An Unearthly Child, The Underwater Menace, The Faceless Ones

Well, this brings me to the end of the First Doctor stories, and almost to the end of the Second Doctor (just The Wheel In Space and The Seeds of Death to go; and strictly I saw The Seeds of Death some years ago). Will do a full retrospective some time soon (probably when I am on holiday). For now, notes on these three:

An Unearthly Child is of course where it all begins. The first episode, where the teachers Ian and Barbara follow the mysterious pupil Susan home and discover that her grandfather’s police box has an unexpectedly large interior, is still electrifying to watch after almost half a century. The Doctor doesn’t even appear until almost halfway through, which gives him an air of authority and mystery. The great lines – “Have you ever thought what it’s like to be wanderers in the fourth dimension? Have you?” – are all there.

The remaining three episodes, where the Tardis crew are captured by and escape from a Stone Age tribe who have lost the secret of fire, are OK. The second episode, with Susan’s surprise that the Tardis has not changed shape, and Ian and Barbara trying to work out what to call the Doctor, is the most interesting.

The Underwater Menace, from Patrick Troughton’s first season in early 1967, is notorious – even the normally upbeat Howe and Walker describe it as “undoubtedly the weakest of the second Doctor’s era, if not of the sixties as a whole”. Fortunately, in a way, only episode three (out of four) survives, and today’s fan can buy the soundtrack with narration by Anneke Wills who played Polly (the story featuring her, Ben and new companion Jamie). This means that we are not subjected to the awful production values and can let our imaginations fill in for the cheap-looking sets. As a sound only production it comes close to succeeding, with the main problems being the baffling ballet of the fish people in episode three (which in fact becomes more rather than less confusing when you actually see it) and the utterly clichéd villain, Professor Zaroff, who actually ends the third episode by declaring that nothing in the world can stop him now. The director, Julia Smith, went on to create EastEnders; this cannot have been a high point of her early career.

It does feature the most extensively featured Irish character in any Doctor Who story, P.G. Stephens’ trapped sailor Sean (who is teamed up with Jacko, a trapped Asian sailor played by Paul Anil). As I have previously noted, there is not a lot of competition. It is not fair to say that he has “the least convincing Irish accent in television history”, as he has a long acting career both in Ireland and England (playing mainly Irish parts, including a comedy IRA bomber), but he is certainly as wobbly in his acting as any of the rest of the guest cast, especially in the deeply embarrassing scene where he urges the fish people to revolt.

The Faceless Ones: Set in July 1966 in London, the established companions subject to brainwashing and written out after the first two episodes, seems a bit familiar? Though in fact the story is a startling contrast with The War Machines in many ways. The most striking difference is that it is much more boring, stretched across six episodes set in Gatwick Airport, which is somehow not as exciting as the Post Office Tower. I have to say that I listened to most of them last Wednesday while on a flight from Kosovo back to Brussels via Ljubljana, not at all sure if I was going to reach my destination, so it struck a bit closer to home than I normally like my Who to do. But really, the Chameleons’ predicament makes no sense, the resolution makes no sense, the departure of Ben and Polly makes little sense (though the Doctor gets a nice wistful line as they go) and the plot barely progresses from episode one to episode six. I do wish Pauline Collins had stayed on as potential companion Sam Briggs, rather than the dismal Victoria – that would have been a tension worth watching, as Jamie has already snogged her twice. But it was not to be.

Personal fact: I was born on the Wednesday between the broadcasts of episodes 3 and 4 of this story (by this point the Doctor Who cast were filming the Evil of the Daleks). Continuing the theme of the story, that same day Captain Terence O’Neill, the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, sacked his Minister for Agriculture due to a property scandal involving an airport.

Anyway, An Unearthly Child is a must-see; the two early Troughton stories are not.

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June Books 15) Doctor Who: The Masters of Luxor

15) Doctor Who: The Scripts: The Masters of Luxor, by Anthony Coburn, edited by John McElroy

Well, here is an oddity, the rejected script for the second ever Doctor Who story, written by the same guy who wrote the first, and published almost thirty years later as one of a short lived series of TV scripts.

Like The Daleks, which was the story used instead of The Masters of Luxor, we start with the Tardis crew exploring a mysterious abandoned city and encountering its robotic inhabitants; they find a more human ally outside the city and re-infiltrate it via a secret route through the mountains, before destroying the evil robot creatures.

There are significant differences though. The robots are more standard robots, human creations whose leader, the Perfect One, seeks to become human itself. The human ally is Tabon of Luxor, the robots’ creator, roused from hibernation by the arrival of the Doctor and Ian. These are the only two significant guest roles, though a couple of the junior robots would have had speaking parts.

