Why It Might Actually Suck to Live in the Harry Potter Universe

Some of you may regard this post as rank heresy, but I assure you, it’s all meant in good fun.

My husband and I like to play a silly and very geeky game I affectionately call, “Would You Live In That Universe?”

Okay, I don’t actually call it that, and it’s not really a game, just an ongoing discussion we pick up every few weeks or months, usually when we’ve read or watched something new and interesting. It basically just involves analyzing whether or not we’d live in a particular universe and why. Neither of us would live in the Puella Magi Madoka Magica universe, for example, but we’d both consider living in the xxxHolic world. We’re iffy on the Star Wars universe, and we’ve agreed to steer well clear of Westeros. I’d pick up and move to Hyrule, though, and Drew would probably tag along.

But the Harry Potter universe is a point of contention.

harry-potter06

I, with my Deathly Hallows tattoo and yearly reread of the books, would obviously be down with living there—at least, if I got to be a witch and not a Muggle. My husband isn’t really in favor of it, though, and after my most recent reread… well… I’ll admit he has a few points.

  1. Wizards have a shockingly lackadaisical approach to basic education and real world skills. How on earth did someone like Ron learn to read? And Mr. Weasley can’t even identify basic British currency by the numbers written on the notes? That’s some frightening ignorance, right there. We get the impression that wizard children don’t have much exposure to the Muggle world, and while I’m not a huge fan of public education, I can admit it has its values. Socializing children and teaching them to recognize basic numerals and, you know, LETTERS, is pretty important.

    And it shows, guys. It shows.

  2. Every single witch and wizard is packing. Seriously. Think about it. Wizards describe guns as a sort of metal wand that Muggles use to kill each other. Wands = guns. Every single person in this universe is carrying concealed (or waving the damn thing around in the air). At any moment, someone could hook you into the air by your foot or stupefy you or silence you or much, much worse.. If that’s not a recipe for disaster and serious bullying, I don’t know what is.

    “Oops.” Yeah, right.

  3. Animal cruelty has been institutionalized and is taught in schools. We don’t hear a lot about what happens to those hedgehogs that are getting transfigured into pincushions, but we do know they feel pain—a poorly transfigured pincushion will curl up in fear. How sick is that? And what happens to the disembodied rat tails and vanished kittens? How do we know that tail isn’t feeling unbearable pain? I don’t know about you, but I’d feel really uncomfortable transfiguring another living creature without its consent or a confident, scientific assurance that it’s not feeling any pain.

    totslly barbaric

    Killer chess pieces? Barbaric. Disembodied rat tails? Totally fine.

  4. A huge percentage of wizards are classist or ableist or racist. Okay, this one isn’t that much different than our world, but it’s still disappointing. Ron is constantly bullied for being poor. Hermione is called Mudblood how many times? Squibs are essentially disowned and banished to the Muggle world. And Muggles are regarded as precious oddities at best and disgusting animals at worst. I’ll admit that our heroes are far kinder to these subgroups, but a huge number of wizards we encounter take a very poor attitude to people who don’t look and act exactly as they do. Birth is everything in this world. Pity the Mudbloods, man, but pity the Squibs even more.

    Manners matter, Malfoy.

  5. The government is everywhere. Everyone is magically tagged until they reach the age of 17, and after that point, the magical government is still watching to make sure you don’t take one step out of line. Characters are imprisoned at the drop of a hat, or just to make people feel better (Hagrid in Azkaban? SERIOUSLY?), and the government has a hand in everything from education to medical care to journalism. I know the books are set in a time of war, but the whole question of the Trace makes me feel a little iffy about just who would be watching me.

    …because we’ll sure as damn hell be listening!

  6. Everyone seems to get married, have kids, and die really, REALLY young. Lily and James were, like, 20 when they had Harry. And in the epilogue, Harry is 36ish with three kids. That’s awesome, and great if it’s what you want, but where’s the magical birth control? Are witches and wizards at least being taught how to practice safe sex? And while it seems like Hermione and Ginny go on to have interesting careers, we don’t hear a lot about what other generations are doing. What’s Fleur doing after her marriage to Bill? What did Lily Potter do? And where on earth are Harry’s grandparents? Life expectancy in this world can’t be much more than about 50—and that’s with people like Dumbledore and Bathilda Bagshot throwing off the curve. I’d be a little concerned about burning the candle at both ends, if I lived in this universe. I’m 30 and I’m not an Auror OR a parent yet. What am I even doing with my life?

