Food, Magical Food: Louise Dishes It Out on Potterversity.

I had the privilege of being a guest on today’s Potterversity episode: “Pondering Pumpkin Pasties: Food in the Wizarding World.”  We talk about the foods of Harry Potter from a variety of perspectives: from psychological to social to spiritual to ecological   Please check it out. Bring napkins.



Troubled Blood BBC Trailer Posted

See here.

It’s brief, so not a lot to see, but it is something.  The series airs for the UK on BBC December 11th, and apparently all 4 episodes will be released at once. No word on when it will be available in the US, though I’ll keep my eyes open for a Youtube copy.

The one thing I noticed was that Margot appears to be wearing cat, rather than bunny ears, suggesting the writers went with a fictional Playboy-like club, rather than the original.

A Forbidden Forest Experience: A Bit of Hogwarts Comes to Virginia

Last August, for my birthday, my daughter and her husband got us tickets for A Forbidden Forest Experience, which opened on Halloween in Leesburg, VA, about 30 minutes outside Washington D.C.  One of four such venues worldwide (the others are in Cheshire, UK; Groenenburg, Belgium and Westchester, NY), it is an outdoor Harry Potter experience, a lighted trail about a mile long, with piped-in music and snippets of Forest-related dialogue from the movies, along with multiple scenes of fantastic beasts and other visuals that might be encountered in the wilderness surrounding Hogwarts castle.

Our visit was on an unseasonably warm night (70 degrees in November!) but with rainstorms expected and literal flood warnings in the facility. I traded my usual Ravenclaw colors for a Hufflepuff yellow slicker and felt a bit more like a Maine lobster fisher than a witch. I also wore hiking boots, expecting mud and puddles.  Fortunately, we finished our tour shortly before the downpour started. The trail was wide and graveled with some slight hills, so comfortable shoes are a must, but tennis shoes would have sufficed. There were plenty of visitors in robes and Quidditch jerseys, as you would expect at any Wizarding World event.

The first impressive aspect was the size of the event. My son acknowledged he was expecting something like corn maze/pumpkin patch/ hayride type of place; instead we were met with a parking lot that was more theme-park sized and which was largely full. The decor was, in a word, lavish. Thousands and thousands of LED lights illuminated trails and trees and allowed nighttime passage with no need for flashlights. If you are the type who appreciates the detail of the decor that you see while waiting in line for Universal Studio rides, you’ll appreciate this experience. This is not a trail to rush through; attention to details will show you unexpected treats like glowing Dark Marks and Deathly Hallows emblems adorning the trees, along with other iconic emblems.

While many of the scenes are purely for looking at or taking selfies, others are more interactive. The first of these was an opportunity to bow to Buckbeak (FF Buckbeak), who then had the choice of whether or not to bow back. Buckbeak accepted me and my son, but rejected my daughter, for unknown reasons. The longest line was the Patronus-casting station, which we chose to watch rather than participate in. Visitors could point a wand at a suspended screen and a cavorting white image would appear. Familiar ones included Herimone’s otter, Luna’s hare and Ron’s terrior; there were also some new ones like a badger and a cougar. Perhaps the most impressive was the dueling station, where a Priori incantatem effect is created with a long neon tube. See here (FF duel) for my duel with my son.  Unlike at Universal, you don’t have to pay big bucks for an interactive wand to participate.

There were plenty of other things to purchase, of course. There are refreshment areas at both the start and midpoint of the trails, where you can get butterbeer (of course!), other beverages, snacks and a selection of British pub food like fish and chips and bangers and mash. Though it was not especially appealing on this balmy night, the mid-trail stop included a fire pit at which marshmallows could be roasted (for a price!) I could see that being a lot more popular on a more typically chilly night. Note to organizers:  you could create some goodwill among your families with small children if you would let them bring their own.  We did not sample any, as we had enjoyed a nice restaurant dinner before our 9 PM arrival, but there were plenty of people enjoying and, had we come at dinnertime I would have loved sampling the pub fare.

Perhaps the spookiest segment is Aragog’s lair, which has warning signs and an alternate route for arachnophobics.  You enter an an enclosed area and multiple huge spiders descend from overhead. This was certainly fun, though I was a little disappointed by Aragog himself, who didn’t really emerge from his hole and was visible only as a few hairy legs. I was also a little surprised they did not play his “I cannot deny my children fresh meat” warning from the film. Overall, the trigger warning seemed like overkill. As a whole, the venue was, for the most part, not scary and quite family-friendly.

This is not a place to go to see your favorite characters. As I recall, there was only one human present, Hagrid, and he was depicted with his back to the visitors. While the cynic in me suspects this was a way of avoiding having to pay royalties to Robbie Coltrane for the use of his image, it had an especially poignant twist given the actor’s recent death. It is Fang’s mournful face that looks back at the visitors, as if he wants to follow his master but can’t. It is an unintentionally touching image, with Fang apparently joining us in bidding our Hagrid farewell.