It’s a slow starting six-part story – the robots don’t appear until half way through part two, and Tabon not until part four. Our heroes spend a lot of time held prisoner or exploring new corridors, with the Tardis swooping around in part one rather like it does in The Runaway Bride, and Susan and Barbara in the grips of the robots (who have not previously encountered humans) for most of the story. Coburn does not seem to have been briefed about the desirability of cliff-hanger endings either, let alone a reprise for the start of the next episode.

The central plot – helping Tabon to destroy his own robotic creations – is similar to various other Who stories, but Tabon is interesting because of his early repentance, and one can even feel some sympathy for the Perfect One in its doomed quest to become human. Of the main characters, perhaps Ian is the furthest from the TV character we came to know, much more slangy in his vocabulary; the others seem fairly close to canon, though there is more explicit reference to the Doctor and Susan’s off-Earth origins.

Anyway, this is an interesting alternate-history read, and frankly better than some stories that made it to the screen.

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June Books 14) Seeker

14) Seeker, by Jack McDevitt

This year’s Nebula winner, which I bought expecting not to enjoy much – the Nebulas have been as much miss as hit for me in recent years, and I had read [info]autopope‘s brief critiques.

I’m therefore a little surprised to report that I really enjoyed it. As a lapsed historian and even more lapsed archaeologist, I lapped up McDevitt’s portrayal of a far-future quest for a lost human colony, driven by the discovery of a plastic cup with an inscription in the forgotten language of English, with an imaginative astronomical twist at the end of the story.

[info]autopope does make a good point, in that taken as a novel about the future it is a little unexciting, but I think it should be read also as a novel about the past, and how we will deal with the past in the future, and I found it pretty satisfying on that score.

Having said that, the best sf book I read published i the time frame of eligibility for this year’s Nebula award is still Elizabeth Bear’s Carnival.

June Books 13) Reflections on the Cyprus Problem

13) Reflections on the Cyprus Problem: A Compilation of Recent Academic Contributions, published by the Cyprus Policy Center

A selection of papers by Turkish Cypriot academics on the Cyprus issue, all supportive or at least sympathetic to their current government’s position in favour of a settlement along the lines of the Annan Plan. As usual, I found the empirical political analysis articles the most interesting, one looking at the raw numbers of how the Turkish Cypriot population shifted its support from Denktash to Talat, another looking at the repeated reconstruction of Turkish Cypriot identity (touching the interesting question of how the island’s Muslim population came to be categorised as “Turks” in the first place). There are several pieces on international legal aspects of the conflict (an old friend of mine is writing a more general book on this) and a final article applying game theory to the current impasse.

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Brussels gossip

I wasn’t there myself, so this may be a vicious rumour, but apparently there was a session earlier today at the European Parliament on the proposed missile defence shield, where a presenter from the US Department of Defense, trying to convince an audience of sceptical MEPs, screwed up the PowerPoint presentation by repeatedly skipping to the wrong slide.

This is one subject where you really don’t want people to start wondering what happens if someone in the Pentagon accidentally pushes the wrong button!

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 got it right, though

 was thinking on the right lines and

 was linguistically close. The extra language on display in the Adria airlines plane yesterday was Ukrainian, as the plane itself was rented by the Slovenian company from Міжнародні Авіалінії України / Ukraine International airlines. Not a language I see on display every day.

(And thank you,

, I did manage to avoid capture by extraterrestrials.)

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A coincidence

The day Tony Blair came to office, 2 May 1997, I returned home from a business trip by way of Slovenia.

The day Tony Blair left office, 27 June 2007, I returned home from a business trip by way of Slovenia.

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June Books 12) Decalog 3: Consequences

12) Decalog 3: Consequences, edited by Justin Richards and Andy Lane

One of the early collections of “authorised” Doctor Who short stories from Virgin Publishing. I bought it because two of the ten stories had been flagged up to me in different ways in the last couple of weeks, and neither of them disappointed: Peter Anghelides’ “Moving On”, a bittersweet bridging narrative for Sarah Jane Smith between K9 and Company and School Reunion (or the Big Finish version if you prefer), and Steven Moffat’s first published Doctor Who story, “Continuity Errors”, which has the Seventh Doctor and Bernice Summerfield meddling in the time stream pretty comprehensively.Unexpected bonuses were Guy Clapperton’s “Tarnished Image” featuring the First Doctor and Dodo Chaplet, and Keith R. DeCandido’s “UNITed We Fall”, bringing the Fourth Doctor and the Brigadier to UN headquarters in New York for an audit. But none of the others was bad.

