Harry Potter Reread: I finished the series!

I finished rereading the entire Harry Potter series on Wednesday. I didn’t want it to end. It was, like I said in a previous post, the perfect escape from the world of worry I have been living in. Now I’m not sure where to run off to. I’m thinking Transylvania but I might also visit England in The Old Curiosity Shop. Let’s be honest though: Nothing beats Harry Potter.

I found that I could read the books a lot more closely this time around because I wasn’t as shocked at the deaths. I knew the deaths were coming so I wasn’t disregarding the details. I wasn’t in a hurry to find out what happens next because I already know. This led to me picking up a lot of details that I would have otherwise missed.

I also gained a lot of respect for Rowling and her ability to create such a rich, deeply connected world. I think I might do a full post on this idea later but let me give an example for now to illustrate my point. If you’ve read the series, you know that Draco Malfoy spends much of his 6th year at Hogwarts fixing a Vanishing Cabinet. Some authors would offer no explanation as to why the Cabinet was broken. In that case, the readers would assume it was broken at some point in the past. Hogwarts is really old so stuff is bound to happen. I’m not saying there is anything necessarily wrong with that approach. It’s worked in the past and will work in today’s fiction.

But Rowling doesn’t take the easy out. She shows us the reason why the Cabinet was broken, if only we were keen enough to remember it.

It happened way back in Harry’s second year. At one point in The Chamber of Secrets, Harry finds himself in Filch’s office, most certainly facing detention. Nearly Headless Nick, being the Gryffindor that he is, decides to try to help Harry. Nick convinces Peeves to drop the Vanishing Cabinet on the floor above Filch’s office, causing a loud noise and Filch to leave his office in search of Peeves. Filch only mentions the Cabinet in passing on page 128:

     “That Vanishing Cabinet was extremely valuable!” he was saying gleefully to Mrs. Norris. “We’ll have Peeves out this time, my sweet–“

Rowling weaves details together like this all the time. It’s subtle but fantastic. I love it. I might do a longer post on this phenomenon later; there are a lot more examples.

I plan on doing a post on movie adaptation differences that I had not realized before this reread, too. Look for posts devoted to what I realized/thought about each one of the books, as well.

Stay tuned!

Life Update: Grad School Trip and Harry Potter Progress Report

Hi all,

Two weeks ago I said I would be posting more about The Sorcerer’s Stone over the weekend. That obviously didn’t happen. I wasn’t feeling well that weekend so I didn’t get around to it. Sorry about that.

Then, on Sunday, I heard back from one graduate school about an assistantship I had applied for. They had invited me to their campus to see what the position entails. Of course I wanted to go and hopefully gain an interview. That’s why, once I was feeling better, I was planning for the 7 hour road trip that was to begin the next day. My grandpa and I left Monday, stayed in a hotel overnight, and were ready for the session on 7:15am on Tuesday. I thought the day had gone fairly well. I was told, due to my experience in the field, that I was the top candidate. The director of the department just wanted me to see what they did there and then decide if I was still interested. If I was still interested, I was supposed to email her and let her know. At 12:30pm the session was over, we ate lunch and drove home. We were home for one day and then left on Thursday the 25th for a family vacation. We were in New Jersey visiting family for 5 days, arriving home on Monday.

I sent the “Yes, I’m still interested email” when I got back from the university and before we left for New Jersey. I did not hear back from her the entire vacation. On Monday, when we got home, I decided to email her again to check-in and see if she was still on-board with giving an interview. Turns out, my email wasn’t necessary.

She had emailed me earlier in the day, while I was still in the car without wi-fi, to tell me that they decided that the other candidates would be “a better fit for the team” they “already have in place”. Without going into a full-blown rant here, I’ll just say that I was, and am, very confused as to what happened. I talked, laughed, and joked with the staff that was there. I thought we got along pretty well and I learned a bunch about their work. I thought they liked me. Guess not.

I was really excited about that position because the director told me that, if I did good work, she would ask me to stay on for future semesters. She said she really wanted someone to stay on for more than one semester because of the amount of training involved. So I thought I was all set. She told me I was the top candidate, I could have the job my entire time there, all of grad school would be paid for, and I would get a stipend that would cover rent and groceries. And then it all came crashing down and it sucks.

Now I’m back to waiting to hear about other positions I applied for. Although, now that it’s July, I don’t have much time to wait. If I am going to go to grad school in the fall, I need to commit to somewhere, find somewhere to live, work out finances, etc. If I don’t do that soon I won’t have a choice–I’ll have to wait until next year. I’m in a sort of precarious position and it’s not a fun time.

