Even if Muggles can’t fly on brooms they can still play Quidditch

Friday, 25 May, 2012

Quidditch, photo by Natalie Mattison

Though players lack the ability to fly around on their brooms, their enthusiasm for Quidditch, the sports game enjoyed by Harry Potter and his Hogwarts’ friends, appears to be no less diminished, if the reasonably popular “Muggle” version of the game is anything to go by.

Some 2,000 chipper, ethnically diverse, and not wholly fit competitors, mostly high school and college students, mill around the bleachers, the Porta-Potties, the team tent area. The line for the waffle cart stretches nearly to the East River. One infield retailer does a brisk business selling championship lapel pins, while another is on its way to liquidating the Quidditch players’ “broom of choice,” according to the brochure, a $55 handmade model dubbed the Shadow Chaser. Everywhere there are fans – dads wearing shirts that read PROUD PARENT OF A MCGILL QUIDDITCH PLAYER, alongside teens in capes and the crimson-and-gold scarves of Hogwarts. Only five years old, this grand tournathaddment of nonfantasy Quidditch will draw some 10,000 paying spectators. A Fox newscaster once called it “a cross between the Super Bowl and a medieval fair.”

(Photo by Natalie Mattison)

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Cockfosters and back, the best way to see London is by tube

Wednesday, 9 November, 2011

One of our ill-conceived bucket list type ideas once was to travel from one end of each London tube line (including of course the Circle line) to the other, for no other reason than simply making each journey, though we lost interest in the plan pretty quickly.

The Piccadilly and District lines were the only ones I ever completely traversed, though I did enjoy my brief layover at Cockfosters, the final station at the northern end of the Piccadilly line, a place two characters from a short story written by British author Helen Simpson, found themselves, though for reasons different to mine.

The two of them had conspired to spend a couple of hours on art, but now that time was promised to the Piccadilly line. Although they had not seen each other for years, they had instantly been returned to an unstrained intimacy, as unexpected as it was welcome. At school together in south London, they had found it easy to stay in touch in their twenties, and still possible in a shell-shocked way round babies in their early thirties; then Julie and her husband had moved north and it was the roaring forties that had forced friendship to take a back seat in the interests of survival. Now, though, they had started to crawl up out of their burrows, as Philippa put it, and emerge blinking into the sunlight.

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How would The Joker feel about an unauthorised biography?

Tuesday, 1 November, 2011

“The Joker”, by Daniel Wallace, throws the spotlight onto Batman’s archnemesis, and one of the most notorious comic book villains.

Since his first appearance in 1940′s Batman #1, the Joker stands alone as the most hated, feared, and loved villain in the DC Universe. Though his true origins may be unknown, the Clown Prince of Crime’s psychotic appearances in hundreds of comic books has shaped the way we look at Batman, comic books, and ourselves. Indeed, a hero is only as good as his nemesis, so the Joker’s heinous crimes, including murdering the second Robin and paralyzing Batgirl, have elevated Batman to the highest levels of crime-fighting, and we, the readers, to the finest levels of quality pop-culture entertainment.

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Could a unit of Marines take on the legions of the Roman Empire?

Friday, 9 September, 2011

A speculative account of what might happen should a unit of US Marines find themselves transported, somehow, back in time to the days of the Roman Empire.

Meanwhile, the mysterious appearance of the Marines has not gone unnoticed. Peasants have fled to the home of the land’s owner, Senator Aulus Terentius Varro Murena. It is 23 BC, and Murena is about to form a Republican conspiracy against Augustus Caesar. He and other Senators are deeply suspicious of the Imperator and fear that he will swamp their ancient order with newly minted Senators from his swelling armies. The appearance of a small but apparently competent armed force – with a vast array of what appears to be bizarre siege machinery – on his land makes him fear the worst. He dispatches several spies to monitor the visitors and orders his retainers to avoid the camp. He also sends messengers to his co-conspirators in the Senate.