June Books 11) Wild Swans

11) Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, by Jung Chang

Gosh, I’m glad I finally read this, the story of the lives of Chang’s grandmother, her mother and herself, during the final collapse of the Chinese Empire, the second world war and the rule of Mao. Somewhat stunned by my own ignorance about China – I knew almost nothing about the Cultural Revolution, and very little about the rest of the story told here. After reading the first few chapters about Japanese atrocities, I began to wonder if there could ever be reconciliation between Japan and China. And now, having read the rest of the book, it’s clear that the need for reconciliation begins a lot closer to home.

When I read We, by Yevgeny Zamyatin, a few years back, I wondered how he had managed to do such a convincing portrayal of totalitarianism, given that Stalin and Hitler were still in his future. I guess one thing I take from Wild Swans is that the potential is always there: Mao’s personality cult was probably the largest in world history, given the number of people affected, but the basic techniques have always been around, and perhaps if anything it is easier to manipulate a population that is literate but frightened.

Anyway, a really fascinating if sometimes gruelling book.

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One last thing

The signs in the famous Adria plane on which I have spent much of today are in English, Slovenian, and one other language.

A Special Prize for the first person to guess what the third language is.

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A certain irony

So, on an afternoon when I am being bumped around by a peculiarly named small airline, wondering if I will reach my destination, I happen to be listening to The Faceless Ones, a 1967 Doctor Who story about people disappearing from aeroplanes owned by a peculiarly named small airline.

I just thought you should know.

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The bad news: Brussels flight due to take off from Ljubljana at 1830; my incoming flight landed at 1838.

The good news: Adria being a rather small airline, it is the same plane going to Brussels as got me here; so I will get home this evening!

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Tight connection

My flight was supposed to take off twenty minutes ago, but we are still in the airport lounge. I have just seen the incoming flight touch down, so we should at least have a plane to take off in.

However the connection time in Ljubljana was already pretty tight – just over an hour – and I reckon we will have lost at least half of that. I comfor myself with the thoughts that fortunately Ljubljana is a small airport, and also I would bet that Adria will hold the Brussels flight for those of us trying to make that connection, rather than deal with the need to find food and accommodation for us.

Well, we’ll see…

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June Books 10) McSweeney’s Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales

10) McSweeney’s Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales, edited by Michael Chabon

Decent collection of new stories in various genres; the editor’s introduction makes it clear that he is trying to make some kind of point, but it is less clear what that point actually is. I particularly liked “Weaving the Dark” by Laurie King.

Top UnSuggestion for this book: Knowing God, by J.I. Packer.

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Politics and religion commentary

I was meeting a friend in a Brussels cafe on Friday afternoon, and we were joined by an diplomat from one of the smaller EU member states, stretching his legs during a break in proceedings in the summit. At that point there was no indication of how things were going, and I asked the diplomat if his government had made provision to stay all weekend if necessary. (My first experience of EU treaty negotiations was the Nice treaty in 2000, where the summit lasted three days longer than planned, and senior officials spent the next week trying to remember what had been agreed in the small hours of Monday morning before they could produce a definitive text.)

The diplomat said that he himself wasn’t leaving until Monday, but his government confidently expected to be gone on Saturday; because Tony Blair was certainly not going to be late for his meeting with the Pope.

My friend grinned. “That’s probably what it will take to bring the Poles around!” he quipped.

True or not, I just want to point to two interesting pieces on Blair’s imminent embrace of Catholicism – takes the Guardian to task for its knee-jerk anti-Catholicism, and Ken MacLeod does a hilarious piece on why Blair may not find conversion a smooth process.

As for the EU Treaty, I can’t get too excited about it. The crucial thing is that, if agreed, it unblocks the possible stalling of the enlargement process for the Balkan countries which could have been a problem if the constitutional impasse had run on. The re-dubbing of the Foreign Minister as High Representative only reflects his current title anyway. Still, it will be interesting to see if this slimmed down and very modest document can pass referendum in those countries where it is put to the popular test. Three of the last four ratification processes have brought largely unexpected surprises, and with 27 countries now in the mix, the chance of that happening again must be if anything greater.

And going back to the British Labour Party, and its new Deputy Leader – fascinating that Jon Cruddas, of whom literally the only thing I know is that he was a candidate in this election, came top on the first count but didn’t make it to the end, with Harriet Harman, in second place for most of the process, pulling ahead on the final count to win by precisely the same margin as Denis Healey over Tony Benn in 1981. Benn’s son Hilary was a candidate this time round, but did not do as well as his father twenty-six years before.

