Joie (hymnia) wrote,

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Another epic wahleecon report

In typical OBHWF sheep fashion, I am following the crowd and posting my thoughts on wahleecon.

No matter how many times a fly, it never ceases to make me feel nervous. It’s totally irrational. As the flight attendants of Southwest Airlines are always pointing out, the airplane flight is “the safest part of your journey…(so please buckle up and drive safely).” And I know it’s true! But I still get the heebie-jeebies every time I am facing a plane trip. So, as I was packing for my afternoon flight on Wednesday, I was thinking to myself, “This had better be worth it!”

I had a bit of a mishap before getting to the airport, though, in that the person whom I was supposed to meet at my church building to take me to the airport (so that I could park my car there for free instead of paying a lot of $$$ to park it at the airport) didn’t show up. I tried calling my one local HP fandom friend Kirk, aka gaidin_prime, to see if he could take me, but I couldn’t get a hold of him, and I left a message saying, “Call me if you get this before 2:45.” Luckily, the Women’s Minister at my church was kind enough to step in and take me to the airport herself. That actually turned out to be a very nice way to start the journey, as we had a really lovely conversation on the way to the airport about, among other things…making online friends. See, most of the people that I had told about wahleecon up to that point had given me these sort of funny looks when I told them I was going to Salt Lake City to meet some people I had met online. One person even got all wide-eyed and said, “Ooo…scary.” So it was quite refreshing when this woman that I respect reacted with, “Oh that’s wonderful! That will be so much fun!” And then she proceeded to tell me that she keeps a blog at Blogspot and has a few “online friends” herself. :)

So, I got to the airport okay, and got on my flight from Orlando to Albuquerque without any mishaps. The flight itself was fine until about the last hour, when we hit a really nasty spot of turbulence. I believe it was the worst turbulence I have ever experienced, in fact, and I was scared half to death at first. One lady sitting near me had just ordered a glass of wine, and it had gone everywhere in a matter of seconds. For a little while my thoughts sounded rather like a tent meeting: “Oh dear Lord, oh sweet Jesus!” over and over again. In the midst of it I glanced over at a middle-aged man and a girl maybe a little younger than me. The girl was laughing. She saw that I was nervous, and she said, “It’s okay. My dad here is a pilot. This is nothing.” I calmed down somewhat after that.

We landed safely in Albuquerque, and I cannot tell you how weird it was for me to arrive in the Albuquerque airport and not stay there. For those of you that don’t know, I grew up in Albuquerque, and still have lots of family there that I visit frequently. Moreover, my parents had flown to Albuquerque the day before and were there at the time, visiting for my cousin’s wedding that Saturday. But I had about twenty minutes to change planes, and there was no time to linger. I can tell you, I felt a little reluctant to get on that plane after the first bumpy ride, but I got over it. After all, I didn’t want to miss all the fun just because I’m a scaredy-cat.

Fortunately, the second flight was nice and smooth, and really quite beautiful. We took off in a clear, pre-sunset sky, and clear skies in Albuquerque tend to be the most perfect deep blue. The whole flight was clear and smooth, and when we started to descend on Salt Lake City…well, I must say that my first impression of the city was an extremely good one. It is an incredibly beautiful city. From the air I could look down on the enormous mountains, many of them snow-capped, and soon I could see the city itself cradled in the valley. And this impression of beautiful!SLC lasted, mind you, once I got on the ground as well.

In no time, it seemed, my journey was over and I had arrived to find Ginny Weasley Jen, aka susy_gwen, waiting for me with a copy of OotP in her arms. We took a brief detour to drop off my stuff at the hotel before catching up with those who had already arrived and joining them for dinner at Tucci’s.

Dinner was a little awkward at first, because by the time I arrived, everyone was pretty much done eating, and they were all sitting around looking nice and cozy, whereas I was harried, jet-lagged, and feeling not a little gross from having been cooped up on airplanes for several hours. But everyone looked up at me with smiles on their faces, Krista, aka lilac_bearry, got up to greet me warmly with a hug, someone flagged down the infamous Jake so that I could order, and in no time I was settled into a conversation about superpowers with Kate, aka fellytone_k8, Chris and Kelley (whom I expect to see show up on LJ ANY TIME NOW [/not-so-subtle hint]), and a few other folx whom I’m afraid I did not get to know well enough over the weekend to identify properly, though I suspect they were andmore and stmarysalice, since they were hanging out with Kate. I was a bit disgruntled at first that there had not been an open seat at the end of the table with Krista, Susan (aka angua9), Pam (aka connielane), and Emily (the great wahlee_98 herself), since I already knew them from online. But I’m glad that I got to make a few new friends instead. Kate turned out to be quite entertaining, and Chris and Kelley are knowledgeable about lots of interesting things, like Alchemy.

