Harry Potter: Is It Time To Disapparate?

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As many who share a love of all things Harry Potter, I have been following the backlash toward JK Rowling over her recent twitter posts. Last night, I caught an article in Marie Claire written by Kathleen Walsh. To be honest, it hit hard especially in relation to a blog post I just published dealing with my take on current affairs. Unfortunately, whatever I write will disappear into the void of a blog-post black hole; I don’t have anything resembling the bandwidth Walsh will enjoy by publishing in Marie Claire.

The last statement of her first paragraph ends with: “We must end our Harry Potter fantasy now.” I didn’t care for the tone as I’m not one to be told what I must do, but because I’m invested in the discussion, I waded through the wordy article and then the referenced JK Rowling essay. I’m sensitive to transgender issues, I wrote a post five years ago after research and interviews on the subject. It’s a complicated matter. The shades of existence between traditional male and female standards aren’t the straightforward colors of a Pride flag, but more like a Jackson Pollack painting – the permutations seem infinite.

The problem is not everyone “gets” it. Just like Black Lives Matter, how many people respond with a dismissive All Lives Matter retort? People older than millennials generally grew up without a clear understanding of LGBTQ issues. How often do you still hear gayness is a choice? If they aren’t even capable of accepting how someone can be gay or lesbian, how are they going to absorb transgenderism with all the new acronyms, pronoun assignments, and the multitude of sexual preferences?

As with racial concerns, transgender issues require education. We need more people to believe, like the sign in the George Floyd/Black Lives Matter protests said: I understand I don’t understand, but I stand with you. Instead of encouraging this, we witness name-calling and character assassination. As I said in my post, argumentation is now performed from the platform of absolutes. If you say one thing counter to the paradigm someone subscribes to, you’re branded a person to be shunned, ignored, and trashed, destined to be a societal pariah. We have many who deserve that moniker: Donald Trump, Jeffrey Epstein, Harvey Weinstein, David Duke – people who clearly exhibit fundamental evil. I cannot, and will not, label essentially good people with similar epitaphs.

JK Rowling was wrong in her assessment, but to consider wholesale verbal flogging and boycotting is the opposite extreme. People are now scrutinizing every sentence of all seven books picking any piece of evidence to support the notion Rowling is transphobic and racist. I will say this: there is not one author or one book ever published capable of withstanding the application of everyone’s personal agenda. Instead of accepting the good Rowling has done and continues to do while giving her the opportunity to enrich her education on the subject of transgenderism, we see vultures circling, anxious to devour the flesh of one of the much-loved authors of our time.

My own path to acceptance and to the degree I understand homosexuality, transgenderism, and race was a difficult one. In some cases, it resulted in a 180-degree reversal of thinking and feeling, but I got here, and I’m still learning. I am not a religious person, but for one rare occasion, I will quote the Bible: let s/he who is without sin cast the first stone.

As for Harry Potter – the books and the movies – will I end the fantasy? No, not now, not ever.

Jesus Christ Superstar: John Legend’s Revival

Jesus Christ Superstar

 

As one who wore out multiple cassette tapes (yes, remember those?) listening to the original 1970 concept album for Jesus Christ Superstar, I planted in front of the TV on Easter to watch John Legend tackle the revival. It was a little confusing, given the Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber play never deals with Christ as a divine figure, for it to appear as a feature on Easter. The particular notoriety of the day is to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. The end piece of music titled John Nineteen Forty-One references the biblical chapter and verse:

“At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had even been laid.”

The play never goes beyond his death. At the time of the album release, I was a PK. That means, I was a priest’s kid, living in the rectory of my father’s parish church. He and my mother held a dim view over the play’s treatment of the Apostles and the fact the true aspect of Christ’s “superstar” status resulted from his rising from the dead. They didn’t enjoy the concept that Christ should have picked a more suitable time, one with the power of modern media coverage to debut his message, that he was merely a societal sensation two thousand years ago.

As for me, I loved the music and the vocal performances of Ian Gillan, Yvonne Elliman, and Murray Head. I wanted to hear those songs performed again. I never saw the original play, I only had the album, so I couldn’t compare acting performances, but I could compare how the old vocals would stack up against the new ones by John Legend, Sara Bareilles, and Brandon Victor Dixon.

As the play unfolded, disappointment grew. First, the acting wasn’t good. I’ll leave it there. I wanted to experience voices that recreated the range the music demanded, those visceral screams only a rock-and-roller can muster. Ian Gillan sang with Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. When he sang The Temple, his vocals touched every nerve in your spinal column. Similarly, Murray Head dropped the mic with Damned For All Time on the original album. Both Legend and Dixon have beautiful voices, but this kind of production did not fit their vocal style. If called upon to cast the role of Jesus for this rock opera, American Idol alum, Adam Lambert would have been a first choice. His vocals are ridiculous, and the restoration of Superstar would have been complete.

Most of the reviews for this production have been positive. Taking nothing away from John Legend as a singer, younger people should grab the music service of their choice and check out the 1970 original. For this revival, I have to cast a dissenting vote.

Book Review: Ruthless

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Ruthless, a realistic young adult novel by Carolyn Lee Adams is a competently told tale about a girl who struggles to survive as the target of a serial killer. Through her ordeal, the heroine Ruth is forced to strip her self-image and reassess the person she thought she was. The plot alternates between the immediacy of her predicament and chapters devoted to backstory. Though relevant, Adams oddly chooses to relay this information by increasing the narrative distance, offering the material through an unnamed omniscient voice. She squanders the opportunity to dig deep and mine the veins of gold that would have enriched the characters. Ruthless does reflect on the way choices and actions alter personality and add to baggage that will forever be a part of the soul, especially when committed by necessity. Adams also offers a distinct testament to the prevalence in our society to stand by and allow bad things to happen.

