When you think about the wizarding world of Harry Potter—J.K. Rowling’s famous “Boy Who Lived” from the book and film series—the last thing that likely comes to mind is sex… unless you had a crush on Emma Watson’s character Hermione.
And yes, I am referring to Hermione in the later films, when she ceased to be jailbait. Shame on anyone who entertained naughty fantasies about her before she crossed this important legal threshold.
Thinking about sex in Harry Potter terms may conjure up images of strippers wearing “pumpkin pasties” or Hogwarts students doing inappropriate things with their wands. But last month at Boston University, two graduate students from the school’s Wellness and Prevention Services program used this magical context to offer an interactive class called “Sex-Ed at Hogwarts”. Here’s how the event was advertised on their Facebook page:
“At this event, half-bloods, house-elves, and muggles alike will learn the proper way to get consent to enter one’s chamber of secrets and how to snog without getting Hogwarts. We’ll be casting some sensual spells in CAS room 313. Hope you can apparate there.”
Michelle Goode and Jamie Klufts—both huge Potter fans—came up with this idea because Rowling herself never really addressed sex or sex education in her novels. Of course, students at Hogwarts took classes in Divination and Defense Against the Dark Arts, so it stands to reason that Sex Ed appeared somewhere in the curriculum.
After all, with so many magical creatures running around—from elves and mermaids to goblins and giants—safe sex would have to be a serious issue, don’t you think?
And don’t even get me started on magically-transmitted diseases!
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela
Thursday night saw the passing of one of humanity’s greatest leaders: former South African president and political activist Nelson Mandela. And like many others around the world—after hearing of his death—my heart is broken.
You see, I never knew Mandela personally, even though I always hoped to meet him some day. As a child growing up in 1970s America, I heard of him several times, but given my young age, I never really knew who he was. It wasn’t until the 1980s that I really came to know the man. And to be honest, it was likely Bono from U2 that first introduced me to Mandela through his opposition to apartheid—the system of racial segregation enforced in South Africa at that time. I specifically remember the 1985 music video for the song “Sun City,” a protest anthem by musicians who called themselves Artists United Against Apartheid. I had no idea what apartheid was, so I started doing some research and obviously discovered Mandela shortly thereafter.
And I have been a changed man ever since.
Growing up in the American South, I was no stranger to racism and injustice. In fact, I would be lying if I said that I didn’t stereotype people based solely on race, especially before I knew any better. We all do this at one time or another, whether or not we care to admit it. The difference is what we choose to do after we gain a deeper knowledge of diversity, race and the importance of bringing people together rather than dividing them.
Nelson Mandela taught me to look beyond a person’s skin color and to consider what is most important: humanity. For him—and for many of my other “heroes of color,” like Martin Luther King Jr. and Bob Marley—human beings are one people. We may differ based on race, culture and any number of other factors, but our species will never change and we will always be connected to one another. In other words, all people are created equal and should be treated with the same dignity and respect we expect for ourselves.
Amen to that.
Because of Mandela, my own views towards people different from me started to change—not only in terms of race—and now I consider myself to be more of a human advocate than ever before. Skin color is the result of geography—humans in hotter climates have darker skin while those in cooler climates have lighter skin—so judging people based on race simply makes no logical sense. In fact, I would argue that judging people at all is wrong, but that’s a story for another time.
Of course, racial equality and civil rights was only a portion of Mandela’s efforts to improve our world. He also involved himself in education, politics, health information—especially with regard to HIV/AIDS—diplomacy, the struggle for freedom and philanthropy in general. And he approached each of them with the same care, consideration, logic and understanding that eventually led others to label him as Africa’s conscience and moral compass. After all, he spent 27 years in prison to help bring an end to the oppression of his people, and you simply don’t do that if your heart isn’t in the right place.
Nelson Mandela lived to be 95 years old, so he definitely led a full life and departed this earth as one of the most influential people in human history. And even though we all knew this day would eventually come, it doesn’t make it any easier to cope with this loss. I, for one, have shed tears for this great man and will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future. He taught me so much about people—and about myself—that I honestly feel as though I lost a family member.
