The Queen of Etruria and Pope Pius VII

For some reason, my Google Books homepage suggested that I would like to read this 1814 translation of three political narratives from the original Italian, bound together: Memoir of the Queen of Etruria, Written by Herself and An Authentic Narrative of the Seizure and Removal of Pope Pius VII, with Genuine Memoirs of His Journey Written by One of His Attendants.

The first of the three is by someone I had barely heard of, Maria Luisa, a Spanish princess whose husband was Duke of Parma until Napoleon occupied it, and then King of Etruria, a Napoleonic satellite state with its capital in Florence, until his sudden death aged 30 in 1803. Maria Luisa then ruled the kingdom as regent for their infant son until Napoleon annexed the lot in 1807; she and her family suffered a series of political reverses culminating in her imprisonment for three years in a convent in Rome.

(Maria Luisa and her two children)

It’s rather rare to have an autobiographical account directly from the pen of a femalr protagonist in the politics of the era. Here’s the second paragraph, almost a short story in its own right, about how she and her husband travelled to Florence to take up the government of their new kingdom in 1801:

Shortly after this communication, I received instructions to quit Spain, in order to repair to Tuscany; which was done accordingly in April, 1801. My grief was excessive at this separation from my family, and from my native country, to which I was, and indeed am, most sincerely attached. It now occurs to me to mention a circumstance, which caused me no small dread at the commencement of my journey. The Prince of the Peace came to pay a visit to my husband, when I happened to be present; and, taking occasion to introduce the subject of our journey, he told him that it would be necessary for him to go by way of Paris, because the First Consul desired it;—”by way of experiment,” — the word escaped him, — “to see what effect the appearance of a Bourbon would have in France.” My husband and I shuddered at this discourse; by which it appeared, that our lives were to be risked, by exposing us in a country, where so atrocious a massacre had already been made of our family. Reflection, however, was of no avail, and through Paris we were constrained to take our route. As far as the Spanish frontier I was accompanied by the guards, and by the whole household of the king, my father; but, upon my entrance into France, to my great grief, every Spaniard was ordered to quit me, with the exception of four or five noblemen and my confessor, whom, as an extreme favour, I was permitted to take with me to Florence; and, in the place of those who were sent away, we were joined by a French general, who accompanied us to Paris, with a guard of French soldiers, and lodged us in the house of the Spanish minister. Here we were treated with great attention, and received abundance of invitations and entertainments, which I was little able to enjoy, a Tertian ague having seized me immediately on my arrival, which confined me almost entirely to my bed. We remained at Paris about twenty days, and then proceeded for Tuscany, accompanied by another French general. This journey was not very beneficial to our health. My husband was never well after his stay at Paris, and my fever still continued. In this state we reached Parma, and there, the tenderness with which I was treated by my husband’s parents, the Duke and Duchess of Parma, and by his sisters, the princesses, restored me, in some measure, to the enjoyment of happiness. I was not, however, quite free from uneasiness. My son, not yet one year old, had suffered greatly from the effects of his journey; and, through the fear and fatigue she had undergone, his nurse’s milk so disagreed with him, that he was for some time at the point of death. But, thank God, he recovered; and, after three weeks passed at that city, we set off for Florence. I felt real affliction at parting from the duke and duchess, since I loved them sincerely, and was beloved by them in return.

It is of course a political memoir, partly aimed at boosting her efforts to reclaim her son’s kingdom and partly also as a reminder of the Naopleonic regime’s vicious treatment of its opponents. Important events and facts are omitted, or slanted against the French. But it’s still instructive to have a direct voice from a woman of Maria Luisa’s position.

It doesn’t really hit the mark in terms of being an effective manifesto for a return to Bourbon government in Etruria. I don’t know what criteria the Congress of Vienna used to assign kingdoms to princelings, but if I had been advising Maria Luisa, I would have stressed her (admittedly skimpy) record on good governance and the promotion of her subjects’ economic and intellectual progress, and her readiness to play a positive role in the new international system and to educate her son to take his place in that structure when he came of age. She did in the end get Lucca as compensation, to rule in her own right; she accepted it only grumpily, refusing to take over the government until 1817, and then ignored the liberal constitution, ruling as an absolute monarch until she died of cancer, aged 41, in 1824.

Her son Louis, who was not really interested in government, left running Lucca to the locals until he sold it to the Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1847; he then inherited the Duchy of Parma, his father’s original domain, from the Austrian former Empress of France, Marie Louise, later in 1847, but was chucked out in a revolution shortly thereafter, and died in 1883 after more than twenty years of increasingly impoverished exile. (His son, who succeeded him, was assassinated in 1854 at the age of 30.) Maria Luisa’s daughter Luise married three times, her first husband being Maxilian, the Crown Prince of Saxony, the widower of one of her aunts, who was 43 years her senior. Six of her seven stepchildren (also her first cousins) were older than her. She died in 1857, aged 54.

The other two books in the compilation are attempts to get the English-speaking world outraged by the treatment of Pope Pius VII by Napoleon. The second paragraph of the “Narrative of the Seizure and Removal of the Supreme Pontiff, Pope Pius VII, on the 6th of July, 1809” is as follows:

On the 5th of July they were joined about two o’clock, P.M. by five or six hundred conscripts from Naples, who were quartered in the Castle of St. Angelo.

And the second paragraph of the “Genuine Memoirs of His Journey Written by One of His Attendants”, whose author signs himself M.D., is as follows:

I am glad that you have already been informed, by an able writer, of the infernal cabal which engendered that impious design of carrying away the Pope — combining, for the same purpose, the dregs of the disorderly Romans with those whom the delirium of an irreligious fanaticism rendered averse to the supreme head of the faith and their own natural sovereign, already conscious of their enormous transgressions.

(The Arrest of Pius VII, by Benoit Lhoest)

It’s much more difficult to sympathise with the predicament of the Pope, who was only getting the same treatment that other Popes had meted out to their opponents over the centuries. And it’s difficult to imagine that many Protestants in the ruling class in England, Scotland or Ireland were deeply dismayed by the dissolution of theocratic rule in the Papal States. Still, it’s interesting to read an account (admittedly biased) of the problems the French had in controlling popular affection for the exiled Pope in France. Pius VII was restored to power in the Papal States fairly uncontroversially in 1814, and died aged 81 in 1823. There are many interesting things to be said about the relationship between Napoleon and the Catholic Church, and these accounts say very few of them, despite the fact that Pius VII was Pope for most of that time.

