Harry Potter – the good, the bad and the downright silly

I am probably in the minority again, but up until this year I have never read or watched any of the Harry Potter books or movies. But I finally decided to give them a try and I can safely say that the books are far better than the movies, especially from Azkaban. I have watched all the movies and am working on finishing the last two books, so sorry if I miss anything obvious in the 3 lists I’m about to present. Also, it will be a crossover between the books and the movies, which will become evident once we delve into the bad stuff.

I figured I’d list 5 of each in this post, so let’s kick this off.

THE GOOD

1. The very colorful universe

Truthfully, wizards and witchcraft are two subjects which have been used again and again in both cartoons and live action movies, but rarely does a universe have so much flavor and color as this one. From the original feel of the spells, due to the fact that they have different names than the classical ones, mostly Latin based to the large variety of colors and gimmicks such as house ghosts, magical and mythical creatures, which all have a role in the story, it’s truly a trip to a very magical place.

2. The power of friendship

This becomes even more evident starting with The Goblet of Fire, when Harry tells Cedric about the dragons and Cedric returns the favor with the whole golden egg hint. In Order of the Phoenix it jumps to the next level with the DA meetings and the final battle, where it’s not just Harry, Ron and Hermione, but many others including the adults from the Order.

3. The school nostalgia trip it takes you on

This one’s self explanatory, right? I mean you can’t help but feel nostalgic about your school years when watching this and as I’ve said in a previous post, the school years are actually some of the more important years in one’s life and are definitely filled with moments you will be remembering forever.

4. Minerva McGonagall

The adults at Hogwarts are kind of irresponsible most of the time, aside from Minerva McGonagall. She seems to be the only one that cares about student integrity (and I mean both physical and mental integrity), the only one that suggests Harry skip the Tri-Wizard Tournament, the one that protects the students when the Death Eaters take over etc. Plus, she stands up for her house students, but in a fair way (see also Snape for the exact opposite of this)

5. The wisdom of Albus Dumbledore

Albus Dumbledore made a few mistakes along the way, but most of the time he seemed like this wise old teacher you kind of wished you met during school. The one that was able to guide you through any and all challenges you might face and one of the few teachers not proud enough to admit he made a mistake (in Order of the Phoenix).

Now that we have the good out of the way, it’s time to look at the less successful parts of this franchise.

THE BAD

1. The Hogwarts curriculum (at least in the movies)

Seriously, it’s like these guys don’t learn anything useful…kind of like real life school to be honest. This is more evident in the movies though. Especially when Dobby dies. Is there NO spell that could mend his wound? Maybe it’s explained better in the books, as I’ve said, I still have 2 to go, but still…where are other useful spells for drying clothes when under water or ANY spells to protect themselves from jinxes?

2. Harry’s inability to do ANYTHING without help

For a main character, Harry is quite incapable of doing anything without some sort of help. Let’s take it movie by movie. In the Sorcerer’s Stone he manages to defeat Quirell because of Voldermort’s inability to touch him without burning, so there is that. But in Chamber of Secrets he goes into the Chamber without so much as a rock to his name in order to defend himself and has to rely on some sort of ex-machina in the form of Fawkes. In Azkaban he would have been screwed without Hermione and Albus Dumbledore. In Goblet of Fire, he would have been screwed without Hermione again (the summoning charm) and also without Hagrid, Cedric and fake Moody. While Fake Moody makes sense, as it was in his interest for Harry to win, the others…well, you get the idea. In Order of the Phoenix I get that the Order was needed because there were so many Death Eaters who had ambushed them at the Ministry. In the Half Blood Prince there wasn’t really anything he could do, Snape would have overpowered him easily should he have interviened. And in Deathly Hallows, he once again would have been screwed had it not been for Hermione.

3. The irresponsible adults

Seriously, apart from Minerva, every other adult is like: “meh, they’re kids and they’re dealing with things that even adults have trouble in mastering, what could go wrong?”. See any and all actions from Azkaban and beyond.

4. The incompetence of the Ministry of Magic

Seriously, J.K.Rowling must have really hated the Ministry when she was a teacher to have them portrayed as a bunch of buffoons with no grasp on reality. This is really evident in Order of the Phoenix (especially in the book, not so much in the movie), with Umbridge being the lead singer of the incompetence band.

