Tag Archives: J.K. Rowling

State of the Season 12 – Rock and Roll, Reading, and Remembering

Hello and welcome to any and all who find themselves here! As is customary for my every 13th post I look back at the last 12 for a retrospective of the previous “season” of this blog. Let’s hop to it!

Back on May 8th, I tossed the second of my four-part inspection of the T-shirt worn by Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. This was followed by the final two parts over the next couple of weeks. Ament’s shirt contained a list of names of bands and artists he and his bandmates feel deserve inclusion into the Rock Hall. Some I know and agree with, others I was less familiar with. In an effort to educate myself further on all these acts, I listened to a cut of each act’s discography and sought the best (or my favorite) of the bunch to feature.

“Waiting in the Wings of Rock and Roll – Vol. 2”

“Waiting in the Wings of Rock and Roll – On Being the Third Part of Jeff Ament’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Shirt”

“Waiting in the Wings of Rock and Roll – The Final Chapter”


“Never Forget Our Heroes” is my Memorial Day post that attempts not to remember fallen soldiers and service members, but those translators who have been forgotten by the US government in the mire of political bureaucracy. This came from a featured segment on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver that I include.


“With a Little Help from My Friends” – I was committed to sticking to my original plan to release a celebration of The Beatles for the anniversary of their most famous album. I did so even in the wake of Trump pulling the US out of the Paris Agreement, and I am pleased that so many cities, businesses, and communities have all stated that they will continue to honor the international agreement on climate change mitigation. With a little help from my friends indeed.


“Da na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na That Man!” is a eulogy of actor Adam West. Fox Animation recently churned out a video compilation of his best moments as Mayor Adam West on Family Guy:

“Paul! That’s a person’s name!”


Indeed it is, Mayor West, and it is Sir Paul McCartney who is the focus of “Happy Birthday Walrus Man!” where I listed some of the best songs written and performed by McCartney over his career with The Beatles and Wings and on his own. He’s referred to as Walrus Man because he was the walrus! Don’t believe me? Well check, check it:


“Rowling Along the Reading Rainbow” is my thanks to J.K. Rowling for writing the book (series) that got me jazzed about reading. I’ll send another shout out to her for today right here and now: Happy Birthday to you and Harry!


“The Magical Mystery Tour is Waiting to Take You Away” – There’s that Walrus again. Expanding upon my fantasy book series fandom like a literary Bran the Builder, I next turned my attention to the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The featured picture is artwork of my favorite sequence from the books, the wildling attack on the Wall. Fantastic fantasy.


While the show, Game of Thrones, does not always nail some scenes like that battle, it has put together some excellent moments, including some that did not occur in the books. You may even call these moments “Epic! Badass” as I did. Enjoy these 10 scenes that may have fallen off your radar from the first six seasons of the show.


“Astronauts Without Borders” is a celebration of the docking between Apollo 18 and Soyuz 19 that took place in 1975. It was the first time two countries planned and enacted a mission to connect spacecraft in flight and kicked off a grand partnership between the scientific communities within the USA and the USSR/Russia that continues today as it always has – separate from politics.


“Nobody Exists on Purpose. Nobody Belongs Anywhere. Everybody’s Going to Die. Come Watch TV.” – Game of Thrones isn’t the only anticipated show that’s back. Rick and Morty made their long awaited return last night on Adult Swim, and Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon and company keep finding humor in the existential dread that surrounds us all. Props especially to Chris Parnell who manages to make us pity and laugh hysterically at the plight of pathetic Jerry whose name is dragged through the mud by even the wind.

Since next Sunday is six long days away, check out the Non-Canonical Adventures of Rick and Morty to help hold you over.


In addition to this recap, I’d like to wish the best to the family of Sam Shepard, who died from ALS on July 27. An actor on the stage and screen best known for his roles in movies like The Right Stuff and Black Hawk Down, but his true passion was as a playwright. Shepard penned 44 plays and won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama with his work Buried Child. He also co-wrote some film screenplays, was nominated for an Oscar for The Right Stuff, and even played banjo on Patti Smith’s unique cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. R.I.P.

