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Brooms Online continues to improve.  Check them out.

Quidditch League 2007 is looking for players.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.:  The Movie   You know, I'm really tired of writing about how the movies do justice to neither the books, nor to the art of filmmaking.  Most of the performances don't do much for the glorious history of British acting either.  There is something they do justice to.  Bear with me a minute.  You know Dolores Umbridge?  The ultimate Yes-woman who acts as mouthpiece for the head-in-the-sand Ministry of Magic?  Anybody who's been in an organization with more than a hundred people in it will recognize the type (Anybody who's worked for a Post Office or a School District will immediately see their district manager).  Dolores will do anything to enforce her boss's will, with the same "why bother thinking for myself?" intensity of Condi Rice.  The thing is that she is such an excellent portrait of the urge to dumb down the populace to keep it docile that I'm sure the screenwriter had her own spitting image sitting across from him at all the production meetings with Time-Warner.  The huge cash cow that must be constantly fed and milked for the glory of the media empire is a harsh dominatrix:  it demands the sacrifice of much of the same independent will that Umbridge seeks to stamp out.  Where you come in is that rather than a fixed character out of someone else's mind, you can walk away from it -- forget about the DVD, the videogame, the action figures, and whatever tie-ins the fatburger franchises are cooking up.  Try it for a change --  that would be the ultimate homage to the spirit of Harry.  But based on the results of the box office polls, most of you are hurrying to join the Office of the Inquisitor.

The Online Quidditch League is one of those rare things: an on-line community that's actually burgeoning.  Check them out.

Terminus 2008:  If you're looking for a Harry Potter conference this summer check out these guys at Terminus.  Chicago is a really good town to visit.

Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can't Avoid is out.  It's not worth writing about.

Check out the Whomping Willow and Knight Bus games from WB.

Phoenix Rising a "five day exploration of all things Harry Potter" will be held in New Orleans on May 17-21, 2007 (good time to be in the Big Easy).  The Bayou Quidditch League will be hosting the Riverside Quidditch Classic.  Read their website and you will want to join in.

Brooms Online:  Check out this Flash game based on Broomsticks.  It does require registration and is multiplayer (so you'll need at least one friend to send a link to) -- but it's simple and comprehensible (if only all games could claim as much). 

Random rambling: It's a minor plot point but nagging:  Why do the Dursleys let Harry stay there at all?  My take on it is that in the final book we're going to find that Aunt Petunia know so much about the magical world because she actually WAS magical, but didn't want it and traded Dumbeledore the protection of Harry for the ability to be "normal."  Arguably this makes her one of the book's hidden heroes, which would be an appropriate twist for the final installment.

In the American Midwest?  The Great Midwestern Educational Theatre Company runs a Harry Potter / Wicked camp (aka Frogwarts).

Not strictly Quidditch or Lemony Snicket, but Fun Games Plaza has loads of games all with free trial downloads.

Potter Puppet Pals: This is one really funny site.  Check it out.

Queer Ditch Marsh http://www.queerditchmarsh.com/ is Fantasy Quidditch Game looking for players.

HP Quidditch is trying to gather and consolidate as many ways of doing Quidditch Role Playing as possible on one site.

Lumos 2006 is an RPG starting up and looking for a new Minister of Magic and some Death Eaters.

There are times we must simply ask: WWJD?  What Would Jethro Do?

Tales of the Truly Grotesque.  Any book with an attitude and a character named Joan of Arkansas deserves attention on this site.  Add the fact that the purported author is Prof Odysseus Malodorous (Odysseus being Greek for to cause pain and Malodorous being Latin for smells bad) and it's a no-brainer. Given the arduous duties webmaster-critic-cultural-interpreter entails (like ignoring irate email and defending the First Amendment) I've started training a new generation of webmaster-critic-defenders-of-the-First-Amendment who will start giving their own reviews (or whatever the heck else grabs them) right here.  Check back soon.

I have been informed that  Hogwarts Star-School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has just started Term One and now is accepting Sortings with a major change in the way they run classes. Everyone meets in an AOL Chatroom once a week and all role-play classes.

Hogwart's Recreation of the Entire Wizard World http://www.freewebs.com/maverick24/ has been relocated and updated.

Goblet of Fire -- The Movie

I never thought I'd be saying this -- but Goblet of Fire might be be the Harry Potter film that in some ways is better than the book.  Forget that in the dollar-oriented world of Hollywood-produced entertainment it's already succeeded by eclipsing the box office of the previous three films -- let's look at it as its own story (horrors -- when does a reviewer do that?).  While Chris Columbus was busy deracinating Rent, Mike Newell was getting to the core of the Potter world and the Goblet of Fire story.  I love the fact that this film is ready to drop entire characters and subplots in the interest of crafting a tighter story than the book itself (the film really does not lose anything by dropping Dobby, SPEW, or Ludo Bagman among other plots and characters).  What remains is the core of the story -- a coming of adolescence story wrapped in the terror of both mortal peril and "how can we ever get a date for the dance?"  It is as though Lord of the Rings were channeling Clueless.  What is great is how well it all works.  Daniel Radcliffe is finally projecting some of the courage that characterizes Harry -- though his own acting talents are not shining through as much as Rupert Grint's as Ron and Emma Watson's as Hermione (watch for Emma Watson -- she will be a talent long into the future).  As a troika their chemistry is perfect for the Potter universe.  Individually it's an open question how well each of them will do solo when the series or their abilities to play their characters end.  But no one can deny they have been part of a lasting work here.  While the earlier films seem to have had a fear of losing anything, this episode dares to acknowledge that it's forging a different path -- Quidditch is almost an after thought, though there's a dragon-chasing-Harry sequence that's the best flying sequence of the series so far.    The special effects while crucial are not the over-powering sledgehammer blows of the earlier films:  the Quidditch World Cup arena is well-though-out,  fascinating, and appropriately short, the dragons are believable and not not lingered over, Voldemort is horrifying and yet lifelike, Mad-Eye Moody is both the mentor you'd want to have and the psychotic you might walk across the street to avoid.  In short, it gets so much to the core of the paradox, perplexity, and paranoia of adolescence that it also gets under your skin like one of the wizard tattoos of the Death Eaters.  See this film and hope they figure out how to get Newell on board for the rest of the series.

