Day 3 PotterWeek: PotterPonderings (crackpot theories, symbolism, literary analysis)

Day 3 of #PotterWeek and the posts are still going strong! 7 books and 8 movies, and there is so much to ponder about the storyline and characters. I have a few of my own but would probably take longer to propose than one post. A great source of inspiration of theories and analysis comes from the one and only tumblr. So many revelations and ultra-super-amazing-creative headcanon has come from this site - I couldn't resist sharing these below. What's your favorite Harry Potter theory or revelation?

Day 2 PotterWeek: PotterPeeps (characters)

The first day of #PotterWeek got us to think about name meanings and their origins. My entry inspired me to explore one of my favorites but least likeable character in the whole series.

Of course, we're talking about Dolores Umbridge. This woman is evil - pure evil.

And, I love to hate her - in the books and played by Imelda Staunton in the films. She's a ruthless advocate and hunter against all things and people that offend her. There is nothing to pad the pain she will cause another.

In many television shows and movies, usually the villains are given enough backstory to feel empathy for how this man or woman grew up to be so merciless; pain in their childhood escalates heartless revenge in their adulthood, and so on. Depending on your own thoughts about Voldemort, and the theories of his fictional history connected to Hitler's, their backstory contributes to who they are.

On Pottermore, it was revealed what kind of world she was raised in: one that lacked ambition in the magical world and enough ignorance towards Muggles to fuel her own family. The ignorance of her mother and brother's lack of magical abilities (she a Muggle, and he a Squib) literally split the family down the middle: Dolores to live her father, and her mother with son.

She is not the Pureblood she pretends be, in fact transforming the loathing feelings she had towards her mother's side of the family towards others. Dolores didn't have take pride for her father as a wizard since he was basically a janitor without ambition at the Ministry of Magic. Gaining entry into the MoM, she sadistically manipulated from the beginning of her career, moving up the chain of command by cheating other's of credit for their work.

Who knew someone so evil could love so much pink? Behind closed doors, Umbridge suggested ruthless confinement and removal of non-magical folk. Her cold personality and actions were in complete contrast of the delicate, feminine exterior she tried to pass off. A wardrobe full of pinks ensembles and frilly accessories were an impressive attempt at distraction; you attract more flies with honey than you do vinegar, as they say.

What scares her is what ultimately fuels her: fear of anything that is not wholly human, or wholly magical. Power and control dominate her every move and decision. And, even "creativity" to a point. When students were forced to use her "punishment quill", any lines they had to write were carved into the back of their hand. Certainly, innovative as well as downright callous.

No amount of circumstances in her past that could be pointed to as a cause for her maliciousness would inspire anyone to like Umbridge. We have to also consider how the Horcrux she wore in Deathly Hallows, on her rampage of arresting and sucking the souls of half-bloods via Dementors, only increased her adrenaline of darkness. When Ron or Harry wore the necklace their darker sides showed through; jealousy, anger, and so on. With her, her darkness only showed through more. There's probably nothing that could make her a "cool" villain; she is cruel for cruelty's sake.

Day 1 PotterWeek: PotterVerse (origins, meanings, anything language based)

Today is the first day of #PotterWeek - an idea shared with us by the Common Room to celebrate seven days of Potter. For this initial round we are going to be chatting about the verse of J.K. Rowling's series - origins, meanings and anything language based.

The names given to characters and settings by authors are often created with a lot of specific meanings in mind. As an amateur writer myself, I spend hours loving to collect and study not only names but collect words and find out their meanings or origins. I like to think the names or words I choose have a certain flow, mood, and theme. Surely, J.K. Rowling drawing from friends / strangers in real life to digging into mythologies, she had the same idea.

While everyone in our world surely knows his name (Harry Potter), I thought it'd be fun today to explore some of my favorite names from the series and their meanings.

Dolores Umbridge
She isn't a favorite character of many peoples but she is one of my love to hate villains. I'd elaborate further but we'll stick to the name here: "Dolor" = Latin for pain, sadness, grief, resentment. Umbridge = homonym for the English word 'umbrage:' to take offense, from Latin "umbra" shade, shadow, ghost. She certainly does cause a lot of pain and takes offense to almost everything throughout Order of the Phoenix.

The famous bank where wizards and witches' currency are handled by goblins. Gringotts came from the word ingot (a bar of gold). Rowling put 'gr' in front of it to make it sound intimidating.

Merope Gaunt
Descendant of Salazar Slytherin, little is known of the meaning behind this important figure of Voldemort's upbringing. In Pleiades mythology, she is one of seven daughters in the constellations who is the dimmest star for marrying and falling in love with a mortal. Not a far shot from what her back story is in the Potter realm. It's fitting that her first name translates "with face turned" among other similar versions, and her surname means grim and desolate.

