Alien vs. Wizards, directed by my subconscious

I feel lucky that I frequently have very vivid, detailed dreams, sometimes to the point that I can lucid dream. The other night I had a particularly amazing one:

I was trying to survive an alien invasion, darting from place to place to find a safe spot to hunker down. During that process, I was somehow able to arm myself. In my left hand I wielded a plasma pistol from X-Com, and in the right I had a Harry Potter wand. As I shot aliens with my left, I cast spells with my right. And yes, I mean Dream Jen was actually casting legitimate Harry Potter spells. Most of the time I was screaming Protego to create a barrier to reflect incoming laser beams, and when I had a chance to go on the offense I used Incendio to set the aliens on fire. Mostly because Dream Jen couldn’t remember any other spells (in retrospect, it’s amazing I remembered any in a freaking dream). When I shouted to Dream Boyfriend (who was also shooting plasma at aliens) to help me remember other spell names, he reminded me he wasn’t a Harry Potter fanatic like me and how the hell should he know any names. When things started getting hairy, I Avada Kedavra’d as many aliens as I could, while explaining that in this case using the worst Unforgivable Curse was morally justifiable because COME ON ALIEN INVASION.

I then tweeted this dream. Someone chimed in that my brain was pitching an idea for a film. I dubbed it Alien vs. Wizards and declared it should be made.

Twitter delivered. My dream had been retroactively fulfilled: apparently the BBC already has a TV series called Wizards vs. Aliens.

Sometimes the world is a wonderful place. A wonderful place where we wonder what would happen if wizards had to fight off alien invasions.

I’ve figured out why the Vatican hoards its wealth!

St. Peter’s Basilica is not actually named that because of its architecture, but for the Basilisk living beneath it! Lore tells of Basilisks converting various substances into gold, which explains the Vatican’s enormous wealth!! It also explains why they’re so reluctant to give the wealth away, because the evil Basilisk will turn the Pope into stone as revenge!!!! Quick, we need to find a wizard and a goblin forged blade!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wait. I think I’m crossing my mythologies. Catholics don’t believe in silly things like Basilisks or goblins. They believe in crackers that magically turn into flesh and people rising from the dead. My bad, it’s all so confusing. I blame the NyQuil.

Oh Harry Potter :\

While looking at random Harry Potter merchandise at Universal Studios, I found a cart full of pins. They had a lot of neat ones, including house pins and prefect badges. Though the latter was only for Gryffindor and Slytherin, which is a constant source of annoyance for me. I want Ravenclaw stuff, dammit!

Then I spotted a Head Boy badge. I started searching for a Head Girl badge, but couldn’t find one. I asked the person working the cart, thinking they may just be out. Nope. She and her coworker said that they only make Head Boy badges, and they agreed that it didn’t make any sense. They wondered when they’ll eventually make a Head Girl badge too.

…Sigh. I know in the grand scheme of things it’s dumb and insignificant, but it’s the little things. How hard is it to include the ladies? It’s one thing to exclude houses that the majority of people (wrongly) think are stupid or boring or crappy or insignificant, but why exclude a gender that the majority of people… oh. :\

I knew there was a reason I liked Harry Potter

I had no idea the Vatican had a chief exorcist. I’m not sure why I’m surprised – believing demons can possess people isn’t any wackier than believing in the resurrection. But I must say I’m disappointed. Apparently Father Gabriele Amorth is not a fan of Harry Potter:

Reading JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books is no less dangerous, said the 86-year-old priest, who is the honorary president for life of the International Association of Exorcists, which he founded in 1990, and whose favourite film is the 1973 horror classic, The Exorcist.

The Harry Potter books, which have sold millions of copies worldwide, “seem innocuous” but in fact encourage children to believe in black magic and wizardry, Father Amorth said.

“Practising yoga is Satanic, it leads to evil just like reading Harry Potter,” he told a film festival in Umbria this week, where he was invited to introduce The Rite, a film about exorcism starring Sir Anthony Hopkins as a Jesuit priest.

“In Harry Potter the Devil acts in a crafty and covert manner, under the guise of extraordinary powers, magic spells and curses,” said the priest, who in 1986 was appointed the chief exorcist for the Diocese of Rome.

Come on, you know he’s just worried about job security. Harry Potter provides an alternative hypothesis to demon possession – the Imperius curse. It has just as much evidence, so no wonder he’s worried.

What a Slytherin.


Harry Potter and Skeptical Thinking

I already talked a bit about why it’s okay to like fantasy stories like Harry Potter even when you’re a skeptic. But I’ll go one step further – Harry Potter has a lot of great skepticism in it.
Think about it. Even though their world is based on magic, they have their own version of supernatural, pseudoscience crap – basically everything that Luna Lovegood and her dad believe in. Most magical people easily accept unicorns and dragons and nifflers, but Crumple Horned Snorkaks? Ridiculous.