Check out this article:  Harry Potter and the Half-Crazed Bureaucracy, by Benjamin Barton.

Xauror has just added Quidditch.  You must be a registered user of the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Forum to use it (and I never register for anything anymore so I cannot give you a first hand review).  From the webmaster:  It currently has 3 levels with a 4th level coming soon.  People click on which player they want to throw the Quaffle to while looking for the Snitch.  Sometimes the throw is complete, sometimes the player loses ground, and sometimes the computer team intercepts.  When the computer team has the Quaffle the user chooses between stealing, or hitting a Bludger to get the Quaffle back.  By gaining experience and buying Quidditch supplies the user will increase their skill level.  Each level gets a bit harder and there are new features with each level.

Magic International, A role-playing wizard community, is an already-functional RPG that needs people to join their Quidditch league and school.  There are positions on the school Quidditch teams as well. Check it out

Merlin Kabir emails to remind me of his Farsi-language Quidditch site.  I just love the look of the typography.  Hopefully the Farsi-speaking US community (largely based in Teherangelas, California) will check it out.

The New Order is an RPG adding more members daily.

Quidditch Cup 2005 is looking for players -- NB: You must have an AIM account.

Subtle Magic has relocated and is looking for members.

Based on JK Rowling's latest Potter hints, I have the following speculation:  Voldemort's and Harry's lives are entangled by the failed curse that created the boy who lived.  What's this mean?  They can kill each other and end the entanglement, but if someone else kills one of them the other will die. Think of this as quantum entanglement for wizards.  Hence the care that Voldemort's henchmen have taken to preserve Harry's life when it was in their capacity to just off him and make it look like an accident, and Dumbledore's reticence to attack Voldemort in the Ministry of Magic.  Both Voldemort and Dumbledore being the wizards they are know this and act accordingly. As we've seen, Harry is purposely kept in the dark on a number of issues.  One of the consequences of this:  We already know that by the end of the series either one or both of Harry and Voldemort need to die (otherwise it doesn't end).  The most courageous and noble end for Harry is to sacrifice himself to rid the world of Voldemort (though it is more likely he would sacrifice himself to save his friends and thereby rid the world of Voldemort).   Also, consider that Ron is on track to have his vision in the Mirror of Erised fulfilled (remember, way back when?).  There is however only one way for Harry to have his vision fulfilled.

April 29, 2004: I just saw the trailer to the Lemony Snicket Movie.  My quick take: while Jim Carrey LOOKS like Count Olaf his clown-like actions undercut all of the menace you associate with the man.  I mean, how scared of the guy can you be if he's doing the same facial contortions as Ace Ventura Pet Detective?  And the score shows subtlety and depth are not to be found.  But I'll withhold final judgment until I catch the whole film. 

The Director Speaks at this link in SciFi.com.  I like his analogy of the film being between Mary Poppins and Night of the Hunter (an incredible movie screenwritten by one of my fave authors, James Agee)

THANKS!!!!!!!! to SALON.COM for the link and encouraging words about this site!  You'll be able to see their review of Tim Curry's audiotape after watching a brief commercial.

Your attention please!

Hi ho, my droogs.  If you're looking for something to wash away the icky, unsatisfying aftertaste of the Lemony Snicket film, check out Daniel Handler's independent film Rick, based on Rigoletto by Verdi.  From some info provided by the publicist of the film:

Written by Daniel Handler in a blistering 24 hours after a bad day at his old job, followed by taking in a performance of Rigoletto, this movie is as sharp, as black, as fast and as vicious as a poke in the eye. Only funnier. From the producer of AMERICAN PSYCHO and WALL STREET this is a series of unfortunate events for adults. Itıs rated R, and trust me, you donıt want to bring your kids.

Check the release schedule out for when it's near you -- I always favor labors of love over dull, soulless corporate mega-events (and Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events was all that and less).  Also, one of the theatres is the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, one of my favorite places ever.

Order of the Phoenix Review

Order of the Phoenix.  OK -- the Quidditch sequences are the weakest ever, but as any sportswriter will tell you, play-by-plays all get tedious after a while.  Now for the brief word on the whole book: IT IS BEYOND AWESOME!  The only way I can try to convey this is: what if Boris Pasternak had been heavily influenced by X-Men comics when he wrote Doctor Zhivago?  This is not as flippant as it might sound.  Rowling has produced a novel of both epic sweep and teen angst.  This is not as easy as it seems since most successful teen angst books require very few pages to either get their point across or wear thin -- Catcher in the Rye couldn't take you through much more of Holden's life or you'd simply hit him with a brick.  But here it works - owing largely to the sweep of the entire Potter universe.  And I do mean ENTIRE -- it is hard to imagine something from all the previous books that does not make at least a cameo appearance here (trivia buffs: yes, Moaning Myrtle does not, and there are others, but to quibble on this is to be wildly ungrateful for all that DOES appear here).

Here's where Pasternak comes in.  The word you might associate with Zhivago is STORM: the rage of nature, of social forces beyond individual control, and of individual emotions beyond social control.  The same theme plays out in Phoenix with an adolescent twist.  X-Men, the comic book of super-gifted teens wrestling with how to fit into a world that does not want them, is the closest analog here.  While the comic book universe is by nature repetitive and (make of this what you will)  two-dimensional, the Potter universe performs its own magic act of creation out of imagination. 

