Archives for May 2014

Shared Text: The Wasp That Turns Roaches Into Zombies

I kid you not. It’s called the ‘Dementor Wasp.’ Ampulex Dementor

Why? From The Independent (UK):

The Ampulex Dementor, which is known for its ability to turn cockroaches into zombies with one sting, was given its name after visitors to Berlin’s Natural History Museum were asked to vote on what they felt the newly found species’ name should be.

They decided that Ampulex Dementor was an apt title, and for good reason too.

Like the Dementors in the Harry Potter books, who leave their victims in vegetative states after feeding on their souls, the Ampulex Dementor gives birth by first finding a cockroach and then delivering a toxic sting to the insect’s head.

Injecting in the cockroach a deadly dose of neurotoxins, it quickly becomes becomes submissive to the wasp and can be led back to the Ampulex Dementor’s burrow, where the Dementor’s eggs are laid inside the cockroach.

The cockroach then becomes a host for the Ampulex Dementor’s eggs and they feed off its carcass while they mature.

The name Ampulex Dementor won out over four other suggested names and was an exercise by the museum to try and get people to better engage with biodiversity and become excited about the discovery of new species.

When your book’s ancillary characters, a ghoulish species none of whom are known individually or for any period of time, becomes the scientific name of an insect species, a name that will live on well after at least one or two movie re-boots, you’ve reached Shared Text status. Kind of sounds like a curse in the Latin — Ampulex Dementor! Just imagine how that would sting…

Hat tip to Rev Dr David! Links after jump for those wanting to read more. [Read more…]

MuggleNet Academia 28: Is Harry Liberal or Libertarian?

Ben Barton of the University of Tennessee Law School and author of ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Crazed Bureaucracy’ and Jack Gierzynski, PoliSci professor at the University of Vermont and author of Harry Potter and the Millennials (Georgetown University Press, 2014) join MuggleNet’s Keith Hawk and the Hogwarts Professor to talk politics.

Guest Post: On ‘The Shadow,’ Harry Potter, and the Dark Lord

From Ying Zhao, an Augustana College student and serious reader of Harry Potter. I wish Eric, the name he asked me to use when I spoke with him at the Stronghold Castle retreat, had spent more time in this paper clarifying Jung’s idea of the Shadow and I am uncomfortable with the relativist aspect of Taoism, divorced from its foundation in the Absolute. The paper, however, is certainly an important stepping off point for excellent conversation! Enjoy.

Dark, the Other Side of Light

The conflict between the good and the evil has lasted for thousands of years. We say that the evil belongs to darkness; the good is blessed by brightness. However, what exactly are the evil and the good? Are they totally opposite to each other, or are they related, but we fail to see the hidden connection? As we can see in the novel series, Harry Potter, its main theme is also the battle between evil and justice, dark against light, Lord Voldemort versus Harry Potter.

So the question becomes: is Voldemort truly evil or is he the “shadow” of Harry which Harry must own and turn toward good? Of course, those who are Potter supporters will argue that Lord Voldemort, the Dark Lord, is evil and destined to be overcome by justice, because of his mercilessness, racism, cruelty and his unhesitant ability to murder. However, if we see the seven Harry Potter books as a whole circle, which is the transformation of both Harry and Voldemort, we shall find that the hero and the Dark Lord are connected tightly, and to some extent, Harry “is” Voldemort and Voldemort “is” Harry. It is Voldemort who makes Harry the hero of the wizard world.

[Read more…]

Harry Potter and the Escape from Literature, uh, Gringotts

As the summer opening of the expanded Wizarding World Theme Park approaches, with its attendant Leaky Con convention, my inbox receives email on an almost daily basis from Universal Studios and the enthusiastic minions in service to the Leaky Cauldron empire. Regular readers of this site know from the several posts I have made on this subject that my misgivings about the direction of Harry Potter fandom, the reality we live in rather than a destination we may someday reach, center on this fandom being, not of imaginative experience to be had in literature, but of temporal sense experience that can be had in cinema, rock music concerts, and amusement parks.

The former requires effort, concentration, and intelligence beyond the skills of reading letters on a page — and it has a corresponding effect on the brain, believe it or not, to the one had by a person actually experiencing the event. The self-transcending sense experience of a movie, roller coaster, or dancing to loud, rhythmic music in a crowd, in contrast, requires no effort beyond showing up, a lack of concentration or interior awareness, and less intelligence than any of the participants want to admit. With a corresponding effect of an overdose rather than a guided transformation within what Updike called “the continuous dream” of story.

Today I received this ‘Sneak Peek’ at the new ride in Orlando, ‘Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.’ I’ve ridden the old ride at the first park that takes the paying customer on a virtual broom flight alongside Harry. I expect this is much the same experience, which is to say, nothing like the world  we entered with our hearts inside the books and everything like the dis-enchanted world of the Warmer Brothers screen adaptations. Only with a three-dimensional spin you won’t get in theaters so losing your lunch and Butter Beer are real possibilities.

Your thoughts? I’m reading Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains and suspect that those who have read it will know what I’m after here. Our brains are being literally re-wired and re-configured via neuroplasticity and intellectual technology to accept the video, cinema experience as the greater reality of the Hogwarts Saga. I suspect, given the technological nature of our times and the online quality of everything to do with Harry Potter today that this was inevitable. Alas!

Are these America’s Favorite Books? Or is it the Folly of Polling?

Harris Polling recently surveyed a cross section of Americans (ouch!) to discover what our favorite book is. Not too surprisingly, the Bible took the number one slot, as it has in every year Harris has made this poll. Also on board with our HogwartsProfessor ‘Shared Text’ expectations, the Hogwarts Saga shows up at number three.

Take a guess before you look, though, at the book that sits between Harry Potter and the Bible in the ladder of America’s favorite reading. Forgive me for thinking that this tells us, as Elizabeth Baird-Hardy shared with me, much more about what the person polled remembers reading in school or having heard is a “classic” movie than what they read or enjoyed.

Or maybe I’m all wet and there is a secret undercurrent of epic romance of which I am blissfully unaware! Please let me know your thoughts. Hat tip to David for this poll find.