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Posts Tagged ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

“… a waste of desert sand; A shape with lion body and the head of a man”*…


The sphinx before excavation

Thirty-three years ago, Peter Brosnan heard a story that seemed too crazy to be true: buried somewhere along California’s rugged Central Coast, beneath acres of sand dunes, lay the remains of a lost city. According to his friend at New York University’s film school, the remains of a massive Egyptian temple, a dozen plaster sphinxes, eight mammoth lions, and four 40-ton statues of Ramses II were all supposedly entombed in the sands 150 some-odd miles north of Los Angeles.

“It was an absolutely cockamamie story,” Brosnan says. “I thought he was nuts.” The ruins weren’t authentic Egyptian ones, of course. They were the 60-year-old remains of a massive Hollywood set—the biggest, most expensive one ever built at the time. The faux Egyptian scenery had played the role of the City of the Pharaoh in one of Hollywood’s first true epics, Cecil B DeMille’s 1923 film The Ten Commandments. The set had required more than 1,500 carpenters to build and used over 25,000 pounds of nails. The production nearly ruined DeMille and his studio. When the shoot wrapped, the tempestuous director supposedly strapped dynamite to the structures and razed the whole set, burying it in the sands near Guadalupe, California, to ensure no rival director could benefit from his vision.

Bullshit, Brosnan thought. But then his buddy pointed him to a line in DeMille’s posthumously published autobiography. “If 1,000 years from now archaeologists happen to dig beneath the sands of Guadalupe,” the director teased, “I hope they will not rush into print with the amazing news that Egyptian civilization…extended all the way to the Pacific Coast.”…

The City of the Pharaoh during filming

The extraordinary story of “The Cursed, Buried City That May Never See The Light of Day.”

* W.B. Yeats, “The Second Coming”


As we resolve to look more deeply, we might recall that it was on his date in 2001 that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was released in theaters in the U.S.  It went on to gross nearly $1 billion worldwide, and to launch seven more films based on J.K. Rowling’s novels over the next decade.

At the premiere: stars Daniel Radcliffe (age 12), Rupert Grint (13), and Emma Watson (11)



Written by LW

November 16, 2015 at 1:01 am

Top of the Pops…

After an author has been dead for some time, it becomes increasingly difficult for his publishers to get a new book out of him each year.
– Robert Benchley


From the always-amusing Mental Floss, a current read on The All-Time Best-Selling Books.  The top spots are held by volumes either instructional or devotional:

1. The Bible (6.7 billion copies)

2. Quotations from Chairman Mao, Mao Tse-Tung (900 million)

3. The Qur’an (800 million)

4. Xinhua Zidian (400 million — a Chinese dictionary, first published in 1953)

5. The Book of Common Prayer, Thomas Cranmer

6. Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan

7. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, John Foxe

8. The Book of Mormon, Joseph J. Smith, Jr.

But two works of fiction round out the Top Ten:

9. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling (107 million — UK title was …and the Philosopher’s Stone)

10. And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie (100 million)

Read the full list (and find links to top lists of videos, games, and albums) at  The All-Time Best-Selling Books… dive more deeply into the rankings at Wikipedia— which observes:  “This is an incomplete list, which may never be able to satisfy particular standards for completeness.”  To put it politely:  note, e.g., that Tale of Two Cities and Tolkein’s work probably belong in MF’s Top Ten… Still, it’s fun…

“Classic.” A book which people praise and don’t read.
– Mark Twain

As we turn the page, we might recall that it was on this date in 1593 that poet and playwright (Shakespeare’s nearest rival) Christopher Marlowe was killed in a tavern brawl.  Marlowe reputedly supplemented his income as a spy; in any case, he ran afoul of Queen Elizabeth’s government when, earlier in the month, his roommate, playwright Thomas Kyd was grilled by authorities.  Kyd  insisted that the “heretical” papers found in his room belonged to Marlowe, who was subsequently arrested, but was able to use his connections to arrange bail.  While out Marlowe became involved in a fight– ostensibly over a tavern bill, but believed by many to have been a set-up– and was stabbed to death.

The 1585 portrait discovered at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, in 1953, believed to be of the 21-year-old Christopher Marlowe.  The inscribed motto is “QVOD ME NVTRIT ME DESTRVIT,” “that which nourishes me destroys me.”  Indeed.  (source)


We might note too that (as the Library of Congress recalls) it was on this date in 1868 that Commander in Chief John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic issued General Order Number 11 designating May 30 as a day “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.”

The first national celebration of the holiday took place on that day at Arlington National Cemetery, where both Confederate and Union soldiers were buried. Originally known as Decoration Day, at the turn of the century it was designated “Memorial Day.”

Deja vu all over again…

Further to “Pardon me, but do you have the time?…,” an epic effort from David McCandless and InformationIsBeautiful.net:

As for his next project, McCandless is recruiting: “So who wants to work with me on the Dr Who one? I’m serious. Email me.”

As we check our watches, we might recall that it was this date in 1998 that Scholastic published the first book in the Harry Potter saga, re-titled Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for consumption in the United States. The changes went beyond the title (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in the original UK incarnation): illustrations were added to the start of each chapter, and British spelling, punctuation, grammar, and vocabulary were “translated” into American English. The first print run was 50,000 copies. (The initial UK run was 500 copies, which occasioned an extraordinary scramble at the printers…)

Scholastic was behaving in a time-honored way, recognizing that (as Wilde or Shaw or Churchill; it’s variously attributed) observed, “England and America are two people divided by a common language.”  When Samuel Goldwyn was preparing the U.S. release the film adaptation of Alan Bennett’s wonderful play, The Madness of George III, he insisted that the title be changed to The Madness of King George.  Goldwyn was concerned that American audiences might take the original title to mean that the film was a sequel.

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