I’ve done something I repeatedly swore I’d never do. I resisted the peer pressure for so long and what eventually made me cave in was just one little email. Of course, it was somewhat aided by the fact it was from Jenna. Had we been keeping in touch properly it would have been fine, I’d have said no and we’d have carried on emailing as before. But we haven’t been. It’s been disjointed, a couple of emails a month at best. So when she suggested it, she made it seem like such a good idea at the time. So I didn’t really think about it, I didn’t have a choice, I just did it. And now there’s no going back. If you’re on it you’ll see…
The movie reviews here at P-2004 have been on hiaitus for a while but finally make their long awaited return, beginning with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which I took my sister to see today. I’m happy to reprt that it’s yet another cracking Burton/Depp extravaganza. It was actually Steph, my editor at the (metaphorical) Globalist offices, who sparked me into writing a full review and hopefully there will be more on their way soon.
Meanwhile several more Globalist branches have been popping up, the latest being in the University of Toronto and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. This led to Steph being slightly concerned about the effect this workload may have on my health but I think her fears have been assuaged after voicing them. She gets back from Hong Kong in a day which will allow us to discuss things at a more seemly hour of the day from now on!
Having almost given up hope I finally managed to pick up a copy of the limited edition Near Dark DVD box from eBay, and it remains one of my favourite vampire movies. The uniquely genre-bending 80’s masterpiece never once uses the word “vampire” and is about monsters who don’t romanticise or expound about their situation; they’re just trying to get on with things. I also finished reading Excession this morning which I thoroughly recommend to any science fiction fans, and shall be moving on to Look to Windward shortly, possibly after a brief foray into one of several comic books that are lying around here…
Lyds’ birthday party went swimmingly as she entered her third decade. TomTom offered me a lift there and back in his brand new Toyota Prius (the hybrid car) which is highly cool and a remarkably smooth ride. Thanks, TomTom! My navigating seems to be improving despite the significant handicap of not actually driving. We integrated amicably with Lydia’s schoolfriends Madeline and Emily who both go to the other place (Oxford) and enjoyed a lovely barbeque courtesy of her brother Malcolm. Discussion varied over the course of the evening from post-exam egging to the finer points of the second best tango sequence on film, but people succumbed to sleep early on and disappeared to their respective beds at around 1:30am. Contrary to the (understandable) nocturnal reputation I’ve gained, I was up at 9:00 the next morning chatting to the birthday girl’s parents over breakfast, with the rest of the gang surfacing a little later. Rav gained points in his absence with a well chosen “wench” card for our ex-K-Bar wench.
So it turns out that the man shot by police in Stockwell was not only unrelated to the bombings, he was a perfectly innocent, slightly scared Brazillian electrician who had five rounds blasted into him while he was lying on the ground according to eyewitness statements. This is perhaps a scarier occurance than the explosions themselves, since the police are going to be around all the time and are we supposed to expect this sort of jittery trigger-happy action as part of their general duty? And this is the government Britons seemed to feel they had no choice but to re-elect…
Now is the perfect time for the release of the Wachowski brothers’ new film, V For Vendetta with Natalie Portman. Based on Alan Moore‘s graphic novel of the same name, it is set in a fictional future where Germany won WWII and Britain has become a facist state. The bleak picture of the future government is, however, eerily familiar and I have a feeling the film will strike a strange note for the modern viewer as those in power keep the public cowed into submission by the notion that they need their totalitarian government. The story itself follows V who engages in a morally ambiguous campaign of anarchy against the authorities.
I was supposed to be going along to a talk in London yesterday but what with the “incident” had to scrap those plans (although I was still up for going: my attitude is very much, “they’re my trains and I’ll bloody well use them if I want!”) and ended up at Curry Night which was actually pretty good as fallback plans go. Fleur and Ray are becoming regulars which swells the company nicely, although Chop was AWOL (well, without our leave) in Italy.
