Thursday, March 27, 2008

The End of an Era... The Boy Who Lived

Well, not even a week after returning home, yet still later than I expected, the contents of the pages of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final installment of J.K. Rowling's epic series, are now off the page and into my mind, the secrets revealed, the questions answered, and the anticipation at last met. It was a long (and at times painful) eight months, the anxiety of everything being spoiled haunted me at every turn, but soon after last July, most of the possibility of spoilers died down, and I was able to concentrate again on my missionary work. BUT, I hoped and prayed that when I finally read it, it will have been worth the wait, and at the moment, I think that I can safely say that it was. I'm going to outline my very brief thoughts on it for now, and maybe elaborate later.

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven't read the final book yet, and don't want to be spoiled, you can skip this post. Otherwise, read on. Chances are I won't spoil ALL that much anyway, but if you're like me, you won't want to know ANYTHING beforehand. Consider yourselves warned.

First, the characters: Harry, Ron and Hermione were in place, and comfortable as their usual selves, though it's been nice to see them grow up, sometimes grow apart, but inevitably grow closer together. The dynamic between their personalities has always been really interesting, and the relationships between them (especially between Ron and Hermione) have at last blossomed as has been hinted at from very early on. Ginny, having become one of my favorite characters since around book five, didn't have all that much to do, but still made a decent and interesting appearance throughout, and finally also brought to fruition the relationship with Harry that had to happen. Other characters were wonderfully present (Neville, Luna, Lupin, Tonks, the Weasley brood and Dobby), and there was a slew of new and interesting characters (though it's weird when people are conveniently introduced just for one book), such as Xenophilius Lovegood, Gellert Grindelwald and the rest of the screwed-up Dumbledore family. They were mostly consistent, which is something of a task to do when spreading out a cast of growing characters over seven books.

Second, the plot... I admit that J.K. set up quite a task for herself when she built up to the last in such an intricate and complex storyline. Everyone had expectations for what the book was going to/should be like, and I guess after all this time, I was just resigned to the fact that it was what it was, whether it was what I thought it should be or not. And at this writing, I have to admit that I wasn't terribly disappointed. There was a sort of random detour in the Horcrux Hunt (which I enjoyed, seeing them all found and destroyed, although... they didn't seem to realize that they were still missing one until it was revealed that Harry was one...) in the form of the sudden quest for the Deathly Hallows, but Harry had enough of a crisis in trying to decide which were more important to find that it seemed like a natural thought process. It did seem to take its sweet time picking up and getting to the actual plot, and there were a few times that J.K. seemed to take the easy way out clearing up plot points or long-standing questions, but most of the time, I could figure out why it had to be the way it was, and how that's just the way it is. I always love to see how J.K. fits ordinary Muggle activities into the plots and describes how they are different to the Wizarding world (such as a major sports event in the fourth book, a trial in the fifth, a funeral in the sixth, and a wedding in the seventh, etc.), though they more often than not just end in something exploding ceremonially into a million sparkles. Those magical folks just never seem to tire of sparkles. So, the deaths were dramatic, though sometimes not quite dramatic enough in description or aftermath, and sometimes seemed just like she killed them for random dramatic effect. I was often quite affected by the deaths, but, surprisingly, the one that affected me the most was everyone's favorite House Elf. He just became such a valuable asset and saved the day many times throughout the series. Also, I will just say a word about Albus Dumbledore... I wish, I wish, I wish that I hadn't heard the retarded, random outing of his character until after I read the book, but that spoiler was unavoidable. It affected very much my feeling toward him during the revelations about his character in this chapter of the series. However, considering the drama of his upbringing and the negative aspects of his childhood, it actually makes perfect sense that poor Albus is sexually confused, especially considering that he doesn't seem to have been exposed to the proper counseling and direction after such a rocky life in his young, formative years. I think I may write a paper describing how his life until that point had led him to be confused about his identity. Interesting idea.

Finally, the themes and messages... As ever, Harry Potter, as a fantasy series, is inevitably allegorical in spots. There's no direct symbol, such as Aslan being an unmistakable type of Christ in C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, but there are a lot of really interesting parallels to life, morality and even the gospel. Harry, as a willing and knowing sacrifice, becomes a sort of Christ-figure, and even has his own little resurrection. The long-standing themes of friendship, loyalty, determination and good triumphing over evil are solidly in place, and luckily, naturally, good DOES win in the end, and evil is vanquished, presumably forever. So, I felt happy, had a good feeling while reading, and only at times was bothered by the gratuitous confusing information about the late headmaster. As for the long-anticipated epilogue... I liked it. I would have preferred a little "Where are they now?" in addition to the fanfic-ish "everyone's married to everyone and has kids with goofy cliche names" part. Still, it's good to know all is indeed well.

