Thursday, July 26, 2007

Psychic cat

I love this story about a cat called Oscar in a US nursing home that can sense when a patient is about to die and will curl up next to them and be distressed if made to move. Aw!Bless!



Families are strange things. I don't know too much about them but when something goes wrong I suddenly feel I ought to. Like if the oldest sibling of a family has had a late night and is over tired and the youngest sibling is annoyed that there's no hot water but has had all day to have a shower, who knows what fireworks could erupt?
Maybe in this situation the mum is incredibly tired too after a very early morning start and an afternoon of hard graft in Mile Cross gardens. She doesn't have any answers and none of the words she uses are of any use. So it ends up that one child stomps off to work at Waitrose without make up on and the other is still locked in the bathroom.
Fun and games.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

It's not the end...

of the Harry Potter world. JKR has said in an interview that she is preparing an encyclopedia of facts on the characters of her books in order to utilise all her copious notes. In this article she says
“I've said before that Dean Thomas had a much more interesting history than ever appeared in the books”
When the book is released, we'll be able to learn all about that history. :D

(This is the last of the series, I promise!)


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- Spoilers Likely

I have finished and loved it! The plot was complex and meaty and JKR did what she does best and fleshed out relationships and characters. She also drew all the strands of the series together into what can be described as a tour de force. Magnificent!

Of course there are quibbles but she has created a fantastic book that crowns all the series beautifully.

I like the fact that I couldn't really have predicted the story- I hadn't really figured that the forces of evil would penetrate the wizarding community to the extent that JKR described in the book. I liked it because it made the whole thing really dark. The scenes in the Ministry of Magic were reminiscent of Nazi Germany which were really chilling. The scenes when Harry, Ron and Hermione were on the run were quite desolate and she conveyed really well a feeling that they needed to be constantly on the move but with a rising sense of panic that they didn't know what to do next.

And the deaths... the two non-human deaths affected me most apart from the vicious one inflicted by Nagini that seemed the most cruel and evil thing in the series.

The back stories were great, again fleshing out characters so that we know that we are shaped by but can learn from our choices. The scenes in Grimwauld Place are fantastic and I love the character who develops there.

So much to say but don't want to say it all for fear of giving it all away. Hope you enjoyed or are it enjoying it too...


Friday, July 20, 2007

Leaked details and spoilers

The hype surrounding HPatDH is at critical. It's Friday and very few hours are left until the book is officially launched- this could be 12.01 or for normal people 9am.

Inevitably, what appears to be the book has been photographed is is available on the web in its entirety. Reviews have also come out and it is publicised that many people have been shipped their copy of the book early. On the Ship of Fools, there are two people who claim to have finished the book already: one is in "the industry" and had to publish a review to be printed in Saturday's paper and the other read the online version.

I'm quite happy to wait and think there's something to be said for the building anticipation. Having said that, if I have the energy, I shall be at borders tonight by 11.30!


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Things that need to be covered by the new book:

How Aunt Petunia knows so much about the wizarding world
How Harry's parent's made their gold
Why Voldemort was reluctant to kill Lily Potter
Who RAB is and if it is Regulus Black, did he actually die?
Achange in attitudes from the wizarding community about other creatures and half breeds
The remaining horcruxes need to be found and destroyed
Will Hogwarts open this year and who will be Headteacher?
Will Percy be reunited with his family and offer them all and Harry an unreserved apology?

There's more but you're all bored of long posts by now so I'll leave it at that!


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Snape Debate

Which side is he on?

Some think he's always been in league with Voldemort, others think that he's only out for himself and will change allegiance based on how it suits him best and some poor fools believe he is on the side of good but has some particularly nasty character flaws. I'm in that camp!

For me the evidence is in the timing of JKR's exposition that Snape is a spy. If he had been a genuine spy, she would have left it until the end chapters of Half Blood Prince as a brilliant twist. Because we know of his duplicitousness towards the beginning, I think this sows some seeds of doubt and we get time to think "Why is Dumbledore still trusting him and what is it that Snape has to do that they have argued about?"

Timing isn't the only issue. We haven't really got to the bottom of Snape's relationship/feelings towards Lily Evans and I think these are key. So even though he hates James Potter maybe these feelings are amplified by the fact that he loves Lily and she chose James. This explains the relentless grudge (part of his character flaws) but also a deep sense of guilt that he inadvertently set Voldemort on Lily and her baby.
Because Harry looks so much like his dad (and to be fair does disregard the rules, is self important and arrogant too), Snape is extra mean to him- hatred by association. If it's good enough for Sirius, it's good enough for Severus.

