Kath and Hanna Reread Harry Potter…and The Goblet of Fire

IMG_2790 So Hanna and I are now officially halfway through Harry Potter (in terms of book numbers, pages wise probably not.) If you need to catch up you can click through our previous conversations here, here, and here.

From: Kath – To: Hanna – July 16

I just got past the Death Eaters at the Quidditch World Cup, and I remember now why I don’t love 4 the way that others do. It is so scary! I was having flashbacks to actual nightmares I had at 14 while reading this. 
Not to say it’s not brilliant, because it is. And the description of the match itself was really cool (and not just because I’m obsessed with Ireland). But I don’t have warm fuzzy feelings towards the story, because I know this is just a precursor to the real terror at the end.

Not OK

From: Hanna – To: Kath – July 19
I’ve just met Fleur Delacour at Hogwarts, still pre-Goblet of Fire (it’s just struck me that this is kind of a lame title for Book 4…what do you think?).
It continues to be my favorite book so far, but you’re right – the Death Eaters scene is so so scary. I had forgotten the bit about levitating the Muggles – this scares me the most, not only because I’m a Muggle (!) but also because it really gets at the senselessness of the Death Eaters’ terrorism. 
This time around, I’m really liking Hermione’s pro-house elf activism. I know that this isn’t most people’s favorite part, but I appreciate witnessing her developing social consciousness. It’s a great foil for (let’s be real) Harry‘s self-centeredness. (I can’t help but think of PotterPuppet Pals here: “Harry Potter! That’s me!”)
On to the tri(quad)wizard tournament!
From: Kath – To: Hanna – July 20 

“Senselessness” is the exact right word for why it is so awful. I shudder whenever I think of that image of the Death Eaters laughing while the poor family is in the air. 

Onto much lighter notes – I also have been enjoying the House Elf activism, though I think I’m finding it funnier than I would have at 14. Her desperate passion probably wouldn’t have looked as far fetched then, though the name S.P.E.W. has always gotten me. 
I just got to the lead up to Yule Ball, and I love how much this book delves into the fact that they are silly teenagers much of the time. I get frustrated with the whole Ron insecurity story line in later books, but in this one, where they’re supposed to be 14, it’s totally understandable. As is the terror of asking someone to the dance. Brilliantly captured.
 From: Hanna -To: Kathryn – July 28

Just finished #4!  And oh my goodness…the graveyard scene is just as terrifying now as it ever was.  

I agree with you about Ron and his insecurities: justified and endearing here; totally frustrating later.  And speaking of being silly teenagers: can I say how annoying it is that Hermione* is Viktor’s “sorely missed” thing for the second task, and Cho is Cedric’s?  Really, guys?!  A love interest that you’ve known for a few months is your most prized “possession”?  I’m with Fleur and her little sister on this one.
Separately, I’d never noticed how often JK writes something along the lines of: “…and Harry ran back to Gryffindor to tell Hermione and Ron about everything that just happened to him.”  I’m thinking that some Seinfeld-esque shorthand is in order: “Harry left Dumbledore’s office, his head swimming with all of the important secrets that he had just learned. Yada yada yadaHarry, Ron, and Hermione stayed up late to plan their next move.” 
And a random thought: could Rita Skeeter be JK’s way of taking a shot at the media/paparazzi, whom I imagine were making her life quite unpleasant by this point? 
Now, on to Order of the Phoenix, everyone’s least favorite (right? I hope?) and the only book that I’ve read just once. Bring on the teenage angst!
*Google Chrome tried to auto-correct “Hermione” to “thermionic.” Wtf…get with pop culture, Google.
From: Kath – To: Hanna – July 28

Oh no, I’m so far behind! I was on vacation, but I will catch up in the next few days. 

On the Rita Skeeter note – yes! I totally think it’s a comment on celebrity media. I know JK was the one that got paparazzi photos of kids outlawed in Britain, which is awesome and definitely shows that she was thinking about that kind of leeching disguised as reporting.  (Also Rita Skeeter is such a great name.)
I agree Order is my least favorite at least. But I’m actually curious to see how I react to it this time. 
I’ll get back to you hopefully tomorrow or Thursday with my final thoughts on Goblet. (Which, I can’t remember if I responded to this before, but yeah you’re right lame title when there’s so many more interesting things happening in this one.)
From: Kath – To: Hanna – July 30 

OK I finished yesterday (during the slowest library shift ever). My final thoughts: 

– I was reading the part where Harry and Cedric decide to touch the cup at the same time on the bus and I almost started crying. The whole thing is just so unfair – and again I was reminded how affecting the violence in the whole series is. Rowling points out the way terrorism like the Death Eaters campaigns, feels so arbitrary. Obviously it’s scary but it’s more heartbreaking because it seems so meaningless and wasteful. I got really angry at these fictional assholes. Maybe that’s why this one has never been my favorite, because it makes me think about these things.  
– I remember this movie the least, and so the image of Voldemort getting his body back really struck me as being more twisted than I remembered. Is it included in the movie? 

