It's been difficult to avoid the hoopla surrounding the premiere of The Prisoner of
Azkaban, even if one spends one's time locked indoors with nose glued to the computer screen.
Maybe 'especially if' in that case. Those of us who live our lives on-line often find our brains
filled to the brim with random bits of information gently stewing away. We never know what
nonsense will bubble over when we least expect it. The other day I was busily sub-editing a
Recommended Guide Entry about a secondary school in Singapore, when suddenly I thought: 'What
if Hogwarts had a Web site?'
Even if it did, we Muggles would be unlikely to find it. The URL would lurk somewhere in the
empty spaces between the keys of our keyboards, beyond the reach of even Google. If we did
happen to stumble across Hogwarts' site, our computers' hard drives would grind to a halt and the
monitors would display an empty blue screen. (Come to think of it, this sort of thing does
happen. Hmm. That could explain a lot.) Anyone clueless enough to send spam to
[email protected] would find his computer turned into a leprous, misshapen pumpkin.
The fool who spammed Professor Snape would find himself turned into a leprous, misshapen
pumpkin. Any passing computer virus would be gobbled up by virtual gremlins, and its author
would turn into a flea-bitten rat and promptly be eaten by the neighbour's cat. (One can always
Speaking of computer viruses, the BBC reports that another worm is making the rounds, disguised as a Harry Potter game.
It's transmitted mostly through file-sharing networks and occasionally by e-mail. Something
wicked this way comes, indeed.
At any rate, it seems that every Web site on the planet has something to say about the new
Harry Potter movie, so I may as well add my two cents' worth. The reviews I've read all agree
that the third film is the best of the series so far, and The Prisoner of Azkaban remains my
favourite of the books, so once the crowds thin out a bit, I'll embrace my inner child and head to
the theatre. In addition to meeting intriguing new characters Sirius Black and Remus Lupin,
viewers also get to see a variety of new magical critters such as Buckbeak the hippogriff. Even
the seemingly non-magical creatures such as Crookshanks the cat and Scabbers the rat aren't quite
what they appear to be.
We Muggles who want to see exotic critters generally have to head to the nearest zoo or
aquarium. People living around south-western Ohio are fortunate to have both within driving
distance. The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical
Garden is currently in the middle of its annual Zoo Babies display, allowing visitors to coo
over a new generation of wild animals (and they don't need to bring a baby gift, either!). Just
south of Cincinnati on the other side of the Ohio River is the wonderful Newport Aquarium. The exhibits use some
creative technology to introduce visitors to animals from nearly every square metre of the planet.
You can watch sharks swimming beneath your feet through the see-through floors. You can 'swim
with the fishies' as you stroll through underwater tunnels. A visit to the aquarium is, dare I say it,
a magical experience. Both places are well worth seeking out if you're visiting this area.
Right now, though, Cincinnati residents need only step into their back yards to see odd-looking
creatures. The 17-year periodical cicada is out and about and
in the mood for romance. This bug looks like something that a young and inept wizard might
conjure up: brown body; translucent wings; beady red eyes; sounds like a small chainsaw.
Apparently the din made by hundreds of thousands of small chainsaws serenading potential mates
has rattled some people, because they've taken to eating the things (necessitating a trip to the
emergency room for some).
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from
- Arthur C. Clarke
The last time the cicadas invaded, in 1987, nobody had heard of Hogwarts or Harry Potter, and
few knew what the Internet was. Until that year, access to the Internet was pretty much limited
to people who were associated with educational, military or government organizations, and
communication among them was emphatically non-commercial. Development of the first browser
was still a few years down the road, as was the delivery of the first spam. And Douglas Adams
gave the world his unique 'Guide to the
Macintosh' as well as Dirk Gently and his Holistic Detective Agency. Those were heady
Seventeen years is a blink of the eye as far as human history goes, and it's astounding to see
how much has changed in such a short time. Anybody who'd gone to ground with the last batch of
cicadas would have emerged in 2004 to a good case of culture shock. It's a reminder that 'real
life' is every bit as wondrous and fantastical as the world of Harry Potter. So here's to magic:
it's everywhere these days.
(Eating cicadas?! Riddikulus!)