I think the key relationship is that of Snape's with Dumbledore. All we know about Snape is that he hasn't led a very happy life but he's a very talented wizard. Neither has been explored very much but think about it. JKR has allowed us (and even Harry) to feel sorry for him because of the memory of him being tormented by James and Sirius. He hasn't formed any meaningful relationships as far as we can tell throughout his life (bar that with Albus) and he hasn't really got good social skills as he appears to be on the outside in what ever situation he's in (Order of the Phoenix, school, as a teenager). These points seem to indicate that he's a loner and that he's probably likely to be just out for himself. The one thing that claws it back is his relationship with Albus Dumbledore. Albus gives him a second chance, he trusts him explicitly, offers him protection from Voldemort and employment. We know very little about his parents (only their names, that his mum was the Gobstones champion and not very good looking and that his dad was a muggle), I was wondering whether he considers himself to have been orphaned/abandoned by his parents and therefore starts to feel a connection with Voldemort which then leads him to pursue the Dark Arts? I think that this will be revealed in the final book. I do believe that his anger at being called a coward betrays that he has sacrificed considerably to kill Dumbledore who I think is more than a friend, but a father figure to Snape. Dumbledore ordered him to do it and Snape has obeyed. He knew that he was to become Judas and betray/kill his only friend but the whole series of events that will unravel in book 7 will only do so because of that act. No wonder he's miserable!

Snapes talents are never much discussed either but let's just take stock: he's a master potioneer, making antidote for Lupin and being the one that Dumbledore wanted to see after drinking the poison rather than going to Madam Pomfrey. He is the Half Blood Prince and has made corrections to umpteen potions to make them more easily, more effectively at the same age as Harry (Harry definately isn't that studious or clever and I don't think Hermione is too).
He has a talent for making up spells: levicorpus and sectumsempra are both his.
He is skilled as an Occlumens and a Legilimens, both of which we are told are difficult disciplines.
He has considerable duelling skills and would appear to be an allround good teacher (for considering that Harry hates him, he still gets a very good grade in his OWL)
I'm sure there are other indicators of his talent but JKR has gone into significant detail to show us his talent whereas another well rounded teacher like McGonagall is very good at Transfiguration and is a great teacher but we have no indication that she has any other talents.

We don't know why Dumbledore was so convinced that Snape was on the right side but I think additional information will become apparant in book 7.

All in all it will be highly disappointing that JKR has built up all this character for him just to be a twisted and evil bastard in the end. I was hoping that we might have three different examples via her books
1) someone who has an awful childhood and they go off the rails (Voldemort)
2) someone who has an awful childhood and comes good (Harry)
3) someone who has an awful childhood, goes off the rails but then come good (Snape)

Snape is the embodiment of redemption (see yesterday's themes). Without that, her books will be a little 2 dimensional. With it we know there are people we may not like but they are on our side and we just have to get on with it. (This has triggered another theme in my head and that is Choices- the choices we make define us and our destiny. Harry had an equally bad childhood as Voldy but didn't choose to torture other kids or steal. He also chose not to go into Slytherin house whereas V would've done. Snapes choices means that Harry will never trust him however much Dumbledore reassures him etc)

By the way, I think that Snape will die but it will be made clear by JK that he risked everything to carry out the wishes of his only friend and to rid the world of Voldemort. A true hero.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Themes in Harry Potter

The countdown continues...

I have enjoyed reading the HP books because JKR has woven so many themes into her books. This is unlikely to be a comprehensive list but I thought it might be amusing to note some.

Good vs Evil- Of course this has to be number one but I like also the idea (that JK hasn't had much opportunity to explore) that not all evil doers are from Slytherin house (or Durmstrang). That Harry himself could have easily been placed in Slytherin house. This leads on nicely to,

Working Together- it is only with the help of giants, elves, centaurs and other creatures is it possible to overcome the dark forces. I'm sure this will be further developed in the last book (hopefully with some co-operation between Slytherin and Gryffindor)

Sacrificial Love- Not only is Harry protected in his early years by the bond of love and sacrifice she made to keep him alive but the theme continues with Dumbledore and Harry himself putting others first. I'm wondering Dumbledore's death whether results in powerful magic that will finally conquer Voldy in book 7.

Redemption- Snape has turned from his Death Eater ways (or has he? The Snape Debate will be here tomorrow) and Malfoy was unable to kill Dumbledore. Also throughout the series, animals that are considered dangerous (Buckbeak, Thestrals) have their uses if you treat them with a little bit of care and respect.

