“Ten years ago, as we all know, ‘everything’ changed. And then some things changed back.”–Henrik Hertzberg
“In the end, J.K. Rowling may have outwritten us all.” –Laurie Moore.
My memories of 9/11 are mostly fragments. I was still pretty young–two days from turning 16–and that’s part of it, but part of it is also that they must be fragments. It is too hard to hold together a coherent picture of the day, from beginning to end.
I remember having a dream the night before that something horrid had happened. I remember going to school the next day. I remember Norman, our principal, calling us into the Big Room and saying, with a catch in his voice and an expression I’d never seen on his face–he was normally quite calm–telling us what had happened. I remember his voice as he said he was thinking about all those people. I remember Anne, the math teacher, one of the gentlest women I will ever have the pleasure to know, saying that it had to be Osama bin Laden. I was, as I said, not quite sixteen, and I was totally unaware of the world around me: I’d been as angry as any other teenage burgeoning progressive wannabe when Bush was “elected” and I’d happily tell you that the GOP was made up of morons, but of the larger world I knew inexcusably little. Or perhaps not inexcusably: perhaps my excuse is merely that I never had to, I could live in my own little world, spill my own little dramas. I did not know what was going on in Iraq, Afganistan–I’m not sure I would even have recognized the names. I was concerned with my own private hell–I was not as desperate and depressed and self-destructive at sixteen as I would be at seventeen, but I was getting there–and I could not see outside myself. Even after 9/11, it would take several years before I learned to look around me, to open my eyes and see the rest of the world. For many years I lived as a ghost might, flitting between home and school, lost in books.
And so I had no idea who bin Laden was. I did not understand what was happening. I did not know what the World Trade Center was. When Dylan asked if this was a terrorist attack and Norman said well yes, it looks that way, I had little concept of what a terrorist attack even is. It would take me a long time to even begin to understand that.
A couple of years ago, I was walking some kids home. At the time, I think that S and N were in 1st grade and C was in kindergarten. As we walked, S told me that they’d learned about 9/11.
Oh? I said.
He was solemn, serious. People were–they flew the planes. Into buildings.
I could hear the wonder in his voice, the utter astonishment. We don’t raise our kids to understand that things like this can happen in the world. And that is not a bad thing. But it makes it much harder to explain, then, at the moment when suddenly you have to.
The kids asked me what had happened. Who were these bad guys who flew planes, and did they mean to fly them into the buildings, or was it an accident? If it was an accident, they could understand it well enough: accidents happen. Milk is spilled, crayons are dropped, sometimes grown-ups say or do things they do not mean. But they couldn’t fathom someone flying a plane into a building to kill people on purpose. And I’m glad, of course, that they cannot.
Do you remember all the “well now we are a better country?” crap? I do. And it turned out to be a grand lie. We are not a better country. We are just as fragmented as we were before 9/11. Probably more so. Oh, there were a few nice moments of national unity, and then we went right back to fighting about butt sex. We do not have a sense, still, of what is right and what is wrong. And I am part of that, of course. I have less than no tolerance for Tea Partiers and racists and insert blank here. I just don’t. And I am not convinced that I should: while I think it is important to be tolerant of ideas, being tolerant of behavior that actively oppresses someone else is another thing entirely.
Hmm. That doesn’t really help clarify matters, does it?
This morning I watched the video footage. I don’t think I’d ever seen it before: that day I was not glued to the television. I could not stand to watch. I have avoided it ever since, but I think that it is important, too, to bear witness. So I watched. And I reacted exactly as you’d think: I gasped, I stifled a sob, I gasped again. I cannot imagine (and I have a fairly fertile imagination) the terror of actually seeing that. I really cannot. And I cannot imagine being a newscaster and suddenly seeing that plane fly into the second tower–how did I miss that video? I’ve never seen it, not that I can remember. If I have, I’ve forgotten, or I very carefully did not notice in the first place. Anyway, I cannot imagine suddenly realizing that this was, in fact, not an accident.