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Space Helmet for a Cow: The True, Mad Story of Doctor Who, vol 2, 1990-2013 by Paul Kirkley

Second paragraph of third chapter (which is actually Chapter 10, as the book keeps continuous numbering from Vol 1):

The Daily Mirror's Sunday magazine tracked down his [David Tennant's] old English teacher, Moira Robertson, who explained how the Tom Baker scarf that Tennant's granny had knitted for him had figured highly in the youngster's life. "It didn't matter what essay or assignment I gave him, he managed to work his granny's scarf into it," she said. "That took real ingenuity. I remember having to explain to him that the exam board wouldn't actually get the point and give him extra marks for it."

I really enjoyed the first volume of this, which concentrated very much on the production history of Old Who. The second volume is a bit less surefooted. The first chapter, about the various attempts to revive the franchise (including The Movie), did tell me things I didn't already know. But from 2003 on, as Kirkley himself notes, he is in contemporary territory and therefore less able to give salacious details; he rather unhelpfully suggests that interested readers consult back issues of Private Eye to get the gossip.

Kirkley's approach to chronology is to tackle aspects of the production (largely based on newspaper reports) as they were happening, and then to talk about reaction to the series as it was broadcast, which means that some individual episodes are covered twice or more depending on whether he's talking about the making or the showing. This is a bit confusing, and also rather crowds out discussion of parts of the Whoniverse other than the main TV series; books and audios are touched on sporadically, the K9 spinoff gets a paragraph (OK, it's not worth much more), and even the Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood are somewhat skimmed.

I did enjoy his assessments of the success or otherwise of individual episodes, which I mostly agreed with (most notable point of divergence: Torchwood Season 2, which I rather liked). The book actually goes up to the end of 2015 rather than 2013 as the title suggests. It's as entertainingly written as its predecessor. But I didn't get as much out of it.

(And Brian Minchin was not actually born in Aberystwyth, but that's a minor detail.)

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Sunday reading

Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (a chapter a month)
A Man of Parts, by David Lodge

Last books finished
The Last Castle, by Jack Vance
The Past Through Tomorrow, by Robert A. Heinlein
Running Through Corridors 2: Rob and Toby’s Marathon Watch of Doctor Who – the 70s, by Toby Hadoke and Robert Shearman
Thorns, by Robert Silverberg
A Crocodile in the Fernery: An A-Z of Animals in the Garden, by Twigs Way

Next books
Wild Life, by Molly Gloss
Virginia Woolf, by Hermione Lee
Short Trips: Indefinable Magic, ed. Neil Corry

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My votes for the 2017 Graphic Story, Series and Dramatic Presentation Hugos

As with yesterday's entry, I'm presenting these without much commentary, except for Best Series.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

1. Black Mirror: "San Junipero" – I thought this was brilliant and moving. It came second both in votes and nominations.

2. Doctor Who: "The Return of Doctor Mysterio" – last year's only Who episode, which I feel now presaged the distinct uptick in quality of this year's episodes. Came fifth in the vote.

3. Splendor & Misery [album] – Brilliant to see music getting on the list for a real concept album with an SF narrative theme. Scraped onto the ballot due to disqualifying one of the Game of Thrones episodes; came only sixth, sorry to say. Perhaps there is merit in looking at a music Hugo.

4. Game of Thrones: "The Door" – came a strong third.
5. Game of Thrones: "Battle of the Bastards" – came fourth.

6. The Expanse: "Leviathan Wakes" – Far ahead in the final vote, and topped the nominations ballot jointly with GoT episode "The Winds of War" (which was withdrawn by yhe makers). I have to admit I completely bounced off it, but I had not seen any of the earlier episodes. Obviously a lot of people had, or else found it easier to get into than I did. This was the only Hugo category this year where I ranked the actual winner as low as sixth.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

1. Arrival – I was blown away by this as were many others. Almost 60% of nominators in the category nominated Arrival (including me) and it had by far the most crushing victory of any winner in any category. Likely to be the major sf movie of the decade.

2. Hidden Figures – also ranked second by the voters.

3. Ghostbusters – ranked sixth by the voters; à chacun son goût.

4. Stranger Things, Season One – also ranked fourth by the voters. I confess I wanthed only the first and last episodes. Would not have qualified if there had been only five finalists.

5. Rogue One – It seems that I was more disappointed by this than others were; it came third.

6. Deadpool – watched the first hour and decided it was not for me. Voters liked it a bit more and it ranked fifth. Although it had slate support, I am inclined to think it would have made the final ballot anyway.

Best Graphic Story

1. The Vision, Volume 1: Little Worse Than A Man – I started reading this with some resentment for the headscratching its fans had caused me during the process of finalising the ballot. But actually rather against my will I was charmed and gave it my top preference. Voters did not feel the same and raked it sixth.

2. Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening – I knew this was going to win as soon as I read it; gorgeous art and grim story, which also topped the nominations ballot. I was a little squicked by the violence, which bumped it down a place for me.

3. Paper Girls, Volume 1 – scraped into fourth place by two votes.

4. Saga, Volume 6 – raked third by voters.

5. Ms. Marvel, Volume 5: Super Famous – ranked second by voters.

6. Black Panther, Volume 1: A Nation Under Our Feet – ranked fifth by voters.

Best Series

1. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold – I've been a Bujold fan since roughly 2000, and am still captivated by her intensely political future empire and its grappling with modernity. The Vorkosigan Saga topped the nominations poll and had the most convincing victory of any winner other than Arrival. The qualifying volume this year was Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, a lovely romance set on Sergyar featuring Cordelia; not the greatest of the Vorkosigan books, but a decent enough capstone to the series. Second paragraph of third chapter:

Smiling, Oliver seated himself in the nearby wicker chair. “I remember how Aral used to rub them for you, after these ordeals.”

