Faith Can Move Mountains... But Dynamite Works Better

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Need For Speed

Director Ron Howard returns to theatres with Rush, a new movie centered on the 1976 season of Formula One auto racing and the rivalry of two of the best drivers: James Hunt and Niki Lauda. It's an unlikely movie for me to like... because I've never really seen the point to auto racing (I really, really don't understand the obsession with NASCAR in particular, but that might be a cultural thing). Still, one doesn't have to appreciate the sport to appreciate the movie. What we really have here, beyond the sport of auto racing, is a character study, a tale of two men who are very different, and yet strive to be the best at what they do. And grounding the story in that character study makes the film succeed.

Hunt is played here by Chris Hemsworth (Thor, The Avengers). He's brash, cocky, a womanizer, the life of the party. He loves the thrill of the race, lives large and loves fast. His rival, Lauda, is played by the German actor Daniel Bruhl, whose previous works for American audiences include Inglourious Basterds (never saw it, thanks to my disdain for Quentin Tarentino), plus a walk on in The Bourne Ultimatum. Lauda is much more introverted and calculating, a serious minded racer with an engineer's mindset and a cold, withdrawn personality. The two men are very different from each other, aside from their considerable skills as drivers. That strong rivalry exists between them, and we see that play itself out, but neither man is the antagonist of the film. The story doesn't pit one firmly in our favour and the other against. It instead examines their personalities, showing us the sort of people who'd want to enter a profession with such a dangerous (and well deserved, at that) reputation. Indeed, some of what happens through the course of the film is decidedly traumatic, to say the least (you might want to close your eyes once or twice). We also meet the women in their lives; Hunt briefly marries Suzy (Olivia Wilde), while Lauda ends up getting involved with a socialite, Marlene, played by Alexandra Maria Lara. 

Writer Peter Morgan gives us the screenplay, and he's worked with Howard before, on the character drama Frost/ Nixon. His other work includes The Queen, The Other Boleyn Girl, and The Last King Of Scotland, so as a screenwriter, he has an innate understanding of character. Morgan gives us a story that shows us this side of the world, the sort of person who's drawn to a sport where a single small mistake can be catastrophic. His story makes the audience think about that central question: who'd want to be in a sport this dangerous? Is a championship worth one's life?

From a production point of view, the film sets us directly in the world of racing, and the time itself; it's very much the Seventies. The cinematography by Anthony Mantle sets us squarely into the races and lets us keep track of what's happening in a way that perhaps isn't so easily done in auto racing live. Attention to detail has been paid in every way you might expect, and we feel like we're right there. At the same time, Howard and Mantle pay as much detail, along with the crew, to sequences away from the track, as it should be. The film is accompanied by frequent Howard collaborator Hans Zimmer's rock-infused score, as bombastic as you might come to expect from him.

The casting is ideal, and let's start with the supporting roles. Alexandra Maria Lara is a Romanian actress whose work has mostly been in Europe (I hadn't seen her before in anything), but her resume is impressive, and she gives us an interesting take on the wife of a racer here. I'd like to see more of her. Olivia Wilde, an actress whose work I like and who takes on roles that interest her and never seem quite the same, embodies the excess of the era in the flamboyant Suzy. I last saw her in a character drama called Deadfall, where she and most of the rest of a cast that included Eric Bana, Kris Kristofferson, Sissy Spacek, Kate Mara, and Treat Williams completely outdid the talent lacking Charlie Hunnam in the acting department (this does not bode well for the future star of that 50 Shades adaptation). This role is a switch for her, but then she is a chameleon in her film choices anyway. Pierfrancesco Favino, who last appeared for Howard in Angels & Demons, turns up here as a racer, and character actor David Calder does a turn as well. Both are familiar faces, and both are very welcome.

It is ultimately the casting of the two leads that forms the core of the film. Hemsworth is ideally cast as the brash and handsome Hunt, the daring racer who strives to win, who's willing to play the game, and who lets his ego take the driver's seat from time to time. At a moment when he must confront the consequences of disaster- when we see him confronting the prospect of mortality, it makes his performance all the more compelling. We get to know what makes this man tick through Hemsworth's take on him. And Bruhl is well cast too. He conveys the calculating, insular nature of Lauda, the intensely serious man well, and his performance gets us into his head. The two actors bring across that rivalry very well, that obsessive need for speed, and they make the audience understand a mentality of people we might otherwise assume belong in an asylum for pursuing such a line of work.

