Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Alfonso Cuarón, Harry Potter and the Etymology of Sonship

In the days loking forward to Harry Potter Film #6 (which, by the way I absolutley loved: it's the Harry Potter film Robert Altman would have made if he'd ever made one- driven by relationships and naturalistic moments rather then heavy plot- and the dialogue and acting felt so much more spontaneous and honest- in some ways in was the least "movie" of the movies and really felt more like Gosford Park than Chamber of Secrets- a good direction in my opinion), I spent time reflecting on why I love these movies so much. (With the exception of Goblet of Fire which I find to be inane and dishonest in its characterization and storytelling).

I always come back to Prisoner of Azkaban, which I consider one of my top ten films ever. I love it that much, and respect it that much (and have seen it at least 12 times). Most of the reasons I love it all come back to the fact that Alfonso Cuarón transformed Chris Columbus' fantasy kids movies into art. It's not the first time Cuarón took on a potentially insipid kids box office draw and arrayed it with subtlety, aesthetic depth and integrity. His version of Frances Hodgsen Burnett's "A Little Princess" that came out in 1995, though seemingly sappy from the previews, was a tender and passionate story of love and compassion, told from a daughter's perspective. (Also, to either its strength or detriment, its from his Green period, like Great Expectations- does every scene need 23 green accents in the room?).

Like "A Little Princess", "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" is about being orphaned and being fathered, and the more I think about it, that seems to be the story Cuaron tends to tell. The theme of fatherhood or needing a father pops up continually in his work, whether its his short segment in Paris, je t'aime or the aptly tiitled Children of Men. Cuaron continually evokes in viewers questions and feelings around what its like to live without the protection of a father, and the ache that brings.

This is what makes the 3rd Harry Potter film so resoundingly powerful for me. There's no Voldemort, no Death Eater crap, just the story of Harry being fathered by at least four men who value him in different ways, and the impact that has on Harry's ability to know himself better. Dumbledore, Sirius Black, Professor Lupin, Hagrid and Mr. Weasley as well, all speak into Harry's life in guiding ways that both respect Harry's feelings and what he's been through, but also in ways that want to protect his childhood and not thrust him unnecessarily into responsibilities that should belong to them as adults, not a thirteen year old kid. There are also strong mothering characters as well, with Mrs. Weasley's fierce-some tenderness and Professor McGonagal's watchfulness and strength.

What is most powerful is the symbolism of the patronus charm. While we see Harry being truly seen and loved by a diversity of strong men and women, we see how they help him see himself apart from the abuse he was raised under, and step more into his own strength. When Harry is saved by the patronus charm on the lake where Sirius in being attacked by dementors, he believes its his somehow his father, back from the dead. The audience sees a white stag. In the books, we learn that the stag is the same animal that James Potter turned into as an animagus. Both we and Harry later realize that Harry is actually the one who sent the patronus. In the moment when he realizes his father is not going to appear to save Sirius (and himself in a time-traveling complexity), he finally, instinctually steps forth with his wand and shouts "Expecto Patronum!" and a beautful eruption of light beams resound out, almost like sound waves, rocketing through the trees and casting out the dementors.

Here is the one instance where J.K. Rowling's silly puddy approach to new etymological creations actually has depth. Patron, is Latin for protector, and comes from pater, meaning father. To produce the charm, Harry pulls from his deepest memory of happiness then shouts "Expecto Patronum" - "I Expect My Father!" which is both literally true because he thought his father sent the patronus, but also feels like a cry of his heart saying "I deserve a father, I expect protection, i believe I will be fathered still." And if you take the word "expect" a little father to its use in the word expectorate- meant for coughing/spitting but able to mean "to send out from the chest", Harry is also saying "From myself I send out a protector", which is exactly what happens as he sends out his patronus deer to defend himself and his godfather Sirius.

In this haunting and heart-expanding moment of the film, Harry both waits for the protection of the father he knows he truly belongs to and also acts as his own prtoector out of love for the godfather who has just come into his his life. In believing that he is worthy to be fathered, Harry is able to father himself. Soon after, Harry tells Hermione, "It wasn't my dad I saw earlier. It was... me. I saw myself conjuring the Patronus before. I knew I could do it this time, because...because I'd already done it. Does that make sense?" Yes it does make sense. Harry could save himself because in "Expecting his Father" he also found the strength to "Expect/Send himself".

I can't help but find spiritual meaning in this scene. The "I Expect My Father" feels like a prayer for protection even as it claims and achieves that very protection. The expecting of a father can only come when one feels named as a son/daughter. Harry's most powerful display of magical strength comes in the moment when he feels most like a son- both a son to Sirius who will die if Harry doesn't save him, and a son to the parents who loved him and were killed before he could love them back. It's love that makes the patronus charm work, and that love is rooted in the identity of knowing he was loved by those who father/mothered him and who sacrificed in order to protect him. Harry's mother gave her life to save him, and her love literally entered his skin and marked him for life. I believe this moment in Prisoner of Azkaban, the sending of the powerful patronus against the dementors, is when Harry ceases to be an orphan and truly knows himself to be loved, worthy of being loved, and truly able to love others. I want to cry every time I see it.

