What Went Through My Mind As I Picked Up Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone for the First Time in Nearly a Decade

Back to witches and wizards, and magical beasts
To goblins and ghosts and to magical feasts
It’s all that I love, and all that I need
At Hogwarts, Hogwarts

Back to spells and enchantments, potions and friends

To Gryffindor! Hufflepuff! Ravenclaw! Slytherine!

Back to the place where our story begins!

At Hogwarts

Man, I’m glad I’m back!

Special thanks to Starkid for the song “Goin Back to Hogwarts” and the gifs and for perfectly depicting how much of a nerd I am about Harry Potter. These books are so special and So is “A Very Potter Musical”. I can’t wait to dive back into this series.

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Book Review: Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard

I am fully aware that the title of this book makes it seem like a feminist argument roughly the size of the bible. It isn’t. I promise. At a mere 97 pages Beards Women & Power: A Manifesto, is a quick read that examines the literary and historical struggles of women in positions of power. Mary Beard is highly qualified in her examination as she is an English scholar and classicist. Women & Power is highly accessible, as it is based on two lectures the Beard has given during her career. I personally would have loved to have seen either of these speeches in person though the book is just as good.

Beard reflects my own feminist voice in that she speaks to examine the past in order to improve the future. She is clearly seeking equality by displaying the clear inequality that has been present throughout history. Beard begins her lecture all the way back with Homer’s The Odyssey. She states that this was likely the first literary evidence of misogyny, when Odysseus’s wife is silenced by her young son and sent to work on her weaving. Beard then moves into more literary evidence including comic strips, mythology and famous speeches made by women. She is precise and accurate in her examination and uses literature as clear evidence of a worldwide fear of women gaining too much power. As an English major I find this first section of Beards book to be particularly fascinating.

In the second section of her book beard examines a more modern point of view of women and power. She begins this section with a look at the book Herland by Charlotte Perkins Stetson Gilman, in which an island is found that is ruled entirely by women until a group of men discover it. From here she leaps into modern evidence of inequality. From the female political uniform that is donned my Hilary Clinton and Angela Merkel, to modern images that compare powerful women to Medusa. One argument that I found particularly powerful is when she states that there have been multiple images of a decapitated Hilary Clinton created by men with no backlash. While one such image of Donald Trump created by a woman resulted in the immediate termination of her career. Please don’t take this as evidence that I agree with what Kathy Griffin did. I am fully against Trump but her image was overly violent and inappropriate in my opinion. However, There is a clear discrepancy. Plenty of men have circulated similar images with no backlash while the one woman who does it is severely punished. All I’m asking for is  consistency. All should be treated equal in these situations.

Beard is brilliant writer who has a clear command of the English language. She is understandable but also intellectually challenging. She has opened my eyes on many issues and has helped become firmer in my feminist beliefs and in my desire for consistent equality. If you consider yourself a feminist (or if you don’t) she is a must read. She is highly relevant and offers the reader an arsenal of evidence that can be used in many of todays major issues.

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“She Used to Be Mine” Has Never Been More Relatable

It’s not simple to say
That most days, I don’t recognize me
That these shoes, and this apron
That place, and its patrons
Have taken more than I gave them

It’s not easy to know
I’m not anything like I used to be, although it’s true
I was never attention’s sweet center
But I still remember that girl

She’s imperfect, but she tries
She is good, but she lies
She is hard on herself
She is broken and won’t ask for help
She is messy, but she’s kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone, but she used to be mine

And it’s not what I asked for
Sometimes life just slips in through a back door
And carves out a person
And makes you believe it’s all true
And now I’ve got you

You’re not what I asked for
If I’m honest, I know I would give it all back
For a chance to start over
And rewrite an ending or two
For that girl that I knew

Who was reckless just enough
Who gets hurt
But who learns how to toughen up when she’s bruised
And gets used by a man who can’t love
And then she’ll get stuck
And be scared of the life that’s inside her
Getting stronger each day
‘Til it finally reminds her
To fight just a little
To bring back the fire in her eyes
That’s been gone, but used to be mine
Oh, used to be mine

She is messy, but she’s kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone, but she used to be mine

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Star Wars: Why it’s Awesome!

Star wars can easily be considered one of the most influential film franchises of all time. I have recently had the opportunity to teach  science fiction unit using the original star wars film Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope. The entire Star Wars universe is extremely well thought out and displays a complexity that can often be missed at first glance. There are multiple layers of symbolism, and an intense realness to every character. The entire franchise is completely fascinating to study and creates a sense of wonder for the viewer while also being incredibly relatable.

