Strange names

I’ve just had another facebook friends request from someone with an amusing name. In this case her first name is ‘Nazgul’.

Apparently it’s a fairly normal girl’s name in Kyrgyzstan. But I can’t help worrying that the Ringwraiths are on my trail.

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Steve Solarz, 1940-2010

I’m sorry to read of the death of Stephen J. Solarz, a former US Congressman who I got to know when he was on the board of the International Crisis Group. He didn’t always get it right – his political career ended with well-publicised financial problems and he was part of the now-forgotten consensus in favour of the Iraq war. But he had done some excellent work earlier in his career on bringing peace to Cambodia and eroding the credibility of President Marcos of the Philippines, and was also one of the more important back-channels between Turkey and the US towards the end of his life; and although I can imagine him infuriating others, he was always cordial at the very least to me, even when we disagreed. It’s not a huge surprise, as he had been in poor health for some time, but sad news all the same.

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Whoniversaries 30 November: Unearthly Child #2, Invasion #5, Dragonfire #2, Silver Nemesis #2

broadcast anniversaries

30 November 1963: repeat of "An Unearthly Child" and first broadcast of "The Cave of Skulls", the first and second episodes of the story we now call An Unearthly Child. The Tardis has landed on a primitive world where the travellers are taken captive by cavemen.

30 November 1968: broadcast of fifth episode of The Invasion. Isobel, Jamie and Zoe enter the sewers and are confronted by a deranged Cyberman.

30 November 1987: broadcast of second episode of Dragonfire. Mel and Ace are pursued by the dragon; the Doctor and Glitz work out where the treasure is.

30 November 1988: broadcast of second episode of Silver Nemesis. Rather confusing battles between the Cybermen and neo-Nazis.

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Delicious LiveJournal Links for 11-30-2010

  • Me old friend Kevin has his analysis
  • "Goodnight Moon", but not as we know it.
  • 1) this will damage US diplomacy, for sure; 2) it will damage several governments mentioned in the cables, especially Yemen (see this devastating telegram); 3) it will take a while and a lot of promises by US diplomats that their comms are really really secure this time for other diplomats to trust US diplomats with confidences again; 4) the cables released so far seem to be very few, so I'm assuming there's a lot more still to come; 5) I don't understand the criteria for selecting those released today (eg lots of Iran, Middle East stuff); 6) the Wikileaks phenomenon is a product of our collective distrust of government after a decade of being told mistruths about the war on terror, Iraq, Afghanistan but 7) Wikileaks is a very imperfect and potentially dangerous mechanism of transparency so 8) the clear conclusion is that more transparency is needed, but through the proper mechanisms of democratic accountability
    (tags: usa politics)
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November Books 23) Shakespeare (the illustrated edition), by Bill Bryson

Very pleased with this impulse purchase – remaindered for a fiver in (I think) the University Bookshop in Belfast. I was pretty familiar with most of the material, but Bryson puts it together well and crisply to give a good brief account of what is known about Shakespeare’s life; the illustrations actually illustrate and are well chosen. The funniest chapter is the last, on the anti-Stratfordians who desperately need to believe that someone else (in former days Francis Bacon, these days more often the Earl of Oxford) wrote the plays. Worth looking out for. Also includes a CD of the sonnets read by John Gielgud, which I haven’t yet listened to.

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Whoniversaries 29 November

i) births and deaths

29 November 1942: birth of Michael Craze, who played Ben Jackson, companion of the First and Second Doctors, in 1966-67.

ii) broadcast anniversaries

29 November 1975: broadcast of second episode of The Android Invasion. The Doctor realises that their surroundings are fake, including the android Sarah.

29 November 1980: broadcast of second episode of State of Decay. The Doctor and Romana realise that the castle is the spaceship Hydrax, and that the vampires are draining blood from the villagers.

29 November 1986: broadcast of first episode of The Ultimate Foe (ToaTL #13). Mel and Sabalon Glitz arrive to help the Doctor’s defence, sent by the Master; the Doctor and Glitz pursue the Valeyard into the Matrix.

29 November 1989: broadcast of second episode of Survival. The Doctor and Ace explore the planet of the Cheetah People further, and Ace starts to change into one herself.