Anyway, after dinner we went back to the hotel, hung out, and chatted about various things, which was when Chris, Kelley, and Krista brought up Alchemy, and explained to us why it can support H/G, rather than H/Lu like John Granger tried to suggest. :) I also took a moment to check my cell phone for messages, and discovered three worried messages from Kirk, wondering what the HEX had happened to me. Sorry, for worrying you, Kirk. :(

At about midnight, a bunch of us went to pick up Eleuthera, aka dianora or Liralen, at the airport. I’m sure that was a lot of fun, but since by that time I was half asleep, I couldn’t really say for sure. That night, I was quite grateful to fall into bed.

I got up the next morning and had breakfast, which was a little awkward, because the only Wahleeconites there were Susan and her family, and they take up exactly one table. So I sat at the table next to them, and mentally debated whether I should try and strike up a conversation or not. I didn’t.

Around mid-morning the group, which included, in addition to some of those already mentioned, my two other roommates besides Pam and Eleuthera—alphabet26, aka Ree, and her friend Marla—headed out to Crossroads Mall for lunch and gelato. One of the store windows displayed a beautiful green dress that I kept coveting every time I passed it this weekend. It was a lovely style, and a lovely shade of green that somehow reminded me of…Ents.

At the food court we met up with Krista, who had picked up Kirk at the airport that morning and brought him there to meet us. We had our lunch, and our gelato, which was fabulous, then headed over to Honeyduke’s London Market. Those of us in Pam’s car had a slight misadventure trying to get to it, and I’m afraid I got rather miffed at a very inconsiderate road crew worker. But we made it there eventually, and got ourselves some nifty chocolate frogs.

We hung out at Emily’s after that, watching Teh Pretty Pirates of the Carribean. Emily didn’t seem to realize she had a Turnerite ally in me, since she said something about the Turnerites being on the opposite side of the room from where I was sitting at the time, and I’m afraid I was too cowardly to speak up with all those scary Sparrowvingians, Norringtonians, and the lone Barbosan hanging around.

We had to stop in the middle of the movie to go make a scene at the airport in honor of the arrival of redwood7, aka Rachel. Dude, how come no one made a scene for me, huh? Eleuthera and Rachel got a zillion people picking them up, despite their flights getting in either in the middle of the night, or in the middle of the Pirate-fangirling. What’s up with that? :P

Anyway, we went back to Emily’s to finish our fangirling, then returned to the hotel to prepare for The Big Night. I donned my Harry Potter baby tee from Hot Topic, and others donned their T-shirts or their Hogwarts robes, and we set out. Just as we were getting in our cars Cyndi, aka piperx showed up with her husband and adorable daughter Amelia in tow.

I must say that waiting for the midnight showing was probably my favorite part of the trip. Yep. You read that right. I enjoyed waiting for the movie to start. The line outside was incredible. The Gryffindor Quidditch robes. All the costumes. Dobby. Fox News trying to run us over. Chatting with folx. Getting our fix of…catnip—the printed kind and the live kind. Eating pizza and my chocolate frog while chatting with Kirk, Pam, Rachel, and others.

Then once inside the theatre, singing fabulous filks with Krista, who has a lovely voice and harmonizes well. Getting the rapt attention of several of the people around me by engaging them in Harry Potter Tribond questions. Getting Susan and her daughter Emma interested enough in it that they made up a few questions themselves. Finding a message on my cell phone from Mom saying she hoped I was having fun, and that they planned to see the movie the next day with my uncle and cousin. Seeing Lucius Malfoy, Moaning Myrtle, et al, and yelling compliments and giving the thumbs-up sign to Lucius’s pimp cane from over several aisles. Singing “Happy Birthday” to Emily and having the whole theatre join us. Generally acting like a nut.

