Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How Harry Potter Changed My Life

First of all, I want to thank all of you for your feedback on my previous post. It was a controversial topic, and the vast majority of comments-- even those that disagreed with me--were overwhelmingly intelligent and kind. You guys are one kickass group. Secondly, while I could easily return to reporting on food, TV, and the crazy antics of my college friends, I've been a little nervous to jump back into the swing of frivolity so soon after a heavy topic. Therefore (and because some of my twitter followers have asked), I'm going to copy and paste the final essay I just completed for a class, in which I was required to describe how a piece of literature has changed my life. I'm calling it "How a Children's Book Helped Me Grow Up." I hope you enjoy it; try to take extra pleasure out of my struggle to decide when to italicize Harry Potter, as in the book title, and when to leave it alone, as in the name of the fandom.

Had I been told ten years ago that a piece of literature would so dramatically change the way I think, the way I view the world, and the way I live my life as J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, I may have believed it… but I would surely have been skeptical.

My mother always tells me that she knew I was going to be an English major from the day I learned to talk: My siblings and cousins liked to run and jump and scream around the neighborhood, and I spent most of my childhood with the natural, irrepressible desire to sit for hours and “read” aloud the picture books I had memorized to a crowd of my stuffed animals. When I’d outgrown Little Critter, I moved on to Beverly Cleary’s infamous Ramona Quimby chapter book series, and my connection to Ramona was so strong that I resisted my mother and teacher’s pleas for me to move on to bigger and better things. I valiantly fought my mom one night when I was ten, because I didn’t want to tarnish my allegiance to Ramona by reading a copy of the first Harry Potter book, which she begged me to try. But, in the end, my desire to gluttonize a novel proved stronger than my desire to win a fight, and I fell asleep in the wee hours of the night, clutching the hard cover of my new best friend to my prepubescent chest.

In some ways, I’ve grown far beyond my ten-year-old self. I now read and enjoy masses of literature each year, and I have learned from example that, occasionally, my parents and teachers actually know what they’re talking about. However, just as my mom suspected my lifelong passion from my early childhood, some latent personality traits never die. The Harry Potter series grew up alongside my generation, and what started as a trilogy of children’s books expanded to include four volumes of rather adult content and complicated prose. This is fortunate for me, because my unfailing devotion to Jo Rowling has only grown as I’ve matured, and I owe much of my personality and many of my life experiences to her works, even in my young adult years.

It’s a strange and difficult concept to explain to an outsider, but my favorite of Jo Rowling’s novels,Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, has so dramatically affected my life that, had I not eagerly awaited its arrival, read it in one sitting, and continued to reread it several times thereafter, I would hardly resemble the person I am today. My job, my hobbies, and many of my close friends and contacts have come into my life as a direct result of my obsession with Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts. It may sound like an exaggeration, but so many of my personal experiences have dominoed from those 700 pages.

I was fourteen—going into my freshman year in high school-- when Half-Blood Prince was released, and although my love for the series had not dwindled, I was at that stage in my life when being accepted by my school clique was more important than taking the risk to show my true self, and I had been keeping my obsession nearly secret. I was desperate for the opportunity to discuss theories and moon over my fictional crushes and make predictions about the final two books, but my real friends had only a fleeting interest in the wizard world, and I knew my “popular friends” would make fun of me if they saw my true nerdy colors. In need of an outlet, I did a little bit of googling one afternoon, and came across a website called, which claimed to be “the ultimate Harry Potter fansite.” As I scrolled through pages and pages of forums, fanfiction, drawings and essays, all compiled by thousands of fans, it became suddenly clear to me: I was far from alone.

I immediately subscribed to MuggleNet’s talk show podcast, and for one hour every week, I could take a break from the stress of school, and I could just relax and listen to strangers who seemed to understand me better than my fake friends*. MuggleCast led me to search other avenues on the internet used by fans to express their obsessions, and I discovered a brand new, unknown video-sharing website called YouTube, to which I became one of the first couple thousand members.

Inspired by the two (yes, only two) other YouTube videos about Harry**, I decided to join in, and started creating poorly edited comedy shorts about life as a fan. Shortly thereafter, a slew of other fans discovered the site, and my videos were being seen by hundreds of people who knew exactly where I was coming from. Somewhere between the start of my sophomore year and the unexpected bombardment of user-generated content that the growing popularity of YouTube provided, I was offered a job with Google, and began receiving revenue for the traffic my Potter-related videos attracted to the website. Harry Potter had breached the barrier of my “double life,” and my secret Internet world provided me with the job that currently pays for a portion of my college expenses.