Things Not As They Would First Appear-
Harry being safe with family who couldn't care less about him
Sirius Black
Tents at Quidditch World Cup
Triwizard Trophy
Hermione being muggle born but the best in her year at magic
House elves-slaves, but happy

Death Is Not A Bad Thing Really
Philosophers stone being destroyed and Flamell dying
Dumbledore's conversations with Voldemort
Dumbledore's death (and I'm sure conversations with his portrait in the new Headteachers office)

I'm sure you can think of a dozen more themes but I haven't time for any more so you can add them as a comment.


Monday, July 16, 2007

Which House?

Continuing the Harry Potter theme I was thinking about sorting and which house I would be in if I was in Harry Potter. It was difficult because there are aspects of all the different houses in all of us. I was also thinking that several of the main characters would appear to buck the trend: Hermione given her propensity for working hard and her natural intelligence really belongs in Ravenclaw; Neville belongs to Hufflepuff. And yet they aren't in the obvious houses, they're both in Gryffindor.

I would think that most people who think themselves into Hogwarts would identify themselves with Harry and want to be placed in Gryffindor. I think that bravery is an attribute that doesn't lend itself much to modern day life but think that it houses the oddballs at Hogwarts. Maybe it's because JKR has had more time to flesh it all out. This is a shame because it could have been explored a little more thoroughly.

So as for my sorting:
Hufflepuff: I could see myself in Hufflepuff but only as a leader. Not really edgy enough for me. Which leads nicely into,
Slytherin: I think if JKR had more time, she would have built up a more rounded picture of the students placed into Slytherin. As it is, she hasn't and they have all become caricatures. I think that I could be placed in Slytherin but it's unlikely. I'm not at all ambitious but with my desire to lead Hufflepuffs, maybe I have more Slytherin attributes than I would care to mention?
Ravenclaw: I think I have the intelligence to be put into Ravenclaw but do I have the desire to work? I think I could be here but I'm just too darned lazy. This just leaves,
Gryffindor: It would appear that I have found my home. Although it is a little too mainstream...

You could try the numerous tests online:
At this one I came out as Hufflepuff (81/100) although Ravenclaw was 75/100 and Gryffindor was 74/100
This one was a tie between Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw
This one was easy to predict what the questions were leading to and I came out as Gryffindor
Hufflepuff again here
That will probably do for now...


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Harry Potter Countdown

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is now on general release at cinemas and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is to hit the bookshelves on Friday night! I can't wait!
In the meantime I have recently re-read the OotP and enjoyed it much more this time than the first time (it almost made me give up on the series) and although it is the most woolly of all the books, I appreciated it this time round for the story it told rather than just the information I was gathering from it. The film was a lot better than the others with some good performances especially from Luna.
I am now in the middle of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince in preparation for the new book. Exciting stuff!


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Heartsease Academy Part 3

The sponsor of Heartsease Academy is Graham Dacre, who owned car dealership Lind before selling it recently for £108 million. He used to be involved with Proclaimers, Drayton Hall and is now a member of the new Norwich Family Life Church.

Here are some interesting pieces including this article from the TES, this with some interesting debate below from Network Norwich and then this blog from a teacher who has already researched and commented loads on the Heatsease proposals. And of course, we have the slick website we'd expect to inform us of the progress made in becoming an academy. We also have The Anti-Academies Alliance.

I find it interesting to learn that Mr Dacre is to buy in with £2m and the Bishop of Norwich £50k. It would appear that the government would then invest between £20-25m.

For the moment, I guess that is all...


Sunday, July 08, 2007

Additional Academy Info

Socialist Worker Online (9/4/2005) “City Academies Transforming Education in Their Own Image”

Department for children, schools and families “What are Academies?”

Department for children, schools and families (23/2/07)“Academies on Track to Give Value for Money Says NAO”

Some facts from the DfCSF website:

There are currently 47 Academies opened.

The first 3 Academies opened in September 2002 and 9 in September 2003.

The most recent one opened in April 2007.

27 are in the implementation stage

68 are in the feasibility stage

What are the criteria for a school to become an Academy?

Some Academies are brand new schools in areas which need the extra school places. Most of them replace existing weak or underperforming schools. As a broad rule of thumb, the Government is prepared to consider any secondary school where in 2006 fewer than 30% of pupils gained five or more GCSEs at grades A* – C (including English and Maths) as a potential Academy project. In addition, local authorities should always consider an Academy as an option for dealing with a school in special measures, or subject to an improvement notice, whatever its results.