From the politics of the Ministry of Magic (Americans will find it hard to recognize some of the British political undercurrents, but don't let that deter you) to the internal squabbling of the Order of the Phoenix (which might also be thought of as the Popular Front for the Liberation of the Wizard World), the wider world becomes more and more intrusive on the Happy Valley of Hogwarts, and therefore on Harry.

Where Hogwarts always meant liberation and escape, it's almost now a point where liberation comes with the price of entanglement and insecurity in the larger wizard world.  To underscore this, we are treated to scenes of Wizard Career Counseling.  In a scene which makes you yearn for the bored, disinterested guy who's probably running your high school guidance department, we see Harry start to consider what he's going to do when he leaves Hogwarts.

The climactic battle sequence in this year is almost reminiscent of X-Men battles.  Here for the first time we don't see Harry mano a mano but in a team of people he himself has helped train.  If the war is coming, we have seen the skirmishes and first battles.  If the  

Opera, it has been said is a song of love and death.  This is true of Order of the Phoenix, the most operatic of the books so far.  (Like opera, one wonders if the Fat Lady will sing in Book 7?)  Yes, death is now omnipresent in the world of Harry -- from his past to his present, to his future.  But so, tellingly, is love -- from his parents to his surrogate parents in the world of Hogwarts.  Like opera, the series will continue this struggle, and it is an ending which we now all know must include a death.  But just as characteristic of human life is our incompleteness without love.

Harry is directly placed in the way of all kinds of both love and death, standing in our stead for experiences both too horrible to contemplate and too necessary to ignore.  The arc of this story, against all expectations any reasonable person would ever have, gets deeper and more profound.  If this is what we are to be treated to in the next two volumes I will wait a decade, knowing it will have been worth it.

Hogwarts a Hidden School
  Hogwarts: A Hidden School.  You know, one of the perks of this job (using the term in this case to refer to something without pay, direct supervision, required hours or results) is that I see some wild stuff sometimes.  This site is one of them.  First, I like the "Quidditch by dice roll" method.  Nice and simple.  Second, this RPG takes place in 1973 (even the calendar is accurate).  First question you might ask is WHY?  But that's just to be wildly ungrateful for the imagination and commitment these folks have put together for setting a context and a world without Harry but peopled by his predecessors.  So you get the feel of the Rowling world without the nagging sense that you've either seen all this before or that stuff is going on you could never in a million years imagine happening to Hagrid or Ron.  Definitely a cut above the usual RPG I see.  If you're looking to play a role this is a good place to check out. 
  Azkaban -- this is a great site to document your Sirius Black sightings and watch the new trailer (which is the best Potter trailer I've seen yet).  I haven't been able to see any sightings documented yet -- but I live in hope Warner Brothers will fix it and provide us with some amusing fan observations.
Spirited Away vs. Chamber of Secrets DVD
Spirited Away and Chamber of Secrets are coming out on video and DVD at about the same time.  If you have a choice get Spirited Away.  It's no secret I'm a huge fan of anime and Miyazaki in particular.  This move alone is one of the best arguments for forgoing live actors entirely and making the Harry series animated.  (But then how would Daniel Radcliffe ever get to be the next James Bond?)  The plot of Spirited is that a young girl's parents are transformed into pigs because of eating "spirit" food at a night spa for ethereal beings (I am not making this up).  She has to save them.  To see this movie is to realize that there are some things about Japanese culture that Westerners are never going to get and that at the same time there are facets that are immediately recognizable: fearing for children in distress, cheering for the underdog, hoping that good will triumph.  The film bears striking parallels to Coraline by Neil Gaiman, but let's leave those aside.   It is non-stop ride filled with characters that are inventive, memorable, and totally unlike anything you are going to see on Nick.  From the spider-legged boiler engineer to the Radish Spirit to the barrel-shaped witch who runs the place and her huge talking baby Spirited Away is populated with more characters than are found in a summer of vapid blockbusters.  Even the enchanted ashes from the boiler become full-fledged characters with their own poignant scenes.  This is not to diminish the awesome achievement of the environments Miyazaki creates -- which are creative, integrated and unbelievably beautiful without ever being unbelievable.  To summarize more would be to do it a disservice -- there are some things which stand on their own better than any description can portray.  See this movie. 
Muggle Quidditch

We do follow some trends here at Quidditch.com.  I got three emails on the same day asking about Quidditch for Muggles.  The best links I know are currently active are here:




this amusing version merits attention


Toy Symphony

Toy Symphony -- I saw the US premier at MIT on April 26, 2003 and was blown away.  Nerve was especially awesome and rockin'!  Check this out -- and download HyperScore -- which is an amazingly empowering music program!

Book 5
Book 5: June 21, 2003.  The Scholastic Press Release with a few paragraphs (including the opening) is here.
The Poll! My mail has been running WAY heavier on Lemony Snicket than on Harry Potter.  Is this a general trend?  Has waiting for the next Potter become too tedious (the current three year hiatus  is roughly equal to the prior career of the entire series)?  Or is Events simply fresher and more challenging?  Pick your favorite.
International Library
The International Children's Digital Library is up and running!  Over 200 Books, 27 cultures, 15 languages!!!!!!  Just go there and browse.
Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident is just as good as the original.  Check it out, as well as the Arctic Adventure game on their site.
Italian Proposal

Oliva Guerini has an interesting proposal online in "leggere e scrivere" or reading and writing.  For those fans of my essays this is a good place to check out.

Games Room
Check out the Games Room-- they're not Quidditch -- but some of them are darned fun.
Hogsmeade Hippogriffs
The Hogsmead Hippogriffs are at it again with a reworked site and a new Quidditch season.  Check these guys out!  I like their whole "Wizards with Electricity" zeitgeist.
Chamber of Secrets Review

Chamber of Secrets.  Well to say that the second movie is better than the first sounds like praising with faint damnation.  And it is.  However, it is improved.  First, because it's not a slavish duplication of the book.  It's accurate, but the filmmakers actually came up with some variations that add to the movie experience (the flying car sequence is really welcome, as is the Quidditch match ).  It's all here: Dobby, the Malfoys, Hermione is just as smart (and boy I wish they did more with Emma Watson, she is a treasure who has nailed the part of Hermione).  

