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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Going potty over Potter

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Image taken from, hosting by PhotobucketAll good things, as they say, come to an end. Usually. And no exception with the phenomenally popular Harry Potter series of books. And today's the big day, July 21, 2007, when the seventh and last Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, goes on sale worldwide.

By now, die-hard fans may already have gotten their grubby hands on the book, with some starting their wait for their grail, lining up in front of their favorite bookstores days before. Yeah, Potter fans do get a little crazy that way. While Walski has enjoyed the series thus far, he is by no measure a fanatic or even a big fan. Walski wonders how some people get a little loony tunes over a book. Oh well, to each his/her own, one supposes.

But the book release here in Malaysia has apparently attracted some controversy. In yesterday's The Star, four major bookstore chains have reportedly boycotted the release, and any promotional activities associated with the book, because they say that a hypermarket is offering the books at a tremendously reduced price.

Image hosting by PhotobucketOne hypermart to piss all of 'em off...

The last paragraph shown above, however, is the best part.

So does that mean if the hypermarket weren't offering the big discount that the four book chains would have been profiteering from their customers? Well, books, as important as they are happen to be pricey in Malaysia. Whose fault? Who knows... count the number of hands between the publisher and the retailer, with markups along the way...

If you were thinking of lining up at one of these four chains... well, the good news is that now you don't have to. Head on to the hypermart mentioned... oh, wait... it's not mentioned in The Star article above (oh, those chickenshit pansies)... but apparently, the said hypermarket put up a full page advertisement in Friday's newspapers. Walski will give you a hint: it's not Mydin.
(magic pricewars, possible spoilers, and more, in the full post)

Okay, okay... the hypermarket in question happens to be Tesco (source: Khaleejtimes). The full page advert apparently has the book advertised for RM 40 off the retail price. Good deal, eh? Plus the opportunity to get a dozen bag of chips, and soda to keep you company when you lock yourself away from civilization for a few days while you read the book. What a bargain!

For more price war perspectives, read The Malaysian's take on this. Spoiler warning: it's not a funny post. Heh heh...

But pricing isn't the only controversy surrounding the new Potter book. There have also been all kinds of spoilers reported on the Internet. In fact, an anonymous reader left a comment on one of myAsylum's earlier posts, in what appears to be a spoiler to the seventh Harry Potter book:

Hedwig dies pg56
Mad-Eye dies pg78
Scrimgeour dies pg159
Wormtail dies pg471
Dobby dies pg476
Voldemort kills Snape pg658
Snape was good, loved Lily - entire Chapter 33
Colin, Crabbe, Bellatrix, Fred, Tonks, Lupin, Ted Tonks, Scrimgeour all die

Hagrid, Malfoy, Neville survive.

Ron marries Hermione
Harry marries Ginny
Their children attend Hogwarts together

The final two sentences are: "The scar had not pained Harry for eighteen years. All was well."

Real or not, Walski reckons we'll find out at Tesco tomorrow. Oh, and let Walski know once you find out, okay?

Wired posted an article stating that some of the techniques purportedly used by hackers to obtain these supposed spoilers are quite believable. Take for example, something called spear phishing.

However, the claimed method of attack – known as spear phishing – is completely believable, according to Rick Wesson and Adam Waters, the top officers at the computer security firm Support Intelligence.

"This is being used against the State Department often," Wesson said. "This is how you steal any kind of intellectual property."
(source: Wired Blog Network)

Be that as it may, a whole lot of spoiler versions can be found out there on the 'Net. Another version Walski found states that Hermione gets killed - quite different from the anonymous comment above. In another, Ron Weasly gets blown away. Surf the 'Net enough, and you'll like find all sorts of spoilers imaginable. The commonality among the various spoilers, however, is that a lot of characters will get snuffed.

Walski, too has some predicted spoilers. Like where in the final battle between Harry and Voldemort, the evil wizard finally reveals that Harry is actually his son, and invites the young wizard to join him on the side of darkness... oh wait, didn't they already do that in Star Wars?

Better yet, assuming some of these characters actually survive the seventh book, Walski can think of a number of spin-offs, and mash-ups with other popular fiction and fantasy figures.

Take, for instance, Voldemort vs. Predator. Here the evil wizard, appearing to have been whacked off by Harry Potter (presumably), actually creates a vortex - a worm hole, if you would - which carries him twenty thousand light years away, right smack into the thick of the Predator planet. Pretty cool idea, don't you think?

Image hosting by PhotobucketThe ultimate battle between wizardry and war-tech!
(see end of post for original pix credits)

Or, assuming that Ron Weasly does get blown away in this last book, his spirit somehow finds itself, in molecular form, in an oil refinery, within the distillation process, where with the help of the Hydrocarbon Sisters, Methaney and Ethaney (aka CH4 and C2H6), averts certain disaster when the evil Octanoids stage an attempted revolt, boosting the octane rating of every distilled product imaginable, to the point that the refinery may explode if the dastardly villians are not stopped. Think of it as Osmosis Jones meets The China Syndrome. And Walski will simply call this spin-off RON!
(Walski's in-line geek note: The title is a really stupid joke that possibly only Chemical, Process and Industrial Engineers will understand)

Yup. Walski can think of a number of other mash-ups, like Nick Fury and the Half-Blood Chihuahua (don't ask), Life, The Universe, and Azkaban, Lifestyles of the Rich and Dobby, Hogwarts: A Veterinarian's Guide, Hairy Pothead and the Stoned Philosophers... Yes, witches, wizards and warlocks, Walski could go on and on with this...

For a more adult audience, however, we have Hermione Does Downing St. Heartbroken by not being able to get it on with Harry (her secret love), Hermione ends up marrying Ron. Ron turns out to be a total loser jerk husband - abusive too - much as everyone expected. Hermione runs away, and plots the downfall of the British PM, through a series of sordid sex scandals (it's got S&M, water sports, auto-erotic asphyxiation, and other unimaginable exotic acts of adult bedminton). Her secret agenda? Paving the way for her secret love Harry, to assume command in No. 10. Wham, bam... instant best-seller, baby!

And you know what, it appears that Walski's getting a little potty over Potter himself. So we better stop here, before Walski starts to explicitly describe the lurid orgy that Hagrid, and the ghosts of Snape, Dobby and Dumbledore, get into, involving a unicorn, an owl, Paris Hilton, and a one-eyed snake...

But all that nonsense aside, the impact of the Harry Potter books (and subsequently films), on popular culture is undeniable. The stories that have fueled the imagination of children of all ages, through the genius of author J.K. Rowling, will undoubtedly be a talking point for many years to come. Not to mention an entire cottage industry built around the exploits of the young wizard. While the series (apparently) comes to an end, the upcoming and inevitable remaining film adaptations will ensure that the name Harry Potter lives on.

Walski's picture source credit note: The original pictures used for the Valdemort vs Predator pix above came from here (for the AVP movie poster) and here (image of Valdemort). As far fetched as this mash-up may be, Walski still maintains that it would make one mutha of an acition movie!