    With middle age comes… bags under the eyes?

See what I mean? Would YOU live in this universe?

The Big-Balled Squirrel and the Fairy Princess

Last Saturday, this fairy princess woke up late. I’m never an early-riser, and I’m not at my best even at 11 a.m.

Especially when I pick up my phone and instantly receive a message like this one:

Emmie Mears: Drew just sent me a picture of a squirrel with big balls and said it was him as a princess. O___O LOL

Picture me looking at my phone kinda like this:

…whut?

I said nothing, just tried to process that combination of words with my sleep-brain. I did not succeed in making it make sense.

Emmie Mears: I told him that Princess Drew has illustrious appendages.

At this point, I had to speak up.

Kristin McFarland: What on earth… I’m still in bed. LOL

Emmie Mears: HAHAHAHA. Whoops. Good morning?

I was also so completely bemused that I said out loud to my husband…

“What on earth did you do to Emmie?”

He quickly came to his own defense, and appeared in the bedroom.

Spouse: Remember last night, you said I needed to learn to be a princess? Well, I sent her a picture of me as a princess!

It all came screaming back to me then. Part of why I slept so late was because I was up late, talking with Spouse and some Twitter-friends about how Drew doesn’t like his birthday and needs to learn to be a princess and celebrate like a man. (Those might have been my exact, nonsensical words.)

One of our friends—and between you and me, internet, I’m not even sure it was Emmie—demanded a picture of Drew as a fairy princess. I said I’d do my best to oblige, and promptly forgot about the whole thing when I went to bed.

But Drew remembered, and sent Emmie a picture.

Kristin: She says you sent her a picture of a squirrel with enormous testicles.

Spouse: What? No! I sent her a picture of a guy in a princess outfit!

At this point, I turned back to my phone.

Kristin McFarland: He is puzzled. I think perhaps you got the wrong picture.

Emmie Mears: LOL. Oh, it is an error. Apparently that’s their default error picture…….a big balled squirrel.

And then she sent me the picture. This is what I saw:

No, I can’t read the Russian caption. I don’t think I want to know. And no, Drew does not look like this guy.

Kristin McFarland: …I get a chubby guy in a pink fairy costume.

Emmie Mears: Awwww, why can’t I see it?

At this point, I lost my shit, as they say. I was laughing so hard I could barely type.

Kristin McFarland: I am laughing so hard. I want to see the big balled squirrel!

Emmie Mears: This is the pic I got.

Illustrious appendages, enormous testicles… This, friends, is a big-balled squirrel.

Emmie Mears: This morning is off to an awesome start.

Yes. Yes it was. Four days later, and I’m still giggling about it.

Welcome to my life, internet! Chubby fairy princesses and big-balled squirrels abound.

Happy Holidays

Tiny kitten can’t wait, either!

Last night, I got to dance early and got to spend some time chatting with one of the full troupe members. She asked how my week was, and I said, “SLOW!” She laughed and said she knows what I mean—the week before the Christmas/New Year break seems eternal because we’re all just WAITING for the holidays, the time off, the presents, Santa Claus, whatever. We’re cramming in the last few hours of work before family arrive, or we’re running around like maniacs trying to fit every last bit of preparation in before the stores all turn into pumpkins on Christmas Eve.

…I may be mixing my metaphors here.

Anyway, we have to pass the time, whether it goes too quickly or too slowly, and I thought I’d help you all out with that. Since it’s Friday (and since it’s almost vacation time!), I thought I’d share a few things that have had me giggling madly or saying “AWWWW!” lately. Enjoy…

Moon Moon! (For best effect, click the link and see the whole thing.)

I, too, must dance. At least at dance practice twice a week.

Aaaah! A goat!

Nope. I have no idea why. But I have a friend who owns goats, so this photo let me goat-bomb her Facebook wall.

The Oatmeal: How Different Age Groups Celebrate Christmas

Yep, sounds about right. Except I love Christmas.