Ron Howard has become known for blockbuster films, of course. Had he remained an actor, he would have been cursed by typecasting for the rest of his career. Instead he became a director, and as such, he became an interesting storyteller. He's delved into the blockbuster side of things throughout his career, the grand scale with films like Apollo 13, Backdraft, The Da Vinci Code, and Angels & Demons. Yet all of those were based in character, as was the aforementioned Frost/ Nixon, and I was reminded of another film in his past: Cinderella Man. Boxing is another sport I could care less about, but he told a story in that film that drew in the audience and made us care. He accomplishes the same here, giving us a terrific racing film regardless of what we think of the sport. And since it's so steeped in character as its basis, it becomes a movie that is both blockbuster material and art house film. It gives us two compelling, human leads, keeps us in suspense, and draws us right into the time and place. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Bloodied Paparazzi On The Giant Screen

Before we get into things today, some links to see to. Norma's been busy over in her blog reviewing new and returning shows. Check out her reviews for the return of The Big Bang Theory and for the series premiere of Agents Of SHIELD. And check our joint blog for our second Last Kiss image blog. As well, over at my photoblog, I've started up a series of posts featuring last weekend's Nuit Blanche festivities here. Just click on the photokitty to the right.

Full disclosure for the following... I'm a great fan of the IMAX genre, though I somehow doubt the two fake films I list in here will ever get made. Check out Everest, The Alps, or Kilimanjaro (it's the rock climber in me recommending those, and they're not for those of you who have issues with heights). I knew one of the founders of the company before his death several years ago; he and his wife were friends of my parents, and aunt and uncle. He looked like a hippie, but he was a technical genius. An amazing man.

Metallica, on the other hand, well, let's just say I'm not a fan. So when I heard they were releasing a concert film, how could I resist?

Metallica Film Opens; Band Annoyed By Irritating Questions

Kevin Connors and Alec Gutherie
Staff Reporters/ Jaded and Bitter Scribes

Los Angeles/ Calgary (CP) Heavy metal rock gods Metallica were in attendance last night in Los Angeles at the premiere of their new hybrid concert film Metallica: Through The Never. James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, and Robert Trujillo, comprising the current incarnation of the band, had their biggest smiles pasted on at the premiere, with cheering crowds roaring their approval as the band walked the red carpet into the IMAX theatre for the showing.

Executives from the IMAX Corporation, known for documentaries featuring stunning cinematography from far off places mixed with musical scores based on 60s and 70s rock music, were also in attendance, reassuring the public that the movie will not be showing in the science museums and typical facilities for the documentaries, but in mainstream theatres that have added on giant screens. “No worries, you’ll still be able to see breathtaking documentaries like the upcoming Search For Jimmy Hoffa and Life In A Siberian Gulag,” IMAX director of communications Alison Graves promised reporters on the scene. “We learned our lesson from that Rolling Stones movie debacle.”

The members of the band stopped to take some questions from gathered reporters, many of whom asked about the unique concert-narrative hybrid nature of the film, or the experience of seeing themselves on the giant screen. “Oh, it’s weird,” Hetfield admitted. “When you’re seeing your face and it’s three stories tall, you can really make out the scar damage from that bottle that once hit you on the forehead.”

A question seemed to come out of the proverbial left field, asked by a correspondent from across the Atlantic. “Lars! Lars! Gunther Gustav, TMZ Europe,” he identified himself to the drummer.

“I’m sorry, you’ll have to speak up,” Ulrich told him. “I’m really kind of deaf after thirty years in a metal band.”

Gustav called out his question as loudly as he could. “What do you think about the new British Secretary of State Beaker’s nearly starting a war with Luxembourg?”

Ulrich looked confused. “What are you talking about?”

“Well, you are the ranking Mountie expert on Muppets, what with your taking down that Muppet supervillain Mr. Johnson, and since Beaker’s a Muppet too...”

