Friday, November 11, 2011

Harry Potter is a Wuss

Yep. You read correctly. Harry Potter is a wuss. And if he's the baddest-ass wizard (he beat Voldemort for the title of Champ 6-1 (7 books total, with wins for Harry at the end of all of them, but I count the death of Dumbledore in the 6th book a victory for the V-man); I wonder if Harry gets a big, gold belt) of his universe, what does that say for all of the other Rowling characters?

Think about it. They don't really do much with their magic. Only, they do everything with it. Does that make sense? Look, they can't even clean their own houses or cook their own food. Everything is done either by magic or by magical servants. And yet, what have they truly accomplished? End world hunger? Help the peace process? Make it safer for old ladies to cross the street? Nope. Nothing.

On that same note, though, they do have some pretty good spells. But that's what makes Potter a wuss. Take the "forbidden curses" thing. They could kill someone with a word and a motion. Or the torture one. Etcetera. Pretty powerful stuff, and I can see why they're forbidden. But is that the only way to kill/hurt people in their world? What's to keep an enterprising young auror from simply ending a death eater with a bolt of lightning? Or a fire ball? Or by throwing a small pebble through his brain pan? Not a single forbidden spell was used, but the job got done, right? Wouldn't that same tactic have worked for Harry? If he was such a bad-ass, why didn't he think of that? It would have ended his trouble a lot sooner (like three books sooner) if he had done something like that to Voldemort. At the end of book four, when Harry gets pulled to where Voldemort is, wouldn't it have just made the assembled death eaters s**t themselves purple if Harry had just blasted V-man to the outer rims, grabbed Cedric, and gtho? Cedric would have lived, the death eaters would have been all "Woah, that guy is hard core" and ran home to change their knickers, and the rest of the world would have thought twice about Ol' Harry Whatsitz. The end.

Also, why don't the wizards in Rowling's universe take muggles more seriously? I mean, C'mon. It's another reason why Harry Potter is a wuss. Even if he did use the forbidden curses of bad-assitude, there's no way that he could take on a muggle of similar life experience. Let's pull this away from the celebrity. Let's use people of similar profession. A Harry Potter Auror, versus an American Soldier (I know the Aurors were all British, it's just I know more about American Soldiers than I do about British). The wizard, let's give him the ability to use the naughty curses, pulls out his wand and yells, "Avada..." and that's all he can say, because the Soldier has used the time to raise his weapon and shoot the wizard in the face. Oh, but what if the Soldier didn't have a gun and the wizard didn't have his wand handy? Okay, let's say the wand and the gun are lying equidistant from the hypothetical combatants. Gotcha. The wizard holds out his hand and says, "AcioAHHHH! *glurk*" as the Soldier uses his training to realize it's a losing fight to go for the gun right away, takes the wizard's proffered appendage, breaks it while doing a hip throw, and smashes a fist into the Auror's windpipe. As the Auror writhes on the ground, choking, the Soldier gets his gun, decides the wizard was still a threat ("Yes, Your Honor, I believed he was still a threat. When it has been shown that one of his abilities can kill with a word, an operator can't take any chances with that word being the last the operator will hear, Sir.") and puts a round in the wizard's dome. But what if it's straight hand to ha... oh, nevermind. That's a dumb question. The Soldier wins. Ah. But what if it's a squad of Aurors versus a squad of Soldiers? Well, when the squad gunner opens up with the SAW, and the designated marksman puts a round through the Auror Squad Leader's eye, and the grenadier puts a 40 mm in their midst for good measure, all before the Aurors can even draw their wands, well, it's a moot point.

