Links I found interesting for 30-10-2012

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Three new Doctor Who audiobooks

Well, new-ish, released in May, July and September – another is due out this week and there will be one more in December.

Day of the Cockroach, by Steve Lyons, is a classic base-under-siege story, the sub-genre that Lyons has made his own. It has the Doctor, Amy and Rory arriving in England in the immediate aftermath of a 1980s nuclear war, or so it seems; an idea used about the same time by Big Finish in Protect and Survive. It’s fairly obvious from an early stage how things will work out, but Lyons has a very competent style and Arthur Darvill does a decent effort at the other characters’ voices.

The Nu-Humans by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright is the most sfnally adventurous of these stories, set on a planet with very high gravity (why do sf writers so rarely do that?) and with the eponymous Nu-Humans having a very similar history to the Cybermen, only less boring. It’s a bit gory for younger fans but firmly recommended for older listeners, including those who are not really into Who. Read very well by Raquel Cassidy, who seems to have a real knock for this.

Raquel Cassidy also reads Simon Guerrier’s The Empty House, which is basically a ghost story with a Whovian/sfnal twist; it’s rare for me to feel this about a single-CD story lasting little more than an hour, but I felt it actually could have been shorter. Still, it would be suitable Halloween fare for Who fans of all ages.

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Links I found interesting for 29-10-2012

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The Time Museum, The Masters of Luxor

It’s been a sad time for Who companions recently, with several untimely losses and rumours of illness for others. But meanwhile William Russell, who turns 88 next month, is still going strong, launching the new series of Companion Chronicles from Big Finish with The Time Museum from the ever-fertile imagination of James Goss (who is the only Who author on my buy-on-sight-even-in-hardback list). The story has a long-retired Ian Chesterton in a peculiar alien environment being challenged to remember details of his travels with the Doctor, so long ago; its tone is elegiac, sinister and affectionate all at the same time, which is an achievement. If you’re at all a fan of those first two seasons of Who, you’ll enjoy this.

I am not sure I can say the same for The Masters of Luxor, Anthony Coburn’s obscure script (which I read a while back) now brought to life by the rewriting skills of Nigel Robinson and the voices of William Russell as Ian and the Doctor, Carole Ann Ford as Susan and Barbara, and Joe Kloska as everyone else. I’m not at all a fan of Robinson’s other work but, presumably with input from Lisa Bowerman as director, he has done his best to make the original script sing – it is very slow, with the Tardis crew not meeting anyone else until the second episode of six, and the only significant guest part not showing up till episode 4. There are lots of blatant circle narratives – run away, get locked up, repeat. The entire story would barely fill a single episode of New Who. The cast give it their all but it’s not fantastic material in the first place.

If it had been made, this story could have gone either way. Given decent design and direction, it might have been remembered as a classic. But it’s a high risk piece; the special effects needed are challenging (giant pyramids, three types of robot, the Tardis flying through the air) and might have absorbed directorial time from preparing the actors; we could have been looking at a reputation more like the Sensorites.

Actually, of course, if the story had been shown as originally planned, there would have been no Daleks and probably a little later no more Doctor Who. So it’s just as well, really.

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October Books 5) The Tartan Sell, by Jonathan Gash

My regular reader will be glad to know that I’m taking a break from Lovejoy at present, but I am well behind with book-blogging so here is one I finished a week or so ago. Actually it is rather a nice story, Lovejoy being much more like the lovable rogue played by Ian McShane on TV than the duplicitous psychopath of the earlier books. Here he falls in with a Scottish landed family who have fallen on hard times, via a spell working in a circus, and sorts out their financial problems and dark long-held secrets. He also of course gets lots of intimate but not very explicitly described female companionship. (I think the word “breast” is used at one point, which is almost shocking.) It’s a more pleasant read than many of the books, but also a bit less demanding.

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October Books 4) The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, by James Weldon Johnson

Despite the title, this is actually a novel whose unnamed narrator, a light-skinned African-American of the late 19th/ early 20th century, undergoes various travails including whether to abandon his career as a (black) musician and settle down for a dull life in the (white) middle class. I see Wikipedia suggesting that the author intended it as an ironic reflection on the first-person narratives of the day, so I guess I may not have the full context. It didn’t really work for me as a novel; too many incidents which though interesting in their own right didn’t really add up to a narrative structure. The anonymity of the narrator distanced me further from the story. Still, it’s short.

