Harry Potter and the Mid-Life Crisis

Could there be an eighth Harry Potter novel after all? Just five months after the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling has dropped a hint that she might not be done with the wizarding world.

Rowling told Time magazine in a year-end interview: "There have been times since finishing, weak moments, when I've said 'Yeah, all right' to the eighth novel.”

Okay, it’s not much to pin your hopes on but fans need something to cling to in this now Harry Potter-less land. I’ve spent many a summer afternoon in a hammock reading through the increasingly hefty tomes and I can’t satisfy my interests by waiting for Tristan to be old enough for me read them to him.

Rowling created such a lush, detailed universe that there must be a multitude of characters and stories to tell. Which is what the author may have in mind. "If, and it's a big if, I ever write an eighth book, I doubt that Harry would be the central character. I feel I've already told his story,” said Rowling. “But these are big ifs. Let's give it ten years."

She did drop some other tidbits, which shows how developed the universe already is, such as where the main characters end up inbetween the final battle of Hallows and the epilogue:

"I do have it all worked out in my mind because I couldn't stop myself doing that," Rowling told Time. "Harry and Hermione are at the Ministry: he ends up leading the Auror department. Ron helps George at the joke shop and does very well. Ginny becomes a professional Quidditch player and then sportswriter for the Daily Prophet.”

Wait 10 years for more? I suppose I'll have to. Anything that brings children closer to Satanism, right?

Poor Little Rich Girl

How annoyed must someone be with you to cut you out of a couple of billion dollars? Paris Hilton's grandfather Barron Hilton plans to donate 97% of his net worth, estimated today at $2.3 billion, to a charitable trust. Barron's father Conrad did the same, but Barron challenged the will and clawed a sizable amount back from charity, but now he'd rather give it away then see it in the hands of his petulant progeny. Perhaps Paris will fight this in court, but her lawyers couldn't even keep 1 Night in Paris off the shelves, so it doesn't look good for the heiress.

Of course Paris has, against all reason, turned herself into a multi-platform brand and likely has a significant trust fund to help her get by, but still, it has got to sting...

Full Metal Rudolph, The Reinfather & A Pack of Gifts Now

The stop animation of the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Christmas special always creeped me out Maybe it was the way they moved or the large, dead eyes. But what doesn't put me in the Christmas spirit does lend itself to parody.

Full Metal Rudolph is a wonderful mashup of one of my favourite films, Stanly Kuberick's Full Metal Jacket, with Rudolph. The scene has Senior Drill Instructor Gunnery Sergeant Hartman tearing a new one for the elves.

Awhile back MAD TV aired a few Rudolph parodies, done by animator Corky Quakenbush. The Reinfather captures some of the best of The Godfather, with Rudolph as Brando, Hermey the Misfit Elf as his lieutenant. "This one time, Clarice, I'll let you ask about my business..."

A Pack of Gifts Now summarizes Apocalypse Now in a tidy four and a half minutes, with Rudolph as Captain Willard and Santa as Colonel Kurtz. Santa has gone mad and is giving toys away for free.

"Saskatchewan. Shoot. I'm still in Saskatchewan... the ho ho horror!"

Dodecatuple Secret Probation

How many universities and colleges frats and residences must lay claim to being the inspiration for Animal House? It must be countless. And just like urban myths, it is often hard to prove or disprove and the story gets repeated enough over the years that it begins to sound true.

This week the University of Toronto turned the Gate House residence, “which lays claim to being an inspiration for the 1978 movie Animal House,” into a co-ed facility after some typical dude idiocy. A giant snow penis sculpture, a pig’s head in a women’s washroom, hazing and this list goes on.

Well not condoning the behaviour, I get the appeal of laying claim to the Animal House mantle. It is one of the best-known pop cultural depictions of university life, and one that is often parodied.

At least Gate House has some connection to the film. Donald Sutherland, who played Professor Jennings in the movie, attended UofT and was in residence next door to Gate House. The Toronto Star says, “his memories of Gate House toga parties are said to have influenced the movie script.” Perhaps, though most everywhere else attributes the origin of Animal House to Dartmouth College, where one of the writers was in the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity.

