Archive for March, 2007

This is Why I Don’t Blog Enough

I originally planned to do a long, detailed post yesterday, but instead I ended up talking to Dani until 2 AM. I would have done a long post today, but most of the day was eaten up by the end-of-the-year Formal Dinner and Dance. Two hilarious things came out of this:

1) The “Formal Dinner” was Mexican food. They even served nachos in a sombrero.

2) The last speech of the night, given by long-time University staff member Sandy, consisted basically of “You all suck, get out of here”.

He was being completely serious.

Where most other people were offended, I found the incident to be so ridiculous that it became a pinnacle of humour.

Other than that, it was pretty much like any other end-of-term formal… kinda. A run-in with my exceedingly drunk roommate did lead to speculation as to who is or isn’t gay (a long story there), and I asked a man to dance as part of a clever scheme to help a friend find true love (also a long story), but otherwise it was pretty normal.

…So I guess, not normal at all.

Yeah.

Editor’s Note: This was another post that caused controversy, as once again my RA read it and claimed I had entirely misunderstood Sandy’s comments and had no right to comment on it. There was a context to them (certain members of the audience were being rude) but I really don’t think that excused Sandy using the last official speech of the year to decry our behaviour. Also, I really grew to dislike my RA.

On another note, the “asked a man to dance to help a friend find true love” is another of those stories that gets repeated a lot. Certain people owe me big for this. I’m just saying.

March 31, 2007 at 1:21 am Leave a comment

A Word on Excellence

So right now I’m wearing a fancy suit and sipping Cognac as I blog. This is because my life tends to careen wildly between annoyance and awesome and tonight is most certainly awesome.

While I’m tempted to leave it at just that, I feel the need to give you context given how I’ve been neglecting this blog lately. As you’ll recall, I’ve been attending fancy literary tea parties here as part of my functions in the Excellence League (which brings the total number of Leagues in which I am a member up to two). For those who don’t know, we get together, read favourite or original works of literature, and generally have a good time.

However, since the end of the year is approaching, it’s come time to wind down. Tonight was the night of the last tea party, and they really went all out for it. Ricky, one of the two main organizers, rented the school conference room, bought all kinds of party snacks, and generally tried to get as much of the student body (180 people) to show up as possible. We went down around 7 PM to set up, and I must say the room looked awesome by the time we were done.

Over the course of the night over fifty people came to listen to at least a few works, and as many as 15 read. Because I suck I hadn’t prepared anything original, so I read a short essay by Douglas Adams called “For Children Only”, which went over pretty well. Other highlights were Christian, who recited a speech from Henry V from memory (he’s a hell of an actor) and a short play each from Peter and Ricky, the two organizers.

As the night wore on, and people ran out of prepared work, they just went up and started talking, telling stories from memory. At the end, I myself went up and gave an improvised speech about the tea parties themselves. I started by referencing radio journalist Edward Murrow, who in the 1950’s had a show called “This I Believe” which asked famous world personalities to explain their beliefs in less than 500 words. A stunning array of people answered his call; baseball players who broke the colour barrier, world-famous politicians, prominent scientists like Albert Einstein. The challenge inherit in this, of course, was to make listeners think about and question their own beliefs.

With this as my basis, I went on to explain the importance of beliefs. I once heard beliefs described as “the idea that eating bread will make you less hungry”; assumptions so fundamental to our view of reality it would be impossible to operate without them. And yet beliefs can often be wrong, founded on ignorance or avarice rather than coherent thought. Only through the expression of contrary beliefs, beliefs which challenge our fundamental view of reality, can the truth be reached.

And that, of course, leads us back to the tea party. Over the course of the year, it has acted as a forum for people to come up and tell stories, explain ideas, and generally express their beliefs about the world. To come together and talk about the things most important to us is to search for truth itself. The whole thing was a stunning exercise in the exchange of ideas and beliefs.

Naturally, the speech ended with me thanking the organizers, Peter and Ricky.

Anyway, that was my night. I think it went over pretty well. And just so you don’t all feel neglected, I’m going to also post the Douglas Adams speech I gave. You’d better enjoy it; I’m almost certain I’m breaking copyright law with this.