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Delicious LiveJournal Links for 11-29-2010

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November Books 23) Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall, by Bill Willingham

An anthology of stories set in Willingham’s world of Fables, interpreting traditional tales and nursery rhymes in his contemporary idiom. The story of Snow White’s revenge is typically inventive; likewise Old King Cole and the three blind mice; and also the tragic after-story of the Frog Prince. Lots of different artists illustrate the stories, all good – the one that really took my breath away was Brian Bolland, unfortunately illuminating the shortest and slightest of the component stories. Another unfortunate point is the dubious orientalism of the framing narrative (though it too is gorgeous illustrated by Charles Vess). A good starting point to try out Willingham’s style, both for good and ill.

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November Books 22) The Cyprus Question and the EU, by Andreas Theophanous

This book was given to me by the author in 2006 (you can see it on top of the pile of papers in front of him in this photograph) and I have been putting off reading it ever since. As I expected, most of it is a fairly standard uncritical rant from the headline Greek Cypriot nationalist perspective. One would scarcely realise from the book that the Turkish Cypriots had ever had any legitimate grievances. I found the analysis particularly lacking in two areas. First, the description of US interests and activity in the Eastern Mediterranean relies entirely on sympathetic commentators, with literally no reference to primary sources beyond a single out-of-context quote from Richard Holbrooke. The second big lacuna is that Theophanous, in common with the Greek Cypriot establishment, does not appreciate the key importance of bizonality for the Turkish Cypriots in looking for a settlement. All the most difficult issues of the talks – property, security, governance – are essentially rooted in the need for Turkish Cypriots to have their own space under their own control. This has been accepted in principle by successive Greek Cypriot leaders, but the history of the negotiations has been a consistent policy of eroding that commitment. I don’t see any reason for optimism.

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November Books 21) Placebo Effect, by Gary Russell

Another Eighth Doctor novel, with the Foamasi and Wirrrn (Russell adopts the Ian Marter spelling) competing for attention in subverting a future interplanetary Olympic Games. Russell’s depiction of the Foamasi is competent and his Wirrrn are memorably awful and nearly invincible. But the book is somewhat spoiled by a half-hearted enquiry into the nature of religious belief, which is territory usually left unexplored in the Whoniverse, and I think wisely so.

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November Books 20) Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together, by Bryan Lee O’Malley

I’ve generally been enjoying these graphic novels about Scott and his battles with his girlfriend’s evil exes, but I thought this one was particularly good: hitting Scott’s angst about commitment to Ramona, working out the depth of his own feelings, at the same time as their friendship group, which has been a fairly stable background through the first three volumes, undergoes some fairly radical changes, with ghosts from Scott’s past and confused sexuality thrown in. A high point of the series so far.

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November Books 19) Utopia, by Thomas More

This was an unexpected pleasure. It’s a very short book, with the framing narrative actually set in Belgium, concerning the wonderful society of Utopia which the main narrator claims to have visited in the coat-tails of Amerigo Vespucci’s explorations of the continent which now bears his name. The Penguin editor, writing in 1965, is much exercised with More’s advocacy of what he calls communism, and whether or not it can be taken as a serious reflection of More’s own views given his rather non-communist record when actually running the government of England. I was much more struck by two other points. First, on religion, where Utopia is actually contradictory: in one passage, he describes freedom of religion, and indeed the success of Christian proselytism undertaken by his narrator among the Utopians, but later on he describes the Utopians as being fairly rigidly divided into two sects; from which I deduce that 1) More thought that religious tolerance was at the very least an idea worth discussing but 2) that Utopia is intended more as a thought-provoking piece than as a political manifesto. Second, his description of the way in which the Utopians have imposed peace on their neighbourhood, in a combination of military supremacy and also acculturation of the elites of neighbouring states into the Utopian way of doing things, is in fact eerily similar to the approach of the USA today. the Utopians have a stronger military position, and a more coherent ideology, than the Roman Empire (which no doubt More was really thinking of). Anyway, a surprisingly good read.

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Whoniversaries 28 November: Karen Gillan, Dalek Invasion of Earth #2

i) births and deaths

28 November 1987: birth of Karen Gillan, who plays Amy Pond in New Who (2010-). Gosh, isn’t she young!

ii) broadcast anniversary

28 November 1964: broadcast of “The Daleks”, second episode of the story we now call The Dalek Invasion of Earth. On the flying saucer, the Doctor passes the Daleks’ intelligence test and is made ready for robotisation.

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November Books 18) Ten Thousand Light-Years From Home, by James Tiptree, Jr.