I’m so detached from British politics that I know little more about Alan Johnson than I do about Jon Cruddas, but I remember Harriet Harman well as winning a tough by-election for Labour in 1982 (defeating, if I remember, Dick Taverne). I had at least heard of Benn and Hain because their ministerial roles are relevant to my work and interests, and I have become aware of Hazel Blears due to the successful campaign of mockery against her mounted from certain parts of the blogosphere…

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A Baker’s Dozen of Doctor Who Audio Plays from Big Finish

I have slipped behind in noting these, partly due to my long trip ending after 24 hours rather than six days last week. So this will be a fairly short set of reviews.

Big Finish brought Elisabeth Sladen back as Sarah Jane Smith in 2002, three years after they had started their run of Doctor Who plays, but four years before she returned to the actual TV series. Here we have Sarah’s career as an investigative journalist going through some little local difficulties; but she is the leader of a gang of sidekicks (one of whom is played by Sladen’s own daughter). I thought these were all perfectly fine plays, none outstanding but certainly none embarrassing either. In Comeback, by Terrance Dicks, Sarah unmasks sinister consequences of biochemical research in an isolated West Country village. The TAO Connection, by Barry Letts, takes her to Yorkshire for similar dubious biological goings on at a health farm, with the highest political circles involved. Test of Nerve, by David Bishop, is as it turns out a prophetic story of a terrorist attack on the London Underground, linking the bad guys from Comeback to a much earlier stage of Sarah’s career. Ghost Town, by Rupert Laight, is a lot more fun, basically Sarah Jane as Scooby Doo investigating a remote Romanian castle where ghostly happenings are upsetting an international peace conference. And finally and most chillingly, Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre takes Sarah and friends to India for bio-terrorism, tensions within the team, and a pleasing round-off of the cycle with promise of more to come.

I like to alternate a week of Big Finish spinoffs with a return to the main sequence of BF audios.

Project: Twilight – a rather nifty story of the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn in sixties London, dealing with vampires. Some nasty violence though.

The Eye of the Scorpion – fitting into that gap between Planet of Fire and The Caves of Androzani, which was one week on-screen but extends to three novels, fifteen plays, half a dozen Short Trips and a Telos novella, takes the Fifth Doctor and Peri to ancient Egypt where they thwart an alien coup attampt and acquire a new companion, Erimem.

Colditz – Could have been a bit disastrous, since the Seventh Doctor and Ace have a bit of a habit of running into Nazis, but actually turns into a rather good story of time paradoxes. Nasty German guard Kurtz is played by one David Tennant.

Primeval – At last, a good Nyssa/Fifth Doctor play! Nyssa is taken ill and Five brings her back to Traken, centuries before her own time. Lots of nice setting up, though there is a wee bit of Shaggy God story about it.

The One Doctor – A bit silly. Six and Mel find that the planet they are visiting has just been saved from doom by an impostor, pretending to be the Doctor. Real aliens then also turn up, and the Doctor and Mel, and their impersonators, have to take part in a TV quiz and assemble some shelves to save the world again; reminiscent of the sillier bits of The Celestial Toymaker.

The next three Eighth Doctor adventures – first half of Season 28, as some count it – were all very good; one feels that having settled into a certain routine for the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctor stories, Big Finish felt they had to try a bit harder for the less familiar team of the Eighth Doctor and Charley.

Invaders from Mars brings them to New York in time for Orson Welles’ famous 1938 broadcast, but, invitably, getting caught up in a real alien invasion threat. Some gloriously funny roles, including the bickering between the aliens, but all done with great conviction.

The Chimes of Midnight is just creepy: the Doctor and Charley trapped in a house where the servants keep on dying horribly – and even more mysteriously coming to life. Clearly some Big Revelation about Charley’s nature is being planned.

Seasons of Fear develops the damage done to Time by the paradox of Charley’s survival, and leaps between 1930s Singapore, Roman Britain, the court of Edward the Confessor (where we find out rather bizarrely that the Eighth Doctor once got engaged to his queen, Edith) and the Hell Fire club of the mid-18th century. I loved the Roman and Saxon bits, though was a little less convinced by the hell-fire club. The priest in the temple of Mithras reading the parish announcements was a beautiful little scene which also tipped me off to the authors being Paul Cornell and his wife Caroline Symcox.

Anyway, looking forward to the next ones now; though I may take a break from the sequence for some more spinoff plays first.