Through this job, I’ve gotten to meet a wide range of other YouTube Partners, as well as some incredibly talented and successful musicians who make up a bona fide genre of music called Wizard Rock, and I now consider many of these people to be some of my best friends. I introduced one of my nerdy high school friends to a Potter fan from across the country-- whom I’d met through a chat room, because she subscribed to my YouTube channel-- and I did a reading in their wedding this past summer. Two of my good friends are married because of my devotion to a book series.

Sure, my involvement in the Internet Potter microcosm hasn’t always been a perfect experience—my distracted choice to isolate myself completely from my high school clique, while a mostly healthy decision, left me feeling lonely and misunderstood during the school day-- but by choosing to suffer social exile, I broke free from the paradigm of the middle class white kids, and exposed myself to people from all different backgrounds, sexual orientations, and ideologies. I learned that two people who appear totally different on the outside can have in common their love for a piece of literature, and that, just as Jo Rowling teaches, love should always win over hate.

The lessons of acceptance and the commonality of the human experience that Harry, Ron and Hermione encounter over the course of the series correlate directly to my life. I started high school as an Abercrombie-clad fake, associating myself only with the people who looked exactly like me and forced themselves into molds, and because of a book, I left my graduation ceremony with a career, friends across the globe who care more deeply about my soul than about my clothes, and the knowledge that a belief in truth can always beat out evil at the end of the day.

Through my experiences with Harry Potter, I will never be able to approach a piece of literature passively. I find it hard to criticize popular authors***, because what is often written off as a children’s fantasy story is directly responsible for my real life growth as a young adult. Books have the potential to radically transform people, and after seeing this firsthand, I can’t help but long to be a part of such a change in someone else’s life. My mother sensed my passion for literature from the picture book days, and I will forever be grateful to Jo Rowling for exposing just how important this passion can be.

* This is, perhaps, an exaggeration. I wasn't the It Girl, they weren't all evil jerks, and I still had my best friends the whole time. But it improves my argument.

** I'd actually searched "MuggleCast," but wanted to make the essay easier to follow. Anyway, one of the two videos was dark and silent, and has since been removed. The other was this, about which I could probably write another paper called "How Bre Bishop Changed My Life."

*** You know. Some of them.

Oh, and for those of you who saw my tweet, the essay figured out to exactly 1337 words, including the headings and such. :)

Sexy: Discovering that my meal plan includes a coffee shop, fancy restaurant, and nice cafeteria, and that I have a good deal of money in my account that can be spent exclusively in these locations.
Unsexy: The fact that I discovered this today, and the money expires by the end of the quarter, which is next week. I have been drinking a lot of iced teas this afternoon.

Chipotle burritos this year: 38
Subscribers: 21,767
Bagel Street visits this school year: 5

Bye, guys! Hopefully I'll see you tomorrow. <3

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Why Christians Can Believe in Gay Rights

[Disclaimer: This blog contains some religious and political controversy. My intention was to shed a bit of new light on an old issue, and not to offend or alienate anyone.]

A few days ago, I received this anonymous email:
"I watch your videos and think you['re] kind of funny, but I was really disappointed to hear that you are Christian because I'm gay."
After sitting, dumbfounded, with my mouth dangling open for a few minutes, I hit "reply," but ended up simply staring at the flashing cursor for a spell before I exited the window. It was too big of a topic to tackle in one email to one stranger. It really, really hurts me that people have reason to assume that, because I believe in Jesus, I also believe that some people are wholly better than others. It needs to be said, once and for all, that I'm a Christian, and I am totally, completely for gay rights.

The biggest case made by some (loud) fundamentalist Christians against homosexuality is that Leviticus 18:22 states, "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination." That's a scary word, "abomination." In English, it's defined as "a thing that causes disgust or hatred." However, in the scripture's original Hebrew, the word used in its place is toevah, which means something that is forbidden because it's unclean.

See, the Old Testament catalogues a number of other things as "abominations." A list that includes, but is not limited to: eating shrimp and lobster (Leviticus 11:11), sacrificing deformed sheep (Deuteronomy 17:1), eating rabbit (Deuteronomy 14:1-7), and touching dead bugs without washing your clothes (Leviticus 11:23-6). Now, I'm sure we can all agree that there's nothing inherently evil about shrimp cocktails. These laws were set during a comparatively unhygienic time when procreation and the prolonging of humankind was an issue. People needed rules of these kinds in order to keep society free from disease. And, once these laws were no longer needed, we were supposed to stop following them.