Ulrich looked around at his bandmates. “What has this guy been smoking?”

“I don’t know, but I’d like to try some of it,” Trujillo responded.

“Look,” Ulrich said, rolling his eyes in dismay. “You’ve got me mistaken with someone else. I’m not a Mountie... I’m not a cop. I mean, with the amount of drugs in my system down through the years, I’d never pass the screening tests to get into a police academy in the first place. So I’m not who you think I am. I’m the drummer for Metallica. You know, the reason we’re all here tonight?”

Gustav seemed puzzled. “Are you sure?”


Word among the press has it that the Other Lars Ulrich was reached for comment. Reporters found RCMP Inspector Lars Ulrich at his detachment in Alberta that very evening. When he was found, he was fighting the town drunk, who used to be the mayor. Once he had knocked out the drunkard, he saw the oncoming crowd of reporters, and rolled his eyes.

“Look, I don’t care about whatever you’ve come to say, so get lost before I turn this into The Most Dangerous Game. And if you don’t get that reference, look it up. Read the book.”

“Inspector,” a reporter with the Globe and Mail began. “We’d like your comment, given your expertise in dealing with Muppets, to the situation between Britain and Luxembourg, in regards to Secretary Beaker’s slipup that drove up tensions between the two countries.”

Inspector Ulrich sighed and rolled his eyes. “Don’t you think I have other things to do? At least you didn’t ask me about heavy metal.”

“Of course not, sir,” the reporter replied. “I know you’re not that Lars Ulrich.”

Another reporter spoke up. “Wait a minute, I came all this way to ask you about heavy metal. Rick Richards, Lars, I’m with Hollywood Nightly.” Richards seemed oblivious to the venomous look in the Inspector’s eyes. “Tell us, why aren’t you at the big premiere tonight with the rest of the band? The Metallica IMAX film? Is there a serious rift in Metallica? And if so, tell us why. Inquiring minds want to know, Lars.”

The real reporters on the scene backed off, giving the Inspector a wide berth. Richards, as expected, seemed clueless.  Inspector Ulrich stepped closer. “I’ve got just two things to say to you.”

“Yes?” Richards asked with anticipation. “I’d really like a big exclusive.”

Inspector Ulrich sneered, closing his hands into fists. The real reporters took another step back. “The first thing is this. I am not that Lars Ulrich, you brain damaged jackass.”

Richards seemed confused. “Oh, come on, stop playing jokes, Lars...”

“And second... run.

“Run? Run from what?”

Two seconds later, Richards was running for his life, screaming like a little girl, with the Inspector hot at his heels, chasing him in the direction of Dead Man’s Canyon. The town drunkard seemed to wake up, seeing all of the reporters nearby. “Oh, my head... I’m gonna be hung over in the morning. Say, any of you happen to have handcuff keys? Or vote in this township? I’m planning on running for mayor again next year, and I could use your...” He then proceeded to throw up. “Um, maybe you should forget you saw that.”

The reporters began busily writing on notepads and texting details to their offices. In the opinion of this reporter, the former mayor has a drinking problem. And this reporter is also wondering what might happen if the two Lars Ulrichs ever meet....

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Character In Search Of A Story

Two items of outstanding business to see to first things off. At her blog, Norma did a review of the first episode of the new series Blacklist. Head on over and check it out. Over at our joint blog, check out the first of two blogs featuring the Last Kiss comic strip, in a blog we're calling This Didn't Happen In John Ford Westerns. Get on over there and comment.

This is something I wrote awhile back. I still don't know where it'll end up going. It might be something suited for the joint writing that Norma and I do. The character names might change. Anyway, it's a moment between two people fraught with tension. Have a look at it....

“Jack? You have a visitor.”
He glanced up from the file he was reading, the rap sheet for another fugitive, at the clerk standing nearby. She seemed nervous, unusual for her. Looking beyond her, he saw the reason why. He hadn’t seen her in over a year. There was a gloom in her features, a deep sadness. There was so much of Evelyn in her, but that was to be expected. The woman was, after all, her mother. He sighed, an anxious feeling starting to well up inside, the old pain that never really left.
“Is the conference room open?” he asked.
“It is,” the clerk confirmed.
“I’ll be along in a moment.”
The clerk moved off, joining his visitor, directing her to the conference room. Jack tried not to watch them go, handed the file over to another marshal, and steeled himself for whatever awaited him. He had never expected to see Elizabeth Collins again.

