Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tumbling After

I roadtripped again this past weekend, back to Gander, with four fabulous friends: Jen, Laura W, Laura S, and Steph. We trekked across the island to visit Kayla. The girls haven't seen her in quite a while, and they wanted to see her new house and her new "hometown".

It was a perfectly lovely weekend, enhanced by the fact that the sun decided to make an extended appearance. We spent Saturday on a sandy beach in Eastport, tanning and numbing our feet in the Atlantic and climbing forbidden sand dunes... well, I climbed forbidden sand dunes. Everyone else looked on, lackadaisically telling me I shouldn't do it and taking incriminating pictures.

We then went to get ice cream at a Ma & Pop shop somewhere in Eastport. We were told that the ice cream was soft, but we ordered flavoured soft serve anyway. Everyone else had their orders and I, with much anticipation, awaited my grape cone. When it arrived, the woman handed it to me and it promptly fell off the cone and rolled down my entire shirt. Luckily I was wearing my Theodore Tugboat shirt, and the massive decal on the front repels stains impeccably well.

Also this past weekend, while rooting through Kayla's car for things she has stolen from me, I found my long-lost Starfield CD Tumbling After. This was quite fortunate, as I was about to spend $50 on a Starfield package which includes this CD out of desperation. Tumbling After is my favourite Starfield album, and it's their second record they released in Canada. It's not available on iTunes, because they re-recorded a lot of the songs and put on their first American album, Starfield.

I love Starfield because their songs so often reflect exactly what I'm thinking and feeling. One of my favourite songs, called "Hate the World Today", explains how even though sometimes we're angry and confused and we just want out of the life we're living, it doesn't mean we've lost hope or faith.

As much as it thrills me
I wanna get off this ride
For gravity holds me
Yet grace calls me to Your side
As much as I trust You
Though I know that hope will come with time
Injustice prevails
And truth lags behind

Looking for beauty

Searching for sense in all the pain
A note of redemption
A break in the clouds to stop the rain
Can You hear me calling?
Have You been listening to my cry?
Cause I can't carry on
If I don't find out why

I hate the world today

But I love this life you have given
I hate the world today
But I love you and I need you here


Friday, July 15, 2011

"You'll stay with me?" "Until the very end."

"Harry Potter. The Boy Who Lived. Come to die."

Last night I saw the 12:01 showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. We waited in line for close to five hours, combated sleepiness and fought for good seats, and at long last and too soon, the final installment of the Harry Potter began.

It's hard for me to express my feelings about the movie and the books and the end of the whole saga. Harry has been a part of my life for 12 years. I was among the generation of readers who started the Harry journey from the beginning, having to wait a year, sometimes two, between books. I loved everything about the Harry world and relished the hours I spent living it through Rowling's words. I dedicated close to a year of my undergraduate degree studying the stories, reading criticism, and loving the story and characters more than I did before.

I've said many times that I don't really like the movies. I feel that they stray away from quintessential elements of the story, and oftentimes are difficult to follow for people who haven't read the books. But Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 and 2 are absolutely incredible. I would never say that they are better than the books, but they are gosh darn close to being perfect.

There's so much I could say about every element of the film - the costumes, the sets, the cinematography and makeup, the special effects and dialogue, the music. Everything worked in perfect synchronicity. I've always loved Professor McGonagall and she is just a powerhouse in this movie. The screenplay is well-written, sad, powerful, touching, and triumphant. It's really a masterpiece. I laughed. I sobbed. I mourned and I rejoiced. It was a bittersweet and satisfactory ending.

More than the movie, though, what I loved about seeing The Deathly Hallows last night was the camaraderie that only comes from a shared passion. Hundreds and hundreds of people waited in lines for upwards of 10 hours to see the movie. Everyone was dressed in Hogwarts colours; ties and scarfs, robes, wands, sorting hats and Bellatrix wigs. There were youngsters who should've been in bed long ago and women in their 50s sporting shirts in support of Snape. When we filed into the theatre everyone rushed for a seat, but strangers helped strangers find two seats together, moving rows down and shuffling people about. The understanding that we were all here to experience this together hung around the shoulders of a room like a heavy cloak. We cheered uproariously, applauded as a unit, and laughed together. As the film came to it's close, we shared tears as a collective. We cried not only for the loved characters who were lost, but also for the end of an era; the concluding paragraph of Harry's - and our - story.

Harry Potter is more than just a book. It's a community of people who have loved this magical world in unique ways, but just as much I have. It's about a shared experience that goes beyond printed text on a page. That is temporary. To have loved Harry and the goodness, loyalty, friendship, and above all, love that he represents has been a privilege, and has imprinted itself on hearts across the world.

"You'll stay with me?" [asked Harry]
"Until the very end."


Wednesday, July 13, 2011


I read Veronica Roth's book Divergent last week and I've been wanting to post about it, mostly because I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it. Divergent is the first in a trilogy, of which books 2 & 3 are yet to be released.

