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July 29, 2007

Well, it's over

There are no spoilers in this post, but there are spoilers in the links.

I've been a Harry Potter fan since I was eleven. When I read the first two books, I didn't even notice all the media attention they were getting. I remember finding an article about the series on an airplane and realizing that I wasn't the only one who liked these books, and I remember how excited I was when someone told me there were going to be seven books in all! I read the first two books aloud to my younger sister, and then my dad read the third, fourth and fifth book aloud to us both. We could spend hours just discussing the details of the characterizations. Quidditch is the only team sport I've ever been enthusiastic about.

Granted, it's been ten years. I've had other things on my mind. The first two movies were really disappointing, and the general media circus and people overanalyzing the importance of these books for society were well, overkill. And the fifth book was bad, which means the fifth movie could never be all that good.

Even so, after spending most of yesterday on my friend's sofa, listening to very dramatic LotR soundtrack music and reading The Deathly Hallows (while she reread her own copy next to me), I can only say: I hoped that Rowling would tie up the loose ends to my satisfaction, and she really did. I don't have time for a review at the moment, but I'll refer you to:

Maya (mistful) : "I'll never stop loving the thought of people in excited lines at midnight (...) I could never be anything but grateful." (Maya makes a lot of good points, particularly about character development, which I love to over-analyze)

Jenny Sawyer: "Unfortunately, Rowling did her readers a great disservice by making the story about Harry when it really should have been about Snape." (Wow, Snape's life story would make a really good novel - not for kids, though)

Uma Damle: "All is well that  ends with a well written book." (New favorite quote!)

Updated September 4th 2007: Catherine Bennet in the Guardian writes: "You feel that simply by cutting intra-paragraph repetition and the number of times she describes an angry Harry saying something angry angrily, Rowling and her editors might have saved 10,000 trees (...) Anyone who, as a child, never wanted a favourite book to end, must envy the Potter cohort a magical world that has grown by hundreds of pages a year; a world whose arrangements Rowling has depicted in such sublime, almost manically generous detail, that for 10 years her readers could more or less live inside it (...) Whatever happens in the last of these brilliant adventures may matter less, for the millions of children who grew up with Harry Potter, than the end of his companionship and with it, the end of their childhood."

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July 25, 2007

The logic of Harry Potter

There are no spoilers in this post. 

I'm currently reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. My friend is urging me to finish it as soon as possible so that we can discuss everything about it like the nerds we (sometimes) are. Meanwhile, I must admit, sadly, that the lack of logic in the series is annoying. And this has only gotten worse as I've gotten older.

Now before this friend and others kill me for writing bad things about our beloved series, let me just say that I wouldn't be writing this if I didn't love the books. I wouldn't care if I well, didn't care. And while it may in many cases be best to just enjoy a good story and not worry about the plotholes, when they annoy me, they annoy me, no matter how many times people tell me to stop being "too smart for my own good".

Megan McArdle writes about the bad economics in Harry Potter, and in my opinion, she's right (if we think of economics broadly to include magic and information, not just Galleons, as resources). There does not seem to be a clear pattern to when and how magic can be used. Witches and wizards have the ability to use magic, but must learn the details of how at school. So far, so good. But while they can transfigure one animal into an entirely different species, they can't remove mold from bread and they must eat trick candies to be able to fake disease. Sometimes wizards need only wands to perform spells, and sometimes potions or various gadgets (deluminator, pensieve, timeturner) are needed, and I haven't found any kind of pattern for when you need what. And the whole idea of having or not having money really should be less important if you can magically alter clothing, food, your house etc. yet the Weasleys are still poor.

When magic and knowledge about magic isn't being used as a plot device, information is. McArdle writes that the characters "spend the latter books pointlessly withholding information from each other that, if shared, would end the installment somewhere around page ten". This is not the way to write a good story, and it was my biggest irritation when reading "The DaVinci Code", except that in that case, much of the information was being given to the charactors but withheld from the reader. The characters would then slowly and stupidly try to solve riddles that were unknown to the reader, and as soon as the whole riddle was described, its answer was obvious. A good mystery story gives the reader the opportunity to solve the mystery before the last page. The answer should be there, but cleverly hidden between red herrings and amusing subplots. The reaction to the last chapter should be: "But of course! Why didn't I figure that out sooner?" not "Huh? What? But... huh?" as brand new characters, info and plot devices are introduced at the author's convenience. I can't stand those stories where there would be no plot if the characters would only communicate, and every once in a while, J. K. Rowling falls into that very trap, especially in the later books.