*****

FOR CHILDREN ONLY

You will need to know the difference between Friday and a fried egg. It’s quite a simple difference, but an important one. Friday comes at the end of the week, whereas a fried egg comes out of a hen. Like most things, of course, it isn’t quite that simple. The fried egg isn’t properly a fried egg till it’s been put in a frying pan and fried. This is something you wouldn’t do to a Friday, of course, though you might do it on a Friday. You can also fry eggs on a Thursday, if you like, or on a cooker. It’s all rather complicated, but it makes a kind of sense if you think about it for a while.

It’s also good to know the difference between a lizard and a blizzard. This is quite an easy one. Though the two things sound very much alike, you find them in such very different parts of the world that it is a very simple matter to tell them apart. If you are somewhere inside the Arctic circle then what you are looking at is probably a blizzard, whereas if you are in a hot and dry place like Madagascar or Mexico, it’s more likely to be a lizard.

This animal is a lemur. There are lots of different kinds of lemurs, and they nearly all live in Madagascar. Madagascar is an island – a very large island: much, much larger than your hat, but not as large as the moon.

The moon is much larger than it appears to be. This is worth remembering because next time you are looking at the moon you can say in a deep and mysterious voice, “The moon is much larger than it appears to be,” and people will know that you are a wise person who has thought about this a lot.

This particular kind of lemur is called a ring-tailed lemur. Nobody knows why it is called this, and generations of scientists have been baffled by it. One day a very wise person indeed will probably work out why it is called a ring-tailed lemur. If this person is exceedingly wise, then he or she will only tell very close friends, in secret, because otherwise everybody will know it, and then nobody will realize how wise the first person to know it really was.

Here are two more things you should know the difference between: road and woad. One is a thing that you drive along in a car, or on a bicycle, and the other is a kind of blue body paint that British people used to wear thousands of years ago instead of clothes. Usually it’s quite easy to tell these two apart, but if you find it at all difficult to say your r’s properly, it can lead to terrible confusion: imagine trying to ride a bicycle on a small patch of blue paint, or having to dig up an entire street just to have something to wear if you fancy spending the evening with some Druids.

Druids used to live thousands of years ago. They used to wear long white robes and had very strong opinions about what a wonderful thing the sun was. Do you know what an opinion is? I expect someone in your family has probably got one, so you could ask them to tell you about it. Asking people about their opinions is a very good way of making friends. Telling them about your own opinions can also work, but not always quite as well.

Nowadays most people know what a wonderful thing the sun is, so there aren’t as many Druids around anymore, but there are still a few just in case it slips our mind from time to time. If you find someone who has a long white robe and talks about the sun a lot, then you might have found a Druid. If he turns out to be about two thousand years old, then that’s a sure sign.

If the person you’ve found has got a slightly shorter white coat, with buttons up the front, then it may be that he is an astronomer and not a Druid. If he is an astronomer, then one of the things you could ask him is how far away the sun is. The answer will probably startle you a lot. If it doesn’t, then tell him from me that he hasn’t explained it very well. After he’s told you how far away the sun is, ask him how far away some of the stars are. That will really surprise you. If you can’t find an astronomer yourself, then ask your parents to find one for you. They don’t all wear white coats, which is one of the things that sometimes make them hard to spot. Some of them wear jeans or even suits.

When we say that something is startling, we mean that it surprises us a very great deal. When we say that something is a starling, we mean that it is a type of migratory bird. “Bird” is a word we use quite often, which is why it’s such an easy word to say. Most of the words we use often, like house and car and tree, are easy to say. Migratory is a word we don’t use nearly so much, and saying it can sometimes make you feel as if your teeth are stuck together with toffee. If birds were called “migratories” rather than “birds,” we probably wouldn’t talk about them nearly so much. We’d all say, “Look, there’s a dog!” or “There’s a cat!” but if a migratory went by, we’d probably just say, “Is it teatime yet?” and not even mention it, however nifty it looked.

