Tag Archives: JK Rowling

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Review

cn6q7eqvyaadlr7-jpg-origGet The 602 Club review is here.

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In 1926 a former Hogwarts student, Newt Scamander travels to New York with a case full of magical creatures only to find himself pulled into the strange world of magic in the United States, which is very different than Britain. The Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA) is embroiled in a situation that threatens the safety of the wizarding community as well as the No-Majs (Muggles). It also jeopardizes the International Statute of Secrecy, risking the exposure of the wizarding world in America. Newt and his beasts may be just the thing needed to help bring to light the true forces at work.

Us vs Them

The Magical community has been hidden from the rest of the world since 1692 when the  International Confederation of Wizards enacted the International Statute of Secrecy to protect itself from Muggles or No-Majs. In America it has created an even stricter divide between the two worlds as witches and wizards are forbidden to marry non-magic folk. It’s created a sense of superiority in the magical community which Tina clearly show when she says to Newt, “Why would I want to marry him?”, pointing at Jacob, a No-Maj that has unwittingly become entangled in the wizarding world. The No-Maj world is no better. Mary Lou Barebone who runs an orphanage and the New Salem Philanthropic Society, works to indoctrinate the children she “cares” for and the people of New York of the dangers go witches and wizards in their midst. There is a real sense of tension that is palpable as each side cloisters in it’s group, spreading fear of the other.

fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them-dan-fogler-alison-sudol-600x400The movie, in subtle ways, slowly undermines this idea of Us vs Them through the character of Jacob. In America, a No-Maj is immediately obliviated (a memory charm) so that they do not remember what they have seen of the wizarding community, yet circumstances in the film make that impossible. Jacob and Newt form a friendship, learn from one another as they share their worlds. Jacob also has a major impact on Tina and Queenie Goldstein who, for the first time in their lives, get to spend significant time with someone from the “other side”. It’s beautiful to see the fear of the unknown vanish as communication leads to the awareness that they’re not that different. In the real world where this happens every day, the message is clear, true knowledge of the “other” side only comes though interaction, communication and an open mind.

Stewardship

Newt loves the magical creatures of the world, the ones that people have discounted or worse, hunted down because of fear and misunderstanding. His main goal in studying, recording and publishing his book is to educate the magical community about the importance of these creatures, their benefits and to encourage their safeguarding. It’s interesting to see how the themes from the magical vs non-magical communities parallel with the magical community’s interaction with magical beasts. When fear, misinformation and lack of education drive people, the consequences to ourselves and the world around us can be devastating. The film, in both places, drives home the importance of cultivating a climate of learning, education and stewardship.

The Movie

This is the first of five movies in the Fantastic Beasts series, written specifically for the screen by J.K. Rowling. There is a really strength to this since there are no books to compare it to leaving the audience free to enjoy the film for it’s own sake. The movie does a good job of laying the foundations for the world of wizardry in this time period as well as what’s to come in the series. The cast is outstanding, with the relationship between Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein and Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski being a true highlight. James Newton Howard’s score is good, even if it never reached the heights of Williams and the production value, character design and world building is, well, magical. The film nicely begins it’s journey to telling the history of the Harry Potter universe that we got hints of in the previous series, making it a wonderful addition and expansion to the world, yet, at the same time, it stands on it’s own. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is rated 4 out of five Bowtruckles.

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Exclusive: Read J.K. Rowling’s new post for the latest Harry Potter ‘gossip’

550w_movies_harry_potter_epilogue_4Can’t get enough of Harry Potter? Then this is for you. Since March, best-selling author J. K. Rowling has been writing original stories about the imaginary 2014 Quidditch World Cup Finals for Pottermore, the online home for the world of Harry Potter. 

Rowling shared her latest Pottermore.com story exclusively with TODAY.com. Written in the voice of the fictional Daily Prophet’s gossip correspondent Rita Skeeter, this post centers around the reunion of Harry Potter and his friends at the Quidditch World Cup Finals. Click here for the new Harry Potter Story 

For Taylor Swift, the Future of Music Is a Love Story

taylor-swift-red-largeWhere will the music industry be in 20 years, 30 years, 50 years?