Another annoyance (which McArdle does not address) is the psychological and emotional logic. Harry Potter may have had vague memories of being loved as a baby, but until his 11th birthday, he has never really experienced kindness, let alone anything resembling friendship. Shouldn't that unusually unhappy childhood have made him less stable, trusting and generally normal than he is? For example, that he trusts and likes Ron immediately, but then rejects the powerful Draco Malfoy's offer of friendship, seems strange to me. It shows an unusual sense of loyalty and integrity. Many 11-year-olds would find it difficult to stand by their unpopular friend, and when we keep in mind that he met this friend less than a day ago and that he has never experienced loyalty himself, it just doesn't seem believable to me. Over the course of the series, Harry encounters incredible sadness and loss and is almost constantly in grave danger. He is betrayed by people he trusts and kept in the dark by people who should be telling him the truth. Yet he continues to be the hero, questioning his friends' need to protect him, and putting other people's safety before his own. This even happens in situations where he rationally knows that it is more important to the entire world that he survive than that person X does. This may be a reaction to his lonely childhood - he has very low self-esteem and can't believe other people would risk their lives to protect him - but it seems to me that he is just making stupid choices and being more noble than I find believable. And it's not just Harry. Hermione, one of the characters I identify with the most, sometimes shows signs of being written as a steriotypical "nerdy girl" rather than as a real person who happens to be really smart. Although I think that Rowling got better at writing this character as Hermione grew up, it still astounds me that she doesn't get more exasperated with Ron and Harry. I understand that they are very close friends, but doesn't she have a need for friends she actually has more in common with?

The obvious answer to these comments (mine and McArdles) are that: "Come on! It's a kid's book about magic!" However, there is a difference between a realistic story (one that could actually happen) and a believable story (one that has a perfect internal logic, even if it does involve superpowers). Children can tell the difference. Anyway, the children who first started reading Harry Potter, are no longer children. When I first started reading this series, I was eleven (just like Harry) and I loved the believability of the first book and the surprising, yet perfectly logical end. Now I'm almost 21. Over the course of ten years, fans have grown up. And the books have gotten longer, darker and more detailed. As I finish the very last chapters of the Harry Potter series, I hope Rowling ties up the loose ends in a satisfying way. I really, really do.

Posted by Julie at 4:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 24, 2007


Jeg har linket til History matters! før, fra en "This Week", men bloggen til Ingar er fortsatt bra. Jeg har etterhvert lært meg at hvis jeg maser på potensielle bloggere, skriver de ingenting. Derfor ventet jeg lenge på at min tidligere lærer skulle begynne å blogge helt av seg selv - og jeg er svært fornøyd med resultatet.

Han beskriver seg selv som "Gammel kyniker men unntaksvis entusiastisk", og legger ut liste over bøker han leser og har lest (akkurat som meg! Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery). Og han kan virke ganske bitter når han skriver om motstand mot premiering av flinke elever:

"Norge er dilletanteriets høyborg. Middelmådighetens alter. Her ligger jantelovens hellige gral. Norge er landet hvor det er flaut å være god (bortsett fra på skøyter, da). Norge er landet der vi dyrker løpskonkurranser med idealtid! (Gå i bokhylla di og finn fram Roy Jacobsens praktfulle roman Seierherrene og les på nytt den uforglemmelige beretningen om terrengløpet på sommerleiren!)"

Men det er behagelig at noen andre skriver det for meg. Dessuten greier han å skrive morsomt, men alvorlig om diverse samfunnsfaglige spørsmål. Om våre forventninger om at myndighetene alltid skal ordne opp:

"Tankeeksperiment: Hvis jeg ville ha barn, men ikke fant en kvinne jeg kunne tenke meg å få barn med - ville jeg da vært ufrivillig barnløs? (...) Måtte samfunnet da ha ilt til min unnsetning og kurert min diagnostiserte tilstand? (Her stopper det opp litt for meg - jeg blir liksom sittende og drømme meg bort. Kunne helse- og omsorgsministeren mobilisert sitt enorme hjelpeapparat og løst problemet for meg? Er det mulig å antyde preferanser i retning av Julia Roberts, for eksempel??)"

