- Wed, 20:17: RT @bbclaurak: Labour loses its amendment – so, in theory, the party should shift its position now to backing another referendum
- Wed, 21:53: RT @YvetteCooperMP: Amendment wins 502 to 20. Strong support from every party & from across the Government too. Shows the support across th…
- Thu, 08:42: RT @nick_gutteridge: 1/ A common conception in the UK that fundamentally misunderstands both what the backstop is and what the EU’s priorit…
- Thu, 09:24: RT @jimwaterson: The coverage of the Momo challenge is possibly some of most irresponsible journalism in this country for ages. Samaritans…
- Thu, 10:45: The lost tunnels buried deep beneath the UK https://t.co/0xrls5ZoEZ Specifically, Liverpool. Fascinating.
Monthly Archives: February 2019
- Tue, 12:16: RT @mvanhulten: Not enough pallets. https://t.co/mbODmqVlb1
- Tue, 22:26: Tuesday reading https://t.co/De4v6jvVTy
- Wed, 07:54: RT @littlebrown: A revised statement from Little, Brown and Company. https://t.co/zSQp1Q132C
- Wed, 08:58: RT @timd_IFG: Carolyn Fairbairn telling it like it is on @BBCRadio4 – ‘no business would go into a negotiation saying if you don’t give me…
Present Danger, ed. Eddie Robson
A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara
Daniel Deronda, by George Eliot
Last books finished
The Capital, by Robert Menasse
Troll Bridge, by Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran
The Botany of Desire, by Michael Pollan
- Mon, 12:21: RT @IanDunt: Have you… have you seen Ghostbusters? https://t.co/7mz6j0kmqU
- Mon, 12:30: RT @Dublin2019: Don’t forget, deadline for nominating in @TheHugoAwards is the 15th of March.
- Mon, 12:56: RT @Chris_Auld: A rant about the state of statistical work in (clinical) medical journals: 4/20 “Weed day” edition. Last year @JAMAInterna…
- Mon, 16:05: Neil Gaiman on honouring Terry Pratchett’s last request: ‘You have to do this’ https://t.co/wYQUq2AAyo The story of Good Omens.
- Mon, 16:19: RT @AlbertoNardelli: Britain’s post-Brexit trade conundrum. A short story. I had a meeting this morning with a Japanese diplomat who said…
- Mon, 16:39: Epic thread with pictures of each of the last 18 US Presidents throwing baseballs. https://t.co/WciHscSnQt
- Mon, 17:11: How should Ireland’s MEPs be elected amidst Brexit uncertainty? https://t.co/C7spLezVJi Michael Gallagher argues th… https://t.co/byq5axynTB
- Mon, 18:29: ‘Crusader’ at Dublin church decapitated https://t.co/IgEoj0X1TJ Very sad and horrible.
- Mon, 18:44: Labour supporting second referendum? Let’s see how this plays out… https://t.co/Y9tnBfRQFu
- Mon, 20:48: RT @RSmythFreelance: Totally normal caveat such as you might find in any normal book review. https://t.co/UhuLhP9BO8
- Mon, 22:06: RT @joncstone: Just a reminder that even with Labour leadership whipping for a second referendum, unless more Tories decide to support it,…
- Mon, 22:30: Reading The Capital by Robert Menasse. The book is set after the 2016 Brexit referendum, but has the @epc_eu still… https://t.co/3uqL0vHuPV
- Tue, 06:55: RT @jonworth: Don’t get too excited about Labour backing an Amendment calling for #PeoplesVote. I can’t see how it can pass. Enough fierc…
- Tue, 08:43: RT @LGBTIQAGreens: Really important letter. Listen to trans people. Listen to their children. Listen to the evidence. Be trans inclu…
- Tue, 10:45: Northern Ireland peace pays dividends in Bogota, Bougainville and Beirut https://t.co/VJyVxGUSI4 Lessons learned, useful elsewhere.
- Sun, 12:56: Voting with your gut https://t.co/qeJhh1XDOf Brexit and rationality. Interesting.
- Sun, 14:17: RT @ProfChalmers: The Spectator’s solution to Brexit involves going over the heads of the Commission and negotiating with individual states…
- Sun, 14:31: RT @Frances_Coppola: What I found most difficult about @giles_fraser‘s piece was its judgmental nature. A lack of compassion: https://t.co/…
- Sun, 14:48: The caliphate crumbles: the last days of Islamic State https://t.co/eTMsKX8NWy Includes a brief interview with Shahmina Begum.
- Sun, 16:05: RT @MarkDiStef: A viral Guardian comment piece about a mother and her disabled son staying in UK post Brexit, more than 16,000 shares later…
- Sun, 16:46: When in Rome… https://t.co/a99B79D6Q8
- Sun, 20:48: Interview: Carol Cleveland, the Seventh Python https://t.co/gbs0qRFb7f Brief but interesting.