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The Space Museum

I bumped this up my “to watch” list after reading ‘s review, and really enjoyed the first episode last weekend. warned me that it rather falls apart after a good start, and having now watched the following three episodes I tend more towards her viewpoint than ‘s – not so much the wobbly plot as the wobbly acting, to be honest, and the director’s penchant for keeping our regular cast together in what feel very awkwardly posed camera shots – but I think as a whole it is still better than almost any Sixth Doctor story (granted, not a high bar to surmount), and the first episode is one of the best single episodes from any era of Who: our heroes find themselves on exhibit in a museum, but can’t interact with the locals in any way, rather like Willow in the Season 7 Buffy episode “Same Time, Same Place”. The Doctor realises that they have jumped a time-track, and we have the set up for the rest of the story. Which, as mentioned, has its weaknesses but also some glorious moments – the Doctor, being interrogated by a baddie using a “mental imaging device”, is asked how he arrived on the planet Xeros, and the screen shows a penny-farthing bicycle!

I’m just a little sad now, because I have seen or listened to every single First Doctor episode. But it is over twenty-five years since I last saw eps two, three and four of An Unearthly Child, so I can watch them again before writing them up here.

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Social network search engine

If you have an address book on one of the webmail services (ie Gmail, hotmail, AOL or Yahoo), will search it and see who among your contacts is using any of the following: Aim, Bebo, Classmates, Ecademy, Facebook, Flickr, Flixster, Friendster, Hi5, LinkedIn, LiveJournal, Multiply, MySpace, Ringo, Tickle, Tribe, Yahoo! 360°, and Yelp.

I’ll leave it for other who know more about this kind of thing than I do to tell me about the technical hazards and security risks. I did a bit of due diligence on them and decided to trust them. However, their search engine choked on the 6000 contacts in my gmail account; but that seems to include anyone who has emailed me there or at the shortly-to-be-defunct address since roughly 2001. When I tried it on my outlook address book (which I did by importing it to my unused Yahoo account) I got the following rate of hits:

321 LinkedIn users – not very surprising; first of all, I already have 299 LinkedIn contacts, and the remainder are people who I suspect signed up for it once and never used it again. For me, LinkedIn is more of a tool for maintaining professional contacts, and also getting back in touch with people I was at college with.

117 Facebook users – this is obviously the coming thing. Interestingly, UpScoop’s search mechanism is not awfully comprehensive, or else people are using different addresses, as I have 153 Facebook contacts. About half of those are people I know from here on Livejournal; there are a fair few ex-colleagues on there as well, and a number of younger relatives.

114 Ringo users – I have an account on Ringo from when a friend joined to send out photos, but I don’t find it at all attractive.

109 Flickr users – again, I have a Flickr account but have been tending to use LiveJournal’s image archive instead. If I were a more frequent photographer I might pick this one up.

101 MySpace users – This I found intriguing because I had not spotted an easy way of finding out who I know on MySpace. I’ve put in friend requests to a fair number of people as a result but am not convinced it will cause me to use MySpace any more than I do (which is tpo log in once a week or so).

100 Bebo users. I’ve only started taking this one seriously recently; really it seems to me that Facebook does all the same stuff and more, and does it better; and Flickr does much the same, and is more accessible.

74 Hi5 users. This one is completely new to me, and I’m a bit surprised given that there are so many people I know on it. So anyway I’ve signed up for it, and if you are on it too you will have heard from me already. I am struck by the relatively high proportion of professional/political contacts using it. However in the end, like Bebo and Ringo, it suffers from not being as attractive to use as Facebook.

69 Tickle users. I signed up with them briefly about three years ago, but wasn’t happy about the way they ended up charging my credit card for, basically, nothing and left. At a quick glance looks like they just generate surveys and quizzes, meme-fodder as it were. Yet there seems to be a strong representation of my professional contacts there.

57 Classmates users. This seems to be the North American version of the British Friends Reunited site; explicitly doesn’t cover the UK and Ireland.

45 Livejournal users – this seems awfully few, given that there are hundreds on my friends list; but I suspect it reflects the relative difficulty of scraping livejournal users’ addresses from their web pages. Which is a Good Thing.

43 Friendster users. Never got into it myself, but I see a lot of lj users are on it – any use these days? Or a has-been site?

19 AIM users – surprisingly low. AIM’s own import wizard scores much better.

11 Flixster users. I have never heard of it; seems to be for sharing movie ratings. Only one livejournal reader is on it.

9 Multiply users. Never heard of this one.

3 Yahoo 360° users: obviously this never took off.

2 Ecademy users. A couple of Ecademy users have tried to persuade me of its merits, but I haven’t seen them yet.

2 Tribe users; this doesn’t seem to have taken off.

1 Yelp! user. This is a site about reviewing shops and services in the US; slightly surprised that so few of my contacts are using it if so.

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Children’s books meme from

Lists of prize-winners, bolded if I’ve read them.