Thanks for reading, watching, listening, and enduring some bad jokes in all along the way. I hope that I provide quality entertainment and ideally some education along with it; if I do, I hope that continues, but if I don’t, I hope it begins. Most of all, I hope you’ll check back in here next week for more fun.

Until next week,

Alex

The Magical Mystery Tour is Waiting to Take You Away

Last week I discussed how J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series was what stirred my interest in reading books and the impact it continued to have on me as I grew alongside the characters. I also mentioned how Harry and his time at Hogwarts was my first foray into fantasy literature, but it has not been my last. The natural next step was turn to the OG of modern fantasy, J.R.R. Tolkien, and I did when I read The Hobbit for my freshman English class in high school. I loved it and vowed to someday read its larger and more famous continuation The Lord of the Rings, and I accomplished this near the end of my college career. I loved it so much that it instantly became my favorite book and I ran out and bought the movie trilogy on blu-ray. I even went so far as to develop my own version that takes place in the real world and features my school friends and I striving to save our university from an evil politician who wants to turn it into an open-air shopping complex with a large CVWal-Rite drugstore in the middle of campus. I meticulously matched my friends, associates, and enemies to the assembly of characters in the book and began writing in the three volume style Tolkien utilized. Taking my favorite parts of the book and movies, I formed an enormous outline and wrote many major sections of it. I have not written any more of it for some time now, but I finished a little over half of it, which while certainly condensed from the original text and screenplays, is about 150 pages worth.

The short version is that I really like The Lord of the Rings. But I’m not here to talk about Middle Earth today as that was the second volume of my trifecta of fantasy which has followed a nice mature progression. Where Harry Potter was my initial step into fantasy and covered teenage life better than anything else I know, Tolkien’s works, especially The Lord of the Rings introduced me to a larger world that was heavily influenced by his own love of language and experiences in war. Rowling’s world was my elementary fantasy education, and Tolkien my high school and college, which helped prepare me for my graduate level fantasy that combines the young growth of Potter with the brutal conflict of Tolkien and amplifies them to a degree that makes you shout aloud, “no, no, no, no, no, no, no, NO, NO, NO, NOOOOOOOOOO!” as you read along in horror that this character will join the countless others who died before him or her in grisly fashion. I am referring to, of course, the wacky world of Westeros and Essos created by George R.R. Martin as the setting for his masterful Song of Ice and Fire book series.

Thus far there have been five books published in the long (looooooooooooong) running series with two more on the way. Filled with intrigue, political and literal backstabbing, and so, so much death, they are some of the best books I’ve ever read.

There are other books pertaining to the lore of the Seven Kingdoms and beyond written by Martin, as well as many more pieces of Ice an Fire related merchandise, however those all pale in comparison to the massively popular television series Game of Thrones that brings the stories to vibrant life with top notch set and costume design and cinematic effects, not to mention some terrific acting and choreography. Oh, and there is also some really good directing, and of course writing, including an episode a season from G-Mart himself. The show has been going on for six seasons now and recently dropped the extended trailer for the upcoming Season 7 due out later this month on July 16.

This is exciting for any Ice and Fire fan as the show has firmly caught up and gone past the reach of the most recent book, A Dance with Dragons. We got a lot of totally new things last season, but we are in completely uncharted territory now, and given the slow-working pace of Martin’s book writing we can safely expect the TV series to wrap up before the release of the next book, The Winds of Winter. George, if you want to Rick and Morty us and just drop The Winds of Winter into bookstores on the eve of Season 7, I would not be hurt; quite the opposite, actually.

I did not start into Martin’s fantastical take on the War of the Roses until well after its show’s popularity soared like Balerion the Black Dread. About three years ago, I was hanging out with a couple of friends from work who lived together. Their combined surprise that I had never turned a page or watched a scene of Martin’s masterwork led to one lending me the first book, A Game of Thrones, and the other lending me Season 1 of the show. I read the book first and then watched Season 1 and then begged for more. My book friend lent me the second story, A Clash of Kings, and I tore through it like the Mountain through a horse that has displeased him. Another friend provided me with Season 2, and I went online and ordered my own set of books and started into book three, A Storm of Swords, my favorite of the books so far. I kept up this trend of reading at least a book ahead of each season until I was in the same spot as my friend who first got me charging into this tale like a Dothraki bloodrider. We watched the whole of Season 6 together with only minimal insight into what may happen based on what from the books had not been yet touched upon in the show.

