Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Blog Review: Southern Fried Wiccan

Susan Sipal's blog, Southern Fried Wiccan, is chiefly themed around Harry Potter and the significance of the writing and other aspects of the Harry Potter universe.

The appearance of Southern Fried Wiccan is very mystical in a magical enchanting sort of way. The background is a ghostly blue forest and the headline at the top is what seems to be of a most beautiful original design. The text is at just the right size for perfect readability without being too large, and it's black on white so the words absolutely pop.

Each blog post is labeled in large red text that is easily readable. The labels do appear to be consistently longer than one would think. For example: Withholding Backstory to Ensnare Readers' Interest with Example from Harry Potter.

In Sipal's post, Withholding Backstory to Ensnare Readers' Interest with Example from Harry Potter, she describes the necessity of holding back vital information about a specific character's background. This is important to do because it leaves the audience wondering, hungry for what the answer might be later. Though it's important to leave some mystery it is also important not confuse the audience with a poor runty amount of information that they have nothing to go off of. They have to find a balance between the two that will leave the audience desperate to flip to the next page for more.

There are a few things hyperlinked in red on this post, though not many for this is more of an experience/credible opinion piece of writing. One can tell that the writer is fairly experienced in fiction writing and plot/character development by the use of language.

The comments are long, intelligent, and civilized, giving personal opinion and insight on the topic of the post.

This is a very unique and well rounded blog with a lot of interesting view points on Harry Potter and fiction writing. From just a couple of the posts that I read I know that I left more intelligent and more thoughtful than when I began.

Houdini: The Escape King

Houdini in ChainsHarry Houdini was born Erik Weisz on March 24, 1874, in the large city of Budapest, Hungary.

At the age of four his family traveled to the United States where they settled in the town of Applegate, Wisconsin.

When he was nine years old, Erik (now with the spelling Erich) appeared in his first public appearance as a trapeze artist, with the title "Erich, Prince of the Air."

At the debut of his magician career in 1894, Erik Weisz changed his name to Harry Houdini, combining a derivative of his childhood nickname "Ehrie" and Houdini from his idol the French magician Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin

Houdini found companionship with the man Jack Hayman, and they worked as partners together for their magic act calling themselves, "The Houdini Brothers." Later Hayman was replaced by Houdini's younger brother Theo.

Houdini's career was hard in the beginning.  According to the New York Times he was able to get work in a circus with the title "The Wild Man." He also began working to master card tricks eventually nicknaming himself  "The King of Cards."

Later in 1894, Houdini met Wilhelmina Beatrice Rahner, a fellow magician. The two of them married and she replaced Theo in the Houdini Brothers, the duo now named, "The Houdini's."

As Houdini grew and became more famous he became notoriously known for being an escape artist. He was known around the world as "The Handcuff King." Many of his famous tricks include:

Chinese Water Torture Cell
  •  Chinese Water Torture Cell
  • Milk Can Escape
  • Suspended Straitjacket Escape
  • Overboard Box Escape
  • Buried Alive Stunt
  • Handcuff Escape

During his time as a magician, Houdini performed at the New York's Hippdrome theater. He starred in several films including The Grim Game and Terror Island. He also acted as president of The Society of American Magicians. Eventually he was even awarded a star on the Hollywood walk of fame.

Houdini died on October 31, 1926 due to peritonitis from a ruptured spleen. As the story goes, Houdini was famous for being able to take punches to the stomach without injury because of his athletic history. After a night of performing, a college student approached him and asked if the rumors about his stomach were true. When Houdini said yes, the student then punched him in the stomach multiple times without warning. Because he was unable to prepare his stomach muscles for the punches, Houdini suffered from great pain. The story then goes that the punches from the college student were the reason for his spleen to rupture, therefore responsible for his death. 


Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Work of Fiction #1--The Canary, Part Two: Red as Roses Are

That afternoon Anthony set up Lucy’s cage in the corner of his bedroom. They hadn't moved in any of the big furniture into the house yet. It was all still piled in precarious stacks on the front porch, leaning against the railing, and strewn across the front steps. The rest were still incarcerated in frumpy tearing cardboard boxes scattered aimlessly around the living room and kitchen floor; leaving Anthony with only his mattress and a duffel bag full of clothes. 