Hebrews 8:13 says, "By calling this covenant 'new,' He has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear." I'm not a theologian or a biblical scholar, and I will take full responsibility for any ignorance found within this blog, but according to the New Testament, which follows God's New Covenant, we are led to believe that those Old Testament laws which Jesus did not specifically reiterate within his lifetime are outdated, and do not continue to apply. 1 Corinthians 14:33 says, "God is not the author of confusion." If Jesus had meant, "Stop following those old 'abominations'-- except the one about gay sex!" he would have said so.

"Christianity" is a broad word that encompasses all kinds of denominations and beliefs that often contradict each other, but my personal religion is more about love than it is about black-and-white rules. In John 15:12, Jesus responds to the question about which of the original ten commandments is the most important by saying, "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." Sure, some people are going to continue to feel that homosexuality is an unnatural choice, simply from their gut feelings, and nothing can really be done about that. But please don't misconstrue the idea of a loving God to back up worldly hatred.

To my normal blog readers, I apologize for returning from a week off by preaching on a soapbox. I promise I'll get back to my normal Light Witty Fluff soon.

Chipotle burritos this year: 37
Bagel Street visits this school year: 5
Subscribers: 21,169

Bye, guys. Hopefully I'll see you tomorrow. <3

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Juggling, Answered Questions, Sexy Hands

I'm sitting in Theatre right now, a good ten minutes before class is supposed to start. There are about fifteen other early people scattered around the room, most of them on computers or zoning out. It's pretty normal. Oh yeah-- except for the blaring 90s punk music and the kid standing in the front of the room, juggling. He's clearly performing, but nobody is watching him. Not a soul seems to notice that there is music playing. And that a boy is juggling. Did somebody ask him to do party tricks before I got here? Are they also wondering what the hell is going on, but are just too nice to stare at him? I'm staring at him. I don't see how you could experience this and not be dumbfounded. He is juggling!

Anyway, it's much later now, and I'm writing this in the dark while Love Actually plays in the background for the third time this week. I sat down with the intention of writing at least 2,000 words on my NaNoWriMo novel, and have instead carried on a very long, very funny conversation with one Mr. John Green. He likes my novel's concept and says I'm a good writer. Teeheeheehee. Oh, and Michal just came over, so she's across the room, also writing, in the dark. Other than that, very little has been going on around these parts, so I've decided to use tonight's blog to address some comments from yesterday's entry.

Partyweetow writes: "I don't know how this could be, what with your burrito count always on the rise, but in that picture, it looks like you lost weight."
Well, for one, I am actually losing some weight, but it has nothing to do with my eating habits and everything to do with the fact that NaNoWriMo creates a kind of stress that can only be released through running. Also, it's not like I go out and eat three other square meals a day and THEN add a burrito on top.

Kelly writes: "I said you were one of my favorite authors/someone who inspires me to write in my NaNoWriMo profile. I mean it :)."
I am both incredibly flattered and incredibly worried for you. I've never published a book! You should be inspired by talented, accomplished people!

Tom writes: "Regarding the uncomfortable pinkness [of your new layout], it's the same as how I feel checking out Maureen Johnson books from the library. Or when I attempted to read Sloppy Firsts on an airplane, and my brother kept glancing at it, so I was trying to hide it, and he was like, 'You're really embarrassed of that Gossip Girl book, aren't you?'"
Yours was the most convincing argument I heard against my trial pink blog layout, because even I am embarrassed to be seen reading books with teenybopper chick lit covers. It's a shame when good novels are encased by pictures of teenage girls with their heads chopped off. I would never willingly wish the same fate for my blog.

Tenley Nadine writes: "Are any bloggers really professionals? I guess it depends on your definition of a professional."
If you make money doing something, you're a professional. Many people write formal blogs about their complicated areas of expertise, for which they get paid, so they are professionals. My area of expertise may be my own uninspired sense of humor, but so long as I receive even a slither of revenue from it, I figure I can call myself a professional if it makes my term paper sound more impressive.

Eff writes: "What's up with the shortness and Ihavenothingtowrite-ness in the latest posts? And I'm not digging the layout."
Well, I'm currently competing to write a novel in thirty days, so by the time I finish my homework and thousands of words of creative prose, I don't have a whole lot left in me. And as far as the layout is concerned, I cut down the girliness a smidgen, so hopefully you'll be over your lack of digging by the time you read this post.