(In case anyone is wondering, I did email her and ask for feedback about how I could improve my presentation during opportunities like that one. “Feedback” aka “Why did I not get the job?” She replied that she’d get back to me next week.)

So, as you can see, I’ve had a busy couple weeks and haven’t had the chance to sit down and write a good post. I’m sorry that I ended up lying to you all about that weekend. If you were annoyed for some reason, please forgive me.

The happy news is that Harry Potter has been my constant companion through this mess. I took the third book with me on the grad school visit and it was like traveling with an old friend. With all of the newness and craziness of the day, I still had the familiarity of Hogwarts to return to. It was comforting to have that world to dive into; one that I knew how it worked and what would happen.

I’m nearing the end of The Order of the Phoenix now and let me tell you that this series is exactly what I need right now. It has been the escape that I need from the world of worry about graduate school that I currently live in. (I’m trying not to worry so much but it’s hard…) I do plan on posting my ideas from The Sorcerer’s Stone that I had in mind two weeks ago. I have potential posts, some longer than others, about all of the books that I will put up in due time. I appreciate your patience.

I think that’s all for now. I just wanted to throw this quick update out there now so that, in case you were curious, you know where I’m at.

I’m off to the Department of Mysteries now. *sad sigh* Sometimes it doesn’t matter if you know what’s coming. Doesn’t hurt any less.

Harry Potter Reread: My Sorcerer’s Stone Memories

I found that, when I picked up The Sorcerer’s Stone, I remembered the first time I ever read the Potter books.

My sister had been given The Sorcerer’s Stone as a gift by our uncle and his then-girlfriend. They knew that she really liked to read and so they gave her the book as a gift. (I want to say it was for her birthday but I’m not sure.) Harry Potter had been in print for a couple years by then but hadn’t yet gained its overwhelming fame. My sister read it quickly and then recommended it to me.

I have to admit that I almost didn’t read it. The book starts out talking about the Dursleys, who are perfectly boring, and I wasn’t interested in getting past the first page. I read further, at my sister’s urging, and am I glad I did 😉 My mother knew we enjoyed the book a lot so she bought us the sequel shortly after. Of course, within a few days, we had devoured that book and then had to wait forever for the third book. A year feels like an eternity to youngsters like us.

I remember the anxiety of waiting to hear any word about when the next book would be published. Today, I am half-amazed we made it through the wait. I wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t experience it myself. Kids these days never had to experience the agony of waiting for the next Harry Potter book to come out. So I don’t want to hear about how their lives are unfair 😉

It’s funny how rereading books can make us remember things like that. It’s like music in that way. When I reread a book, like when I listen to a song, it can take me back to the first time I experienced it. I can remember what was going on in my life during the time I read a book. I could tell you the books I read when I was at camp one summer, when my grandmother lay dying of cancer in the next room, and after my first boyfriend broke up with me. I could tell you how I was reading Les Miserables during the summer before my senior year of college and about the first time I started Oliver Twist. I think it’s another property books have–the ability to hold bits of your memory between their pages. I don’t know how it works, only that it does so with me. Is it like that with you?

Before I go I HAVE to tell you this story:

[I paraphrased because I don’t remember the exact words exchanged.]

Tom Felton, who plays Draco Malfoy in the Potter films, came to a little town near my hometown for a carp fishing tournament that’s held there every year. Apparently he needed to buy some things because he walked into the Wal-Mart in the next town over where my grandmother worked. She was a greeter. So, when Tom Felton walked in to Wal-Mart my grandma said “Welcome to Wal-Mart”, like she always does to the shoppers coming in and he slowed to say “Thanks”. My grandma said she recognized him from the movies and that her granddaughters really liked the movies and the books. He said he was glad that we liked them. Then she shook his hand and said thanks for stopping by and wished him a good day. Tom (because we’re clearly on a first name basis now) said “Thanks, you too!” and continued into the store.

And that’s the story about the time my grandmother talked to Tom Felton about me. True story.    (Don’t believe me? Just read.)

Afterward, my grandma said he was really nice and not at all like his character in the movies. Even at my young age, I figured that to be true but it was cool to hear about him nonetheless. When she began telling us about her encounter, I was mortified she was going to say she did something that would embarrass me. But she didn’t. And now I have that story to tell 😉

Anyway, I’ll be writing about more about the book’s plot and less about myself this weekend. I picked up on a lot of interesting details that I had forgotten or missed. I’m looking forward to discussing those soon.