He walked into the room, closing the door behind him. She turned, facing him. The sadness was even more apparent up close, especially in her eyes. No parent should bury a child. He didn’t know what to say, still remembered the last time he had seen her, the anger from her and her husband, directed at him... unfairly, he had always thought. And he felt his own resentment surfacing, the memories of being denied a chance to say goodbye.
“Mrs. Collins,” he started. “I... wasn’t expecting you.”
“I didn’t... know if I... what I’d say,” she told him, her voice faltering.
There was a long pause between them, tension filling the air. “How are you?” he asked, chiding himself for the politeness, as forced as it was. Through no fault of my own... they kept Evelyn away from me. Why not just scream at her? Say what I’ve wanted to say? Why not be angry for losing the chance to be there?
“I... Mr. Scofield... Jack.” She shook her head. “I needed to say some things.”
He crossed his arms, stepped back against the wall. Oh, hell... “Go ahead.”
Elizabeth took a seat at the table, clasping her hands together, staring at them, as if summoning up the words. “Charles died three months ago, Jack. He never... Evelyn’s death just... it took away his will to live.” He was silent, torn between being sympathetic and the resentment he felt. “I’ve had to do a lot of thinking in the past year, and since Charles...” She shook her head. “We treated you horribly.” Elizabeth stared up at him. “Horribly, Jack,” she repeated for emphasis. She paused again. “You weren’t the cause of what happened. It was an accident... caused by someone else.” Elizabeth sighed. “But we blamed you anyway. We couldn’t accept you... couldn’t accept how Evelyn felt for you. And what we did to you... is unforgiveable.”
Jack stared at her for a long time. Yes it is. He remembered the restraining order, forbidding him from being at the hospital, followed by another, barring him from the funeral. He remembered the sneering attorney, the contemptuous expression in his tone. The police captain, a friend, had been apologetic, had shared his own anger about the turn of events. Jack remembered his anger, making the accusation that a judge had been bought off. It had bought him a contempt of court charge and a stay in a jail cell for a night. He had been coming apart at the seams, losing the love of his life... and to be torn away from her, to not even have the chance to say goodbye... “Why are you here?” he asked, his voice throbbing.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m so sorry. We kept her from you, when she was in that coma. We barred you from seeing her again. We never... we never respected that you loved her too, that she loved you. We were wrong. I was wrong.”
He stared at her, saw tears flowing. “Evelyn loved both of you,” he told her after a long moment. “She tried so hard... to get you to see me for the person I am. And it hurt her deep inside, that you rejected what we meant to each other.” He shook his head. “I am trying really hard... not to yell, Mrs. Collins. Out of respect for her. She did love you both. That’s why I’m trying...” He sighed, held back, felt the wave of resentment, the pain. “But if you came here looking for forgiveness... or atonement...” Jack shook his head. “I can’t give you that.”
Elizabeth nodded. “I... didn’t expect it. I don’t expect it. I just... I had to say it.” She rose from the table, walked towards the door. “I am sorry, Jack. And I won’t bother you again.” She stepped out of the room, and he heard her walk away. The grief came flooding in from the corners where he kept it contained, overwhelming the resentment. A year on, and it was as if the wound was as fresh now as it had been that terrible night, when a careless driver had ended up shattering all that had mattered to him.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Hell With Women And Children First! Get Out Of My Way!

"You get back on board! That is an order! There is nothing else for you to consider. You have sounded the “Abandon Ship.” Now I am giving the orders. Get back on board. Is that clear? Don’t you hear me?" ~ Gregorio De Falco, Italian Coast Guard, 13th January, 2012

"I am so totally screwed." ~ personal thoughts of Captain Francesco "I Didn't Mean To Fall Into The Lifeboat" Schettino, 13th January, 2012.

Last week, salvage teams finally managed to right the wreck of the Costa Concordia off the coast of the Italian island of Giglio. I have written of this before (just click on Italy or maritime disasters in the tags below). The damage that has been done to the submerged ship after all that time in the water is painfully obvious. The ship is being prepped to withstand another winter before it can be moved away to be dismantled.