He ignored the canary for most of the afternoon as he and his father moved boxes into the house. Sometimes he would peak into his bedroom to see what the bird was doing, but it was rarely doing anything at all other than sleeping, its little head tucked oddly backwards under its wing almost as if its neck were broken. After a while Anthony wondered if he should make sure it was still breathing.

He peeked into his room. The sky was pink and orange outside his window, the color of rainbow sherbet ice cream. A cascade of evening light showered the bird cage encasing the canary in what appeared to be robes of pure and twinkling gold.

Anthony took a step closer. Besides the sparkling light from the window, the canary was completely limp, a golden statue, perched almost like a saintly angel beseeching God. 

Anthony approached the cage, peering in between the spindly golden bars. Could it really be dead? He thought, taking a closer look. He had only just bought it this morning. As soon as he’d gotten home he had made sure that it had enough food and enough water.

That night Anthony lay in bed staring up at the ceiling. He wondered about the canary sleeping in the corner of his room; silent, unmoving. He thought about it all through supper, he could see the effigy plainly in his soup, and when he was brushing his teeth, the image kept emerging before his eyes in a flash gold, the canary, its neck wedged abnormally backwards under its wing, like a plastic child's toy.

Anthony thought about the bird most of the night as he tossed and turned under his covers. Every once in a while he would sneak a glance over towards the cage. The canary was always sleeping, its head turned backwards as if its neck were broken, and a penetrating chill would clamber up his spine making him shrivel back down underneath his blankets.

It was early in the morning when Anthony finally drifted off to sleep. He closed his eyes, and it felt heavenly.


The sound was like a gunshot, ricocheting  through the house, rattling the windows and slamming his bedroom door shut with a thundering blast.

Immediately, Anthony's eyes shot open. He ripped the covers from his body and sprung from his mattress, his heart racing.

The canary--Lucy--as the goblin Plancka had called him, looked at him, pausing tentatively, his body stiff, feathers on end, like an alley cat poised to attack. It hadn't moved for so long, and now suddenly Anthony could tell, the bird was glaring at him, angry, furious straight into his eyes--through him, really, and out on the other side. They were glowing, beautiful, red as roses are. Slowly the bird opened its beak and Anthony could see its slithering black tongue, and he watched as it began to scream.

The sound was shrill paralleling the allegorical shriek of a fledgling banshee. Anthony dropped to his knees and clapped his hands over his ears, the sound reverberating up the very nods of his spine into his eyes as if he were being repeatedly stabbed over and over with a hot fire poker.

He crawled in a maniacal daze across the bedroom floor, cradling his face in his hands. He could barely see, his eyes stinging, streaming hot tears until he could barely breathe.

He reached the door, raking at it with his fingers until he found the knob. He flung it open, and dove for the other side, slamming it shut behind him killing the sound almost immediately.


Anthony had never heard such thing before, not like this, not so--abrupt. Breathing hard, he clutched his belly, sick rolling back and forth, slowly making its way up his body. He rested his head against his knees, black spots engulfing his vision.

He didn't know what was happening. The canary--its eyes, its eyes were pierced into his memory; red, glowing. And that scream.

He waited until his vision cleared before he lifted his head.

Anthony dragged himself into the bathroom. He snatched the hand towel from the bar next to the sink and pressed it to his face. He was afraid to look at himself in the mirror, so he stood with his head down, his fingers trembling. He didn't want to see the blood.

But there it was, dribbling down the side of his wrist leaving a rosy red tear trail down his arm. He watched as a single bead dripped from his skin and fell to the white linoleum floor. The image reminded Anthony of the American film,  American Beauty, where the red and the rose pedal were used as piercing objects to signify a person's life force inside them.

It was almost as if his mind had separated from his body. No matter how much he did not want to look into the mirror, he felt his head slowly rise and his eyes find the polished glass.

Anthony had not cried in a very long time, not since his mother left his dad four and a half years ago. He remembered it as if it had happened an hour ago, the pain in his chest, in his heart, the tightness, like he was being squeezed by a boa constrictor. He felt it now, slithering up his throat and settling into a coiled lump. As he gazed at himself in the mirror he could see it plainly, the grief flowing from the creature nestled behind his eyes.

He touched his cheek, his tears soaking into the pads of his fingers; rosy red.

Anthony wanted to throw up. He clutched the sides of the sink and wretched into the white porcelain. Gulping for air, he swept the splattered orange sick from his cheeks with the corner of his shirt sleeve, and buried his nose into the towel. 