But migratory doesn’t mean that something is stuck together with toffee, however much it sounds like it. It means that something spends part of the year in one country and part of it in another.
—Douglas Adams

Editor’s Note: Man, the Excellence League; this was one of those ‘lightning in a bottle’ things that really were only possible at the Castle. The place just seemed to be a perfect brew of weird and intelligent people ready to embark on mad schemes at any moment. I miss it, like I miss so many things from that year.

This turned out not to be the last meeting; on the last day a secret meeting was held of the rooftop of the dorms, dubbed “Project ‘Get Back'”. We sat around as the sun fell and traded stories and reminisced, eventually getting to a point where we were simply telling each other how much we valued their company. It was just one of those things, you know?

March 28, 2007 at 11:44 pm Leave a comment

On Trojan Women

Heh. Well, things have been pretty slow around here lately. That’s what you get when you go to University and hit the last quarter of the term. I’ll try to throw some content up now.

Last night was the big Drama production for those foolish enough to take the class. Because the professor is the kind of guy to make the class perform an ancient Greek play, we ended up doing Trojan Women, by Euripides. Basically, the play is about how shitty it is to be a Trojan woman after the fall of Troy, what with murder, enslavement, and forced marriages.

The play has a weird sort of structure to it; it’s just one long scene, set in a camp for the slave women. They lament their condition for awhile, then the Greek soldiers (including myself) arrive to inform them what terrible things are going to be done to them next. After we leave, they lament this new woe, and the situation pretty much repeats itself three or four times until we drag them offstage to sail away from Troy. Probably the worst thing we do during this time is when we steal a baby and throw it off a tower. There’s also a pretty cool scene in the middle where Menelaus, King of the Spartans, gives Helen of Troy a verbal ass-kicking.

Despite some utter fuckmuppetry on the part of many, we managed to get it pulled together. It was looking pretty bad until the weekend, though; most of the actors didn’t know their lines, and the people in charge of building the set did not actually show up to build it (their golden excuse? “We all agreed we’d share the work, and some people just chose to do more”. These are the same people who spelled most of the actor’s names wrong in the program). Because of this, I spent my Saturday night hauling stones trying to build the ruined walls of Troy.

But like I said, it went well in the end. We managed to get through the performance without too many mistakes, and most people seemed to enjoy it. So, that’s that. Now that the performance is out of the way, I’m pretty much done all my projects for the year; just exams left to worry about. I should be in the clear soon.

Also, I’ve seriously got to finish my write-up on the Superman cartoons. I left that off well over a month ago.

Well, I’ll see what I can do here, then. Wish me luck.

Editor’s Note: God, I hated a bunch of the people working on the set. Seriously? Not showing up to do your job, and then claiming you didn’t actually have to do it? And getting everyone’s names wrong on the program? Serious bullshit there.

Other than that, it was a really cool production. In the pre-show we actually divided the audience into Greek Soldiers and Slaves and pitted them against each other for our amusement; it’s the kind of awesome power you wield in theatre.

I, uh, never did get around to that Superman thing. Oops.

March 27, 2007 at 10:02 am Leave a comment

This is Me Wasting Your Time

I really don’t know what to say. I’ve been having a weird, busy, occasionally shitty weekend. And tomorrow I have our big class performance for drama.

I guess I’ll probably have something to say after that.

Editor’s Note: Given the content of this post, I don’t really have anything to say now either.

March 25, 2007 at 10:53 pm Leave a comment

So, I Saw 300, and….

It was pretty okay.

With a movie as hyped as “300” was, I feel bad coming in with a review like that. A movie with this much energy surrounding it’s release sort of demands either rave reviews or hate-filled vitriol. But I can’t really muster either… it was just alright.

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the story. 300 Spartan Warriors stand down the army of all Persia, and kick lots of ass before finally being killed. And as far as that goes, it was pretty good. The action was well-paced, used some interesting visual techniques, and had somewhere near the violence and visceral thrill people demand when they see these things. I’m not sure it was for me- I felt the constant use of distorted time broke it up and made it lose a sense of immediacy- but most of the people I was with seemed to like it.

