In case they have smartphones…

…and are checking this blog, a message to the guys outside my house: You can go home now. It’s 1:15 a.m. You could park your cars and talk inside of them, or you could drive somewhere, and I don’t know why leaving the cars (by which I mean SUVs) running while you stand outside and shout is such a preferred option.

A few weekends back I went for a run up 12th st and on the block right north of me a squat, harried-looking woman was puttering around waving a slice of cardboard and shouting “No driving! No driving on this street! Seniors sleep here!” She seemed crazy (less so after our neighbor who carries a parrot on his shoulder walked by) but apparently the night before a bunch of loud dudes had parked on the street, gone partying on the U St corridor, come back at 3 am and loitered, yelling and drinking only yards away from a mid-sized retirement home.

It’s a pretty minor nuisance… I guess I’ll take it over raging gang wars or mobs of inbred children trying to stuff me in a giant wicker man doused in gasoline. But people generally need to shut up after midnight.


Watching them, God knows why, and amused by the presence – yet again! – of a sumptuously-directed variety show starring an oldster. It was Barry Manilow last year, and this year it’s Tony Bennett in a special directed by Rob Marshall. So we go through the pretense of these awesome comedy series getting nominated, these yeoman comedy directors who helmed stuff like “Daily Show Ep. 14054” losing to a prancing Oscar winner who thanks “my brilliant costume designers.”

4000 pages later…

… and I’ve finished the Harry Potter series. The last 150 pages went by in a mad rush, although that’s nothing – I’ve heard tale of fans who read the fifth book in a day.

I don’t have as much to say as the frustratingly eloquent Ross Douthat (reading him, really, it’s like building a piddly little sand castle and looking to your left and seeing that someone has just built one with twice as many towers and a working drawbridge made out of shells), but I agree with him: Rowling’s dogged attempt at a straight-up fantasy novel is lacking. Neil Gaiman has assessed his first Sandman arc (collected in the Preludes and Nocturnes paperback) negatively, saying he doesn’t like the “object quest” story. “To solve this mystery, you’ll need to collect five magical things and then confront… somebody… in a castle, or something.” Ever since I read that I’ve agreed with the sentiment. And that’s how the Potter series ends, with a search for a bunch of objects we’ve only learned about in the last book and three more objects we learn about halfway through this one. The search is surprisingly dull. Harry, Hermoine and Ron go on the lam and camp out in random locations like the Viet Cong, if Charlie had magical tents that were tiny outside and contained an apartment inside.

But I have to say that I like the conclusion.

Am I still spoiling this for anyone? If so, stop reading.

Well, what I like is that Rowling’s epic ends with the same Jesus-meets-Joseph Campbell spiritual crisis that every other saga ends with. Harry’s very existence came about in a swords-‘n’-schoolbooks version of John 3:16 – “for Lily Potter so loved the wizarding world that she gave her only begotten son” – but the allegory is really (I apologize for the pun) hammered in this time. But Harry gets off easy. Aslan got tortured by evil sprites, Frodo nearly went insane… Harry just watches a bunch of his friends die as cannon fodder, mopes a bit, and gets snuffed painlessly by green light.

I don’t know. I sit here and think about the books and I see flaws all over the place. But what a rush it was, reading this. Rowling grows far too fond of her favorite characters, famously refusing to kill some, making rather rushed attempts to endear us to the ones we’re supposed to like. I’m thinking of Ginny Weasley’s evolution from bumbling damsel in distress to sexy dream girl.

But this is churlish. Rowling wants me to be absorbed and to have fun. I had lots of fun. I felt the return of that pre-teen attachment to fiction that I lost years ago. I busily speculated about which characters would date or die. I loved Snape. I hated Snape. I loved Snape again, for real this time. I still think Harry Potter, as a character, is outshone by many of Rowling’s other creations. That’s a victory, isn’t it? Even when her hero’s being a drip, Rowling’s got me laughing at the Weasleys or rooting for Neville Longbottom or wanting Hermoine to snog Ron already.

Near the end of the book Rowling writes this really blatant, blunt justification for the whole series, the kind of thing that will be appearing on bookmarks and coffee cups for decades. It choked me up anyway.

“Tell me one last thing,” said Harry. “Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head.”

Dumbledore beamed at him, and his voice sounded loud and strong in Harry’s ears even though the bright mist was descending again, obscuring his figure.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”


Funny thing about this story: I was almost in the lede. Word got around about the trivia team that consists of me, an Atlantic blogger, a freelance blogger, a liberal blogger, a libertarian blogger (now on hiatus) and, uh, Lindsay Gibson. The WSJ reporter contacted me about attending one of our games, but that night we showed up an hour beforehand and all the tables, chairs, floorspace, everything had been grabbed already. So we cancelled. I remember feeling a little bummed that a reporter’s job just got harder because a bunch of boring hipsters beat us to bar tables, and then I remember not caring.

Oh, the story? One of those trend pieces that interviews a couple of friends and neighbors and senses, like Klaus Meine sensed all those years ago, the Winds of Change. It’s hilariously incomplete with no mention of the conservative blogging community (Rob Bluey, unofficial president) or the activist bloggers like Matt Stoller and Lowell Feld (who lives in the burbs) whose blogging both keeps them fed and un-elects Republicans.

Maybe I’m just weirded out by my proximity to famous people.

Blessings: Count ‘Em

In the last 12 hours I’ve left a blazer at a bar and fallen off a bike (when a car in front of me stopped short). However! The blazer, if lost (which no man will know until 5 p.m.) is cheap and replaceable. And the only damage from the bike crash are some paint and plastic tears, a bent seat (getting bent back now) and one scuffed hand. And maybe a fucked tire but that’s cheap to replace.

Restrain me!

I won’t mope, but I will warn: Never let me change the answer on trivia questions. Either I know it immediately or I don’t. That’s how I think – I was cursed with the choking gene.

This goes double for sports questions.


Chris Staros is a man among men and I’m rather glad he hard-sold me on Alan Moore’s Lost Girls… but I’m a pedant and hm, I wish I had known that the binding on this three-volume epic set is upside down.


From Amazon…

We’re writing about the order you placed on August 19 2007 14:26 PDT
(Order# 002-6162866-9867203). Unfortunately, the release date for the item(s) listed below has
changed, and we need to provide you with a new delivery estimate based on the new release date:

Michael Barone (Author), Richard E. Cohen (Author) “The Almanac of
American Politics, 2008 (Almanac of American Politics)” [Paperback]
Estimated arrival date: 11/08/2007 – 11/10/2007

We need you to approve the new delivery day by September 13 2007, or we
will cancel the item(s) from your order if they have not shipped by then.

How is this possible? Is it Larry Craig’s fault?

Harry Potter update

I started …and The Philosopher’s Stone at the end of July, took a brief respite from Potternalia during a two-week reporting trip/vacation, and just finished …and the Half-Blood Prince last night. These are fun books, although the utility of reading them now is unclear. Instead of reading some book with new information that not everyone knows, I am clueing myself in to fictional adventures that the whole world knows about. Fun to be part of the zeitgeist, though.

The final book defies what I’ve been told and starts off with some of the best drama and action of the series. 600 pages left, then I’ll report back.