Carnegie Medal
2007 Meg Rosoff, Just in Case, Penguin
2005 Mal Peet, Tamar, Walker Books
2004 Frank Cottrell Boyce, Millions, Macmillan
2003 Jennifer Donnelly, A Gathering Light, Bloomsbury Children’s Books
2002 Sharon Creech, Ruby Holler, Bloomsbury Children’s Books
2001 Terry Pratchett, The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, Doubleday
2000 Beverley Naidoo, The Other Side of Truth, Puffin
1999 Aidan Chambers, Postcards From No Man’s Land, Bodley Head
1998 David Almond, Skellig, Hodder Children’s Books
1997 Tim Bowler, River Boy, OUP
1996 Melvin Burgess, Junk, Andersen Press
1995 Philip Pullman, His Dark Materials: Book 1 Northern Lights, Scholastic
1994 Theresa Breslin, Whispers in the Graveyard, Methuen
1993 Robert Swindells, Stone Cold, H Hamilton
1992 Anne Fine, Flour Babies, H Hamilton
1991 Berlie Doherty, Dear Nobody, H Hamilton
1990 Gillian Cross, Wolf, OUP
1989 Anne Fine, Goggle-eyes, H Hamilton
1988 Geraldine McCaughrean, A Pack of Lies, OUP
1987 Susan Price, The Ghost Drum, Faber
1986 Berlie Doherty, Granny was a Buffer Girl, Methuen
1985 Kevin Crossley-Holland, Storm, Heinemann
1984 Margaret Mahy, The Changeover, Dent
1983 Jan Mark, Handles, Kestrel
1982 Margaret Mahy, The Haunting, Dent
1981 Robert Westall, The Scarecrows, Chatto & Windus
1980 Peter Dickinson, City of Gold, Gollancz
1979 Peter Dickinson, Tulku, Gollancz
1978 David Rees, The Exeter Blitz, H Hamilton
1977 Gene Kemp, The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler, Faber
1976 Jan Mark, Thunder and Lightnings, Kestrel
1975 Robert Westall, The Machine Gunners, Macmillan
1974 Mollie Hunter, The Stronghold, H Hamilton
1973 Penelope Lively, The Ghost of Thomas Kempe, Heinemann
1972 Richard Adams, Watership Down, Rex Collings
1971 Ivan Southall, Josh, Angus & Robertson
1970 Leon Garfield & Edward Blishen, The God Beneath the Sea, Longman
1969 Kathleen Peyton, The Edge of the Cloud, OUP
1968 Rosemary Harris, The Moon in the Cloud, Faber
1967 Alan Garner, The Owl Service, Collins
1966 Prize withheld as no book considered suitable
1965 Philip Turner, The Grange at High Force, OUP
1964 Sheena Porter, Nordy Bank, OUP
1963 Hester Burton, Time of Trial, OUP
1962 Pauline Clarke, The Twelve and the Genii, Faber
1961 Lucy M Boston, A Stranger at Green Knowe, Faber
1960 Dr I W Cornwall, The Making of Man, Phoenix House
1959 Rosemary Sutcliff, The Lantern Bearers, OUP
1958 Philipa Pearce, Tom’s Midnight Garden, OUP
1957 William Mayne, A Grass Rope, OUP
1956 C S Lewis, The Last Battle, Bodley Head
1955 Eleanor Farjeon, The Little Bookroom, OUP
1954 Ronald Welch (Felton Ronald Oliver), Knight Crusader, OUP
1953 Edward Osmond, A Valley Grows Up
1952 Mary Norton, The Borrowers, Dent
1951 Cynthia Harnett, The Woolpack, Methuen
1950 Elfrida Vipont Foulds, The Lark on the Wing, OUP
1949 Agnes Allen, The Story of Your Home, Faber
1948 Richard Armstrong, Sea Change, Dent
1947 Walter De La Mare, Collected Stories for Children
1946 Elizabeth Goudge, The Little White Horse, University of London Press
1945 Prize withheld as no book considered suitable
1944 Eric Linklater, The Wind on the Moon, Macmillan
1943 Prize withheld as no book considered suitable
1942 ‘BB’ (D J Watkins-Pitchford), The Little Grey Men, Eyre & Spottiswoode
1941 Mary Treadgold, We Couldn’t Leave Dinah, Cape
1940 Kitty Barne, Visitors from London, Dent
1939 Eleanor Doorly, Radium Woman, Heinemann
1938 Noel Streatfeild, The Circus is Coming, Dent
1937 Eve Garnett, The Family from One End Street, Muller
1936 Arthur Ransome, Pigeon Post, Cape