This one really did blow me away. Just a couple of weeks ago I read the Analog 6 anthology from 1968, a rather staid collection of stories in the classic sf mode. Most (though not quite all) of this 1973 collection are tremendous, many of them somewhat subversive – particularly on gender issues, this at a time when the author was still believed to be a man (and is referred to in the masculine in Harry Harrison’s introduction. The one that particularly lingers with me is “The Man Who Walked Home”, which I had forgotten was by Tiptree – the one about the time traveller who appears on the spot of his own demise once a year. There’s also a rather atypical time travel romance, “Forever to a Hudson Bay Blanket”, and the Hugo-winning “Painwise” which I didn’t remember having read before. A really excellent anthology – I think I prefer it to the later Star Songs of an Old Primate which I also enjoyed a couple of years back.

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November Books 17) The Inheritance of Loss, by Kiran Desai

An interesting and well-observed novel about the dislocations of a household caught up in both the 1986 Gorkhaland demonstrations in West Bengal, and the effects of India’s relationship over the decades with both Britain and the US (or, more specifically, Cambridge University and the catering industry in New York). It didn’t really blow me away, though it obviously worked better for many other people (including the Booker Prize judges).

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Whoniversaries 27 November

i) births and deaths

27 November 1918: birth of Peter Tuddenham, who was the voice of the computer in Ark in Space (1975), the voice of the Mandragora Helix in The Masque of Mandragora (1976), and the voice of the Brain in Time and the Rani (1987). Blake’s 7 fans remember him also as Orac, Zen and Slave.

27 November 1935: birth of Verity Lambert, who was the very first producer of Doctor Who.

ii) broadcast anniversaries

27 November 1965: broadcast of “Devil’s Planet”, third episode of the story we nowcall The Daleks’ Master Plan. The Doctor, Steven, Katarina and Bret Vyon escape Kembel but land on the prison planet Desperus; as they take off again, a deranged convict holds Katarina captive.

27 November 1993: broadcast of second episode of Dimensions in Time, but we don’t talk about that.

27 November 2003: webcast of third episode of Scream of the Shalka. The Doctor confronts the Shalka, who fling him into their wormhole.

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Whoniversaries 26 November

i) births and deaths

26 November 1929: birth of William Dysart, who played Alexander McLaren in The Highlanders (1966-67) and Reegan in The Ambassadors of Death (1970).

ii) broadcast and webcast anniversaries

26 November 1966: broadcast of fourth episode of The Power of the Daleks. The rebels try to use the Daleks; but the Daleks are reproducing…

26 November 1977: broadcast of first episode of The Sun Makers. The Doctor, Leela and K9 land on the planet Pluto, where the sinister Gatherer oppresses the people with heavy taxes.

26 November 1993: broadcast of first episode of Dimensions in Time, but we don’t talk about that.

26 November 2006: broadcast of Greeks Bearing Gifts (Torchwood), the one where Toshiko finds a pendant and is seduced by an alien.

26 November 2009: webcast of sixth and final episode of Dreamland.

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Whoniversaries 25 November

broadcast and webcast anniversaries

25 November 1967: broadcast of third episode of The Ice Warriors. The Ice Warriors injure Jamie and capture Victoria.

25 November 1978: broadcast of first episode of The Androids of Tara. Romana finds the fourth segment of the Key to Time, but she and the Doctor get enmeshed in the local dynastic struggle.

25 November 1983: UK first broadcast of The Five Doctors.

25 November 2009: webcast of fifth episode of Dreamland.

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November Books 16) The Love Letters of Henry VIII

This is a neat and slim little volume, containing the seventeen letters written by Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn in the 1520s which somehow mysteriously found their way to the Vatican archives, where they still remain. None of Anne’s letters to Henry during their courtship survive; but the collection includes a letter she wrote to her father as a child, two letters from her to Cardinal Wolsey, and finally a letter of disputed authenticity from Anne to Henry a few days before her execution, pleading for mercy and a fair trial (she got neither). Finally, we get a surviving love letter from Henry to Jane Seymour, commiserating with her about “a ballad made lately of great derision against us” so presumably written after their relationship had become public but before Anne’s execution.

