Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Marauders - Harry Potter and history of medicine

Now, I know I promised several detailed posts about the week I spent in London, but due to problems with computer, I'm unable to upload photos. It would be very dull indeed to write about the museums and not include any photos. Please, be patient.

As quite a lot of time has passed since my last post - here goes a theory that I thought of while in London. And please, be warned that the text below contains many plot details from the Harry Potter series and you would be well advised to STOP reading NOW, if you haven't finished the series (or even started reading it) yet. Thank you.


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While strolling about Welcome's History of Medicine (a museum) I found out that body-snatchers also used to be called (hold your breath) marauders. Actually, it was the first word on the screen - and only afterwards they were called resurrectionists. Instantly I thought of HP and how this relates to the books. (A final proof of my dedication -- obsession is such an ugly word -- to the series, I presume.)

In the old times dissection on cadavers was prohibited by law as people believed that removing organs and mutilating the body in other ways will prevent the soul from entering the Heaven. Many decades later dissection was again allowed, but the old prejudice was so fixed in the minds of the people that aspiring doctors had great difficulties in finding a sufficient number of cadavers. So certain people started digging out graves and stealing corpses to be later sold to students of medicine. In a span of time this practice was so wide-spead that many families decided to keep a watch over the graves even after the funeral had taken place! Iron coffins were also very fashionable.

Now, the link with the series. When Harry first activates the Marauders' Map, he sees names of four (supposedly long deceased) people appear on the parchment. They were Moony, Padfoot, Prongs and Wormtail. The first surprize and an (almost) actual resurrection takes place at the end of Prisoner of Azkaban (PoA), when we learn that Wormtail never actually died. The second resurrection takes place when -- at the end of Goblet of Fire (GoF) -- Prongs comes out of Voldemort's wand to warn Harry and help him escape. Moony is more difficult, but I think one could reasonably explain his monthly "furry little problem" as a form of resurrection, when at the end of full moon, he comes back to the realm of the living.

Padfoot, I hope, is yet to make his resurrection. No, he isn't alive, he's as dead as he can be, but I have a feeling that JKR didn't lead us into the Ministry of Magic and into the underground corridors just so Padfoot could die in a fancy manner or so we would know that people study death there. I think Ministry will make a reappearance, we'll go back and that veil was certainly too curious an object to serve a single purpose. There have been theories that the veil serves as a portal for communication between the worlds of the living and the dead. If indeed death is being studied there, one needs a portal of some sort to be able to go to the world beyond and come back to tell about the experience or at least a portal through which one can glimpse or listen to the voices from the other side (surely you remember that Luna and Harry, the only ones in the DA who've felt the weight of death could hear voices emanating from beyond the veil). Padfoot fell through the veil, so why wouldn't he be the person to help Harry or give him some important information from the world beyond? (Although, admittedly, what that piece of information could be is beyond me. Some have suggested that horcruxes and/or Voldemort will be destroyed by pushing them through the veil, which is a very plausible explanation.)

Then there is the case of the Two-Way Mirror, which was a present from Padfoot. JKR had this to say on the matter: "The mirror might not have helped as much as you think, but on the other hand, will help more than you think. You’ll have to read the final books to understand that!" Now know that this mirror will make a reappearance and our only (seems simple enough) task is to figue out what the connection is. I bet you anything (OK, not anything) that the mirror is a connection to a certain pure-blood wizarding house. I firmly believe that Harry will use it for communication with either Padfoot or his brother, who is (am almost certain) R.A.B.

So, in conclusion, I think that the name "marauders" suggests what happens with the characters in the books. And if my theory is correct, we'll see a reappearance of our favourite godfather.

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posted by Nadezhda | 12:12 | 6 comments | links to this post

Monday, September 18, 2006

Keep your fingers crossed...

...as I am keeping mine that everything runs as smoothly as possible in the next week and that by no means any terrorists of any sort are to be tempted by the Tube again. Bf (would have spelled out boyfriend, but have very little time at present) and I are going to London and are coming back next Monday.

I had plans to write two more reviews for the blog so as to keep you busy during my absence, but because I had to plan our outings for the whole week (and frankly, Lonely Planet London is the most illogically constructed book ever - not to speak of the maps!) and was slowly, but surely losing my mind, that couldn't be done.

Anyways - I will be planning my several-part series of posts on Harry Potter while travelling and once I'm back you should have plenty of HP themed posts here.

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posted by Nadezhda | 11:18 | 6 comments | links to this post

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Watching Super Size Me (Morgan Spurlock, 2004)



Yesterday boyfriend and I decided to watch Super Size Me. We knew the film was a documentary about the adverse effects of fast food, but were pleasantly surprized to discover it was more than just that.

