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Sunday, November 21, 2004
The one free man.

Half-life and Half-life 2 is so freakin good I had to celebrate it with some permanent body art:

I blazed through Half-life 2 in a few short days. It didn't hurt that almost my entire social circle decided to leave town this weekend. I can't tell if it was too short, or I just spent too much time playing it. I think I'm ready to play through it again though. There is a neat little 2-d games Staring Gordon Freeman that came with HL2...maybe I'll play through that.

My other new addiction is the Harry Potter series. I managed to avoid them for a while now, but I sucked in after stumbling onto the "The Sorcerer's Stone" in audio format. A long car ride to Reno presented the perfect opportunity to follow that up with the audio production of the second book, and now I finally finished "reading" (listening) to the third one.

First off, Jim Dale does a spectacular job reading. A quick glance at his profile on the IMDB doesn't reveal a fabulous career, but he's a great voice actor. I prefer his performance to that of the child actors in the movie...even his falsetto Hermione. Although I imagine he'd look pretty silly in those robes.

(slight spoilers ahead)

One of the things I find really interesting about the series is the separation between the wizard world, and the muggle (non-magical) world. I have always felt that people who claim to really believe in the supernatural, would cease to find it fascinating if it were ever adopted into the mainstream. Sorta like indie-rockers when they see their favorite band doing car commercials.

The supernatural would be far less fascinating if it was found to be part of our everyday natural world. In the Harry Potter books, this is exactly what happens...sort of.

My basic idea of the appeal of the fantasy of sorcery is that it would give me an effortless way to solve any problem. If I had competence in spellcraft I would be free from almost all the basic rules and restrictions that regular people have to deal with every day.

The wizards in Harry Potter's world don't live that fantasy. Their world is FULL of rules and regulations. Not only that, but they are bound to the same economic problems and class restrictions that muggles have. There are rich wizards and poor wizards. There are complicated laws and rules enforced by a governing body (the Ministry of Magic) and worst of all, wizards are not allowed to perform magic in the muggle world.

So being a wizard doesn't really seem all that cool. Sure...your daily chores might be a little easier. But you still have to go to school, you still have to get a job, you still have to deal with all the bullshit that normal people have to deal with. You can never really use your magical powers to any advantage since the only context you can use them in...is amongst other wizards.

This is why the main character has to inexplicably return, year after year, to his abusive aunt and uncle on Privet drive. He spends every summer there, despite the fact that his gaurdians hate him, and despite the fact that he's almost universaly adored within the wizard community. It would be so easy for him to live elsewhere during those summer months, but the Dursleys (Potter's aunt and uncle), function as the only way in which Harry's magical powers actually seem cool.

At Hogwart's Potter is a top-notch student of magic...which makes him only slightly better than everyone else around him...sorta like the high school starting quarterback. At his aunt and uncles house he's not only unjustly oppressed, but he's fabulously special (in the eyes of the reader). Without that contrast the books would be far less interesting.

So every year Harry saves the school, and wins all the sporting events, and further cements himself as the Michael Jordan of wizards -- and every year all these people who love him send him back home for three months of verbal abuse and various other forms of torture.

Anyhow...despite all that...I find the series to be charming...and the perfect sorta books to listen to while doing the more mundane tasks of my work day. I've been told that the books get progressively darker, and this last one (the Prisoner of Azkaban) certainly seems to validate that opinion. It's my favorite so far.


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