Monday, July 27, 2009


Feel free to show up with your dinner in hand. Tonight will be well structured, but casual. (Meaning we have a very small snack budget)

Hope you can come! Should be done around 8pm.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Reading Annie Rogers Again

A Shining Affliction: A Story of Harm and Healing in Psychotherapy A Shining Affliction: A Story of Harm and Healing in Psychotherapy by Annie G. Rogers

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"What you fear most has already happened."

“Are you wondering, Annie, how someone who doesn’t see you, really doesn’t recognize you, could possibly say goodbye to you?”

“When you feel you know the future, you can be sure that you are reliving the past...because nobody knows the future.”

“I could not afford to respond truthfully to them, to show them anything real about their effect on me.”

“In each moment in every life, there is a gesture hovering, to move toward or away from a truth.”

“If you fulfilled their wishes and died, then maybe they could love you.”

“I’d actually feel like a child for a moment or so.”

“This child could already foretell the future through the past.”

“What has been wounded in relationship must be, after all, healed in relationship.”

View all my reviews >>

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Marked For Life

Today, Jamelyn and I joined Jenn, "j.fresh", as she completed a 21st century rite of passage: getting the tattoo. She's been wanting this tattoo for 7 and a half years. I've been wanting a tattoo for at least four years, though technically, probably since I turned double digits. Note to self: best way to decide to go ahead and get a tattoo? Join someone and see for yourself how gosh darn easy it is.
Here she is in the last twenty minutes of her life with unmarked wrists.
j.fresh gawking in the first minutes of being inked. Or else she's gawking at the fact that actor Seth Rogen apparently does tattoo art on the side. Seriously, this is Seth Rogan, but he told us to call him Jason.

A bit of un-thrilling but historically signifiant footage here.
Freshly inked (and vaselined). Jenn didn't realize until Jason pointed it out, that the dove design she chose is based on one of Picasso's doves.Post-tattoo Chipotle time. Jenn's bandage made her look a little recently-suicidal, but she couldn't have been more pleased with the result.

And within six hours of this adventure, I decided exactly what tattoo I want and where I want it. But I'm gonna wait till my birthday, so I've got a couple months to let it simmer and settle (and find a Font artist). Yep- that's all I'm gonna tell ya.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Maryann has been posting childhood pictures of herself, and it made me want to go digging. Smallish. Roundish. Brownish.
Can you find me in this one? Not hard. I'm the one who looks very focused and professional.
Rollerskating in the basement around age 5. And one of the classically cruel haircuts I was subjected to throughout my childhood.
Proof that I am Scandinavian.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Well Done, Jimmy Carter

After sixty years, Jimmy Carter has severed his ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, finally, over issues of women's subjugation. While I kind of want to pump my fist in the air and say "Fuck YEAH!!!!"... what I really (want to) hope for is that hearts and minds will be opened to realize the folly of equating gender with spiritual capability, leadership or value, not to mention, the Image of God. May Jimmy Carter's integrity in this act serve not to help others jump ship, but to alter paradigms and ignite repentance regarding the violence (spiritual, emotional, physical, social, psychological) that has been done to women in the name of Jesus. That is not the Gospel.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Of Burning Bushes

"But for me,...God sits by fires rather than in them."

Joshua Longbrake

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Very Consistent Haiku

Odd that heartache should
throb not in my heart but in
the veins of my arms

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

As Close To A Talk Show As I May Ever Get

Please come- and bring opinions. If you want (its so worth it) Watch the series first. You've got time. Only 14 episodes. And watch Serenity also. The follow up movie kicks hard core ass.

(also- there's a chance food will be involved- just a chance at this point. Stay tuned)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

We're So Three Thousand And Eight...

After Rollerskating this Wednesday night, (8:30-10:30 Lynwood Bowl & Skate) Jamie and Jenn and I headed into Shari's Family Restaurant, where our favorite server, named Champagne, made us milkshakes. She is the self-proclaimed Malt Master at Shari's and we agree with her proclamation.

Rollerskating revs up a lot of endorphins, making us a bit loopy afterwards (and also a little yawny). Please watch Jamie eat this milkshake. Enjoy.

I really need to blog about our rollerskating nights. I have SO MANY opinions about it, and I give the same speech repeatedly every time (as Jamie, Jenn or Lucy could all attest to), "Damn that guy, he didn't play a single song I requested. Why does he hate me? I know he hates me".

More on that eventually.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Hooray, Done! Haiku

Like returned borrowed
things, closure can sound like, "Oh!
So that's where that was!"