Harry Potter and the Mis-spelled Spells

This is something that happened a couple of weeks ago, but I decided that it was so cute and funny that I should make a record of it somewhere just in case my memory ever starts failing me, because this is the kind of thing I know I’m going to want to remember forever.

A couple of weeks ago I was over at my sister’s house, babysitting and playing with my nieces and nephews.  My oldest niece is nine and is very happy with being a kid – she knows she’s the oldest and that she’s going to be the one who has to ‘grow up’ first, but she takes it in stride very well.  She’s not one of those kids who’s in a rush to grow-up quickly – she’s quite happy being a kid, and so am I.  My nephew is seven and he’s just a great big ball of energy, always wanting to play, play hard, and play now.  Both he and his big sister are extremely inquisitive (all kids are, I suppose) and want to know everything about everything – good thing they’ve got an uncle with the same predilection, as I, too, want to know everything about everything.  My youngest niece, AKA My Lovely Little Lady Love (I dubbed her that the first time I held her when she still had that new baby smell), is three, and she’s just flat-out hilarious – a very sweet kid who wants nothing more in life than to be just like her big brother and sister.
Being seven and nine, the perfect age for pop-culture obsession, the two bigger kids decided that we should play Harry Potter so that everybody, including My Lovely Little Lady Love, could take part and not feel left out – the little one doesn’t do so well when we’re playing ball or hockey because, well, she’s the little one and the other two are huge in comparison, both of them towering over her by at least a foot.  How does one play Harry Potter, you ask?  Simple: With a pretend wand and a whole lot of imagination.  We split into teams of two, with my older nephew and niece being Harry and Hermione, and myself and My Lovely Little Lady Love being Dark Wizards out to cause trouble. 
A problem quickly arose, however, when we all realized that none of the kids had Harry Potter’s magic spells memorized, so we sat down and I explained a couple, being quite the expert as I’ve read the books at least a half-dozen times each.  And for the ones I didn’t remember, I made a couple up.  For My Lovely Little Lady Love, I tried to teach her two easy spells that would keep her safe from the Wizards who were chasing us: Protego for a shield spell, and Expecto Patronum to send out her magical unicorn to fight them off.  However, neither of those two spells came out of her mouth once we started playing.
With my nephew running around trying to Avada Kedavra us all over the place, and my oldest niece screaming Confundo and Crucio all over the place, things were going really well and we were having quite a fevered Wizard battle, but I noticed that My Lovely Little Lady Love was just yelling out mismatched letters all over the place.  For every Expulso and Imperio was casting at the two big ones, she was just as passionately casting her own spells, but what was coming out of her mouth was nonsense: “P-D-T-Q-R!” she would yell with reckless abandon. “A-C-R-S-T!” she shot at her brother, followed up with a “H-B-R-M!” at her sister. 
I really didn’t know what she was doing, but I figured, hey, she’s three, she’s laughing and having fun, the older kids are letting her play their game, all is good, just go with it.
It took me a few minutes, but all of a sudden I fell down the floor, peeling with laughter!  “Why did you fall, Uncle Jamie?” my nephew asked. “Yeah, it’s not like we did Levicorpus on you and then dropped you,” my oldest niece agreed.  “Q-S-R-B!” My Lovely Little Lady Love chimed in, causing me to laugh even harder on the hardwood floor of their front-hallway.
That’s when I explained it to them, and the older two joined me in fits of laughter on the floor, with My Lovely Little Lady Love standing triumphant over us.  “She’s three,” I told them. “She doesn’t know what a Wizard spell is; to her, Avada Kedavra is just another grown-up word that she hasn’t heard yet.  She heard us talking about ‘spells’, so that’s what she’s doing, only she doesn’t know how because she’s only three. 
She was Spelling, as in, trying to spell out words, or W-O-R-D-S in this case.  As the youngest child, she’d obviously seen her older bro and sis doing their homework, of which spelling is a big part.  Harry Potter mostly takes place in a school.  What do people do in school?  They learn to spell things.  We were talking about playing an imagination game that takes place in a school, and we were talking about spells, so she very logically put two and two together and came up with the conclusion that we were spell-ing.
I swear, only a three year old can be so wrong, yet so genius, all at the same time.  Brilliant!