Before I tell you my thoughts on the matter, you should know that you’re reading the opinion of an enthusiastic optimist: one of the few living souls in the music industry who still believes that the music industry is not dying…it’s just coming alive

Gbj6CRxJustice’ is served with another helping of Superman

Who’s better, Superman or Batman? Zack Snyder doesn’t have to choose a favorite since he’s getting to put both on the big screen at the same time.

The director of last year’s Man of Steel doubles down on A-list superheroes in his follow-up Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (in theaters May 6, 2016), teaming a returning Henry Cavill as the big guy in the cape and “S” on his chest with Ben Affleck as the latest cinematic incarnation of the Dark Knight.

Europe Is Starting to Take American Soccer Seriously (Seriously!)

article-2594795-1CC15A9B00000578-590_634x457Did American soccer just win the football world’s respect?

The World Cup is over for the U.S.A. after a heartbreaking loss to Belgium. But that defeat made for what some regard as perhaps the best match of a tournament that has thrilled from the start. More importantly, the U.S. has been called a “world-class team” by the likes of Barry Glendenning, the ever-critical football writer from The Guardian. Glendenning is perhaps not the Supreme Leader of Football (that title belongs to Sepp Blatter), but he is near the epicenter of international football, and he does not compliment teams lightly.

The real story behind the war over YA novels

91o13sPo7VLFew categories of literature right now seem to receive the level of hatred reserved for young adult fiction, which is the subject of nearly endless editorials on its supposed inanity, excessive sexuality, darkness, and girlyness. It doesn’t escape notice that there’s a strong whiff of sexism underlying the wave of YA hate—the genre is heavily dominated by women, and female authors can recount their experiences with sexism first hand.

Coming Out as a Christian

social-mediaI’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to live transparently—especially when it comes to my digital life. For as long as I’ve been on social media (I first joined Facebook in 2005), I’ve oscillated between expressing myself honestly and expressing contrived personas that I broadcast on Twitter, Instagram, and everywhere else.

Take, for instance, my well-documented love of Rolling Rock. Anyone who follows me on any website knows I’ve posted endlessly about the famously watery beer for the past three years. My Instagram feed was once a veritable shrine to Rolling Rock. My friends gave me four cases of it for my birthday last year. Heck, my Twitter fan club (yes, it’s still weird to me, too) uses a picture of Rolling Rock as its header image! I know how to advertise my love for a product.

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The Problem with Sexual Compatibility:

about-me-beach-calendar-options-couple-cute-couple-Favim.com-143393Last year, while working as a counselor at a Christian camp for young adults, I had the pleasure of spending a few months with hundreds of young men from around the country. If you have ever spent a large amount of time with a group of young men discussing life issues, you know I received a variety of crazy questions about sex.

For example, one of the campers asked, “If I’m supposed to wait to be married to have sex, how am I supposed to know if my wife and I are sexually compatible? Don’t I need to try out a few other girls first?” I wasn’t taken aback by his question because I knew he was just another teenage boy looking for an excuse to bend God’s guidelines. So I brushed off the question with a shallow answer so I could get back to the topic I was discussing.

Instagram, More Selfish than Facebook, Really?

IMG_0835Slate added to the wheelhouse of Facebookmakesyouselfishandlonely articles that seem to be littering the online atmosphere these days. And, while we would position our argument a little more towards the preexisting tendency to navel-gaze, the diagnosis for what social media makes us think is no less true for it.

But Slate makes the argument here that Instagram–that handsome friendzone we know and love, with those scrolling, squared filtered funshots–is actually a war app, where we battle our friends’ self-images with selfies of our own, and all the while lose ourselves more quickly than we would with Facebook. Slate, per usual, sounds a bit morose about it all, but they’ve got a point: the images of friends, coupled with the semi-valueless “Likes” we are expected to give and expected to expect, lead to a perverse self-image that is checked and rechecked with little payoff. Besides, the simple prettiness of the whole production is a bit misleading to experiences–awkward conversation, farts, inner-tensions.

The Wedding Vows | 20 Years Later:

Today my wife and I are celebrating 20 years of marriage. I could write the obligatory post or FB update on how amazing she is and how undeserving I am and how I’m glad we get to go on this journey together and I hope we get 20 more years on this journey. I believe those things and could easily say them and mean them.