Apparently it is…did I repress this?

– Also for some reason I thought the part where they connect wands was in the last book, so I got to be in suspense all over again about how Harry escapes. 
Overall I liked it, but still found it really disturbing. On to 5, maybe it will surprise us! 

Weekly Adventure: Viva Big Bend 2015

Right before I arrived in Austin almost a year ago (!), my friends who lived here had just returned from a festival out in West Texas, called Viva Big Bend and they wouldn’t shut up about it. So when they all said they were caravaning out to do it again this year I couldn’t wait to join. Viva is a small festival that temporarily takes over the small towns of Alpine and Marfa for live music and general camaraderie.

I’d never been to West Texas before, but thankfully a few of my friends grew up in Alpine so we had excellent guides. (And a lovely place to stay – thank you Mr. and Mrs. Fuentez!) We did a ton, and the vibe is sort of hard to describe, but here are a selection of the nearly 200 pictures that I took on the trip (there are more on Facebook if we are friends/you are interested.)


From the drive out, this was right after Sal informed us we were “officially in West Texas”

Our first stop was the spring fed pool at Balmorhea, which was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, and the water was ridiculously cool and clear.



Photo Credit: Miró Cassetta

The drive from Balmorhea to Alpine was through the mountains, that were unlike any landscape I had ever seen before. They reminded me almost of the cliffs near the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, but stuck in the middle of a desert. It was surreal and gorgeous.

IMG_2878 Our first night in town we headed over to Padre’s in Marfa, where my friends worked out some unresolved shuffleboard tension from last year, and we watched the excellent Sarah Jaffe bring the house down.  IMG_2910

After that we headed back to the legendary Railroad Blues in Alpine, where Austin based Shinyribs, introduced us to the song of the trip:

As far as we know he doesn’t receive any money from Donut Taco Palace for this (though he should – that’s a catchy jingle.)

The next day Victoria, Stephanie and I attempted to go to the Chinati Foundation’s tour of the amazing sculpture and art around Marfa, but we didn’t quite make it in time, but we did get to look at some of Donald Judd’s 15 Untitled Works in Concrete, which are pretty impressive.

IMG_2916 We then wandered around downtown Marfa for a bit and found our way into the Paisano Hotel, where Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, and Rock Hudson lived when they were filming Giant.IMG_2930


They were selling this at the gift shop…I’ll let you Google what it’s supposed to mean.

That afternoon we made our way to the Big Bend Brewing Company for a delicious tasting at the country’s most remote brewery (you can buy their beer in Austin now and you should it’s really good!)


Photo Credit: Nice lady who saw us struggling with Ralph’s selfie stick

That night we went back to Marfa to have a drink in this tipi (which is one of the things I had been hearing about since last year, that totally lived up to the hype).

Photo Credit: Sal Fuentez

Photo Credit: Sal Fuentez

Then we drove to the McDonald Observatory for the Star Party. Which was awesome, but I have no pictures of because it was dark and you can’t really take pictures of stars with an iPhone 4, but if you’re ever out there it’s worth checking out.

Saturday morning we drove out to Big Bend itself and once again I was completely blown away by the landscape. And I somehow managed to not get sunburned, which is a feat for me, considering I’m paler than a ghost and the sun was unlike anything I had ever felt before, but the beauty was worth it.


Photo Credit: Sal Fuentez


Busting out crow on the side of the Basin


Chilling (literally) in the shade at the bottom of the Santa Elana Canyon (we’re looking across the river to Mexico)

IMG_2985  After a long ride back, some storm clouds and bumps in the road, we ended our last night with two great Austin bands that got us dancing. First I attempted to learn how to cumbia to Grupo Fantasma: IMG_3047 

And then we headed back to the Blues for Soul Track Mind‘s packed set:


FYI: They are my new favorite band

It was an amazing, action packed trip but I still feel like there was stuff I didn’t do. (The tour in Marfa for one.) And I definitely plan on returning for Viva 2016.

Six Degrees of Cinema: Heartburn

 Remember 3 months ago, when I watched REDS and was so impressed with Jack Nicholson that I was going to watch Heartburnwell for some reason it took me forever to motivate myself to actually watch it. I’m not sure what my block against starting it was. On paper it’s everything I love, Meryl Streep, Nora Ephron, Mike Nichols, sappy emotional drama involving Eastern urbanites with ridiculous hairstyles, and bonus unexpected Maureen Stapleton (another highlight of Reds), weirdo Kevin Spacey, and baby Jeff Daniels.