My main problem with it is that (aside from the amateurish editing), I get the feeling that I've seen it all before.  Maybe the subtitle should be Home Alone with Harry Potter.  There's the obvious Home Alone gags, involving easy laughs and bodily harm.  Seeing Dobby smack himself on screen is oddly disconcerting, like you're in the undesirable position of watching somebody be the victim in a reality TV series.  (Odd thought: You can show a computer-generated character beating himself up but you can't show two human actors having a physical fight?). 

The Quidditch match is a remake of the climactic attack on the Death Star in Star Wars (play the two side-by-side when the DVD comes out).  For cineastes, the scene where Harry fights the basilisk seems to be based on Siegfried's battle with Fafner (Siegfried, dir. Fritz Lang, 1924).  I suspect that the NYU Film School grads working on this had to see that film a few times in one of their required courses.  The scene with Aragog looks like the bug invasion from Starship Troopers.  These were good scenes in their original movies, and should have stayed there unless Chris Columbus was good enough to give them a twist (which he isn't).

The scenes that stick as delightful are far between and undercut. 

Every time I start to think that maybe these guys have internalized the spirit of the Potter books they undercut it.   The best example of this is the Howler Ron gets.  It's wonderfully imagined and realized though true to Home Alone's misguided spirit, the scene finally falls apart by having a paper tongue razz Ron -- honestly, can you see Mrs. Weasley sending a message that does that?  These guys forgot that the reason we care about their screen legerdemain is because there's a CHARACTER behind them, and that regrettably is the part of these stories they spend the least time on.

The closer you get to the real core of this story, the less you find.

Seeing this flick I can only hope that Alfonso Cuarón doesn't lose his edge in the production process.  Harry has always deserved better treatment than he's gotten so far.

Only good hypocrite is a practicing one...

Let me get this straight:  A Russian publishes Tanya Grotter and the Magical Double Bass and those fine fine people at Warner Brothers who claimed that "Larry Potter" and "Muggles" from Nancy Stouffer's books bore NO relationship to the Potter series are bawling like a figure skater in second place?


Slate has this essay on Harry -- you might not like what it has to say, but it does make some good points My one problem with it is that in portraying Harry as a privileged slacker it ignores the most obvious fact that Harry chooses to face danger rather than send proxies or lawyers to take care of it for him.

Shameless Self-Promotion

Thanks! to Barbara Feldman at http://www.surfnetkids.com/ for giving my Lemony Snicket page a four star mention in her weekly column!  Many thanks!

The Poll! Now that the court case between Stouffer and Rowling has been decided -- how do you feel about it?  Context: Stouffer claimed that Rowling "borrowed" parts of her previously published novels that the average Harry Potter fan would not notice -- like the word "Muggles" and (most of) the name "Larry Potter."  The court decided that Stouffer wasted the court's time on this suit.  This being the USA there will undoubtedly be an appeal.  How say you -- was justice done?  (Conclusion of the previous poll -- Your love of the WB Quidditch games is underwhelming -- with about a quarter of you saying they're great and the rest being at best indifferent).
Replace Chris Columbus with Callie Khouri
Who do I favor to replace Chris Columbus?  Practically anybody, but Callie Khouri is my dream director.  I think the woman who wrote Thelma and Louise has the touch necessary to run a Potter flick.  I still think David Lynch should get a shot.  Repeated viewings of the movie on video have really convinced me that the only reason to get it is for the flying sequences and the stellar performances in the minor roles.  Check out Essays and Reviews for my original take on this vapid reel of celluloid.


Why I LIKE the ... Chamber of Secrets trailer.  The whole incident with the flying car coming down on the track in front of the Hogwart's Express is not in the book -- and I think this is great!!!  It shows that the doctrinaire apparatchiki working on the script have finally realized it's a MOVIE and needs to stand on its own in its own medium rather than a film of the book.  Let's face it, the flight in the car would be really boring cinema if you just took it verbatim.  But you start working with it and suddenly you can be true to the spirit of the original without slavishly copying it.  Of course, we wait and see what happens to the full second installment.   


Yes!  Lemony Snicket is writing the screenplay for a film based on A Series of Unfortunate Events.  Please please please let Tim Burton direct it!!!!

Anybody seen any Quidditch-like games for the iPod?  I'm starting to fall in love with the potential of this thing even though it's supposed to be an MP3 player.  And even though I'm waiting for the Windows version (why is Apple trying to grow its Macintosh market share with an ad campaign that makes it look like it's the clear choice for people who just got out of treatment centers and Trekker conventions?  Memo to Steve Jobs: your ego is not a reason to buy anything)
Jimmy Neutron review

Since Quidditch news has been slow I think I'll share a couple of thoughts on Jimmy Neutron:  it's half the length of Harry and twice as much fun.  First it doesn't have the  burden of expectation.  Second, free of this it just has loads of fun with an amusing premise (though having known a boy genius or two I do not recognize Jimmy -- most real world boy genii are completely screwed up).  

The two best moments in this flick come close together -- the first as the children re-engineer amusement park rides as spaceships and then blast into orbit.  After hitting the Jimmy Neutron equivalent of hyperspace there's this sickening moment when the rockets flame out and everybody starts to drop towards earth.... with just the right timing the propulsion starts up again and the film literally takes off.   This one "yeah moment" is refreshingly powerful since you don't often find a single one in most modern movies.  Every opportunity for one in the Harry Potter movie was squashed by the ham-handed director and the production team from hell.