This likely isn’t the best analogy—even though younger readers may disagree—but I feel a little like Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter films. To prevent his defeat by good wizards and to guarantee his immortality, Voldemort split his soul into smaller pieces and hid them inside objects—as well as some living things, like a snake and even Harry himself—so they could not be destroyed. Referred to as horcruxes, Harry and his friends hunt down and destroy enough of them to make the dark lord vulnerable and—by the time it’s all said and done—Voldemort is killed.
In a way, Nelson Mandela was like a piece of my own soul. And now that he’s gone, I feel the loss deep within and will never fill the void. All I can do is take what I learned from him and try to make a difference in my little corner of the world—a difference that he would be proud of and that furthers the mission he pursued his entire life: to reconcile the problems that separate us and to start working together towards a better, more positive world.
I will miss you, Nelson… but I will never forget you. May you rest in peace, my friend.
Sorcery is real. And sorcerers must pay for their crimes.
No, this isn’t the beginning of some pathetic Harry Potter knock-off. It’s actually what many indigenous people in Papua New Guinea believe, especially in the more rural and remote areas. What’s more, it is this belief that prompted one of the strangest laws in history.
The Sorcery Act of 1971 was established on the poor island nation north of Australia to outlaw the use of black magic. In so doing, it also allowed citizens to take action—normally brutal and even fatal action—against those suspected of sorcery and witchcraft.
As you might imagine, most of the victims are women—as many as six out of every seven alleged sorcerers, actually.
Recently, though, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has been pushing to have the controversial law repealed, and it looks like he may have his way. If things go according to plan, killings associated with sorcery—which we all know is complete horse shit—will now be treated as murders, rapes will be treated as rapes—with the possibility of life in prison without parole for a first offender—and logic will return to the government again.
Thank goodness for that, because things in PNG have been shocking and downright gruesome lately. Check out a few low lights from its recent, sorcery-riddled past:
- 2009: A young woman in Mount Hagen is accused of sorcery, stripped naked, gagged and burned alive.
- 2011: A man is discovered during a sorcery initiation ceremony. He is trying to eat his newborn son.
- February 2013: 20-year-old mother Kepari Leniata is accused of using sorcery to kill a 6-year-old boy. Villagers overpower the sparse police force, tie her up, torture her with a branding iron, toss some petrol on her and set her aflame. Leniata burns alive on a pile of trash and old tires.
- April 2013: Former schoolteacher and women’s rights advocate Helen Rumbali, her sister and her two nieces are kidnapped, tortured with knives and axes for several days and, in the case of Rumbali, beheaded by the mob in the village square. She was, of course, suspected of being a sorceress.
As terrible as these crimes are—and as good an idea as repealing the Sorcery Act is—it also helps that the courts are taking sorcery-related crime seriously now.
Just over a week ago, 21-year-old Saku Uki Aiya finished a two-day trial in the northern province of Enga and was sentenced to 30 years in jail. His crime: accusing his aunt of sorcery—in connection with his brother’s death—and then enlisting the help of two friends to hack her to pieces with axes and knives.
Aiya’s accomplices are still at large, but at least he’ll be going away for a long time.
It’s hard to believe there are people in this world who still believe in sorcery—or who claim to believe in sorcery to excuse their brutal acts and heinous crimes. Sure, steps are being taken to correct this in PNG, but real progress will take time.
Until then, the black magic will likely continue… and so will the slaughter of innocent people. I only hope O’Neill and his government can move quickly so future tragedies can be prevented.
Is there such a thing as white magic, because that could work?
Whether or not it’s actually true, I have always considered myself to be a rather unique individual. And I can only assume most of you feel the same way about yourselves. At least I hope you do.
Of course, I am also a typical male in many ways, some positive and some negative. As such—and being such a devoted heterosexual—I enjoyed vivid sexual fantasies, especially during puberty. And there can be no fantasy greater than the one I assume most guys like me have enjoyed at one time or another: the fantasy of being invisible.
Not only that, but being invisible in the one place you are sure to see plenty of naked women: the girls’ locker room.