 But even with all of these things going for it, I just really couldn’t get into it. It wasn’t that I could see the sad ending coming (though I could), I think I really can’t buy Nicholson as a romantic figure outside of that one performance at Eugene O’Neill. The movie makes really important points about the struggles of marriage and motherhood and how hard it is to start over, but it just never grabbed me.

Well, that’s not true, this one scene of Nicholson singing show tunes may never leave my brain:

and I finally finished this chain! (just 10 months later…)

In this chain: What IfRuby SparksBob & Carol & Ted & AliceHeaven Can WaitReds – Heartburn 

Kath and Hanna Reread Harry Potter…and The Prisoner of Azkaban

IMG_2737 Quick recap – Hanna and I are rereading Harry Potter, and I, as a lazy blogger, am reprinting our e-mail exchange here (edited to exclude our thoughts on various gym equipment and the Backstreet Boys documentary you should all go watch on Netflix). You can read our thoughts on the first book here, and our slightly less glowing reaction to the second here.

From: Kath – To: Hanna – July 1st

I’m starting 3 tomorrow, and I’m traveling to Chicago this weekend so I’ll probably whip through it. I’ve always loved Book 3, because all of the back story we get about his parents and the Marauders. How’s it going so far?  

From: Hanna – To: Kath – July 2nd

I have about 30 pages left in Book 3 – completely unintentional; I just whipped right through it!  I’ve always thought of this as the book that everyone but me seemed to adore – I always liked it but never loved it.  Well, I’m LOVING it now!  JK’s reversal of Sirius as villain to Sirius as good guy is a real “growing up” point for the series, I think – and maybe even foreshadows what we finally learn about Snape.  

From: Kath To: Hanna – July 6

I’m sure you’re already well into 4. I feel like a slacker, because I’m only halfway through 3 – but I love Lupin so much in this book. I’m not even sure if I can articulate why/I understood it as a kid, but something about his rumpled competence is really charming me.

David Thewlis as Lupin

 From: Kath – To: Hanna – July 7th 

I didn’t really remember the story of Sirius being at the Potter‘s house when Hagrid went to get baby-Harry. It’s so heartbreaking to read when you know that Sirius isn’t evil. Also – they must have been like our age-ish right? Or even younger? I was picturing the scene of him showing up shattered while reading at work and I may have teared up a bit. Definitely not something I would have dwelled on as a kid (especially because at this point in my first reading I still thought Sirius was evil) but damn…

From: Kath – To: Hanna – July 10th 

Final Thoughts : 

– I still love it. I’m just a sucker for world building and all the back story stuff about his parents just totally gets me. 
– I also stand by my distaste for Snape. I know I’m supposed to see him as a tragic figure, but the way that he treats Harry because of his resentment towards James is creepy and gross. 
From: Hanna – To: Kath – July 13th 
Sorry for being MIA!  I’ve been procrastinating on work and promised myself that I wouldn’t do anything HP-related until I had a day of at least semi-productivity.  Mission accomplished (finally).
In any case, I don’t have much to add to your comments.  I too adore Lupin – much more so than Sirius, in fact.  Not that I dislike Sirius (how could anyone, really?), but I always wished he were a bit more interesting or something.  Maybe that’s why I was never as much of a fan of HP3 as everyone else seemed to be – though, like I mentioned earlier, I was more or less converted this time around. 
I disagree on Snape, though I understand your perspective.  There is certainly a creepy element, but I prefer to interpret at least some of his behavior as an effort to maintain his false pretense.  Tangentially, I love that JK Rowling shared Snape’s true back story with Alan Rickman only, way before Book 7 was released.  
I’ve read just the first chapter of Book 4 and can’t wait to continue on.  It’s always been my favorite, and it’s the only one of the seven that I’ve read more than a couple of times.  I am not, however, looking forward to lugging this one around.  I had forgotten what a leap in length JK took between Books 3 and 4!  
From: Kath – To: Hanna – July 13th 

No worries! I was just afraid that you were zipping ahead of me. 

I get what you’re saying re: Snape, but at this point Voldemort wasn’t back yet so I don’t see the reason for his pretense in the first 3 books. And why would that make him so mean to Neville/Hermione/etc? I have a lot of feelings about this clearly. Though I also love the anecdote about JK and Alan Rickman. (Rickman almost made me like Snape in the movies, almost.) 

I mean he’s a badass, I can’t deny that

I picked up a copy of 4 at the UT library today, and it is so heavy. I’m looking forward to reading it, but I think that I’ve always had the relationship with it that you had with 3. I like it, but everyone else seems to adore it more than I do.
Note: Sorry dear Snape loving friends. Please don’t hate me/start a Facebook fight over this OK?