Gina writes: "I love yours and Kristina's blogs, so it is very confusing to me that you both have friends named PJ. In my head, this is one person who does a lot of commuting. Just so you know."
Yeah, that's a bit of a problem. Maybe I should start calling mine "PJ the Boy." Also, you share a first name with my NaNoWriMo novel's protagonist. Trippy.

PamB writes: "You should make that wagon wheel in the background into a coffee table like in When Harry Met Sally."
I understood your movie reference way before I could find the wagon wheel in that picture. It was my uncle's house, and he lives far away, so I'm not terribly familiar with its decorations. But the next time I visit, I assure you, I'll ask him to make it into a coffee table and then yell about it.

Seurat2 writes: "I have decided to bet on Kristina winning the Chipotle war. Don't hate me."
I do not hate you, because I've enjoyed your comments in the past, but I can't lie and say Kristina and I didn't have a heated conversation about this comment. While the two of us have some kind of inexplicable need for constant competition, the recorded consumption of my favorite food was never intended to turn into a battle. First of all, my body type is significantly more suited to storing food than hers is, and second of all, I am positive that she doesn't love Chipotle as much as I do, because she doesn't discuss it half as frequently. I had not planned on gaining twenty pounds this month, but if that's what it takes to stake my permanent claim, I am willing to sacrifice myself for the cause.

Sexy: I've probably told you about this weird fascination of mine, but I am extremely attracted to hands. Particularly seeing big, masculine hands do gentle things, like untangle knots. Perhaps it's because men are unaware that girls are checking out their hands, so they can't put on a show about them, or primp them in some annoying, unattractive way. Hands are just natural and unpretentious.
Unsexy: The 10K Crisis, as I like to call it, when you get to the first NaNoWriMo milestone and suddenly want to throw your laptop out a window, pull out your hair, and cry. Michal's already deleted half of her work in frustration and has had to start over. I've been staring at the blinking cursor in the middle of page 34 for hours.

Chipotle burritos this year: 35
Bagel Street visits this school year: 4
Subscribers: 21,529

Bye, guys! Hopefully I'll see you tomorrow. <3

Pointless Entry That You're Not Even Required to Acknowledge

Good evening, Blogosphere! I just finished writing my big, impressive term paper for TWQP's class, all about blogging, and how content creators can secure sources of income without making their readers want to stab them with flaming pitchforks. After citing such credible sources as "creative, popular professional blogger, Kristina Horner" and "revered author, Alan Lastufka" and using polysyllabic words to describe my life without an obvious bias, I'm about ready to start searching for one of those flaming pitchforks to take to my own face. That's what you get for waiting until the very last second to write an important paper: Irritability! And pitchforks! And FIRE!

Sorry. I'm obviously tired and making less and less sense the longer I type, but I couldn't stand the idea of writing about blogging while neglecting my own readers. However, instead of coming up with witty ways to make you care about my lame life, I'm loudly arguing with PJ (he's on the floor next to me) about whether or not Tumblr is stupid, whether or not Twitter is stupid, and whether or not any of it matters. Roomie just blatantly turned up the volume on the TV to drown us out.

Okay. This is a total and complete waste of time for all of us, so I'm going to stop pretending anything redeeming is going to come out of this entry and just post while I'm ahead. Before we part, take a second to admire my new layout. Taste its beauty. Then go over to PJ's youtube channel and thank him for making the banner. NOW LEAVE.

Sexy: This picture from the family pig roast I wrote about a few weeks ago:

That pig was a gentleman. Very respectful.
Unsexy: Singing my vlog opening to me. Yeah, I know. This is Hayley's Vlog. I get it. Let's move on with our lives, PJ.

Chipotle burritos this year: 35
Bagel Street visits this school year: 4
Subscribers: 21,499

Bye, guys! Hopefully I'll see you tomorrow. <3

Monday, November 2, 2009

He was a sk8r boi. She said, "See ya later, boy!"