One of the concepts that I am covering in my class during this sci-fi unit is symbolism. Star Wars is a wonderful starting point for a symbolism unit, particularly as it is related to color. On thing that is brilliant about A New Hope is how intentional all of the colors are. Everyone knows that the Jedi Lightsaber colors are very intentional and have a specific meaning within the universe itself. However, the colors of costumes and setting are just as intentional. Tatooine for example is a barren desert planet that is covered is neutral brown hues. Luke’s residency on Tatooine is important because brown is a color that is associated with nature and safety. Luks life on Tatooine is safe and secure while venturing into space with Obi Wan Kenobi is dangerous and unpredictable.

The planet that houses the Rebel Base, Yavin 4, in A New Hope is also intentionally colored in green. Green is associated with spring and youth. Yavin 4 is the jumping point for the attack on the Death Star which is an endeavor that will signal a rebirth for the Galaxy. It is the first step in the journey to victory for the rebellion. Spring is a time for change and rebirth in society, which is why Green is a particularly appropriate color for the home of the Rebel Base.

Costuming is particularly important for Darth Vader and Princess Leia. Vader is dressed completely in black. Black is a common image when it comes to villians in the both film and in literature, and when it is paired with Vader’s red lightsaber, it becomes clear what is being portrayed through Vader. He is a character that has fallen victim to the dark side and his red lightsaber represents anger and passion which are key emotions for a Sith Lord. Leia is a stark contrast to Vader as she is dressed entirely in white for the whole of the film. White represents innocence and purity. Leia is meant to represent the light and hope in a galaxy covered in darkness. Her Gown stays surprisingly clean considering that it spends a good amount of time in the trash compactor. Leia draws strength from her purity and her trust on the rebellion, while Vader draws his from anger and hatred for the Jedi.

Characterisation is also essential to this film because the characters are extremely relatable in a setting that is fantastical. It is fascinating to observe the character development presented in A New Hope and in the franchise as a whole. Luke, for example, displays development throughout. He begins the story as a disgruntled farm boy who just wants freedom and ends the story as a hero of the rebellion who is preoccupied with the greater good of the entire galaxy. Han on the other displays very abrupt development towards the end. He claims that he is only in it for the money. He repeats himself multiple time and at the end chooses to return to the rebellion. This is a pattern that is repeated by him multiple time throughout the original trilogy. His actions are clearly at odds with what he claims. Overall the characters displayed are relatable in way that can sometimes be difficult to achieve in some franchises. There is a vulnerability to every person on-screen and their development throughout the franchise is remarkable to watch.

This franchise is one of my favorites (and there are several that I love). If you are one the rare few that has not at least tried to watch a Star Wars please do. It is a wonderful experience that can open you up to an entire universe of complex ideas and symbolism. Also, I wrote this partially because my students didn’t believe that I could write an essay on Star Wars. Ha HA!

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“My Back Pages” Bob Dylan

Crimson flames tied through my ears, rollin’ high and mighty traps
Pounced with fire on flaming roads using ideas as my maps
“We’ll meet on edges, soon, ” said I, proud ‘neath heated brow
Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now
Half-wracked prejudice leaped forth, “rip down all hate, ” I screamed
Lies that life is black and white spoke from my skull, I dreamed
Romantic facts of musketeers foundationed deep, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now
Girls’ faces formed the forward path from phony jealousy
To memorizing politics of ancient history
Flung down by corpse evangelists, unthought of, though somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then. I’m younger than that now
A self-ordained professor’s tongue too serious to fool
Spouted out that liberty is just equality in school
“Equality, ” I spoke the word as if a wedding vow
Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now
In a soldier’s stance, I aimed my hand at the mongrel dogs who teach
Fearing not that I’d become my enemy in the instant that I preach
My existence led by confusion boats, mutiny from stern to bow
Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now
Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats too noble to neglect
Deceived me into thinking I had something to protect
Good and bad, I define these terms quite clear, no doubt, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then I’m younger than that now

Theatre Review: Escape to Margaritaville

I did something that I have never done before… I flew somewhere for Thanksgiving. I have never traveled farther than the two hour drive from Flagstaff to Phoenix for Thanksgiving. And thins year I went all the way to Chicago for some sibling shenanigans with my big bro. It was crazy fun and one of the things we did was see Jimmy Buffet’s new musical Escape to Margaritaville.

I have never been a big fan of Jimmy Buffet but his new musical was oodles of fun. I’m pretty sure that my brother and I were among the younger members of the audience which consisted mostly of older die hard Buffet fans that knew every word to every song. I spent most of the performance laughing and enjoying myself. There were a few very well done sequences to big hits like “Why Don’t We Get Drunk And Screw?” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise”, however it was nothing groundbreaking.