2. The Peter Grant / Rivers of London series, by Ben Aaronovitch – I've been working through these and very much enjoying them, a good grim take on an alternate London. I've reviewed the first three here; I read the fourth, Broken Homes, earlier in the year and found the invocation of urban architecture very interesting, with a plot twist at the end that I didn't see coming. Second paragraph of its third chapter:

Despite the fact that services had returned to normal by the end of January, I was not really Mr Popular with Transport for London, who run the Underground and the BTP who have to police it. Which might be why, when Jaget said that he had some information for me, we didn’t meet in the BTP Headquarters at Camden Town but in a café just down the road.

3. The Expanse, by James S.A. Corey – enjoyed the first volume, did not feel the need to track down the rest. Voters liked it more and ranked it in second place.

4. The Temeraire series, by Naomi Novik – enjoyed the first volume, did not feel the need to track down the rest. It came last in first preferences for the first round, but benefited from transfers to finish third.

5. The Craft Sequence, by Max Gladstone – thought the first two volumes were OK, was very glad that we were able to add games to the Hugo packet (at rather a late stage). Voters ranked it fifth.

6. The October Daye Books, by Seanan McGuire – Unlike the other series, I had not read any of these before, so I checked for the highest rated volume in LibraryThing and Goodreads, found that it was the eighth volume, The Winter Long, and read it. I completely bounced off the core concept of a Gaelic otherworld conveniently located in the American West, with no visible representation from other less foreign supernatural traditions. (Not the first time I’ve had this sort of problem with this author.) Second paragraph of third chapter:

I turned to find him studying the hallway walls, his hands folded politely behind his back. His face was visible only in profile, still softened and humanized by the illusion plastered over it. I guess he didn’t dare release it. Most people couldn’t catch the taste of his magic just by walking past him, but any child of Faerie, however weak, would be able to smell the rot lurking inside him if they were standing nearby when he dropped the spell.

For whatever reason, voters also ranked it sixth; if there had been five finalists, this would not have been on the ballot.

The WSFS Business Meeting this year went ahead and ratified the Best Series award as a permanent category, despite my entreaties not to. The conscientious voter who likes to read all the finalists before voting simply will not be able to do so in this category, and will probably resort to a combination (like me) of balancing memories of books read in previous years with whatever the publishers decide to make available in the given time. I also think it goes against the spirit of the Hugos as honouring work completed in the previous year. The WSFS Business Meeting has spoken; perhaps in a few years it will speak again.

This is the last of my how-I-voted posts; I don’t feel I have much to contribute on the Artist categories and the others get a bit too personal for me to post them in public. I have set this to post in my absence; I get back from Africa tomorrow morning, all being well.

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The 2017 short fiction Hugos – how I voted

More for my own records than anything else, these were my votes in the short fiction categories. I did not keep good notes of the two shorter categories but can say a bit more about Best Novelette.

Best Short Story

1. "That Game We Played During the War", by Carrie Vaughan – came third (narrowly missed second) in the actual vote, would have missed the ballot completely had there been only five finalists.
2. "The City Born Great", by N.K. Jemisin – placed second by the voters as well as by me.
3. "Seasons of Glass and Iron", by Amal El-Mohtar – won the award.
4. "A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers", by Alyssa Wong – also placed fourth by the voters.
5. "Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies", by Brooke Bolander – by some way the most popular at nomination stage, but placed fifth by the voters as well as by me.
6. No award – also placed sixth by the voters.
7. "An Unimaginable Light", by John C. Wright – also placed seventh by the voters.

"Things with Beards" by Sam J. Miller was within one vote of making the final ballot.

Best Novelette

1. "Touring with the Alien", by Caroline Ives Gilman – placed third by voters, would have missed the ballot completely had there been only five finalists.
2. "The Art of Space Travel", by Nina Allan – placed fifth by the voters.
3. "The Tomato Thief", by Ursula Vernon – won the award.
4. The Jewel and Her Lapidary, by Fran Wilde – placed fourth by the voters as well as by me.
5. "You'll Surely Drown Here If You Stay", by Alyssa Wong – way ahead at nominations stage, but placed second by voters
6. Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex, by Stix Hiscock – not a bad example of dinosaur erotica, instrumentalised by the slaters; voters put it seventh.
7. No award – placed sixth by voters.

Best Novella

Almost as soon as we opened nominations, Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire established an early lead, which it maintainwed throughout the process. Second paragraph of third chapter:

Then the eight-year-old walked into the room.

I am on record as having bounced pretty thoroughly off Seanan McGuire's work before (and likewise bounced off the October Daye books on the Best Series ballot), but this one worked very well for me – a brilliant story of a school for children who have had otherworldly excursions, and a detective story. Got my top vote and won the award very comfortably.

My second preference went to Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold. Second paragraph of third chapter:

He’d used the time as well as he could, canvassing the lower town across the Linnet River where merchants and caravans stopped, and where the inns, taverns, smithies, saddlers, liveries, and other businesses catering to the trade of travelers were congregated. The docks and quays servicing the lake traffic were growing quieter with the advancing season, although the lake had not yet frozen over. But in neither venue was he able to unearth any sure report of a lone traveler matching his quarry’s description.

I actually thought that the third Novella of this sequence, Penric's Mission, is the best so far, but it was not eligible in this category on length grounds. However, I am really enjoying the unfolding story of young scholar and ancient witch cohabiting in the same body and navigating the dangers of inter-realm politics, and this one scores very well on detail. Voters placed it third rather than second. If there had been only five finalists this year, it would not have made the ballot.

My third preference went to The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson. Second paragraph of third chapter:

It was ten minutes later. The Dean had ordered Hust to return to bed, but Vellitt saw a flicker of a bright shawl above them as they descended the stairwell: Angoli, lurking on the landing. Never mind. Hust would need comfort, and Angoli as well: the Inseparables separated forever now, and for such a reason.

I loved this reworking of Lovecraft's The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath from the point of view of one of the women so completely absent from the original. Sometimes a fresh glance at a classic text becomes something remarkable in itself, and this was one of those times. Voters placed it second rather than third.

My fourth preference went to The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor LaValle. Second paragraph of third chapter:

Now Tommy Tester led his father out of their building and down the block. He’d returned home from the encounter with Robert Suydam, with Malone and the private detective, and felt himself in need of a night out. It took time to convince Otis to step out. Otis never left the apartment, hardly left his bedroom. He’d become like a dog gone into the dark so he could die alone, but Tommy had different plans. Or maybe he needed his father too much to let him go easily.