The second one follows soon thereafter -- while resting around a campfire (on a deep-space atmosphere-less asteroid!  Do not try to learn science from this flick), one of the characters is telling a ghost story that recounts the tale of the Blair Witch Project.  Now the irony of this is delicious: adventure characters around a CG-campfire telling a ghost story that's a derived from a faux-documentary real-world film.  The recursions in this just keep layering and layering.  Add to this that this is the way most early stories WERE told (Homer came to us orally long before the Greeks were writing it down) and it's the best dialectic on the nature of story telling since Michelangelo Antonioni was confusing the art house crowd. 

It's weird to think of a cartoon (excuse me: animated film) having anything like a message you can think about -- but the trends are really towards that: Shrek is one of the best romance movies you'll see and Toy Story 2 has the same message of death and  obsolescence as anything you'll see in Ingmar Bergman -- but it's just lots more fun to watch.

Videogame review
Titles are really important.  Take the videogame versions Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.  They tell you the story is about Harry Potter.  They are not called Harry Potter's Fantastic Quidditch Match or Quidditch for the Harry Potter Fan.  There is a very good reason for this.  The Quidditch in both the PC version and the Playstation version is similar in scope to the Quidditch at the WB site -- underwhelming.  While some of the screen shots might give you the impression you're going to be playing Quidditch in a fully-realized 3D environment, please allow me to disillusion you (in the formal sense of the word).  The Quidditch here has you chasing the Snitch along a trail while avoiding obstacles (sound like the WB version?).  That's it.   The voice-over commentary gets repetitive really quickly and was obviously written by a Pottermaniac (it consists of cheers for Harry and an apologia of partisanship).  Keeping in mind the name of the site to which you have paid a visit, and the obvious preoccupations of your humble webmaster, the fact that that is all there is to the Quidditch treatment in these games would sound like a good reason for cutting short this review and sending you along to something else -- like 43 Man Squamish (you know there's something about "qu" in fictitious games -- might be some English grad student's PhD thesis in that).  Both games are really about learning spells and following through the actions of the book.  If you've read the books there will be no surprises -- but the essence of videogaming is in the surprises. In the end I was left with the eye candy of the animated sequences which are pretty good throughout. But like the movie I was left with an empty feeling of technical deja voodoo:  I could have been reading instead. 
Movie review

No, Toto, this isn't Kansas, but it isn't Hogwarts either.

One of the most amazing things about film is how you can make a series of actions appear almost fluid, seamlessly blending multiple characters and locations into something that makes you feel as though you're there in a smooth ride from the opening frame to the closing credits.  Of course, this doesn't happen at all in the Harry Potter movie, so I left feeling ripped off.  

While deft technically the impression you get is that the script was Xacto-knived out of the book and stapled together in the attempt to make a minimum length.  Imagine the first book as a series of short stories rather than a novel and you start to see what I mean.  Now this CAN be fixed by editing and directing, but the visual style leaves a lot to be desired as well -- it's a bunch of scenes duct taped together in an attempt to slavishly media-dupe the book (hint guys: compare the Wizard of Oz book to the movie -- they're different, but they each work for their audience).  In order to try to hide this lack of artistry the John Williams score gives us 120 decibel clues of sledgehammer subtlety when we should be shocked or sad:  we're seeing Harry's parents in the Mirror of Erised, cue the pathos.

Some movies feel bang-on -- take Shrek - one and a half hours and you KNOW you've been on a ride and enjoyed it and you later start to wonder how they fit all of that action in.  

This one you sit through wondering how they managed to take so much and do so little with its wealth of material over an additional hour.  The pacing just feels so off that the only thing I can compare it to is sitting through a video of someone else's vacation.  

The real stars of this production are the FX, seen in trolls, spells, and the awesome flying sequences.  The Quidditch sequence alone is worth the price of admission.  Once the players mount their brooms you're in for the kind of adrenaline rush excitement that you buy your ticket for in a contemporary American flick.  Yet, this sequence too reveals the disappointing direction, because things seems to hit a molasses wall as the director has Harry surfing (excuse me?) his Nimbus 2000 to catch the Snitch.

Perhaps there is another star, the lush English architecture and art of the interiors, but we'll ponder that elsewhere.  Actually, it provides a good counterpoint, since the film feels like a to-do list painted by Gainsborough.

While Daniel Radcliffe LOOKS like Harry Potter in the best traditions of typage, he never radiates that most quintessential Harry quality - courage.  I don't think it's his fault, I think the director Chris Columbus just isn't comfortable with anything more complicated than a sit-com caricature (think of the Home Alone flicks where manic energy substitutes for just about every other emotion).  Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, just off center stage get more latitude to radiate the essentials of their characters,  Maggie Smith reprises an older, sterner Jean Brodie (way past her prime) and Richard Harris leaves Horse for a hair  costume.  Both of them feel like they're phoning in their performances.  (Old joke -- what's the leading export of England? - Actors.  New Joke, after Potter books what's the leading export of England?  Potter actors).

Robbie Coltrane's tremendous comic talents seem smothered here.  He has the presence of Hagrid, but at exactly the point here you think the comic gift will come to the fore it's smothered in bad delivery.  I don't think it's his fault, that's probably just the version they got approved by Time-Warner execs during the daily rushes.  They sought the middle of the road, ignoring the common wisdom that there isn't anything there but a yellow line and a lot of dead 'possums.  Chalk this piece of cinematic roadkill up to a too-cautious producer.

Among the human talent the best parts in the whole flick are in the scenes that last the shortest - Zoe Wanamaker as Madame Hooch.  The way she commands her short scenes gives you some idea why they choose her for the trailer - in that brief a period  they didn't have anybody else radiating the gravitas you demand.  John Cleese as Nearly Headless Nick is a comic delight, and John Hurt comes close to the magic mixture of ancient knowledge and a world yet-to-be-discovered that form the backbone of suspense in the Potter world.