Do Academies receive more funding than maintained schools?

Ministers are very clear that there must be parity of funding with schools in the maintained sector that operate in similar circumstances. Otherwise, those schools could justifiably argue that they are being treated inequitably. We want to ensure that funding will allow Academy innovations to be replicated in other schools.

More to follow...


The Open Academy

I have heard quite a lot via the press about the proposal to turn Heartsease High School into an Academy, most of it seems to be negative. Most of my information previously about Academies has stemmed from Dave Gallop who used to work with Steve Chalke whose organisation Faithworks is behind the installation of Academies elsewhere in the country. The stuff that he told me about was very positive. I believe that the time has come for me to do some research and find out more about what Academies are and what it means for a school to become one.
I have had a very interesting conversation with Joolian about this document called "The Open Academy Draft Education Brief". It's a very interesting read outlining the ethos, specialisms and structure of the proposed Academy.
According to the Faithworks site a City Academy is:
A government initiative designed to promote new schools being developed through partnerships between central government, a local authority and a sponsor organisation (which could be a private sector company, voluntary sector organisation or faith group).

Some questions that have occurred to me:
  • Is this what Heartsease staff and pupils want?
  • Why does it have to be an academy?
  • How will this impact the community?
  • Can the ethos and aspirations of the community be altered in another way?
  • Why are people so against it?
  • What should my response be as a Christian, a parent, an employer within the current school and a citizen of Norwich?
  • Should we be wary of wealthy Christians bearing gifts?
  • What has been the impact of Academy status schools in other areas?
  • And were they so opposed in their inception?
Plus I'm sure there are many others that I haven't thought of...
I would be really interested in hearing your thoughts about this issue. Please do leave some comments.

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Doctor Who!

Well the third NuWho series has just ended and I thought I'd give a mini review.
1. Smith and Jones
2. The Shakespeare Code
3. Gridlock
4. Daleks in Manhatten
5. Evolution of the Daleks
6. The Lazarus Experiment
7. 42
8. Human Nature
9. The Family of Blood
10. Blink
11. Utopia
12. The Sound of Drums
13. Last of the Time Lords

1. Wasn' t too impressed by this first episode although I thought the Judoon rhino-police things had potential and hope that maybe they'll make another appearance someday. Didn't really want another assistant in love with the Doctor, however fiesty and intelligent they are. I don't really like the Doctor "dying" in episodes either but the straw wielding granny was rather chilling 5/10
2. This steps up a gear on the scares but again not really sure what they were aiming for on this episode. I like the thought of it and it's acted well but I'm not sure about the dialogue and the plot. 4/10
3. This episode was more like it! From the mood altering substances to the unmoving cars, the underlying comments about our society with the hidden monster lurking in the darkness was classic and entertaining Who. I liked the references to paintings, the cat people and thought the ending good. This is more like it 8/10
4. I like Daleks, I like 30's and I like New York- not sure they all go together though. Was never really sure why the Daleks had to turn humans into pig slaves- couldn't they have just used humans as slaves? But it was chilling, some of the action taking place in the sewer which has got to be good and the return of the Cult of Skaro. 6/10
5. Doctor gets electrocuted and Dalek Sec turns into an odd hybrid. Not sure whether this episode rings true in my eyes but I do like the other daleks turning on him for being an abomination. 6/10
6. I thought this was better written and was mainly good. 7/10
7. This one was really scary and claustrophobic. A bit of a run away from the monster and make it through the doors in time episode but none the less does what it should. "Burn with me!" 7.5/10
8. Human Nature was a masterpiece of writing and has to be the best thing on TV I have seen for a long time. Loving those spooky scarecrows and the creepy girl. 10/10
9. This too was complete genius and I admit that I wept at the end. 10/10
10. I think this failed to impress because it followed Human Nature and Family of Blood but in retrospect making every kid in the country scared of statues has got to be a good thing. 7.5/10
11. This episode was a bit off a set up plot wise but I love Derek Jacobi and seeing him go from kindly Professor Yana to The Master was great. Then seeing him regenerate into John Simm- exciting stuff! 8/10
12. Loved this! John Simm playing a lovable psycho and loving every minute of it. We know now that the Master is mad from looking into the vortex as a child and that the sound of drums follow him, constantly calling him to war against the entire universe. S'all good! 9.5/10
13. "I forgive you"- the most haunting of words. And I desperately wanted a series of the Doctor and Master journeying through time and space together. Brilliant end to the series. Loved it 10/10

What do you think?