I don’t (as is surely obvious by now) have any sort of unifying theme or comforting conclusion to offer here. I remember what it was like. I mourn for the people who died. I remember how stunning and strange it was to have heroes, actual heroes, among us. I remember how my views on what the nation was like were altered, completely and totally, on one day. I remember how scary it was, to realize that we were not in fact invincible, that on the most beautiful of days the world can suddenly turn to ash.
This morning I happened to be supervising a couple of kids. One was 6, one 4. The 6 year old turned to me suddenly.
Osama bin Laden is dead now, she said.
He is, I agreed.
My mom said he was the boss of all the bad guys.
Your mom is right. He was the boss of all the bad guys.
The 4 year old looked up. How did he die?
Well, the girl said, he killed himself. I think with a bow and arrow. Or a gun.
I said, that’s what you think, huh?
The girl said, let’s build the Pentagon.
They built a tower out of the wooden blocks. The girl got the little plastic helicopter. Let’s fly this into the Pentagon, she said.
They flew the helicopter into the Pentagon. What happens now, I asked.
Everybody got dead, she said matter-of-factly.
Today I was driving back from Nonquitt and listened to a couple Harry Potter podcasts, and I was reminded that I have not yet written about the movie! I don’t know why the heck not, but here we go.
Spoilers ahead, but honestly if you haven’t read the books and seen the movies i have no sympathy if you get spoiled.
Let’s start with some things I really appreciate about the movies as a whole body of work before I discuss HP 7.2 specifically. These are in no order whatsoever.
–Ron Weasley’s facial expressions. Every single one.
–the killing of Cedric Diggory, on film. I really love how completely unsentimental this moment is. Voldemort says “kill the spare!” and then there’s an Avada Kedavra, and then his body just crumples. And when Harry gets back to the castle, the way that Cedric’s father comes rushing at the body, the really primal howls from Harry and Amos Diggory, are really just great pieces of acting and so unafraid to really thrust the audience into what is the first real horror of the story.
–Every single thing that Alan Rickman does over the course of these films. If I had to pick just one MVP of the Potter films, it would be Rickman. The way he clips.his.words, his combination of funny and really frightening, is just great. And Rickman acted the hell out of his death scene and his flashbacks in the final film. That was a extraordinary well acted scene. People often diss the Potter films and I think there is a sense that they aren’t serious enough (because they are based on books? based on “children’s” books? fantasy? is it the wizard thing?) but I defy you to find a better performance than Alan Rickman dealing with an incredibly complex backstory and the loss of his one great love and then agreeing to kinda sorta explain that history to a boy he loathes with every ounce of his being while also explaining an incredibly complex and dangerous double game he played for most of his life and knowing that this boy he’s always hated is about to find out that that boy’s mentor/hero asked him to kill him–my god. I got so confused just typing that. Anyway, Rickman’s acting is amazing.
–Come to think of it, all the acting is amazing. Second place MVP goes to Maggie Smith for her portrayal of Minerva McGonegell, a favorite of mine. The professor is a hardass in the best sense of the word: never mean for the hell of it, deeply caring and concerned, not willing to put up with any of your BS. I want to be her when I grow up. And I LOVED her moments in the final movie–she’s always wanted to do that spell! That was adorable! And her duel with Snape. My goodness. I do wish they’d included one of my favorite line from the final book, when she hears Harry is in the Ravenclaw common room and snaps “Potter belongs in MY house!”
–Evanna Lynch’s Luna Lovegood. Evanna–who is featured on the Leaky Cauldron’s LeakyCon 2011 Pottercast discussing HP7.2–is a delightful young woman, a total Potter super fan, and a great actress who brings the perfect mix of lunacy (see what I did there?) and groundedness to one of Rowling’s most iconic characters. (That lion headdress!) I really loved her moment in the final film, t00, when she snapped at Harry to stop moving for a minute and listen to her.