And of course, then there’s the social subtext behind everything. Let it be clear that I disagree with Frank Miller, creator of 300, on nearly every political point. The problem here is that he’s a fascist. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, I mean that is literally his political view. It crops up in nearly all his work; for example, “The Dark Knight Returns” posits that some issues are simply too big for the ‘little people’, and they need strong charismatic leaders to decide for them. “300” glorifies the overturning of law and order by those of great personal might. Some would argue that in that case the Council were being jerks, but of course that’s because Frank Miller wrote them that way; it’s a cheap trick to demonize your enemies.

And speaking of such, there’s the fact that the people of Persia are portrayed as a terrible, sub-human horde. Literal freaks of nature, including a goat-headed man and a monster with knives for hands. There’s a ridiculous amount of racism inherent in the way the Persian army, made predominately of Black and Asiatic people, are portrayed as monsters and mere fodder for the ‘glorious’ (and white) Spartans.

I mean, I can appreciate the movie on the level of a dumb action film (though of course, as I’ve already said, I wasn’t even particularly impressed by that). But there’s always this subtext that permeates Frank Miller’s stuff that makes it difficult to sit through. He legitimately believes in fascism, and anyone not lucky enough to be born powerful is treated as worthless. It’s the kind of thing that makes your skin crawl.

Basically what I’m getting at here is that while the movie may be somewhat good if you don’t think about it, any analysis of what it actually means sort of brings the whole thing crashing down. It all sort of strikes me as ridiculous.

Yeah. I think I may have crushed Stephen and Jon’s dreams right there. I’m sure they’ll argue with me in the comments section, though.

Editor’s Note: I still maintain that 300 was one of the most mediocre movies I saw that year. It’s politics were too ridiculous to even get mad about; it was just sort of sad. As I predicted, Jon and Stephen assaulted me viciously in the comments section after the original post. It’s what they do.

March 23, 2007 at 12:09 am Leave a comment

This is Why You Can’t Have Nice Things

I planned on doing a more substantial blog post today, but then the Newspaper Editor arrived in a panic to explain that they had a bunch of empty space and he needed an article by 9 o’clock.

Unfortunately, it was 5 o’clock when this happened.

Anyway, I managed to get that done with an hour to spare, but it cut into both my blogging and my marathon plans. I don’t mind, though; I guess it’s cool that I’m the guy called upon to save the day when things go wrong at the last minute. And it was kind of my fault to begin with, since I had backed out of doing the article earlier in the week because I was too busy with schoolwork; our trusty Editor planned to do it himself, but it turns out he was even more busy.

Anyway, that was my day. Tomorrow I plan to get back on my training schedule, and go to “300”. Expect a full review of that sometime in the future.

I swear, I’ll stop talking about my boring life soon.

Editor’s Note: Talking about my boring life only increased from this point out, unfortunately.

For the record, the newspaper editor at Herstmonceux was the most overworked person I had met until that point. By the end of the year, after the last issue was published, he swore to me that he’d never work on another paper again. So far as I know, he’s kept his oath, and I can’t help but feel he’s earned the privilege.

March 21, 2007 at 11:13 pm Leave a comment

That was Kinda Stupid

I was in a good mood today, then I did Sprint Training and threw up about four times. Needless to say, that ruined my good mood.

I really need to track down a professional to help me train for the marathon. I’m doing okay with the long-distance jogging bits, but as my experience tonight shows I’m having some difficulty with sprinting and other aspects. Every time I go out to Sprint I end up feeling really sick by the end, and this time I just pushed myself over the edge. Clearly I’m doing something very, very wrong.

The reason I was in such a good mood before that is that I’m out of Crunch Time. I’ve finished all my major projects for the term, so now I just have to sit back and wait for the grades to roll in.

And write exams, of course. There’s always exams.

So, that’s my day. I’ll try to get back on a schedule of writing about things other than myself soon.

Editor’s Note: It turns out I was doing a lot wrong for marathon training, throwing up just being one of the more obvious examples. It’s amazing I ever managed to get through.

March 20, 2007 at 11:48 pm Leave a comment

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