And best of all, the anticipation…

Overall, I really enjoyed the movie, especially the first few scenes. Actually, roughly the first half of the movie I thoroughly enjoyed, and basically had no problems with. My only complaint is that some parts, though entertaining, could have been cut so as to make room for other, more important things that really should have been included later in the film.

Most of my complaints, then, are about what is missing. Here are the things that I think should not, under any circumstances, have been cut from the film but were:

1) A few clearly brave and loyal moments for Ron. I don’t have a problem with Ron being funny, awkward, and the occasional butt of jokes. Ron is all those things in canon from time to time. But that’s not all he is. Leaving out the other dimensions to Ron’s character makes him rather flat and uninteresting. It’s not true to canon, and, guess what? It’s not cinematically necessary, either. I don’t have a problem with the infamous line-switch. I understand why it had to be that way for cinematic purposes. What bugs me is the unnecessary changes that polarize Ron (and Hermione, which I’ll get to in a minute) into certain stock roles. In the books, Ron provides a lot of comic relief. But he is not The Comic Relief. The movie needed to balance his comic relief moments with moments that showed other sides of his personality. For instance, the DADA lesson where Snape insults Hermione: Kloves actually changed what happens in canon, so that instead of defending Hermione at the risk of getting a detention, Ron actually agrees with Snape. There is no need for this. It would not take significantly more time to replace “He’s got a point, you know,” with “You asked for the answer and she knows it!” and “Detention, Weasley.” At the very least, the scene could have ended with a simple shot of Hermione looking upset about Snape’s mean comment, and left the OOC!Ron line off all together. (And yes, it is OOC. I don’t care if Ron does call Hermione a know-it-all, he would never, ever, in a million years side with Snape against her in front of the class like that). Heck, if Kloves felt the need to tag a line on there for pacing or whatever, he could have had Malfoy whisper, “He’s got a point there,” and had Ron and Harry give him dirty looks. But no, instead he had to include yet another scene where Ron does something doofy instead of something loyal or brave. The thing is, it’s not any single incident in the film that upsets me. I only use the above as an example. It’s, as I said to some folx at Wahleecon, the cumulative effect of all these types of moments. One or two I could forgive. But it’s like every single opportunity to make Ron be a dork/jerk/coward, Kloves takes. That bugs me.

2) A few vulnerable, overworked, stressed, and/or swotty moments for Hermione. Basically, this is like my complaint about Ron. It’s not a single event that bothers me; it’s the cumulative effect. Let Hermione make fun of Trelawney. Let her complain about how her hair looks. Let her save Harry from the Whomping Willow. Let her steal Ron’s best line. A few of these things I could forgive. Heck, I probably would hardly notice if it was only a few. But this is just a small sampling of the Super!Hermione moments in this movie. I think the ones that annoy me most of all are those that make it look like Hermione is all lighthearted and has a wonderful sense of humor. Hermione is not like that. She takes things very seriously. She would so totally scold Harry for sneaking to Hogsmeade and playing tricks on Malfoy and his goons. And that is what I will use as my case-in-point example of how many of these changes are unnecessary. Why on earth could Kloves not have had Ron be the one who laughs and Hermione be the one who says “That’s not funny, Harry.” Oh right, because Ron is an idiot and couldn’t possibly have figured out that it was all a prank by invisible!Harry. [/sarcasm] (Please note: This change would not require Hermione to have failed to figure out that it was Harry; she could simply not find it funny that he’s breaking rules by sneaking out, and then adding additional risk that he might get caught by tormenting Malfoy.) To gloss over these aspects of Hermione’s character is just as much of an injustice as making Ron nothing more than comic relief, because it denies her the wonderful story arc JKR has given her, where she learns to lighten up about things, to not take herself too seriously, to not bite off more than she can chew, and to be confident enough in her worth as a person that she doesn’t need to be the Model Student with the Perfect Grades so much. In short, making her supergirl denies her her rightful place in the series as a three-dimensional character with flaws, and most importantly, room to grow. It boggles my mind that a self-proclaimed Hermione-lover like Kloves would do this to her. But he has. I swear, when Sirius said that totally gratuitous “You really are the cleverest witch of your age,” I just wanted to scream, “Get over it, Steve Kloves!”

