxy Quest reference, thank you). Spock can even have a steamy affair with … well, I won’t give that away… but let’s just say it’s about time.

The cool thing is that this works. The characters are forging friendships and camaraderie under fire as people we know and love and have been becoming reacquainted with along the way are facing a Romulan threat. The bad guy wants to destroy Federation planets one by one, and he has technology from the future to do it.

The editing, cinematography, and special effects work are state-of-the-art, as you’d expect. The screenplay was obviously written by Trek lovers paying homage to so many of the things we loved about the original Trek.

Yes, we get to see extra, unimportant characters added into an “away” mission only to have them bite it to show that the situation is serious. Yes, we get to hear the “Ah’m givin’ it all she’s goot, Cap’n,” and “Dammit, man, I’m a doctor, not a physicist”. Yes, we get references to story lines of the past, the Kobiyashi Maru and Kirk’s creative way of passing the test comes out with a different perspective and gives us a chance to see some interesting character development between Kirk and Spock.

The characters we know and love are all here. There are plenty of fantastic performances in this movie. Chris Pine fits very well into my estimation of a young Kirk, Zachery Quinto is a sullen and kind of sad Spock, but Karl Urban is the REAL McCoy! He’s taken the performance and vocal quality of DeForest Kelley and made it his own. For me, his scenes were some of the best parts of the movie. I hope that we will see more of him in the future.

One thing I must say simply and clearly… I am… very happy… that Chris Pine decides… NOT… to try to replicate… William Shatner’s stupid way of delivering lines. BUT, he does make out with a sexy green alien (would we expect any less?), and he does sling himself into the Captain’s chair with the same macho “I’m the king of the world” attitude.

Two events hit me on an emotional basis. The first one was two-thirds of the way through. The camera pans back on the bridge and I suddenly realized with a start that all of the major players are here: a young energized Kirk is here, emotionally stunted Spock, Uhura (played wonderfully by Zoe Saldana – a young lady I first saw in “The Terminal” and hoped she would go on to bigger and better things), Sulu, Bones, Checkov and of course a funnier and much cooler Scotty. All the old favorites are standing up there, fresh and reborn… and I sighed deeply. The next event was the appearance of an older, wiser, and certainly more frail Spock played by (of course) Leonard Nimoy. Ahh… All is right with the world. The continuity is explained and the family reunion with my favorite ST character is complete. Strangely the moment was more emotional for me than I would have thought.

As it was for me in other ST movies, the bad guy and the “threat” are almost insignificant. I am here to visit with old friends, characters I’ve grown up with, and no matter how scary the situation may look for my old buddies, I know that they will make it through alright… they have to. Paramount most certainly has plans for another movie down the road.

Is the movie perfect? No. The final battle seems like it was cut from a Star Wars movie… a later Star Wars movie. Character, not plot is the strong suit here (but then I and thousands of other Trekkies would have it no other way) and I assume that for it to stand 100% on its own for non Trek lovers, it needs to have a slightly stronger plot. What it did do perfectly was play on the emotions of fans, giving us a family reunion of sorts, a reunion that spans across decades, even generations. Forty years of popular culture come to play in this hard reboot of a franchise… and unlike most other such refurbishments, this one reminds us what we loved about these people in the first place.

Do you have to be a Trekkie to enjoy the movie? Not at all. This is a perfectly good stand-alone movie for all action movie lovers, and especially the sci-fi freaks like me.

Now I want to know when J.J. Abrams and crew will do the same for Next Generation?!

I’ve uploaded some of my pics from the trip to London.