There is still some speculation as to what may be in store for those still living, especially in regard to those who are not, and one of the best outlets for any Ice and Fire intel is Alt Shift X’s YouTube channel that breaks down theories as wild as the Free Folk north of the Wall, some of which are quite intriguing and may be on to something. He and his team of Thrones experts look at the books and show (and now trailers) to discern what’s happening in Westeros and what may happen next, and a few of the theories they have delved into have been confirmed by occurrences in last season. Additionally, last season was extensively covered as it was almost entirely new material in the narrative, and Alt Shift X broke down each episode. Don’t be scared away by the length of the videos (all are about 10-20 mins) as each do a excellent job of laying out all the necessary information and leave you wanting more. If you’re an Ice and Fire fan, I invite you to check this channel out. Even if you’re not all caught up or are just starting into this fantastical fiction each video’s title lists which books and seasons it’s subject touches upon so you can avoid ruining what’s to come, for as is oft said, the Internet is dark and full of spoilers.

I’m pretty darned stoked for the new season of Game of Thrones, and I know I’m not the only one. This show and the book series it draws inspiration from have become incredibly big on a global scale with millions of watchers on the couch biting their nails in nervous anticipation of who might will die next. With completely new territory to explore, it doesn’t get much better than this. We are truly lucky to have Season 7 coming our way in just a couple of weeks. The only way I could be more excited for a show is if… oh holy shit. Wubba Lubba What WHAT!?!

I’m not going to move anything but my eyeballs on Sunday nights this summer.

Thanks for reading! Please send any questions, comments, or suggestions to monotrememadness@gmail.com. Sail on back here next week for more fantasy and adventure, or whatever else I feel like writing about; I don’t know what I’m going to be feeling over the next week.

Bonkers,

Alex

Rowling Along the Reading Rainbow

I never much cared for book learnin’ when I was a wee lad. I still don’t do much reading now, to be honest, but I at least have changed my stubborn, childish tune from “books are stupid and long and hard and I don’t want to read them!” (younger me really set myself up for ridicule from someone with a dirty mind). Today, I have put some literary miles behind me and have dabbled in just about every major genre of fiction, a fair degree of nonfiction, and I write a decent amount on my own (clearly). I owe a great deal of this to a good required reading list throughout high school and an excellent English teacher whose enthusiasm encouraged me to actually read the books I was assigned. Thanks Mr. H! His job would have been considerably tougher though were it not for the fact that I had already approached one book series with gusto where I had previously dismissed others with little regard. When I was in grade school, my mom came home from a weekend trip with some of her friends and I was pretty stoked to have her return; not because I missed her, oh no, but because she had some loot for me! She promised a present and delivered me… a book? What? What am I supposed to do with this? You’ve ruined me, mother. I’ll just go over here and lay face down in shame for the remainder of my life.

Yeah, I was a melodramatic youth, but aren’t we all? But hey, what was I to make of a book with a bespectacled British boy flying on a broom reaching out for a ball with wings? The book in question was of course Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (or Sorcerer’s if you are American where we like alliteration) and today marks the 20th anniversary of its release on June 26, 1997.

Like many young readers of the late ’90s, once I took a look inside the book I was quickly turning pages, engrossed by the magical world within. This is interesting for me now as I never was one for fantasy outside of the realm of space until my teenage years when I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed The Hobbit in my aforementioned English teacher’s freshman class. I was an extremely devoted fan to cinematic space-based fantasy like Star Wars, and was easily more excited about the newest movie in that series that had come out a month prior to the book about the boy wizard. Now it is easy to say that absolutely Harry Potter is superior to Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, but young, developing in body and mind me was not at the same level I am currently. And for what it’s worth (nothing; it’s worth nothing) I did enjoy reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone more than watching Episode I. What is worthwhile, is that Harry Potter helped me change my stupid stance of protest towards leisure reading. In an historic occasion where the desires of a parent actually occurred after she actively encouraged it, my mom did get her wish of Harry Potter making me excited to read. Truly, all credit should go to another mom, Joanne Rowling, better known by her pen name J.K. Rowling – because unfortunately having your clearly female name displayed on your book can turn people away from it.

