Skip navigation

Monthly Archives: July 2007

Ha. Wow.

The little things.

The little things that I’ve missed.

Sitting here on a Saturday morning. The windows open, the weather cool. Looking out of my windows at the cityscape. Book open in hand, reading, turning pages in a leisurely way.

There’s a sense of tranquility, and a lack of urgency that I embrace.  A sensible lack of direction, a peaceful lull after a storm filled journey.

A desire to stay and stop, and feel time swirl gently around me, neither moving forward nor back.

I’ve forgotten how powerful contentment is.

Dom has pointed out rightly that I ought to be more discrete on a public blog. You may take it as euphoria getting in the way of prudence.

Send me an email and I’ll send you the password if you wish to read the post below. If you don’t have my email, well that makes all of this rather academic then doesn’t it.

 EDIT: At Gareth’s suggestion I deleted the post. Its not the right place or time for this at the moment. If you resent that decision, blame Gareth. It’s what all the smart people are doing.

It’s finished.

7 Books, A zillion billion pages. Even more hours. All finished.

Wow. 

What a brilliant way to end it. Not that it was unpredictable, but that it was executed masterfully. Doing the inevitable well is something to be admired.

And all along the way, plot twists that I just didn’t see coming. And she never stopped introducing new things, every step along the way old information was contextualised and new information sent in by the spade load.

So much explained that I still don’t think I understand.

Why are Lily’s Eyes relevant?  I don’t recall any point where it was a decisive plot element. Maybe it was an earlier book and I’ve just forgotten by now.

Was the epilogue really necessary? I suppose there was the desire to rap up the story definitively, but I don’t think it helped give any greater closure than there already was. Although I suspect it will make a lot of the shippers happy.

Other points as well that stood out at the time, but I’ll have to go through it again to work them out. Now, I don’t think I have the energy to do that, or to pull it all together. I’ll wait for the undefeatable people at mugglenet to pull together all the bits and bobs for me instead.

I snuck into a book shop on the way to work and traded in some red notes for a book. Luscious hardcover, with possibly the worst cover illustration I’ve seen on a Harry Potter book.

If that’s all that’s wrong with the book I’ll be delighted.

On the way back from work I cracked it open and started reading. The beginning was different enough to catch my attention from what I had expected. After that the pages began to turn quicker and I got lost rapidly in the story.

Having rushed through a dramatic Part 1, it became harder to keep reading. Part of it is this sense of nervous tension. As odd as it sounds, I’m so keyed up about the story as it has unfolded so far, I don’t have the focus to sit and find out how the knots that seem to be getting almost infinitely deeper unlock themselves.The rabbit hole Rowling weaves is getting worryingly deep, and you you have to wonder whether she’ll be able to dig her self out of it satisfactorily.

Now, almost 200 pages in, I’ve stopped.

Not because the book is bad, but because it’s all become a shade too much to take in. Too much exposition, too much new information, too many old characters wearing new hats and new characters weaving in for a word or three. It’s all become a little too much you might say.

Some of this information you feel could have been dropped into a book three or five years ago. The reader could have used some of the time to digest all the extra back story that keeps expanding the reach of Rowling’s canon.

Now in the light casual reader mode, one might gloss over these things, trusting Rowling to do a Papa Poirot / Sherlock Holmes moment in which the case for the prosecution is summed up in the last five pages, or something to that effect.

The problem with that is that Rowling’s supreme talent is that everything is relevant. She doesn’t include a single detail that does not tie together and reinforce her story in some way. In some senses this becomes unmanageable. Too much information must be retained and applied to appreciate the magnificent complexity of her books.

Instead I’ll provide some first impressions

The new book is decisively better then the last three books. Compared to the dull slog that so much of The Order of the Phoenix and The Half Blood Prince were, I have to say I’m very impressed.

There’s a great sense of tense plotting, heady exposition and events moving at a break neck pace all while keeping alive the exhilaration of a story moving into its climax. It has the freshness of language, the sense of purposeful plotting and the clear direction that those interim books lacked. Rowling has tapped back into the roots that made Philosopher’s Stone and Prisoner of Azkaban rise so far above their peers in terms of sharpness and clarity as well as story telling vision.

There’s a return to a slightly simpler story then before, not so many odd plot arcs, nor so many peripheral complications; something again very much in the mold of the first three books and so very different from the second half of that sextet. It is possible once again, with a sense of certainty to know which way the main story is going, admittedly because all that has gone before dictates that it must head down a single road.

What I’ve read so far is compelling easy reading. Twists, turns, the odd joke (feeble) and a little more adult in its deeper more reflective undertones, but its their effective combination that makes the book stand out so much from the preceding three.