- Mon, 10:45: Italian PM playing pool with Theresa May. Really. https://t.co/n5mJ1cmcRN
- Mon, 11:46: Good historical thread on the parallel between today’s negotiations and the UK’s first attempt to *join* the EEC, a… https://t.co/t8Rz631vOW
When in Rome…
I was fortunate enough to be invited to give a lecture in Rome a couple of weeks ago, and made it into a long Valentine's Day weekend with Anne. I was speaking to students of the University of Washington in the Palazzo Pio near Campo de'Fiori. The building itself in 15th century, remodelled in the 17th century, but it incorporates parts of the temple of Venus Victrix built by Pompey as part of his theatre in 55 BC. Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC at the other end of the building complex, ten minutes' walk away. So it was rather thrilling to speak to students in a building that had been in use, off and on, for over two millennia.
We did a number of the usual tourist things, but also went a little off the beaten track. If you want to do the standard attractions, even in February which is not exactly top tourist season, you have to do a bit more forward planning than we did and get your tickets in advance. (Next time, I want to book a guided tour of the Forum.) Even so, we were very lucky with the light and I think we got some good pictures of:
Panorama at St Peter's Square
The Portico of Octavia
Marcus Aurelius, not meditating
The Wedding Cake
The Great Synagogue
So we made a strategic decision to concentrate on the earlier Christian monuments in Rome; and gosh, there are plenty of them. I should say that we were tremendously helped in this by the Churches of Rome Wiki, which has a very engaging combination of erudition, enthusiasm and snark.
We started with Santa Maria in Trastevere, partly because I had misremembered it as the burial place of the Irish Earls (actually they are ten minutes away up a steep hill in San Pietro in MontorioMadonna della Clemenza, one of the oldest known icons in existence, rather worn but believed to date from around 700.
(Just to add some snark of my own – we had gone over to Trastevere for a Valentine's Day dinner, at a mid-range place on Via della Pelleccia. There were two American women at the next table, and from body language and overheard scraps of conversation it became clear to us that one of them thought they were on a romantic date and the other didn't. The less romantic one made her excuses and departed just as their main course arrived, leaving her friend furiously texting. We've all been there.)
Now that we had got into the early Christian vibe, our next stop was Sant'Agata dei Goti, built (or reconstructed) by Ricimer, the power behind the throne in the mid fifth century (as the Western Empire staggered to its end) as an Arian church for his followers. Rather obviously, it was renovated in the 17th century, but the ground plan and the pillars are still those that Ricimer would have known, and the white structure above the altar topped by a pyramid (the baldacchino) is 12th century. The 17th century paintings at the top depict the life of St Agatha, who was gruesomely mutilated for her faith. The little gold roundels just above the pillars depict Irish saints – the church was part of the Irish College of Rome from 1836 to 1926, and in a weird bit of history it is believed to be the final resting place of Daniel O'Connell's heart, though they have unfortunately mislaid it.
One thing in the church that was not mislaid but destroyed in a ceiling collapse in 1589 was Ricimer's original mosaicfor above the altart, showing Christ holding an open book and enthroned on a globe. Fortunately Alphonsus Ciacconius had made a copy of it. Even in the fifth century, the Arian heretic Goths knew that the world was round; don't believe anyone who tries to tell you otherwise.
San Bartolomeo all'Isola, in the middle of the Tiber, was built around 998 – so not quite as palaeochristian as some of the other places we looked at, but it is based on the ruins of the ancient temple of Asclepius, and has always been a place of healing (there is a direct link with Rahere and the founding of Barts in London). The peculiar stone structure on the altar steps is the well-head for the ancient well which would have been used to draw water by the priests of Asclepius. I am struggling to think of another Christian church which actually has a built-in holy well. The Orsini side-chapel was rather lovely.
Going back to the old stuff, the church of Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill dates from 432, as the dedicatory inscription implies, and was restored to what was believed to be its original state in the early 20th century. As with Sant'Agata dei Goti, we were almost the only people there – it showed the extent to which Rome concentrates tourists in some places but not others. It is lovely and tranquil, and has one superb and unique asset…
The church's wooden doors are the originals, dating from the early fifth century. The top left panel (not very visible in my pictures, unfortunately) is reckoned to be either the oldest or second oldest depiction of the Crucifixion in existence. The single panel detail in my photo is the Exodus – the 19th-century restorer reshaped Pharaoh's head to look like Napoleon. It is thrilling to look at these beautiful panels still where they were first put almost 1600 years ago.
No pictures, but also worth visiting:
Crypta Balbi Museum – brilliant city centre presentation of life in Rome over two millennia, through archaeology and art; however NB we did the upstairs part backwards, which was a mistake caused by our lack of understanding of the signage
Catacombs of San Sebastiano – we had wanted to do the Catacomb of Callixtus, but it was closed; however this was a very acceptable substitute, including many ancient Christian bits and pieces but also three pagan mausolea, the frescos still as sharp as the day their owners were buried; across the road is the country estate of Maxentius. No photos allowed, but very good guided tour.
San Clemente – a 12th century church with much older crypts which we were frustrated from getting into; the opening times for the downstairs bits were not clearly displayed and I think we missed the window by minutes. However, even so there was plenty to see, the schola cantorum and sanctuary screen having been reassembled from the originals bought by Pope John II during his brief reign in the 530s. Again, no photos allowed, and rather grumpy staff.
