Harry Potter and the Half-Baked TERF

It was December 3, 1998. I was driving home to the apartment that Ann and I shared in Cambridge, MA. The late Margo Adler, NPR correspondent and author of the wonderful book Drawing Down the Moon was doing a review of a book on All Things Considered. I remember arriving and parking and staying in the car to hear the whole thing. I was mesmerized. I went inside, spent a few minutes looking online and finally finding a recording of the show (no small feat in 1998!) and playing it for Ann. She was equally spellbound. We agreed that we should give this to lots of people that Christmas and so I ordered 6 copies from Amazon to give to friends and family. My 11 or 12 year old niece was deeply offended that we gave her a children’s book that year (she had been reading Black Ice at the time) but then read it and understood why. The book was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

23 or so years since its debut, we own complete US and British hardcover series. We own most of a different UK hardcover series (more serious with woven covers), all of the extra books and the start of the picture book series that is currently coming out roughly one per year. We also own all eight movies both on DVD and iTunes (where I got lucky one day and got all eight for $20 when the price was mysteriously that low for a few hours one morning). And we own all seven books on audio, read by the delightful Jim Dale. When Ann was pregnant with Marci, I read the first book to Marci in utero. We went to midnight releases and took turns reading each book as it came out. The Potterverse has been a large part of all of our lives. But that was then.

J.K. Rowling has been saying some truly awful things. And it isn’t all that new. Marci has been telling us for more than two years that Rowling is transphobic, that the books are actually quite problematic with some thinly veiled racism and antisemitism. We always brushed it off as interpretation, or, later, that she was misguided and would come around. It wasn’t interpretation. She did not come around. This week she doubled down spouting long-refuted nonsense, right-wing transphobic talking points, and general ignorance. That was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back.

This weekend, we’ll be taking all of the books and the DVDs and putting them into a box and storing them away. Maybe Rowling will get educated and realize she was wrong and make amends for the horrible things she has said and the attacks she has levied on one of the more vulnerable groups out there: trans-women. Our own daughter is a trans-woman and we cannot continue to make excuses for Rowling, nor can we separate the artist from the art. And it feels like a death in the family. I know this emotion, this is grief, this is mourning. But there is just no way to justify holding on to all of this with the artist who created it spouting so much hate and stupidity. So, while it may break our hearts, it is time to let it all go and to move on.

If you aren’t aware of any of this, I strongly suggest the following article by Aja Romano over at Vox: Harry Potter and the Author who Failed Us. It is very powerful and says everything I would want to say but far better.

And I will be on the lookout for a new series that gave me what this one had over the years. Until then, might I suggest the Prydain Chronicals by Lloyd Alexander?

Birfday & the Gift of Automattic

So yesterday was my mumblemumble birthday. Some years I am more interested in the particular milestone (especially last year’s since it was a milestone-y milestone) and some years it’s more of an excuse to be a bit more hedonistic. This year, it was pretty low-key. And that was just fine. I treated myself to a copy of Cosmic Encounter (yeah, I know, took me long enough) and I’ll be bringing that to my team meetup in San Diego hoping to get people to play with me (along with Illimat, Bears vs. Babies, an Italian Scopa deck, Fairytale Fluxx, one Munchkin variant, and whatever else I can fit into my suitcase).

The real birfday present this year is my new job at Automattic. I’ve worked at big companies before (Pfizer, Merck, even Dartmouth College fits into that category) and I’ve worked at even more smaller companies (Devis, WebCT, Ozmott, Intermarkets). Automattic is on the larger size (~850 people around the world) but I have never worked anywhere that felt so connected and involved. And that’s an amazing feat given that it is a 100% distributed company. There is no office. Everyone works from home. And because of that, the tools to keep everyone connected and functioning are very deep and very well thought out. It should come as no surprise that most of the infrastructure is built on top of WordPress itself (since, you know, WordPress and WordPress services are what we do) but it still amazes me at the richness and depth of it all.

And let’s talk about the people for a moment. What a creative, passionate, smart, and kind group of people! You learn very quickly (day 1 quickly) that communication is oxygen and that it is always OK to ask questions. No one is going to judge you because you do not know something. And those are not just words. When I have needed to know something, I pop into the relevant Slack channel, ask my question, get a cheerful and helpful response, and then I hop back off again. This pattern is repeated all over the company by so many people. People are genuinely giving and considerate and it’s amazing. And the people on my team are no exception. I get to meet all of them in San Diego soon and I am nervous but also excited.

And the projects themselves are refreshing and important and are rewarding to work on.  After the last four and a half years, this is a much needed change.

So, that’s Birfday 2019.