The fairies have decorated for Christmas.

Please excuse the crappy Android photo. I’ma bust out the good camera later.

The cats discovered television.

Another crappy Android photo. I may have gotten into a lazy-photo rut.

And finally…

Romantic penguins!

Have a terrific weekend, everyone!

Tale of the Naughty Phone

Sometimes, as I’m typing on my phone, when I hit ‘space,’ it types the word, “naked” of its own free will.

I’m not making this up.

I have no idea why it does it. No idea how it got started doing it. But it’s always the word NAKED, and it seems to happen randomly. It started today when I was doing some Facebook messaging, and it continued for a good portion of the morning. It’s quite awkward when it happens.

For example, a message I wrote this morning (from bed, no less) would have, unedited, said, “I naked don’t naked want naked to naked overexcite naked you, naked but naked my naked new naked cookbook has naked an naked entire naked chapter naked devoted naked to naked chili naked.”

So much for not overexciting the recipient of that one.

I’m beginning to think it’s haunted by the spirit of Jeffrey from Coupling.

 

Why else would it be constantly saying, “NNNAKED”?

I mean, seriously! I don’t know that I’ve ever even typed NAKED on my phone of my own free will. I won’t say that’s impossible, but I certainly don’t recall voluntarily discussing nudity on Facebook or Twitter.

…yeah, okay, so I probably have said NAKED in both of those places at a variety of times.

But why did NAKED get saved to my phone as the random space-word?

I’m always afraid I’ll MISS one of the nakeds when it happens, so I’ll end up sending a text to someone that says, “I’m going naked to the store. Do you need anything?”

With my luck, I’ll probably send a semi-professional text to my agent or someone that says, “I finally sent you that naked email!”

At this point, the word NAKED is losing all meaning. Perhaps that’s why my phone does it, to brainwash me into some sort of naked-saying weirdo with an immunity to unsolicited, semi-naughty interjections. Then, just when I’ve resigned myself to a lifetime of naked texts and public posts, it’ll switch to something worse, like CROTCH or LUBRICANT.

And now I’ve spread the disease. You’ll be seeing and hearing NAKED everywhere you turn, now. Like Jeff, you’ll write it on a piece of paper and rub your face in it—you’ll say it aloud, drawing it out, “NNNNNAAAAAAKED,” probably in a semi-public place when you think you’re alone but actually a mother and small child is standing behind you.

And you will think of me.

You’re welcome.

Thank you, naughty phone, for this curse.

Guilty Pleasures

*cough* This is a really old post that’s been in my drafts folder since January. I thought you guys might actually like to read it!

I spent most of today out with a friend and running errands, so I haven’t had time to write.

Translation: I didn’t get home till three and that felt too late to get any real work done, so I decided to do some less productive crafty work and watch old episodes of The Vampire Diaries. Episodes I’ve seen before. Episodes that aren’t particularly noteworthy except for the abundance of pretty people moping about who’s not sleeping with whom.

Yep. I’m a shameless lover of teen vampires. In fact, while I’m confessing things, I’ll admit that I’ve read Twilight. More than once. The Kindle was a godsend because it meant I no longer had to deal with my husband’s mockery when I wanted to read something really and truly awful—now I don’t have to face the shame of, say, the cover of Breaking Dawn staring at him from my nightstand, giving away my weakness. I read Twilight like some women read bodice-rippers, the ones with shiny, shirtless men on the covers: furtively, pop-eyed, and generally while hiding the evidence.

Come to think of it, that sounds rather like one of the signs of addiction. The one where you lie about your problem. Also the one where you feel guilt and shame. And that other one, where you put time and effort into your habit.

I only know about those signs for research, of course. Totally.

I like literature, too, I’ll have you know. I reread Jane Austen’s complete works every year. A Farewell to Arms is one of two books that makes me cry. I am capable of exerting some self control and occasionally reading things that actually merit my love.

But, damn it, every now and then I just like to lose myself in a fluffy, high-stakes romance between two pretty (and often fanged) people. I also like dipping my fries in mustard. Whatchu gonna do, sue me?