Morgan Spurlock, a 33 year-old American from Manhattan in New York is flabbergasted to discover the epidemic proportions of obesity in America, where 2 out of 3 adult people are overweight or obese and omnious 37% of children and adolescents have too high percentage of body fat. When he learns about the case of two teenage girl suing McDonald's for not having informed them that they could become obese by eating their food on a regular basis, Spulock begins to wonder where personal responsibility ends and corporate responsibility begins. He decides to undergo a 30-day long experiment to prove (or disprove) the adverse effects of a McDonald's diet on health, combined with as much (or better said as little) exercise as a middle-of-the-norm American gets per day.

He starts out as an above-average healthy American and consults various doctors, life-style, nutrition and fitness experts. Nobody thinks a 30-day experiment could harm him, the doctors presume only his serum level of triglycerides (fats from food) will rise. However, as early as in 12 days' time, the results of Spurlock's blood tests are so bad as to shock everybody.

Admittedly, Spurlock's experiment was a bit extreme in that most people don't eat solely (= three times daily) at fast food joints. However, even though the time span of the experiment was shorter than the time an average American would need to eat the same amount of fast food, Spurlock's conclusions are far from being invalid. It is very important to note the physiological (weight gain, sharp rise in serum levels of cholesterol) and psychological (mood swings and lethargy) effects this kind of food has on a person and other deleterious effects on the cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systemsm (especially with prolonged consumption of such foods).

Spurlock doesn't shy away from themes like brand imprinting of children - getting young children to remember a brand so that they will buy it when they grow up - (in fewer words: get them while they're still young&naive) and the fact that the fast food industry isn't about well-being of their consumers, but like any other industry - about money. He points out a few facts; namely that very few people have any idea of the amount of energy (from food) they need per day and even less idea about the caloric content of the food they eat. Needless to say, McDonald's joints featured in this film don't hold many (or any) nutritional value factsheets. Also, in a country where the only people who walk are those who can't afford a car, where seemingly any form of exercise is considered an unneeded effort and where nobody has time to exercise, but has the time to watch every concievable reality show -- the rate of obese people hardly comes as a surprize.

Overall, I would heartily recommend viewing of this film to the young mothers and young consumers who claim that McDonald's serves as good meals as one could cook at home or get. And before you start throwing things at the computer screen, calculate the value of your last McMeal here.

So, when was the last time you ate at a fast-food joint?

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posted by Nadezhda | 13:41 | 7 comments | links to this post

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

And after this brief ad we might be back

And I'm back from an extended weekend on the Croatian coast. I'm sorry for the delay in answering to your comments, but here are a couple of updates.

1. Bump is still there, but it's nothing major (just a severe infection). I have a check-up in a month and I hope that the bump will subside completely by that time.

2. I recieved an e-mail from one of the readers of this blog a while ago and to tell the truth it scared me a bit. I realized I write a lot of stuff on the blog and they are things that could as well (some detective work included) lead to unveiling of my identity. Unfortunately, there are readers of this blog who read it only for the pleasure they derive from getting more information on myself as it will lead further in uncovering my identity. I am horrified and a little reluctant to write more, especially as some people imagine they already know who I am, when in fact they don't. (But, needless to say, they might find out one day, whether through our mutual friends or acquaintances or other.)

The truth of the matter is that I was naive in thinking people read blogs only for content. For some it seems, the ultimate challenge is to discover who the person, (who has repeatedly claimed she wants to retain her anonymity above everything = me) is. I am appalled and shocked by my naivete. Because I refuse to give the people described above more pleasure and seek to retain the little anonymity I have left, I am considering my options.

One would be to stop writing the blog. Frankly, in the coming year with more demanding University courses, the research projects I'm about to take part in and the co-authorship of several articles I've already arranged, I'm not going to have unlimited leisure time to spend on writing my blog. It takes about an hour to write a regular post and honestly, I think I will rather go running or to a ballet class instead.

My second option would be to write reviews only and to limit the information on myself solely on the books read and films seen.

The third option would be to switch to Blogger beta and to strictly narrow down the accessibility of this blog to a few select people. This would be very desirable, as I have no way of knowing who the other 20 people who regularly read my blog, but never leave a comment, are.

At the present I'm still weighing my options, but contrary to what some people think I DO NOT write this blog because I'm an exhibitionist. I write it because it's been the only way I could (and did) keep writing in English for a whole year (and for some strange reason I believe one hasn't mastered a language if one doesn't keep practicing and writing. I did say a long time ago that reading in English is not a problem for me, but I know many people who can read and understand perfectly, but have quite a few problems when they have to speak or write). At other private methods consisting of buying a notebook and deciding to jot down a few words every now and then I failed admirably. I've never been a person who could keep a diary, but I could keep a blog, because of some invisible force of feeling a duty towards your readers.