That doesn’t mean the literal writing flaws that are so endearingly Rowlings have gone. Chapter one certainly could have done with a bit tighter editorial control, and sometimes the awkwardness of the language was so clear that it broke the spell of an entrancing opening scene. But these fade away as the story kicks into gear, and Rowling herself relaxes from the tension of starting a very long awaited story.

What it means though, that so far, Harry Potter, no matter what happens at the end, is going to get the send off he deserves. And that is a great relief indeed.

“Much talking is the cause of danger. Silence is the means of avoiding misfortune. The talkative parrot is shut up in a cage. Other birds, without speech, fly freely about.”
Saskya Pandita

It has been proven, once again, that no matter how much you give people what they ask for, Gareth is never satisfied. This time the young curmudgeon is taking me to task for being too talkative. And at the same time for not being talkative enough.

Which is not the contradiction it appears to be.

If you think he’s right to be doing so, well then the fecker has allies and that’ll mean more people to shoot.

Or not.

He could be right you see. That’s the trouble with him. So often he tends to be right. Oh not that often, but just often enough to worry you.

And I don’t want to go around killing needlessly.

What he means, his point if you will, the needle threaded through the heart of a delicate issue, is that in the written word, online, on MSN, by electronic means, in which there is a veil between the participants, I tend to be a lively bouncy type. I share a lot more, I talk more freely, I enjoy my word plays and my puns and there is a vibrant air of much frivolity.

Offline, by the medium of voice, using things like skype or in personam, I tend to be more toned down. The blue jokes disappear, the word play tones down, the dance of words tones down, until as has been mentioned by others, words seem to fade away. I become clothed in propriety. In fact, I might, if I dared, give Propriety himself a few general pointers on taciturn behavior.

Why this is strange, and he is right to comment, is that this off course happens with the same person. Even with the same person at the receiving end, my behavior changes radically. Of course it’s the removal of the safety barrier, the net below my flying verbal trapeze, that freezes my sharpened tongue in its sheath, but that doesn’t mean I know what to do about it.

I’m not a chatty person naturally. I know what a chatty person is, and that many spoken words, that constant torrent of information, that flow of inane detail; I couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t have the interest in unleashing that torrent of words on another. I couldn’t fathom that a person could be that interested in me. Or that I would have or want a life of such drama.

It’s the way I am. For better or for worse. And some time it has its uses. I generally avoid getting my foot stuck in my mouth, because I avoid saying and avoiding saying avoids saying those things that shouldn’t be said. That was a complex sentence even for me to follow;  forgive my double negatives oh father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

At the same time I’d like to get away from it a little bit more. To be chatty, to have that natural knack of bringing conversations to life and having something to talk about, and to be able to share a bit more of my internal monologue with people out there, people like Gareth who are interested, but to do it in real time, to do it in word that I actually say, to put that force of personal commitment behind them that “saying” has, would be a positive.

Now not being blessed like my Creator with the ability to say “be” and then have it “be”, I have to find a way to make it happen.

Suggestions as always, are welcome.

Whenever ideas fail, men invent words.
  ~
Martin H. Fischer

Having just dashed off an email to Gareth, angst ridden, alone, angry Gareth, I have time to reflect. I write emails very differently from how I write blog posts.

Those of you, those select, anointed few, who are burdened with frequent communication with me are no doubt nodding along in agreement. My emails, I like to think, are flights of fancy, verbose leaps from tangent to tangent, dancing from odd event to wry observation to making fun, in full flow, of the dear and delighted recipient.

Or usually the not so delighted recipient

You see, I receive complaints about my emails.

Not that they didn’t enjoy receiving them. Not that they are left unmoved that I take the time to send them epistles that would make Paul blush at their length, but that in reading them they didn’t make sense the first time round.

I see that as a compliment.

It means like the literature that I enjoy, the first time round all you gather is the gist, the outline, a half glimpse of genius in full flow, and like the patient fan of Tolkien, you must personally sieve out half truth, misdirection, allusion and prophecy and akin to the Israelite crossing slump shouldered and back bent into Canaan, arrive tired, weary and exhausted into the promised land of comprehension.

My blog posts, now I write blog posts like I write essays. They are carefully crafted, targeted missiles aimed at an intellectual prey. My blog posts are rarely narrative, they are about ideas, thoughts, concepts whatever word you wish to use to capture that ephemeral notion of logical thought, strung into line by force of conscious will.

As a result they tend to be dry, informational and measured in a deliberate sterile way. Little of the joy of words, the love of language, the love of real wisdom, the love of improper sophistry and random thought that I uphold so dearly in my mind, conveys itself to you. I feel that you ought to feel deprived at this revelation, like the little child who’s teddy bear is snatched from it and turned into a giant spider.