Can you imagine what a real shooting war between wizards and muggles would be like? It would be bad. For the wizards. Not so much for the muggles. Let's go conventional warfare to start off, line against line, like in the last book. All the wizards would be all, "Stay together, now. Ready your spells." While the Soldiers would just be about the grim business of death, which, by the way, IS IN THEIR JOB DESCRIPTION. The machine guns would open up first, and wizards would start dropping like flies ("NO! NOT RON! YOU ANIMALS!" screams a distraught Harry, tears pouring down his face and fogging his spectacles.) At first the wizards would be confused, but then someone, probably Hermione, and not El Wusso Supremo Potter, would gain some modicum of control. "Stay together!" she would yell, bringing a heart-wrenching rally of wizards to her. "TO ME!" she says, waiving a Gryphondore flag. And then the mortars would start falling. Did I mention that clumping up on a modern battle field is a bad, and dumb, idea? Scenes like that would play out across the world, with Soldiers dishing out their particular brand of gumbo to any and all wizards. SOF teams would rappel from helicopters into the ministry of magic, taking out the wizards' political heads probably before hostilities even kicked off on the battle field. Percy Weasley would cave at the first sign of interrogation (dang it, we don't even get to water-board him), and spill where all of the hold outs are hiding. Now, not every wizard will die in the initial fighting. They can teleport, which would come in handy to get them out of the initial kill zone. But as fighter-bombers light up their hidey holes, things will only go down hill. Eventually, all of the wizards left will be holed up in Hogwarts. The power will be out and it will be cold. Most of the building has been bombed away, so all of the survivors are in the one little part of the school that is still protected. They huddle around a small fire, pitiful moans filling the night. Someone has manged to steal a car battery and hook a muggle radio (an ancient Werlitzer that had been in the Muggle Studies classroom until it was needed now) to it. They figured they could use it to listen in on muggle broadcasts. It's fuzzy, but it works. They hear one of the muggle talking heads describing how a class of people that can kill, torture, or enslave with a word is just bad for the populace as a whole. They hear how a momentous, and sad, decision has just been made by multiple heads of state, recently gathered to discuss the issue. The last thing they hear is "May God have mercy on our souls," before the battery dies and the radio goes silent. "Harry," says Ginny. "You grew up with muggles. What's a nuclear bo...?" and that's all she would say, for the wizarding world would end with a flash of blinding, white light and a mushroom cloud.

Okay, so not fair. But what if we compared Harry Potter to another universe's wizard? Would he still be so wussy? Well, for the sake of argument, let's go Harry versus Harry. Harry Potter against my main man, Harry Dresden. Knock-down, drag-out, no-holds-barred, street fight. Any friends, weapons, and spells are legal, that the characters would have access to. The answer? No contest. Harry Dresden by a landslide. It would come down to the fatal weakness of Rawling's wizards when it comes to firearms. Dresden uses guns. Effectively. He has friends, with guns. Okay, let's say magic only, right? Dresden still wins. That whole thing I was saying about just throwing fire or lightning with lethality, Dresden does that. Potter points his wand, Dresden points his staff (much cooler foci, by the way). Potter says "Avada...," and then no more, because Dresden has already incinerated him. The end.

So, we see, in all possible situations but the one in which he was written, Potter comes out on the bottom. Which is probably where he would be if he ever got sent to prison. Because he is a wuss.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Piano Scorpian

Wow. It's been more than a year since I've posted. Anyways, let's jump into it.

Many may not know, but I aspire to be a writer. I've been told that I have a bit of talent at it, too. The following is story I wrote. Like most of what I have written, it is a work in progress, so, like most of my work, I appreciate any comments. I know it'll still have minor grammatical errors, we'll find those as we go along. But, besides that, please let me know what you think. And be honest. Also, I don't say this to my friends and family, but the people who wandered in from elsewhere; if it applies to you, listen, if not, whatever, but please don't steal it. I wrote it first. Please don't reproduce without asking me first.


CALCUTTA- In all his years of reporting the mysteries of various places, India has probably been this reporter’s favorite trip. As I have mentioned in earlier installments, the jungles here are just teaming with life, and statistics say that much of it is yet undocumented. I could make a study of just Indian insects a lifelong work and be completely fulfilled. But I am more than an entomologist. I am also a sociologist. India has just as much to offer one of that profession as she does one of my other, with almost as much history. But these two passions of mine came together the other day when I was visiting an aged hermit.

I was told that he had much to offer in the way of wisdom and ancient stories, and that he was also an expert on arthropods. I gathered my satchel and climbed his little mountain. He was actually quite a pleasant little chap, although we had to speak through an interpreter. He asked a very curious question soon after we were introduced. He asked if he could look through my bag. Not having anything to hide, I handed my haversack over. He pulled out my papers and looked through them very carefully, though very gently, keeping them in the same order he found them. I don’t think he was reading them, just studying the symbols of my writing. He came across a piece of piano music that for the life of me I can’t figure out how it got there, and he studied this very carefully indeed. He asked me why the writer of that paper glorifies a scorpion so much. When I asked him to clarify, he pointed to one of the symbols on the page, a treble clef. He said that this was the design on the head of a very curious scorpion, that even he, having studied arthropods his whole life, had never seen in person. He said it was rumored to be a very big scorpion, and he spread his fingers to indicate that it was about a hand’s span long. He also said that it was a very deadly scorpion. But, according to my elderly friend, the most curious thing about this creature is that it has two venoms. One is its normal venom, very deadly and virile. The other, he said, is a medicine, the like of which man has never seen. He said that his old teacher told him that none knows how the scorpion mixes this venom, so it cannot be duplicated, but it can cure anything. The truly tragic thing is, one adult scorpion can make this venom once in its lifetime, and only then when it is perfectly contented. And once this very small amount is used, the scorpion dies. But this small amount, he told me over and over, is enough. Sad, he said, that there are so few in the world, that there ever was so few. The only thought I had was “Talk about a Lorenzo’s Oil!” If this “Piano Scorpion’s” existence is truth, and not the rambling folk tale of an old man, the implications could be wondrous. He told me how the story had been passed down that this scorpion could only find life if a musician died, especially if she was a beautiful soul that died too early, and had left people and things behind that she felt needed done. He believed that the scorpions were the reincarnated souls of these musicians. He said they could only have this contented feeling needed to make their healing venom if they were able to find and complete their unfinished business. These bits of information lend more credence to the theory that these animals do not, in fact, exist, but are simply a camp fire folk tale. Still, it would be nice to try and find one. This is the type of “holy grail” quest that a man such as I could waste a lifetime on. Too bad I do not have another life time to waste....

