Several people have been asking for my opinion on the new Harry Potter flick. I’m sorry to admit that I haven’t actually got round to seeing it yet, but I would also be lying if I suggested it was top of my list of priorities. Then again, Jane hasn’t seen it yet either and she is (allegedly) a fan. I’m told she reads the books and everything. On that note I’ve found myself around far too many groups — nay, covens — of people who prattle on about how no one should see the film until they have made sure they have read the book first else they will never be able to follow it. Bollocks to that. I’m sorry to shatter your delusions but that book is 636 pages of J.K. Rowling’s meticulously marketed rambling and not all of us have time to waste reading it. I’m perfectly satisfied with the idea that I may not understand the relevence of several shots and images in the film if it saves days of my life.
The honest truth is that I don’t enjoy the books: I don’t like the writing style. I have only read the first two in any great depth, and am told the second was particularly bad by most fans (who, if I recall, seemed to think it was the greatest thing since sliced Quidditch when they first read it). Nevertheless upon flicking through any of the weightier subsequent tomes I find that the author rambles more than Anne Rice. And that’s saying something. It’s true that most modern literature is overlong and poorly edited down, but its forgivable where the style is so flamboyant or captivatingly beautiful that they get away with it. For me, Potter is not one of those examples. Do not misunderstand me. This is not an exercise in Potter-bashing (wait, that just sounds wrong). Far from it: I quite understand them being read by those who enjoy that sort of thing. I merely wish to point out how presumptuous it is to expect every filmgoer to read the damn thing before daring to set foot inside the cinema. That’s like ordering every Lord of the Rings fan to read the virtually unreadable Silmarillion* before being allowed to watch Peter Jackson’s movies so that they have a full understanding of the backstory to Middle Earth. No thank you. I’m perfectly content to miss out and just enjoy myself when the time comes.
*I knew someone who voluntarily gouged out their own eyes after a few dozen pages, although I’ve never made it that far in myself.
Once upon a time there was a little paper crane. Like all paper cranes, he was a little magic. The more care that goes into each crease and fold, the more powerful they become. Now this crane knew that the boy who made him was in trouble and needed more than a little magic. But he was only a little paper crane, what could he do?
So he flew out of the faculty and flew the long and arduous flight to where his intended recipient lived. Braving the chill winds he struggled onwards, refusing to give up. He found his wings freezing, their steady beat slowing ’til he started to tumble from the sky, falling to his death. He was not supposed to die, of course, he knew that. So he used a little of his magic to warm them back to life, and finally he made it there.
Inside, he waited. It was a long time before he found her, and when he did he was dismayed for he had no plan. He realised there was nothing he could do. After all, he was only a little paper crane. But then he discovered his real magic didn’t come from the creases and from the folds; it comes from the care. His real magic is simply what he is. A little paper crane.
And sometimes that’s just enough.
To change someone’s mind.
Admittedly, it was Fearne‘s and not mine, but nevertheless The Globalist launch event last night went brilliantly. Vanessa had arranged it almost singlehandedly, though it was a team effort setting things up running it on the night which earned a good turnout. Professor Crawford spoke as our new Treasurer and although I didn’t get to chat to him for long, I assume he is very good at what he does since he has more letters after his name than I can identify. I did get to speak rather more extensively with Dr. Mcrobie, another member of our advisory board. As an engineer he was able to put a rather different spin on things than our somewhat law-focused team.
The star of the show was, of course, the magazine itself, and it was received fantastically well. The production and printing pains were certainly worth it for the gushing praise it earned from students who are genuinely interested in what we’ve produced. Reaching our market was always one of my biggest worries: pitching both the articles and the design in a way that is stylishly sophisticated enough to appeal to our Cambridge peers and yet accessible enough for any of them to pick up and read. “I think”, as people quoted back at me after I left the stage, “we’ve done a pretty damn good job.” Yes, Steph wanted each of the editors to talk briefly as well, so fuelled by a little red wine I spoke off the cuff in a friendly enough manner that I’ve had several people interested in joining the production team for the next issue. Helen is already officially my second in command, and Kirsten from Germany adds yet another country to our ever-expanding sphere (and as a female CompSci should bring an interesting rule-breaking perspective). Perhaps the most touching part of the evening was Stephanie closing her speech with a line I’d dropped in passing several months ago when strained by the multiple-timezone working hours: the sun never sets on the Globalist empire. Most of all because it’s true.