My blog posts have, insofar as I have the ability to give, a beginning a middle and and an end. The beginning tries to identify a problem or a fact pattern that gives rise to an issue. More often then not, it is simply that I have had too much time to chew cud and too little activity. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The middle canvasses, broadly and haphazardly, like the Government’s current green paper on Constitutional Reform, a variety of options without clearly spelling out any  and is hedged with a plethora of qualifying language (which I hasten to add, you shall not be seeing anymore, not after my scribal reformation mentioned just a few posts hence)

The end tries to set out some sort of fusion, some (as Gareth would say) syncretic truth that I have imbibed from these first principles and the particular facts. Some sort of moral imperative, some nook of advice, some greater or lesser truth.

As you might grasp (your gray cell may not stretch so far, mais oui, not everyone can keep up with Poirot)  from this post, from here on, I’m going to try and combine the two. I don’t plan to be as deep or as shallow, but to take the two aspects that I enjoy the most, the methodical sharing  of knowledge, and the love of words that give men wings and combine them in my output here. I want to capture the joy I feel in writing those emails, and bring them to these posts. 

Put simply what it means is that you’ll see more blog posts like this. This is the way I write my emails. I enjoy writing like this, even if my reader does more work. In emails that’s an unfortunate side effect. Here, I need not worry about that. We live in the world of information, you’ve already been chided about learning how to use Google. Everything up till now, has prepared you for what I now unleash. I have made you, (or at least told you to be) higher, smarter, badder and stronger. You are ready.

Welcome to the ride.

You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you might find
You get what you need
The Rolling Stones

Me and Ricky reached the same conclusion. Amidst our meandering conversation, shooting words into the wind, we both agreed that there is an important principle at work in life: If you ask for what you want, you’ll often get it.

It was inspired while relating a story that was second hand in the telling. A biology teacher at Island School, the frightening Mrs. Lant, had the reputation of being a tremendous tormenting teacher who cajoled the best out of her students by being extremely firm; demanding precisely all they were capable of giving. And she got it.

As a student, such a person is scary. They demand you to work harder than you want to, to push boundaries faster then you’re willing, and to overcommit to things you don’t want to do just to keep them off your back. You fear going to their classes, because you don’t want to be exposed as failing that high standard or bearing the tongue lashing that would head your way for failing to hand in homework.

That said, what she demanded was effort. If you were genuinely putting in your best effort, and working at your maximum, she wasn’t such a harridan. She was willing to work with you and around your specific difficulty, to help you get to grips with the material. I know people who benefited from that aspect of her.

As a person, she’s proven instructive in hindsight. You never know what lessons you’ll learn from people. You do learn lessons from people, even those who are not vocationally teachers. Every person teaches us something. If you pay attention.

The reasons that asking works is simple. Most people are not mind readers. Most people don’t know you well. Most people don’t want to make decisions that affect you without your input. Most decent people don’t. Most people don’t give things without being asked. I know I don’t. If you do, then you are to be congratulated.

These people, the one’s you see everyday, who you have personal and professional interactions with, would love for you to take a stronger role in guiding them and explaining to them what it is you want. If you specify it clearly and cogently, they’ll give it to you. All you have to do is ask for what you want.

If you want to go attend the hearing for a day, as I do myself, then asking that question of my boss, got me a bit of hemming and hawing, a shrug of the shoulders and a “sure, why not”. If I hadn’t asked I don’t imagine for a moment that I’d be getting this opportunity.

What you cannot do is go around making arrogant and unjustified demands of people. Nor make irrational and extravagant requests. A thought out request, justified with cogent reasons, addressed towards the needs and responsibilities of the person you’re asking, will bring you a sure answer every time.

That answer will be yes.

As the Rolling Stones have kindly pointed out, this doesn’t mean that every time you ask, you succeed. Sometimes you can’t get what you want, its simply not possible, or they haven’t the commitment it takes to make what you ask for happen.

I find though, that when you ask things of people, and they refuse them to you, they try instinctively to remedy the balance. People understand what a commitment it takes people to ask things of others. Normal people don’t ask for things willy nilly, especially with people who are not in their intimate circle. By refusing you they have refused something that was (hopefully) quite a reasonable thing for you to ask. They will balance it out by offering something back to you, to balance what they have withheld.

It might be a smaller slice of the same pie, it might be something different but equivalent; there are thousands of things it might be. But you will get something from asking, a little more than you had before. For it is truly a universal truth that every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh shall it be opened [Matthew 7:8]

The Original