I could talk about how much joy I still have when I see her or hear her voice. But we’ve both come to realize that after 10 years those things were easy to say, but after 20 there’s a whole lot of other things in our lives that won’t allow me to write something trite because 20 years of marriage isn’t easy. It’s been very hard. The fun of the first 10 years disappeared a bit in the light of other developments. We often say to each other, remember when we used to make up corny songs or give each other silly nicknames? Of course we remember, but we don’t do that nearly as much now. We still do some of that, but they have mostly disappeared in the light of other developments.

10 Ways to Save Barnes & Noble:

barnes_and_noble_450Dear Barnes & Noble,

When you announced the resignation of your C.E.O. and Nook failure, some may have called it the beginning of your end. Idea Logical’s Mike Shatzkin said you could only hope to “make the slide into oblivion more gradual.” But take note: not everyone is so pessimistic about your future. The New Yorker’s James Surowiecki argued that print books are still “an exceptionally good piece of technology—easy to read, portable, durable, and inexpensive,” and he referenced Codex Group findings that 97 percent of those who read e-books are still “wedded to print.”

So perhaps you aren’t a dying relic after all, and merely need some revamping. Over the past several days, commentators have burst forth with a cacophony of competing ideas for your revival. The following list contains some potentially promising options for you to consider –

The Freedom of Robert Galbraith:

51m4P63APoLAs we all know, expectations can be crippling. Success breeds expectations for more success and higher, sometimes unfair, scrutiny can be placed upon a person. This scrutiny can be debilitating, and after an acclaimed bestseller – well, what do you write next?

Last year, J.K. Rowling published her first book since the finale of Harry Potter, called The Casual Vacancy, under her own name. The book received mixed reviews, but almost all of the negative reviews (e.g. in The New York Times and The LA Times) used Harry Potter as the baseline – the standard – by which to evaluate the merits of The Casual Vacancy.

To escape the daunting pressures of recapturing the magic of Harry Potter, Robert Galbraith was born and a manuscript for the new book The Cuckoo’s Calling was written. Rowling sent the manuscript to several publishers under the pseudonym, and it was rejected at least once by the review staff of a publishing company who, I imagine, feels very foolish right now. But that was okay for Rowling, who knows failure is inevitable and can sometimes be a good thing. It was eventually accepted by Little, Brown and published in April.

 

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Warning: Flannery O’Connor Ahead:

c479Flannery O’Connor’s short stories have been described as grotesque, shocking, and perverse. They’ve also been described as brilliant, witty, and deeply Christian. They have taken their place in the generally recognized treasury of modern American classics. Christians should come to know this remarkable fiction writer who saw the world through the lens of her faith.

Putting Your Spouse First Actually Puts Your Kids First:

In the movie Cars, Doc Hudson tells Lightning McQueen when he rides in dirt, he has to turn right to go left. McQueen initially laughs off this brilliant, yet counter-intuitive advice, but when he grasps it, the advice ends up making him a hero.

If you prioritize your relationship with your spouse, it will end up giving you the result that you desire: Your kids will feel secure, safe, and in the end, will feel like they are the most important thing in your life.

Classic sci-fi novel The Sparrow may finally be out of development hell:

200px-TheSparrow(1stEd)After more than 15 years of new scripts, false starts and two different Hollywood options, it looks like one of the most acclaimed science fiction novels of the last two decades may finally get filmed.

Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow was released back in 1996 to huge acclaim, both as a work of science fiction and as a work of literary significance. It garnered, among other honors, the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. It’s the story of first contact with an alien planet in the year 2019, and the failed mission by the Jesuit Order to travel to that planet, and it’s still praised for its big ideas and philosphical depth.

The Good News: We Cannot Do Anything We Set Our Minds To:

Christianity is the only religion or way of life that obligates and calls people to do the impossible. It is the antithesis of the cultural message most children and adults hear, that “you can do anything you put your mind to if you just believe in yourself.”