5. The insane amount of info cut from the books in the movies post Chamber of Secrets

This really bugged me, because if you are a person who just wants to watch the movies, you’ll get really confused from Azkaban and beyond (more on that below).

And now, let’s lighten up with some of the more silly aspects I have noticed.

THE SILLY/FUNNY

1. The unbelievable confusion created in the movies by leaving out important aspects from the books

Examples include Hermione asking Hagrid about the Buckbeak meeting result even though no meeting was mentioned before that, Neville randomly finding the Room of Requirement without people realizing why it would be needed, Remus’s son being mentioned even though you don’t really know who he had the son with (I mean, you kinda sorta get that it’s Tonks, but without no focus on it, it’s a shock), the random wedding at the beginning of Deathly Hallows even though you hardly knew Bill and Fleur were a thing.

2. Hermione’s hormonal rage in The Half Blood Prince (the movie)

I’m actually looking forward to see if this is a thing in the book, but I found her reactions to Lavender and Ron’s fling funny…and annoying at the same time. Lavender likes Ron, she goes and kisses him. You like Ron, you sit there sulking HOPING he realizes you like him without doing a thing and then get a hissy fit…flawless logic.

3. Filch dancing with his cat at the Yule Ball

I don’t think there is anything more to say about this.

4. The portrayal of Dolores Umbridge in…most of her scenes

In the book, Dolores Umbridge is the kind of person you want to strangle, beat with a bat and then strangle her some more until her annoying “ahem, ahem” sound becomes “choke, choke”. She was a sadistic teacher who enjoyed taking everything from students and who got drunk on power. In the movies she’s just…I dunno, nothing special. I mean yeah, she takes over Hogwarts but you don’t actually feel her enjoyment of torturing students. And the satisfaction of Hermione leading her to the centaurs is all but gone.

5. He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named doesn’t really do anything that villainy up until the last movie (somewhat true also for the books)

Let’s sum up this guy’s adventures after Harry was born. He failed to kill a toddler, failed to kill the same toddler when he grew up to be a kid because of the same curse that backfired on him when the kid was a toddler, spends another almost 3 books getting back to his human-ish form, fails to kill the same kid AGAIN, this time in front of his groupies, fails to kill the same kid AGAIN at the ministry, gets rid of the only one he ever feared, fails to kill the kid AGAIN at the beginning of Deathly Hallows (the movie), gets the wand of his greatest threat which is the most powerful wand ever and fails to kill the same kid AGAIN! And to top it all off, he ends up getting killed by the same kid along with his friends. And seriously, after Harry was born, what does this guy do? Sure, he kills that old man in the beginning of Goblet of Fire (although I’m not sure if it was him or Wormtail), but most of the dirty work is done by his minions. I get why the people who fought him before Harry was born might be scared, but he doesn’t seem to do…anything. And funnily enough, after he thought he killed Harry, instead of going full psycho on everyone, he starts gloating!

So yeah, this is a bird’s eye view I have on this universe. I might end up reviewing the movies and books separately, but for now, this is all I’ve got.

Open endings in books and movies (and music, sort of)

I have seen movies with open endings, I have read books with open endings (and to link it with music, I’ve listened to songs the fade out towards the end). And I came to the realization that I hate open endings. I don’t know if it’s because of the human need for closure or because of the fact that I consider this as the lazy man’s way of ending something, but I don’t like them at all.

I don’t get why people do it. There was this episode from House M.D. where House was obsessed over a series of books and the author of those books becomes his patient for the episode. And when the last book of the series comes out, House is pissed because the ending is open. And the author gives him a pretty cool reason for it, something along the lines of “isn’t life actually a series of events with open endings where you can’t know for sure what happens?”. House sort of accepts this answer, but still seems pissed about it.

And I feel his annoyance towards this issue. I don’t like open endings and of the two reasons mentioned in the first paragraph, if I am going to be completely honest with myself, the fact that I find it as lazy writing is more proeminent than the human need for closure. Open endings are easy, simply because you don’t have to actually resolve anything. You just leave it in the air and let people theorize the sh*t out of it. And I guess if you’re a fan of theory and maybe have a knack for philosophy or enjoy these kind of discussions, these endings are for you.

