10 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Harry Potter

Mattel, Inc./Liaison via Getty Images Plus
Mattel, Inc./Liaison via Getty Images Plus

Here are a few facts that you may not have known about the gang in gold and red (and maybe a couple about the set in silver and green).

1. Hermione's name was almost "Hermione Puckle."

It has a sour tone to it, doesn't it? J.K. Rowling thought so, too, and changed to something that suited the character better. Rowling has said that Hermione has a healthy dose of herself in there, as she was quite the know-it-all herself as a child. Hermione was originally going to have a younger sister, but Rowling never found the right moment to stick her into the books.

2. Gilderoy Lockhart, the insufferably vain professor and celebrity from The Chamber of Secrets, was based on someone Rowling knows in real life.

The rumor is that she based him on her ex-husband, but she has been quite adamant about denying that. "He used to tell whopping great fibs about his past life, all of them designed to demonstrate what a wonderful, brave and brilliant person he was. Perhaps he didn't really believe he was all that great and wanted to compensate, but I'm afraid I never dug that deep," she has said. "He's probably out there now telling everybody that he inspired the character of Albus Dumbledore. Or that he wrote the books and lets me take the credit out of kindness."

3. Hedwig, Harry's Snowy Owl, isn't entirely accurate.

After the first book was accepted for publication, she found out Snowy Owls are diurnal. And it was during the writing of book two that she realized that Snowy Owls are silent, meaning that Hedwig's knowing hoots and conversational noises weren't quite true-to-life. She admits this was just a research hole on her part, but says readers should feel free to assume that her unusual talents are just part of her magical ability. Incidentally, although Hedwig is female, she is played by a male in the movies because females aren't wholly white like males are.

4. Collecting unusual and interesting names and words has been a lifelong habit for Rowling.

She has said that she loves reading lists of them, from war memorials to baby name books, and made it a point to remember her favorites. Some of them found a new home in the Harry Potter books. She makes up some of the words too - "quidditch" is a Rowling original. She filled up five pages of made-up words that started with "Q" before she hit on one that sounded right. "Voldemort" and "Malfoy" were also invented.

5. If a muggle were to happen across Hogwarts, all they would see is nothing but a ruined castle with large signs on it saying 'keep out, dangerous building.'

This might sound a bit suspicious to those of us in the States, but it seems like the U.K. is rife with castle ruins.

6. Fred and George Weasley were born on April Fool's Day.

Go figure. While we're talking about the Weasleys, there was a Weasley cousin named Mafalda who got edited out of The Goblet of Fire in order to make room for the love-to-hate-her invasive "journalist" Rita Skeeter. That's probably best - Ginny Weasley is supposed to have been the first girl born to the Weasley family for several generations, so scrapping Malfalda supports that backstory.

7. Harry, Ron, and Hermione all have wand cores based on their birthdays.

The Celt assigned trees to people based on that kind of like we assign gemstones today. She had already assigned Harry's holly-based wand when she discovered the Celt tree calendar and found that she had accidentally assigned him the "right" type of wood. She did the same thing with Draco Malfoy (Hawthorn wood). But Ron and Hermione both purposefully received wands based on their birthdays - ash for Ron and vine wood for Hermione. She didn't carry this convention out for all of the characters, though.

8. Filch's cat, Mrs. Norris, takes her name from the Jane Austen book Mansfield Park.

Fittingly, Austen's Mrs. Norris is also rather sour and bitter.

9. Snape was partially based on a teacher J.K. Rowling once had.

She likes to write him, though, because she finds him such a pathetic creature.

10. King's Cross station is where young wizards hop on the Hogwarts Express to get to school.

What you might not know is that the station holds special meaning for J.K. Rowling: it's where her parents met. They were coincidentally both headed to Arbroath in Scotland when they met on the train. King's Cross was intentionally chosen as the gateway to Hogwarts in homage to Rowling's parents.

Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

Wayfair/Weber
Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
Brisbane/Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

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Good Gnews: Remembering The Great Space Coaster

Tubby Baxter and Gary Gnu in The Great Space Coaster.
Tubby Baxter and Gary Gnu in The Great Space Coaster.
YouTube

Tubby Baxter. Gary Gnu. Goriddle Gorilla. Speed Reader. For people of a certain age, these names probably tug on distant memories of a television series that blended live-action, puppetry, and animation. It was The Great Space Coaster, and it aired daily in syndication from 1981 to 1986. Earning both a Daytime Emmy and a Peabody Award for excellence in children’s programming, The Great Space Coaster fell somewhere in between Sesame Street and The Muppet Show—a series for kids who wanted a little more edge to their puppet performances.

Unlike most classic kid’s shows, fans have had a hard time locating footage of The Great Space Coaster. Even after five seasons and 250 episodes, no collections are available on home video. So what happened?

Get On Board

The Great Space Coaster was created by Kermit Love, who worked closely with Jim Henson on Sesame Street and created Big Bird, and Jim Martin, a master puppeteer who also collaborated with Henson. Produced by Sunbow Productions and sponsored by the Kellogg Company and toy manufacturer Hasbro, The Great Space Coaster took the same approach as Sesame Street of being educational entertainment. In fact, many of the puppeteers and writers were veterans of Sesame Street or The Muppet Show. Producers met with educators to determine subjects and content that could result in a positive cognitive or personal development goal for the audience, which was intended to be children from ages 6 to 11. There would be music, comedy, and cartoons, but all of it would be working toward a lesson on everything from claustrophobia to the hazards of being a litterbug.

The premise involved three teens—Danny (Chris Gifford), Roy (Ray Stephens), and Francine (Emily Bindiger)—who hitch a ride on a space vehicle piloted by a clown named Tubby Baxter. The crew would head for an asteroid populated by a variety of characters like Goriddle Gorilla (Kevin Clash). Roy carried a monitor that played La Linea, an animated segment from Italian creator Osvaldo Cavandoli that featured a figure at odds with his animator. The kids—all of whom looked a fair bit older than their purported teens—also sang in segments with original or cover songs.

The most memorable segment might have been the newscast with Gary Gnu, a stuffy puppet broadcaster who delivered the day’s top stories with his catchphrase: “No gnews is good gnews!” Aside from Gnu, there was Speed Reader (Ken Myles), a super-fast sprinter and reader who reviewed the books he breezed through. Often, the show would also have guest stars, including Mark Hamill, boxer “Sugar” Ray Leonard, and Henry Winkler.

All of it had a slightly irreverent tone, with humor that was more biting than most other kid’s programming of the era. The circus that Tubby Baxter ran away from was run by a character named M.T. Promises. Gnu had subversive takes on his news stories. Other characters weren’t always as well-intentioned as the residents of Sesame Street.

Off We Go

The Great Space Coaster was popular among viewers and critics. In 1982, it won a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Children’s Programming—Graphic Design and a Peabody Award in 1983. But after the show ceased production in 1986, it failed to have a second life in reruns or on video. Only one VHS tape, The Great Space Coaster Supershow, was ever released in the 1980s. And while fan sites like TheGreatSpaceCoaster.TV surfaced, it was difficult to compile a complete library of the series.

In 2012, Tanslin Media, which had acquired the rights to the show, explained why. Owing to the musical interludes, re-licensing songs would be prohibitively expensive—potentially far more than the company would make selling the program. Worse, the original episodes, which were recorded on 1-inch or 2-inch reel tapes, were in the process of degrading.

That same year, Jim Martin mounted an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to try and raise funds to begin salvaging episodes and digitizing them for preservation. That work has continued over the years, with Tanslin releasing episodes and clips online that don’t require expensive licensing agreements and fans uploading episodes from their original VHS recordings to YouTube.

There’s been no further word on digitizing efforts for the complete series, though Tanslin has reported that a future home video release isn’t out of the question. If that materializes, it’s likely Gary Gnu will be first to deliver the news.