Thursday, July 19, 2007

Pottered Out

A dear friend of mine told me yesterday that she was in the throes of Potter-mania brought on, of all things, by a visit to Hong Kong (don't ask!). She is apparently plowing through the books at the rate of over one a day, whilst simultaneously watching the movies. Since the next, and last, book of the series will be released in just about an hour and the world at large will be in throes of Potter-mania, this is my "Stop the world and I'll get off" moment. For you see, I am not a fan.

J. K. Rowling is a wonderful author and she has a created an universe as rich and detailed in its mythology and history as Middle Earth. And the analogy between Frodo and Harry are also fairly obvious. Ironically, the richness of the rendering of Harry's world is the primary reason why I am not a Harry Potter fan.

I read the first few Harry Potter books (through Goblet of Fire - I think the fourth in the series) and here's the truth (and if anyone ever quotes me on this, I will flat out deny it with a straight face):

The fourth book scared the bejesus out of me.

There, I said it. The fault, dear Brutus, lies not with the stars but with me. You see, when I started the series I was expecting a mix of Enid Blyton and Hardy Boys with maybe a little Bewitched thrown in. And the first two books were like that - you had Hogwarts instead of Mallory Towers, quidditch instead of lacrosse and the weird jelly beans instead of the tuck box. The whole Voldermort angle was the Hardy Boys part (in a Case Files sort of way).

But then the books started becoming darker and more serious and by the end of Goblet of Fire someone had lost their life and it was not fun and games anymore. I was disturbed and yes, scared at the ending of Goblets of Fire. This, in my mind, was not a book for children.

Yes, I know that the growing seriousness of each subsequent book is a progression - planned - and a reflection of an audience growing with each book and as such, beautifully written. But still, for reasons that I can't quite explain rationally, I found the books, especially the fourth one, rather disturbing (by design?).

Will the epic of Harry Potter be regarded one day on par with the epic of Frodo Braggins as a literary endeavor? Probably. In fact, I think it is already happening judging by the gushing review each new book receives. And the good news, at least from my perspective, is that in a few hours I will know - without having read the book - how it all ends.

And once I know for sure that Harry - and his gang - lives and Voldermort dies, maybe I'll read the other three books. For now, I am just going to cower under the bed.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Water, water everywhere?

I have just had a rather interesting, and instructive, weekend. First, on Saturday, I had a super frustrating meeting with the developers of this condo I am buying during which they tried to explain to me why, yet again, the closing would be delayed for two months. But that's a story for another time.

I came home from the meeting with the builder to an announcement on my building's PA system saying that the water had been shut off. Apparently, some idiot municipal worker doing some repairs had ruptured the city's water mains. As a result, all of Jersey City where I live and neighboring Hoboken and Union City had no water for about 30 hours starting Saturday forenoon through Sunday evening. Then on Sunday evening, just as the water came back on - brackish and blood red, lightning struck the transformers of my building complex and the power went out - for something like four hours.

Why was this interesting, let alone instructive? Because I was so completely and utterly unprepared for it!

In the five plus years that I have been in the US I have never been in a situation where there was a water outage (one time in Ithaca, the water pipes in my apartment froze but the landlord was able to crank the boiler to get it working pretty quickly). Not only did I not have any means to store water, the thought had never occurred to me. I had a couple of bottles of Gatorade and a bottle of Blue Moon beer in the house but that was it for the aqua supply, and since at that point I didn't know how long the outage would last I didn't want to use them for anything but drinking. I went to the store to get more water but it seems that while I was fighting with the builder of my condo, people had been making a run on water.

Then things began to shut down - restaurants and coffee shops first, the mall next and a few hours into the outage, it was like a curfew. So now I couldn't cook or wash. I suddenly felt really thirsty. I immediately instituted a "if it's yellow, let it mellow..." policy for the loo and after a dinner of bread and tuna, went to bed. The next afternoon, when the water finally came back on, I had perhaps one of the more satisfying craps of my life!

Back home in India, we got municipal water twice a day, two hours at a time sort of like a doctor's prescription. We had buckets and bottles, pumps and filters and three storage tanks - one on the roof, one sunk into our garden and one above the kitchen sink. Our daily schedules revolved around the availability of water - you were 'strongly' encouraged to do any bathing, washing or shitting between the hours of seven and nine. If you missed the morning window, then you were done for twelve hours. But we were prepared for any water emergency. If we didn't have water in my home in Delhi for 30 hours, I don't think anyone but my Mom would have even noticed (and I am not being sexist here - Mom headed the water police at home. Fact of life.)

It's the same story with electricity - back home we have candles and lanterns, inverters and generators, hand held fans and chiks on the windows. And for most of the summer load-shedding, there is a schedule and we know how long the outage will last.

Me? I sat in near total darkness for four hours. The only candle I have is in the bathroom where it performs more of a... um... odor removal role (and after 30 hours of mellowing, it had its work cut out too!) Everything in my apartment switched off - the computers, fridge, oven, microwaves, TV. The elevators had stopped working so my option, if i wanted to leave the building was to walk down 27 floors. So for the second night in a row, I had bread and canned tuna for dinner. But this time I cracked the bottle of Blue Moon.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Yippee-Ki-Yay Motherf*****!

I am a little late to this party but over the weekend I saw "Live Free or Die Hard" and all I can say is ... John McClane is back, baby! Or as John himself would say, "Yippee-Ki-Yay Mother..." (This latest movie is PG-13 after all).

Coming almost 20 years after the first 'Die Hard', this one continues in the tradition that made Die Hard perhaps the greatest action movie franchise ever. Filled with spectacular car chases, explosions and even a death match with a female martial arts expert, Live Free or Die Hard does it old school. Not for it the computer generated CGI crap - the stunts are mind-blowing because they are real, including the money shot of a police cruiser climbing up a toll booth to crash into a helicopter.

John McClane himself is probably the last of the old school action heroes, cut in the mold of Clint Eastwood or Gary Cooper. Reluctant, surly, a loner, John McClane does not want to get involved, he does not want to save the world, but hey, it's a dirty job and someone's got to do it.

If you are one of the few who hasn't seen the movie yet, do it pronto. As Guyznite explain so succinctly in this brilliant video:

We know what the basic gist is
There ain’t no Allen and it’s not Christmas
We don’t know but we’re pretty sure that
John McClane kicks assssss!