There is an illuminating introduction by Jasper Ridley, including also the introduction to the 1745 edition of the letters, by William Oldys, and plenty of illustrations. The letters themselves are not immensely interesting, but do convey Henry’s passion and general intense activity – two of them apparently came with a dead deer attached, personally hinted by the king and sent to Hever for the Boleyns’ dinner table. I was pleased to recognise several authentic phrases from the letters in the episode of The Tudors we watched last night (episode 7, the one with the outbreak of sweating sickness and the Pope), so the writers clearly did their research.

A nice little presentation of some primary source material.

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November Books 14-15) Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale / Tolkien’s Book of Lost Tales

14) Doctor Who – The Writer’s Tale: The Final Chapter, by Russell T. Davies and Benjamin Cook
15) The Book of Lost Tales I, by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien

Both of these books are about the creative process of writing, though writing in very different situations. Davies and Cook exchanged emails and texts for the last two years of Davies’ tenure as show-runner of Doctor Who (ie 2007-2009), so the narrative is spontaneous, spur of the moment, and feels very genuine (though of course the reader cannot know what has been edited out in the process). I had already read the first half, and Cook and Davies spend some time in the second half discussing the reception of the original version. The Book of Lost Tales, on the other hand, was published in 1983, interpreted from a series of longhand notebooks started by J.R.R. Tolkien in 1917, as later interpreted by his son Christopher. Davies is perpetually struggling with deadlines, with his other responsibilities as showrunner, with his role as a public figure and spokesman not only for his own show but for his industry. It is rather different from Tolkien’s series of linked short stories, written in his spare time from his academic career and family obligations; once he decided to abandon the Lost Tales and start over, he probably did not expect that they would ever see the light of day – this is essentially a private set of thoughts whose author did not deem them ready for publication.

But both books, though written ninety years apart, offer insights into the process of writing, crafting and drafting, trying to get it right, be it over the period of weeks and months of producing Doctor Who, or the decades which led to Tolkien’s great works. Occasionally one can trace particular elements to the outside world: Ben Cook, normally a passionate but detached observer, persuades Davies not to end Journey’s End with a Cyberman teaser for The Next DoctorThe Writer’s Tale is much more interesting than The Book of Lost Tales. Structured as a dialogue between two writers, with lots of pretty pictures and extra amaterial, it is also about a success: whether or not one is a fan of Who or of Davies’ treatment of it, the fact is that he revived a faded franchise and made it a hit, and that in itself is a good story even if we are only getting the final years. I commented about the first edition that there were a lot of deaths in it; there is only one in the second half, but it is significant – the mother of the Executive Producer, Julie Gardner, of the same illness which Davies’ own mother had succumbed to a few years earlier. While of course all authors draw on many life experiences, it’s not too fanciful, I think, to see a direct link between this and the creation of the Claire Bloom character in The End of Time, who in Davies’ mind is very explicitly the Doctor’s own mother.

The Book of Lost Tales, on the other hand, is of interest more because of what it eventually led to, and also to an extent because of what fed into it, than because of the content. Of course Tolkien drew on the ancient literature with which he was very familiar in crafting his own work; but the style seemed to me to have strong links with Lord Dunsany and with the earlier and less weird Lovecraft. Dunsany’s The Gods of Pegāna had of course been published in 1905, but I see that Lovecraft only started publishing horror in 1919, so I guess it is a case of two contemporaries drawing from a common well.

I couldn’t really recommend The Book of Lost Tales to anyone but a Tolkien enthusiast (and I have been one for most of my life, but have only now got around to reading it 27 years after it was published). The Writer’s Tale, however, is probably the best book about Doctor Who that will ever be written, and of immense interest to anyone who cares about television, sf, or indeed the creative process.

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Whoniversaries 24 November

broadcast and webcast anniversaries

24 November 1979: broadcast of first episode of Nightmare of Eden. Two spaceships collide coming out of hyperspace; the Doctor, Romana and K9 start to uncover murky doings with the addictive drug vraxoin.

24 November 2008: broadcast of second episode of The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith. Sarah’s parents sacrifice themselves to prevent the Graske’s plan.

24 November 2009: release of fourth episode of Dreamland.

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Whoniversaries 23 November

Nothing very significant today, is there?

Oh, hang on…

i) broadcast anniversaries

23 November 1963: broadcast of “An Unearthly Child”, first episode of the story we now cal An Unearthly Child, and the first ever episode of Doctor Who. Teachers Ian and Barbara follow their mysterious pupil home to a police box, which contains the time and space ship – the TARDIS – of the enigmatic Doctor. It transports them – but to where?

