Sunday, 24 September 2017

Re-Reading the Harry Potter Books

I've just finished re-reading the Harry Potter books, and I found them even more wonderful than I remembered. It took me several months, as I don't get much time to read these days, but even still, I was more than a little sad when it was over. It was like a friend was staying with me, and then they left. I thought I'd write this post as a little tribute to my re-reading, and to remind myself of why it's important to read the book as well as watch the film. These are things I've noticed in the books which are different or downplayed in the movies, which really bring them to life so much more.

* Ron is really useful ... when Harry, Hermione and Ron are caught by the Devil's Snare in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, it's Ron who has to remind Hermione that she can use magical fire to defeat it. He stands up for Hermione on several occasions -- even to Professor Snape when he calls her an insufferable know-it-all in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. He shows bravery and intelligence that the movies don't reflect.

* The Weasleys swear ... a lot. Obviously the movies can't depict a character swearing, and the books can't use specific words, but quite often the text will say: "Ron swore...". The brothers also get up to more teasing and practical jokes on each other, and there are a lot of family in-jokes. There's such a beautiful sense of how close the family are.

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* Ginny is awesome ... Sure, Ginny is awesome in the movies, but she's even more so in the books. This comes out in the Quidditch matches, which are covered in the later books but dropped almost entirely from the movies (presumably due to time constraints). In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Ginny easily makes it onto the Gryffindor Quidditch team as a Chaser. When Harry is ill, she fills in for him as Seeker and catches the snitch which wins the House Cup. In the books too, we see a lot more of Ginny and how her experience in the Chamber of Secrets affected her. She feels guilt for what she did to her fellow students, and worries that she might become possessed again.

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* Hermione is really good at giving gifts ... the most memorable one being the broom maintenance kit she gives to Harry, which the book mentions him using several times. Hermione might seem like the kind of person who gives people gifts "for their own good" rather than what they would really like, but this isn't the case. (Well, except for the talking planners she gives Harry and Ron in their O.W.L. year!) I think this shows her as a caring friend and makes her a richer character. I have to admit, I'm a little bit envious of this ability.

* Luna is smarter than she seems ... There's an inkling of this in the movies when Luna give Harry advice about how to deal with Voldemort's mind games. It comes out more in the books, though. At Bill and Fleur's wedding, Harry is disguised for his own protection. He uses Polyjuice Potion to transform into a random muggle boy from the nearby village and passes himself off as a distant cousin of the Weasleys. Luna, however, sees through this disguise at once, recognising Harry from the way he moves. This shows that Luna has the ability to see past the obvious and trust her own ability to make connections where others can't.

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* Harry is quite smart ... It's difficult for movies to show the thought processes of characters, without going into annoying internal monologues, so we don't really get to see how Harry thinks. There are several occasions in the books though, where he thinks something over and comes to a smart conclusion. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, he sits down and thinks about how to find the Diadem of Ravenclaw, and realises that he can talk to the Grey Lady. In the movie, Luna tells him this information. As angry as Harry is that Dumbledore didn't give him all the information he needed before he died, Dumbledore trusted him to come up with the answers on his own, and he did.

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* Magic is hard work ... The first few movies are sprinkled with comedic moments where a student casts a spell and it ends up blowing up in their face or turning into a furry teacup. In the later movies, there isn't room to depict the ongoing struggle to learn magic. Even students like Draco Malfoy or the Weasleys, who have been immersed in magic their whole lives, find it a struggle to learn to perform magic effectively. The students in Harry's year had an education in Defense Against the Darks Arts that is patchy at best, and they had to work very hard to catch up. Even when a student does learn to cast a spell, being able to control it is a different matter. When Crabbe uses the Fiendfyre spell in the Room of Requirement, it burns out of control with fatal consequences.

There's so much more to the Harry Potter books that I can't even begin to cover in a blog post. I'd like to re-read them once a year ideally, even if it does take 5 months!

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Temperature Scarf : Update #5

Winter has been very cold this year, and that's been reflected in the scarf. In fact, I've even hit a bit of a snag, as I've run out of grey wool! (Grey represents 10-13oC.) I will have to take a scrap with me to the craft shop tomorrow and hope that I can find a fairly good match. Unfortunately it's not a good time of year to buy wool. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

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Temperature Scarf : First Update

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Bonsai Shop Haul

About this time of year, I always get an urge to go to the Bonsai Shop and stock up on pretty little pots. I love the shapes and the glazes. Apparently all of the sizes, designs and glaze colours have their own names in Japanese. I would love to learn them one day. I also got some decorative gravel.

The large round pot at back right is earmarked for Doris, my first succulent and the one that's had the most babies. She's put out a couple of branches that seem to want to grow horizontally and put down roots, so hopefully a wide, shallow pot will facilitate that. I'll share Doris: The Re-Potting in a future post.

This time, I also purchased a couple of live plants. My experiments with bonsai have been a bit disappointing in the past, but I guess I'm feeling optimistic at the moment. The plants at the bonsai nursery mostly don't have labels, and I forgot to ask what these were. I think the one on the left might be an azalea or grevillea, and the one on the right is a pine of some sort. I'm not sure if I'll try turning them into bonsai, but now is the right time of year for it, so I'll have to decide soon.