Kort sagt: anbefales!

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July 23, 2007

A message...

... to my sisters, mother and mother's friends who provide me with all sorts of "friendly advice" every single summer, such as "There is such a thing as self-tanner." and "With that skin, you could just go goth.":

I don't build tans, I build head-aches when I'm in the sun. And apparently, I don't need to spend precious hours lying in the sun doing nothing, wearing an uncomfortable, unflattering sorry excuse for an "outfit". I need to get myself some fishnets - using some of the money I earn working indoors - and see if I can turn my white legs to my advantage.

Sorry, everyone. The next post will be less fashion and more politics/academics/geekiness/stuff. Promise.

Update September 16th 2007: Not only did I get fishnets for myself for my birthday (not as fishnetty as the ones in the picture) but someone agrees with me.

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July 18, 2007

How to travel Part 2: What to wear

I work at a museum and spend much of my time talking to tourists. And although I love my job, everything becomes routine after a while. So the part of my brain that isn't answering their questions or politely asking them to stop smoking while leaning against an 800-year-old wooden building, is usually judging their fashion sense. Now I know I can appear to be high-maintenance, and I don't insist that everyone at the museum wear heels and skirts just because I feel like it. After all, there are cobble-stones, steep mountain paths and often rain to deal with. But Crocs? With socks? Is that really necessary, or even practical? If the point of Crocs is that they are sandals that can get wet, then doesn't wearing them with socks ruin their (dare I even say it) one possible good side? 

It seems that bad taste is mandatory for tourists, just like it is for Norwegians going to their cottages in the mountains. Too many adults seem to stick to the childish idea that clothes are divided into comfortable, practical play-clothes and stiff, itchy “dressing up” clothes. It apparently hasn't entered their minds that a t-shirt can be soft and have a flattering color and that shoes can be good for your feet without being Crocs. On one randomly chosen day, I saw 14 fanny packs, 20 people with socks in their sandals, 6 weird hats, 8 pairs of Crocs (at least two of them with socks), 5 pairs of tourist vests, 23 pairs of tourist shorts, 19 pairs of tourist pants, and 8 pairs of tourist pants with removable legs so that they can be turned into tourist shorts. To be fair, I counted 11 pairs of ok shoes, and 7 pairs of gold-colored shoes, which you would not expect in the average tourist's suitcase.

This strange tourist style makes me wonder about two things: Firstly, what are these people carrying around? They have twenty pockets on each item of their clothing, plus fanny packs and backpacks. But they don't have food or water (they always ask me where they can buy that), their sunglasses and cameras are carried on strings around their necks, and their sweaters are around their waists. So if the average tourist is carrying a map, a wallet and a cell phone, what is in all the other pockets? I haven't yet worked up the nerve to ask them.

The second mystery is this: why do the same people over-dress for flying and then under-dress once they've landed? OK, so I can't prove it's the same people, but when I see so many stilettos in economy class check-in lines and so many Birkenstocks with stockings at tourist attractions, surely there must be some overlap? One semi-logical explanation I can think of is that people with bad shoe taste want to bring their Crocs and their wedge boots (both in one closet; shudder) and the wedges are the heaviest.

Another possibility is that these people have seen some ca. 1950's airline ad (or for that matter, the 2000's in-flight commercials for IcelandAir) and have gotten the impression that long-distance flying is glamorous. Well, forget that. Your feet will swell, your eyes will itch, your food will taste bad, you'll freeze and then overheat and your mascara will fall off. The flight attendants may be wearing pencil skirts, heels and eye-liner, but they are not like other people. (Incidentally, now that I know how to fasten my seatbelt and adjust my own oxygen thing before helping a child, how about the flight attendants tell me how to apply make-up so that it stays in place for 12 hours of high-altitude dehydrated hell?) Flight attendants wear uniforms, and uniforms have certain distinguishing features: they are uncomfortable, they are traditional, and they are not what everyone else is wearing. So wear flats and pants. Not a mini-skirt that doesn't allow to sit down (you'll have to do that for take-off and landing, you see). Not something that needs to be ironed when you change flights. And if you must wear shoes with soles that could contain anything from knitting needles1 to samurai swords, at least make sure they're slip-ons so you can make it through security check in less than 20 minutes.