Nymphadora Tonks
One of my favorite female characters was a young woman who had the ability to change her appearance as she pleased; Nymphadora is easily linked to its origins "Gift of the Nymphs" but it has a bigger religious as well as sexually active connection. In the insect world, bugs go through metamorphoses. Perhaps the shortened version or its history is one of these reasons raises the question for why Tonks didn't like her name?

Professor Quirinus Quirrell
His name, especially the surname, sounds a cross between a hand-sanitizer and someone who is easily flustered or squeamish. HPLexicon speculates that: Quirrell may have been meant to sound like 'querulous' which means "someone characterized by complaining; fretfulness." It may have also been meant to sound like "squirrel."

Vindictus Viridian
Not a very popular known character, he is one of many authors that are on the student's supplies list. The name of his book may be more memorable because of its length: Curses and Counter-Curses (Bewitch your Friends and Befuddle your Enemies with the Latest Revenges: Hair Loss, Jelly-Legs, Tongue-Tying and much, much more). The name Vindictus is derived from the Latin vindicta ("revenge") and the surname Viridian from the Latin viridis ("green").

Tom Marvolo Riddle
Who can ever forget Tom unveiling his alias and anagram as Lord Voldemort? One of the most cleverest instances of names meaning more than what we are given as readers at face value.

Hogsmeade Vacation Tips: Hogwarts Express Photo Opportunities

So many memories were made with the Hogwarts Express. Our trip to the wizarding world began alongside Harry's in his first year, as he made friends with Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. By book or by film, we first imagined the gorgeous steam engine train sitting idly and waiting for us to board for our journey to Hogwarts.

At Universal Studios theme parks, you can't miss the photo opportunity to stand before the grand train on your vacation at Universal Studios Orlando. Luckily, there are three hot spots to make this come true!

First, at Kings Cross Station. When crossing the threshold to Platform 9 3/4, the queue line runs alongside the train allowing enough time to pause for quick photos. The Hogwarts Express takes approximately five to ten minutes to board passengers. Sometimes this can be tricky because other guests might walk through as you pose, but it's definitely worth a shot if you're seeing it for the first time!

No worries, you can catch the Hogwarts Express again for a second time at the Hogsmeade Station when you depart. Surprisingly, many guests walk right pass this opportunity and its only available upon exiting this attraction. The train docks into station again for five to ten minutes, sometimes longer. Separate from the queue line, there is a longer, non-busier location to stop and snap selfies with no one else cutting in. That's where the photo above was taken! Ain't it pretty?

Lastly, located inside Hogsmeade is a stationery Hogwarts Express. No need to worry about this one coming or going. This is a good opportunity to pose with an actual conductor!  This last one gets extra points - If you are not purchasing a 2-day ticket at the parks, and cannot ride the Hogwarts Express attraction, this last option is the best for you and your fellow wizards to not miss out on a picture for your scrapbooks.

Photo of the Week: Hogwarts at Night

This week's photo captures Hogwarts Castle as nighttime arrives.

Celebrate JK Rowling & Harry Potter Birthdays with PotterWeek

July 31st is a remarkable day in the life of us Potter fans - a day to enjoy the birthdays of both author J.K. Rowling and our hero Harry Potter. If you're looking for a magical new way to celebrate this year, Common Room is commencing #PotterWeek. 7 days of Harry Potter based prompts for fans to unveil their thoughts and ideas.

Here is the schedule so far:

25- PotterVerse (origins, meanings, anything language based)
26- PotterPeeps (characters)
27- PotterPonderings (crackpot theories, symbolism, literary analysis)
28- PotterHouse (Pottermore vs your own prediction)
29- PotterParks (experiences, wishlist, more)
30- PotterPowers (spells, charms, races)
31- PotterPotpourri (any posts that don’t fit the other topics.)

I'll be joining in here at Potter Talk. Check out the Common Room to get more awesome info!

Daniel Radcliffe Pranks the NYLON Office

Daniel Radcliffe stopped by the NYLON offices recently, taking over for part of the day as a front-desk receptionist. None of the staff was made aware that he would be there in advance. NYLON employees got a shock and Radcliffe got stressed out – as well as a bit of a shock himself by a visit from Joe Jonas. Check out the hilarious 4-minute video below.

Photos of the Week: Diagon Alley Basking in Orange Sunset

This weeks photos showcase a beautiful melon-pink sunset over Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Orlando. I had the beautiful opportunity to capture these moments myself, where a rainbow appeared as I was leaving.