In retrospect, photographing green plants against a green grass background wasn't such a good idea!

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Hello Spring!

This is the second in my experimental series of posts greeting the seasons, the first being Hello Autumn last April. (Oops, I forgot to say hello to Winter. I'm not going to apologise or feel bad for not being consistent. I suspect I probably have Seasonal Affective Disorder but I'll write about that another time.)

Spring comes early in Australia. We first feel its effects in the middle of August, when cold days are interpersed with a sprinkling of sunny ones, with a hint of a warm breeze wafting the scent of magnolia through the air. By the end of August, the wattles are in full bloom, buds are starting to appear on the fruit trees, and bright green new leaves are peeking out everywhere.

What things am I looking forward to in Spring?

While we are lucky enough to get some flowers throughout most of the year (with the height of Summer probably being the exception), Spring is the time when the flowers are most plentiful and beautiful.

I also love the wildflowers that grow on infrequently mowed lawns throughout the neighbourhood -- and yes, that includes ours!

working with plants
Spring is the time to re-pot potted plants, and plant new things outside. My succulents have really taken off and most either need to be transferred to larger pots or divided up into even more new little friends.

baby birds
This photo isn't the best, but it shows one spot under the eaves where doves nest every Spring. Every year there has been at least one bird come into being and grow up in this spot. It makes me proud!

Wearing them, decorating with them -- just having them everywhere!

Not my table, unfortunately!
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Not my bedroom, unfortunately!
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Spring treasure box
This time I chose a pink Lavshuca eyeshadow, a floral scrunchie, and quince-flavoured tea from Daiso. A cute comb to replace the boring old one in my backpack kit. There's also a Spring-themed pond decoration for my bedroom, but I've had it for several years and a few bits have fallen off, so I'll probably spruce it up a bit.

Aside from the Spring Equinox, there are the Marimo Festival on 8th-10th October, which I celebrated a couple of years ago. Later is Halloween / Samhain / Dias de Muertos, and the Junior Eurovision Song Contest in November.

and another thing
I've decided to try another experiment, this time inspired by a small challenge we were set at school. We were asked to make a list of goals for the next term (terms run for 6 months from equinox to equinox). It was quite an easy challenge to do, but it got me thinking about that sort of thing. The end of my first 101 Things in 1,001 Days is in June next year -- that's only 9 months away! Plus there are all the other things I want to do in my life, too. I need something to motivate me that's a bit more short term. 6 months is a good time period to think about doing things school-wise. In the spirit of the Slow Time course I'm doing at the moment, I like the idea of having each season as a natural time division. 3 months seems more realistic than 6 months, but less scary than 1 month! I'm still thinking about how this will look. Having goals that tune into the seasons really appeals to me, though.

That reminds me, I've been meaning to write a post about how there are 6 seasons in South-Eastern Australia. Or even 7 according to one Indigenous culture. This could get messy!

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Anime -- Kuma Miko: Girl Meets Bear

Kuma Miko: Girl Meets Bear (くまみこ) is a 12-episode anime created in 2016, based on the manga of the same name. Machi is a 14-year-old girl and miko (shrine attendant) of a shrine in a small, remote village. The shrine is no normal one, however -- it is dedicated to kuma (bears) and uniquely, is attended by a talking bear, Natsu. Machi has no immediate family or friends and Natsu acts as her friend, guardian and protector.

Machi is sick of her life of constant ceremonies, dances and the practice for them. Her life is dictated by the structure of tradition and the whims of the villagers that she serves. In one episode the villagers even create a selection of new shrine maiden outfits for her, each more risque than the next. Then there's her cousin Yoshio, who works for the local council and is passionate about increasing tourism to the village. He manipulates Machi into ever more awkward situations in the name of promoting the village.

Machi wants to get away from all this and go to high school in the city. Natsu is understandably worried that she won't cope, and devises a series of challenges for Machi to complete. These include buying clothes from a department store and buying a DVD from Village Vanguard. Other endeavours that she takes on herself, such as using a rice cooker, also end in disaster.

There are lots of cute details and funny moments throughout the series. The people and situations found in a remote town are parodied. Imagery of food and mountain scenery was plentiful enough to satisfy Mori folk and others who like this aesthetic. The depiction of the miko lifestyle and Shinto religion was also interesting. The episodes veer between different genres and defy categorisation as a whole. One episode focuses almost entirely on Machi's creation of a cold rice dish for dinner, turning it into a slice-of-life recipe story. Another has Machi trying on scanty outfits shown from angles reminiscent of a schoolgirl anime (close to being panty shots but still tame enough for younger viewers). The opening and closing songs are cute and catchy.

I loved this series and wished it didn't end so soon. The relationship between Machi the miko and Natsu the talking bear is so unusual and sweet; I found it very memorable. I had the theme song stuck in my head for a long time afterwards. I can see myself watching it again one day.