Quick plot summary:
Like all good young adult novels, Divergent is set in a dystopian Chicago where the city has been divided into five factions of people: Amity (the kind and peaceful), Candor (the honest), Erudite (the intelligent), Abnegation (the selfless), and Dauntless (the brave). Each child is raised in the faction of their parents, learning the rules and art of being kind or brave or selfless. At the age of 16, each young adult may choose whichever faction suits their inherent personality; if they choose to leave their parents' faction, they are divorced from their family forever.

Beatrice Prior has been raised in Abnegation her whole life, yet she finds the absolute selflessness of the faction impossible and frustrating, so, with difficulty, she chooses to leave and join the fearless Dauntless. The training camp is hard, physically and emotionally, and Beatrice, or "Tris", learns that there is something wrong with her - she is "Divergent." She has never heard the word before, yet she knows it is a terrible, terrible trait to have. However, her flaw empowers her to see that the factions are breaking down, and she must stop the city from destroying itself.

As I was writing that summary, I thought: Yeah, this plot sounds so great! Who doesn't love dystopian societies and war and the story of an underdog rising to the top? And the story is good. It's an enjoyable read, the characters are likable and intriguing, and the impossibility of the choices that they must make is a great starting point for conflict.

But I still didn't love it. And I think it's because the whole premise feels stolen from other books. I was only two chapters in and I felt like I was reading The Giver by Lois Lowry, and as soon as Beatrice chooses to join the Dauntless faction, I felt like I was reading The Hunger Games. I really like both of those books, so I enjoyed Divergent; but it wasn't mind-blowing, and I didn't feel like Roth did anything new. I also felt that the writing left something to be desired. She's a solid storyteller, but there were many moments when I thought "wow, if you had just gone back and edited that sentence even a little bit, it would've been less bulky and cumbersome, and so much more beautiful."

It should be noted that Veronica Roth is only currently 22 years old. Divergent was released in May 2011, which means she was only 20 or 21 when she was writing and editing it. For someone fresh out of an undergraduate degree to publish a quality YA novel, it is quite impressive. And also makes me feel underaccomplished. But I think it's obvious that the problems I have with the book stem from her youth and inexperience writing. It is true that she's a good writer, but I don't think she's great. Maybe that will come in time.

In sum: I liked Divergent. I would recommend you read it if you like YA dystopian lit. It's at a comfortable reading level and the story reels you in. But don't expect Suzanne Collins quality, because Roth isn't quite there yet.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Wandering Jill

I love traveling. I love airports and long car rides and not feeling guilty about eating ice cream at 10am or spending $5 on a pack of gum because - hey! - I'm traveling. I love being somewhere different and the unparalleled energy that comes from just being in a new place.

For a long time I thought that "traveling" meant I had to go somewhere completely foreign, where they don't speak English and the bread of choice is in funny shapes and unfamiliar colours. Over the past year, though, I've come to appreciate even the smallest distance traveled. Just the act of getting there, being with people both familiar and infrequent, is enjoyable. Stepping outside of my daily norm, even for a few days, is enough for a recharge.

Over the Canada Day weekend, I drove to Gander to spend a few days with Kayla and Gavin. Naturally, Kayla decided to host a Canada Day barbeque and there was food, people, and good times aplenty (Mama Gail has trained us well). It's strange, when I really think about it, that Kayla and I are living completely different lives right now. It wasn't so weird to me when I was in Vancouver, because I, too, was experiencing a new home and new friends. But now that I'm back in Newfoundland, it's hard not to miss her, and wish we were living in the same city. So it was really, really great to spend some time with Kayla and Gavin's friends and get a taste of their Gander life. Their friends are good people; they are fun and kind and friendly, and I had a fantastic time getting to know them. It was also great to spend time with "Sister Meghan," Gavin's sister. The best thing about marriage, I think, is the fact that your family grows instantly, so I have a pre-grown sister and brother just slip into my life. It's great!

This past weekend I went to Halifax for the wedding of Kat and Phil Howell, my friends from MUN, and, more importantly, half of the foursome that trekked across Europe with me in June 2008. Two other Harlow-ers, Zaren and Krysta, and I spent a few days in Halifax before the wedding, just making a round trip of it all. We walked around downtown Halifax, stayed in an un-air conditioned hostel with some Germans and Australians, and I had a fantastic tour of the Halifax Citadel fort (I did that alone, because tours given in full period dress are too awesome for some people). The wedding was a good time: the speeches were lovely, the food was good, and dancing was enjoyed by all, even a stuffed horse. Sleeping was not mandatory, and thus I did little of it.

Now I am suffering the consequences of lots of socialization and hardly any sleep; my bank account weeps; and my laundry pile is just unruly. But this hasn't suppressed my need to get up and go, to hastily pack a suitcase and forget important things like a cell charger and toothpaste, and find an adventure.

So: Where to next?