Earlier in the day Rawen, our contact at The Yale Globalist, let me know that he’d been in touch with the Peking University chapter in China and asked me to do some web work for them, adding yet another timezone to my hefty list. Fortunately they didn’t need a full site, just contact details and an editorial list. However, I’m just hoping that no one notices where I took the photograph that was used when I designed their banner…
Lyds’ birthday party is tomorrow but has been struck repeated blows with both Cat and Dave unable to attend. I’m sure it will still be great fun albeit somewhat depleted by the absenses, especially with Rav also pulling out after yesterday’s events since he would be travelling down by train from Birmingham. Strangely my observation that it was quite safe since statistically trains only explode on Thursdays didn’t seem to placate him.
Actually after further discussion with my dad, he regards this statistical anomaly of two to be significant and suggests we send a copy of G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday, which I’d just lent him to read, along to Scotland Yard as an anonymous tip-off, implicating Mr. Chesterton as the reprehensibly twisted mastermind.
Since a large percentage of blogs around the world will be mentioning the boy wizard today, I figured I would too. The delivery man woke me up this morning when delivering my sister’s copy of the new book. I’m not happy.
Actually, my viewing figures are going to be pretty low today what with a lot of you reading the damn thing so now’s a good time to bury any news I don’t really want read. But I suppose that would be a rather cynical use of a children’s publication. Rav tried to complain that I’ve forgetten how to get excited about such things, but that’s just not true. People had to put up with me gushing about Sin City for over half a year before its release, forcing anyone who lingered too long in my room to sit through the ten minutes of leaked Comic-Con (strangely enough, this year’s is happening as I write) footage. I shan’t make the obvious Star Wars allusions as, despite being a big fan for long time and being drinking up The Clone Wars animated shorts pre-film, there are certainly bigger. But then there was the new season of Family Guy that had me buzzing for days about when I suddenly realised a real life (okay, cartoon) new episode would be on my screen in a week. There was the release of Bungie’s new opus, Halo 2 (see Lyds’ photographic evidence), and I was happy to add myself to its ridiculous list of pre-orders (£35 million in sales before release!). And, as with every Tim Burton release, I’m now tingling with anticipation at seeing Depp’s utterly unique incarnation of Willy Wonka. And there’s a little film called Serenity written and directed by this Joss Whedon chap that’s been wrapped for months but delayed and is finally out soon after I get back to uni (so TomTom and I can see it together after all). So I still get plenty excited, just about…well, the things that exite me. I wouldn’t expect you guys (except Chyde) to get excited about the eventual re-release of a R2 copy of La Cité des Enfants Perdus in French with English subtitles rather than the horrible dub, but I (and he) will be excited nonetheless.
Speaking of Family Guy, I recently came across the CD they released prior to the new season, Family Guy Live in Vegas and it’s fantastic. Actually edgier than the show since the lyrics escaped the censor’s “beep”, the album is a mixture of hilarious but overt faster numbers and some classy slower stuff reworked and sung by the gang. Seth Macfarlane’s voice is surprisingly smooth, especially when singing as Brian the dog.
In other news, after the cancelled shuttle launch on Wednesday several people seemed perplexed as to how T-20 minutes could actually be several hours before launch. Check out NASA’s Countdown 101 for full details of the pre-launch clock, which starts at T-43 hours a little over 3 days before launch.
And in closing, just for you Potter fans, next time you use the HBP abbreviation, remember it could be mistaken for High Blood Pressure, History-Based Predictor, Hit By Pitch (in baseball), Hydrogen Behaviour Program, or of course, Herr Bundespräsident. Just a thought.
In all seriousness, I have no problem with people’s excitement regarding young Harry. It’s cute. I’m just irritable because your book woke me up. Really.
Ally and I eventually managed to meet up today, seeng A Lot Like Love. The film follows the chance meetings between its two romatically linked stars over the course of six years. Although I generally detest Hollywood’s sickly sweet and unrelentingly unrealistic romantic comedies, this was superb. Largely the film succeeded through the chemistry between leads Ashton Kutcher and Amanda Peet, the most palpable, realistic chemistry I’ve seen captured on screen since Before Sunset, and that’s saying something! Whilst certainly very cute, by dumping the usual 2-dimensional characters, manufactured script and postcard locations, it always feels genuine and retains an air of freshness and originality rather than being cliché and stereotypical (the clumsily artificial ending notwithstanding). Do see this film, if only to understand how the romantic comedy can still be done right.