23 November 1968: broadcast of fourth episode of The Invasion. The Doctor and UNIT rescue Isobel and Zoe; and Jamie and the Dioctor witness a Cyberman emerging from its cocoon.

23 November 1983: first broadcast of The Five Doctors, in the USA. (British audiences see it two days later.) The First, Second, Third and Fifth Doctor are united on Gallifrey to play the Game of Rassilon.

23 November 1987: broadcast of first episode of Dragonfire, introducing Ace. The Doctor and Mel land on Iceworld where they encounter their old friend Sabalon Glitz, and a stroppy waitress.

23 November 1988: broadcast of first episode of Silver Nemesis. The Doctor and Ace go back and forth between Windsor Castle in 1988 and 1638, dealing with the Nemesis meteor and Lady Peinforte’s status; then the Cybermen arrive.

23 November 1989: Silvester McCoy records the voiceover at the end of episode three of Survival, the very last words of Old Who.

23 November 2009: release of third episode of Dreamland.

ii) births and deaths

23 November 1914: birth of Roger Avon, who played Saphadin in The Crusade (1965), Daxtar in The Daleks’ Master Plan (1965) and Wells in Daleks – Invasion Earth 2150 AD (1966)

23 November 1963: birth of Joe Ahearne, who directed Dalek, Father’s Day, Boom Town and Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways (all 2005).

23 November 1990: death of Mostyn Evans, who played Dai Evans in The Green Death (1973) and the High Priest in Death to the Daleks (1974).

23 November 2003: death of Bill Strutton, writer of The Web Planet (1965) and the novelisation Doctor Who and the Zarbi.

iii) dates specified in canon

23 November 1638: The Doctor launches the Nemesis status into space. (Silver Nemesis, 1988)

23 November 1863: death of Victoria Waterfield’s mother (according to Marc Platt’s 1996 novel Downtime).

23 November 1997: Re-coronation of Elizabeth II, attended by the Fourth Doctor, Romana and K9 in Lance Parkin’s 1997 novel The Dying Days.

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Stanley Crossick

I didn’t know Stanley Crossick well, but like a lot of us in the Brussels beltway I was very sad to hear of his death at the age of 75 at the weekend. When I first moved here in 1999 he was particularly visible as the founder of the European Policy Centre, which has published a decent tribute to him today. But what particularly impressed over the last few years was his adoption of new media: this septuagenarian grandee of the Brussels policy community took to the internet like a duck to water, despite his increasing physical infirmity. It is nice that he managed to pass the milestone of his 500th blog entry before he was called to a different level of communication. He will be missed.

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Whoniversaries 22 November

i) births and deaths

22 November 1920: birth of Paul Erickson, author of The Ark (1966).

22 November 2007: death of Verity Lambert, the very first producer of Doctor Who (1963-65).

ii) broadcast and webcast anniversaries

22 November 1975: broadcast of first episode of The Android Invasion. The Doctor and Sarah arrive at the village of Devesham, to find peculiar behaviour from the villagers, a lost astronaut and sinister guards in white suits.

22 November 1980: broadcast of first episode of State of Decay. The Doctor and Romana explore a very low-tech village, and are attacked by bats.

22 November 1985: Children in Need features four Doctors and fifteen companions.

22 November 1986: broadcast of fourth episode of Terror of the Vervoids (ToaTL #12). The Doctor kills off the Vervoids and is accused of genocide.

22 November 1989: broadcast of first episode of Survival. The Doctor brings Ace back to Privale, where a black cat is transporting people to another world, wheret he Doctor meets the Master.

22 November 2009: release of second episode of Dreamland.

iii) date specified in canon

22 November 1963: assassination of John F. Kennedy, as described in Who Killed Kennedy? by David Bishop, and apparently witnessed by the Ninth Doctor according to Clive’s research in Rose (2005).

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Whoniversaries 21 November

i) births and deaths

21 November 1924: birth of Malcolm Hulke, co-author of The Faceless Ones, The War Games and (uncredited) The Ambassadors of Death, sole author of Doctor Who and the Silurians, Colony in Space, The Sea Devils, Frontier in Space, and Invasion of the Dinosaurs, and writer of seven novelisations (DW&t Cave-Monsters, DW&t Doomsday Weapon, DW&t Sea Devils, DW&t Green Death, DW&t Dinosaur Invasion, DW&t Space War and DW&t War Games) and co-writer of The Making of Doctor Who.