In his mind he heard the bird shriek, and he knew that as soon as he opened his bedroom door the canary would be sitting there, perched atop its tiny swing, its head twisted backwards as if its neck were broken, as if nothing had happened.

To be continued...

A Work of Fiction #1--The Canary, Part One : The Animal House

"His name is Lucy."

"His name is Lucy?" Anthony asked, raising an eyebrow. The goblin nodded. "But that's a girl's name?"

"So it is," the goblin agreed, patting the canary on the top of the head. "Feel free to give him a new one if you'd like."

"How much is he?" Anthony questioned feeling inside his coat pockets for some pounds. "Something reasonable I hope."

The goblin looked him up and down, taking into account his appearance, his clothes, his hair, everything. "Are you sure you want this bird?" he asked, slowly. "Absolutely sure?"


"Then he's yours, free of charge."


Anthony's dad was under a lot of stress. So much so that he was beginning to tear his hair out. He was shedding all over the steering wheel on their drive to Ipswich from London early that morning, that Anthony was starting to worry.

He remembered a long time ago when he'd visit his grandparent's home in Ipswich, the tiny little zebra finch Henry, with its little grey and white body and orange beak, bobbing around in its silver wire cage like a silly fairy. He'd follow Anthony around the house all day like a puppy, and he'd laugh as the bird beeped and chirped at him, climbing all over his shoulders, hopping on top of his head, and ruffling his feathers.

After his grandmother passed, his grandfather gave Henry away to the neighbor children down the street. It broke Anthony's heart to see the little bird go. Even after his grandfather's numerous explanations, he could never really understand his reasoning behind getting rid of Henry. He was such a perfect tiny little guy. It was almost cruel.

Just recently Anthony's grandfather had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, and his father had to sell the house in London to take care of him in Ipswich. At the time Anthony didn't know how he felt about the situation. He loved his grandfather, of course he did, he was family, but no matter what, he always had that hole in his heart. The one that Henry left when he was taken away. For that, he resented his grandfather.

The thought of seeing his grandfather again brought back Anthony's memories of Henry. His father seemed to sense this in him. He knew that moving was hard for Anthony, and the resentment bestowed in his heart, like a black bug. That's why he offered Anthony a gift: a zebra finch of his very own.


Real Goblin by madeincg
Animal House was scrawled in red calligraphy across the sign hanging above the front door. A little eerie, Anthony had to admit, but he was willing to shrug it off, for the itch of possessing a zebra finch of his very own was almost more than he could bear.

A tiny bell tinkled over Anthony's head as he eased open the front door of the Animal House. Almost immediately a man appeared before him, grinning orange teeth, his dark leathery skin pulled tight across his face like a lizard. He wore lavish robes of brilliant turquoise draped around his gaunt shoulders. He looked like a goblin out of a fairy tale.

"Welcome to the Animal House," the goblin smirked. "You may call me Mr. Plancka."

"Right." Anthony hesitated. Where had the man come from? He appeared out of nowhere, almost as if he knew Anthony was coming.

The place was circular to his surprise, with a black and white checkered linoleum floor and a long hanging crystal chandelier. Large red castle bird cages lined the curved walls encasing the room in something familiar to a jail cell. Stacks of green bird feed bags lay piled on the counter, spilling seeds and peanuts onto the veiny polished marble. Anthony read the label composed into one of the green sacks: Bird Bait.

He got the strange sensation that he was standing in the middle of a giant chess board.


Anthony shoved his fists into his jeans and slowly walked farther into the store. The goblin, Plancka, watched him, a smile beginning to stretch across his lips. He made Anthony feel uncomfortable; uneasy.

A kind of static had started in his stomach as soon as the bell tinkled over his head. Now, he looked over his shoulder at the goblin, and the static surged inside him.

Birds, only birds.

Anthony looked for the corners of the store. Possibly there was a hamster tower or or puppy dog cage that might be hiding in the cracks. But there were no corners, no cracks, no crevices. Only smooth edges. Smooth edges lined with birds.

Curious? Where were the other animals?

"Erm, Mr--" Anthony turned around. The goblin stood very close to him. So close in fact that Anthony could smell his cologne. At least he thought it was cologne. Actually, it smelled kind of like the Head and Shoulders brand shampoo that his grandfather wore.

