Meewella | Fragments

The Life of P

Month: June 2005

Xanadu and May Week

XanaduThis year’s Jesus Ball, Xanadu, was simply spectacular. Generally considered the best of the second level Balls, Trinity, John’s (£20,000 fireworks) and Magdalene (which enforced a strict white tie dress code) being a little rich for my blood this year! As such, Jesus tends to attract a lot of the first years as a great induction to the world of Cambridge May Balls.

This year was no exception as they prepared everything within easy reach so that there was always something new to enjoy, from donuts to dodgems and cocktails to origami, by stepping around the next corner or into the next courtyard. Unlike Downing, the college separated into areas that can be decorated and lit wonderfully for an event such as this. Much as I was impressed by Downing’s efforts in March, I think this clarified just how much work we have to improve things for next year.

Before the Ball was the LawSoc Garden Party which Roger and Chris came along to, now back in town for May week. I spent a while lounging with the first years, drinking champagne, sipping Pimms, eating canapes, strawberries and cream and listening to some average a capella and a decent string quartet. Nick swanned around looking Presidential and I eventually settled down with the some second year lawyers and went off to dinner with them afterwards. Meanwhile, Matt was getting rather more inebriated on Viney’s pub crawl (which I had decided would be a bad pre-Ball idea, so he was rather wasted before we left.

pre-Xanadu | the guysI went down with the K bunch and Cara who was visiting Dave, so it was nice to see her fully done up too. Once we arrived I ended up splitting off fairly swiftly, not being a huge fan of all the company, and determined to enjoy myself as much as possible for the £85 ticket! After a quick photo with everyone I headed over to the main tent, drawn in by a female-fronted emo act called Bodixa whose haunting tones filled the night air. It’s one of the few new female voices that I’ve found really captivating recently (I’m openly a bit of a Nazi when it comes to female vocalists, in that for me they’ll never have the power of a broken male voice or the purity of an unbroken one, so definitely need something special).

pre-Xanadu | the dollsI spent much of the evening with a slightly drunken Engineer Sarah, another Downingite (there were a huge crowd of us there), who was great fun and improved my night immeasurably. I haven’t spent much time around her when she’s drunk before, but she managed to insult swathes of people often entirely unintentionally. At times she’d be trying to compliment someone and inadvertantly insult everyone else present. Fortunately I generally managed to drag her off before she was hit. However, the result is that I’m in several of her photos (which I don’t yet have) and not that many of K’s (which I do). I also bumped into Adam, who is at Jesus, several times during the evening and chatted about some of the finer points of the Ball. As the sun rose once more, I recoupled with the K crowd as the music switched to cheese and the survivors photo loomed.

The rest of the week has been a quieter run of various garden parties (the JCR’s being particularly good – well done Gubby!) and, at Irina’s behest as a birthday gathering, a waterfight on the Paddock on Thursday afternoon. She, Ravi and I headed into earlier in the day to acquire suitably large, phallic water pistols which is actually harder than it sounds in Cambridge. We were eventually successful and proceeded to both soak and get thoroughly soaked. Although the bucket eventually became Ravi’s weapon of choice, I managed to outrun him twice while desparate shooting behind me. Meanwhile Ali took Viney’s backpack fuelled behemoth of a water gun and reigned merry hell for as long as she could…but ultimately ended up in the same state as the rest of us.

Suicide Sunday

K-Bar Suicide Sunday manifestoSuicide Sunday kicks off the grand tradition of Cambridge’s May Week (yes, we know it’s in June; no, we don’t feel the need to explain), a solid week of Balls, garden parties and alcoholic relaxation and revelry. Suicide Sunday plays host to many garden parties as people attempt to drink themselves to oblivion before running headlong into the Cam or doing whatever it is that they have planned for the evening. K-Bar’s manifesto for the day was to reduce the liquid content of the bar by no less than one quarter, a goal that I am glad to say we successfully reached.

Like me, Beccy from J did not have tickets to any of the three garden parties on the Paddock, so instead we grabbed a couple of bottles of wine, headed down and sat on the edge chatting to everyone who wandered by for any of the festivities. A plan that worked out quite nicely, offering front-row seats to cast our critical eye across the day’s events.

The first was The Exiles do, an affair of forum-aggravating questionable taste that sees the wealthiest and most landed of the Cambridge elite gathering to…well, to be very rich together. Whilst arguably a slightly vapid affair, they certainly do it with a level of style. Their antics this year included an amusing bout of cricket using a champagne bottle and champagne flutes, although this became somewhat less amusing on reflection as the ground was now littered with broken glass for the later garden parties. Oli’s attempt to disrupt proceedings in general protest at the Exiles consisted of dressing as a chav and attempting to crash the party, being asked by one bouncer whether he was even a member of the college!

