Sunday, October 24, 2010

Harry Potter Festival 2010

Here in the city of Odense, Denmark, we have an annual Harry Potter Festival. Usually it takes place one week during September, but this year it only lasted 3 days in October. Furthermore Hogwarts was closed. Usually kids are able to attend Hogwarts, taking classes in Transfiguration, Defence Against the Dark Arts, Charms, Potions, History of Magic, Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures, the subjects being taught by McGonagall, Snape, Hagrid and the rest of the staff. But not this year. Why, you ask? Well, because J. K. Rowling was coming to town.

Odense is the hometown of the fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen and Rowling came to receive the “H. C. Andersen Literature Award”. The award is founded by a private literature committee and its purpose is to pay tribute to Hans Christian Andersen’s influence on writers from all over the world by selecting award winners whose works can be tied to Hans Christian Andersen’s through similarities in genre or narrative qualities.

J. K. Rowling received the award on October 19 and because of that the Harry Potter Festival had been moved from September to October and Hogwarts had been closed, as Rowling was to use it building. Normally Hogwarts in situated in our old town hall, but this year Rowling needed it in order to read to children and have lunch with the notabilities of Odense. Needless to say that the kids were devastated, as attending Hogwarts is one of the highlights of the year. But of course, Rowling is more important than the kids she writes for.

Hogwarts is the core of the festival, so with that gone, not much was left. Instead of attending the school, kids could take a trip on the Hogwarts Express, but not many did as they were too upset about not going to Hogwarts. As adults were not allowed, I don’t know much about the train ride, except that the children had something to eat and drink and were allowed to roam the compartments with the lights off. I think they were attacked by Dementors as well

Tuesday was the big day of the ceremony award. You could buy tickets to the award show and it was actually very good although short. Odense Symphony Orchestra did a wonderful version of “Hedwig’s Theme” and Rowling made a very funny and also moving acceptance speech. After the show, she walked to the Hans Christian Andersen museum, but the streets were closed off, as people weren’t allowed to get near her. Then she drove to the town square where she signed autographs to children – but only to the ones who were dressed like characters from the Harry Potter books.

In the town hall Rowling did a 5 minutes reading from her HP books to children aged 8-14 who had paid quite handsomely to see her. After the reading they were allowed to ask her 9 prefabricated questions, then they all got a signed copy of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” And that concluded Rowling’s official programme in Odense.

As most Danish kids aged 8-14 don’t understand English well enough to get anything out of Rowling’s reading, a lot of them had opted out of paying to attend it. What they were left with was the Harry Potter marked. Usually during the festival, the city centre turns into Diagon Alley with all its shops and buildings and you can meet all the characters from the books there. This year only a handful of shops were left, as the town square had to make room for Rowling walking from the limousine to the town hall, so again the kids were disappointed. Gringotts was there, manned by real goblins (or rather dwarfs) and then Ollivander’s, The Daily Prophet, Eeylops Owl Emporium, The Leaky Cauldron and Quality Quidditch Supplies. Not much compared to what we are used to. Even Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes was gone, although George Weasley still did his tricks in the alley. He always does that on his own, as we’ve never had a Fred.

Snape was in place in his dungeons in the old town monastery and I was glad that he was, because we always have a little chat while my daughter mixes potions. He wore a silly wig this year, though, but his presence made our day. Hagrid’s hut in the old ruin behind the town hall wasn’t there, though, so Hagrid no longer had a place to live. Instead the ruin was occupied by a fortune teller. I don’t know what she had to do with Harry Potter, but there she was.

Apart from George and Snape, you could find Dumbledore and Hagrid at the marked, but not many of the other characters. Instead the place was swamped with Dementors and Death Eaters and even Lord Voldemort was there. It is safe to say, that the marked this year had turned a lot more gloomy and commercial and less magic. Even at Gringotts you only got 500 galleons for £2 whereas last year it was 1,000 galleons for £1. Inflation, I suppose.

In past years the Harry Potter Festival has been all about giving kids a magical experience, but this year it seemed to be all about buying stuff, as there wasn’t much else to do. The only new welcome addition to the marked was The Weird Sisters performing standard rock at The Leaky Cauldron from time to time, but all in all the festival was a huge disappointment.

I know that it is a feather in the cap of Odense City that Rowling came by, but it was such a let-down to the kids. I sure hope that next year we go back to the usual festival with Hogwarts and tons of shops and buildings in Diagon Alley for the kids to enjoy.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Odense Symphony Orchestra

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Princess Marie and J. K. Rowling trying to lift the award sculpture

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The Princess and The Writer with the sculpture

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J. K. Rowling with her award

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J. K. Rowling

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J. K. Rowling too

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Press conference

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J. K. Rowling receives the “H. C. Andersen Literature Award”

In connection with the annual Harry Potter Festival in Odense, Denmark, J. K. Rowling received the first “H.C. Andersen Literature Award” in Odense Concert Hall, Tuesday, October 19, 2010.
The purpose of the award is to pay tribute to Hans Christian Andersen’s influence on writers from all over the world by selecting award winners whose works can be tied to Hans Christian Andersen’s through similarities in genre or narrative qualities.

When Rowling arrived at Odense Concert Hall, she was greeted with standing ovations, screaming fangirls and press photographers going crazy. Later, at the press conference, Rowling admitted that she had only experienced a greeting that massive once before, and that was in Carnegie Hall. She said that it made her feel like one of the Beatles.