21 November 1937: birth of Ingrid Pitt, who played Galleia in The Time Monster (1972) and Solow in Warriors of the Deep (1984) and co-wrote The Macros (originally submitted in the mid-80s, made by Big Finish as a Sixth Doctor story in 2010).

ii) broadcast and webcast anniversaries

21 November 1964: broadcast of “World’s End”, first episode of the story we now call The Dalek Invasion of Earth. The Tardis lands in a future devastated London; Susan and Barbara fall in with the human resistance, and the Doctor and Ian are captured by the Daleks.

21 November 1990: broadcast of Search Out Space, an episode of the BBC show Search Out Science featuring Silvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor, Sophie Aldred as Ace and John Leeson as the voice of K9. Haven’t seen it and it’s not in most people’s concept of canon.

21 November 2009: release of first episode of Dreamland, animated story starring David Tennant as the Doctor, Georgia Moffatt as Cassie Rice and Tim Howar as Jimmy Stalkingwolf. The Doctor lands at a diner in Nevada, where a mysterious artifact attracts the Men in Black…

iii) date specified in canon

21 November 2059: setting for most of the events of The Waters of Mars (2009).

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November Books 12-13) Two novels about Henry VIII’s reign

I'm up to episode 5 of the The Tudors and took the time to get through two blockbusting novels with the same setting, Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall (which covers the 1527-1535 period in the life of Thomas Cromwell) and Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl (told from Mary Boleyn's point of view, covering a longer period, 1521 to 1536). It's quite startling to compare the two books with each other, with the TV series, and with the historical record; one obvious conclusion is that the relationship between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn was a dramatic affair for the human beings involved which inevitably attracts authors who want to tell a good story. The fact that it also had far-reaching historical consequences which still reverberate today is a bonus for the reader.

The two books are very different from each other, however. Wolf Hall is certainly the better of the two: In Mantell's hands Cromwell becomes a fascinating character, carrying the baggage of a brutal London upbringing, always mindful of his family away from court, ascending the greasy pole of power rather in spite of his own best instincts. She really summons up the smell and feel of Tudor London, and the alarming sense of fragility of life – not just from the king's displeasure, but from illness, violence, or accident. The novel ends with Cromwell's ascent to full power; I believe a sequel is brewing which will cover the last five years of his life, and I will certainly buy it.

The Other Boleyn Girl is, alas, a fairly standard romance novel with well-known characters. Unlike most historical accounts, Gregory makes Mary the younger sister, watching as the older Anne first connives at her own affair with the king and then ruthlessly replaces her; as Anne approaches her doom (which she partly brings on herself by incest and witchcraft), Mary ends up with a nice but humbly born man who takes her away from it all. Mary is such a naive first-person narrator that it gets a bit irritating at times. But it is well-written and perhaps more approachable than Wolf Hall.

The central character of each of the two books is a background figure in the other, and neither is particularly well served. For Mantell, Mary Boleyn is a fading but demanding former royal mistress with important but fraying family connections. For Gregory, Cromwell is a dodgy political figure ensuring Anne's rise for his own reasons. Both of them come out in roughly the same place in portraying Henry VIII as randy, short-tempered, and tough on his advisers (Jonathan Rhys Meyers' portrayal on TV is of a rather younger man).

After reading these, the one person who I really ended up wanting to know more about was Anne Boleyn. Only Mantel explores her character at all positively – she is the villain of Gregory's book, and the depiction of her as the court flirt in The Tudors goes back at least to Shakespeare and Fletcher. But she kept Henry chasing her for years (from their first encounter in 1525 to their marriage in 1533), which is pretty impressive considering that he could basically have had any Englishwoman he wanted. It's also strongly suggested that she was genuinely Protestant in sentiment, which would make her a rather advanced thinker and would perhaps give her an extra motive (besides the obvious personal one) for wanting the Church to be under direct royal control.

Anyway, we have another 33 episodes of The Tudors to go, if we can keep the pace.