But whether the residence inspired the film or the film inspired the residents, it was shut down by the university and the dean of students. It’s just how Homer Simpson, whose entire vision of post-secondary life is informed by Animal House-esqe escapades would imagine it. “Marge, someone squeezed all the life out of these kids. And unless movies and TV have lied to me, it's a crusty, bitter old dean!”

Homer Goes to College has several references to Animal House (bless those rowdy members of Chugalug House!), but it can’t touch the loving tribute of Futurama’s Mars University. While the plot centers on Fry and a monkey, it is Bender revisiting his old alma mater, Robot House that steals the show.

Gearshit: No, Bender, wait. We're the lamest frat on campus. Even Hilel has better parties than us. Please, you've gotta stay and teach us how to be cool.

Bender: Well, okay... but I'll need 10 kegs of beer, a continuous tape of Louie Louie and a regulation two-story panty-raid ladder.

Even while on a dodecatuple secret probation, the robots are able to show up the neighbouring Snooty House.

So while UofT may not be the original home of Animal House, it will live on in pop culture forever – and inspire more real-life stupidity.

My Kid Could Paint That

I have discovered a budding new artist, my 14-month-old son Tristan. Quickly surpassing his daycare contemporaries, Tristan is l'enfant terrible of the abstract art world.

While this claim has been made before, only to fall apart when the hand of a parent was discovered to be assisting the child, I can assure you that I've had no part in this work. His genius is his own...

Energy and Projection
Tristan's paintings are a process of exploration. There are no messages or hidden agendas, other than to reveal the discoveries made during his investigations. Perhaps he does take cues from familiar surroundings and perhaps the steamy southern summers, rich patinas of aged surfaces and the mystery of moss-draped wetlands do find their way into his work. But not as images, not obviously and certainly not intentionally.

Luminous Response
Tristan collects ideas, energy and impressions from his personal experiences and surroundings, and then, using his skills and talent, portrays his interpretation on the canvas. The impressions Tristan treasures are as singularly brilliant as his ability to convey them, so the final effect is one of ravishing beauty and luxury, and canvases alive with character.

The Shimmering Context
Tristan explores the relationships among the natural world, the human soul, color, beauty and the unknown, and interprets these ideas through art that is pleasing to the eye and the soul. His artistic repertoire is crafted and conceived with a sense of timing, a delicate but sure hand and nuances of color.

Ephemeral Appendix of Despair
Tristan's nocturnes are tangible demonstrations of his creed of aestheticism, which stresses his desire to orchestrate selected elements from nature into a composition that, like music, exists for its own sake, without regard to moral or didactic issues.

Déjà Vu/Sweet Dreams
Tristan's work is dependent on design fundamentals: form, color, and composition. He believes the most complex emotions can be evoked from the simplest of forms. His style explores the relationship between man-made structures and the natural world. Tristan begins a piece very spontaneously and become more detailed as the composition starts to show itself. The process involves layering. By building and removing endless layers of paint, Tristan gives the work a sense of history and unique, old world charm. The first layers are the most erratic and freeform, similar to automatic writing. He sometimes add other elements like gels, and collage in these early layers.

There are no preliminary sketches or notions of what is going to transpire. As he notices different characters and forms in the middle of the process, he nurtures and allows them to develop almost at their own will. A dialogue is created with the painting, and it starts to show what needs to be done. Determining when a painting is finished is a crucial and difficult step in his process. Tristan always has to see it with fresh eyes after at least a day has passed to decide if it is finished.


I've been wallowing in some '80s nostalgia. Early '80s. Actually some Australian nostalgia as well and have been searching out old Men at Work and Midnight Oil albums that I used to have on cassettes. (Cassettes? what are those dad?)

It turns out iTunes doesn't have Diesel and Dust or Cargo. Weird. But the Canadian store (stupid geo-blocking) now caries episodes of Little Mosque on the Prairie and Corner Gas. Sigh... go CanCon.

Any-who, it reminded me of a Scrubs episode where the lead singer of Men at Work sang Overkill while following J.D. (Zach Braff) about the hospital. It's a bit odd out of context, but still a great version, especially if you've never seen it.

So without further ado...