Again a partial Lovecraft homage, but this time set firmly in New York of the 1930s; a historic urban fantasy with elements such as race and class that urban fantasies sometimes seem to gloss over. Nicely done. Voters also placed it fourth.

Fifth, A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson. Second paragraph of third chapter:

Aqib sat up in the sheets. “No, come to bed. I was waiting for you.”

I thought this was a decent enough fantasy story, with the added wrinkle of a same-sex relationship as a key narrative strand, but I was rather put off by the graphic violence and it didn't seem to me to be breaking very new ground. Voters also placed it fifth.

The only finalist that I really bounced off was This Census-Taker, by my fellow Clare College Cambridge alum China Miéville. Second paragraph of third chapter:

‘What did you see, boy?’ they asked. ‘What happened?’

I must have missed something, but I didn't actually see what was sfnal about it at all, and I found it difficult to engage with the characters – the narrator spends much of the story trying to work out what is going on, but I did not really care. Nor did the voters, who placed it sixth. Although it had slate support, I am inclined to think it would have made the final ballot anyway.

Still, it's a good array – the Hugos often bring out the strengths of the Novella format. I thought both this category and the Best Novelette category were very strong this year.

NB that I have set this to post while I am on a business trip to Africa and may not be able to respond quickly.

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The 2017 Hugo for Best Related Work: how I voted

76 days on from the awards, I think it's OK to reveal my own preferences in the category that was hardest hit by the recent unpleasantness, with No Award (rightly) winning in 2015 and 2016. Thanks to the new arrangements, we had six viable candidates this year, and No Award came last.

My first preference vote went very firmly to Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016, by Ursula K. Le Guin. Second paragraph of third essay:

They asked me to tell you what it was like to be a pregnant girl—we weren’t “women” then—a pregnant college girl who, if her college found out she was pregnant, would expel her, there and then, without plea or recourse. What it was like, if you were planning to go to graduate school and get a degree and earn a living so you could support yourself and do the work you loved—what it was like to be a senior at Radcliffe and pregnant and if you bore this child, this child which the law demanded you bear and would then call “unlawful,” “illegitimate,” this child whose father denied it, this child which would take from you your capacity to support yourself and do the work you knew it was your gift and your responsibility to do: What was it like?

I found this collection of essays full of wisdom and wit, often making fun of people who deserve it. It made me feel like I was in conversation with a vastly intelligent and immensely compassionate old friend. I voted for it with no hesitation. It won by the narrowest margin of the night, 32 votes.

My second preference went to The Geek Feminist Revolution, by Kameron Hurley. Second paragraph of third essay:

Clients come to you because sales are down, or a new competitor is in town, or they’ve been told they need “a website” or “a radio ad.” And a lot of the time you have to just be an order taker and do those things, even knowing that’s not the real problem. It’s like coming to your therapist and saying you have depression but what you really need to get better is a Snickers bar so if the therapist could just give you one, that’d be great, and you go on your merry way and wonder, three months later, why you’re still so depressed even though you got the Snickers bar you asked for, so you say it’s because you have a shitty therapist.

Includes the most recent previous winner of the Best Related Work Hugo, "We Have Always Fought…". I deducted points for one piece where my take was rather different from hers, but in general this is the sort of interesting and often angry writing about genre that is firmly in the Le Guin mould, except several decades younger. In a different year, I'd have been tipping it to win. Having crushed all others at nominations stage, it came a respectable third in the actual voting.

My third vote went to Neil Gaiman's A View From The Cheap Seats. Second paragraph of third essay:

This means that I have impressed my daughters by having been awarded the Newbery Medal, and I impressed my son even more by defending the fact that I had won the Newbery Medal from the hilarious attacks of Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report, so the Newbery Medal made me cool to my children. This is as good as it gets.

There are some nice pieces here, particularly if you are interested in the craft and career of writing either prose fiction or comics (which I confess I'm not particularly). There are some very passionate pieces as well. Nothing wrong with it! Just that I liked the other two more. The voters put it fourth. Although it had slate support, I am inclined to think it would have made the final ballot anyway.

I actually expected Carrie Fisher's The Princess Diarist to win, though it got only my fourth preference. Second paragraph of third chapter:

Everything was a little worse for the wear, but good things would happen in these buildings. Lives would be led, businesses would prosper, and men would attend meetings—hopeful meetings, meetings where big plans were made and ideas were proposed. But of all the meetings that had ever been held in that particular office, none of them could compare in world impact with the casting calls for the Star Wars movie.

It is a brutal reminiscence of youth from a woman who (though she did not know it) had only a short time to live after writing it down, making it clear how she was exploited by those around her and how clearly she sees that now. I think it will be pretty irresistible to those who loved her performance both on and off screen, especially if they haven't read a lot of showbiz memoirs (personally, I've read a lot of books by and about Doctor Who people, so I'm more familiar with this sub-genre). It did in fact come within 32 votes of winning, and secured second place by a narrow margin over The Geek Feminist Revolution.

I voted Sarah Gailey's Women of Harry Potter posts fifth. Second paragraph of third post (about Dolores Umbridge):

Is the villain the leader who starts the movement? The demagogue who decides to rally the tiny cruelties that live within the hearts of people who think of themselves as good? Is it the person who blows on the embers of hatred until they finally catch and erupt into an all-consuming flame?

I'm not a massive Potter fan (though I have no quarrel with those who are) and I found these pieces a bit one-note. Perhaps if I were more deeply immersed in the Potterverse I would have liked them more. If there had been only five finalists as in previous years, this would not have made the ballot. Like me, the voters ranked it fifth.

Sixth, both on my own ballot and as ranked by the voters, was Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg, by Robert Silverberg and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro. Second paragraph of third chapter:

Robert Silverberg. I awaken early in the morning. I eat regular meals. When at home, I have the same breakfast every day. I have the same sandwich for lunch every day. When I’m traveling, of course, anything goes.

In fairness, it's not all as dull as this extract would suggest. But I'd have liked to hear more about Silverberg's attitude to his own work, and the book lacked a chronology or other analytical apparatus. The voters were similarly unexcited and raked it sixth.

NB that I have pre-set this to post while I am on a business trip in Africa and won't be able to respond quickly.