When thinking of what “the impossible” might be, many think of very difficult feats like earning a college degree, playing professional ball, or building a large sum of wealth. Some may think of overcoming impossible obstacles such as a severe illness, disability or socioeconomic condition.

But that’s not what Christ has in mind when he calls us to do the impossible. If it is, then Christianity is no different from any other world belief system. As a matter of fact, humans have historically accomplished and overcome great feats without believing, trusting, and following Christ.

Book Review: Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart

stop-asking-jesus-into-your-heartIn Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart, J. D. Greear, lead pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, provides for the reader a balanced and theologically informed response to the “Sinner’s Prayer” as well as pastoral wisdom and insight on the topic of assurance.

Greear’s book consists of eight chapters and two appendices. “Baptized Four Times” (chapter 1) uncovers the problem of false assurance that can arise from “asking Jesus into your heart.” “Does God Even Want Us to Have Assurance?” (chapter 2) answers with a resounding yes. “Jesus in My Place” (chapter 3) provides the rationale for God’s righteousness imputed to sinners through Christ alone. “What Is Belief?” (chapter 4) sketches a brief New Testament description of true belief. “What Is Repentance?” (chapter 5) helpfully explains what true repentance is and is not. “If ‘Once Saved, Always Saved,’ Why Does the Bible Seem to Warn Us So Often about Losing Our Salvation?” (chapter 6) attempts to answer why such language isn’t as helpful as it initially appears. “The Evidence You Have Believed” (chapter 7) demonstrates three fruits of salvation that should be present for assurance. Finally, “When You Continue to Doubt” (chapter 8) assists those who, when all is said and done, still doubt.

The Wake and the Wound: J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy

13497818Though there was a lot of buzz amongst Potter fans about the release of a new J.K. Rowling book—one written exclusively for adults—there has been a sobering lack of electricity for The Casual Vacancy since its release this past September. Back in the fall, the Huffington Post ran an early survey of worldwide news critics, and concluded with: “meh.” The loudest naysayer was surely the NYT Book Review who called it a story about the worst kinds of muggles, “self-absorbed, small-minded, snobbish and judgmental folks, whose stories neither engage nor transport us.”

Michael Jordan’s Top 50 Plays:

Best Books I Read in 2012

The other day I gave my top ten films of 2012 and so I decided that I should do much the same for books. I love to read and this year read over 70 books. This list will not just be new books even though there are quite a few, some of them are also books that I have just finally gotten around to reading. I am going to rank them, but they should not be considered less if they are lower on the list. Each of these books is the top 9 out of over 70, not bad.

The_Fault_in_Our_Stars9. The Fault in Our Starts

John Green knows how to write. This book is not just for teens, it is for anyone that likes a good story that is not afraid to ask big questions. Hazel and Augustus struggles with mortality and the ultimate questions will leave you teary all while pondering the final questions yourself. Good books should always leave you thinking about something important and Green is not afraid to have his readers do just that.

 

0615_superman-book8. Superman: The High-Flying History of the Man of Steel

Ever since I was a child, Superman has captured my attention in a way no other superhero has. A man that is all powerful and yet, in the end, is forced to hide himself, his true self from everyone was actually very relatable to me (not the all-powerful part). Larry Tye has written the best book on the history of Superman, from conception of an idea to the new 52. Tye delves into the background of his creators as well as the ways in which Superman has reflected the generations to which he has been written; each generation getting the Superman that they need. For all those who have never liked Superman or if you have always been a fan, this is the book for you. Everyone who reads this will walk away with a deeper appreciation for the Man of Steel and all that he has stood for. Tye sums up the longevity of Superman well when he writes, “Our longest-lasting hero will endure as long as we need a champion, which should be until the end of time.”  My full review is here.

20110511_Jacobspleasurescover7. The Pleasure of Reading in an Age of Distraction

This is the first book that I have read about reading and it was well worth it. In a short 162 pages, Jacobs helps us understand the plight of reading in the 21st century. With the proliferation of technology in our lives and the distractions that it brings, reading is something that has fallen by the wayside. Instead of telling readers what they should be reading, Jacobs says read for whimsy. Read what you like. This is a long quote from an interview that Jacobs did, but is helps explain what he means,

Where this really got started was with the many, many students who have come to me over the years after graduating from Wheaton. And they think, Oh, there are so many important books I haven’t read. They come to many teachers, but I get my fair share of them. They come to me and say, “Give me 10 books that I should read over the next year.” Or: “Give me 10 books that you think everyone should read.” I always find myself thinking, Read what you want to read. Since you were 6 years old you’ve been reading things that people told you to read. Now you don’t have to do that anymore, unless you’re going to graduate school. Go out and read what strikes you as being fun.