The Forbidden Forest trail is one of several such Potter attractions springing up this winter. Others include Harry Potter: Magic at Play in Chicago,  Yule Ball Celebrations in Houston, Mexico City, Milan and Montreal and Harry Potter: The Exhibit in Atlanta and soon to open in Vienna. The demand for more Wizarding World venues is apparently international. While these exhibits are intended as temporary attractions, it will be interesting to see if any are made permanent, or if they continue on multi-city tours.

As this Variety article explains, these events are targeted at the original young Generation Hex generation, who are old enough searching for ways to share the experience with their own children.

“The generation that grew up with Harry Potter, they’re parents now, and you never grow out of Harry Potter,” she said. “So it’s an opportunity for them to introduce the franchise to their kids on a level where they’re prepared for it — even if they’re not familiar with the stories, which a lot of 6-year-olds probably aren’t. But we didn’t want to alienate the older audiences — we wanted fans of all ages, which is hard.

If you read my review of Wizarding World Orlando, you will recall that one thing I thought was lacking was more child-friendly attractions. It seems that others have noticed that gap, as well. It is also not hard to imagine fans of all ages who are weary of Rowling’s crusade against transgender rights seeking to reconnect with the pure magic of the wizarding world. Of course, this is a movie-centric event, incorporating cinematic imagery and music, but there are a few touches (Skrewts, puffskeins) that evoke the books. No sign of Newt Scamander and colleagues, other than a Niffler or two in their treasure-filled dens.

One hint to organizers:  There were a few nargles in last night’s showing, in the form of a brief power outage that was not too surprising, given the amount of electricity required and the proximity of severe storms. But, during the 15 minute or so delay, the staff did not seem to know what to do with us, Our guide finally got some help from some fans who handed him a cell phone linked to a site with some corny Harry Potter jokes to tell over his microphone, but having a plan:  some trivia questions, or even just being able to talk about Harry Potter and chat up the crowd to ask people how they met the Boy Who Lived would have given a better impression. And, if any of the Leesburg staff would like to sponsor a speaker, it would be a perfect venue for my “Harry Potter and Nature” talk. The only honorarium I would charge is a cup of butterbeer, and perhaps an order of bangers and mash.

The event seems to be hitting its target demographic. At the restaurant, I saw a young girl of about 10 in  Gryffindor scarf, and remarked that she must be planning to go the same place I was. The couple parked next to us in the mammoth lot had an infant in a carrier seat with them. Overall, despite the lack of small children to take with us, my family (me, my husband and three Generation Hex grown children) enjoyed the evening and I’d recommend the experience to any and all Potter fans.

Rattenbury–The Sequel: Puns Surrounding the Lethal White Killers.

J.K Rowling’s novels employ multiple types of humor. One of the more subtle is her fondness for puns. For example, Vernon Dursley, drill-maker, is described as wearing his most “boring” tie. The use of the word “serious” in the text upticks significantly in Prisoner of Azkaban, compared to earlier books, pointing to the importance of Sirius Black. The Cormoran Strike series also includes such word-play. For example, in Lethal White, the Norfolk commune is described as “still, for Strike’s money, the worst place that Leda had ever taken them.” As we learn later, this is one of several places that Leda frittered away Rokeby’s child support payments, meaning, she was literally giving them Strike’s money.

After several listens through the Ink Black Heart audiobook, I have begun working back through the rest of the series, in reverse order. I am currently finishing up Lethal White. During my last listen, I spied some puns relating to Raff, Kinvara and the Rattenbury murder, for whom the noisy young Chiswell terrior is named. If you are unaware of this connection, please read my first post on the topic, then come back here to continue after the jump.

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Arresting Your Mom: Tom Burke’s Mother as Janice in the BBC Troubled Blood?

Cormoran Strike actor Tom Burke gave a recent interview to The Guardian where he dropped a super-strong hint about his real-life mother’s role in the Troubled Blood TV adaptation. Actress Anna Calder-Marshall was announced as part of the cast last February, but her exact role has yet to be mentioned. Given the familial relationship to title star Burke, many speculated that Ms. Calder-Marshall would be Aunt Joan Nancarrow.  However, Burke’s recent statement suggests otherwise:

Doesn’t your mother, Anna Calder-Marshall, appear in the new series?
She does and she’s fantastic in it. The first scene we had was also with Carol MacReady, who’s a wonderful actor. Her and my mum go way back and it was a joy to be in a scene with both of them. I haven’t acted with my parents in a long while, since doing Victoria Wood sketches and silly stuff in local theatre in Kent.

Carol MacReady plays Irene, making it almost inevitable that Ms. Calder-Marshall is Janice. Is there any other character you would expect to be in a scene with both Strike and Irene?

If true, this will be a nice bit of Strike-trivia going forward. Can anyone think of another detective-killer duo played by a real-life parent-offspring pair?

I suggest reading the full interview; it has some interesting tidbits not only about Troubled Blood, but about Burke’s late godfather, Alan Rickman.

Hat-tip to!