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Getting a criminal record (my own)

Residents of Anglo-Saxon and Celtic jurisdictions may not be familiar with the concept of a certificate to confirm your criminal record, or preferably the lack thereof. In countries with a more Napoleonic tradition of bureaucracy, where residents must register at the town hall (rather than the charming British/Irish/American tradition of leaving each local authority to guess at the size of its population between censuses), one of the many official documents that one may need and can usually get is what’s called in Flanders the “uittreksel van de strafregister”, an extract from the criminal register which hopefully will demonstrate that you are not on it.

As it happens, I need such an “uittreksel” at the moment, to satisfy a non-Belgian (but European and Napoleonically bureaucratic) potential client that I am not a wrong’un; this is the last step in what has been a long process of finalising a decently large contract, and it’s understandable that the client wants reassurance about the credentials of our team.

So I checked the website of the local police station, as I vaguely remember going there for a similar purpose many years ago. The website is fairly clear on how I can get the “uittreksel”:

It basically says you get your “uittreksel” at the town hall. So I checked my town hall’s website.

OK, this is a bit worrying. The paragraph starts with boilerplate languge about how in Belgium you can request the “uittreksel” from the town hall; but then it says that in our municipality, you go to the police. Whose website, if you recall, says you should go to the town hall.

And lower down, it says that if you need the “uittreksel” to send it to another country, you have to go to the Federal Ministry of Justice instead. You do have to state why you need the “uittreksel”, and as I said the fact is that I need to send it to a foreign client (well, almost client – this is literally the last thing they need before they sign the contract).

OK, so I consulted the Federal Ministry of Justice website. Guess what it says?

Yes, the Federal Ministry of Justice site says that you go to the town hall, whether or not you need the “uittreksel” for Belgium or for another country. No mention of going to the police.

So I went to the town hall, since the other two both said that was the way to go. It's not massively convenient, as it's in the next village, but I was working from home anyway. The town hall told me that they don't issue “uittreksels” at present; they will be responsible for issuing them from 1 January, but until then I needed to talk to the police across the road.

So I went to the police. Our municipality is the fourth richest of the 589 in Belgium, so crime levels are correspondingly low; and the duty officer greeted me cordially. I mentioned that I needed the “uittreksel” for a foreign client, but he did not seem interested beyond the fact that it was for professional purposes (“Beroepsdoeleinden”) and typed it all up in about two and a half minutes.

Belgium. Glorious, sometimes.

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The 2017 Hugo Best Novel finalists

As the Hugo administrator this year, I refrained from posting my own reviews of the finalists in the spring. But we're now 75 days on from the ceremony, and I think enough time has passed for you all to point and laugh at how my tastes differ from the voters.

My general observation is that I guess I was just very tired from organising the actual awards, but I bounced off several of these.

My first vote went very clearly to All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders. Second paragraph of third chapter:

The first week of school, Patricia smuggled an oak leaf in her skirt pocket—the nearest thing she had to a talisman, which she touched until it broke into crumbs. All through Math and English, her two classes with views of the east, she watched the stub of forest. And wished she could escape there and go fulfill her destiny as a witch, instead of sitting and memorizing old speeches by Rutherford B. Hayes. Her skin crawled under her brand-new training bra, stiff sweater, and school jumper, while around her kids texted and chattered: Is Casey Hamilton going to ask Traci Burt out? Who tried what over the summer? Patricia rocked her chair up and down, up and down, until it struck the floor with a clang that startled everyone at her group table.

I really loved this from the first chapter on, a sort of Jo Walton / Neil Gaiman mashup which really worked for me. It was the first of the Hugo finalists that I got (I was given an ARC in late 2015) but in fact the last that I read. Interestingly it has by far the most owners on both Goodreads and LibraryThing, but also the lowest ratings on both. It missed winning the award by 43 votes, the second closest of any result on the night, and won second place.

Top ranked by LibraryThing users, though owned by fewest of them, was my second choice, A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers. Second paragraph of third chapter:

It was too much. Too much, and yet, the restrictions that were in place made processing the Port all the harder. Things were happening behind the kit, she knew. She could hear them, smell them. The visual cone of perception that had rattled her upon installation was maddening now. She found herself jerking the kit sharply around at loud noises and bright colours, trying desperately to take it all in. That was her job. To look. To notice. She couldn’t do that here, not with fragmented views of crowds without edges. Not in a city that covered a continent.

I read the first book in the series last year but confess that I had forgotten so much about it that I read this as a standalone. Never mind; I thought the two interweaving storylines worked well, and Chambers actually made me care about the fate of a more or less anthropomorphic artificial intelligence (usually my pet bugbear). Nicely done. Placed fourth by the voters.

Top ranked by Goodreads readers, Death’s End by Cixin Liu was my third choice. Second paragraph of third chapter:

Tianming read the newspaper and came to the following conclusion: Compared to the time before he was hospitalized, news about Trisolaris and the Earth-Trisolaris Organization (ETO) no longer dominated everything. There were at least some articles that had nothing to do with the crisis. Humanity’s tendency to focus on the here and now reasserted itself, and concern for events that would not take place for four centuries gave way to thoughts about life in the present.

I loved the ambition of this book, from present day China and America to the far future of humanity, firmly in the Clarke/Stapledon tradition. I felt there were some flaws of execution, especially of the means and motivation of the alien threat, so marked it down accordingly. The voters didn't like it as much as I did and placed it sixth; if as in previous years there had been only five finalists, this would not have been one of them.

My fourth preference went to Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee. Second paragraph of third chapter:

The Burning Leaf had shuffled itself into a new configuration. More importantly, a message on the terminal alerted her that they had already separated her from her company. She wished she had been awake for it, but they had undoubtedly done it this way on purpose. If anyone had a sense of mercy, her soldiers would be allowed some rest before they were hauled off for an examination by Doctrine, and those needing further medical care would receive it before they, too, went to their fate.

Basically military SF isn't really my thing, but I really did admire the gradual unfolding of what the dead general's plan really is. The voters liked it a bit more than me and placed it third.