Newbery Medal
2007: The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron, illus. by Matt Phelan (Simon & Schuster/Richard Jackson)
2006: Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins (Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins)
2005: Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata (Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster)
2004: The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick Press)
2003: Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi (Hyperion Books for Children)
2002: A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park(Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin)
2001: A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck (Dial)
2000: Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis (Delacorte)
1999: Holes by Louis Sachar (Frances Foster)
1998: Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse (Scholastic)
1997: The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg (Jean Karl/Atheneum)
1996: The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman (Clarion)
1995: Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech (HarperCollins)
1994: The Giver by Lois Lowry(Houghton)
1993: Missing May by Cynthia Rylant (Jackson/Orchard)
1992: Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (Atheneum)
1991: Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli (Little, Brown)
1990: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (Houghton)
1989: Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman (Harper)
1988: Lincoln: A Photobiography by Russell Freedman (Clarion)
1987: The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman (Greenwillow)
1986: Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan (Harper)
1985: The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley (Greenwillow)
1984: Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary (Morrow)
1983: Dicey’s Song by Cynthia Voigt (Atheneum)
1982: A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers by Nancy Willard (Harcourt)
1981: Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson (Crowell)
1980: A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl’s Journal, 1830-1832 by Joan W. Blos (Scribner)
1979: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (Dutton)
1978: Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (Crowell)
1977: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor (Dial)
1976: The Grey King by Susan Cooper (McElderry/Atheneum)
1975: M. C. Higgins, the Great by Virginia Hamilton (Macmillan)
1974: The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox (Bradbury)
1973: Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George (Harper)
1972: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien (Atheneum)
1971: Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars (Viking)
1970: Sounder by William H. Armstrong (Harper)
1969: The High King by Lloyd Alexander (Holt)
1968: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg (Atheneum)
1967: Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt (Follett)
1966: I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino (Farrar)
1965: Shadow of a Bull by Maia Wojciechowska (Atheneum)
1964: It’s Like This, Cat by Emily Neville (Harper)
1963: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (Farrar)
1962: The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare (Houghton)
1961: Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell (Houghton)
1960: Onion John by Joseph Krumgold (Crowell)
1959: The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (Houghton)
1958: Rifles for Watie by Harold Keith (Crowell)
1957: Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen (Harcourt)
1956: Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham (Houghton)
1955: The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong (Harper)
1954: …And Now Miguel by Joseph Krumgold (Crowell)
1953: Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark (Viking)
1952: Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes (Harcourt)
1951: Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates (Dutton)
1950: The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli (Doubleday)
1949: King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry (Rand McNally)
1948: The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois (Viking)
1947: Miss Hickory by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey (Viking)
1946: Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski (Lippincott)
1945: Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson (Viking)
1944: Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes (Houghton)
1943: Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray (Viking)
1942: The Matchlock Gun by Walter Edmonds (Dodd)
1941: Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry (Macmillan)
1940: Daniel Boone by James Daugherty (Viking)
1939: Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright (Rinehart)
1938: The White Stag by Kate Seredy (Viking)
1937: Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer (Viking)
1936: Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink (Macmillan)
1935: Dobry by Monica Shannon (Viking)
1934: Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women by Cornelia Meigs (Little, Brown)
1933: Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze by Elizabeth Lewis (Winston)
1932: Waterless Mountain by Laura Adams Armer (Longmans)
1931: The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth (Macmillan)
1930: Hitty, Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field (Macmillan)
1929: The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly (Macmillan)
1928: Gay Neck, the Story of a Pigeon by Dhan Gopal Mukerji (Dutton)
1927: Smoky, the Cowhorse by Will James (Scribner)
1926: Shen of the Sea by Arthur Bowie Chrisman (Dutton)
1925: Tales from Silver Lands by Charles Finger (Doubleday)
1924: The Dark Frigate by Charles Hawes (Little, Brown)
1923: The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting (Stokes)
1922: The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Willem van Loon (Liveright)

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Pleasant start to the day

As previously noted, I work right on the Rondpoint Schuman in the heart of the European quarter (hence, indeed, the name of this blog, though that actually dates from my previous job which was further away).

For once all the train connections worked better than usual this morning, and I got to the office early; but I had skipped breakfast at home, so I decided to have a quick bite at the cafe on the ground floor of our building, sitting outside at one of the tables overlooking the square.

Normally a rather unpleasantly bustling hub of activity, it’s a bit quieter today because of the EU summit, which is taking place literally next door to my building. The whole square is blocked off by barbed wire and you can only get in with a special pass pre-signed by the Chief of Police, backed up by your passport. But the sunshine was mellow, and my croissant/coffee/juice hit the spot.

And now it’s time for work.

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Frontier in Space; The Web Planet

Two six-part Doctor Who stories from the distant past to review.