Now it seems that these same readers and this duty have been my undoing. And who am I kidding - a blog more or less, who will actually care? Si. blogs has exploded in the year in which I kept writing Random Ramblings and I truly believe there are other, better-worded, more frequently updated, more eloquently phrased blogs on anything from the universe to nano-technology. You can do without me; there's only the reconciliation I have to bring about between the me who loved writing (the form of expression I've loved for a long time) and the me who dislikes being identified.

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posted by Nadezhda | 20:40 | 17 comments | links to this post

Friday, September 08, 2006

Watching Walk the line (2005, James Mangold)

Walk the Line is much like Ray (2004); an inspirational and uplifting film about a young country musician Johnny Cash, who struggles to make ends meet. And when he does, when he exceeds the expectations and becomes very famous, he realizes that fame isn't convenient in all respects. Additionally, it is a film about the power of enduring love; a film about the struggles of two people over the span of thirteen years, who knew they were right for each other, but it was not meant for them to be united before that long time passed.

The core of the film are Cash's beginnings and his early career, briefly even his childhood, and his growing love for June Carter, a woman who he could not have. From the first moment of their meeting it becomes painfully obvious that they were very impressed with each other, but the circumstances prevented any serious attachment. As Cash's relationship with his first wife grew colder and distant, the more his love for June increased.

By the time half of the film had passed it's blatantly obvious that Johnny's fallen for June with all he is; - he is desperate to show her the love he feels for her, but she remains unmoved by his open (and sometimes embarrassing) displays of affection. Also amidst his addiction-induced erratic behaviour and a busy career, he's hard put to profess his love to her in a way, which would tempt her to accept him. Carter's main reason to hold back in her love for Johnny was her second divorce – in those times still considered a big sin – she'd gone through two marriages, but both unfulfilling and unhappy and she struggles to keep her calm in a world that judges her harshly for being disappointed in love – and twice! Carter, however, is very in touch with her feelings and has long since realized that against all odds she's fallen for her (admittedly much flawed) prince.

The film portrays Cash as a person who never had much, but what he did have was the ability to keep going, even when the odds were against him, even when his personal life was unsteady and he unhappy. When he was emotionally at his all time low (trapped in an unfulfilling marriage, because his first wife wouldn't divorce him, but not in the least bit spared the rampant jealousy his wife displayed), he was still writing new songs and releasing new albums. (At a private viewing of the film, Cash's oldest daughter complained that her mother never was so crazy and mean and that the film's portrayal is unfaithful to the real Vivan Liberto Cash who was a very private, family oriented person.)

Very early in his career, Cash developed problems with substance abuse and for a great part of his carrer, drugs (uppers) were his only faithful companion. He had a relapse in his later years, which goes to prove that an addict is never really cured.

The title for the film comes from Cash's song I Walk the Line, which was originally written for Cash's first wife, Vivian, and not June as the film implies. There are other instances in the film where the script-writers have adapted and modified events to suit their way of telling this story. For instance: Cash was a musician already in High School, when he played on the local radio and he formed his first band while stationed in Germany. The film seems to suggest that Cash likes a shiny new guitar and buys it without so much as any previous knowledge of music. The film also never comes even close to establishing that June Carter Cash was herself addicted to amphetamines in her high school years, thus failing to underline the fact that when Johnny was struggling to get clean, June was able to be of most assistance to him, because she had walked that path before him. June reportedly found great support in her family and thus tried to form a protective and caring net around Johnny as well. Also, Johnny's brother Jack was on his death-bed for a week, before he passed away and the film suggests a different course of events. Such prolonged suffering could have (believably) affected Johnny far more than Jack's quick passing the film portrays. In the film, Johnny's father seems to blame his son very severely for the death of his older and much more loved brother however, in reality it remains a mystery whether Cash's father openly blamed any individual for the death. Nevertheless, it was an event that deeply marked Cash, even into his adulthood and quite possibly instilled in him low self-esteem (his life-long problem). There is also a short scene where Cash's first wife talks about another baby being on the way, when in reality their second child wasn't born until three years later. (It might be that the film-makers tried to add a different edge to the scene or there might have been a miscarriage.)

Overall, a delightful film (I would have never assumed I would like a single, not to speak of several country songs) with superb performances by the leading two actors - while Witherspoon creates an emotional background and a worthy object of affection, Phoenix delievers much of the energy and feel that was typical of Cash. Viewing highly recommended.