I AM NOT ASHAMED.*

The fact is, I’m not alone. Twilight sold a flobbity-gillion copies. Margot Adler incorporated her obsession with vampire novels (including Twilight) into a series of academic lectures. How many people watch The Vampire Diaries? More than a few, judging by Twitter on Thursday nights.

Everyone has a few guilty pleasures. Maybe for you it’s not teen vampires. Maybe it’s wealthy teens who sleep around a lot. Maybe it’s those afternoon soap operas. (Do those still exist anymore?) Maybe it’s some terrible sitcom.

But you know… you can tell me.

This is a safe space. No one here will judge you.** C’mon. you know you want to share. What’s your guilty pleasure?

 

 

*Okay, I’m a little ashamed. Fine, a lot. That doesn’t stop me, though.

**Much

 

Gettin’ Nerdy With It: RPGs

My husband and I reached a whole new level of nerdy yesterday—and for the couple known as ‘the Doctor Who people’ among our local friends, that’s really saying something.

A degrading Changeling: who doesn't want to pretend to be a creepy horny fairy thing?

A degrading Changeling: who doesn’t want to pretend to be a creepy horny fairy thing?

We dug ourselves deep into the land of Storytelling RPGs, specifically Changeling: the Lost, one of the spin-offs of Vampire: the Requiem, and a sort of grandchild to the 1990s game Vampire: the Masquerade.

Whoa. That’s a whole lotta nerdy right up front there, so let me explain a little more for you muggles in the audience. (You muggles know you’re probably way cooler than me in real life, right?)

A Storytelling RPG, to simplify it vastly, is a game for two or more people based on made-up characters engaging in imaginary adventures: it’s not unlike when you and your childhood best friend pretended to gypsy princesses in a fantasy land, but you sit at a table instead of frolicking around the backyard. (Just me? Awkward.) The designated storyteller guides the characters through their quest, and each player rolls dies to determine the success or failure of their actions.

In White Wolf Publishing’s World of Darkness, everything is similar to ours but just slightly askew. Vampires, ghosts, goblins, and fairies are real. Quests generally involve chasing a magical item, seeking spells, and fighting the forces of darkness—or light, depending on your character preference. There are intricate backstories for every breed of character and every aspect of this universe. Game plots make for fantastic reading, as does the world-building.

It’s… an urban fantasy universe!

So let’s pause a moment here. This is a game that involves making up stories about imaginary characters and spinning out the tension in their adventures for as long as possible.

Why the hell aren’t all fantasy writers already playing this?!

Well, there are a few reasons.

1. It’s super-nerdy, and requires nerdy friends. People already think fantasy writers are crazy; we don’t need to give them more reasons to not hang out with us.

2. It’s time-consuming. You have to make up your character, spend ages learning minute rules, and then spend hours on game play… because we all have so much free time to kill.

3. It can lead to excessive nerdiness, like LARPing, which involves dressing up like your characters and pretending to be them in real life. *shiver*

This history of LARPing goes way back to… wait, no, that’s not history. It’s an old-time fauxtograph of people LARPing as Victorians. (Image via Wikipedia.)

Spouse and I started checking it (Changeling, not LARPing!) out because, well, we’re already super-nerdy, and because we want a new game to play with some of our friends.

Now the real question is… how do we convince our friends to play with us?

Being me, I have listed a few reasons why it’ll be fun:

1. We can pretend to be fairies with specific magical powers! They can look like unicorns if we want them to! We can draw pictures and make up back-stories! (This may not work on the menfolk.)

2. It’ll be hilarious. Come on, grown-ups sitting around a table arguing over why Person A’s vampire is a way better candidate to take on that NPC-troll than Person B’s darkling fae? That’s comedy gold.

3. It’s not that different than historical re-enacting, really. (Our friends used to re-enact.) Actually, it’s just like it, but without the real history or the trips to cool places. And we’d rather not start doing the costumes.

4. It involves some theater! We can turn down the lights and pretend my husband (designated Storyteller because only he actually understands the rules) is telling us a scary choose-your-own-adventure story. And when we need sound effects, like gunshots or ghosts moaning, we can totally add them in!

5. There will be alcohol involved!

What do you think, readers? Would you play with us? How would you convince someone to try an RPG?