Captain Francesco "Please Stop Making Fun Of My Cowardice" Schettino is currently standing trial for the events of that night, in which he courageously and selflessly (this being Opposite Day) cast himself overboard in a lifeboat long before most of the cruise liner's crew and passengers even got off, and then got his manhood ripped apart by a very annoyed Coast Guard officer (I'd still like to buy De Falco a beer.) Rumour has it Schettino asked to go aboard and get his wallet.

Thirty two people died that night. And Costa and its parent company Carnival Cruises have done everything possible to shield themselves and deflect blame.

At the time of the disaster, editorial cartoonists employed the story in various ways in their work. Last week, a couple of Canadian artists did the same in papers here, in regards to the incompetent alcoholic rage machine Mayor Rob Ford and to our nefarious Senate, which has been having problems of its own in the last few months...

I'm sure the people of Giglio would love to see this entire chapter put behind them once and for all, to be rid of that ship entirely. I'm sure Francesco "I Was Not Distracted That Night" Schettino wishes he had been doing anything else that night instead of entertaining a lady friend, showing off, being reckless with a very big ship... whatever you want to call it.

Francesco, Francesco, you've gone down in history. Your face belongs in the Oxford Dictionary. Alongside the definition for incompetence or stupidity.

Maybe we can make a new word to define catastrophic screwups. 

"Hey, I totally Schettionoed my testimony in court."

"Have I mentioned how badly I Schettinoed things with the in-laws?"

"What do you mean, my tax audit got Schettinoed?"

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Day In The Life Of Severus Snape

First things first. Go on over to Norma's blog and see what kind of week she's been having. And my photo blog Ottawa Daily Photo is now up and running. I started posting on Thursday, so I've got posts already in place, and lots more in drafts. Go through that link, or photo kitty placed conveniently to the right there (isn't the kitty cute?) any other time to see what I'm up to. And by all means, put that blog on follow. I'll be quite active with it, now that I'm getting the hang of it.

Today then, I'm doing another Day In The Life, before moving onto other things, and it's one that I've had in mind for a long, long while. Strangely, this one didn't come easy to me; I had to keep writing him in character, obviously, and he's not my character (oh well, he's such a compelling character regardless, not to mention the Best Double Agent Ever). I find myself wondering what J.K. would make of what I've done here. And it seemed appropriate to be setting it before Goblet Of Fire.

Our protagonist Professor Snape isn't exactly a funny fellow, and I was going to take things in one direction (he does think about the notion in the following), but, well, it's something Severus just wouldn't do. It would dishonour the most important relationship of his life. 

One night stands with gossip rag sheet writing witches, however, we wouldn't put it past him.

8:25 AM, August Fifth. Awake in my quarters in Hogwarts. Quiet this time of year. Soon those wretched students will be coming back for their lessons in Defense Against The Dark Arts, Potions, Charms, and all of the rest. Apparently this year Mad Eye Moody will be teaching Defense Against The Dark Arts. I wonder why Dumbledore keeps refusing to allow me to teach that one.

8:40 AM. Breakfast in the Great Hall. Much quieter without students. Much more suitable if you ask me. Professor Flitwick is going on and on about the Quidditch Cup or something. Not really paying attention, but then again, I do have quite a poker face, and most people can’t tell when I’m ignoring them. 

9:10 AM. Having a word with Professor Trelawney. As always, she’s as cryptic as one might expect. Sybill says something about a cranky Mountie taking on a life of his own and attacking entertainment reporters. I wonder if we can get this Mountie Muggle to go after Rita Skeeter. I’m so glad I never picked up with her where we left off after that one night stand.

9:25 AM. The Daily Prophet arrives on time as usual. Skeeter is prattling on about the manhunt for Sirius Black, who remains at large after his escape from Azkaban. I have, at Dumbledore’s request, never once mentioned that evening last term when Black was briefly in my custody. Life as a double agent can be trying at the best of times. I wonder how far away he is. The more distance, the better. Innocent or not, Sirius Black was nearly as insufferably irritating as James Potter.