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Links I found interesting for 28-10-2012

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Lovejoy and Coriolanus

Blogging has been very light round here for the last week or so – I have been travelling a lot, with some unexpected wrinkles and last-minute changes of plan, am behind in bookblogging and also in the middle of three very thick books.

But I will break my silence with notes on a couple of screen adaptations which I watched today of texts which I already knew in another form. They are colossally different in quality. The first of the two was the very first Lovejoy episode, The Firefly Cage (1986),  based on the sixth Lovejoy book, The Firefly Gadroon (1981) – the first time I have watched one of the TV episodes since starting my sporadic read-through of the books. Well. One should be a little charitable because a lot of effort is exerted to set up the major recurring characters – Lovejoy himself, Tinker, Eric and Lady Jane Felsham – and the TV show is only starting to find its way in terms of tone, whereas by this stage the books were confident if not always on target. But even so, I think fans of the books tuning in hopefully back in 1986 would have been bitterly disappointed by this adaptation. It can't quite decide how violent the show is going to be, it can't decide how sexy it is going to be, and several crucial scenes from the novel are completely defused for the screen – Lovejoy prevents the burning of the firefly cages, there is no desperate struggle for survival on the sea fort, and the final explosive scene is played for laughs rather than allowing the bereaved donkey to exact her hideous revenge. Not very many of the TV episodes are based on the novels, and it's probably just as well; the tone is completely different and it was better to let the two continuities find separate levels.

Ralph Fiennes' Coriolanus (2011) is quite a different matter. I was strangely fascinated by this play when I listened to it three years ago, and commented then that "An inspired director and actor could no doubt make something memorable of it, but it's tough material to work with." Fiennes has done a brilliant job as director and lead actor, bringing the struggle between Romans and Volsci quite literally to the modern Balkans – the Rome scenes are filmed in Belgrade and Pančevo, the Volscian scenes in Montenegro, and Jon Snow does a terrific turn as TV news anchorman picking up the Shakespearean infodump characters to footage of the tanks rolling in. The show is almost stolen by Vanessa Redgrave as Coriolanus' electrifying mother Volumnia, but all the others are pretty good too (shouts to Brian Cox as Coriolanus' friend Menenius, Jessica Chastain as Coriolanus' wife Virgilia, and especially Gerard Butler as the Volscian leader Aufidius, who clearly has an erotic fascination with his enemy-turned-ally). Coriolanus himself is a bit one-dimensional as a character, but Fiennes makes up for it with fantastic visual direction, and also by playing the pivotal dramatic points in the play so effectively that, although you pretty much know what must happen next, you are able to suspend your disbelief. Very strongly recommended. I'm really surprised that it is not a better known play.

Incidentally I note that Paul Jesson, who played the tribune Brutus in this version (in a double act with James Nesbitt as Sicinius), was Aufidius in the 2004 audio I listened to, and also played the First Citizen when the BBC did the Complete Shakespeare thirty years ago. He must be able to recite it in his sleep by now.

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Links I found interesting for 27-10-2012

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Links I found interesting for 26-10-2012

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Local election results

Because I know you are on the edge of your seats: our mayor lost his bid for a seventh six-year term in yesterday’s elections. His independent (but backed by the Liberals) bloc got only five seats, with the separatist New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) topping the poll as they did in much of Flanders and getting six seats. They will now control the council in alliance with the Christian Democrats (CD&V) and the Greens, who won five and three seats respectively. The Socialists (sp.a) won the other two.

The answers to my question about train services came from, in order, 1) N-VA, 2) the outgoing mayor, 3) CD&V, 4) a smaller group who failed to win any seats, 5) the Greens and finally 6) sp.a. Despite their late reply, sp.a made the best impression on me and I voted for them; until then I had been inclined to support the outgoing mayor both on the basis of his answer and to decrease the likelihood of N-VA winning.

(I should say that I am actually pretty agnostic on the question of splitting up Belgium, but I don’t like parties who make it clear that they are not interested in representing me because I am not Flemish enough, and those parties tend to be on the separatist side of the debate.)

I am very unimpressed with the local Greens, who sent me the worst reply and are now in coalition with hardline separatists, but at provincial level I voted for their list; their candidate here in the last parliamentary elections got my support and has stuck to her principles as far as I can tell from Twitter.

The papers are of course full of the implications for Belgium. I hope the federal government serves out its full term – after all, it’s not the first time in history that mid-term second-order elections have favoured the opposition – but I hope also that people are already considering the likely lay of the land in the next Belgian parliament. (Whose Senate, incidentally, will be shorn of both hereditary and directly elected members.)