Following this was the heavily subscribed Danby do which had a attracted a lot more attention than organisers Sonia and Fiona had expected. Beccy and I were camped out by this point chatting to several friends as they sipped away at diluted bottles of Pimms. It seemed like the most successful of the day’s parties based upon the large crowd it attracted and general merriment of all involved. The later Tribal barbeque, organised by the boaties, was rather more expensive given its barbeque but as food ran out swiftly people became somewhat less enamoured with the ticket price. The damp reception by guests must have been a bit of a blow to the boaties who pride themselves on their ability to party, although in truth most of them were probably too drunk to care.

Beccy is also looking at swelling the ranks of The Cambridge Globalist‘s staff which would be great to have her involved with. After my website work was shown to editor Stephanie and Rawen, our contact at Yale, I have been offered a promotion to Production Editor which I eagerly accepted. I will be in charge of the layour and design of printed issues of the magazine as well as having a stronger say being on the editorial staff. Next year is shaping up to be a fun ride.

Hanging with the J Crowd

I am significantly de-stressed since the last time I wrote. On Wednesday evening was the Cranworth Annual Dinner which attracts virtually every Downing lawyer, as well as several from the City too. The food was decent although not outstanding, but the champagne, wine and port flowed liberally due to the usual list of sponsers as long as the menu, so the revelry continued into the night. I discovered that one of my regular readers is none other than my Director of Studies, an interesting revelation that was met with stern admonishment for not having signed the guestbook. Speaking of which, despite clear instruction, very few of you have signed it since the last one was lost (the new one is on our servers and fully maintained by me to prevent that happening again). So if you’re reading now, whoever you are, go and sign.

Post-Cranworth I headed over to J and spent a convoluted night that began in James’ room and spread across town as Radeel, Ian, Philly James (he’s a philosopher, he’s also a James, hence the name), his friend Katie and I sought out food, ending up in Catz (the college) where Ian dropped off for a while. Having roused him we trekked back to Downing with some difficulty when ninety degree corners proved to be a little too much for Ian. We headed out onto the Paddock to watch the sun come up until about six when we headed back inside.

Having got to bed around 8am, it then transpired at 10 that most of K wanted to go into London for the day. So, on 2 hours sleep, I headed off with them for a fairly non-descript day of shopping and dining in London, eventually returning to Downing around 1am. The steak I consumed along with a large slice of chocolate fudge cake at Garfunkel’s in Leicester Square has to be one of the most satisfying meals I can remember recently.

The following day was Philly James’ birthday, so I ended up spending much of the day with J people once again. The night was less adventurous, or at least less mobile, than the previous one. We gathered on one corner of the Paddock which was dominated by the Whitby garden party (at which I hear Cat was voted the new secretary). The medics all seemed to be having a fun time as we popped open several bottles of wine and beer. The party did not move as the medics wound down and disappeared. I briefly headed off to the bar at Irina’s behest, and the girl has bought me the most hideous present I can remember receiving. It’s a bright pink bulbous nose-shaped glasses stand. Positively horrific, as she well knew would be my reaction. It’s so thoughtful that she knows I have to have it sitting on my bedside table. Evil, evil girl. She also bought tinned white crab meat in brine having explained that she intended to get me something I’d never eaten before. As presents go, that was unique. Almost me-ish!

Returning to the circle on the paddock, now replete with incense sticks and glowbands, other James’ friends from home in Guildford arrived and I ended up chatting to Elliot for much of the evening. Glowbands found their way in a bottle of Malibu that glowed suspiciously as two ex-barmen attempted to perform tricks (apparently you can’t teach a new barman old tricks). Another set were wrapped around the inside of a frisbee creating a very cool UFO.

Saturday was the first totally empty day on my calendar and it was fantastic to lounge around with Beccy and some others all afternoon. Hanging with the J crowd has been really chilled and a nice change of pace which is exactly what I needed.

Reverse Polarity

the Boheme Feedback siteI am seriously stressed right now. Way more than I have been during the exams. I’ve been working on various bits and pieces almost nonstop since the end of exams and so was not in the best state to deal with an overbearing Ball President in a continuing argument. Naturally it would be unprofessional to discuss it at length here, but suffice to say that I have worked in web design projects before and I know how much freedom is needed to get the job done properly. He clearly hasn’t and doesn’t. My role currently seems to be more translating his designs to the web. So the bottom line is that I’m not 100% sure this is the sort of environment I’ll be able to work in which is tough decision to make because it’s one of the main ways I’ll get to spend time with friends from whom I’ll be living further away next year.