For now I’ll leave you with this little gem:

[Spoiler Alert!]

After snow fell on Hogwarts during Harry’s first year, “the Weasley twins were punished for bewitching several snowballs so that they followed Quirrell around, bouncing off the back of his turban”.

Translation: Fred and George were repeatedly smacking Voldemort in the face with snowballs. That’s hilarious.

I know this realization has been floating around on the Internet so you may have seen it already. But it’s still funny and I couldn’t resist pointing it out again.

Until next time…Go Bills.

Announcing a New Project

Lately, I haven’t had the same relationship with reading that I have always had. And I’m not quite sure how it happened. As you probably know, I have always been an avid reader. But lately, I haven’t been feeling the same longing to read that I once did. It’s weird because I will be excited to start a book and then have trouble finishing it.

Some of it might stem from having to do so much assigned reading in college that I became tired of it. There also isn’t much time for free reading during the academic year. But now that I’m off for the summer, I’ve found I’m still not reading as much as I would expect myself to be reading. I don’t really know what the issue is.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love reading. I read Paper Towns, An Abundance of Katherines, and The Beginning of Everything last semester. I still enjoy the activity; I just don’t have the hunger for it that I used to. I had to bring myself to finish them. Does that make sense? I don’t want to force myself to finish a book. I want to want to finish a book. (I’m hoping you’re still following me here.)

I’m not really looking for the reason, and I’m not asking you to do so, either. Rather, I wanted to announce that I am starting to read a certain book series in hopes of regaining my appetite for reading. Maybe you can guess what that book series is. (Hint: It involves a boy with a lightning-shaped scar.)

Harry Potter was the only logical choice here. If you’ll excuse the pun, it is one of the most magical books I’ve ever read. I became so completely immersed in the wizarding world that I couldn’t get enough of it. I, like many others, waited in agony for a year or more for the next book to come out. That kind of fierce hunger for literature is what I’m looking for.

So I will be reading the entire Harry Potter series again, from start to finish, and blogging about it. I’ll be writing about my discoveries I make about the books and myself along the way. I haven’t reread the series in a while so this should be fun. I will probably be posting stuff non-Potter-related during this time, too, but the majority will probably be related to this project. I will put spoiler alerts in the posts that need it but I expect that they will be unnecessary for many of you. If, for some reason, you haven’t read the Harry Potter books, now is the perfect opportunity for you to do so. (Seriously. Work on that.)

I probably won’t be posting new stuff everyday but I’ll try to keep at it. Post frequency will depend, in part, on which chapter I’m reading and how much I have to say. Some days I may have many thoughts to share so there will be several posts, and other times I may have no words. So, posting will be sporadic but hopefully enjoyable for the both of us.

If you want to hear more about my Harry Potter journey, come back soon. If not, thanks for stopping by 🙂

As for me, I’m off to Privet Drive.

John Green stereotyped psychologists and it annoys me.

I finished John Green’s Paper Towns a while ago. For the most part it was very good. One part though, annoys me a lot: Green stereotypes psychologists as people who analyze everything anyone does and speak in psychology jargon.

Let me be clear: This stereotype is false for the vast majority of psychologists.

In case you are not aware, the main protagonist in Paper Towns is named Quentin. Quentin’s parents are clinical psychologists. That is, they are therapists. And it seems Quentin cannot have an interaction with his parents without a blanketed generalization wrapped around it.

This is a direct quote from Paper Towns, page 106: [For some context: A pair of family friends just left Quentin’s house]

My dad put his arm around me. “Those are some very troubling dynamics, eh, bud?”

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and I’m going on for my Master’s (to an eventual Ph.D). Never in my life have I witnessed conflict, turned to the person next to me and said ‘Those are some very troubling dynamics, eh?’ I’ve never heard any of my psych professors speak that way outside of defining those type of terms during lecture. That is not how psychologists talk. I’d argue that’s probably not how any one talks. Psychologists are everyday people who use the same words as everyone else.

We psychologists do not use phrases like “severe narcissistic injury” in everyday conversation, as Quentin’s dad does on page 106. Not only does it sound pretentious to most, but no one knows what it means. I certainly wouldn’t if I hadn’t taken classes in counseling. Also, pop culture’s meaning of the word “narcissistic” and the psychological definition are two different things. I’m not convinced Quentin’s dad is using the word as a clinician would, to be honest.