I mentioned a while back that I had bought the video of Frontier in Space, a Third Doctor story with Jo and the Master from 1973, about ten years ago. I think it is actually the first Doctor Who I can remember seeing at the time of original broadcast; the scene where the Master introduces his allies to the Doctor and Jo very much lingeres in the memory. I caught up with it over the last couple of weekends, and was reasonably impressed, though I’m not sure that the Master’s overall plan actually Makes Sense. Funnily enough, what strikes me now is the unrealistically flat bureaucracy surrounding both the Draconian Emperor and the President of Earth, where both of them have easy access to prisoners, and seem to have nothing better to do than discuss the ways of the world with their closest advisers. I guess I have had more to do with real presidents – though not lizardoid emperors, at least not as far as I know – in recent years. I’ve written elsewhere about lizard creatures which are actually the Japanese in disguise, so no need to develop that point at length. Depressing, though, that the cold war between Earth and Draconia has delivered a political system on Earth that is only weakly democratic, with the military having the main call on declaring war, and the main opposition forces more hard-line than the president. But thanks to the Doctor, we know it was all based on a simple misunderstanding between gentlemen, so that’s all right then.

I got the DVD of The Web Planet, a First Doctor story from 1965 with Ian, Barbara and Vicki, back in January; and then, after I had read Wood and Miles‘ excoriating description of it, the disc was in my laptop when it got stolen. But I caught up with this one over the weekend as well.

Oh dear.

It’s very brave to try and produce an entire six-part story with no humanoid characters other than the regular cast, and the production teeters on the edge of greatness but, ultimately, falls off and hurtles to its doom. I mean, the Zarbi, with their unearthly whistling, are actually pretty good, so good that you can nearly forget that they are blokes in giant ant costumes. And the disembodied Animus is pretty sinister. But the Venom Grubs are, frankly, pathetic. And the Menoptra, with their bizarre dance movements, and their pitiful Optera relatives, are just ludicrous. I can’t quite believe that this is the only story from the original Season Two (apart from the glorious Dalek Invasion of Earth) available on DVD. Almost any other would make more sense and be a better advertisement for Who as a whole. (I have reservations about The Chase, though it does at least have Daleks and a variety of settings, and I’ve only seen the first episode of The Space Museum so can’t speak to the whole of it, though I must say it really grabbed me.)

Maureen O’Brien is good as Vicki though, perhaps the best I remember her in any of her stories. The others are fine too, especially (as ever) Hartnell.

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2008 election thoughts

Next year’s presidential election will probably be the first since 1952, and the second since 1928, where neither the incumbent President nor the incumbent Vice-President will be a candidate (unless of course Bush and Cheney are successfully impeached and convicted, and/or there is a series of convenient deaths). President Bush, having served two terms, can’t run again under the 22nd Amendment; Vice-President Cheney, who will then be 67, is not being discussed as a candidate.

Of course, part of this is that it is now almost certain that there will in fact be a Vice-President at the time of the election. 13 of the 29 elections from 1812 to 1924 took place with no incumbent vice-president, due to the death of either President or Vice-President in the meantime. (In 1832, Vice-President Calhoun resigned but not until after the election – in which President Jackson was re-elected, but Calhoun wasn’t – had taken place.) Since then, it has only happened twice (in 1948 and 1964) and thanks to the 25th Amendment it would take pretty bad luck for the Vice-Presidency again to be vacant for very long.

Also Presidents are now serving longer terms, and more likely to be re-elected. Although all but one of the first five presidents served two terms (thus averaging 7.2 years in office), from John Quincy Adams to Warren G Harding, 24 presidents served in just under a century, an average of four years and one month. But the thirteen presidents since Harding, not counting Bush, have served for an average of almost six years. And the incumbent was re-elected eleven times out of the 22 elections since Harding’s death, compared to only five times in the previous hundred years.

OK, on with the day…

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Day of Private Reflection

Thursday, 21 June 2007 is an initial Day of Private Reflection.

People from Northern Ireland, Great Britain, Republic of Ireland and further a field are invited to reflect, individually and privately, upon the conflict in and about Northern Ireland and the future that is before us.

The Day of Private Reflection is an opportunity for us all:

  • To acknowledge the deep hurt and loss caused by the conflict in and about Northern Ireland,
  • To remember the men, women and children who on a daily basis live with the consequences of the conflict,
  • To reflect on our own attitudes that might have the potential to negatively impact on others and society,
  • To reflect on what more each of use might have done or might still do to uphold and enhance all other people’s right to life and quality of life, and
  • To make a personal commitment that, as we begin to move forward as a society, such loss should never be allowed to happen again.

For more see the Day of Private Reflection and Healing Through Remembering sites. Or you could post this in your livejournal/blog.

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