The sequel to last year's winner, The Obelisk Gate, by N. K. Jemisin got my fifth preference. Second paragraph of third chapter:

The force that shatters the Clalsu is orogeny applied to air. Orogeny isn’t meant to be applied to air, but there’s no real reason for it not to work. Syenite has had practice already using orogeny on water, at and since Allia. There are minerals in water, and likewise there are dust particles in air. Air has heat and friction and mass and kinetic potential, same as earth; the molecules of air are simply farther apart, the atoms shaped differently. Anyhow, the involvement of an obelisk makes all of these details academic.

I bounced off the first volume last year, and equally this year found it difficult to engage with the world-building or characters. Mine is clearly a minority viewpoint – it was far ahead in nominations and won the actual award, if by a rather narrower margin as noted above.

Finally, I completely bounced off Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer. Second paragraph of third chapter:

Martin Guildbreaker alighted from the car and crossed the gleaming footbridge over the flower trench to ring the main door’s bell. What could those inside see as he approached? A square-breasted Mason’s suit, light marble gray, and crisp with that time-consuming perfection only seen in those who perfect their appearances for another’s sake, a butler for his master, a bride for her beloved, or Martin for his Emperor. A darker armband, black-edged Imperial Gray with the Square & Compass on it, declares him a Familiaris Regni, an intimate of the Masonic throne, who walks the corridors of power at the price of subjecting himself by law and contract to the absolute dictum of Caesar’s will. Martin wears no strat insignia, not even for a hobby, nothing beyond his one white sleeve announcing permanent participation in that most Masonic rite the Annus Dialogorum. His hair is black, his skin a healthy, vaguely Persian brown, but I will not bore you with the genetics of a line that has not worn a nation-strat insignia these ten generations. There is no allegiance for a Guildbreaker but the Empire, nor a more unwelcome presence on this doorstep than a Guildbreaker.

Perhaps I was just too tired to concentrate, but I never really understood what was going on here. Running the damn awards does put a bit of a crimp in one's reading time and possibly brain capacity… The author did give a lovely and moving speech on winning the Campbell Award.

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Living former Presidents and Vice-Presidents

Last week’s photograph of former presidents Jimmy Carter, George Bush Sr, George Bush Jr, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama was a striking reminder that, for only the fourth time in history, there are five living ex-Presidents of the United States. The other three occasions were in the first three years of George Bush Jr’s term, when Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan were still alive (until Reagan died in 2004); in the first year of Bill Clinton’s term, when Richard Nixon was still alive; and rather more obscurely, between March 1861 and January 1862, in the first few months of Abraham Lincoln’s Presidency, when James Buchanan, Franklin Pierce, Millard Fillmore, John Tyler and Martin Van Buren were all living (Tyler’s death ended that period).

This is also only the second time in history when there have been six living former Vice-Presidents – Walter Mondale, George Bush Sr, Dan Quayle, Al Gore, Dick Cheney and Joe Biden. (The previous occasion was again the first year of Bill Clinton’s term, when Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew and Gerald Ford were all still alive.) Of course, if Donald Trump resigns or is removed from office, and Mike Pence takes over, we will have fresh records for both living ex-Presidents and living ex-Vice-Presidents.

If George Bush Sr is still around on 24 November this year, he will beat Gerald Ford’s record as the longest-lived US President at 93 years and 165 days. (Jimmy Carter beats Ford on 15 March next year.) Bush has a bit further to go to be the longest-lived Vice-President: Levi P. Morton, Vice-President under Benjamin Harrison in 1889-93, died on his 96th birthday in 1920, and John Nance Garner, FDR’s first Vice-President in 1933-41, died two weeks before his 99th birthday in 1967.

Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale are by some way the longest survivors of both the Presidency and Vice-Presidency respectively, having left office in January 1981, over 36 years ago. Their nearest rivals are Herbert Hoover, who survived the Presidency by 31 years, and Richard Nixon, who survived the Vice-Presidency by 33.

I don’t think it has ever happened before that the lead contenders from the previous eight US presidential elections were still living – Bush/Dukakis (1988), Clinton/Bush (1992), Clinton/Dole (1996), Bush/Gore (2000), Bush/Kerry (2004), Obama/McCain (2008), Obama/Romney (2012) and Trump/Clinton (2016).

I suspect it’s unlikely to happen again any time soon – the combination of Bush and Carter’s longevity, and the youthfulness of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama’s as candidates, is relatively unusual. In former times, candidates were generally younger than in more recent years, but they also had shorter lifespans. Also, deaths in office (Kennedy, FDR, Harding, McKinley, Garfield, Lincoln, Taylor and W Harrison) or shortly after leaving office (LB Johnson, Coolidge, Wilson, Arthur, Polk, Washington) used to be more common.

It’s interesting (to me, anyway) that unsuccessful presidential candidates have tended to live longer – apart from Horace Greeley, who died just after losing in 1872, only one other leading but unsuccessful contender did not see the next election: Wendell Willkie, who lost in November 1940 and died in October 1944.

Well, I’m glad I’ve got that out of my system. (Written this morning en route to Eurostar, set to post once the East Coast wakes up.)

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What Made Now In Northern Ireland, ed. Maurna Crozier and Richard Froggatt

Second paragraph of Chapter 3 (Paul Bew, "Politics and the writing of Irish history: The Irish case"):

These issues first received serious historiographical treatment in the nineteenth century from two great scholars, James Anthony Froude (1818-1894) and William Edward Hartpole Lecky (1838-1903). Both published extensively on the great issues of the day — issues of secularism, freedom and political morality. Both men were outstanding researchers and werr recognised as such by the academy: Froude was appointed Regius Professor in Modern History at Oxford in 1892, while Lecky was awarded a LittD at Cambridge in 1891. Nonetheless, they had very different styles. Lecky was obsessed with precision and calibration of judgment; Froude, on the other hand, enjoyed dramatic presentation above all. Froude was always inclined to present history as a matter of harsh choices, which, when fudged by those in power, only made matters worse: paradoxically, he was capable of escapism himself. In the spring of 1879 he privately advocated a policy of extermination of black Africans (according to Lord George Hamilton's memoir) but when he came to make a public statement he spoke of treating them with 'perfect justice'. Hamilton, an Ulster aristocrat, remarked that after this he never took Froude seriously again.