On page 198 Quentin’s mother says to Quentin:

“…you start to see them…as people. They’re just people, who deserve to be cared for. Varying degrees of sick, varying degrees of neurotic, varying degrees of self-actualized.”

First, few people know what self-actualization is outside of a psychology class. Like “narcissistic”, the professional definition of “neurotic” is different than the popular definition. Second, NO ONE TALKS LIKE THAT. Psychologists don’t analyze our neighbors and friends in that way. If I saw two people arguing I might wonder what is wrong either a) out of curiosity or b) because I care for one or both of them and don’t want them to be hurting. I don’t take it as an opportunity to look at them as if they are a client. I don’t see someone in the grocery store and say, “Oh, this woman is clearly not sufficiently self-actualized because she brought her husband along.”

Which leads me to another point: Psychologists do not go around looking for people to analyze. Every time the parents’ discussion turns to someone, they start musing about what is going on with him or her from a clinical perspective. People aren’t properly self-actualized, or they suffer from a narcissistic injury or they’re neurotic or have troubling dynamics. The thing is, even when musing with fellow psychology alumni in private, we don’t use words like that.

And we don’t analyze our friends. We don’t analyze our friends out of respect for them and their privacy. If they want to tell us something, they will when they want to. It’s not our job to go searching for what is happening with them. If you get the opportunity to gain a better understanding of human behavior, you are not supposed to use it for a personal gain or prove that you are correct and that you can successfully predict people’s behavior. Psychological knowledge can give you power: the power to manipulate, to harm, to help. Psychology students are always taught to recognize the power they have and be responsible with it. The main purpose of psychology is to help people. If your analysis is not helping people or you were not asked for input, then you stay out of it. Not everything is your business.

Good psychologists would know all this. They would put it into practice everyday. And if Quentin’s parents are good psychologists, like Green would lead us to believe, they wouldn’t be analyzing their neighbors. That isn’t their job.

You know who does use that type of language? Those who want to prove they are smarter than you. I see it all the time with Intro to Psychology students. They take one psych class, think they are all-powerful, and try to use “counter-transference” in everyday conversation, and often times get it wrong. Or, there are the amateur psychologist who think they have something to prove. Someone truly good at their job knows they’re good and doesn’t need to prove it.

Green tries to paint Quentin’s parents as kind, wholesome people, but when I read their conversations I was put off by it. It sounded to me like they were trying to show that they are so insightful with their analyses (look at what big words I can use!) and that clashed with the image of them being all-around good people. It also made the story all the less believable for me because I know that’s not how psychologists talk to each other, let alone other people.

Maybe the conversations were supposed to be funny. Maybe using psychological jargon is the only way Green thought we could understand the idea that Quentin’s parents really are therapists. And good ones at that. (As if Quentin telling the reader wasn’t enough…?) Using technical language doesn’t make you a good psychologist though. There is so much more to it than that. Whatever the reason, the parental interaction part of the book was hurtful. It was hurtful because it perpetuates this stereotype of psychologists reading into everything you say and do. And we don’t. I have spent four years surrounded by psychologists and I promise you, the large majority of psychologists don’t do it.

You may be wondering: Why is this important? Why is she spending all this time ranting about it?

Here’s why: once people learn you are a psychologist or psychology major, many of them don’t want to hang out with you. They believe the stereotype and want to stay away in fear of having their mind read.

This has happened to me with complete strangers. I was on a train, traveling to see my sister, and I was waiting in line next to this elderly woman. She made a joke about the long line and then we got to small talking. She soon learned I was a college student and, naturally, asked what I was studying. When I told her psychology she was said something to the effect of “Ohhh, we gotta watch out for you then.” Then she chuckled. Like that was the most original joke in the world. I smiled, as I always do when someone says that, but inwardly I was rolling my eyes. Now, I can never have a natural conversation with her again, because she’ll always think I will read her mind. This may not be true of her, but it always feels that way. I always feel the need to explain myself. And you know what? On the return trip, nearly the same exact conversation occurred with a man I happened to be sharing a table with.

I overheard a conversation in class one day between two students discussing which major would be the best to date. One guy said psych majors would be the worst to date because they would just read into everything you do and it would be annoying. Plus, they would always win all the arguments because they could just pick your brain and know just what to say and that would be annoying, too. (A female psychology student piped up in our defense before I did but that’s a different post.) Regardless of whether anyone would actually date these boys, it just goes to show how strong the stereotype is. It influences the behavior of people.

