Archive for the ‘Lost Boy Book Club’ Category

My Time With Pottermore

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine (the same one who helped me establish the philosophy of the Lost Boy) solved the question presented to get into the beta of Pottermore and quickly posted it on a number of Facebook walls within our group of friends. Throughout the following weeks, I waited impatiently for the beta to actually open for me and over the weekend, it finally did.

For those of you who don’t know, Pottermore is a kind of companion piece for the Harry Potter books. It has a number of interactive images for important scenes in each chapter that allow you to explore the books in a deeper fashion than reading just the books would allow. While exploring these scenes, you can find content that was not in the books like deeper explanations of aspects of the book like the make-up of wands and how that affects the wand’s choice in a wizard and the different attributes of spell casting that each material helps or hinders and also explains the backstories of some characters that were never explained in the book. The biggest one in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is Professor McGonagall and her story is told through three parts that really show how she became the woman she is.

The website is not a replacement for the books, it’s just a companion piece. As stated earlier, it only has key scenes from each chapter. If you had not read the books or seen any of the movies, you would be completely lost, Pottermore is a fans only experience, but it pushes all of the right buttons to make it something that the fans will really love.

Within the story, you get your own letter to Hogwarts, go to Diagon Alley and get the required supplies, a pet (which becomes your avatar for the site), and your own wand (my wand is 12 1/2 inches, Aspen wood with a Dragon Heartstring, and is surprisingly swishy), and once you get to Hogwarts, you are even sorted into a house (I wanted to be a Ravenclaw, but I was sorted into my second choice of Slytherin. There is a surprising amount of people who should be other houses that are sorted into Hufflepuff, though) and are able to compete in the House Cup (I am proud to say that as of the writing of this post, Slytherin is in the lead). You earn house points by finding items within the scenes, casting spells accurately in a Typing of the Dead styled minigame, mixing potions in a timed minigame that is surprisingly difficult but fun, and competing in Wizard Duels with other people playing Pottermore.

The site is still in beta testing, but it is supposed to open to the public in October. It has some stability issues and is going to need a crapton more servers to counter-act the number of people that will be trying to use the site. The beta version has some serious stability issues due to lack of servers and I can only imagine how bad it will be when it actually launches.

If you are a Harry Potter fan, definitely check out the site when it actually goes live. It’s a fun little companion piece to a fun series of books that will delight the fans for years to come.



A Harry Potter Retrospective

The Harry Potter books were huge for me as a child. I choose my words very carefully, so huge has a double meaning here. The Harry Potter books were something that defined all of the other kids I knew, it divided us up into two categories: those who had read them or those who had not. Just about everyone read them, it was a phenomenon. Also, for a 9 year old who was very small for his age, those books were literally huge.

I’ll probably talk about the books in a much larger capacity eventually, but that is not a topic for today.

The Harry Potter books got children to read again. Kids would sit in their homes not because they were watching some of the genuinely amazing 90’s TV shows or playing games on the Super Nintendo, but rather because they wanted to see what happened to an 11-year-old wizard in training who was plagued by the problems that faced them (homework, bullies, girls, dickish teachers, girls…), along with some much larger pickles, but done so in a way that kept everyone interested and wanting to just read one more page before going to bed.

I practically absorbed these books. I read each one until the pages fell out of their bindings. Do you know what I did when that happened? I carefully put the page back where it was supposed to be and would keep on reading the books. There came a point where my copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire literally fell apart and my mom gladly went out and bought me another copy, because it meant that I was reading something instead of playing Final Fantasy VII. I would finish one and would instantly start on the next if I had it, if I didn’t, I would either start again from the beginning of the series or just re-read the book that was just finished again.

Then the movies came.

The movies were announced and I finally got my mom to start reading. I quickly learned that this was a big mistake, as suddenly, I wouldn’t have one of the books for about a year as my mom read the books seemingly as slowly as she possibly could. Luckily for me at this point, I had moved onto reading other books, but they all felt like there was something missing from them. None of them quite had that spark that got me obsessed with reading like the Harry Potter books did, so my reading slowed down almost to a crawl. If I had found another series or various books that kept that spark going, I feel like I would have read more in the period between then and a few years ago.