After an amusing bout of clothes shopping with Ally (without actually purchasing anything) I headed to the park to read, something I haven’t really been able to do properly in the past year. My current book is Iain M. Banks‘ sci-fi Culture novel Excession. He’s one of the few science fiction authors who still writes intelligent utopian futures so it’s nice change from the action-orientated dystopias we’re used to. And then curry night. The usual suspects were there, along with Chop‘s sister and a friend from uni. All in all, it’s been a fun, sociable day off from my hectic schedule.
And perhaps the most touching thing about today’s film was that its most poignant line isn’t delivered through dialogue. Rather, it is signed by Oliver’s deaf brother Graham:
“This is your life, right now. It doesn’t wait for you to get back on your feet. Your life, it’s already happening…”
The last week has been particularly successful in terms of meeting up with people. Chyde and I have watched two French films to help with the course he’s doing, Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children (make sure you watch it in French, the English dub is awful; and as usual don’t play the videogame). Early last week when Zaki and I arranged to see Batman Begins, Kwame also joined us. Kwame is an Old Whit who was in my year but left early so I haven’t seen him for about six years! We hooked up with Tom G afterwards to go pubbing, Kwame becoming very uncomfortable in The Ship, convinced that a barmaid was checking him out; she wasn’t. Tom and I have been Guild Warring together so have kept in touch virtually. The tales of Phoenix Swift and John Grantshead shall become the stuff of legends. Or possibly trashy fantasty novels.
Curry night, although marred by the London attack leading to a slightly depleted turnout, still brought Chop, Zaki, Phil, Graham, Dicko, Antonia and Adam (who I hadn’t seen since Jesus Ball, leading to a little reminiscing). Andie returned from Spain on the same day, and I finally managed to see her on Saturday. In a triumph of last-minute planning she arranged for a few of us (including Fleur who I haven’t seen for well over a year) to meet at The George and we inevitably ended up at Walkabout to round the evening off, where I bumped into Mark C and Lyndon (though no Richie) and a girl I used to work with who seemed to remember me very well but whose name escapes me.
Croydon, I swiftly realised, is getting steadily worse at night. Fights break out everywhere around closing time and the hefty police presence is both impressive and necessary. Walking home I had one pair of brawling guys dash out of a club in front of me, the chaser being held back by no less than three bouncers. Another chav running down the street to my right was successfully evading four police officers as he weaved between parked cars, until a fifth officer in a bulletproof vest stepped round a corner and just laid into the guy, slamming him against a shop window and flooring him. Within two seconds the guy had all five policemen on top of him. I hate to think what sort of state he woke up in the next morning. Even so, keen as I now am to avoid the police as a result, I can see where they’re coming from. Preventing Croydon from descending into anarchy on a Saturday night is clearly an uphill struggle.
For all people’s understandable jittery fears, today is without doubt the safest day to use public transport in London in recent years. Those responsible have left their mark and today security is at its tightest ever. The shocking events of yesterday were horribly timed, following the successful Olympic bid and coinciding with the G8 summit (leading to more distinctly unhelpful “war on terror” hyperbole). However, I was genuinely puzzled by the number of people who seemed so surprised by the attack. I guess deep down I (and I’m sure many other Londoners) have been waiting for this to happen for years; it was always just a matter of time.
I think people had begun to grow complacent like the Americans pre-2001 because we haven’t had to deal with major IRA threats for quite some time now. Before that terrorism outraged us but we remained unfazed. Indeed, even yesterday London overall did remain extraordinarily calm for a city under attack, which I think is down to more than mere British stoicism. My sister was slightly more worried since she had left for France that morning and so was receiving broken and hyped up reports of events while on the move.