With shows like Hamilton and The Book of Mormon running strong on Broadway I am concerned that Escape to Maragritaville will go unnoticed by the general population, though the Parrot heads will flock to fill the theatre. Buffet’s musical is destined to make it Broadway debut in February and I am curious to see how it will fair at the Tony’s. Its a good show, but not great.

As much as I enjoyed myself I found the plot predictable, and the ending disappointing. It is basically a love story about a high strung scientist who meets a cute beach bum at a resort. The beach bum falls madly in love with our scientist who is leaving in one week. A lot of time is spent on two very generic main characters, while the more interesting minor characters are glossed over. The plot would have been more well rounded if more characters were explored more deeply. The ending should have been a surprise, not the next and tidy romantic comedy ending that the world is used to.

That being said, I would like to reiterate that I enjoyed the show immensely. The actors were phenomenal and the sets and costumes were bright and colorful and generally made me happy to look at. It was clear that everyone in the theatre was having a great time, which is essentially the purpose of a show like this. I left the theatre happy with the general experience and it was only when my brother and I began discussing the show in more depth that I found the flaws. I would very much recommend this show if you are looking for a good time, and a good sing along. I think that if I went into the show as a Jimmy Buffet fan I would be writing a different review right now.

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Why Avatar: the Last Airbender is one of the best children’s shows ever

Before I begin I just want to say that it has completely broken my heart that I haven’t been able to post as often as I used to. It brings me great distress to know that I have been dropping the ball so epically lately. This school year has been rough and honestly my brain is so fried that the last thing I want to do at the end of the day is spend more brain power reading. Instead I have spent my free time delving into a few old hobbies that I had set aside some time ago. These include knitting, crochet, and calligraphy. These all keep my hands busy while giving my academic mind a bit of a rest so I can unwind. While partaking in these hobbies I also like to play some kind of tv show in the background to create some background noise while I work. My most recent background noise has been Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender. 

I absolutely adored this show when I was younger and it has periodically reentered my life throughout the years. The basic premise if that there is a world where humanity has been divided into four nations; The Fire Nation, The Earth Kingdom, The Water Tribes and The Air Nomads. within each of these nations there are individuals who can control the corresponding element their nation is known for. These individuals are called benders and there is one bender who can control all four elements called the Avatar. The Avatar is one individual who is reincarnated into each nation and is meant to maintain balance between the nations. The show surrounds a war between the nations that began when The Fire Nation wiped out the Air Nomads in an attempt to destroy the Avatar and take over the world. Aang is the twelve year old Avatar who has been trapped in an ice berg for 100 years and wakes up to find that he is the only remaining Airbender and that the world is at war.

This show is a thing of beauty that builds layers of complexity on top of a facade of innocence. Each bending style is based on a different form of martial arts and there are distinct differences in the cultures of each nation that make the show visually stunning and captivating to watch. I love seeing the benders at work because my grandmother got me into tai chi when I was young and I can see distinct similarities between my tai chi lessons and the water bending styles. Also my grandmother gave me a chinese long sward, which is what Sokka uses, and a set of double broad swords, which Zuko uses. AHHHHHH Love it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I loved this show as a child because all of the heroes are children and it is just plain fun. however, as I have grown up I can definitely see farther beneath the surface and all I can say is that the creators are damn genius’. The characterization alone makes the show worth watching. The protagonist, Aang, is a twelve year old monk who is forced to face extremely mature issues. Aang is forced to reconcile the fact that victory over The Fire Nation will come at great cost. He discovers that mastering his role as the Avatar will cost him people he loves, and that defeating evil might force him to take a life.

Aang’s companions include a water bender Katara and her non-bending brother Sokka who also face an opportunity for revenge against the man who killed their mother. The Earthbender, Toph, is a blind eleven year old who becomes the most powerful earthbender in the world and invents metalbending.

These characters also face the disgraced Fire Nation Prince, Zukko, who’s face was burnt by his own father for speaking out of turn. ukko is a particularly interesting character, because through him the show examines whether some human beings are inherently evil or whether they are capable of extreme change.

The show also displays the importance of balance between the different elements and balance within humans. The whole purpose of the Avatar is to maintain balance within the world but he must also maintain balance within himself. As an Air Nomad, Aang was raised by monks who taught him to detach himself from earthly desires in order to maintain spiritual enlightenment. This upbringing is completely at odds with his role as the Avatar which forces him to insert himself into the issues of the world around him, and prevents him form reaching enlightenment. Zukko is also an example of the issue of inner balance. Zukko was raised in to believe that The Fire Nation is more advanced and the war is meant to spread its greatness, when the reality is the opposite. Zukko is at war with The Avatar and with himself throughout the show.