9:50 AM. Having my morning Earl Grey with honey and lemon. I’ll say this for Muggles: the morning tea ritual is very welcome indeed. 

10:10 AM. Brooding. Brooding some more. It’s a thing with me. It's classic Severus Snape. And so I brood.

10:35 AM. Mr. Filch stops by to growl and complain about Moaning Myrtle and Peeves causing a ruckus in Ravenclaw Tower. Filch insists Peeves must be banished from the castle. It’s only the fourth time this week he’s insisted that. I inform him I’ll dispatch the Bloody Baron to knock some sense into the poltergeist. What is it with ghosts and this castle?

10:50 AM. Have heard back from the Bloody Baron. Peeves is apparently sulking after being yelled at. Yes, well, Peeves had it coming. Well done. Perhaps this time he might behave for more than five minutes.

11:40 AM. Passing through the portrait gallery. Stopping to look at the faculty portraits, which, of course, are always moving. There’s that completely self-absorbed twit Gilderoy Lockhart He’s not missed around these parts. Wondering why I always look so irritable in every picture that’s ever been taken of me.

1:15 PM. Conference with Professor Dumbledore. We discuss the upcoming school year, and the ongoing search for Peter Pettigrew. Dumbledore remains convinced the Dark Lord will return, and Pettigrew will no doubt take part in his resurrection. We are interrupted by the sound of Mr. Filch yelling at Peeves.

1:17 PM. We find the source of the problem. Peeves has managed to overturn every table in the Great Hall and change all of the banners to Manchester United colours. I find it peculiar that a poltergeist could manage the latter. And why would he care about Manchester United? Dumbledore yells at Peeves. This time the poltergeist actually seems to be listening.

2:05 PM. Discussions with Professor McGonagall and Madam Pomfrey. It seems Hagrid got kicked by a thestral and needs his leg reset. Poppy tells us that’ll take a few hours for the bone to regrow. As can be expected, Hagrid is complaining. I’ll bring him a bottle of butter beer later. Maybe one for myself too.

3:15 PM. Going over my schedule for the upcoming year. Have stopped at one name in particular. Cedric Diggory. I remember Professor Trelawney making a prediction last term that Diggory would die a sudden and traumatic death. Something else about sparkling vampires and being condemned to a life with a personality free cipher. I don’t know, I wasn’t paying that much attention at the time, and witches and wizards all know that vampires do not sparkle.

3:25 PM. Oh, look at that, Potter is in my Potions class. Again. On the one hand, he looks just like his father and acts just as petulant and arrogant as him. On the other hand… he has his mother’s eyes. And I’ve sworn to protect him. Lily would want that. Even if it does drive me up the wall. 

3:30 PM. Taking a break. Opening desk drawer. Taking out hidden portrait of Lily. Must keep this well hidden during school year. Can’t have Potter or his friends ferreting through my desk and finding it. Oh, Lily…

3:45 PM. Wondering what I would do if I could go back in time and stop myself from saying those terrible words that day. If I could only tell my younger Goth self, Look, it’ll be a bad day, but keep your mouth shut, or you will lose the only woman you will ever love forever. And you’ll regret it the rest of your days. Would it have worked? Or would I have ended up making things worse? Time is not something to be messed around with by witches and wizards, after all. Except for taking two classes at a time like Granger seems determined to do. 

4:10 PM. Lily stares back at me with that sad expression she always has and wanders off into the portrait. Lily, come back. Lily!

Severus, it’s just the portrait. It’s not really her, after all.

4:15 PM. Feeling thoroughly depressed. More so than usual. The few women in my life have never measured up to her. The relationships never lasted. She was the one, and I lost her to that insufferable prat James Potter. I have occasionally considered brewing polyjuice potion and having Sybill or Poppy drink it, turn one of them, or both, because that would be a lot of fun, into Lily for a few hours. At least I’d have a bit of a taste with sex with Lily… but it wouldn’t really be her. Particularly with Sybill making strange prophecies just at the most inappropriate time….

 No. I cannot do that.

