Archives for October 2016

Harry Potter and the Political Humorists

politico-harryThis election coverage has generated more media attention that ever before, and many of the stories have turned into fodder for writers, sketch comics, late-night stand-up routines, and internet memes.  It is not surprising that many efforts at humor, from both sides of the aisle, employ our favorite Shared Text.

There was, for instance, an early report that Trump nemesis Megyn Kelly had jokingly compared him to Voldemort, though a close reading of the quote in context made it seem more like a jab at the other Republican candidates for forgetting Dumbledore’s wisdom that “fear of the name only increases fear of the thing itself.”

hilary-love-childThere are also innumerable memes comparing Hilary Clinton to Umbridge, though, interestingly, as many seem to be the result of an admittedly less-than-attractive pink outfit she choose for a campaign appearance as for her politics. The truly anti-Clinton political nerds seem to prefer to compare her to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s power-hungry and self-entitled Kai Winn Adami, a comparison that goes back at least to 2008. Those of you who are not Trekkies can read about Kai Winn at the above link, or you can just rest in the kai-hillaryknowledge that she was played by Louise “Nurse Ratched” Fletcher, which pretty much tells you everything you need to know. This commentary, from a Clinton supporter, on those comparisons, will be of interest to anyone who has read Patrick McCauley’s work on violence against women in Harry Potter.

For sheer cleverness and clear Shared Text Appreciation, my vote for funniest piece goes to this essay on the destruction of Donald Trump’s Hollywood Star.  trump-star-vandalised-smallWhile I in no way advocate property destruction as a political statement, the author manages to simultaneously demonstrate knowledge of horcruxes, basilisks, Quirrell’s turban and house-elves, and gave me a laugh-out-loud that I could sorely use this political season.

potter-for-presFinally, I’ll close with the most non-partisan Harry Political cartoon I could find, and a link to this article (Hat tip to John!) that tells us Voldemort is more popular among Generation Hex than either of the two major candidates. Nonetheless, you are a US Citizen, get out and exercise your right to vote next week—  for someone, even if you must write in “He Who Must Not Be Named.”  Or maybe Harry Himself—  the Potter for President signs and buttons sold like hotcakes last week at Chestnut Hill.




Happy Halloween at HogwartsProfessor! Potter Postcard Potions-Cocktails Class

Dear Serious Readers! In anticipation of your Potter-themed celebrations this Halloween (and following, since we have only a few weeks before the Fantastic Beasts mayhem shall begin!), I offer an instructional video (ahem) for adults on how to make your very own potions – the suitable-for-consumption kind – inspired by the books we love.

Enjoy, but do remember never to operate a bewitched Ford Anglia, fly a broomstick, ride a Hippogriff or even just hex anyone if you’ve been drinking. Happy Halloween from your friends at!

Harry Potter Halloween in Scottsville, VA.

choc-frogNestled on the James River in one of the most beautiful parts of central Virginia, the tiny town of Scottsville has been throwing a Halloween bash every year for the past three. Today was the first time I went. No Quidditch, no scholarly content (note to organizers– I am available for public talks at very reasonable prices—  just buy me a butterbeer!) but it was a great venue for a perfect fall festival.

wanted-1This party was orders of magnitude smaller than Chestnut Hill’s annual extravaganza but had a lot of the same elements of both that festival, and last summer’s first (and almost certainly annual) block party in Staunton VA:  local businesses transfiguring themselves into Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley establishments like Honeydukes and Ollivander’s, lots of homemade and commercial Potter merchandise for sale, activities for the kids, elaborately decorated spots for selfies (I couldn’t decide whether the Chocolate Frog card or the Azkaban wanted poster was my favorite!)  and lots of costumed characters of all ages.  My favorite was a dog in full Harry attire, although the Gilderoy Lockhart who appeared at the local library was also great, and threw himself into the role. The lines for candy, butterbeer and wands were long, but otherwise things were pretty manageable, and there were big fields available for parking.  This festival, for now, is in no danger of outgrowing its space, unlike Chestnut Hill, which was recently compared to Woodstock.

