harry potter’s large pile of ash


Last year, the folks at botnik programmed an AI to write a chapter of a Harry Potter book, by having it learn and analyse all seven books to find combinations of words likely to follow each other according to the style of the writer and then generating text using their predictive keyboard. The result was Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash and it was, as the guardian described it:

gloriously bonkers.

It started promising, describing a castle that could be Hogwarts and the surroundings which was

snarled with a wave of magically magnified wind.

But then it rapidly descended into chaos:

Ron was standing there and doing a kind of frenzied tap dance. He saw Harry and immediately began to eat Hermione’s family.

Uh-oh. A few favourites from the chapte:

“Death Eaters are on top of the castle,” Ron bleated, quivering. Ron was going to be spiders.

They looked at the door, screaming about how closed it was and asking it to be replaced with a small orb. The password was ‘BEEF WOMEN,’ Hermione cried.

The tall Death Eater was wearing a shirt that said ‘Hermione Has Forgotten How to Dance,’ so Hermione dipped his face in mud.

Several long pumpkins fell out of McGonagall.

One more:

Harry could tell Voldemort was standing right behind him. He felt a great overreaction. Harry tore his eyes from his head and threw them into the forest. Voldemort raised his eyebrows at Harry, who could not see anything at the moment.

And now they’ve recorded the chapter, with delightfully literal animation by Jamie Loftus and perfectly voiced by Rachael Wright. Must watch.

nyt star wars book


The NYT has a coffee table book out called In a Galaxy Far, Far Away which collects all NYT articles about Star Wars. It starts with a 1973 feature on George Lucas who was

working on another science fiction screenplay, ‘The Star Wars,’ which he describes as a ‘real gee whiz movie’ in the Flash Gordon-Buck Rogers tradition.

Obviously there are reviews when ep4 opened in 1977, and has a total of 85 articles. Articles in the Style section about Leia; a timeline when ep1 was released to remind people about where we were; and analysis just before December’s release of ep8.

It’s in the in-between zone, at US$70 ($80 if personalised). As a coffee table book, it’s a tad on the expensive side. As a collector’s item, it’s certainly something die-hard fans will want to get. I can’t help feeling it’s jumped the gun, why not wait till ep9 is out to be more complete?