Unsurprisingly Al-Qaeda connections were raised almost instantly but the police are keen to stress that no one has claimed responsibility to them. While carefully coordinated, it actually seems to lack the theatrical nature of a major Al-Qaeda operation (not to mention a distinctly lower body count than say the Madrid bombings – horrific as yesterday was, we got off lightly). My “fear” when using the underground has always been a gas-based attack (Sarin, VX, etc.) due to the airflow model that most stations don’t use active pumps to maintain circulation, but instead rely on the blocks of air pushed by the trains, creating a low pressure in the station they are leaving that draws in more air from the surface. Thus stopping the trains would stop circulation and prevent any toxic gas from dispersing. But I suppose as yesterday proved, bombs still make their point just as well. It’s something you deal with as a Londoner and get on with things. Life goes on. Until yesterday.
I finally saw Batman Begins (or “Batman Biggins” as Tom G affectionately refers to it) and it got me thinking. All these superheroes have such a hard time with their dual identities because they never seem to realise that it’s an impossible task. Batman is the prime example of this as a man who becomes consumed by his alter ego so that Bruce Wayne essentially disappears (made clearest in the closing of this film and Frank Miller’s graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns where Wayne becomes himself for a period after retiring Batman). Much as we may try to compartmentalise our lives, there will always be bleed through, there will always be blurred edges, because there’s always one common denominator: us.
Superheroes never seem to understand this. If you choose to take on a mantle like that, you lose whatever other life you had. Holding on to them both doesn’t work, you need to choose which you want to be. This doesn’t mean a hero can’t have friends or lovers, it just means they have to come to terms with putting at risk those about whom they care. Strangely, it’s the more simple-minded characters who seem to understand that. Hellboy always seemed painfully aware of what he was, and hated himself for it. Of course, in his case, saving the world was never really his choice, it was just what he did.
Last term I was accused of trying to save everyone. I wish I could say that person was wrong, but the truth is I’m not really sure. Trying to save them all will never work, you’ll always end up failing. But it’s something to strive towards, right? Maybe. But you begin to lose perspective, the reason each one is worth saving in the first place. They become statistics. Oskar Schindler breaks down at the end of Schindler’s List, crying for those extra Jews he could have saved, “at least one more”. But when what you’re saving no longer has a name, when it becomes a number, you’ve already lost.
I think the hardest lesson for any hero to learn isn’t the sacrifice or the life you lose; they should be prepared for that already. It’s that you can’t save them all.
“Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.” – The Talmud
The week since I got back has been crazily hectic. Virtually all of my time has been focused on The Globalist project (hence no updates here!) but it’s finally taking shape and is looking to be pretty spectactular. Partly I’m exhausted from trying to have my mind in three places at the same time. Having finalised the first version of the Cambridge website, I was asked to create a site for the Sydney chapter based on that model. I then modified the Yale site with some new images while creating an index for the Foundation that led through to each chapter website. Naturally, existing in three different time zones does wonders for sleeping patterns. Not that I can argue mine was particularly good to begin with.
I’m currently working on my second forum in as many weeks. This one is based on the Downing Ball committee forum, albeit a little greener which has required a some simple extra graphic work. Mostly it’s just to ensure that when I’m tired I can still tell which forum screen I’m staring at, rather than dealing with two identical bluish designs!
One brief respite midweek was hanging out with Chyde who had the bright idea of a Das Boot-fest, watching the entire director’s cut of film in all its 4 hours and 40 minutes of glory. Set on board a German U-boat during the second world war, it’s certainly a fantastic achievement in claustrophobia with its very limited range of sets, despite the long running time. Wolfgang Peterson’s direction is excellent, with music that swells with the emotions of the crew leading to a magnificent surfacing sequence at the end. Definitely worth a watch, and doing so in one sitting actually adds something extra. His dad was nearly cheering by the end!
Well, I’m pretty brain-fried from too much late night coding and tweaking, so that now everything seems to take on an eerie bluish glow, not just my laptop screen. But it feels worth it, and in the past week The Globalist Foundation has really come to life as a truly international organisation. I’ll be back when my vision returns…