I love the way they adapted their sign!

I love the way they adapted their sign!

Perhaps my favorite spot was a small Episcopal church that renamed itself “St. Jerome’s” for the day, meaning someone must have read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.  They had set up the church yard as a replica of the Goodric’s
Hollow cemetery, complete with gravestones matching the book descriptions perfectly, from the wreath of roses Hermione conjured up for James and Lily’s headstone, to the Deathly Hallows symbol on the Peverell grave,  to the scripture verses on the Dumbledoregraves and Potter stones. All we needed was a coating of snow and some light shining through jewel-toned stained glass windows, but I guess it’s the wrong time of year for that.  In any case, it was a peaceful detour to the tranquility of the books, away from the main Hogsmeade strip and its mostly-movie-inspired merchandise and costumes.  This is one house of God that welcomes Harry and its message, and it alone was worth the trip.

bathildaEven better, they were thoughtful enough to provide dear old Bathilda with a final resting place, which must have been a fairly messy undertaking after Nagini co-opted her decaying corpse for some rather nasty cosplay.  RIP, indeed, Madame Bagshot, and many thanks to the congregation of St. John’s.

Cormoran Strike News: Book Four in February 2017? BBC Strike only 5’10”? Absurdity of a Short Doom Bar Detective

COETwo big pieces of news about J. K. Rowling’s Cormoran Strike mysteries!

The really important but anything but certain revelation is that there are Twitter Rumblings about Cormoran and the release date of Book 4, still untitled. The reporter at the link above speculates that we could be reading what Louise Freeman has suggested will be the London Olympics story (in parallel with Goblet‘s Quidditch World Cup) as early as January or February next year.

(The Rowling Watcher’s logic in play? “She talked about Book 3 in April the year it was released in October, therefore her mentioning this in August means we have six months to go…”).

The second news drop is much less speculative and much more disturbing.

The BBC has supposedly cast the actor to play the Doom Bar Detective on television, Tom Burke. He’s reported to be the right age and sufficiently scruffy. My question, though, is ‘How tall is he?’ The girth he can take on via a fat suit, but another Daniel Radcliffe height mismatch in casting I think means we’re in troubled waters for a successful adaptation. Cormoran doesn’t grow up in his story; he’s named for a Cornish Giant for a reason.

burke-1Who cares about the teevee show? I do, me, Mr. Kill Your Television. Because just maybe a teevee show of any quality will be the fracking we need to start Cormoran Mania’s first gusher. [Sorry, fracking is on my mind today. Whole lot of shakin’ goin’ on here!]

The reporter for both these articles? Andrew Sims, formerly a big player at MuggleNet, still a MuggleCast podcaster, and now founder of Sad that he seems to be the only media type interested in the Peg-Legged PI.

Oh, no! The word on the street is, egad, handsome Tom Burke is only 5’10.”

Really? A Cormoran Strike actor who isn’t even six feet tall? I fear, too, that Tom Burke’s 5’10” is a Hollywood measure, which means he is a tape measure 5’8″ in lifts. Can you say “Disaster”? [Read more…]

We’re live from the 5th Annual Chestnut Hill College Harry Potter Conference!

Chestnut Hill College1Dear readers: Friday, October 21 will find more than a few Hogwarts Professors rubbing elbows, sharing insights and in-universe jokes which would be embarrassing in any other context at the Chestnut Hill College’s Harry Potter Conference. The conference is in its 5th year, and this year’s lineup looks amazing.

The conference will feature lectures by John Granger, Loris Vezzali, Jack Gierzynski, and shorter talks by Potter scholars from all over the country (including Louise and me!), not to mention book signings and even a live Mugglenet Academia recording interviewing Lorrie Kim, author of the new book Snape: A Definitive Reading.

I’ll be live Tweeting the event, so follow me (@ekcstrand) and the event #ChestnutHillHPConf2016 if you can’t be there but wish you could.