These generalizations are the stuff psychologists have to live with everyday. It is not everyone who believes the stereotype. But there are enough to make it annoying. Like all generalizations, these beliefs are only combated by a relationship with a member of the group in question. Ironically, no one who believes the stereotype will want to be friends with a psychologist because they don’t want their mind read.  BUT PSYCHOLOGISTS ARE NOT MIND READERS. And we all don’t talk like the characters in John Green’s book.

Unfortunately for psychologists, this book is now being made into a movie. This will make it even more popular. Now more people will take the opportunity to read these inaccurate conversations. It is a work of fiction and so maybe people will take it as such. However, I suspect that some readers, especially younger ones, will take the book as a legitimate account of what living with a psychologist looks like. It’s not an accurate description though. And now all of us psychologists have to deal with the reinforced stereotype that Paper Towns provides its readers.

Okay, end of rant. I could go on but I’ll just end it here. If you want to hear more of my thoughts on this, feel free to comment and let me know. For now I shall bid you goodnight (or morning or afternoon) and remember kids: Be nice to your friendly neighborhood psychologist.

I want to share some short stories with you.

Hi all,

Today I realized that I have omitted one major type of literature in my blog posts so far: short stories. Despite my negligence, I do think short stories are important and deserving of discussion. So, this is me, opening up discussion.

I have not read as many short stories as I have books. Nor have I taken any classes on short stories. Thus, my experience and thoughts on them are somewhat limited. I’m going to start talking about short stories by sharing several of the ones that I have found most compelling.

Most of these stories could be classified as “classics” so you may have already read them. (However, in that case, I would suggest you read them again because they are that good 😉 ) The majority of stories on this list I had to read in school but others I just stumbled upon. I won’t say I exactly enjoyed all of them; a few are sad while others are quite vivid. For whatever reason, the stories have stuck with me long after I finished them.

*Note: The links below are mostly to pdf files so you may need to update your Adobe Reader in order to read them.*

And away we go (in no particular order):

“Araby”, James Joyce

“The Dead”, James Joyce

“The Monkey’s Paw”, W. W. Jacobs

“The Lady, or the Tiger?”, Frank R. Stockton

“Everyday Use”, Alice Walker

“The Lottery”, Shirley Jackson

“The Most Dangerous Game”, Richard Connell

“The Yellow Wall-Paper”, Charlotte Perkins Stetson

“A Good Man is Hard to Find”, Flannery O’Connor

“The Gift of the Magi”, O. Henry

All of the “Sherlock Holmes” stories, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sorry, but I can’t pick just one. I’m a big “Sherlock Holmes” fan. Have I never mentioned that?) This website has good links to take you to the text of each story.

I would also include Charles de Lint’s “Somewhere in My Mind There Is a Painting Box”, “Riding Shotgun”, and “The World in a Box” here but I can’t link to them because a) they are still in print and b) de Lint is still alive today, living with his wife in Canada and so his writing is not in the public domain. I found those three stories in his print collection titled Muse and Reverie. I would highly recommend his work to you, if you ever have the chance to pursue it.

What do you think about these stories? Feel free to let me know!

Happy reading!

I graduated from college!!

Hello all!

Guess what?! I graduated from college last Saturday!! Yay!

It’s pretty exciting but also scary. I do have a plan; it just hasn’t worked out yet :p I am currently waiting to hear back from graduate schools before I can make any definite plans. I have applied to Master’s degree programs for this coming fall semester in hopes that a Master’s degree will make me a more competitive PhD applicant in the future. I haven’t heard back from any of the graduate schools yet and this waiting business is maddening. I just want to know now, you know what I mean?

Both of the schools I am waiting on are not in my home state so either way it will be an adventure. I’m excited for the possibility of a fresh start though. It will be all new and the workload will be substantial but I think it’ll be a nice change of pace. I will let you know more once I have gotten a response.

The graduate school application process is long and emotionally draining. It can be hard to pick yourself up after being rejected three times like I was. I made it through with the help of some wonderful friends. Maybe I will write a post about that experience sometime…

Currently, I am back living with parents until I hear any word. With such little schoolwork to do now ;), I can finally spend more time blogging! I have several posts in mind, one of which I have already begun to write. I’m excited to share more stuff with you all! I just wanted to share this quick update with you for now but you should check back here soon for more posts 🙂

I hope everyone is doing well and congratulations to any fellow graduates!