Charles was a sickly boy, about ten years old. The fact that he had lived past his first birthday was heralded as a miracle. Too bad that nobody had much faith that Charles would get another miracle. Nobody knew exactly what Charles had, but it seemed to affect both his mental and physical development. The closest that the doctors could come was that it was related in some way to autism, although this didn’t explain his frequent, severe seizures. He couldn’t talk, and could barely even walk, and the doctors told his father, a single parent, to not try and encourage him to. But then, the kinds of doctors that his father could afford weren’t that good, mostly just drunken washouts who either wasted their careers or never really had one. About the most Charles’ father could get him to show emotion was his huge, crooked smile, although he showed that more and more infrequently as his body painfully decayed. Mostly what Charles did with his time was play the piano, which had been left over from before his mother’s death. Not that he could play it well, like she always did. No, all Charles was ever able to do was plunk at one, maybe two, notes at a time, over and over, all day. Even in his sleep, which his father watched closely as that was when the worst seizures came, Charles’ fingers would pantomime plunking his one or two keys.

Charles’ father was a talented software programmer, though he didn’t have the guts to demand the promotion and the pay that he deserved, so he struggled along in barely more than an internship for twelve grueling years. One day, he was asked to fetch the CEO, visiting the small branch of the firm, some coffee. Grumbling to himself about not being appreciated, he fetched the coffee. He was distracted by his grumbling, and accidentally spilled the hot liquid on the boss. The man was irate, and fired Charles’ poor father on the spot. Worrying for Charles, the poor man lost all control. He let the boss have what for, verbally. He detailed how he had been with the company for twelve years, never appreciated, and knew everything there was to know about most of their products. He also detailed a few major bugs that he new about in their flagship program, bugs that the company’s competitors would very much like to know about. This CEO, a businessman more than a programmer, knew he had a bad situation if he just let Charles’ father go like that. So, he rehired the man and promoted him, to regional manager, where, he said, he could keep an eye on such possible thorns. The bad part was it was over the South Asia region, headquartered in Calcutta, India.

Charles’ father didn’t know what to do. He had to go, as he knew he wouldn’t have the guts to sell the information he had, it almost killed him to talk about it. Since his wife died ten years ago, he just didn’t have the same spunk anymore. And it would be difficult to get another job. The company was paying to move him and all his stuff, the hard part would be moving Charles. The boy and his mother’s piano were the last things that the poor man had to remind himself of his beloved wife. He asked the doctor, who gave a noncommittal answer that basically said he didn’t care enough to know if Charles could handle the trip. Having no other choice, Charles’ father went ahead with the move, and took Charles with him.

Charles did fine with the plane ride, and he was at home as ever in their new house. But their furniture, including the piano, hadn’t arrived yet. Charles fretted over this, though he didn’t have the words to say as much. He just sat in the corner that his father had told him would contain the piano when it arrived, and pantomimed playing his one note. During this time, his health seriously declined. His seizures became more frequent and severe, and his father despaired.

And then, one joyous day, just when Charles’ father was going to give up hope, the furniture arrived, including the piano. Charles’ father had it brought in first and put in the corner. He sat Charles down at it, and let the boy plunk away to his heart’s content. His seizures lessened back to their normal levels, although he never fully recovered his health. Life began anew for Charles and his father.

One day, several weeks later, Charles was alone in the house with their housekeeper, a perk that his father could now afford. He was at the piano, plunking away, when a large scorpion crawled on top of it and looked at him. He had never seen a scorpion, and never even knew they existed. He was never a curious sort, but something about this scorpion piqued him. He leaned in close to get a better look at the large arachnid, especially at the curious mark on its head. The scorpion, likely sensing danger, arched its stinger up and gave a loud hiss. Charles, not knowing this was a warning, smiled his crooked, toothy grin at the bug. The scorpion seemed to relax, although slightly. Charles decided to play it a song, the only song he knew.