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posted by Nadezhda | 19:21 | 2 comments | links to this post

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

I know what the two remaining horcruxes are!

I slept badly during the night so I took a little nap in the morning and had the most incredible dream. I dreamt about reading a new, never before seen passage in Harry Potter (undoubtedly because me and JK Rowling share a mind connection similar to the one Harry and V. share) where some lady whose name I forgot revealed to another person that after Voldemort got hold of the locket and the cup, he focused on finding relics from famous wizards, one of them being a will (perhaps by Salazar Slytherin?), written on a piece of parchment and bent so it resembled a papery cross.

What the other iteam was, I cannot recall, because just as I was "reading" that paragraph boyfriend called me on my mobile and my dream was abruptly ended. So you see, it is his fault entirely that the HP fans should be denied the privillege of knowing about the other object in advance. :)

What struck me as odd was how very realistic this dream was - I could hardly believe I was dreaming after the phone had woken me up.

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posted by Nadezhda | 13:55 | 7 comments | links to this post

Reading Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

At first I intended to read In Cold Blood by Capote, my interest piqued by the film. However, as the book was not to be found neither at the library nor at a book-shop, I decided to read Capote's famous novella Breakfast at Tiffany's.

The novella focuses on a few months in the life of Holly Golightly as seen through the eyes of her neighbour, who is an aspiring writer and never named (Holly calls him Fred, after her own beloved brother but that is not the author's real name.). At first the author isn't so fond of Holly, but later he is drawn to her because of her charming, persuasive and unothodox manners.

Holly is a daring young (just 19) lady who is trying to succed on her own and is by no means afraid to use her charms, to lie, trick, decieve or appeal to one's better nature. In many ways she resembles her nameless cat - she doesn't talk about her past, of her family or relations. Even her name is made-up. Whenever a discussion takes an undesirable turn she just scratches her nose and quicky changes the topic without any other sign of discomfort. And like her cat, she tries to appear as though she existed since forever (the author remarks she could be any age between 16 and 30) and belongs to nobody, is rootless. (So less pleasing to her when her husband locates her and tries to talk her into returning home.)

She appears superficial and lacking in understanding of the world's ways, but rather than this, she seems to like to please her friends and company. She's a woman who discovered at a young age that flattering and pleasing someone can enable you a decent living. She also educates herself on topics of interest to men whom she dates so as to appear interesting longer. Undoubtedly some of her unorthodox ways and views were "invented" for the same purpose.

Holly's main problem is that she doesn't like (actually abhorres) her past (one can see why) and has -- in want of something better for herself -- invented a new name and future for herself. But while having run away from home has given her a chance to reinvent herself, it has also robbed her of her identity, of her roots - of the thing she can always rely on, on having somewhere to go, someone to love and be loved in return. Even the socially-savvy Holly cannot hide the fact that she has no one to care for her and thus forms a very tight relationship with the author and some of her boyfriends.

Holly doesn't strike the reader as someone who is happy (and content with life) but as someone who appears as who she wants to be, but still seeks happiness. Holly's youthful inexperience and the lack of a sense of direction also contribute to her inability to be happy. It takes Holly a long time to realize what it is she really wants from her life. (Intuitively, she seems to understand her deeply rooted wishes, but fights against them for long as though by admitting them she would appear too vulnerable, too much like any living person.) The realization comes after losing her no-name cat. And even at the end of the novella, she is still in search of home (unsteady relationship with a Brazillian married man).

All in all, I wasn't too impressed with this work. While undoubtedly it is masterfully composed, a certain someting lacked - perhaps I found the story too ordinary(?) and Holly slightly overbearing. This is a good book to read when you have an hour to spare, but will not make you see the world differently - or at least it didn't in my case.

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posted by Nadezhda | 00:43 | 2 comments | links to this post

Monday, September 04, 2006

Bridget is all you need

9.37 p.m. Have been v. busy today. Went to library and book-shop. Bought another copy of Bridget Jones and the Edge of Reason as donated my first copy to library last year in March and they still haven't put it on the shelves.

Determined never to donate books to library again as they just keep it to themselves. Spent the afternoon laughing my lungs out re-reading Bridget's adventures. This book is a must-have. Brightens any day and never gets boring.

Have not been in the mood for writing - thus my readership suffers from lack of interesting posts. Decide to improve. Have two posts half-ready to publish and half-a-dozen in the brewing. Also have to read three books by tomorrow afternoon as they're due (in the library) then.

But before that I'm going back to read just a couple more pages from Bridget. Or maybe a couple dozen more. No matter as long as having v. g. time.

P.S. Blog one year old (yippee!) which is v.g. as well.

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posted by Nadezhda | 21:34 | 4 comments | links to this post