Anyway, that will be all for now. I really enjoyed finally reading about Harry's final confrontation, and everyone leading up to it. It was pretty much what I hoped it would be, and it felt weird to close the last page of the last book, the end of an era, the close of a chapter, definitely the end of the series. This is now too long. Elise has informed me that if blogs go overlong, people shan't read them. She tried and tried to make me mad about the plotholes and silly copouts, but I just can't be mad. I always said, with the books and the movies, they could put poo on the pages or the screen and I would still like it. It's Harry Potter!

Now, on to Book the Thirteenth of A Series of Unfortunate Events, and then... the Twilight series... Ugh. But I promised Elise...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

First Hmong Lesson

Hello everyone. Two posts in one day, how do you like that??? So, if this Hmong business is going to continue in any degree, I believe I should give you all a very brief and condensed first lesson in reading Hmong. There's no way to get into grammar and tones, however, since this is not a verbal lesson, but I can give you the basic idea of pronunciation. The Hmong language has only been romanized for just over 50 years, and there is little to no written history and/or language since anytime before then. Now then, in Hmong, there are some 13 vowels, some 50-something consenants and 8 (arguably 9) tones. A lot of the consenants are just combinations of consenants put together, such as t, ts, tsh, ntsh, etc. SO, for the sake of brevity, I will just teach a few key Hmong phrases, that will come in handy if you talk to me on the phone or in person. Key: Anytime a word ends in a consenant, it is the tone marker, and therefore unpronounced. Such as my Hmong name: Kuab Ci --the b in "Kuab" is silent, as it indicates the tone. If the word ends in a consenant, there is no tone, or, midtone. Anyway, enough ado, here are five key terms:

1. Nyob zoo

Literally, "To exist well," this is the common greeting, or, rougly, "hello". As outlined before, the b in "nyob" will be unpronounced, and the z makes a "zh" sort of sounds, as in "azure," so this phrase will be pronounced, "nyah zhong".

2. Sib ntsib dua

"To reciprocally meet again," or, roughly, goodbye, this is a good opportunity to learn a couple of new consenants. The s is pronounced "sh", and the nts is pronounced "nj", and of course each b will be silent, so this will be said, "Shee njee doua".

3. Ua tsaug

"To do thanks", this, of course, means thank you. As before, the ts will be pronounced as "j", and as a point of interest, the g tone in "tsaug" makes it a breathy sound (hard to explain, ask me sometime). So, this will be pronounced as "ua jao".

4. Thov txim

Literally "to plead punishment," this is commonly used as the American "I'm sorry." The th makes a hard t sound, and the tx makes a sort of "dz", like the sound at the end of "lids" or "meds." So, this will be pronounced "tah dzi."

5. Tsis ua li cas

"To not do like how," this phrase is used as "You're welcome," "Don't worry about it," or "No problem." It's used very often in many different circumstances, and is a very useful phrase to know. It will be pronounced like, "jee ua lee gyah."

So there you go! Now you all know all you need to know! You can now make your away around California, Minnesota or Wisconsin, or even Laos or Thailand! Good luck with your practicing, and I will be very glad to give anyone personal lessons.

Ua tsaug! Sib ntsib dua!

First post!!!

Hey everyone! Welcome to my blog. Good heavens, you leave town for a couple of years, and everyone in creation is running a blog. I mean, they were around when I left, but seriously, things have REALLY exploded! Youtube! Blogging! The end of the Harry Potter series!!! (I'm getting there...) Anyway, it's been just a couple of days, but I am really enjoying getting adjusted, catching up with everyone and everything, and reveling in the experience I just had. Aunt Fae asked me to use three adjectives to describe it, and I chose the following:


There were a lot more I could have chosen, but those seemed most appropos. I will write more on this soon, but that will be all for now. For those who are still unaware, "Kuab Ci" (pronounced Gua Gyee, roughly...) is my Hmong name, and means, roughly, "power shine," but I will explain more about that in the near future. The title of my blog translates to "Kuab Ci's Wisdom". HA.

Ta for now!