All in all, this show is amazing. It is unique among children’s tv in that it is remarkably mature beneath the surface. It is captivating for children and for adults. So you should check it out if you haven’t. Cause it’s great.

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Book Review: Blood Red Road by Moira Young

Moira Young’s Blood Red Road is actually a reread for me. I read it a few year ago for a university class I took about teaching young adult literature. It’s a very Hunger Gamesesque book about a girl named Saba living in a post apocalyptic world. She, her twin brother, Lugh, their little sister Emmi and their father live in almost complete isolation by a lake that has nearly dried up. Saba, like Katniss in The Hunger Games, has a fierce loyalty to her family, in particular her twin brother. The action kicks off when Lugh is kidnapped by a group of strangers in black and Saba’s father is killed. Saba then sets off with Emmi to rescue Lugh from his new enemy.

When I first read this book it irritated the hell out of me. Saba is out first person narrator and there is a complete lack of proper grammar and I found her accent distracting. However, the more I read the more it made sense to me and the more engrossed I was with the book. Saba lives in a world without schools and has had almost no contact with anyone other than her direct family. This lack of education is clear in her misspellings and improper pronunciation and grammar. The emotions behind the story seem more genuine through the very unique narrative voice.

Saba herself is definitely a character to love if you admire Katniss Everdeen. They share many traits and display a clear image of female empowerment for young readers. During her adventures Saba crosses a never-ending desert, becomes a slave cage fighter, joins a band of warrior women who burn towns to the ground and faces a group of mutant monsters. It is action packed and also teaches a variety of lessons that are important for young readers. Te reason I chose to reread this one is that it’s part of a series and I have finally procured the next two books. I decided that it was best to refresh my memory before plunging forward, into the next chapter.

I would highly recommend this book for any fans of the Hunger Games. I can’t wait to read the next installment in Saba’s journey.

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TV Review: Cowboy Bebop

Yes, I do enjoy the occasional anime. I think that there are a select few anime shows that display a unique look at human nature. Some of my favorites include Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood and Attack on Titan. Both of these shows examine humanities desperate nature, and how easily someone can be pushed to the brink. Cowboy Bebop is a new experience for me and is a show that premiered in the late 90’s and has had a cult following ever since.

Let me just start by stating that there is a reason it is a classic. It’s animation is uniquely beautiful with deep, thoughtful story lines that some anime’s lack in my opinion. Apart from its popularity, what appealed to me was the set number of episodes. One thing that I find rather exhausting about anime’s like Naruto and Bleach, is the never-endingness of the show. while both of these are enjoyable they have hundreds and hundreds of episodes and are still going. At 26 episodes Bebop is a quick watch that is absolutely jam-packed with action and drama. I definitely wish there were a few more episodes, though there is a film that I’m excited to watch.

Cowboy Bebop is about a group of bounty hunters in a future where all the planets in our solar system have bee terraformed and are occupied. It’s essentially a space western, that occasionally reminds me of Joss Whedon’s Firefly. The group is definitely ragtag and each member has a fascinating back story. Spike is the main protagonist that used to work for a crime syndicate before faking his own death. Jet is a cyborg and former cop, Faye is a gambler with severe memory loss and a mountain of debt. Edward, is an odd little girl who happens to be a genius level hacker, and Ein is a Welsh corgi that was created as a “data dog” in an illegal laboratory. Each of these characters has an important role to play in the overall narrative and each is examined with a fine tooth comb.

This show definitely boils down to the characters. There is a complexity to each one that helps establish the rock solid foundation of a great show, and each episode reveals a little more about them until you finally reach an understanding of what led them to bounty hunting. This shows expert use of animation and music creates some of the most hauntingly beautiful episodes I’ve ever seen in an anime. They have left an impression on me that I never thought possible.

Cowboy Bebop is a must watch for anime lovers. Hopefully you will be as hooked as I was from the very first episode. My only real issue is Faye’s outfit. I mean come on that much skin is not even close to necessary. I really don’t understand how that could be comfortable to wear everyday.

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Me…One Week Until School Starts (Told in Gifs)

When I realized I only have one week left to sleep in

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When I decide to be happy about the new school year

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When I go to school for the first time all summer

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When I start setting up my classroom

 

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When I remember that I have a mini fridge to hide behind my desk

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When I reexamine my syllabus

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When I go shopping for school supplies

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When I spend hours browsing Teachers Pay Teachers

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When I see my class sizes

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When I wonder why I chose this profession

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Then I remember that I get to teach The Hobbit, The Book Thief, The Outsiders and Shakespeare this year

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