Thanks to the contemporary take on a magical world, it was easy for me as a non-fantasy fan to become engrossed in all Harry’s world had to offer, from Privet Drive to Diagon Alley to Hogwarts, I was onboard with the owls, monsters, spells, ghosts, and even a school that you live at. Ugh, it would have seemed like torture for younger me were it not for all the cool shit! Yet therein lies the grandest appeal of Harry and his world to a little boy about the same age as him. Harry was extraordinarily relatable to me as he was just like me, y’know, just without the parents I had. Even though he was a product of it, Harry was as new to the magical world hiding around the corner as I the rest of us were; we discovered everything with him. For me and others my age, we continued to discover the magic, both dark and light, not just within the ensuing series of books and movies but within our own bodies. This time I am intentionally referring to the sexy stuff, or more specifically the hormonal changes that arise throughout our teenage years to biologically drive us to reproduce with the avalanche of side effects that amplify our every emotion. The Harry Potter series will always be near and dear to my heart not just because of its rich fantastic lore, but mostly because of its incredible sympathy for my puberty. I have never read a book or seen a movie – not even the terrific adaptations of these books – that understands the natural growth of young people in mind, body, and society. Nowhere else has the development and deterioration of friendships, families, and world views been better captured.

At the crux of it all is the most difficult or frightening concept for us to tackle: death. Rowling has stated many times that the central theme of the story is dealing with death. Harry is an orphan whose parents are the first to die in the story, and he bears a permanent physical scar from their death that helps to accentuate his emotional scars that help define his character. Voldemort wants to avoid death at all costs to himself and others and hold dominion over it so that he is master of it. Throughout each book more characters meet their mortal end, and the frequency and impact of deaths ramp up as the series gets darker, just as Harry and his friends become impacted by the darkness of the world around them at an age where we begin to recognize how hard life is and how little we know, typically by blindly professing how we can do anything and know everything.

The Harry Potter series remains one of my favorite book series, with each book building more and more upon its world and most importantly it characters. I remember vividly finishing the first and last books of the series as they were similar situations. In both instances, I was up until about 2:30 AM and feeling tired, but nowhere near sleep because I was so close to the end of each text I was too excited and had to finish. I was exhausted after wrapping up Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, not just because of the late hour, but because it marked the end of an era for me and at a critical time in my life. In the summer between my graduation from high school and my preparations to go away to university, I had Deathly Hallows‘ release to offer me the one constant I had for that summer. Everything in my world was changing quickly, but not simply because of the next step within my adolescence, but because of death. Throughout my high school years – when the released books in the series were growing darker – I experienced a number of notable deaths of loved ones. I lost both of my grandmothers my freshman year of high school, three great uncles over the next three, and most devastating of all, my father shortly before my graduation. My dad’s death was still weighing extremely heavily on me when I began reading the all the more fittingly titled Deathly Hallows and the sense of dread I felt while reading it was more real than with anything else I have read. J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter helped me to cope with the hardships of my youth by showing me that even in a fantasy world with a semi-snake psychopath and literal soul-sucking demons the most terrifying part of life is growing up.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions please drop me a line at monotrememadness@gmail.com. If you have not already, I would greatly encourage you to check out the Harry Potter books, and after you cross those off your list go ahead and watch the films too to see one of the best complete casts ever assembled perfectly play their respective characters. R.I.P. Alan Rickman. You will always be my favorite professor at Hogwarts, even if you were a dick most of the time. Time turn your way back here next week for some more fantasy fun.

I Expecto (Patronum) to see you again,

Alex