The Cambridge Globalist site proofPartly it’s also how polarised things seem to be with the two projects I’m currently working on. The other is for The Cambridge Globalist, an international affairs magazine that is in the process of being set up by several students. Our new chapter based on The Yale Globalist and the idea is to produce a quarterly online Economist-style magazine that will share articles with the other chapters in the USA, Australia and elsewhere. Steph, who has now brought me on board as web designer, is fantastically enthusiastic about the project and my involvement so it’s weird to have that running so well while having serious problems with the other. I certainly know which I’m inclined to put more energy into at the moment, and have been playing around with designs already.

Karleigh dressed up for a weddingMeanwhile Irina has deigned to grace our country with her presence once more after her untimely disappearance. Good to have you back, kiddo. Jane’s also here from the states for the summer before starting uni at Essex next term. She popped up to visit over the weekend, which reminded me of last summer and how much I miss Jen and Karleigh, especially coupled with some new photos from Jen in which I genuinely did not recognise Karleigh at first. I would really love to get out there for a while this summer but it looks increasingly unlikely to happen.

I’ve noticed that since the arrival of MSN Spaces, a lot of my friends have taken to blogging and it’s great to keep up to date with what they’re doing. MSN’s interface is actually very impressive, albeit intentionally tweaked for IE and therefore slightly deficient (but functional) in Firefox. I actually have a Space for myself, mostly for storing a few random photos and to point MSN Messenger contacts towards this site (Spaces update your MSN card whenever they are changed). My Space also has links to my friends various blogs (if I’ve missed you then let me know) and here’s a shout-out to Ally, Chop, Kimmy, Prachi, Sarah and Shreena. Although mine is visible to anyone, most of these MSN Spaces are closed so only contacts can view them. How about opening them up to the world guys?

Chungking Express

All the drive I didn’t have during exams seems to have arrived now as I’ve been throwing myself into various projects in earnest. Struggling valiently to coax PHP and XHTML into listening to me, I actually managed to code a rather nice feedback form yesterday night even though I didn’t speak either language two days ago. It meant I got to bed at 4am but I’ve missed that sense of achievement when things finally work. Today was rather more frustrating in attempting to combine CSS style sheets and XHTML in order to create the same sort of pages that I’ve done for years but using the updated code. Unfortunately XHTML has removed certain HTML tags that I used to rely on, so it’s been a fairly irritating experience trying to work around it. But once again everything is finally looking neat and pretty. I’m currently messing around with some preliminary ideas for the new Ball website. It’s just a “coming soon” page that will act as a staging area prior to the new site going live.

Chungking ExpressThe others continue their exams in earnest which gives me a fair bit of time to myself, especially with Chris and Roger preoccupied by the fact they’re in slightly more trouble than we expected. They’ve been deaned and will probably be forced to vacate their rooms in College for the rest of term which will be inconvenient though not disastrous. It’s actually a slightly odd feeling, but the space is definitely welcome and has allowed me to focus and catch up on other things. Like DVDs, for example: haven’t settled down and watched a whole film in one stretch for a while, so I tore open Wong Kar Wai‘s Chungking Express this evening. Like the phenomenal 2046, it’s a quirky, colourful, slightly dark, very wistful love story set amidst Hong Kong’s Chungking Mansions, a vast complex of shabby hostels, bars and clubs. As one would expect from the director, it’s dazzlingly charismatic and very original.

Speaking of films, I also saw Sin City last Friday, dragging along a few friends on the premise it would be their “last chance to relax”. It was quite simply stunning, though I cannot begin to describe my pain at having to turn down Friya’s offer of a ticket to the premiere because of exams. I’m a huge fan of Miller’s graphic novels, and Rodriguez has surpassed himself in bringing them to the screen frame for frame in many instances. The most stylish film of the year so far, the stark black and white with splashes of colour is beautiful even amidst the most violent excesses. I was pleased that they hit the tone of the humour just right. The standout performance was undoubtedly Mickey Rourke who simply is Marv, totally embodying the hulking beast of a man.