5:30 PM. Stopping in at the hospital wing. Hagrid is resting, his bones mending. Poppy tells me to keep it brief before heading off. I ask Hagrid how he’s feeling. He remarks on the ill temper of thestrals, invisible or not. I caution him to be more wary around such animals in the future. Then I hand him a bottle of butter beer. He’s quite grateful. I take out the other one that I brought along. After thinking of Lily for awhile, I could use it. Fortunately these are the adult versions of the drink. We hope Poppy stays away. She frowns upon adult beverages in her hospital wing.

5:40 PM. Hagrid asks what has me feeling more bleak than usual. I tell him only that it’s about a woman. In the end, that’s the truth....

5:45 PM. Saying my goodbyes to Hagrid when we hear a racket from outside, a swirl of falling cauldrons and supplies. And Poppy’s annoyed yelling. I find her yelling at Peeves, who has overturned everything in the medical supply room, and is presently high above the floor, singing badly about a hotel in California.

I employ the Stupefy spell to shut the annoying poltergeist up. 

6:40 PM. Dinner in the Great Hall. Dining with Professor Sinistra and Professor Hooch. Rolanda goes on and on about the Quidditch Cup. I feel distracted. Thoughts of what life might have been like had things worked out with Lily…

7:10 PM. Professor Burbage and I talk about Muggles. She confirms that Hotel California is a song by a group called the Eagles. In her opinion it’s a rather tedious song. I’ve always liked Charity’s company. Perhaps I should have let go of my regrets over Lily, moved on with someone like her.

What am I saying? Lily is my motivating factor as a character. Everything I ever do is for her. To make up for how I failed her.

Wait a minute. I’m a person, not a character, right? Right?

This is getting too existential for me. 

7:15 PM. Albus and I talk about the philosophical theory of the Fourth Wall. We decide that we are not mere fictional characters, but real people in and of ourselves. Yes, hopefully that should reassure me.

7:20 PM. Albus remarks on the coming school year. I ask if I really have to teach Potter. Yes, I know about my promises and all, and I will honour those, but really, Potter and Weasley just drive me up the wall, Albus.... 

11:55 PM. Settling in for the night. It's been a long day, dealing with my regrets over the past. Lily will haunt my dreams again. And of course that irritating poltergeist kept us busy today. Perhaps Filch is right. Perhaps we should banish Peeves from the castle. 

I wonder where he came up with the Manchester United banners.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Day In The Life Of A Cubs Fan

1:45 PM. A great day in the Windy City. Cubs are playing those rotten Cardinals tonight. Our boys are gonna kick their asses, baby! Send them back to St. Louis with their tails between their legs!

2:15 PM. Take me out to the ballgame, take me out with the crowd… buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks, I don’t care if I never get back…

2:55 PM. Thinking of applying Cubs colours as warpaint to my face. Maybe not. The last time I did that, the neighbours thought I was an escaped lunatic. Apparently they’re White Sox fans, for some strange reason.

3:20 PM. Reading the paper. Looking at the standings. Oh, sure, we’re pretty far back, but we’ve got time to rebuild for next year.

4:50 PM. Meeting Tony and Jack down near Wrigley Field. The ballpark’ll be opening up soon, but there’s always time for a beer first at our favourite watering hole. Cubs fans need to be drinking to properly enjoy the game. Not like those simpering gutless Cardinals or Giants fans, who can’t hold their liquor.

5:30 PM. Tony and Jack and I talk over our fourth beer about how there’s this big conspiracy at the top of the big leagues to keep the Cubbies from winning the World Series. More than a century without a championship? There’s gotta be a reason. And it’s not incompetence from our boys!

6:40 PM. Filing into Wrigley with the rest of the loyal Cubs fans. Great mood in the crowd tonight. Sure, the season hasn’t quite gone the way we would’ve liked, but hey, that’s Chicago for you. We’ll win big next year. For tonight, it’ll be enough to see our boys kick some Cardinals ass.

6:50 PM. In our regular seats, four rows back, left field. Nice view of that stretch between third and home. Looking forward to seeing our boys put in lots of home runs tonight. Teach those Cardinals a lesson or two. Hey! Hot dog here! 

7:20 PM. National anthem. Miley Cyrus was supposed to do it tonight, but somebody figured that might not’ve been a good idea. Instead we’ve got Yoko Ono. Um, why is that a better idea?