In fact, long-distance flying is one of the very few occasions when even my inner Prada-wearing devil can “OK” track pants and flip-flops in public. I recommend pyjama bottoms if you have the guts. Wear socks in your sandals for all I care. In fact, that can be good: you slip off your sandals in the air, but you're still warm; then when you and your swollen feet land, there's room for your toes.

There's an added benefit to dressing slouchy in the air: it shows you're high-class, at least according to Paul Fussell's very funny book about the American class system. People dress up for special occasions. Dressing way down shows that flying is something you do a lot, that you're completely comfortable with it (Fussell writes that walking around the aircraft barefoot promotes you to upper class) and that frankly, you have better places to wear your stilettos. Might I suggest The Norwegian Folk Museum?

Part 1 

1Airlines confiscate knitting needles and then hand out knives and forks. Makes perfect sense, right?

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July 13, 2007

How to travel Part 1: This is a non-stupidity flight

Stupid people should be treated like smokers.

"Live and let live" is an excellent rule when interpreted correctly. It does not mean "Everyone should be allowed to do whatever they want," but "Everyone should be allowed to do whatever they want, as long as the only people they harm are themselves." Unfortunately, as long as you interact with other living things at all, this second part of the rule limits you quite a lot. Norwegian smokers have noticed this in the past two years, since stricter regulations were imposed July 2005. It is now legal to buy boxes of cigarettes with THIS THING YOU JUST BOUGHT WILL BE YOUR DEATH!!! written on them, but you can't smoke them anywhere indoors. And since Norway has about six months of white winter and four months of green winter, this makes being a smoker in Norway a cold, wet and lonely existence. (Or so I hope. I am not a smoker.) And this is ok, because by now everyone knows that smoking is unhealthy and addictive and every smoker knew this when they started. It is a stupid choice, and if you insist on making it, then you should accept being left outside in the cold. Literally.

When I fly, I wish other stupid choices were treated the same way as the choice to start smoking. By now, shouldn't we assume that most people in the Western world know how to behave when they travel? As Eddie Izzard says: if you need to watch the part of the security information when they tell you how to put on your seatbelt, how did you manage to buy a plane ticket? And with all the publicity about the new limit on fluids in carry-on luggage, shouldn't people have gotten the message by now? I don't really see how putting my eye cream in a plastic bag makes the world a safer place, but I just do it. I don't wait for security personel at the airport to remind me and then hold up the line while arguing with them about my economy-size shampoo bottle I just have to bring with me everywhere. I've seen people standing next to a "Remove your laptop and place it in a tray" sign discussing (in the same language as the sign was written in) whether or not they should keep their laptops in their bags. I always manage to stand directly behind someone in the check-in line who didn't realize that not only do you have to bring your passport and your ticket with you when you travel, you also shouldn't bring twice as much luggage as you are allowed to, unless you are prepared to pay for it. And most of all: if you don't show up for the flight, that should be your own problem. At Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands, they say over the intercom: "Mr. ________, you are delaying the flight." which I think is just rude enough.

Part 2 

Posted by Julie at 4:51 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Hello, again

This blog is not dead.

I have simply not been in the mood for blogging these past weeks. And before that, the This Week posts were a lazy way to keep updating despite the stress of The Bachelor Thesis. After that was all over, I spent a lot of time outside and at work, since sunshine, money and a social life were all badly needed after the exams and thesis. So I wasn't near my computer all that much. Also, I've been thinking and writing about some more personal stuff lately. Nothing that anyone needs to worry about, just stuff that I don't want to put out on the net.

These past couple of days however, I have realized that my muse, or whatever we want to call that "I'm going to blog this!" feeling, is back. I have had ideas and phrases bouncing around in my head, and my fingers have been itching to type. And today, I finally have the time...

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July 5, 2007

I am 83% Addicted to Coffee
Mingle2 - Free Online Dating

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