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Links I found interesting for 14-10-2012

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The sixth party responds

An interesting development from my earlier post about the local political parties – the sixth has now written back to me, less than 24 hour before the elections, as follows:

Dear Nicholas,

I’m quite convinced that our lives silently have crossed quite a hughe number of times . At the train from Oud-Heverlee to Leuven, and back (?). I suppose that you’re the guy who listens often to music with earplugs :=)

I’m “undergoing” also a few times a week, the problem you’ve described.

If I’m elected or not, I would do the same things: trying to promote and optimize (?) the public transport. I just do things where I believe in, for general purpose.

Excuse me that my poor English now switches to Dutch. I can answer you a lot in English about specific items concerning the environment and nature, but the details of public transport are quite lacking.

[my translation from the orginal Dutch]

1. I recognize the problem or rather, the facts concerning a non-optimal connection of trains between Brussels and Oud-Heverlee. I have been taking the train regularly from Oud-Heverlee to Brussels since 1991 (in the nineties also from Heverlee), and there’s always been an issue of non-optimal connections of trains.

2. For years people have called for more trains on weekdays between Leuven and St-Joris-Weert. After various actions and petitions from people living in Oud-Heverlee, St-Joris-Weert, Nethen, Pecrot, Florival, etc, we have managed to increase the frequency at peak times to 2 trains per hour. I assume that you too signed one or more of these petitions. In any case, the increased frequency at peak times has certainl made the possibilities for commuters betwen Oud-Heverlee and Brussels somewhat easier. Admittedly, the offer of 2 trains per hour stops after 19.23 (OH) or 19.28 (Leuven).

3. The problem of the increased frequency, however, is that there is now no waiting. The trains of 28 and 58 past the hour in Leuven going towards OH no longer wait, as they previously didm and leave on time.

4. I myself would tackle your (and my) problem with late trains from Leuven to OH in the first place by trying to get the train to wait up to five minuts for th connection, as it did before the introduction of the increased frequency. I myself have reported several times that the train of 19.28 left just as I reached it. So step 1: Everything starts, I think, if this problem is consistently reported. Everyone should do this. Step 2: joint petition of train passengers asking that connecting trains to Heverlee / OH / Waver / Ottignies after 19:00 shuld wait. I think, however, that in this petition several problems should be addressed.

For step 2, it is only the question of who takes the initiative. We could do this together.

5. Public transport also includes the bus. I would say that [my party] has long demanded that the #2 bus should have its route extended to Oud=Heverlee; you will find this in our manifesto. Precisely this week De Lijn [the bus company] have annouced that they will not adopt this proposal. However De Lijn is considering increasing the frequency of the #337 bus, and says that this is very likely to happen.

6. Frankly, I find the problem of the abolition of a number of trains (early morning and late evenin) from OH to Leuven (and vice versa) a bigger problem. I would like to do something about it, but so far have not had time.

Finally, I have learned to live with all these non=optimal train connections and so take an earlier evening train whose the connection is guaranteed. This does not mean that the solution already mentioned under item 4 would not be better.

Well, he definitely gets marks for detail and thinking things through; though I do wonder how he thinks he knows what I look like? (He is quite right about the earplugs, though usually I am listening to Big Finish plays!)

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The Old Testament

My two annual reading projects this year have been War and Peace, which conveniently has 366 chapters, and the Bible, for which I generated a reading scheme of my own, based on reading roughly the same amount of it each day (though giving short books a day of their own).

This morning I finished the Old Testament (full Catholic version, thus including Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, 1 and 2 Maccabees, and extra bits of Esther and Daniel) and I thought I should record my take on it before tackling the New Testament.

First off, I don't think I actually would recommend reading the Old Testament (or indeed the Bible) through from start to finish as I did. It wasn't written or compiled to be read in that way, and it doesn't do the text any services to read as if it were a novel, a short story collection, or a book of essays and meditations. I chose this approach because I wanted to feel that I had control of what I was reading, and that I was not missing anything, but if you want to get a fair flavour of it, it's probably better to follow one of the many reading guides available online and elsewhere, which are designed both to showcase the good bits and to keep the reader interested.

Second, a lot of it is pretty dull, actually. 2 Chronicles in particular comes close to Mark Twain's description of the Book of Mormon, as "choroform in print". Large chunks of the Pentateuch are lists of laws and, even less exciting, census returns. The historical bits have an awful lot of tediously horrible ethnic cleansing and dynastic struggle, leavened by the occasional good bit (the Saul / David / Solomon succession in particular). The prophets are rather indistinguishable in tone of outrage. I recommend finding some way of skipping the dull bits.