This is a book of essays on Northern Ireland, published in 2008, aiming to cover a wide spectrum of things that anyone ought to know, edited by the late great Maurna Crozier to whom I personally owed a great deal. More than half of the contributors are well known to me (including Lord Bew, quoted above). So reading it is a bit like coming home, definitely revisiting familiar territory in most cases – though chapters 7 and 8, covering the experiences of newer immigrants to Northern Ireland, were new to me.

Two chapters in particular stood out for different reasons. Dennis Kennedy repeats his defence of the 1921-72 Unionist regime which first appeared in the Cadogan Group pamphlet "Picking Up the Pieces" in 2003. I criticised this at the time (here and in a letter to Fortnight in November 2003, drawing on my father's research from the 1980s); Kennedy replied to me rather defensively in Fortnight in January 2004, but has basically repeated the same errors in this piece written a couple of years later, which is sad.

Sad in quite a different way is Jane Leonard's report of an Ulster Museum exhibition, curated by her in 2003-2006, with the title Conflict: The Irish at War. Her account of composing the exhibits, and even more of the feedback received from visitors, moved me to tears as I read it on Eurostar. (I’m glad to say that reading the chapter motivated me to get back in touch with Jane, rekindling a friendship after twenty years in which I had seen her only once.)

There's also a DVD of about half of the contributors reflecting a bit further on the topics covered in their chapters, including also an introduction from Maurna Crozier. We're now at a different stage of crisis in Northern Ireland compared to where we were in 2008, but actually not all much of the fundamentals has changed apart from some key personalities and some advance and retreat on particular issues. The collection is still well worth getting hold of and reading.

This was the non-fiction book that had lingered unread on my shelves longer than any other except Alexander the Corrector, by Julia Keay. When the latter's turn finally came, frustratingly I couldn't find it and turned to What Made Now in Northern Ireland as the next in line. I have now located the Julia Keay book so it goes back on top of the pile.

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Sunday reading

Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (a chapter a month)
The Past Through Tomorrow, by Robert A. Heinlein
Running Through Corridors 2: Rob and Toby’s Marathon Watch of Doctor Who, the 70s, by Toby Hadoke and Robert Shearman

Last books finished
Plague City, by Jonathan Morris
Grand Hotel, by Vicki Baum
Caprice and Rondo, by Dorothy Dunnett

Next books
The Last Castle, by Jack Vance
Thorns, by Robert Silverberg
A Man of Parts, by David Lodge

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Replacement of Mouse Balls

An old one but a good one.

If a mouse fails to operate or should it perform erratically, it may need a ball replacement. Mouse balls are now available as FRU (Field Replacement Units). Because of the delicate nature of this procedure, replacement of mouse balls should only be attempted by properly trained personnel.

Before proceeding, determine the type of mouse balls by examining the underside of the mouse. Domestic balls will be larger and harder than foreign balls. Ball removal procedures differ depending upon the manufacturer of the mouse. Foreign balls can be replaced using the pop off method. Domestic balls are replaced by using the twist off method. Mouse balls are not usually static sensitive. However, excessive handling can result in sudden discharge. Upon completion of ball replacement, the mouse may be used immediately.

It is recommended that each person have a pair of spare balls for maintaining optimum customer satisfaction. Any customer missing his balls should contact the local personnel in charge of removing and replacing these necessary items.

Please keep in mind that a customer without properly working balls is an unhappy customer.

According to Snopes, this has been doing the rounds since 1989, and indeed I remember a giggling veterinary student sharing it with me around then.

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Cimarron, or how to erase feminism

Cimarron won the Academy Award for Outstanding Production in 1931, beating East Lynne, The Front Page, Skippy and Trader Horn. I haven’t seen or heard of any of the others. I have seen City Lights, which was released in the August 1930-July 1931 eligibility window, and is a far far better film. It did not get a single Academy Award nomination. Cimarron was the first film to be nominated in every eligible Oscar category, and won two of the others – Best Writing and Best Art Direction. Here is a recent trailer:

Cimarron is the lowest-ranked of any winner of the Oscar for Best Film by IMDB users. So at least the only way from here is up. I too thought it was awful. It was received with great critical acclaim when first released, but has not aged well. It’s the story of a young couple who settle in Oklahoma after the land rush of 1889Southern family and has some difficulty adapting to life in the new town of Osage. The story takes us from 1889 to the present day (ie 1931) and, no apologies for spoilers, she gets elected to the U.S. Congress from Oklahoma and ends the film in a chance encounter with her long-estranged husband when he is killed in an industrial accident on one of them new oil fields.

The very set-up of the film is to present the massive theft of land from the Indians as a great civilisational step forward – and actually the opening scene of the land-rush is pretty thrilling and well done cinematically, if you can ignore what it actually meant. As with all previous films I have watched in this sequence, the world presented by Hollywood is a white one – there is one young black character, who is horrifically casually disposed of in a gunfight. The Indians are portrayed as noble savages willingly moving aside for the white settlers, though it gets a bit awkward when our protagonists’ son marries the maidservant (who is the daughter of the local chief).

The star of the film, Richard Dix, playing the erratic Yancey Cravat, does rather well with somewhat odd material. His best moment is an electrifying defence of the leading sex worker in town, who is on the verge of being thrown out of Osage despite her contributions to society. But I couldn’t really understand what his wife and the other townspeople see in him; for some reason, he is invited to preach at the town’s first religious meeting in a early scene, and shoots a recreant dead from the pulpit, withourt further consequence.

Irene Dunne, as the heroine Sabra Cravat, doesn’t get to do much other than look appalled and horrified by the wild society that she has been dragged into, continuing to run her husband’s business in his absence until her political success at the end of the book. I didn’t feel her heart was in it. She went on to greater things, apparently.

The whole film is jarringly episodic, skipping decades in a blink. I was mystified by its success.

And then I read the book by Agnes Ferber, on which the film was based; it was America’s best-selling novel of 1930. To get the basics out of the way, here’s the second paragraph of the third chapter.

Twice a year, chaperoned by old General “Bull” Plummer, the Indians swept through the streets of Wichita in their visiting regalia—feathers, beads, blankets, chains—a brilliant sight. Ahead of them and behind them was the reassuring blue of United States army uniforms worn by the Kansas regiment from Fort Riley. All Wichita, accustomed to them though it was, rushed out to gaze at them from store doorways and offices and kitchens. Bucks, braves, chiefs, squaws, papooses; tepees, poles, pots, dogs, ponies, the cavalcade swept through the quiet sunny streets of the mid-western town, a vivid frieze of color against the drab monotony of the prairies.