I don’t think these students trust themselves to be readers on their own. They want to continue the sort of reading under direction that they have experienced ever since they started school. Over the years I’ve gotten absolutely stiff-necked about it. I refuse to give any recommendations. I say, “Go and read for fun,” because that sense of reading as a duty is not going to carry you through. It’s not going to sustain you as a vibrant reader, as you will be if you read what gives you delight. You may have actually lost some of that sense of delight over the years reading primarily for school. So go out there and have fun with it.

What will happen when people do that? Will they read frivolous things? Yes—at least I certainly hope so. I quote W. H. Auden, who says that the great masterpieces should be reserved for the “high holidays of the spirit.” You’re not designed for a steady diet of literary masterpieces any more than you would eat a seven-course French meal every day. At one point, Auden says it’s not only permissible but admirable not always to be in the mood for Dante. And I think that’s right. Sometimes you just want a lighter fare.

Auden himself liked detective stories and doggerel poetry and other things that many of his peers would have looked down their noses at. I want people to recover that sense of pleasure. Of course you’re going to want the heavier stuff. You’re going to want the stuff that’s possibly life-changing. But for heaven’s sake, don’t turn reading into a matter of eating your literary vegetables. I don’t think that’s healthy in the long run.

What I also really appreciated about his book is that he praises what Kindles, Nooks and iPads are doing for reading. Each of these devices are making it easier for people to read more often and for longer periods of time. Instead of carrying around bulky copies Anna Karenina or The Iliad, now they are stored in light-weight devices that also have built in dictionaries, enabling longer reading sessions in more places.

So pick up this short little book and be inspired to read all the more in 2013!

the-great-divorce6. The Great Divorce

Every year I try to read at least one C.S. Lewis book that I have not read before. The Great Divorce is a short book about people from hell visiting the outer regions of heaven. Each person that visits has a different reaction to this new place. Lewis’ keen insight into the human condition is on full display here. This is a challenge to read, there are many points you may find yourself in one or more of the characters and their excuses, but this makes it an important read. Start the new year off right and see what path you are on. For more on The Great Divorce go here.

when-i-was-a-child-i-read-books5. When I Was a Child I Read Books

Marilynne Robinson is one of my best-loved authors, her books Gilead and Home are on the top of my list of all-time favorites. Her newest collection of essays is well worth the read. She talks about America, religion, science, literature and more, weaving together a diverse set of thinkers and philosophers with ease. This is a short book and yet dense enough that it needs to be digested slowly and with a pen for notes and underlines. Accept this challenge in 2013, it is worth the effort. For good taste of her writing go here.

the narnian4. The Narnian

I own my voracious reading appetite to C.S. Lewis and his Narnia books. As a young boy I really did not enjoy reading and when I did I read non-fiction. After reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe that all changed. Alan Jacobs has written a masterful book on the life of Lewis. This is not an exhaustive biography but a focused look at his life and how he came to write the beloved children’s series. Jacobs shows how Lewis’ experiences as a boy telling stories with his brother to his deep, life-changing friendship with Tolkien, each gave him a pieces to the puzzle that would become Narnia. This needs to be on your reading list fo 2013! My full review is here.

134978183. The Casual Vacancy

No writer has had more to live up to than J.K. Rowling with the release of her first novel post Harry Potter and no book could have been more different. Rowling weaves a tale of a small British town with the intricacy of Austen and the modern sensibility of McEwan all while challenging our notions of social justice. This is an important book on the level of novels like To Kill a Mockingbird; so if you missed it last year, read it in 2013. My full review is here.