And Hermione is a wonderful skeptic. Just look at this quote from the 7th book about the Deathly Hallows:

“But that’s – I’m sorry but that’s completely ridiculous! How can I possibly prove it doesn’t exist? Do you expect me to get hold of – of all the pebbles in the world and test them? I mean you could claim that anything’s real if the only basis for believing in it is that nobody proved it
doesn’t exist!”

Hermione just destroyed all Christian apologetics. …Too bad the Deathly Hallows actually existed. *cough*

…I know I originally had more examples, but my memory is starting to go. If anyone has any other skeptical Harry Potter examples, feel free to leave them in the comments.

This is post 32 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Skepticism & fiction

A reader asks,

How can you be ok with all the shiny-afterlife-awaits-you and stuff in Harry Potter?

…Because it’s fiction? Seriously, it’s a fantasy novel that’s full of magic, dragons, unicorns, giants, goblins, ghosts, elves, pixies, potions, charms, hexes, teleportation, and soul splitting… and you’re worried about the concept of the afterlife? You could suspend disbelief for all of that, but not one vaguely religious concept?

Dude. Come on.

Sorry, but it’s a pet peeve of mine when skeptics are so skeptical that they can’t even enjoy fiction. Okay, maybe you just don’t like fiction. But how do you not understand that lots and lots of people do enjoy fiction without eliminating their skepticism? We can watch a movie while still knowing it’s just actors and special effects. Humans love telling and hearing stories – that doesn’t mean we have to literally believe everything within them.

And I wouldn’t talk about this if it was a one off question. I hear this view quite frequently. Heck, at TAM8 Richard Dawkins spent a good portion of his interview talking about how he didn’t like fiction because he thought reading fantasy novels as a child contributed to irrational thinking.

Bah humbug. In my case, it was the complete opposite. I knew that The Witches, or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, or Harry Potter, or Greek mythology were all just stories. That’s exactly why when I heard about the Bible, I immediately recognized it as just another story. Fiction doesn’t erode at skepticism – it can enforce it!

So, boo hiss. Let me enjoy Harry Potter in peace without overanalyzing the religious aspects. I don’t give a damn if they celebrate Christmas when people are able to magically turn into cats.

This is post 25 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Harry Potter and the end of my childhood

I haven’t squeed about the final Harry Potter movie yet, so…why not.

(Obviously, spoilers below)
Typing “final” is odd for me. The end of Harry Potter oddly marks the end of my childhood. Well, maybe not so oddly. I read my first Harry Potter book when I was in 6th grade. I was Harry’s age – 11. After that, every time I read a new book, I was the age of Harry. It slipped a bit at the end when Rowling took more time to write the later books (I was 19 when Harry was 17), but it oddly marked my own childhood.

So seeing the last movie was bittersweet. I grew up having escapist fantasies about Hogwarts, like many kids in my generation. And the books do end on a more adult note, what with everyone dying and Harry finally stopping to be a whiny emo kid.

But the “sweet” part of bittersweet was so worth it. I saw the final movie at midnight in Vegas sitting next to Greta Christina – how does it get any better than that? And we saw it in 3D, complete with my Ravenclaw shirt and Harry Potter shaped 3D glasses:As for the movie itself, I have one thing to say:

Omfg Snape.

Snape has always been one of my favorite characters. I was defending him from the beginning – I knew he wasn’t simply evil, it was too simple. And Alan Rickman was one of my favorite actors long before he became Snape. So to finally let Rickman show his full acting potential – holy crap. Seeing Snape do the tiny smile as he’s dying? Who was cutting onion in the movie theater?!

Seriously, I cried like a baby every time Snape was on the screen. The flashback?! Waterfalls. Do you know how hard it is to surreptitiously wipe your eyes while wearing 3D glasses? I don’t even know why I was trying to be surreptitious, people were obviously crying in the theater.

…Of course, there could be a movie of Alan Rickman reading the phone book and it would still be awesome, so…

The other highlight of the movie had to be Neville being a fucking badass. I have to give kudos to the movie for making you think he might not get his moment – they made you think someone else was going to kill Nagini a bunch of times. I would have raged if the most badass part of the 7th book didn’t make it to the screen, but thankfully it did. Props to Matthew Lewis for the superb acting.

Speaking of Neville…forgive me, but when did Matthew Lewis suddenly get super, super hot?…yet another sign we’re all growing up.

Though it was oddly appropriate ending my childhood in Vegas. After the credits I turned to Greta and said, “Alright, time for the hookers and blow.”

Goodbye, Harry Potter!

This is post 23 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.