Cimarron is a really good book, a feminist text (the words “feminist” and “feminism” are actually used) whose guts were torn out of it by Hollywood. The central character of the novel is Sabra Cravat, daughter of a Southern family who moved to Kansas after the Civil War; having married Yancey at a very young age, she is swept off to Oklahoma by him. She breaks away from the stereotypes of her Southern parents, and gets over many of her own hangups, to build a new version of society in the town of Osage, to the point where she herself is elected to Congress. Cimarron was the best-selling novel in America in 1930, and the film’s popularity must surely have been a reward for its insipid reflection of the popular original text. I was struck that the opening titles featured the characters and actors playing each, which looked like an assumption that many viewers would already be familiar with them.

However, we are a long way from intersectionality, and the book is still pretty racist, if not quite as racist as the film. There is still only one named black character (who suffers an even more horrible end than his screen version), though it’s also clear that there are lots of others in the town. While Sabra’s view of the Indians is pretty bigoted, the unreliable Yancey is totally on their side, and preaches to her frequently about the disgrace of the Trail of Tears and the awful things that white men have done; this is somehow dropped from the film. (Also worth noting that the Vice-President of the United States at the time the film was made was actually descended from the Osage tribe, and remains the only Native American to have served at the top of the executive branch.) The one Jewish character is sympathetically treated in both book and film, but the nasty anti-Semitism of the baddies in the book doesn’t make it to the screen.

The feminism of the book is completely erased by the film, in that Yancey is given much more screen time and better lines (though his defence of the Indians is removed), and we are cut off from Sabra’s internal dialogue, which is the loudest voice in the novel; it is replaced by Turner’s sighs and meaningful glances. The sub-plot with the sex workers in the book is explicitly a dialogue about different visions of womanhood in the new society that is being built, but becomes just a humorous set of vignettes in the film (apart from Yancey’s courtroom defence of Dixie Lee, which in fairness is actually done better on screen than on the page). I’m not especially well versed in the early twentieth century history of American feminism, but it seemed clear to me that the makers of a Hollywood blockbuster did not feel able to reflect the feminism of their source text.

I enjoyed the book much more than I had expected to, and the film’s success was surely in large part a homage to the work it was based on.

The next film in this sequence is Grand Hotel, starring Greta Garbo, also based on a book which I guess I will also get and read.

Winners of the Oscar for Best Picture

1920s: Wings (1927-28) | The Broadway Melody (1928-29)
1930s: All Quiet on the Western Front (1929-30) | Cimarron (1930-31) | Grand Hotel (1931-32) | Cavalcade (1932-33) | It Happened One Night (1934) | Mutiny on the Bounty (1935, and books) | The Great Ziegfeld (1936) | The Life of Emile Zola (1937) | You Can’t Take It with You (1938) | Gone with the Wind (1939, and book)
1940s: Rebecca (1940) | How Green Was My Valley (1941) | Mrs. Miniver (1942) | Casablanca (1943) | Going My Way (1944) | The Lost Weekend (1945) | The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) | Gentleman’s Agreement (1947) | Hamlet (1948) | All the King’s Men (1949)
1950s: All About Eve (1950) | An American in Paris (1951) | The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) | From Here to Eternity (1953) | On The Waterfront (1954, and book) | Marty (1955) | Around the World in 80 Days (1956) | The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) | Gigi (1958) | Ben-Hur (1959)
1960s: The Apartment (1960) | West Side Story (1961) | Lawrence of Arabia (1962) | Tom Jones (1963) | My Fair Lady (1964) | The Sound of Music (1965) | A Man for All Seasons (1966) | In the Heat of the Night (1967) | Oliver! (1968) | Midnight Cowboy (1969)
1970s: Patton (1970) | The French Connection (1971) | The Godfather (1972) | The Sting (1973) | The Godfather, Part II (1974) | One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) | Rocky (1976) | Annie Hall (1977) | The Deer Hunter (1978) | Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
1980s: Ordinary People (1980) | Chariots of Fire (1981) | Gandhi (1982) | Terms of Endearment (1983) | Amadeus (1984) | Out of Africa (1985) | Platoon (1986) | The Last Emperor (1987) | Rain Man (1988) | Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
1990s: Dances With Wolves (1990) | The Silence of the Lambs (1991) | Unforgiven (1992) | Schindler’s List (1993) | Forrest Gump (1994) | Braveheart (1995) | The English Patient (1996) | Titanic (1997) | Shakespeare in Love (1998) | American Beauty (1999)
21st century: Gladiator (2000) | A Beautiful Mind (2001) | Chicago (2002) | The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) | Million Dollar Baby (2004, and book) | Crash (2005) | The Departed (2006) | No Country for Old Men (2007) | Slumdog Millionaire (2008) | The Hurt Locker (2009)
2010s: The King’s Speech (2010) | The Artist (2011) | Argo (2012) | 12 Years a Slave (2013) | Birdman (2014) | Spotlight (2015) | Moonlight (2016) | The Shape of Water (2017) | Green Book (2018) | Parasite (2019)
2020s: Nomadland (2020) | CODA (2021) | Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)

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People Watching: the Desmond Morris Guide to Body Language

Second paragraph of third chapter:

As a species we are strongly imitative and it is impossible for a healthy individual to grow up and live in a community without becoming infected with its typical-action patterns. The way we walk and stand, laugh and grimace, are all subject to this influence.

This is the third of three books on human behaviour which I read over the last few months and am writing up this week. This one was recommended to me by Sir Graham Watson, and I got it as part of my belated birthday spending of Amazon vouchers.

It’s the 2002 update of the 1977 book Manwatching: A Field Guide to Human Behaviouris interesting to see how some gestures can mean quite different things in different countries – in some places the beckoning gesture that I use, moving my hand towards me, actually means “go away”; my daughter’s habit of telling us not to bother her by pushing her open hand towards us is amusing here but extremely rude in Greece. But I felt that of the three books I’ve written up here this week, I possibly learned least from this. (Must go back and re-read The Naked Ape003288C3-9BA2-4B94-8180-52DF4253F122.jpeg