Sunday, December 31, 2006

...and it goes by the name of London.

Hello everyone. I hate New Year's Eve, but this year at least I have an excuse to stay inside and be boring: namely, jetlag and driving rain. I wanted to go down to Trafalgar Square and see the fireworks but...well, it's not like I've never been to Trafalgar Square before.

Yes, I landed safely. I will write more about my trip there and back later and the bittersweetness of being here for what might be the last time. I got a treat coming in this morning though: for the first time ever we went into a holding pattern over the city and I could see all the landmarks out my window: the Eye, Tower Bridge, Piccadilly Circus, Charing Cross Station and (I think) Nelson's Column. Everything was lit up and beautiful, clean and quiet from the sky. No place like it.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

all I want for my birthday...

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"

It's official!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

So if you care to find me, look to the western sky

Nickilovesdrama is taking a holiday. There is too much drama in my life right now for one little ol' blog, so I'm going to leave it for a couple weeks until things settle down. In the meantime, here's a picture of a ship.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Four more days

"You cannot conceive what I feel, when I call you all to my remembrance."
-Nelson to Emma, 1799

Somehow "I miss everyone" sounds so much better when Nelson is saying it.

Everyone is infighting at work. The secretaries are all accusing one another of fobbing their work off on other people because they're spending all their time screwing around, and the receptionist is mad because she hasn't had enough time to finish her embroidery due to the increased meetings. I'm just trying to stay out of it...everyone likes me because I'M the one they all fob their work off on and I'm willing to sit there and nod politely when they all shout about one another. Every time my boss calls me from Frankfurt where he's been living for the last three weeks he moans about how he's going to miss the Christmas party, AND his three daughters various Christmas plays. It's very hard for me to feel sorry for him though--surely if he's as highly paid and indespensible to the company as he says he is, he could make it home to go to the Nativity play.

Oh well. I am, as I said, just trying to stay out about it. I start to get stressed...but then I remember I'm coming home in a week. I bought purple shoes today. That made me happy.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Books have the same enemies as people: fire, humidity, animals, weather, and their own content.

-Paul Valery

I stole this article from Something to think about...

"Harry Potter and the Ministry of Fire"
by David Serchuk

In August 2003, two Michigan pastors, T.D. Turner Sr. and son T.D. Turner Jr., took a stand against sorcery by burning a Harry Potter book outside their Jesus Non-Denominational Church. The younger Turner, Tommy, says that while he hadn't read the book, the cover alone showed him it promoted wizardry, adding that Potter-related Web sites were gateways to harder stuff. The last straw came when a local girl tried to perform a magic spell. (She was unable, as far as we can tell, to turn anybody into a newt.)

"Parents [have to] realize this is more than a fictional book," says Turner. "It's attached to the occult."

The fire so inflamed parishioners' passions that, according to the Detroit Free Press, some of the 50 spectators proceeded to burn the Book of Mormon, a non-King James edition of the Bible, and even the Dan Aykroyd movie Coneheads. Turner regrets that things got out of control, but adds, "Since the burning, our ministry is growing and can seat another 400 members," he says. "God has been blessing us."

In their disdain for Harry Potter, the Turners are not alone. The boy wizard has inspired fundamentalists all over the U.S. to destroy his books. There have been half a dozen Potter book burnings in the past five years.

In some cases, though, the books weren't actually burned. In two towns, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Lewiston, Maine, local fire stations denied book-burning permits. One pastor, Douglas Taylor of the Jesus Party in Lewiston, undeterred, slashed and destroyed 12 Potter books instead.

"The city warned me they would intervene if I burned [the Potter books]," says Taylor, who held the cuttings in 2001 and 2002, "because of the toxic emissions used by the ink." Taylor points out that he only burns books he purchases. Also, he, like the Turners, is against the government censoring of the books; but unlike the Turners, he read most of one. He takes pride that at both book "cuttings," he allowed his opponents to speak at his microphone and question him. Some protesters even destroyed Bibles. "It didn't bother me at all," he says. "It's the message, not the print on the page."

As to why Taylor chose J.K. Rowling's books instead of something more sinister, the reason is clear: publicity. "Rowling has a world platform. I though I'd step up and share it with her," Taylor says.

Ray Bradbury, however, thinks that Taylor is deluded. The 86-year-old author of the anti-censorship novel Fahrenheit 451 is a passionate advocate of free speech and believes Taylor and his ilk are at best clueless about their actions.

"He [Taylor] doesn't know what witchcraft is," says Bradbury. "It's about wits. There's nothing wrong with the Potter books, because they're not promoting witchcraft. They're promoting being wise."

Regarding Taylor himself, Bradbury is succinct: "He sounds like a stupid man. He just shoots off his mouth, and he should just go somewhere, sit down and shut up."