Undoubtedly the suits at AOL-Time-Warner (how many more hyphens are they planning on adding to that?) are going to rake in dough.  But years from now we're not going to be huddled around the DVD player watching this with the delight we still feel for the Wizard of Oz.  This may not be Kansas, but it surely isn't the magic of Hogwarts either.

Your feedback on the movie is always welcome.

George Harrison and Help!
After I got done taking my chupacabra for a walk today (a trophy from my days as a paranormal investigator, before I hit it big as a popular culture critic), reflecting on the New Year, and lamenting the passing of George Harrison it occurred to me that the Beatles movie Help! was amazingly prescient.  Consider this:  we see Asian religious extremists (we would use that word today but they did not then) pursuing an unwitting artist (Ringo in this case) with the intent of murdering him as part of their particular rites.  In some ways it sounds like Salman Rushdie's story, or viewed through a twisted lens a weird re-enactment of 9/11.  Add to that the zany non-sequiturs (the movie was dedicated to Elias Howe, the inventor of the sewing machine), and you also have the prototype for the kind of humor Monty Python would make synonymous with the UK.  I never thought that this movie could be viewed as a forerunner for world events or comedic tectonic shifts, but there we are.
Really Creative Toys 
Forget the cheap trinkets that are for saps and suckers.  Check out these creative toys catalogued by the Lion and Lamb project.  Downside: No Harry stuff.  Upside: Your siblings will learn something.  I applaud this group for taking a stand against senseless violence in toys.  Question: Is there such a thing as sensible violence in toys?
Robbie Coltrane 
Robbie Coltrane - aka Hagrid in the lamentable Harry Potter flick.  I KNEW I'd seen him before in something where he was really acting.  Like some twisted sugar-shock-induced vision it finally came to me: Black Adder's Christmas Carol.   He plays a Christmas Ghost with all the comedy, presence, and sheer mass you want to see of Hagrid.  Only he's doing it about 13 years earlier and long before anybody except Nancy Stouffer mentioned Muggles or Potter in the same breath.  This must have been what landed him the role, since if you cut scenes from here randomly  into Chris Columbus's vapid movie it would make it better.  Check it out.  It's worth pulling out of a library or video store.  The whole video is under an hour.
Quidditch Dreck 
You asked for it, you got it:  Keep your eyes on this space for my review of Quidditch toys and games.   There are a few surprises in the list (and a few obvious dogs).
Artemis Fowl
Check out Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer.  This is one really amusing book ( no Quidditch though) with an imaginatively re-inventive sense of humor.  Who would have thought leprechaun was just a human misinterpretation of LEPrecon?  To read it is to laugh and to get excited (in the places you should) and to hope there are more books in the works by Colfer (as the text itself makes plain there are). 
Seeker Practise
Seeker Practise is up at Warner Brothers.  Don't you just HATE it when somebody saves the best they've got for last?  Given the lack of playability on the other games at the Warner Brothers site that may sound like damning with faint praise.  Nonetheless, Seeker Practise is the best of the lot.  Basically it's a top-down scroller where you try to catch balls (eventually getting a shot at the Snitch) and avoid owls.  While the graphics are lame to say the least (nowhere near the standard set with Beater Practise) and the sound is at best average, the playability is far above any of the other games since Beater Practise.  It's worth taking for a spin and enjoying. 


I sense a great disturbance in the Force... as if.... wait a minute -- wrong PopCult2: popular culture cult (please note that I have originated that term in November, 2001).  Sorry, sometimes it just overwhelms me.  Keep an eye on Quidditch3D.  The unofficial game is created by DiagonSoft.com International Studios, Questcom Entertainment and XSquare Software. Quidditch3D.com launched on Saturday, December 1, 2001, and we  have EXCLUSIVE screenshots, concept art and images of the game.

The Birmingham Bullets
The Birmingham Bullets.  The great thing about this site is how "normal" it looks as it chronicles the season of this Quidditch team, down to team photos and a logo reminiscent of Buckaroo Banzai's.  Good site, with my main wish being that it continues to evolve and give us an insight into the team's quirks -- that is, we see the team, and we know where they play and how they've done -- but some additional reporting or sections that make them come alive would make the experience more immersive
Vanity Fair
Vanity Fair's October issue has Daniel Radcliffe as Harry flying a broom.  Photographer Annie Leibovitz (whose work is awesome) was on the set of the movie.  The issue is available on newsstands in New York on September 5, 2001 and nationwide September 11.  The cover photo from Vanity Fair/Reuters is here.
History Repeats Itself

I was once at the National Archives and Records Administration doing some research when I saw an older man with a cap that read "Pearl Harbor Survivor."  I excused myself and asked if he'd been at Pearl.  He said he had, and I asked if I could shake his hand.  I was without words at meeting someone who was there.  He said simply, "It was a long time ago."  History is a strange thing -- that we can suddenly be put in a world where madmen can do more destruction with some flight training and knives than entire navies could hope to in the past.   Please pray to whatever you hold sacred for the families and the loved ones and the lost of this horror, and for the justice this great nation shall deliver.  My town of Belmont, Massachusetts lost three people on the hijacked airliners, one of whom was another dad at my daughter's school. Please visit the Red Cross to see how you can contribute to the on-going efforts.