–Neville Longbottom. OK, first, yes, I am happy that he and Luna got together in the final film. As John said on Pottercast, just because Rowling said once that Neville ends up with Hannah Abbott doesn’t mean he didn’t have a fling with Luna, and they are kind of perfect for each other (also on Pottercast: Evanna said she always thought Luna/Dumbledore would be a good match…) I loved him blowing up the bridge. I loved watching him go from a dorky little boy in the first movie to the boy who chops of Nagini’s head in the last movie. I have a lot of respect for our buddy Neville.
–Dumbledore, but I much prefer the Richard Harris version of the first two films to the Michael Gambon version of the last six. That said, Gambon did a good job, and OK, yes, I sniffled my way through the King’s Cross scene. (“Harry, you brave boy, you wonderful man…”)
–The casting of the Trio. My god was that a brilliant job. I don’t think anyone, including the first director, Chris Columbus, could have predicted how well Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe would turn out. Compare their “acting” (mostly just them being 11) in the first movie to their acting in the last. Particularly Daniel Radcliffe, who took one of one of the most iconic and beloved characters of our generation and made Harry his own. Radcliffe REALLY has grown as an actor. All it takes is a look at his work in this latest film to prove that. Grint and Watson, though, have also been fantastic. I’ve really enjoyed watching them both. I want to really single out Watson here, since I opened with Grint’s marvelous ability to make his face do funny things. Watson has made Hermione go from somewhat annoying to a tremendously competent young woman who I admire. And now I’ll point you to this quote from Rowling about Hermione, who is a personal hero of mine:
“I’ve got two daughters who will have to make their way in this skinny-obsessed world, and it worries me, because I don’t want them to be empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones; I’d rather they were independent, interesting, idealistic, kind, opinionated, original, funny – a thousand things, before ‘thin’. And frankly, I’d rather they didn’t give a gust of stinking chihuahua flatulence whether the woman standing next to them has fleshier knees than they do. Let my girls be Hermiones, rather than Pansy Parkinsons. Let them never be Stupid Girls.”
So. Yeah. Hermione, you rock.
–I really appreciated that the movies didn’t try to explain all the mythology from the books. One of the complaints I’ve heard about the movies is that they don’t do this, but honestly, if you are seeing the HP movies and you haven’t read the books, you’ve got no one but yourself to blame if you don’t understand something. Read.the.books.
–Helena Bonham Carter should get a special mention for her brave performance as Bellatrix Lestrange The Fabulously Named. Her insanity and evilness and weird love of Voldemort is truly something to behold.
–All of the supporting cast/characters. There really is not a dud, character or actor wise. Every actor hits virtually every note perfectly, from Jim Broadbent as Slughorn to Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid to even REALLY minor characters, like Bill Nighy as the Minister of Magic at the beginning of HP7.1. They were…great. Seriously. Any British actor who never landed a role in any of the HP films should consider another career.
–The Weasley twins. (and yes, I cried during the final movie when those asshole filmmakers had George say “OK, Freddie?” Were you TRYING TO DESTROY US?) In an episode of Reasonable Discussions, one of the AV Club folks (I think it was Genevieve) pointed out that Fred and George aren’t even really afraid of Voldemort–it’s like they made a very deliberate choice to react to a really frightening world with humor rather than fear. I’d call that a brave choice, and a helpful one. I also think that they are not overused in either the books or the films–they appear in both just enough to be marvelous comic relief, as well as adding a few moments of utter devastation for the reader.
–Sirius dying. Another unflinching look at a character’s death, and again, Radcliffe acts the hell out of this scene. Seriously. His grief is hard to watch. And the way Lupin grabs and holds him gets me every damn time. Also, the moment before that when Sirius tells Harry he’s done beautifully, and then Sirius confuses Harry with James, and then Harry loses his father figure, and then Bellatrix starts her crazed “I killed Sirius Black!” chant…that scene is a killer.
–“NOT MY DAUGHTER YOU BITCH!”
–That really heartbreaking moment when Hermione wipes her parent’s memories at the beginning of HP7.1.