"Plancka." The goblin finished Anthony's sentence. "Just Plancka."

"Uh," Anthony scratched his head. "Where're the other--you know...the other animals?"

"Why? You're looking for a bird aren't you?" Plancka asked squinting at him with his golden goblin eyes.

"Well yeah, did you--"

"You're looking for a bird; I have many birds," Plancka interrupted.

"Do you have zebra finches then?" Anthony asked, ignoring the goblin's rudeness.

Plancka looked him up and down, as if what he'd said something bizarre. Anthony felt very uncomfortable.

"No," he said finally, rubbing his fingers across the leathery skin of his cheek.

"Are you sure?" Anthony asked, wilted. "Couldn't you look in the back or something."

"I only keep one bird in the back, boy. And he's no zebra finch."

Anthony was taken aback. He hadn't expected for there to really be any animal in the back. The thought made the static in his stomach ripple dangerously. What kind of person keeps a living creature hidden away like that.

"You mind if I have a look?" he asked, despising the goblin even more than he had before.

Plancka grinned, revealing his orange teeth. "Follow me," he said, and spun on his heel.

Anthony followed the goblin to the far side of the Animal House, past a row of humungous colored parrots and white cockatoos with spiky yellow sprouts atop their heads. They reached a blood red shower curtain that Anthony had not noticed upon arrival. Plancka paused in front of the curtain as if to take a final breath.

"Why's there no door here?' Anthony asked curiously.

"Broke," Plancka said. "Shattered; split to bits. Nothing left but a pile of pencil shavings."

"What happened?"


"Huh." There was the static, fizzing in Anthony's stomach, popping and smacking like lighting. What kind of earthquake pulverizes a door but leaves its frame shiny and new?

His thoughts quickly vanished as Plancka peeled back the curtain. Immediately the other birds began to screech and scream, banging against their cages, nearly toppling them over. The goblin ushered Anthony past the curtain grumbling to himself in a language Anthony did not understand, and flung the thing closed behind him. Almost instantly the birds were silent. All Anthony could hear was the rapid thumping of his own heart, like a battering ram against his chest.

Plancka turned, and at the same time so did Anthony. In front of them stood a domed bird cage with a red silk sheet draped over the top. With one clean sweep of his hand Plancka whipped away the sheet.

Perched atop the single metal swing inside the cage sat a tiny bird the color of a yellow marigold flower.

"Is that a canary?" Anthony asked taking a closer look. Plancka nodded morosely, his eyes boring into the tiny creature. 

"He's a little beauty isn't he," Plancka whispered. "His name is Lucy." 

To be continued...

How to Turn Coffee into Money

You will be magically turning an ordinary cup of coffee into a cup of coins. Or so it would seem. Here is a video of what it should look like: BOOM

Some Things You Will Need

1. One Large Cup

2. One Small Cup (Preferably the same type as the large cup)

3. One Sponge

4. Scissors

5. Coins

7. Coffee (or any other dark liquid)

How to Prepare

Step One:

Cut a hole into the bottom of the large cup big enough to stick your finger through. You will be sticking your finger through it. 

Step Two:

Take the scissors and cut the sponge into a circle that will be able to fit into the bottom of the large cup.
Step Three:

Place the sponge into the bottom of the large cup. This will absorb the coffee when you stick your finger through the hole and push the sponge up.
Step Four:

Ball up the paper towel and shove it down on top of the sponge in the large cup. Press it down as far as it will go. This will also help absorb the coffee, when the sponge is not enough.

Step Five:

Place the smaller cup into the larger cup. Make sure that when you place it inside that the outside edges of the smaller cup are pressed tightly against the inside edges of the larger cup.
Step Six:

Fill the small cup with coins a few centimeters from the top of the large cup.

Step Seven:

Pour the coffee (or any other dark liquid) into the cup all the way to the top so that it covers the coins.

Congratulations, you are ready to perform the trick!

How to Perform the Trick

Step One:

Find someone you want to fool.

Step Two:

Hold the cup by the bottom. Carefully stick your finger through the hole in the bottom of the cup. Slowly and gently swirl the cup as you push the sponge up with your finger.
As you push the sponge up, the small cup will rise letting the coffee spill over its sides. The sponge and the paper towel will soak up the coffee as the coins rise to the top of the bigger cup.

Ta da! The magic trick is complete! You are now a magician!