But imagine, if you will, the movie The Dark Knight Rises had it ended with Batman carrying the bomb and Blake looking into the distance after him and then BAM! roll credits. If that had happened, I’d have been so annoyed I’d have considered it the worst of the 3 from the trilogy. As it stands, it’s my favorite, though maybe not necessarily the best one. A more recent-ish movie that comes to mind with an open ending is The Judge, with Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall. I actually enjoyed the movie and, for once, wasn’t really that annoyed with the fact that the ending is rather open to discussion. Does he stay in his hometown to become a judge? Does he leave his apparently cheating wife and failing marriage in order to be together with his childhood sweet heart? No one knows. I mean I know it works in movies like Inception, in which the whole idea is based on whether or not all of that is a dream or not, but…most movies are NOT Inception.

Speaking of Batman, the guys over at Rocksteady pulled this open-ending crap with the final installment in the Arkham game trilogy, where after you have to endure those stupid, sadistic, abusive, f***ing tank battles and Riddler challenges, you get to see the full ending of the game which…SOLVES NOTHING!! I mean is it Batman? Is it some comic book direction they’re taking? Will we get a Superman game as semi-hinted through some Easter eggs from the Arkham Knight that will solve the mistery? I’m hoping for a spinoff game or series, but nothing was confirmed, as far as I know.

And music wise? Come on, is it really that hard to find a bloody chord or note to finish the song on? I’ve always interpreted this as the artist saying “meh, don’t know how to finish this one, so just keep playing for a few more seconds and then we’ll fade it out to make it seem more artsy”. In the words of Kimi Raikkonen: “BWOAH!”.

So yeah, I can safely say that I am not a fan of not having closure to something. You may feel differently and that’s fine, but I like having a conclusion to a story, be it one I like or not.

5 books worth reading

During these last 12 months I’ve been fortunate enough to go through a series of books that helped me better understand myself, why I do what I do and how one can improve his attitude and replace bad habits with good ones. There is a link for each book on goodreads if you click on the title of them.

Without further ado, let’s begin.

1. The Power of Habit

Ever wonder why you do certain activities without thinking about them too much? Or how you can get rid of certain bad habits? Well, this is the book to go to. By learning about the main components of a “habit loop” from several examples which include Michael Phelps, a woman who falls into the habit of gambling and a man who managed to walk around his neighbourhood, even though he had a serious accident which impaired his brain, you’ll be able to better understand your own habits. And you’ll also learn how to change them. However, it won’t be easy, so be prepared.

2. The 4-Hour Workweek

Tim Ferriss seems to receive a lot of hate, apparently this is because of his ego. And I’ll lie if I say this isn’t a bit evident once you start reading this. However, the sheer number of good ideas I’ve read here is well worth the read. While I don’t believe it is actually possible to only work 4 hours a week, by applying some of the time saving methods mentioned in this book (particularly the “impossible to meet deadlines” one), I’ve been able to successfully complete about 90% of my tutorial app by only working on it for 1-2 hours a day. Also, it was refreshing to see another person on this planet with the same mindset as mine with regards to news.

3. REWORK

Earlier this year I’ve left the corporate world to work in a smaller company, but with a way WAY better sense of purpose and better people. If you’ve read the posts from my Corporate Inc. category, you’ll have noticed I hate most of the corporate status quo. And reading a book by some guys who actually have a company and tried to do work in a different way (hence the title of the book) was refreshing. If nothing else, after reading this book I’ve understood that the only way to get things done is to acutally start working, regardless of how small the piece of work is. Endlessly planning and postponing do not count as work.

4. How Will You Measure Your Life?

This is a very good book for those of us who want to figure out what they do in life. By figuring out what you want to be, having a set of principles that you will stick to and also having a measuring unit, you will be able to live the life that you have always wanted. The key to this is to have a definite response to the 3 things mentioned before (what you want to be, the principles, and the measurement unit). One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from this book is that applying your life principles in 100% of the cases is easier than applying them in 98% of the cases. Why? BEcause once you open a door of compromise, you will always find excuses to stray away from what you want to be.

5. Start With Why

While a bit tiresome for those of us who are NOT Apple fanatics, this book provides a very good input on why certain companies are better than others. The answer of course is because they have a mission, a goal. They know WHY they exist. Simon Sinek actually does a very good job at linking the 3 main questions a company has to answer (WHY they exist, HOW they work, WHAT they do) to how an individual sometimes makes some decisions based on feeling, rather than analysing facts.

So there it is, a list of 5 books I recommend people read. I may go into more details about which one in separate posts. Hopefully these short reviews will be enough for you to want to read them.