The editors went out for hot chocolate at Clowns to wind down afterwards. While waiting for the others with Vanessa outside Sainsbury’s, I noticed a drunk guy harassing a girl in an entirely non-violent but rather too insistant way. Having overheard her offering her name, I dumped my bottle of wine with Vanessa and strode over as if I knew her with an enthused, “Elle! I haven’t seen you for ages.” She was particularly grateful as the guy scurried off, and it then transpired that actually I did know Elle and it had been ages. I’d met her briefly at the end of last year because she’s dating Jon, who used to live in J. Clowns turned out to be a delighful hidden away Italian-run café that stays open ’til midnight everyday, so the sort of place an insomniac like me really ought to have known about. Steph’s friend had tagged along with us so I bought him a drink and then settled into some sinfully creamy cake to round off the night in style.
The Globalist will be available early on Monday and Tuesday morning in the following Faculties: Law, SPS, Economics, Engineering, Geography, Land Economy, and also in the Babbage Lecture Theatre, the Language Centre and the William Gates Building. Make sure you get your copy!
Daniel Craig has been named by producers as the new Bond, replacing Pierce Brosnan for Casino Royale. Given the names that were previously flying around, fans can now breathe a satisfied sigh of relief, since the English star has already made quite an impression with Layer Cake. One imagines he’ll take the debonaire secret agent in a slightly new direction, without losing the sophistication but adapting it to his own style. There’s definitely rekindled hope for a franchise that seemed intent on flushing itself out of the collective consciousness — I didn’t even bother seeing Die Another Day having seen all I wanted (cool cars on ice) in the trailers. That said, one has to wonder about the sanity of a production company who allegedly turned down a true-to-Fleming joint offer from Quentin Tarantino and Pierce Brosnan.
Friday night was Pip and Jo’s birthday formal which ran much as one would expect, spilling into the bar and later the Boatie Captain’s room before people eventually staggered back to their rooms in the early hours of the morning. This evening was a dinner with the Globalist editors and several of the contributors, although not as many as we’d have liked. Between Davy’s baptism in the morning and Evensong in the, err, evening, I spent an inordinate amount of time in the Chapel. TomTom (who still has trouble accepting I’m a Chapel Warden) also attended both services in a choral capacity and pointed out that he regularly spends more time in church than most Christians which is somewhat unconventional for a staunch agnostic. I suggested the only logical course of action was to convert so that there wouldn’t be a problem.
All spaces to the Globalist launch event have now been snapped up. The finer details are still being arranged but expect a stylish affair with soothing jazz, and of course it’s the first chance to get your mitts on the mag. It’s also a good opportunity to express your interest in getting involved since we’re definitely after some fresh blood for issue #2. Finally, and it’s been quite a slog getting here, the pre-launch downingball.com site is now up and running and accepting online ticket applications (intended primarily for Downing students at the moment) so if you’re in Cambridge get booking!
My jaw has dropped several times today so despite being on the verge of exhaustion, I feel the need to share. It’s been going non-stop since I woke at eight for another nine o’clock lecture. I now have four of them a week which I think is rather unsporting. Nevertheless having attended my fifth lecture this term, and therefore outdoing most people who claimed I wasn’t working last year, I sorted out several jobs before meeting the chaplain and the chapel wardens, whose ranks I have just joined. After a strange initiation ceremony involving a large baked potato and some cheese, we discussed the relevant issues while I pondered which part of me glowed with enough Christianity for the chaplain to have offered me the role in the first place.
