Potty for Potter

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, the sixth film in the phenomenally successful series, will be opening in Chinese cinemas next Wednesday. No doubt, the usual crowds will flock to see the latest installment (and we will be among them), to see Daniel Radcliffe and friends bring JK Rowling’s magical characters to life.

It’s now 12 years since the first Harry Potter book was released in 1997, and the last film won’t hit our screens until 2011; which means that, by the time it comes out the world will have been subjected to 14 years of virtually unrelenting Potter mania. Even for someone who started out as a fan of the series, it’s getting a bit much.

Imagine life as a Potter-hater over the past decade, wherever you go, even if you move to China, being confronted with references to muggles, magic and more (generally insane-sounding concepts).

Come to think of it, what reasonable adult wouldn’t eventually break down and become a hater? What keeps so many (relatively normal) folks on the wacky Potter train, so long after the novelty should have worn off?

Maybe it says something about the desire people have to escape, which is a valid point, but maybe it’s also something way less fun. Maybe people can’t jump off the Potter bandwagon out of habit, out of a bizarre sense of loyalty to a fictional world.

Or maybe no matter how much they hear about it, and how grown up they are, people still like the idea of magic, which is probably the simplest and most plausible theory of all.

Our Very Own Neverland

If the reports we have been reading in Xinhua are correct (and since Xinhua is such a reliable and independent source for news gathering, they must be), Chongming Island will soon be home to a remake of Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. Apparently, the project is slated to be up and running by the end of the year and will cover 667,000sqm.

For anyone who has actually been to Chongming Island, the unlikely nature of this plan’s success will be apparent. For one thing, it appears as though the whole theme park idea has already had a run on the island. The place is littered with eerily rusted theme park rides, ravaged by time and isolation.

There is also something resembling a ‘nature park’, where goats and dogs can be spotted in their unnatural habitat. I can’t imagine Bubbles the monkey fitting in with the caged Macaques, who have acclimatized to the actions of the occasional Chinese tour group well enough to be able to eat plastic bags and bottle caps without causing any decipherable internal injuries.

The cost of the Chinese version will be somewhere around RMB 100 million and will feature a man-made lake, cinema and Jackson memorabilia. And – one can only assume – Heal the World blasting on repeat from loud-speakers across the island.

Chongming Island has always been a dumping ground for the wacky ideas that Shanghai’s powers that be don’t want to smear over the face of their own city, and we get the feeling that this will be no exception.


After nearly a week of no Twitter or Facebook, the wrath of the social networking masses appears to have settled as they settle into a quiet acceptance of their dodgy internet fate.

Along with this acceptance, comes an acknowledgement that there are actually some positives that we can draw from a lack of Twitter and Facebook. The blocking of these sites has almost certainly correlated with an increase of productivity as well as an increase in mobility, as friends are forced out of their virtual comfort zones to meet in the ‘real world’ (this being Shanghai, we mean the term loosely).

The truth is, without Facebook and Twitter, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on a whole lot. I am still managing to keep in touch with the people I really want to, and I still feel like I have an awareness of what’s going on in the world, thanks to the whole rest of the interwebs.

Once the jitters of the first three or four days of withdrawal wear off, people seem to relax into their new socially un-networked routines. We’ve seen it happen before, I mean, does anyone living in China even remember what YouTube is – I have vague recollections of a dude doing funny dances and a baby panda sneezing, but the rest is all a bit fuzzy.

Talk to me after a month without Twitter and you may well get a similarly blank memory. Not that I won’t be back on board the minute it becomes an option… I’m accepting, not superhuman.

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