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Finally the story of how Marty McFly and Doc Brown became friends

Wednesday, 24 August, 2011

Bob Gale, co-writer of Back to the Future, lifts the lid on the much pondered back story of the friendship between Marty McFly and Doc Brown.

For years, Marty was told that Doc Brown was dangerous, a crackpot, a lunatic. So, being a red-blooded American teenage boy, age 13 or 14, he decided to find out just why this guy was so dangerous. Marty snuck into Doc’s lab, and was fascinated by all the cool stuff that was there. When Doc found him there, he was delighted to find that Marty thought he was cool and accepted him for what he was.

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Could an expanded universe help rebuild Harry Potter’s world?

Monday, 22 August, 2011

Now that Harry Potter and friends have dispatched with dark lord Voldemort what happens next? Hogwarts needs to be rebuilt, and corruption within the Ministry of Magic weeded out, among many other things. But where to begin a reconciliation and reform process that could take decades to see through?

Surviving Death Eaters will have to be brought to justice or reintegrated into magical society. Long-standing rifts among magical communities that the war widened must be healed. Most of all, we must ensure that the values that triumphed in the final battle – tolerance, pluralism, and respect for the dignity of all magical and non-magical creatures alike – are reflected in the institutions and arrangements that emerge from the conflict. What ultimately matters is not just whether something evil was defeated, but whether something good is built in its place.

Could such a situation provide material for an Expanded Universe series of stories, as we’ve seen with the likes of “Star Trek” and “Star Wars”?

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Is Hermione Granger a better sorcerer than Harry Potter?

Wednesday, 27 July, 2011

Sady Doyle re-imagines the Harry Potter saga with Hermione Granger as the central character rather than Harry.

In Hermione, Joanne Rowling undermines all of the cliches that we have come to expect in our mythic heroes. It’s easy to imagine Hermione’s origin story as some warmed-over Star Wars claptrap, with tragically missing parents and unsatisfying parental substitutes and a realization that she belongs to a hidden order, with wondrous (and unsettlingly genetic) gifts. But, no: Hermione’s normal parents are her normal parents. She just so happens to be gifted. Being special, Rowling tells us, isn’t about where you come from; it’s about what you can do, if you put your mind to it. And what Hermione can do, when she puts her mind to it, is magic.

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Sherlock Holmes, one of the first forensic investigators

Thursday, 7 July, 2011

What made Sherlock Holmes, the fictional creation of Scottish author Arthur Conan Doyle, so effective compared to police detectives? Holmes essentially pioneered forensic science, something that did not exist in the late nineteenth century, that could have otherwise aided police investigators.

What Holmes was very good at was looking at small, almost insignificant bits of evidence and using them to draw conclusions. Where a policeman might just see a worn piece of carpet in a hall, Holmes might see a place where a hidden door had been opened. Where another private detective (if there was such a thing) might see a half-eaten apple, thrown in the grass, Holmes might see in the bite marks an impression of the criminal’s teeth – an impression that might help identify the criminal.

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Harry Potter will always be with us… thanks to Pottermore

Wednesday, 29 June, 2011

J.K. Rowling, creator of the popular series of books about the boy wizard and his friends, last week unveiled Pottermore, an online domain where she will continue to flesh out the Potter characters… though, sadly for hard core fans, won’t be adding any new books to the saga.

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Re-elect mayor Batman, fighting crime is his middle name

Friday, 15 April, 2011

Might Batman make better use of his desire to combat crime in Gotham City, plus the quantities of money he has to develop his crime-fighting paraphernalia, by becoming mayor of the troubled city?

How much money per year are you spending on grappling hooks, Batmobiles, Batbikes, Batboats, the Batwing, plus a gigantic underground cave complex filled with state-of-the-art computers? Millions? Tens of millions? Because it seems like this would cost quite a lot of money. This seems like an inefficient use of your resources. Have you considered, instead, running for mayor of “Gotham City”?

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