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Upper Bann

My eye was caught by a confident Sinn Féin prediction that the party can win a second seat in Upper Bann next year, with constiruency chairman saying in public what I have heard privately from a couple of SF supporters:

In recent elections Sinn Féin’s vote in Upper Bann has increased and, when taken with the demographic changes in the make-up of the population of the constituency, it is clear that Sinn Féin is in a position to win a third nationalist seat. The political break-up of Upper Bann is approximately 50-50 and if the nationalist electorate turns out on Election Day, Sinn Féin will win a second party seat. That sixth seat is not a ‘unionist seat’ as recent speculation in the media would have us believe.

Well, I think that SF a position to gain a second seat in Upper Bann next time, but it is much more likely to be from the SDLP. Looking at real numbers rather than fantasy, the community background of Upper Bann’s inhabitants in 2001 came out at 55% Protestant (just under four quotas) to 43% (just over three) Catholic, which is not really 50/50 though would be on the cusp of delivering a third Nationalist seat if there was a direct mapping from community background to politics.

However the Nationalist vote in past elections was not high enough to credibly talk of a third seat. In the 2007 Assembly election the combined SDLP and SF total vote share was 38% – exactly the same as in 1998, nine years earlier. That demographic change is taking an awful long time to manifest itself.

That 38% vote share in 2007 was split almost 2 to 1 in SF’s favour: the two candidates got 10,851 votes to the SDLP’s 5,450. With a handful more votes, and better balancing, the Sinners could have ensured that both John O’Dowd and Dessie Ward stayed ahead of Dolores Kelly. As it was, O’Dowd was elected on the first count, topping the poll, and Ward struggled on as runner-up. I understand he has since left the party, so perhaps this week’s statements are better interpreted as an attempt to boost internal morale than any reflection of reality.

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Differential community turnout in NI, revisited

I have been debating the question of differential turnout in Northern Ireland by email with a correspondent, and this has prompted me to actually do some more analysis, cross-referencing the election results with census data.

The results are rather interesting. The 2001 census found 43.8% of the population to have a Catholic background, and 53.1% to have a Protestant or other Christian background. The votes cast in 2010 were 42.0% for Nationalist candidates and 50.5% for Unionist candidates. Strikingly, the Nationalist vote in 2010 was 38.4% of the 2001 Catholic population, and the Unionist vote in 2010 was 38.0% of the 2001 Protestant population, within a whisker of each other. This I take as support for my basic thesis that the variation in turnout across Northern Ireland is more of a geographical effcet than a sectarian one; Catholics and Protestants, and indeed others, are all voting at about the same rate these days.

Drilling down a bit into constituencies, the pattern is very much more complex (table below ranked by the difference between the two last columns):

 Prot ’01Cath ’01Oth ’01U vote ’10N vote ’10Oth ’10U ’10-Pr ’01N ’10-Ca ’01
EAST BELFAST87.0%7.5%5.4%59.3%3.4%37.2%-27.7%-4.1%
SOUTH DOWN28.7%69.6%1.7%19.4%77.2%3.4%-9.3%+7.6%
SOUTH BELFAST52.6%41.0%6.4%41.0%41.0%18.0%-11.7%0.0%
WEST BELFAST16.1%82.8%1.1%10.7%87.5%1.9%-5.4%+4.6%
NORTH BELFAST51.6%45.1%3.3%47.7%46.3%6.0%-3.9%+1.2%
MID ULSTER33.7%65.3%1.0%32.8%66.3%1.0%-1.0%+1.0%
NEWRY AND ARMAGH31.8%67.2%1.0%33.4%65.4%1.2%+1.5%-1.7%
LAGAN VALLEY81.1%14.2%4.7%79.5%9.0%11.4%-1.5%-5.2%
FERMANAGH S TYRONE43.0%55.6%1.4%45.5%53.2%1.3%+2.5%-2.4%
SOUTH ANTRIM68.3%27.4%4.4%69.7%22.6%7.7%+1.5%-4.8%
EAST ANTRIM75.3%19.8%4.9%75.5%13.4%11.1%+0.2%-6.5%
EAST LONDONDERRY57.2%40.1%2.7%59.8%34.7%5.5%+2.5%-5.3%
WEST TYRONE31.3%67.8%1.0%33.9%62.4%3.7%+2.7%-5.4%
UPPER BANN54.7%42.9%2.5%59.5%37.5%3.0%+4.9%-5.4%
NORTH ANTRIM70.3%27.4%2.4%75.5%21.2%3.2%+5.3%-6.1%
NORTH DOWN81.6%11.7%6.7%88.5%2.8%8.7%+6.9%-8.9%
NI total53.1%43.8%3.1%50.5%42.0%7.5%-2.6%-1.8%

The biggest and least recoverable part of the variation will be the drift in population between 2001 and 2010. The 2001 figures include those aged under 9 who were not able to vote this year, those who have died since 2001 and those who have moved away since 2001, not to mention those who lived there throughout but did not vote in 2010; they do not include those voters who have moved in since 2001. Just from the nature of modern life one can speculate that this may have had the biggest effect in South Belfast, and in other more urban and suburban areas; but we have no way of quantifying it.