Third, the good bits are indeed good. I've singled out the Book of Job in a previous post; I found the Psalms generally inspiring and uplifting, and I've always been a fan of Ecclesiastes. The narrative histories, which I thought I knew fairly well, still had some surprises for me – in Numbers 12, God smites Moses' sister with leprosy for racism towards Moses' black wife, for instance. There are some fun bits in the prophets – Jonah, and the deuterocanonical addenda to Daniel (Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon). I also rather liked Sirach, aka Ecclesiasticus, which again is deuterocanonical. And 2 Maccabees is a fairly lucid, if brutal, historical note to finish on.

Fourth, there were indeed a few themes running through the entire OT whose importance I hadn't perhaps fully grasped: the importance of God's endowing his people with the land, the importance of the cult of the Temple, and the trauma of the Babylonian exile (which of course shaped most of the text we have very directly). I'm not saying that these are the only or even the main main themes, but that these are the ones whose importance was enhanced for me by reading through the entire thing.

So, an interesting experiment so far, but not necessarily one that I would urge others to emulate.

Genesis 1-15 January
Exodus 16-27 January
Leviticus 28 January – 5 February
Numbers 6-18 February
Deuteronomy 19-28 February
Joshua 29 February – 6 March
Judges 7-13 March
Ruth 14 March
1 Samuel 15-23 March
2 Samuel 24-31 March
1 Kings 1-9 April
2 Kings 10-17 April
1 Chronicles 18-26 April
2 Chronicles 27 April – 6 May
Ezra 7-9 May
Nehemiah 10-13 May
Tobit 14-16 May
Judith 17-19 May
Esther 20-22 May
Job 23-31 May
Psalms 1-22 June
Proverbs 23-30 June
Ecclesiastes 1-2 July
Song of Solomon 3 July
Wisdom 4-7 July
Sirach 8-21 July
Isaiah 22 July – 4 August
Jeremiah 5-20 August
Lamentations 21 August
Baruch 22-23 August
Ezekiel 24 August – 7 September
Daniel 8-13 September
Hosea 14-15 September
Joel 16 September
Amos 17 September
Obadiah 18 September
Jonah 19 September
Micah 20 September
Nahum 21 September
Habakkuk 22 September
Zephaniah 23 September
Haggai 24 September
Zechariah 25-26 September
Malachi 27 September
1 Maccabees 28 September – 7 October
2 Maccabees 8-13 October

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Links I found interesting for 13-10-2012

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Election choices

We have municipal and provincial elections tomorrow, and I’ve found it very difficult to make up my mind who to vote for; everyone claims to love our little village in a very special way (and nobody seems to know what the provincial government is for). In an effort to distinguish between them, I emailed all six parties standing in the municipality with my well-chronicled complaints about the evening rail connection in Leuven, apologising for doing so in English. I post the replies from the six parties below in the order that I received them:

  1. We will try to get more citizens to use public transportation. When that happens we probably can point out to De Lijn/NMBS [De Lijn is the bus company, NMBS the train company] that they have to increase their frequency. This does not solve your problem entirely (you might still loose 30 minutes) but it is De Lijn/NMBS that decide on their time tables. They might have a good reason for their timetable: If that train is meant to connect with another train somewhere for example. Anyway as you can see there is not an easy solution. Good communcation between the city council and the people of De Lijn/NMBS is the only possibility to solve your problem. 

    Are there many people that fail to catch their connection? Maybe if we combine it into 1 big complaint/request they might listen to it…

  2. This is in response to your recent inquiry .

    I can assure you that after the elections to be held very soon, I shall insist that the NMBS look into and fix the problems you encounter with the train connections concerning Oud Heverlee and St Joris Weert.

    I believe that the present situation resulted from budgetary constraints and was done in order to save.

    Please be assured that you are not the first and only one  to complain about this situation!

    I shall do what ever possible to intercede with the NMBS

  3. We’re trying to ask the NMBS (train company) to let the trains follow up to another.

    I have send your request to them.

    As soon that I will receive an answer, I will send you a message.

    If you don’t hear something from me after one month, please react again.

  4. I will ask the NMBS for more information and I’ll try to ask them for a better connection between the train of Brussels and the train of Ottignies.