Today, I:

--Got into a really fascinating discussion about William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying in my English class, and realized that I do, after all, love that book. I was skeptical in the beginning, pegging it as one of those "Omg, look how talented I am; I don't even need to use proper punctuation because it adds characterization and makes me look cutting-edge!" types, but now I understand. If you've read it, can you think of many things more beautiful and miserable than the analogy about Jewel's mother being a horse? Can you?
--Watched half a recording of Death of a Salesman in Theatre, and wondered why nobody warned me ahead of time that today would be Awesome Literature Day.
--Filled out an anonymous evaluation in TWQP's class, and answered the question, "How much effort did you put into this course?" with, "As far as work was concerned? Practically none. I did, however, devote many an hour and heaps of effort to staying awake during lectures."
--Talked to the lovely Michael Aranda on Skype.
--Had a plate of tofu fried rice and a bowl of ice cream, covered in whipped cream and other such deliciousness.
--Rented Love Actually, which I plan to use to distract myself from working on NaNoWriMo. I deserve a break, anyway, after the 8,000 words I wrote yesterday. Yeah. Eight. Thousand. Bitches.

Sexy: Love Actually, while we're on the subject. Nice work, Richard Curtis.
Unsexy: Dragging on dead relationships and clinging to comfort instead of moving on to better things. This may or may not be a specific reference to one of my friends, and she may or may not be standing next to me while I narrate what I type. I'm jus' sayin'.

Chipotle burritos this year: 35
Bagel Street visits this school year: 4
Subscribers: 21,460

Bye, guys! Hopefully I"ll see you tomorrow. <3

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Chipotle > Nanowrimo > Halloween

This is what Court Street in Athens, Ohio looks like on Halloween. For one weekend every year, the population of an already big school more than doubles, and there's barely an inch of personal space in any direction. Once I'd finished my free Chipotle burrito (first and foremost, the most important day of the year, and by far the best part of Halloween), I head out with a group of friends to people-watch and try not to get knocked over by props.

My God-- I'd never seen so many creative outfits in my life. It was like a Lady Gaga clone convention. I had my picture taken with a guy wearing a paper-mache head to look like Hey Arnold, moved out of the way of a gaggle of cheering girls dressed up as a six pack of beer, and talked with a boy who was wearing a cardboard box with a hole through it, labeled BALLOON BOY. While not as recognizable as the boys in helmets with cups glued to the tops (Double Dare contestants) or as tantalizing as the girls in "sexy" versions of the Disney princess dresses, my homemade Bellatrix Lestrange costume held its own.

After perusing the streets for a couple of hours, I got a pretty bad stomach ache, which probably stemmed from the fact that I hadn't eaten before my burrito in hopes that I'd be able to save enough room to relive last year's disgusting triple-Chipotle fest. Bad plan. Instead, I suffered through one burrito and then felt like I was having a baby made of guacamole and black beans. Luckily (well... you know what I mean), Heather was also not feeling well, so, like total losers, we left the biggest, craziest party in the country really early to have Girly Giggle Time in her room. We popped a couple Pepto Bismol, laughed over a marathon of I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant, and got hyped up for NaNoWriMo. Heather and I counted eight separate ambulances rush past her room over the course of the night, people screamed and boozed and danced until all hours, and yet I worked on a novel until sunrise. Nerdfighters!

Speaking of NaNoWriMo, as of three in the afternoon on today, Day 1, I have nearly 7,000 words. I don't know if I've ever tirelessly written so much in such a short span of time, and I'm still going strong. My novel is about a thirteen-year-old girl named Gina, and it's one of those youthful insecurity stories that pretty much everyone can relate to, but will still probably be too controversial for a lot of people, because I'm trying to be as honest as possible. While I totally froze up with anxiety when Kristina asked me to send her an excerpt, I really like it so far. It's awesome that I didn't plan AT ALL, and wouldn't even allow my mind to wonder into the territory of plot before last night, and yet I've organically met this really fleshed-out character and I can already see where the story will probably go. I love writing, guys.

And now, finally, I am going to go shower and rid my arm of the Sharpie Dark Mark I drew to complete my costume, as well as cleanse my body and soul from a combination between too much fun and too much slaving away. College is exhilarating.

Sexy: Having handy writing buddies available at all times. I've been talking to Kristina on Skype for much of the morning, and we had a laugh about how, when my word count was up to 6,000, hers looked like this:
Unsexy: The condition of my physical appearance. Remnants of dark eyeshadow, hair in a floppy knot, big t-shirt and a pair of Heather's shorts. SHOWER TIME.

Chipotle burritos this year: 34
Bagel Street visits this school year: 4
Subscribers: Site maintenance. Will update next time.

Bye, guys! Hopefully I'll see you tomorrow. <3