3) A decent explanation of who the Marauders were and the identity of Harry’s Patronus. To me, Harry’s recognition of Prongs was the most poignant moment in the book. And the back story on the Marauders is crucial to understanding the plot and the central themes of the book. I cannot believe this was left out.

As I said, overall I loved the movie. It was better than the first two in many ways. I definitely prefer Cuaron’s directing style to Columbus’s. I love how the three leads have grown as actors, and I’m pleased with how attractive they have become. Yes, Emma Watson, too. Hermione is pretty, people! She should have a bit bushier hair, I know, but honestly I think Emma is wonderful as Hermione and the way she looks is close enough to suit me. Besides, since the Today show, she has become my new favorite Evil Operative. :D Also, I loved all the new adult actors—Aunt Marge, Lupin, Dumbledore, Trelawney, Sirius, and Pettigrew. Not all of them are precisely what I picture when I read the books, but all their performances worked well for me. Oh, and I thought the “You tell those spiders, Ron” bit was adorable. I don’t care if it was non-canon, or even that it added a bit to the cumulative effect of ComicRelief!Ron. It was still a darn cute Harry/Ron friendship moment. And the R/Hr shippy stuff was good, too. Much cheering was heard from our area of the theatre for the “hand movements” and other such things. And I thought the Draco/Pansy ~ R/Hr parallel was hilarious.

After the movie several of us went to Denny’s to discuss. Sadly, I can remember very little of this discussion, as I was half asleep for most of it.

The next day began with an early lunch at the Mayan, where we discussed the movie further and watched as Dobby overindulged in Corona. Emily was also put through more birthday embarrassment.

We got in line for another wait for the matinee, which I again found rather enjoyable. I watched purplerebecca making some cool sketches, enjoyed the cuteness of Krista’s daughter Rachel, played more Tribond, and sang more filks. I enjoyed the movie the second time, and I found the lack of Marauders explanation slightly more forgivable, and the polarizing of Ron and Hermione’s characters slightly less so.

The birthday party at Litza’s Pizza included more chatting about the movie, fandom, and…catnip. I enjoyed watching Emily open her presents. She got some cool stuff. I would like to see the finished product of the gift susy_gwen gave her, though, even if only in pictures posted online (hint hint).

Perhaps my second favorite part of the trip was the cake and ice cream get together at Emily’s house. More talk about our favorite subjects. Awesome, AWESOME Ravenclaw-themed cake. (Woohoo! Go ‘Claws!) And best of all…the Reading, which (*squee*) I was allowed to participate in. I know, it would have been great if “Anonymyth” could have been there to read it himself, but as that was not possible, I am thrilled I got to fill in and play some tiny roll in the Greatest, Most Magnanimous and Unbiased Fic EVA! I would just like to say that I think the five authors are Brilliant, and moreover, that the four of them I got to meet this weekend are Wonderful People (and I’m sure the fifth is, too).

Oh, and I would like to explain to Eleuthera why some of us were fangirling her on the way back to the hotel that night. It was because of this post, particularly the last sentence. ;)

The next day we made a quick stop for picnic supplies at the grocery store and headed for Lagoon, the local amusement park. I enjoyed riding the various roller coasters and other rides, though I wasn’t entirely happy with how WET I got on Rattlesnake Rapids. We had a nice lunch, again returning to our favorite discussion topics. Kirk was nice enough to get me salami for my sandwich, and I would like it to be noted that I was apparently not the only attendee who likes salami, as the package was already open by the time I got to it. Oh, and I loved sannalim’s bit of OBHWF graffiti!

After lunch I was all dried out and refused to get wet again, so I sat around chatting with Kirk and Emily for a while, then went on the White Roller Coaster with fellytone_k8’s group, and thus got to hear a bit of…er…history about the park. After that, I had planned to leave early with Susan and co, but I ended up giving up my spot on the Knight Bus to someone who wanted it more, and stayed to ride a few more rides, and get waaaay too hot and dehydrated in the afternoon heat. Unfortunately, I overdid it just slightly, and ended up nearly blacking out on Colossus (I have a little problem with low blood pressure, and sometimes things like that happen to me when I’m tired/dehydrated/haven’t had enough electrolytes). But we stopped at a gas station on the way back from the park and I got some Gatorade and was just fine after that.