    I know someone personally from the helpservice of the NMBS and I’ll try to tell them this problem and ask if it’s possible to let the train depart again at 33 minutes past the hour in stead of the 28 minutes past. I won’t even wait untill 14 october to ask this.

  5. Sorry for the late answer, but because of the elections next Sunday, we are all very busy.

    I will take care of your question next week.

  6. [No reply]

I must say that I am impressed that the replies all came in English. These are candidates for office in a small village where Dutch is the only official language (though we are up against the linguistic frontier, bordering Wallonia). I also regret that I chose to write to them on an issue which isn’t actually one which they can do much about if elected. But anyway, I think the answers are revealing.

What do you think?

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Links I found interesting for 12-10-2012

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October Books 3) Conquest of the Amazon, by John Russell Fearn

I have no idea why I got this book. The cover art is quite remarkable in its own right and possibly caught my eye. (My wife wondered how the nipple shields might be attached; myself I wonder how much practical use they are in combat.) It turns out to be the cover for the wrong book; the heroine of Conquest of the Amazon is blonde and wears a white suit, whereas this lady is dark-haired and not wearing anything much at all. More critically, the cover suggests a sword-and-sorcery romp, when in fact the Amazon is a near-future woman using her super-powers to keep the space lanes clear from marauding Martians and treacherous if handsome men from Jupiter. I’m sure it sold well anyway – heck, I must have bought it (or perhaps someone else bought it for me) – but I wonder how many early readers suffered buyer’s remorse after realising that it wasn’t the Conan ripoff they were expecting?

I vaguely knew of John Russell Fearn, of course, but I don’t think I had read any of his works before. This turns out to be the seventh book in a series of twenty pulp adventures of the Amazon, who acquired super powers half a century ago at the age of three, and is exercising them in the cause of Good. It is, frankly, not a good book, yet I got through to the end after tossing Dagger Magic aside because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. At first I was tweeting particularly eye-catching samples of Fearn’s deathless prose –

“Book me a reservation on the next helicoliner following the Mount Everest route.”

“The end of the world is within sight. I thought you should know that.”

“This woman has always been a smooth talker. She can get out of any tight corner by using subtlety.” [Subtlety, eh? The fiendish minx!]

– but then I decided to just go with the flow, as the Amazon tries to simultaneously stop the Sun going out, hold back the glaciers, and resist the culture of the Great Red Spot. It’s all utterly implausible, but it’s a romantic portrayal of a future where a benevolent science rules and a superwoman saves the world. Short (126 pages) and rather sweet.

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Links I found interesting for 11-10-2012

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October Books 2) The Twilight Lords, by Richard Berleth

I had got this 1977 account of the Elizabethan wars in Ireland in the expectation that it might be a somewhat traditionalist approach to the period, to counterbalance the more revisionist accounts I had been reading over the last few years. In fact it’s more of a hobbyist’s labour of love, concentrating very much on the sequence of events in Munster and trying boldly if not completely successfully to tie England’s Irish policy to Queen Elizabeth’s state of mind. I actually found Berleth’s exposition of the detail of events pretty good, and enjoyed his chapter on literature, especially The Faerie Queene (which I have been reading at not quite a canto per day since July). But the internal chronology is a bit weird, jumping back and forth through decades (thus weakening the basic story which is of cycles of devastation and resettlement), and the entire Ulster war and Flight of the Earls is tacked on very hastily in a final chapter. He also combines a juicy eye for the personal detail with less convincing psychoanalysis of some of the key players, though I suppose that’s a game we can all play. The maps are disappointing as well.

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Links I found interesting for 10-10-2012

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Elgar: The Music Makers

I was interrupted by other events last week, so now I want to commemorate the centennial of one of my favourite underrated orchestral works, The Music Makers by Edward Elgar, first performed in Birmingham on 1 October 1912.

I was Third (or possibly Second) Percussionist in a deserted performance of this in the Ulster Hall, Belfast, in about 1985, and really fell in love with it. It's a 40 minute long setting of Arthur O'Shaughnessy's evocative Ode:

We are the music-makers,
    And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
    And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world-forsakers,
    On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
    Of the world for ever, it seems.

Normally people just quote the first three verses, but the whole thing goes on a bit longerEnigma variations) and stirring artistic exhortations. Unfortunately I can't link to any decent performance – none of the YouTube videos showing parts of it does it justice. But you might want to try a version on, or other resources (such as the score) should you feel so inclined. And if you're not sure, do give it a whirl.