Quidditch: A Board Game
This was just such a great week for stuff (July 9,2001)!  To top it off comes Pepe Valdes from Mexico with a site you HAVE TO HAVE TO HAVE TO HAVE TO visit: Quidditch: A Board Game.  Imagine taking Harry Potter, Risk, and Dungeons and Dragons and smashing them together in the Super Conducting Super Collider and you will see what this is. The site loads slowly, but it is well worth it to see Pepe's board game in action.  I only hope some of the bazillion-dollar corporations that have licensed Potter can come up something as creatively and reverently instantiated.  This is a true labor of love that is not a "me-too" knock off of what someone else has done (I mean -- how many Sorting Hats do you see out there?  Someone should just do a Sorting Central and be done with it  NB: as of 7/14/01 sortingcentral.com and sortinghatcentral.com are available domain names).  And the fact that it looks mentally engaging blows the Quidditch card game away.  Kudos to Pepe!!!!!  Please send him your support!
Keeper Practise at WB
Keeper Practise is up at Warner Brothers.  You know, there's been a bad trend in the Quidditch games at the Warner Brothers site -- they started out with some good features and have been gradually shedding them like pet hair in the current heat wave.  I speak of course of Keeper Practise.  (If you haven't been sorted at the WB site go to http://www.harrypotter.com and follow the menus.)  Where Beater Practise has some really strong graphics, Keeper Practise has none.  While its predecessors had some amusing (if inconsistent) game play, Keeper Practise is flawed in at least two major areas:  1.) The indicator for location of the Quaffle is really misplaced.  The gem indicating the Quaffle is in your range is in the upper right corner of the screen, exactly away from the area where you're attention is focused if you're doing your job (i.e., lower screen, center to sides).  2.) The rendering of depth is really off.  You CAN play this, but the question is why would you WANT to?  The feeling you get looking at the evolution of these is that they started out trying to make something really good and started hitting deadlines just as they realized how HARD it all was.  His concept of a scavenger hunt game has more allure than this slap-dash piece of code.  Quidditch: A Board Game is still the coolest thing I think you could spend part of you summer making.
Let me get this straight:  We know about the ultra-atavists & bluestockings who think that Harry Potter promotes witchcraft.  Now as I read in Zap2it.com,  there are witches accusing it of not promoting ENOUGH witchcraft.  People:  it's fiction!!!!  If you can't keep reality and fiction separate, it's time to up your Prozac dosage and surrender your driver's license.  Consider not having children.  Plan for a career in fast food preparation.  This should be taken as a hallmark of great literature. I am not joking.   Harry joins the likes of Huck Finn, which is another classic case of people reading words and ignoring the story:  either side of the political spectrum (which now consists only of politically-correct and politically-incorrect) can claim it as their best exemplar or their worst nightmare.  It's fascinating, though -- that words on paper can have such repercussions, and that a story so clearly set in an unreal universe can resonate so profoundly with the ultra-material world of the Twenty-First Century. 
T-shirt Shortages & Email 

To everybody who has written me for email accounts:  I have checked with my hosting company and they can provide me with an infinite number of email accounts on the quidditch.com domain name, but they will be charging me $12.00 per year for each of them.  You're a great bunch of people, but I can't finance vanity email at that rate.  Unless I hear a grassroots swell of interest in email and a desire to pick up the cost of your email accounts (and for the record I would not be making any profit on these) I'm going to lay the matter to rest.

Has anyone else noticed an acute shortage of Quidditch T-shirts?  I've gotten four or five emails from people asking me if I have any (sorry to say folks, if you haven't picked up on my zeitgeist against  merchandising you haven't been paying attention).  I've seen people offering the darned things for $30 on some of the auction sites.  Folks: Give it a few weeks or months.  No licensee is going to sit by and let normal people pick up profits when all they need to do is hire a few more workers for their Asian sweatshops.  The supply is fated to rebound in time for the movie.  Don't waste your money paying a premium that can't sustain itself.

Pokemon and Harry
What's the link between Pokemon and Harry Potter?  Simple:  Magic The Gathering.  I remember seeing this collectible card game take off about seven or eight years ago.  Given the fervor it inspired and the kinds of loyalty it inspired and its theme of wizardry and witchcraft, I'd have to count it as the progenitor (or at least harbinger) of both the Harry Potter and Pokemon crazes.  Fun to play, and decidedly retro in its emphasis on little pieces of cardboard and an active imagination, it laid the intellectual groundwork for an epic-length saga of a becoming wizard.  The only thing it lacked as a Wizards recreational game (though of course in the meta system that was provided by the card game itself).  Think about it. BTW -- this was one COOL game to play, it was portable, and it forced you to actually be in the same room with the people you were playing with -- and to talk with them even.
Quidditch jobs

July 19, 2001:  Quidditch employment opportunity (I never thought I'd be writing that).  Hogwarts 3D Questcom Entertainment, and XSquare Software are looking for 3D Modelers experienced in Poser 4, Maya, or Dark Basic to work on the full Quidditch 3D game at Hogwarts 3D.com.  Must be advanced in the program that they use and either US or UK residents.  Degrees less important than ability.  Please e-mail them at technical@xsquare.net or iownspace@hotmail.com

Notes on the second trailer
If you ever want to impress your art teacher or a cineaste (i.e., film freak) date, mention Sergi Eisenstein's notion of typage -- that you want an actor or actress who just by virtue of their looks identifies them with the character they portray (the Studio System in Hollywood took to this with a vengeance and has left people like Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio in its wake).  However, the really great thing about this is when it works it works great -- viewing the latest Harry Potter trailer and the persons of Madame Hooch and Hagrid you get an idea what this is all about. They're each onscreen for only seconds -- but you know instantly the casting was dead-on (let me be silent as to the matter of Richard Harris as Dumbledore -- every time I see him I hear MacArthur Park on the MP3 player inside my head).   Also, the Snitch looks FABULOUS (look up the original meaning of that word) and the flying sequence with Malfoy and Harry takes place in a landscape (skyscape? background?) with the surreal quality you know your imagination cast when you read it in the book.  I don't know about you folks, but I find myself salivating for the release of the motion picture.
Chaser Practise
Chaser Practise is up at WB.  You can think of Chaser Practise as the exact opposite of Beater Practise (surprise, surprise).  I don't find it as enjoyable as Beater Practise but I think that's my inclination as opposed to the game's.  Perhaps this general feeling stems from the feel that I'm trying to outwit something that already knows my trajectory.   It's very possible to outwit the Keeper and score goals -- which is the whole point of the game of Quidditch, after all.  But the visceral feeling of actually hitting something is missing here.  The sound track consists almost exclusively of grunts as the Quaffle is passed from player to player rather than the wonderful "whack" you get in Beater.  The backgrounds aren't as lush as Beater Practise, but the playability is more strategic than tactical.  One can only hope WB will integrate all of these various Practises into a complete on-line, multiplayer game.
Misc 3D
OK -- if you've grown used to 3D worlds, and let's face it who hasn't? -- then Patrick Algermissen has a game for you Windows users to download & try out.  It's an EARLY version, and it's far from perfect, and he's put it up and is openly looking for feedback.  Try it out.  Even in its present shape it's more interesting than the game WB's put on its site.
Lemony Snicket