7:25 PM. Game’s about to begin. Wrigley’s filled to capacity. Most of them are Cubs fans. Ninety five percent of us take out our Steve Bartman voodoo dolls and stab it repeatedly.

7:45 PM. First inning’s not even done. How can we already be down nine runs?

8:30 PM. Sweeney, what the hell are you swingin’ at??? I coulda hit that one! Wainwright is a bum, and you’re just givin’ away the game!!!!!

9:10 PM. Eighteen to zero. This is humiliatin’. Not even a single hit for our boys. We haven’t had anyone even on first base yet. Wainwright, I swear on the grave of Harry Caray, you are not getting a perfect game in Wrigley. Even if it means I have to charge onto the field and kick your Cards ass myself.

9:25 PM. Tony and Jack are cryin’. Cryin’! You see what you Cards are doin’? You’re makin’ grown men cry!

9:40 PM. Strike three on Barney. Are you blind? Wainwright was practically giving that last one to you, and you missed!

9:55 PM. Bill Murray shows up to sing Take Me Out To The Ballgame during the seventh inning stretch. I’m not really listening. I’m too busy wondering how the hell our boys could be down by twenty home runs.

10:15 PM. That Cards rat Carpenter just hit a grand slam. Right into the stands. Kozma, Holliday, and Freese are all sauntering around the bases, laughing their asses off. Carpenter’s grinning like a loon. The Cubs are shaking their heads in dismay.

I hate the Cardinals.

10:17 PM. Tony and Jack and I are looking around the stands. Down by twenty four runs, that walkin’ curse Steve Bartman must be here tonight. He must be the cause of it. Cost us a trip to the World Series back in 2003 by catchin’ that ball, and only someone as evil as Steve Bartman could be the reason this game is goin’ this bad. 

10:19 PM. Are you blind, ump? That was a swing, not a ball! Don’t you give Molina a ball! He struck out! Don’t you… it’s a fix. The umpires hate the Cubs. That’s gotta be the reason. 

10:40 PM. Wainwright’s surrounded by the Cards, celebrating a perfect game. The Cubs are walking off the field in disgrace. The fans are disgusted. Losing twenty nine to zero. Damned Cardinals. Damned Cubs.

That’s it. I’m done. No more rooting for those bums. I’m finished.

10:55 PM. Into the local watering hole. Mick the barkeep sees the looks on our faces. We order beers. It’s gonna take a lot of drinks to wash away the disgust of watching that game. Jack and Tony and I all agree. We’re through with those bums. Finished. We’ve gone to our last Cubs game. They’re a disgrace. To hell with them.

11:03 PM. Sportscaster on the local news, talking about the Cubs collapsing in spectacular fashion against the Cardinals. Everyone in the bar yells in disgust. Someone sets a Cubs shirt on fire. Mick comes out with the fire extinguisher. We all keep drinking. Anything to dull the pain.

11:25 PM. Someone on the news says he saw Steve Bartman leaving Wrigley Field after the game. I knew it! That little source of a curse screwed us over big time! Again! 

Doesn’t change a thing. Those Cubs have let us down for the last time. I’ve invested forty years of my life rooting for a team that never gets anywhere and just keeps breaking my heart. If I were Canadian, I’d be a fan of the Maple Leafs.

12:55 AM. Feeling quite a buzz. Must be all the booze I’ve had to drink. You know, Tony, Jack, those Cubs aren’t so bad. I mean, sure, they break our hearts, but they’re still our boys, right? There’s always next year. Yeah, next year we’ll win. Right boys?

1:15 AM. Jack and Tony agree that we’ll give the Cubs another chance. Tomorrow’s another day, and, hey, it’s not like they can have a game as bad as this one again, right? Don’t worry, Cubs, your fans still love you. 

2:20 AM. Staggering back into the house, thoroughly drunk. Glad I don’t have to be at the office tomorrow. It’d be the mother of all hangovers. Collapsing on couch.

Next year, baby. Next year, the Cubs are gonna win the World Series. Gotta believe in the home team. They can do it.

And if they don’t, let lightning strike Barry Bonds.