Bear in mind that I had this fantasy while I was also very young, so there shouldn’t be much of a creepy factor involved.
Or are they?
According to several physicists in Texas, the possibility of developing invisibility technology is slowly becoming a reality. And recent advances make invisibility much more possible in the future than ever before, which I for one find very exciting.
Now let’s see how effectively I can describe this new technology. I’m not much of a science guy, so please bear with me.
When we see something, what we’re actually seeing is the light bouncing off an object, entering our eyes, travelling to our brains and being interpreted there. And since light waves can be bent, refracted and reflected, invisibility technology would manipulate these waves so our eyes don’t pick up objects in space, rendering them invisible, at least in a virtual way.
It’s kind of like what magicians do with mirrors when they make things disappear, only with more of a scientific basis.
At the moment, physicists are limited in what they can make invisible and have focused on the manipulation of microwaves rather than light waves. However, this basic technology could someday morph into true invisibility, especially with regard to camouflage.
Scientists have even been working on an invisibility cloak. And no, they don’t moonlight as professors at Hogwart’s, either.
The most recent cloak is made of some kind of polycarbonate, much like the kind found in DVDs. It incorporates a tight, checkered pattern that neutralizes the light waves bouncing off of it, thus making it invisible to the human eye. Unfortunately, only very small objects can be rendered invisible at the moment, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.
As you might imagine, there are a number of ethical considerations to invisibility technology. We obviously can’t have a bunch of invisible people walking around, committing unseen crimes, fondling women on the street or otherwise wreaking havoc. And the implications for our military also raise some red flags. Just think how much damage an invisible tank or bomber could do to an enemy that can’t even see them.
Of course, none of this changes the fact that an invisibility cloak would also be perfect for that locker room fantasy I mentioned earlier. By the time one becomes available, though, I will either be that dirty old man or worse, I’ll be dead.
But I am keeping my fingers crossed and hope to see this technology developed in my lifetime. It didn’t seem possible before, but things are certainly looking up!
A few weeks ago, I posted an article entitled “5 Cures for the Monday Morning Blues” because I was having trouble coping with the work week to come and the fact that it had only started. It would be another five days before I could enjoy the peace and relaxation of another weekend.
This morning, however, another thought occurred to me: I have some issues with Sundays, too. And most of them can again be blamed on—you guessed it—Monday!
While many people spend their Sundays in church, and I’ve already mentioned here that I am not one of them, I find myself spending the day in the completion of chores: washing the clothes, killing the ants that continuously infest my kitchen and generally doing as much “housework” as possible. There simply isn’t enough time for all of it during the week.
Occasionally, I get the chance to play some golf or to go swimming, which does provide a nice break from all the chores. I might even do some writing, read some chapters in a good book or play outside with my son. On the surface, it all seems well and good, but it’s the stuff below the surface that troubles me.
Somewhere deep inside, and regardless of how I fill my time on Sundays, I always experience a sense of dread over the week to come, more specifically the Monday morning that will arrive much faster than I would like. No matter where I am or what I’m doing, Monday morning looms there like some kind of Dementor from the world of Harry Potter, ready to suck the life force out of me and generally destroy any sense of optimism I might have.
And the more I have scheduled for the week—from meetings and phone interviews to assignments and other important tasks—the worse I dread it all. Unfortunately, it’s Sunday that suffers as a result.
As the hours tick away, I find myself thinking more and more about the week to come. It affects my mood, and not in a good way, and seems to get worse as the day goes on. I try to look forward to things to keep my mood positive—like my summer addiction to the reality show Big Brother, which comes on Sunday evenings—but the dark clouds inevitably come rolling in. And you know what?
Monday morning is never as bad as I imagine.
So today, my goal is to try to stay positive since work already robs me of five days each week. It shouldn’t affect the final day of my weekend because, personally, the thought of only one true day of relaxing (Saturday) scares the heck out of me. I need at least two days to decompress, reset my mind and generate the energy needed to persist at work for another week. Writing this blog seems to be helping, so I will likely try to lose myself in my writing. At least until Big Brother comes on later.
Happy Sunday, everyone!