Oh my goodness. OK. I will be adding to this list, but let’s get one thing clear: the midnight showing at the Uptown was terrific. It was just…the way that everyone laughed when Emma Watson pretended to be Hermione pretending to be Bellatrix Lestrange, the strangled sobs during deaths, the gasps when Fred showed up (everyone knew he wouldn’t last long!) the huge cheer when Ron and Hermione kiss..the communal experience was just extraordinary. It made the movie so much better to have everyone laughing and crying right along with me, and of course I loved chatting about HP beforehand with everyone!
I think this is where Bluster Bluth went to school.
I was GOING to stop in Secaucus, NJ, back when I was having some geography troubles and thought it was after the GW bridge. It is not. So I just kept driving. And, I am pleased to say, I drove QUITE CALMLY over the upper level of the bridge. (When I was a kid, I was totally scared of bridges). I did, however, role down the windows, just in case Zoe and I needed to make an escape. I also left our seatbelts on, though, on the theory that we are more likely to get into an accident than to go flying off the George Washington Bridge.
I love driving 95 North. I know! And not ALL of it, and I hate the truckers with the passion of a thousand fiery suns, but it’s kind of reassuring to hit the same landmarks every day. Zoe, I said, here’s the Bronx! Here’s the New Jersey Turnpike! Here’s the Vince Lombardi reststop!
I am a dork, is what I’m saying.
Zoe was a total trooper. For the first bit of the drive, she kept accidently shifting and putting the car in neutral. This was…unnerving at first.
But then we figured it out, and she settled down on her stretched back passenger seat, covered with a sheepskin, wearing her seatbelt. So stinkin’ cute. For realz.
So we went over the bridge and then got stuck in traffic. I had a full tank o’ gas when I left and I kept waiting to find cheap gas to refill…then, in Connecticut, I discovered that I had maybe an 8th of a tank. Do you KNOW how much gas cost? DO YOU KNOW?
Four dollars and thirty three cents a gallon, that’s how much.
I told the guy (it was full service station) that this was a bit pricey, and then we had a little bitch session. He was all, everyone LEFT THE CITY AND NOW WE ARE A SUBURB AND WE USED TO BE A NICE QUIET TOWN. hee.
(I did not fill the tank).
Then I got a little more lost but finally wound up at a hotel. I was very excited to see that it had On Demand, because I LOVE me some On Demand in hotels. But then the TV made this loud buzzing noise that would.not.stop just when I started Cedar Rapids, so I had to call the front desk and ask for a refund. Then I was FURTHER foiled by the lack of good wifi here, and also the lack of Season 1 Veronica Mars streaming on either Netflix OR the WB website, and that made me sad. So now I’m watching Parenthood.
But I had a nice dinner and Zoe is being adorable and tomorrow I will hit my cousin Sarah’s house, and I am excited to see her. And Saturday Then…Sunday I need to find a place to stay, any suggestions near New Bedford, MA? And then Nonquitt. Whoa. Lots and lots of stuff.
Freaky moment of the day: I logged onto facebook and WHO POPS UP BUT MY SHRINK. At a book reading. I happen to be FB fans of the bookstore, and I was all…wait a minute. That’s my shrink. On my facebook page. Because THAT’S not weird or anything.
Also annoying: My Stupid Ankle. Which hurts to drive, and will not let me jump off the diving board, or go for walks on the beach, or basically ANYTHING FUN EVER.
“This war on information is a battle. This war on information is injustice. This war on information is a strategically arranged set of operations designed to victimize and control a specific group of people. This war on information is war.”
Obama Turns Fifty Despite Republican Opposition. (GOP Vows to Say No, No, No).
Stephen Colbert Says that Obama is…well just watch. Also watch his Summer’s Eve bit.
Minimalist Posters for Children’s Books! (WANT. ALL OF THEM).
SHERMAN ALEXIE I LOVE YOU: “And now I write books for teenagers because I vividly remember what it felt like to be a teen facing everyday and epic dangers. I don’t write to protect them. It’s far too late for that. I write to give them weapons–in the form of words and ideas-that will help them fight their monsters. I write in blood because I remember what it felt like to bleed.”