I hurried off to another meeting with the Globalist editors, only this time it was person. Over the course of a few hours I met every member of the editorial board for the first time which was very weird, having previously known them only electronically. It was fantastic to actually see them in the flesh of course. Some were as I imagined, some a little different. Having spent virtual weeks together with Steph obsessing over the minutiae of the mag it partly felt like we knew each other inside out all already, though I’m pretty sure we’ve only grazed the surface, but we get on in person as well as we do online. (Almost) more importantly, I got to hold the magazine for the first time. My eyes grew wider than ever as I savoured every drop off ink, painstakingly positioned. I still can’t look at some pages without wincing at the painful effort it required. But it looks gorgeous. I have my copy, signed by all the editors, sitting in my room so I may sneak you a few photos later. As our posters now proclaim, the release is on the 24th. It’ll be well worth the wait. I promise.
The evening was all about Serenity. Foregoing yesterday’s preview because I had to see it with TomTom (who originally introduced me to Firefly), we headed out with Ravi and Angie (who’d watched a little of the series) and Lyds and Jon (who hadn’t). Everyone loved it. TomTom and I adored it. Fans will be grinning so hard when they step out of that theatre with a feeling not evoked in a sci-fi film since the return to the Star Wars universe in The Empire Strikes Back. I finally understand those T-shirts now. The dialogue is as witty and tightly written as anything Whedon’s done, the effects are stunning but complement rather than overpowering the great performances, and those fan moments hit every note perfectly. I promise a review as soon as I stop grinning inanely every time I think back. But it’s not just for Firefly fans, and it’s not just for guys. You truly can’t stop the signal. Serenity now.
Sophie sent me some photos from the other night, so you can look at those while I ramble. Because it’s going to be one of those sorts of days. You know the ones: filled with tying up three dozen loose ends before going away for a while, like going on holiday only with rather more work waiting for you at the other end. The bright glimmer amidst this rather pale grey hue the sky has taken is that Chyde should be popping over for a drink later on, before we head off to our respective unis for several months.
I noticed the new FAQ doesn’t have a photograph of me, so I need to pick one shortly. I have faith that most of your suggestions will be thoroughly unhelpful, but if you do have a preference I’d like to hear it. I’ll probably take a new one at Downing so at least you’ll have a pretty backdrop to look at.
Passing on a request from Neil Gaiman’s editor, if you’re in the UK go buy your copy of Anansi Boysnow. He’s dangerously close to the top ten, apparently. Meanwhile in the States he’s finally hit the coveted NYT #1 spot (for next week) so, despite being bitter that he’s visiting the other place and not Cambridge, it would be nice to show we have just as much taste here…
My most popular photo at morgueFile so far is the Gulf Shore Ship which I’d never have picked, but is why sharing is nice since it makes you look at your own work differently. Meanwhile another archive which shall remain nameless rejected my Fighting Fishbowl photo allegedly due to “poor lighting”, which I found amusing since it’s one of the most carefully lit photos I’ve done.
Having checked the schedule, Howl’s Moving Castle, A History of Violence and most importantly Night Watch are all showing at the Picture House shortly after we return so I suspect there will be several compulsory cinema trips.
Provided all this packing somehow gets done, next time I’ll be posting from my new room.
I was going to write a post about the proposed new Terrorism Act that has been drafted and is receiving much colourful discussion. However, after a comment from Rob (whom I hadn’t realised is one of our readers) regarding fried chicken, I discovered he has covered the topic in far more depth than I could hope to. I urge you to follow his Law and Disorder blog immediately.
Instead I shall opt for the almost-but-not-quite-so-serious topic of Anansi Boys. I was disturbed to note that the shelves were not empty when I picked up my copy yesterday. This is a bad sign. It means there are a lot of people missing out on this latest gem of Neil Gaiman magic, a fusion of pop culture and folklore inspired by the Ghanaian trickster god Anansi the Spider (kind of “the god next door”). I’m never one for rushing out to buy an overpriced hardback as soon as it’s released but in this case I made an exception and 100 pages in I don’t regret it at all. And no, I’m not just saying that because he went to my school; I’m saying that because he’s a genius. Essentially plucking the “Mr. Nancy” strand from American Gods and flying off in a new direction, Anansi Boys feels much lighter and easier to read. Gaiman said himself that it’s not so serious a novel, but the entertaining balance is both amusing and deftly assured as he weaves a fluid folklore reality into the present day. You can read an excerpt at Neil’s official site, or listen to Lenny Henry reading the opening.
