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Say what you will about the Harry Potter novels (I know as many people who adore them as I do those who dismiss them as poorly-written crap), but their author, JK Rowling, certainly knows how to craft an interesting, deeply-felt, and beautifully written speech. This is the commencement address she gave at Harvard's 2008 graduation:

JK Rowling: The Fringe Benefits of Failure

J.K. Rowling Speaks at Harvard Commencement from Harvard Magazine on Vimeo.



I don't even remember who spoke at my own college graduation, let alone the gist of the speech!
gozer: I made this! (Default)
Sooo, like, I went out and got me some Cambridge Culture, and it was awesome! I saw this:



That's the preview for Alice Vs. Wonderland! I wrote a detailed review for chelseagirl47; probably tl;dnr for most of you! )

Wow, that got long! More on the play after breakfast!
gozer: I made this! (Default)
Did you NCIS-lovin' fans know that Mark Harmon guested (beautifully) on the Craig Ferguson Show last Thursday? I did not, but fortunately teh youtubes helped us out with that:



I am reminded of a talk by Neil Gaiman I once attended, wherein he mentioned that in British culture, you are discouraged from talking about your accomplishments -- it's considered bragging, and people will literally avert their eyes and back away from you if you do it. There's a sense of "no better than you should be" if you bring up something cool you're doing in conversation, like your book winning an award... or indeed that you've published a book at all. And god forbid if you should happen to mention that you're actually making a good living at it! He contrasted it with American culture, where you are pretty much expected to talk about what you've done, in fact you're encouraged to brag, and people look at you askance for being falsely modest if you don't. He said he found it very freeing, as he really enjoyed talking about his accomplishments, and there are apparently still friends and family back in London who like to talk about "our Neil", who "dabbles" in those silly little funny books, which he found frustrating. (For those at you who wanna yell at me for endorsing American Exceptionalism: he said it, I didn't! Though I do think his observations on comparative cultures are true in this instance.)

I've always thought this was related to the cult of the "talented amateur" that you find in England, going way back. (All the Avengers fans just perked up when they read that!) I remember reading about "talented amateur" British upperclass nobles who had the education, money, and time to study chemistry and crack a lot of chemical codes in the early 1900's, but were constrained by the culture they lived in against actually making money using what they discovered -- they would have been looked down on as "tradesmen" if they had tried. But their cousins in the German upper and middleclass had no problem whatsoever with making money off of education and scientific inquiry, so they used what the British amateur scientists discovered to create and sell clothing dyes and medicines, which made them very rich. That's why so many old chemical companies have German names: Hoechst, Bayer, Merck, Schering, etc. I also remember a scene in the movie Chariots of Fire where the Master of Trinity speaks disdainfully of Ben Cross' character for hiring a running coach because it reeks of commerce; it's not something a strictly amateur runner would do -- in Geilgud's character's eyes, it tainted Cross' character's win that he needed to hire help to achieve it. You were expected to sail through life in an unaffected manner, allowing people to make note of how great you were, but not working for either being accomplished (it's supposed to come naturally) or doing any of your own PR.

OTOH, I always did find The Beatle's "aw, shucks" demeanor totally adorable. ;)

Addendum: I'm watching "The Magnificent Ambersons" on TMC, and coincidentally this topic is a major theme in that movie!

June 2011

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