Two words:  Lemony Snicket

If, like me, you have read and re-read the wonderful, awesome, life-affirming Harry Potter books again and again and eagerly await the next, yet are looking at the same time for a pleasant diversion, a little detour, a different sort of taste, then look no further than Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events.  These books are wonderful.  VERY DIFFERENT -- but since there is nothing in the immediate horizon for Potter fans -- this will do.  I will not go into the plots or the cast of characters (much). The Baudelaire children start orphaned and have to face a world populated with adults who make the Dursleys seem like St. Francis of Assisi and Mother Theresa.  The wonderful attitude of the author (note to those with chronic reality-avoidance syndrome:  Lemony Snicket is a pen name!!!!!) pervades these books -- think of a Horatio Alger story as scripted by David Lynch with storyboard by Charles Addams and Gahan Wilson and directed by the offspring Wes Craven and Woody Allen and you'll have the beginnings of an INKLING of what these books are about.  Ignore the comparisons of Klaus Baudelaire to Harry Potter -- just give one of them a try and see how you like it.

Quidditch without Broomsticks

Coolest Idea I've seen in a while:  Quidditch without Broomsticks.  The creators also call it "Muggle Quidditch." I love the idea!   It's about turning off our computers and doing something in the physical world (what a concept!).  I hope these guys have an idea that catches on like wildfire.  And I think they should put their names on their site so anybody doing this gives them credit.  They've got something that can be bigger than Pog -- and nobody needs to buy cheap plastic models or action figures to have fun with it.

One of the co-creators also has a site.

Hogsmeade Hippogriffs
Some guys who have been making marked improvements of late are  The Hogsmeade Hippogriffs.  Check out their site -- they also have a wonderful attitude -- who else could create an idea like WWE: Wizards with Electricity?.
Beater Practise

Beater Practise - thoughts.  Butrpopcorn7 asked me to post my opinions of the Beater Practise game at WB's harrypotter.com so here goes.  

The strong point of the game is the beautifully drawn background and the soundtrack (most of the fan stuff really ignores a good sound track).  Playability is not something it offers up. For the generation groomed on joysticks and power-ups, things don't get interesting until two bludgers make their appearance in level 6.  Your best strategy then is to hug the bottom of the frame and alternate beating them away before they make a dash for the players you're charged with protecting.  In general, to get your points higher, stay away from the players (heck, blot them out of your mind) and watch where the bludgers enter the game space.  Not a bad game, it'll do until something more robust comes out, but if you've spent any time at all on an N64, it'll get tiring.  It's a good introduction for your younger siblings, though!

Quidditch through the Ages
Quidditch Through the Ages  You know, given the title of this book from Scholastic and the domain name you're currently visiting you're probably expecting me to rave about this book.  Such is not the case.  Save your money! (Even though I've got an Amazon link, I feel this strongly about it.)   Don't go nuts.  It's an amusing book for a few minutes, and if you keep it as bathroom or bedtime reading it's fine enough.  But all of the things that make the Harry Potter series so great: the characterization, the integrated plots, the modern morality tale and the social satire of modern Britain as a recently multi-racial society, are completely missing from these knockoffs (there's another one about Magical Creatures that I couldn't stomach buying).  Hold out for the next book.  I'll happily give someone space for a rebuttal.  

Has anyone created a team called the Haileybury HammersJames Franks the town's Recreation & Tourism Coordinator would like you to contact him.  This has been a Public Service Announcement.

The MOVIE TRAILER is here! (No Quidditch scenes directly, but there are some broom shots, a brief image of the Bludgers leaving their box, and a point of view shot of Harry ascending over flying lessons!).  Did anybody else have trouble saving the movie file?  I loaded the full QuickTime version and then copied it from "Temporary Internet Files" under the Windows directory.  Now I don't need to keep going to the Warner Brothers site to watch it.

Today's prediction:  Ever notice how Hogwart's: A History is constantly referred to by Hermione and no one else has ever read it?  I think one of the ultimate mysteries in the seventh book is going to hinge on Harry finally reading it.

The other thing that eats at me is what's the deal between Dumbledore and the Dursleys?  It makes no sense they keep taking him back and Dumbledore WANTS them to take Harry for at least part of the summer.  Something is weird here.  Yes, as some of you have pointed out Dumbledore has put a charm on Harry protecting him while he's with his blood relatives.  The bigger question is:  What's the blood link specifically?  Voldemort used Harry's blood to regenerate himself in "Goblet" removing the most effective first weapon Harry had.  BUT, Wise D. seems to be RELIEVED in "Goblet" when Harry tells him that Voldemort took some of his blood and can now touch him painlessly.  Blood will tell, but what it's telling we don't yet know.

Quick word to Lego (and my server logs tell me amazing things about who stops in for a visit):  We'd love to get our hands on an early version of the Lego Quidditch toys you're working on.  If you want our crack editorial team to review them or just give impressions of how they play just drop an email.