“There is a need in all of us to have a place to hide or store certain memories, thoughts,
impulses, hopes and dreams. These are part of our lives that we can’t resolve or best not act
upon but at the same time we are afraid to jettison them. For some, this is a physical place; for
others, it is a mental space, and for a few it is neither.”
     – Wong Kar Wai

The Fat Lady Sings

For better or worse, it’s all over now. Mostly worse, actually, given how Civil Law I (that’s Roman Law) went. But then it was straight off to the pub for a sizable session of sorrow drowning. And then after dinner we toured several pubs to celebrate. It was all good fun and fairly uneventful. Charlotte didn’t actually make the round 2 since she was feeling a little queasy after downing too much wine on an empty stomach, in All Bar One Irish Chris and Roger managed to douse a College Fellow and insult her date, and our Director of Studies decided the following morning at 10am would be the perfect time for a meeting for us all to decide our subject choices for next year. So on principle I turned up in my dressing gown and explained that I was planning to go straight back to bed afterwards. He said he was impressed.

Some of the 2nd years have finished (Irina has inconveniently decided to traipse off home to the Ukraine for a week which was disappointing as I was quite looking forward to spending some time with her post-exams) but the rest of my corridor are just getting into theirs causing stress levels to rise ever so slightly. I’m keeping my room an officially work-free zone for both their and my own sanity.

Phoenix SwiftSo what am I doing with myself now? Aside from catching up on the last three weeks’ worth of sleep, there’s been some work on the site already, with the Earth quarter now featuring a swanky new Search facility, replacing the often out-of-date Calendar. This will let you dredge up those ancient entries like The Breakfast Conspiracy without having to hunt through the archives, and actually searches all four sections of the site.

I also need to make arrangements for the new Ball website and take on the slightly daunting task of teaching myself PHP and MySQL in order to work on a ticketing system over the holidays.

The Phoenix KnightsMeanwhile in the world of Guild Wars, my character Phoenix Swift has risen to level 9, taken a secondary profession as a mesmer (an illusionist of sorts) and been questing with parties of other people across the world, hitting off well with Ryo Draven in particular. The instant cameraderie between complete strangers in a party is an interesting dynamic, especially when your backs are against the wall and you’re stepping in to save one another. He was also invited to join a guild, The Phoenix Knights, by its founder Golden Phoenix. Each guild has its own uniquely designed cape, sported by all members of the guild and I think ours looks particularly fetching and rather apt for me. The guild has now acquired a Guild Hall to which only we have access. They don’t come cheap, but it all looks rather swanky on a small, out-of-the-way island.

Thanks A Lot, Boomtown!

Phoenix SwiftThe lovely people over at gaming site Boomtown emailed me a few days ago to let me know I was the winner of one their competitions to win a copy of Guild Wars. Their timing was perfect as exam revision was starting to get me down and that definitely brightened up my day. Less perfectly timed was the arrival of the prize, courtesy of game developer NCSoft, this morning. Right in the middle of my exams (which are going reasonably: 2 down, 2 to go). Which, as you might imagine, adds an interesting stumbling block regarding revision. When I fail my degree, I blame Boomtown…

Guild Wars is a MMORPG (that’s Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game for the uninitiated) set in the fantasy world of Tyria. Aside from receiving phenomenal reviews based on the luscious visuals, smooth gameplay and epic plot, it’s also threatening to topple the usual business models of online games by removing the monthly fees and charging absolutely nothing once you have bought the original game. The only additional cost will be in purchasing the add-on sequel chapters due at a later date. As an alternate world to escape into, you couldn’t ask for more, and I have a feeling Guild Wars will be playing a pivotal role in keeping me sane over the next few weeks!

Me at the Statue of DwaynaJust a few days left till my exams are over, but most of my friends don’t start until mine are finished, so the stress levels here are going to remain fairly high for a while! You know that your patience is wearing thin when your first reaction to a flustered, “He was supposed to come up here ten minutes ago but he’s not and I don’t know what to do,” is “Decide he’s useless and a liability to both national security and the gene pool so have him assassinated and get on with your life.” Fortunately I held back from saying it out loud. And anyway, clearly it was just my old fashioned, chivalrous side reacting to the fact that women should never be kept waiting.

My favourite rant of the year so far goes to A Gamer’s Manifesto hilariously laying into game developers. Particularly noteworthy is the Goldeneye story in #12.

And finally, if anyone else is playing Guild Wars or plans to grab a copy over the summer, let me know and we’ll go questing together. Fortune and glory or, more probably, coin and cleavage.

"Civilization now depends on self-deception. Perhaps it always has."

(CC) BY-NC 2004-2023 Priyan Meewella

Up ↑