The movies managed to fill my Harry Potter itch for a while, until they started being mediocre, but for some reason, even though I complained about a number of them in the middle, I kept watching each one as it was released in theatres. Each movie became an event, and now that the last movie is being released, the events are over.

One of the last things distinctly from my childhood is coming to an end.

Sure I’ll always have things like Disney movies and Nintendo series, but they’re not quite the same. I grew up with Harry Potter and Harry Potter grew up with me. For me, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 is this summer’s Toy Story 3, and I know that I will be crying tears of both happiness and sadness through the entire film.

Goodbye, Harry, Ron, and Hermione, you will always have a special place in my heart.

I Only Hope That we Never Lose Sight of one Thing, That it was all Started by a Man

I don’t read nearly as often as I should/used to. It’s part of living an active (and by active, I mean playing too many video games) life, but when I do read, it’s usually nonfiction and it is usually whatever Imagineering book Disney releases that year.

 This time, it was a biography on Walt Disney (actually, THE biography on Walt Disney, but I’ll get to that a little later) that I had been reading off and on for around 4 to 5 years. That book is Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler

The reason it took me so long to finish this book is the sheer density of the book. I’m not saying that it’s boring, quite the opposite in fact. The book is incredibly interesting, but it is somewhat hard to get through. Also, it’s not that it’s a terribly long book, as the actual story is only 633 pages in the hardcover version I have (the rest of the book is a 200 page appendix that has a bibliography, reading list, notes, and an index), but the level of detail that Gabler goes into. This is easily the most complete and technical of any of the Walt Disney biographies I have read, and I have read a bunch of them. The scary thing is about this book is that there is even more detail that Gabler could have gone into. The sheer depth of involvement Disney had in almost every aspect of the company is staggering, especially considering the fact that he wasn’t an animator or a director. He was the first and last word on everything unless he delegated, which didn’t start happening until the 40’s and 50’s and even then he might just snatch the power right back up if the delegated parties did not do everything exactly the way he wanted the project to be done.

The book (of course) chronicles the life of Walt Disney from birth to death, including his successes and failures. Large sections of the book are dedicated to the pre-Mickey Mouse times of the company when Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was stolen through various legal means by the then distributor of the Disney shorts, the creation of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and of Walt’s last escape from the real world, Disneyland.

I have very few problems with this book overall, one of which is the idea that some people hold that Walt Disney was an anti-semite. The idea of that is completely absurd and while the book covers some reasons why he was not anti-semitic, I wish there would have been some more detail on the subject. Actually, all of my problems with the book stem from there not being enough detail on certain subjects.

One last aspect I would like to mention is the ending. It is incredibly touching and really chronicles Walt Disney’s life in a nutshell, because of thatI really want to reproduce it in this review:

He had changed the world. He had created a new art from and then produced several indisputable classics within it – films that, even when they had not found an audience or been profitable on first release, had, as Walt predicted, become profitable upon reissue. He had provided escape from the Depression, strength during the war, and

 reassurance afterward, and he had shown generations of children how to accept responsibility while at the same time allowing them to vent vicariously their antagonisms toward the adult world they would soon enter. He had refined traditional values and sharpened American myths and archetypes, even if, as his detractors said, he may have also gutted them. And from another vantage point, he had reinforced American iconoclasm, communitarianism, and tolerance and helped mold a countercultural generation. He had advanced color films and then color television. He had re-imagined the amusement park, and in doing so he had altered American consciousness, for better or worse, so that his countrymen would prefer wish fulfillment to reality, the faux to the authentic. He had encouraged and popularized conservation, space exploration, atomic energy, urban planning, and a deeper historical awareness. He had built one of the most powerful empires in the entertainment world – one that would, despite his fears, long survive him. And because his films were so popular overseas, he had helped establish American popular culture as the dominant culture in the world. He had founded a school of the arts, and nearly forty years after his death his name would adorn a concert hall in downtown Los Angeles financed largely with Disney family money. Yet all of these accumulated contributions paled before a larger one: he demonstrated how one could assert one’s will on the world at the very time when everything seemed to be growing beyond control and beyond comprehension. In sum, Walt Disney had been no so much a master of fun or irreverence or innocence or even wholesomeness. He had been a master of order.

If you have any sort of interest in the history of animation, the Walt Disney company, or just Walt Disney himself, I would suggest this book whole heartedly.