12ExplicitGospel_L_8590274382. The Explicit Gospel   

2012 has seen a flood of gospel oriented books and I read quite a few of them, but Chandler’s book was at the top of the list. God has used the preaching of Matt Chandler and now his book to open up the truth of the gospel in new and life-changing ways for me. Understanding and thinking about the ultimate questions of the universe is the most important thing a person can do, so spend some time on that this year. I cannot recommend a book more to you for 2013! My full review is here.

riseofteddyroosevelt21. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt

This is the first book in Edmund Morris’ trilogy on Teddy Roosevelt and it is fantastic. There is never a dull moment in this book so do not let the length dishearten you. Spending time getting to know one of the most interesting and influential men in American history was one of the highlights of my year. Roosevelt was forged in the fire of suffering and the American ideal. He will leave you captivated and inspired even when you might not always agree with his sensibilities. I am looking forward to reading the next two books in 2013.

What did you enjoy reading in 2012? Let me know, leave me a comment so I can add it to my list!

Owl Post 10-29-12

 

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What Am I Doing When I Vote?

I’m glad that TGC is coordinating a series of blogs about some “first principles” to consider when thinking about politics (e.g., BakerSmethurstForster). While I fully agree (and have often said from the pulpit) that the kingdom of God does not depend on elections and will not be ushered in by politicians, I believe Christian involvement in politics, or at least some understanding of the parties, the candidates, and the issues, is absolutely critical. Because we have all seen unthinking allegiance to a certain candidate or party, we can be overly reticent to talk about politics at all, let alone put forward a reasoned view on the political process. But political abdication and utter silence is not the right corrective to political idolatry, nor does it further the common good when Christians disengage for fear of being labeled with this wing or that.

J. K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy:

This is a book that does what Hamlet told the players they should do: hold the mirror up to nature. And nature isn’t pretty. Actually that needs to be qualified. Nature, as in the world in which we live, is beautiful. Stunning, really, and Rowling sings the beauty of the cool morning, the night sky, the hilltop view of the quaint township.

Tracing the Logic of Liberalism:

In the American context the labels liberal and conservative are used in an ahistorical way—more as terms of opprobrium than as accurate designations for what people actually believe about political life. Liberals and conservatives alike differ less on fundamental principles than on who can better claim custody over the same principles—the principles of, well, liberalism.

You Believe in Karma:

“Good people get good stuff. Bad people get bad stuff.” Or as the Beatles sang with their last gasp on Abbey Road, “In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

Now I love John, Paul, George and Ringo, but I take issue with them here, and I know I am in the minority. After all, the world runs on retribution. “This for that” comes as naturally to us as breathing. Moralists interpret misfortune as the karmic result of misbehavior. This for that. “You failed to obey God, so He gave your child an illness.” Such rule-based economies of punishment and reward may be the default mode of the fallen human heart, but that doesn’t make them any less brutal!

THE BOOKSTORE BRAIN:

If you could create a bookstore, what would you put in it? What would you exclude? Would you specialize in any particular genre? Would your organizing principle be quantity or quality, or would you devise a way to have both?

Porn-Free Church: Sex, God, and the Gospel: Free Book

A life-with-porn versus a life-without-porn is a poor choice. If you set it up in these terms then you won’t produce lasting change. We need to set it up (as it truly is) as a choice between life-with-porn versus life-with-God. We need to show how God always offers more than porn.

The New iPad Has New Competition … Which It Will Destroy:

You may have heard that Apple dropped some science on us this morning, with the announcement of a boatload of new desktops, notebooks, and tablets. Under normal circumstances, we’d be focused entirely on the new iPad Mini, the new offering Apple has crafted to bust its way into the 7-inch tablet space. And if you take a gander at our front page, you’ll see that we’re giving the little guy more than its fair share of love. But there’s more news out there: the new, fourth generation iPad was also announced today, a full-size tablet some in the press have taken to calling the “iPad Maxi.”

Did Apple Really Just Screw Over iPad Owners?

Earlier this week, Apple held an event during which they announced several new and updated products, including a smaller iPadthinner and sleeker iMacs, and a new high-end laptop. Needless to say, these announcements got plenty of people excited, including yours truly, as the months — and even years — of anticipation, rumors, and analysis come to a head and revealed a slew of lovely new products.