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Former Ulster Unionist David McNarry, expelled from his party for slightly obscure reasons back in May, has joined the UK Independence party. UKIP have 12 MEPs but McNarry is the first of their representatives in any UK-based elected parliamentary body. (They scored 0.6% in the last Northern Ireland Assembly election, 0.9% for the Scottish Parliament, but rather better for the Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru with 4.6% overall and missing a seat in North Wales by less than 2000 votes; they got 3.1% but no seats in the last Westminster election, and have three members in the House of Lords.)

I really think this is the most interesting thing to happen in Northern Ireland party politics since the demise of Robert McCartney and his similarly named UKUP. (Yes, I’m serious – much more interesting than the consolidation of DUP, SF and Alliance, or the slow decline of SDLP and UUP, let alone the dull saga of the Conservative linkup with the latter or the flash in the pan of the Traditional Unionist Voice.)

UKIP are on an electoral roll. In 2009 they came second in the Euro-election UK-wide without even registering as a blip on opinion polls at the time. Now they are within striking distance of double figures in the latest polls, and surely must have a good chance of catching first place in the 2014 European elections, from their votes England, Scotland and Wales.

I’d have thought that there is a decent prospect, though far from a certainty, that a UKIP candidate could take one of the two Unionist seats in the European Parliament in Northern Ireland in 2014. Unlike the Tories, UKIP come with no grounds for suspicion of their true intentions; their branding is pretty perfect for an appeal for a one-off protest vote to habitual Unionist voters. There are parallels with Jim Allister in 2009, but my gut feeling is that UKIP, with a good candidate who starts to establish himself or herself now, should actually do better.

(And before anyone asks – no, I still don’t see any chance of two Nationalists winning seats in 2014.)

I imagine it will be a Euro-election only performance, of course – at Westminster in 2015 UKIP will be nowhere, and at the next Assembly election they should just about manage to keep McNarry’s seat (if he contests it) in the volatile Strangford, with Reilly having a chance in South Down, for a total of one or two out of 108. But it’s an interesting intervention in Northern Ireland’s rather undynamic political architecture.

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Links I found interesting for 07-10-2012

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October Books 1) Torchwood: Consequences, by various

This was the first, and I think only, book of short stories about Torchwood, and a fine collection it is too. We start with “The Baby Farmers” by David Llewellyn, set in the Victorian Torchwood era which generated so much fanfic from just a few mentions on screen, a lovely canonification of this setting; and then there’s what will presumably be the last ever Tosh/Owen story, “Kaleidoscope” by Sarah Pinborough, set in the Jack-less interval between Seasons 1 and 2, where I can partly interpret the alien tech of the title as fannish gaze on the characters.

There are then two linked stories set after Season 2, “The Wrong Hands” by none other than long-ago Who script editor Andrew Cartmel, an excellent creepy tale about an evil alien baby, and “Virus” by James Moran, where the baby’s father turns up and which I’m afraid I found by some way the weakest in the book.

And we finish with the title story, “Consequences” by Joe Lidster, which brings up front the experiences of a woman who has been a briefly glimpsed background character in several of the previous Torchwood novels, and how her life has been turned into a story written by someone else. I thought it was rather clever.

That takes me to the end of the original run of fifteen Torchwood books, though there are another three out there. I have been in general very impressed. These are grown-up stories written for grown-up readers, and I note that they are as popular on LibraryThing as are the most popular of the Doctor Who ranges. Presumably they will now start turning up second-hand with greater frequency; well worth grabbing any of them that you see (with the exception of Sarah Pinborough’s Into The Silence whose ending disgusted me). It’s a shame that tie-in fiction doesn’t get a lot of wider attention; these books are in general a lot better than some I have read from award shortlists in recent years.

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September Books 24-25) Sightseeing in Space, by Steve Lyons and by David Bailey

Another of the two-in-one Doctor Who books for younger readers starring Eleven with Amy and Rory. The first of these, Terminal of Despair by Steve Lyons, has monsters that consume hope from their victims. Lyons normally cranks out a good base-under-siege story (I guess he is the modern master of that sub-genre) but here I felt he was writing down to his readership a bit, reaching for the Terrance Dicks channel without quite reaaching it. The second story, The Web In Space by David Bailey, has some good moments but a rather complex plot involving space wars, cute if mildly homicidal anthropomorphic robots, and a cosmically giant spider and I didn’t think it hung together all that well. One to get for younger friends or relatives who are sad that Amy and Rory have gone.

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