Last Supper Redux

Since posting a collection of Last Supper parodies last Easter (I'm sensitive that way) I've found another dozen that are worth checking out. The range is impressive, from House to Quentin Tarantino, Popeye to Batman, Kevin Smith to Phish.

Check out the whole collection before a lightning bolt strikes me or my server down.

House's Last Supper

The Kids Aren't Alright

Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame street? No? What do you mean it isn't for kids?

The recent DVD release of Sesame Street: Old School, Volumes 1 and 2, which encompasses the years 1969-79, came with a warning: “These early Sesame Street episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child.”

Are they kidding? These two volumes encompass the beginnings of the classic kids show, which intersect almost perfectly with my childhood. My generation played with lawn darts and had full-wheel walkers that could fly down stairs like nobody's business, but Sesame Street was a source of all that was pure and good.

Or not, it seems. The ravenous, googly-eyed, sugar-binging Cookie Monster used to throw back boxes and boxes of the sugary treats. Om nom nom nom. Now the cookies are considered a "sometimes snack" and he's just as happy with carrots and other veggies. Stupid, overweight children.

And everyone can now see Snuffleupagus too, not just Big Bird. Seems that they didn't want kids thinking adults wouldn't believe them if they told them something, which is understandable, but it still takes a way a bit of the magic. Whatever happened to imaginary friends?

Even Oscar, the cranky, garbage-dwellig Grouch, is too much for our kinder, gentler, child-rearing ways. Apparently he was a touch too acidic way, way back in the 1970s and wouldn't pass muster today. “We might not be able to create a character like Oscar now,” Carol-Lynn Parente, the executive producer of Sesame Street, told The New York Times.

Amusingly, it's likely people my age running the show these days, the ones brought up watching what is now deemed inappropriate for kids. A classic case of "Do as I say, not as I do." I suppose all parents do that.

Of course I'm hardly the first to bemoan the changes and wonder where they are leading to. Below is graphic artist Steve Murray's take on the subject. Click on the image for a larger version.

If He's Not in Action, He's in Traction

Who would have thought it would be Evel Knievel’s health that would fell him and not one of his insane stunts? The star-spangled motorcycle daredevil and ’70s icon died Friday at the age of 69.

I had an Evel Knievel pillow when I was a kid, which in retrospect seems like an odd piece of merchandise for him to have endorsed, but at his height he was like Krusty, stamping his seal of approval on everything. By the time I heard of him, his career was over mostly over and he was as famous for his failed jumps as his successful landings.

I suppose I was impressed much like Bart Simpson was after seeing daredevil Captain Lance Murdoch (a spot-on Knievel parody) at the monster truck rally. Bart starts off jumping his skateboard over pets, pools, Homer, until he runs out of things to clear. He decides to up the ante by planning a spectacular jump over Springfield Gorge, much like Knievel’s plan to jump Snake River Canyon in a rocket-propelled motorcycle. Lisa takes Bart to see Murdoch in the hospital in an attempt to dissuade him.
“Now let me start by saying... Good for you son! It's always good to see young people taking an interest in danger. Now a lot of people are going to be telling you you're crazy, and maybe they're right. But the fact of the matter is: Bones heal. Chicks dig scars. And the United States of America has the best doctor-to-daredevil ratio in the world!”
Bart doesn’t end up attempting the leap, but Homer does, plunging to the the bottom of the gorge, just like Knievel.

The stuntman’s pop culture influence extended beyond The Simpsons, of course. There was Super Dave Osbourne, a rock opera and a forthcoming roller coaster, among the reams and reams of merchandise. But one thing I’ve rarely seen him given much credit for is the term "jumping the shark.”

The term, which describes a show that has passed its prime, is attributed to an episode of Happy Days where Fonzi water-skis over a shark. The episode aired in 1977, just months after Knievel’s disastrous jump over a tank full of sharks. The term is now wide spread and it all goes back to Knievel. Now that’s a pop culture legacy!

Addendum: Having said nobody makes the jumping the shark connection, I found exactly that in Steve Mandich's extensive collection of Knievel Comedy. I also found a great look back at Knievel's career over at A Shroud of Thoughts. She has quite the way with pop culture obits.