Serial killers are the true monsters among us, and if the novel falls short in any way, it’s by not having a deeper sense of what Ruth was truly up against. A hero’s dilemma is only as great as the obstacles he or she must face. By increasing the terrifying nature of the killer, it would have served to increase our fear for Ruth. As serial killers go, I thought the character, initially known to her as Ted, was somewhat mild. The reader sees the evidence of his past crimes, but we didn’t get enough sense of the wolf in sheep’s clothing, the thing that is most fearsome about these people. It’s the deadliness hidden by the face of normalcy that provides the minefield of suspense for the reader, and on that score, Ruthless didn’t quite hit its stride.

How do you feel?

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Four words, a construct of social interplay designed to initiate an exchange between two people. It’s up there with Good morning, How’s it going, and Hey there. It’s a question asked and a question answered with equally uninformative phrases like: Doing good, not bad, or I’m okay. Many add the required: how about you, for which round two concludes in the same innocuous manner.

Such lackluster exchanges point to a deficiency in emphasis and genuineness. As a whole, we’re good at the former and not so much the latter. How do you feel? If you stop to consider the question, it’s not a greeting, but an invitation. If you apply emphasis on the last word, how do you FEEL, the asker is being genuine, as if they really want to know. It’s then incumbent on the askee to be honest. That’s usually where the bond crumbles. How often do you pose the question, just to break the ice in greeting, really hoping that you get one of the standard answers from the list? After all, who wants to be the recipient of someone capable of grabbing your ear for an hour on the subject? How often do you avoid the answer because you simply believe the other person is just being polite, or you don’t feel comfortable bearing your soul, or you simply haven’t taken inventory of the real answers? You could ask yourself the question to step away from being two-dimensional, but let’s face it; we’re not really adept at being honest with ourselves either.

There’s a reason therapists belabor their patients with this question. Feelings, something that humans try to usurp as being one of the hallmarks that set our species apart (a blatant fallacy) are what drive us. A feeling is the steering wheel that turns us in the direction of action. I suspect many of our actions derive from a superficial sense of feelings we haven’t adequately analyzed, for if we did, would we truly be racist, or homophobic, or hateful? How can we expect the world to behave better if we individually act from a perspective of inattentiveness to our own feelings? Feeling is the one tool that drives empathy, and empathy breeds tolerance and acceptance. To ignore feeling opens a channel to destruction and hate. If Omar Mateen had stopped to consider the intrinsic value of seeing two men kissing, that the simple expression of love was of far more worth than hate and murder, he would have been able to override the nonsensical and bombastic canon all religions foist on their followers and seen the truth of that moment. He would never have pulled the trigger.

We’ve become too used to spouting words devoid of genuineness. The other morning, watching news coverage on the Pulse Nightclub shootings, the anchor opened the stage to a local journalist on the scene. As the line of communications opened, the journalist began by saying, “Good Morning”. My only thought was, no, it’s really not. The journalist wasn’t trying to be insensitive; he was using a salutation that was simply polite, even though it was horribly inappropriate to the moment. It speaks to the notion that we do so many things by rote.

The element of global danger is escalating at the speed of sound. Many hear the nauseating rhetoric of Donald Trump (the man who would set our society firmly on a path to the dark ages) and react to his hateful invective because on the surface he offers a solution to the issues that strike at the heart of what angers us. He garners support on the principal of mob mentality. The polls suggest an uncomfortably titanic number of people are stupid enough to fall for it. News reports of death and devastation abound everywhere; the United States is not the only target and is frequently the aggressor of the same destruction we rally against. We emphasize our thoughts and reactions from the standpoint of anger and hatred, but fail to infuse our thinking with intelligence. We employ the inelegant methods of a club-wielding troll. We do need to act. We do need to consider how best to dial back the ability of those who seek to do harm. We do need to change the way the country operates. Politicians are, for the most part, useless individuals at best, malcontent enablers at worst. They refuse to act on issues based on truth, honesty, and necessity; instead, they tout party lines, willfully ignorant – to our detriment. Most frightening to consider is that our elected officials lack the essential aptitude needed to deepen the quality of our country. They stand in positions to serve with bought and paid-for elections and by the grace of great campaign managers. So, they serve the masters of finance and corporate greed selling out the American people like the good puppets they are. We stand by and let it happen, time and again. Vote they say. That’s all well and good, but when the offerings are as useless as deciding what flavor of yogurt to have for breakfast, there is little opportunity for any significant change. Never has there been a time when it was more important to close the distance between what we feel and how we act. Not six months or a year from now, but RIGHT NOW.

Dig in, ask your friends, your family, people you work with: how do you FEEL. When someone asks you the same question, think hard on it. Tunnel down and figure it out, then tell them. Your challenge is to find the best method of delivery to effect a change. I’m a writer, the only tool in my arsenal is written expression. You must find your own way; don’t shirk on this responsibility. The only rule of the game is to consider all sides. Test yourself by asking if what you feel really makes sense. There was a common theme of apathy in movies and media in the 1970s; it clearly lingers in the 2000s. Don’t fall prey to that. I don’t care, nor is it important who originally coined the axiom, but it bears repeating: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”. I’ve said it before, there is no cure for what ails us as a whole; there is a rising tide of terminally evil people. Sprinkling your dose of honesty and well-considered feelings on an expanding web of well-thinking and well-meaning people might abate the disease long enough that cooler heads prevail as we search for the elusive, and likely unattainable goal of peace and understanding.

So, how do you feel?