Kitty Genovese and the London Riots

You might not know who Kitty Genovese was, but she has had an impact on your life, even if you don’t realize it.  Kitty Genovese was a 28 year old bartender in Hollis, New York in the mid-60’s – I’m not an expert so I don’t remember the exact year, but that’s not really what’s important.  What is important is the fact that Ms Genovese was brutally raped and murdered in the wee hours of the morning, right in the middle of a Brooklyn intersection.  She was stabbed a few dozen times, if I’m remembering things correctly, and then her attacker had his way with her while she lay dying, bleeding out onto the cold hard cement.
But that’s not even the worst part.
The worst part was that there were 38 witnesses who heard or saw the attack from their apartments overlooking the intersection, and they did nothing.  One of them reportedly turned up the sound on his radio so he didn’t have to hear her screaming for help.  Others said that they didn’t want to deal with the hassles of getting involved, so they decided to leave it instead for one of their neighbours to deal with, including one who actually wanted to do something, but didn’t want to get involved themselves, so they went to a neighbours apartment and coaxed them into calling the police.
At this point, of course, it was too late – Kitty lay bleeding, dying alone on a cold March night.
And nobody did a thing to help.
Afterwards, there were articles laced with vitriol about public apathy, there were numerous studies, and even a new psychological phenomenon was coined – the Bystander Effect, AKA, The Genovese Effect, which states that the more witnesses there are to an incident, the less likely it is that one of them will get involved to try to help the individual.  
Consider it this way – have you ever been at a rock concert where some drunken idiot was getting roughed up by security?  Did you do anything to stop them?  I know when I’ve been in that situation, I chose to keep watching Daltry and Townshend do their thing – I paid money for the show, I sure as hell wasn’t going to miss any of it on behalf of some drunken buffoon!  Besides, if I tried to get involved, security probably would have happily started kicking my ass as well, right?  Now imagine you saw the same thing happening on the street – a few meatheads pummeling some random dude.  At that point, even if you weren’t going to get involved yourself, you’d at least call a cop, wouldn’t you?  I know I would…
This all actually reminds me of one time when I was 14, I was taking the bus home from a Blue Jays game with my friend Ryan when four hoodlums got on the bus with us – three of them were much bigger than we were (probably 17 or 18 year olds), and the fourth was presumably one of their younger brothers (12 or 13).  I think it’s worth noting here that I was a very small 14 year old – not even 100 pounds.  Anyhow, the little brother decided I was a ripe target to mess with, so he started bullying me.  Normally, no matter how small I was, one 12 year old  wouldn’t be an issue; even if I thought I was going to lose the fight, I would have fought all the same, for my honour, my dignity, and the hat the kid was trying to steal from me.  However, with his three very large and menacing cohorts cracking their knuckles and grinning their evil grins, fighting didn’t seem like the best option.  Especially after Ryan got up and walked down to the back of the bus.  As did the several adults who were around us, leaving me alone with four rather scary people who clearly intended to do me harm.  For that bus ride, I was Kitty Genovese.  (To end the story, I just kept talking to them, asking them to please stop, and letting them know that no matter what happened, I was not going to fight them, and eventually they got off the bus and threw my hat back at me through the window – happy ending!)
Now, I’ve been watching some of the coverage of the London riots over the past few days.  I’m not going to go off on a political or sociological rant about them; I’m sure we’ll get enough of that in the coming weeks, but there is one thing that I have to highlight, because, like Kitty Genovese, it has made me lose whatever faith I had in humanity.  If you’ve watched the news over the last couple of days, you’ve undoubtedly seen this footage.
A boy sits at the side of the road, beaten and bleeding.
Another approaches him, helps him to his feet, and supports him as they start to walk away from the chaos around them.
Then another male also approaches, looking like he’s going to help, but instead opens the first boy’s knapsack and starts pilfering. 
The original helper does the same.
They empty the injured kid’s back-pack, and walk away, leaving him dazed and stumbling amidst the pandemonium still erupting all around.
We have learned nothing from Kitty Genovese.  In fact, we’ve gotten worse.  Now, instead of just being apathetic bystanders, we’re actively hurting those who are most in need.