The award ceremony in Odense Concert Hall was very moving with Odense Symphony Orchestra performing John Williams’ “Hedwig’s Theme” and Countess Caroline Ahlefeldt-Laurvig-Bille making the nomination speech. The Countess said that what makes Rowling a genuinely extraordinary writer is that she doesn’t pretend that the world we live in is plain sailing. Even wizards experience times of crisis and injustice and that helps the reader identify with Harry Potter.
“Who has not mourned Dubledore’s death,” the Countess said, “or marvelled at The Mirror of Erised or laughed at the pranks of the Weasley twins?”
But – as the Countess pointed out – Rowling’s greatest achievement is that her life has broken all imaginable boundaries and in that way inspired millions of children and adults.

Her Royal Highness Princess Marie presented the award to J. K. Rowling, an award consisting of £50,000 and a very heavy bronze sculpture of Hans Christian Andersen’s ”The Ugly Duckling” which the Princess and the Writer tried to lift up in vain. The merriment that this caused was prolonged when Rowling nodded at a ginger female violinist in the Odense Symphony Orchestra and said, “You really know how to make me feel welcome. I see that one of the Weasley cousins is in the orchestra.”

Rowling now thanked for the award, saying that she was humbled and deeply honoured to receive it. She didn’t presume to compare her Harry Potter books with Hans Christian Andersen’s stories that have lasted two centuries, but she admired that Hans Christian Andersen was not afraid to depict cruelty and pain. She said that the true dilemmas of childhood are the dilemmas of the whole of life: those of belonging and betrayal, of the power of the group and the courage it takes to be an individual. That is why writing that succeeds with children often succeeds just as well with adults.

After the ceremony, Rowling did a 15 minutes press conference in which she told the press that at the moment she is writing all the things that she didn’t have the time to write while she was working on the Harry Potter series, but she wouldn’t rule out that she would write a HP8 in ten years time. She said that ever since she was a child, she had had a need to write and that she was happy that her wealth had made it possible for her give money to charities, especially to research in multiple sclerosis, the disease from which her mother died. She told the press that she has a good relationship to the cast of Harry Potter and that she had never met people nicer, more intelligent and well-adjusted than the young actors. Finally she admitted, that she had never read Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series and that her favourite Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale is “The Brave Tin Soldier”.

Upon leaving the Concert Hall, Rowling walked to the Hans Christian Andersen Museum. On her route, young actors from the Hans Christian Andersen Parade acted out scenes from Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales. After visiting the museum so went to Odense Town Square where the annual Harry Potter Festival took place. The square had turned into Diagon Alley complete with Ollivander’s, The Daily Prophet, Eeylops Owl Emporium, The Leaky Cauldron and Quality Quidditch Supplies. J. K. Rowling signed autographs while the chimes of Odense Cathedral played “Hedwig’s Theme”.

Rowling then went inside the Town Hall to read from her Harry Potter books to children aged 8-14. She answered a few questions as well, telling the kids that the person she identifies with in Harry Potter is Hermione. She finished her visit to Odense with lunch with the notabilities of the city.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Toy Story 3

In Toy Story 3 Woody, Buzz and the rest of Andy’s toys are mistakenly delivered to Sunnyside Daycare center instead of the attic right before Andy leaves for college. Andy’s toys are welcomed in the Butterfly Room of the center by the strawberry scented bear Lotso and his companions Big Baby and Ken, but although Barbie finds a home (and love) with Ken, the rest of Andy’s toys soon find out that the daycare is run like a prison by Lotso and his companions. Buzz and the rest of Andy’s toys are ”deported” to the Carterpillar Room, occupied by toddlers who plays rather roughly with the toys, and Buzz & Co. realise that they are not going to survive long there. The toys now plan their great escape which is to be the nervewrecking highlight of the movie.

Toy Story 3 is directed by Lee Unkrick and written by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich (screenplay by Michael Arndt). I’ve never been a huge fan of the Toy Story movies, well, I liked the first one and disliked the second, but this third one is just brilliant. It is funny, scary and emotional (people actually cried in the cinema) and you get to know the characters a lot better than in previous Toy Story movies.

Toy Story 3 appeals to kids and adults alike, although if you’re an adult, you’ll probably enjoy it even more because you’ll catch all the references. There are load and loads of references to other movies and TV-serie; The Bridge on the River Kwai, Happy Days, Return of the Jedi, Jurrasic Park, Cool Hand Luke and Monsters Inc. just to mention a few. It really is hilarious, although most kids won’t get these references and in fact the movie is a little too scary at times. I brough my 11 year old to see it and she found several scenes quite upsetting, not to mention Big Baby who really scared her, but in the end she too was bowled over by the story and the characters, wanting to see it again.

As usual Tom Hanks stars as the voice of Woody and Tim Allen as the voice of Buzz, the latter being hysterically funny when Buzz is set to speak and act in Spanish. Michael Keaton, too, is hilarious as Ken, and the rest of the cast is wonderful as well.

So far Toy Story 3 is the best animated movie I have seen this year - even the 3D works well - so I’ll give it four out of five stars: ****

Monday, October 04, 2010

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Joe Matera: Travellin’ West

Travellin’ West is a new instrumental solo release written and performed by the Australian guitarist Joe Matera.

Most people know Joe Matera’s electric six string guitar sound from Australian rock outfit Geisha, but this new acoustic release shows new sides to the guitarist without leaving out any of his signature trademarks; melody, taste and style.

Matera plays all the guitars on this beautifully played and produced release. The interplay of acoustic and classical guitars is both powerful and very melodic and the harmonies are beautiful and spot on with a melancholy, subdued quality that seems almost hypnotic.

Travellin’ West is Recorded at Dragon's Lair Studios, Melbourne, Australia with Chris Doheny handling production duties. It is released through Mercury Fire Music and available as a digital single download through iTunes. Visit for further information.


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