It's hard to know exactly how many books are burned in the U.S. each year. The group that keeps the best tabs on this, the American Library Association, updates an anti-book burning Web site with links from around the country, but it resists a hard count of books burned. Indeed, Third Reich-style bonfires have never been popular in the U.S., says Judith Krug, director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom of the ALA. "Setting bonfires is either viewed as just stupid or amusing," says Krug. "It's amusing, because [book burners] are too dumb to find other outlets. We get hysterical about sex, yet the general feeling is, 'I won't let some yahoo tell me what to read.'"

However, that is exactly what Americans did through most of late 1800s and early 1900s, when Anthony Comstock reigned supreme as the nation's self-appointed censor. In 1866, Comstock started the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, which had as its seal a picture of a top-hatted man burning a pile of books. Incensed by "lewdness," Comstock worked the halls of Congress and in 1873 got passed the "Act of the Suppression of Trade in, and Circulation of, Obscene Literature and Articles of Immoral Use," otherwise known as the Comstock Act. Soon thereafter, Congress made Comstock a special agent of the Post Office, giving him the power to arrest distributors of lewd or unwholesome materials, as judged by him.

Comstock--in a career that didn't end until his death in 1915--claimed he'd destroyed 160 tons of obscene literature and arrested some 3,600 purveyors of prurient material.

Though Comstock's influence has waned, outside the U.S., book burning is still in fashion. In May of this year, protesters in the Philippines and Italy burned copies of The Da Vinci Code to coincide with the release of the film version. In a tragicomic note, the Philippine Daily Inquirer pointed out that due to the high cost of the book, protesters likely only burned three copies of it, adding photocopies to make the pyre higher. In Ceccano, Italy, only one copy of the book was burned, even as protesters hurled tomatoes at the burners.

Perhaps the most famous burning of all time occurred at the Royal Library at Alexandria, Egypt, one of the great repositories of learning in the ancient world, which held 40,000 manuscripts, many irreplaceable. Accounts differ about who ultimately burned the library; some say it was Julius Caesar in 47 or 48 B.C., who torched it inadvertently during battle with his arch-enemy Pompey. Others say the decisive burning occurred in A.D. 642, overseen by Omar, Caliph of Baghdad.

What is not in dispute is that the library burned, taking many of the great works of the ancient world with it. In particular, the playwright Aeschylus' work suffered when the great storehouse burned. Today, just seven of his plays survive, though he wrote 90. The reason? Just one copy of his completed texts existed--they were never reproduced--and they were housed at Alexandria.

But even Aeschylus is lucky compared to the Greek poet Sappho, who lived circa 600 B.C. Famed for her revolutionary approach that expressed feelings of romantic longing, her work was destroyed first by early Christians around the year 400 and later by Pope Gregory VII in 1073, leaving just one complete poem existent.

Of course, the Bible has offended those in power for centuries, and it has been frequently burned. William Tyndale is perhaps little remembered today, but in 1526, he printed the first-ever New Testament in English. The Bishop of London, not happy to see the Word so easily put in the hands of the laity, hunted Tyndale and his books down, burning them where he could. The plot almost worked, as just two copies of the book survived. But survive, and eventually thrive, the books did, even though Tyndale himself did not. He was burned at the stake in 1536. His last words: "Lord, open the eyes of the King of England." But perhaps a more fitting epitaph could be his most famous turn of phrase: "Let there be light."

Saturday, December 02, 2006

"I've been thinking--" "I know, I heard!"

I went to see "WICKED" tonight with my roommate and her boyfriend. I had to see it before I leave for home, since Idina MEnzel, the woman who originated the role on Broadway is only going to be here until Christmas. (and then the girl who originated the role of "Meat" in "We Will Rock You" is going to take over. Which reminds me, I also need to egg Ben Elton before I leave...) So we went to the Victoria Apollo which is a gorgeous art deco theatre near Victoria station. The lobby is a riot of deco and it's! How appropriate.

The show was really good. Not amazing, but a really solid piece of musical theatre. I would have liked more politics than this faffing about with people being popular, but I think for the type of show they were going for they definitely succeded. So the twelve year olds in front of me led the standing applause charge, but I was left sitting in the middle of the second act going "wait! wait! Explore this theme of looks vs identity! Please!"

The star of the show was without a doubt Idina Menzel and she rocked. Oh Lord, she has a golden voice. And you could see that she had spent longer with her character than any of the other actors: the woman playing Glinda looked like an understudy next to her. One of the annoying points was that the English actors used their own accents, which is fine, but when they were singing the vowel sounds didn't match up, so they sounded out of tune with each other. Thank you, vocal training. I could have listened to Idina all night. I'm slightly mollified that she stole the Tony from Tonya Pinkins, but I need to see "Caroline, or Change" this week as well to make sure it was still awarded correctly.

I think my favourite part had to be the costumes but I'm not sure I liked the ones people wore for the OzDust Ballroom, they looked too modern. I was also pleased to see that James Gillam, the man who played Hinckley in the Sheffield version of Assassins was in Wicked as Boq. I'm glad to see he managed to get over his obsession with Glinda just so he could become obsessed with Jodie Foster and try to shoot Reagan. Brings a whole new meaning to the words "kill the witch!"