Five Star Book: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

 I almost feel strange saying that I loved this book, because the whole time I’ve been reading it I’ve told any one that will listen that it’s “the saddest book ever.” But, I’ve also only been reading it since yesterday, and just sped through the last 100 pages while allowing rice to burn on my stove, so I guess I can say that I, at the very least, found it compelling. (I was also ugly crying through a lot of those pages too though, I stand by my earlier assessment.)

The book opens:

“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know that yet.”

So it’s not like it’s hard to tell that it’s going to pull at your heartstrings, but the myriad of ways that Celeste Ng managed to (to paraphrase a favorite line of my brother’s about a very different story) “stab me the heart repeatedly and then hand me a band-aid” was truly remarkable. The broad outlines of the plot – the teenage daughter of an Asian-American professor and his white wife, disappears from their sleepy Ohio home one night in 1977 and ends up dead – could have been the start of a boiler plate mystery. But there aren’t any easy answers here, and instead of a who-done-it, we get a real portrait of a family grappling with trying to figure out not only what happened, but why and how they are meant to move forward.

In many ways, it’s a devastating read. (And I mean that, Ng manages to make the image of a drop of water falling onto someone’s arm into something that had me gasping out loud.) But it’s also enthralling and full of empathy for every character involved, even when they all too often fail to have enough for each other. Go in warned, it’s tough, but ultimately I think it’s worth the read.

Kath and Hanna Reread Harry Potter…and the Chamber of Secrets

photo (85) Quick Recap: My friend Hanna and I are rereading the Harry Potter series this summer, and I’m sharing our running commentary with all of you. (With edits for clarity and to remove digressions into aspects of our lives that have nothing to do with Hogwarts.)

From Kathryn – To: Hanna – June 17 

OK, I finally have my copy of HP2. What part are you at? 

From Hanna – To: Kathryn – June 17 

I’m about halfway, but I probably won’t read more until Friday. This was always my third-least favorite (lol), and I like it much better this time!

From Kathryn – To: Hanna – June 18

There’s a lot more recapping at the beginning of this book than was really necessary.

From: Hanna – to Kathryn – June 18

Yes! That was my dominant thought. It reminded me of all of the Babysitters’ Club books, where they spent the first ten pages reminding you that Claudia was the artsy one and Mary Anne had a dreamy dreamy boyfriend. I’m glad that JK stopped doing that after book 2. 

Shout out to my first book series obsession!

Also, Bill Weasley is totally an I-banker! Head Boy and then Gringotts = HBS and Goldman. 
From: Kathryn – To: Hanna – June 20
At least she has Harry explain the rules of Quiddich to Colin Creevey (excellently named btw) instead of just having another paragraph of repeat exposition. 

I just finished The Death Day Party – and I have two thoughts: 
1. Is it ever explained how some people become ghosts and some don’t? I think as a kid I just as accepted this as fact, but at this point I’m genuinely confused. But it’s completely possible I’m forgetting something. 
2. The introduction of the Chamber is as creepy now as it was 12ish years ago when I was reading this. I agree that it is far from my favorite in the series, but I think the Chamber is up there with the Death Eaters descending at the World Cup for nightmare inducing moments. 

Seriously, how did I sleep at all after reading this as a child?

[Then we talked a bit about non-HP things, because we have lives, I promise.] 
From: Kath – To: Hanna – June 30 
I finished last weekend. I feel like my thoughts are pretty simple, 

1. This seems way weaker writing wise overall (the recapping, the obvious foreshadowing), but
2. It’s still really creeps me out. The diary/Tom Riddle/The dead cat and blood writing. Not OK. 
3. I’m excited to move on to Book 3 where she starts to really build the story that goes throughout the rest of the series. (Did she know by this point that she had a 7 book deal? If not is that why this one feels so separate from the bigger narrative?) 
From: Hanna – To: Kath – July 1st 
(1) So so creepy. Much scarier than I remembered – or was I just braver at age 11? I made the mistake of starting the Chamber sequence just before bed, and let’s just say that my dreams were not pretty that night. 
(2) I very much like JK Rowling’s take on sidekicks. Ron and Hermione could very easily be flat, toss-away foils for Harry – and I think that they kind of are in Book 1 – but starting with Book 2, I found them at least as engaging and surprising as Harry.
(3) Mrs. Norris encapsulates why I’m a dog person. 

For real though…

(4) I agree that the writing was much weaker than Book 1, but I still enjoyed this one more than I did the first time around. 
(5) I’ve been trying to read HP in public as much as possible, hoping that someone will notice and come up to me and start a happy discussion about probably the best books ever. Alas, this has not yet occurred. 
I’m already into Book 3 – how about you? 
And the answer to that, is not yet, because my professor keeps expecting me to have done the reading for her class instead of Harry Potter. So demanding. But, I’m starting it tonight!