The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Monday, October 04, 2010

Pete Hammond, Box Office Magazine.

Pete Hammond, of Box Office Magazine, is famous in Malaysia. However, he shouldn't be, for he is famous for all the wrong reasons. Here, they call him, "Peter Hammond", generally - and I know his name, because his name is frequently emblazoned on the covers of DVDs in video stores, here, in Kuala Lumpur.

Now, I realize I shall have to explain myself. I had never heard of "Peter Hammond" before, or Pete Hammond as he prefers to be known. However, I often visit video stores in Malaysia and there, his name is impossible to overlook: he is quoted EVERYWHERE. I would say, without doubt, that he is the single most frequently quoted "critic" on Malaysian distributed films. I say "critic" because I have reason to doubt the worth of his reviews.

It is one's normal expectation that the best of anything, becomes the most famous example of it. This does not apply, however, to film criticism. With film critics, the one who praises most, is raised highest, for they are quoted most often. So, to become "famous" as a film critic, all you have to do is to say nice things, about awful films. Your quote will then stand out amongst all available possible quotes and therefore be chosen to market the film in question, being emblazoned across posters, and DVD jackets everywhere. That, of course, is what Pete Hammond seems to be doing.

You see, I have, I confess, been fooled by Pete Hammond at least once. I have actually bought a film, on his recommendation, because the DVD cover had the single word "Masterpiece", printed across it, in large, unmissable, eye punching letters. So, I bought it, watched it, and regretted it. The film in question was far from being a "masterpiece". It wasn't bad, but the expectation he had set up, that it would be a "masterpiece" made an average film seem worse. Thus, Pete Hammond is doing each film he so describes a disservice, by describing them in such glowing terms. People will watch the films based on his recommendation - and will dislike them all the more for being not as good as he describes them. Thus, the word of mouth, for these films, will be harmed, by his description. I am not sure that, ultimately, they will end up with more or less viewers by being so overly praised: more will buy the film in the stores on seeing it, who haven't heard about it - but then again more people will hear disappointing tales of it, from the people they know. Thus it is that such false descriptions may not be as beneficial to a film as the distributors think.

I noticed the word "Masterpiece" by Peter Hammond (they use his full name), for a reason: I have seen it repeatedly used, on many different films. Indeed, it is the only quote of Pete Hammond that I have seen. Every film he reviews, or gets quoted for, anyway, is described as a "Masterpiece". I don't know about you, but I always that true "masterpieces" were rare works indeed. However, according to "Peter Hammond", Malaysian video stores are filled with great Western masterpieces. Every glance around the shop brings at least one such masterpiece into view.

Anyway, I have learnt my lesson. I understand, now, what Pete Hammond is all about. Pete Hammond just wants to be famous - and he has, in his reviews, found the perfect way: just make sure he says something more quotable than any other critic could bear to bring themselves to utter. Thus, he seems to set out to include, somewhere in his reviews, an eminently quotable phrase or two - and preferably the word "masterpiece".

Now, when I see that Pete Hammond has been quoted on a film jacket in Malaysia as saying "Masterpiece", I know what it means. It means that no more famous a critic actually used the word "masterpiece" - otherwise they would have been quoted instead. It means that no-one said it was a masterpiece, except Pete Hammond himself. Thus, on seeing Pete Hammond's name on a DVD jacket, I do something, perhaps unexpected now: I put the film back down and I don't buy it. I refuse to buy anything with Pete Hammond's name on it. I refuse to do so, because I have learnt that the quote is meaningless and that it bears no relation to the true quality of the film in question. Indeed, if Pete Hammond is quoted at all, it tells me that no-one else said anything near as good about it - which means that it is probably crap. Thus, for me, Pete Hammond's endorsement, is a sure sign of a crap film.

So, I would like to thank Pete Hammond for being a trustworthy guide to a film's quality. Pete Hammond has become, for me, an inverse guide to a film's merits. The higher Pete Hammond's praise, the worse the film will probably turn out to be. Thus, Pete Hammond's name is a marker, for me, of films to avoid. He has done me a great service, therefore, and I am grateful for him, for the dedicated way he singles out rubbish films for my focussed inattention.

Nevertheless, Pete Hammond has achieved his blatant goal. He has become famous, at least in Malaysia. Although, here, they insist on what they think his full name must be and call him "Peter Hammond", who may not actually exist. However, it does seem to me that Peter Hammond's variety of fame, might have a drawback. Eventually, when enough people have bought a "masterpiece" and found it wanting, Peter Hammond might actually become famous for being, well, let's put it politely, undiscerning. Others might just say he is full of s***. Either way, they won't be impressed with Peter Hammond (or Pete Hammond, for that matter). His fame, won't come with any respect. The question is: does he just want to be known, much as Genghis Khan is known...or does he want to be respected, much as Albert Einstein is: those are two very different varieties of fame. It seems to me that Pete Hammond will end up more infamous, than famous, which may not be quite what he intended.

There is another way to become famous as a film critic: be honest, be truthful and write with great insight, in well-chosen words that are as much an art form, as the films themselves. If a critic does that, they will become truly and lastingly famous - and will have respect too. So, take some advice, Peter Hammond/Pete Hammond - if you really want to be famous, there is only one way to do it right - be a great critic, instead.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, 10, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, 6 and Tiarnan, 4, this month, please go to: also write of gifted education, child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, savant, megasavant, HELP University College, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, Malaysia, IQ, intelligence and creativity.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 9:32 AM 


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