Meanwhile, in case you read yesterday’s entry early on, I have since added the second part to Cambridge Knights, which itself has a Gaiman ring to it. I’ll now wait to see what the response is like now before deciding whether to continue.
For those who’ve been ignoring my plaintive cry that Gmail is not the best service out there, despite the seeming “eliteness” of their invitation system, perhaps Yahoo!’s latest upgrade will make you think again. Aside from the fact that “just” 250MB is fine for me since I actually like deleting emails when I know I won’t need them again (less to back up and less to search through), the main failing of Gmail has been its interface. The signature minimalism that works so well in its search engine (to the point that I now use Pure Google which strips it down further to just a logo and search box) translates to a clunky experience when applied to your inbox. An action as simple as deleting an email should not be hidden inside a selection box. Yahoo! Mail’s powerful and fluid system has long been superior, but the gap is to widen further with the acquisition of Oddpost and their fantastic software that simulates a desktop email client within your browser window. The bottom line is that Google tell you how to use your email, while Yahoo! leaves the choice to you.
The Questions section has been rewritten, answering some of the questions you asked. Feel free to offer more suggestions as it expands into v1.0. Also check out the Artist section with a new project called Cambridge Knights, which is a new style I’m trying out. Please let me know what you think of the results and maybe there will be more to come…
I wonder, is it possible to eat too much chicken? I love meat, as you well know, and chicken is such an easy food to eat by the bucketload. However, I do begin to feel that an unspoken line may have been crossed when my last two days of meals have consisted entirely of fried chicken in some shape or form. The last two days also involved meeting up with the Curry Night crowd at both Walkabout and The ‘Lark, along with Alexia, Friya, and Sophie (whom I haven’t seen since she left for Australia over a year ago). It was the first time I’d been to Walkabout midweek and it was a little disconcerting to find them playing actual music in there. And I don’t just mean Oasis and Green Day*, I mean Rage Against The Machine.
A film version of Memoirs of a Geisha is now under way, starring Zhang Ziyi. Frankly I can’t possibly think of a more beautiful image to capture on celluloid than Zhang made up and costumed as a geisha. The trailer looks promising, although I must admit I was a little disappointed that they chose Arthur Golden’s novel over Geisha of Gion, which is the superior book in my opinion. Although I have not read Golden’s in full, I prefer the latter as it is less sensationalist and, being written by the former geisha Mineko herself, a far more personal account. Nevertheless, I cannot wait to see how this turns out.
* the DJ seemed to be enjoying the novelty of a second deck by mixing songs at random, one of the more successful efforts being a confusing blend of Wonderwall and Boulevard of Broken Dreams.
Issue #1 of The Cambridge Globalist is hot off the press, as modelled here by Steph. Van oversaw the whole process in Singapore and both she and Steph have seen copies of the final product. From the multitude of photographs they took it seems to have come out even better than we all hoped (this small shot doesn’t do it justice). I had a strange grin plastered over my face as I realised there was absolutely no more tweaking left; this is it — issue #1. It’s weird to think of 1000 more of them boxed up and on their way to Cambridge as I type. The launch party will be next month in the Knox Shaw Room at Sidney Sussex. More details nearer the time. Now I just can’t wait to hold one…
To ensure no one is left out in the cold the regular address for P-2004 will now redirect visitors here. If you are specifically after something at the old site, you’ll need to use this address. All posts from this year have been migrated from the old site. It’s a pretty time-consuming job since they each need a little modification, and it may result in the occassional flicker of an old post to the front — don’t worry, it’ll sort itself out. Also note that the Fragments section now has a new live feed to inform you of about updates, operating in RSS 2.0, 0.92, and Atom 0.3, depending on your preferred flavour. If you’re using Firefox use the icon in the bottom right corner of your browser to set up a live bookmark.