Sad News


One of the interesting things about Facebook is the parade of faces from one’s past who suddenly pop up again, announcing themselves as rediscovered friends. One such friend was Chris Voidis, with whom I attended middle school almost 30 years ago. His friend request arrived, I accepted, then I never bothered to send him any messages. I’d always meant to, but reconnecting with an old friend was a low priority task for me these past months.

Now comes word that Chris in fact passed away this summer, shortly after adding me to his friends list. The sentence in his profile, “Christos has no recent activity”, mocks me. I have since learned that he maintained an active blog, Yioni.com, and was interested in current geopolitics, philosophy, and in becoming a literary author. In short, as adults we had a great deal in common, and I failed to take the time to find this out. And now it’s too late.

So, if somehow you are accessing this blog, Chris, in whatever noncorporeal state you might now exist, please accept my apologies for neglecting you, and my promise that, if the universe allows it, we will one day have a conversation on these and many more topics.

In other news…

I used to like Harry Potter creator, JK Rowling. I liked that she was a broke, single mother who had an inspiration to write a multi-part children’s novel, and carried through with her vision, compromising for no one. I liked that she was responsive to her fans, true to her characters, wrote excellent novels, and kept her word (so far) about not extending the series. I liked that she seemed to care more about the stories and what they meant to her readers, than about her money or her celebrity.

Then a series of things happened this year. She wrote the last Harry Potter novel. Then she inexplicably announced that a major character –Dumbledore– is gay, even though the news has no bearing on any of the stories’ content. Then she sued a small community in India for building a replica of Hogwarts school for a local fair. Then she announced she’ll be writing a “spin-off” book of stories from the Potter universe, but would only be printing seven copies. Now she is threatening to sue some writers who are proposing creating an encyclopaedia of the Potter universe.

First off, you might own the copyrights to your world and your characters, but you can’t forbid someone from writing about that world or those characters. So for Jeebus’s sake, leave the encyclopaedia makers alone!

Second… suing a community group in a third world country? As C.S. Lewis would have put it, “For shame, Dwarf.”

Third, as much as I love Rowling’s books, there’s nothing original about them, her, or her approach. Seriously, a spin-off book of short stories based on tales told within her opus? Anyone ever heard of The Adventures of Tom Bombadil? Rowling is starting to strike me as a third rate Tolkien impersonator. If you’re going to write the stories, publish them for real; don’t be a dick and manufacture an even more intense market for pirated versions.

Listen, creating cultural products is not like creating other types of commodities in the modern economy. When you create a cultural product, you do so out of the ideas, inputs, work, legacies and sacrifices of others; there would be no Harry Potter without Frodo, Narnia or a host of other fairly identical works. Sure, you are entitled to make a living from the things you create –but only up to a limit. At a certain point –a certain near point– all cultural products become common property of the culture. This is the goal of art and artists, to add to the pool of cultural property.

I for one am fed up with this one author, whom I’ve previously defended to the teeth. She’s already the richest non-royal woman in Britain. Heck, the actor who plays Harry Potter in the movies is now the richest teenager in Britain –that’s how much money this stuff has wrought! All that money was made because the community –the people– agreed to hand it over, and to embrace the Harry Potter elements into the mainstream consciousness and ethic. That means that those elements are now intrinsically woven into society, and Rowling’s ability to own every aspect of how they are used is rightly limited.

Clinging to every bit of Potterdom has, I fear, qualified JK Rowling as this week’s….

I leave you with a quote from Bill Maher:

“I don’t give two fingleberries and a Mcshiat-all that Dumbledore is gay. I never wanted to know who Dumbledore was in the first place. Let alone his sexuality. What concerns me is adults who read 800-page books about magic schoolboys–and then try to talk to me about it. If I had the slightest interest in homosexuals with powers, I’d be a Republican.”