However we can be pretty clear about the two seats where the difference is most striking. In East Belfast, assuming (dangerously) that turnout was more or less the same across the communities, over a third of voting Protestants and over half of voting Catholics supported Alliance, resulting in the biggest difference between the Protestant population share and the Unionist vote. And in North Down, again assuming equal turnout, three-quarters of voting Catholics may have supported candidates other than the SDLP and Sinn Fein.

There is some suggestion from the figures of ‘tactical voting’ by Protestants for Nationalist candidates (presumably the SDLP) in South Down, West Belfast, and Foyle (there is also something interesting going on in South Belfast, but due to the mobility of the population it is difficult to be sure of what exactly that is); there is also some suggestion of ‘tactical voting’ by Catholics for Unionist candidates, presumably to prevent a more hard-line candidate getting in, in North Antrim (the likely beneficiary being, of all people, Ian Paisley Jr) and Upper Bann (possibly support for the UUP’s Freddy Mercury lookalike candidate). It’s fairly clear also that Alliance draws a lot of support from Catholics in East Antrim and Strangford.

I don’t think we can really take it much further than that, though of course that will not stop people trying.

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Whoniversaries 20 November

i) births and deaths

20 November 1930: birth of Bernard Horsfall, who played Gulliver in The Mind Robber (1968), a Time Lord in The War GamesPlanet of the Daleks (1973) and Chancellor Goth in The Deadly Assassin (1976).

20 November 1994: death of John Lucarotti, writer of Marco Polo (1964), The Aztecs (1964) and The Massacre (1966).

ii) broadcast anniversaries

20 November 1965: broadcast of “Day of Armageddon”, the second episode of The Daleks’ Master Plan. The Doctor infiltrates the Daleks’ meeting in disguise, and seizes the terranium core from Mavic Chen.

20 November 1976: broadcast of fourth episode of The Deadly Assassin. The Master fakes his death and attempts to unleash the forces of the Eye of Harmony. The Doctor defeats him, though with much devastation to the Capitol.

20 November 2003: webcast of second episode of Scream of the Shalka. The Doctor blows up Alison’s cafe and her house to stop the aliens, but then gets taken up by the army; meanwhile the Master [played by Derek Jacobi] has got into the Tardis.

20 November 2009: broadcast of second episode of The Gift, ending the third season of the Sarah Jane Adventures. K9 persuades the Rakweed to explode, killing off the Blathereen / Slitheen.

20 November 2010: broadcast of Eclipse of the Korven (K9).

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Whoniversaries 19 November

i) births and deaths

19 November 1924: birth of William Russell, who played Ian Chesterton from 1963 to 1965 and has done a number of Big Finish plays, including the just released Lost First Doctor stories by Moris Farhi.

19 November 1971: birth of Naoko Mori, who played Toshiko Sato in the first two series of Torchwood (2006, 2008) having first appeared in Aliens of London (2005).

ii) broadcast anniversaries

19 November 1966: broadcast of third episode of The Power of the Daleks. The rebels capture Polly, and the Doctor and Ben erode Lesterson’s trust in the Daleks.

19 November 1977: broadcast of fourth episode of Image of the Fendahl. The Doctor kills the Fendahleen with salt, blows up the cottage and drops the skull into a supernova.

19 November 2006: broadcast of Countrycide (Torchwood), the one with the cannibalistic villagers.

19 November 2007: broadcast of second episode of The Lost Boy (SJA), ending the first series of Sarah Jane Adventures. Luke defeats the Slitheen and K9 reappears to dael with Mr Smith.

19 November 2009: broadcast of first episode of The Gift (SJA). The Blathereen, hunting the Slitheen, give Rani the Rakweed which however starts to take over the world.

iii) historical event in canon

19 November 1863: Abraham Lincoln delivers the Gettysburg Address, as observed by the Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara in The Chase (1965).

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