As he sat the next few hours away, happily plunking out his one or two notes, the scorpion did a curious thing. It not only relaxed considerably, it seemed to enjoy being played to. It began to sway to its own rhythm, crab-walking back and forth across the top of Charles’ mother’s piano. Charles watched this and smiled again, twice in one day, which was about the most he ever had shown any emotion. The rhythm with which the small animal danced brought back memories to his clouded brain. He kept plunking his note, but as he did, he closed his eyes. He thought he saw the world as he did as a baby. He was in a cradle, near the piano, in his old house. There was a woman looking down at him, and she was beautiful. Her eyes filled him with warmth and joy that only a baby could know. “Oh, my sweet Charles,” she was saying in his memory. “I love you, so. Here, Baby. Let me play you a song.” And she disappeared, but he could hear her setting at the piano. Then the most beautiful melody came from the strings inside the piano’s body. This melody, if emotion could be put into sound, summed up his entire feelings for his mother, immature as they were. She also hummed, not the same melody, but a harmonious one, that matched the piano perfectly. This song, his mother’s song, filled him with joy and made all his fears and pains melt away. He had such a limited memory, it was amazing that he could remember this one even so clearly. So caught up was he that he didn’t realize what he was playing.

Charles’ father was in a meeting, but he took the emergency call from his house keeper. She was in a panic over what Charles was doing, and he couldn’t get her to talk to him clearly so he could find out what was really happening with his son. Fearing the worst, he took his leave and rushed the few blocks home. He burst into the house to find the house keeper weeping, so he ran down the entry hall to the room that had Charles’ piano. What he saw, and heard, stopped him dead. Charles was playing the piano. Not like he normally did, one or maybe two notes over and over, but he was actually playing it. And he was playing his mother’s song, which his father knew there was no recordings of nor was it written down. Ten years ago, just before she had died in a tragic auto accident, she had written it for their then newborn son. He told her it was very good, that she should record it or at least write it down, but she kept putting it off until it was too late. Charles had to be playing it from memory. The only thing missing was her voice, humming the counter melody to the tune. Then he saw the large scorpion. His first reaction was one of revulsion, to get the dangerous animal away from his son. But, it was...dancing. There was no other word to describe it. Not only was its swaying and spinning in time with the beloved melody that Charles was playing, but, almost, it seemed to be exactly in time with what he could remember of the harmony that his wife used to hum.

He assured the house keeper that all was well, and dismissed her for the rest of the day. Then he sat on floor and watched his son remember his wife, the boy’s mother, and the curious scorpion helping him. He sat there for hours, and it soon grew dark, but Charles continued to play, and the scorpion continued to dance. The father was lost in his own memories, as well. Charles’ father only noticed that Charles had stopped playing when he heard the boy’s body hit the floor. He was quickly to the boy’s side, holding him, trying to do as he normally did when his beloved son had a seizure. But the boy was still. Desperately, the father searched for a pulse, for a breath, for anything. But there was nothing. Overcome with grief, Charles’ father didn’t know what to do. He didn’t try to resuscitate the boy, he didn’t call for help. He just cried, pouring out his bereaved soul through his tears. He didn’t notice the scorpion crawl down from its perch atop the piano. He didn’t notice it scurry across the floor. He didn’t notice it regard him sadly, if an arthropod could feel sadness. And he didn’t notice it crawl up the dead boy’s arm, across his chest, to stop near the boy’s throat. The father did notice, however, when the scorpion began to shudder. It was going through some sort of change. He looked down at it. “What are you doing?” he asked, not really expecting an answer, but asking anyways. All at once the scorpion stopped shuddering, and raised its large stinger over its head. The father cried out in alarm, but was too slow. The scorpion, with the curious treble clef symbol on its head, plunged its stinger into the boy’s neck, directly into the artery. The father cried out in anguish, but it was too late to do anything. The scorpion had spread its venom, and had fallen away, curling its eight legs in death. The father, even more grieved, began to sob. He couldn’t bare to hold the boy’s limp body, so he went to the piano and beat it, hard, and continuously, until he was physically spent. He collapsed on the floor next to the instrument, able to do nothing but sob.

He felt a small hand on his shoulder, and, surprised and perplexed, he stopped sobbing. He looked up, and saw Charles standing there. Not knowing what to make of this, or what to do, he wrapped his mute son in a hug. “Father,” said the boy, his first words. “Why are you crying?” Amazed, Charles’ father sat back and looked at his son. “Don’t be sad,” said Charles, cryptically. “She found me. And now she’s all right. And so am I.” The boy gave his crooked, toothy grin. “Here,” he said. “Let me play you a song.” Then stepping away from his bewildered father, he sat at the piano and played. He played the only true song he had ever learned, and he hummed. He hummed the same tune that the his mother had, the tune that the scorpion, now a drying husk, had danced. He played and he hummed and he wondered. He wondered why his father continued to weep.