The barbeque that night at Emily’s grandmother’s house was rather subdued. Our conversation turned from the usual subjects to planning the next get-together. I expressed some concern that Book 6 might not be that great for a social event, since many of us would want to be holed up reading for a few days. (Some of us don’t read as fast as others, you know.) Still, I think the consensus was that we could make it work with separate reading rooms for teh slow and teh fast, and a longer than one weekend duration for the meet-up. Later, I heard some discussion that we might meet at one or more of the upcoming conventions—Salem and/or Las Vegas. Chris and Kelley even mentioned a convention in Scotland, but were unable to find the info about it online at the time.

The ROTK-watching was fun, for the early part of the movie. There was a good bit of, um, interesting commentary going on. Unfortunately, I was so tired by that time that I had to go conk out on the couch in another room for a good portion of the middle of the movie. I missed two of my favorite moments as a result—“I am no man,” and “I can carry you.” I came back in for the grand finale, from the moment Frodo tries to take the Ring for himself, to the very last of the multiple endings. I cried my eyes out, sang along with “Into the West” (Eleuthera, who also has a lovely voice, and I had been taking turns singing it all weekend), and finally it was time to bring the party to a very subdued end, and figure out who was taking whom to the airport the next day. Once we did that, we returned to the hotel, and I, for one, slept like a log.

The next morning several of us woke early to go and hear the live performance of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s weekly broadcast. We arrived a bit early and watched the rehearsal. The director reminded me incredibly of my college choir director, Dr. Couch. The performance was fantastic. This choir has a powerful and, considering the size of the choir, remarkably polished sound. The theme of this week’s broadcast was the positive power of music, a sentiment that is close to my heart. My favorite was the arrangement of “The Sound of Music,” which is a song I love anyway, that they sang. They also sang “When in Our Music God is Glorified,” one of many hymns that I like. I had a little trouble…uh…keeping myself from singing along on that one. ;) They ended with “God Bless America,” in honor of President Ronald Reagan. After the broadcast they sang “God Be With You ‘Til We Meet Again,” which I think got quite a few of us to tear up.

We then went for a little walk through the Temple Square area, and toured the enormous Convention Hall. Everything we saw that morning was beautiful. Even the office buildings in that area of town look clean, shiny, and well-kept—but better than that are the historical buildings, and the grey marble, and the spires, and the statues, and the gardens. Like I said, my impression of SLC as a beautiful city was a lasting one.

After that, we said farewell to Emily’s gracious family. We headed back to the hotel to check out of our rooms, take some pictures, and say far too many goodbyes. Soon, all that was left were Kirk, Eleuthera, Chris, Kelley, and I. The five of us went for lunch at the Macaroni Grill, then dropped by Krista’s place for a bit. Due to some car trouble, Krista had been unable to make the choir performance that morning, and even worse, had missed getting to say proper goodbyes to a lot of the out-of-towners. :( So those of us who were left thought we would spend our last few hours before we had to catch our flights out of SLC (or in Chris and Kelley’s case, had to drive back) with her. Krista was nice enough to let us use her computers and we did a bit of group…catnip enjoyment. And I think I managed to convince Chris and Kelley to get an LJ. We’ll see.

Chris and Kelley dropped Kirk and I off at the airport at around 3 PM, as we both had 4-ish flights. Kirk sat with me a bit, since my flight was supposed to leave first, but my plane was very, very delayed and he ended up leaving me still waiting for it, so that he could catch his own flight—but not before 1) getting a little video clip of me in a very serendipitous location, and 2) insisting that I call him when I got home so that he would be reassured that I did, in fact, get to St. Louis in time to make my connecting flight home.

Well, my flight got in a few minutes after my connecting flight was supposed to leave. Luckily, one of the flight attendants had been good enough to call ahead and ask them to hold the planes of those passengers with connecting flights just a few minutes. So what was supposed to be an hour layover in St. Louis ended up being a quick sprint through the terminal.

The flight home was uneventful. My parents happened to be flying in from Albuquerque around the same time, and had arrived at the airport about an hour before me. We met up at baggage claim and rode home together, discussing out respective good times with what little energy we had left. We got home and were enthusiastically greeted by my cat, Strider. I made a quick phone call to Kirk to let him know that I got home okay. And as I fell into peaceful sleep that night, I thought that the trip had most definitely been worth it.

Wow. That took me about four hours to type. But it was worth it. :)

x-posted to wahleecon


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