Food and accommodation:
Hotel Campo de'Fiori, pleasant boutique place and very central.
Tuesday and Friday dinner at Obicà, Campo de'Fiori, recommended by a friend,nice food, grumpier service on Friday than Tuesday for some reason.
Wednesday dinner at Visconti 2.0, looks a bit unprepossessing but really fine dining.
Thursday dinner at La Tavernetta Di Tony E Andrea, not quite as special as I had expected given location and price, but as noted above we had fun people-watching and it was a busy evening.
I hope they'll invite me back.
- Sat, 12:12: Brexit: The narrow precipice to a last-gasp deal https://t.co/vYnU7oRZy7 @TonyConnellyRTE has the latest – a better… https://t.co/YN5MnzIvka
- Sat, 12:36: RT @RobertBohan: Thread: James Gralton (1886-1945) was the only Irishman ever to be deported from independent Ireland. He was a Leitrim-m…
- Sat, 12:56: RT @graemecoleman: Hello, my name is Graeme, I have a PhD in computing, and I am a senior accessibility consultant, but when I want to type…
- Sat, 13:02: RT @Frances_Coppola: @giles_fraser But you did say it.
- Sat, 13:08: RT @mrjamesob: Astonishing to reflect that this is still only the second worst Foreign Secretary appointed by Theresa May. https://t.co/RIF…
- Sat, 13:15: RT @AndrewDuffEU: The one thing I will miss about Brexit is @tconnellyRTE ‘s Saturday morning blasts. https://t.co/vJX1sbB1A9
- Sat, 13:18: RT @Garrodactyl: ME: Hey, Javert, is there like a special on these baguettes or what JAVERT: TWO FOR $6.01
- Sat, 13:42: I am not going to link to the appalling Giles Fraser article, but this is a good rebuttal of the contention (also m… https://t.co/lUYEx5dJEv
- Sat, 13:44: RT @AlitheaP: @nwbrux https://t.co/WTxt9YwJE0 is also excellent on the family need to be carers aspect of it
- Sat, 14:48: Prespa Agreement – Media Guidelines https://t.co/bAxrAwu3mY How to refer to the citizens and language of North Macedonia.
- Sat, 16:05: Plagiarism, Then and Now https://t.co/MOcvJPzi66 Romance writer Nora Roberts speaks out.
- Sat, 17:49: Imagine that you see the wretched strangers, Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage, Plodding to the po… https://t.co/1KN2RbGTSD
- Sat, 20:48: RT @VoteBrussels: EU citizens in , what’s your plan? ‼️ Want to vote for Belgian MEPs in elections? 1 WEEK LEFT to submit your form by…
- Sun, 10:45: Brexiles: ‘It has become okay to make racial comments in UK’ https://t.co/10Lag3TAUo My old friend Andrew Smith tel… https://t.co/AsJRvflUIh
- Sun, 11:18: On The Waterfront (1954) https://t.co/xPtrQzHSsx
On The Waterfront (1954)
On The Waterfront won the Oscar for Best Motion Picture of 1954, and picked up another seven, Best Director (Elia Kazan), Best Actor (Marlon Brando), Best Screenplay (Budd Schulberg), Best Supporting Actress (Eva Marie Saint), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration Black-and-White (Richard Day), Best Cinematography Black-and-White (Boris Kaufman) and Best Film Editing (Gene Milford). Three of the cast were nominated for Best Supporting Actor, but lost to Edmond O’Brien in The Barefoot Contessa. Leonard Berstein was nominated for Best Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, but lost to Dimitri Tiomkin for The High and the Mighty. That record of eight Oscars was the same as the previous year’s From Here to Eternity, and also Gone With the Wind (though both had thirteen nominations to On The Waterfront‘s twelve). The other contenders for Best Motion Picture were The Caine Mutiny, The Country Girl, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Three Coins in the Fountain.
Both IMDB rakings, by score and number of votes, put it in 4th place for the year, with Rear Window and Seven Samurai ahead in both tables. The only other 1954 film that I think I have seen is The Belles of St Trinian’s. (I am not really a film buff.) It’s interesting that this is in black and white, fifteen years after Gone With the Wind. This trailer references Going My Way, which won ten years earlier:
It’s a gritty story of corruption on the docks of Hoboken, New Jersey, with Brando’s character a naïve young ex-boxer whose brother is the fixer for the local chieftain. The good guys eventually triumph, and the evil mr Friendly’s grip is broken. I’m ranking it almost exactly half way down my list of Oscar-winning films (13th out of 26, if you want to know); I think it takes a similar theme to How Green Was My Valley and indeed Going My Way, but does it somewhat better; on the other hand I enjoyed it a bit less than Grand Hotel. I would have put it below Mrs Miniver apart from one redeeming virtue which I’ll get to at the end.
All About the Men: Eva Marie Saint is luminous and effective as Edie Doyle, whose brother is killed by the mob in the first scene and who then becomes the love interest and inspiration for Brando’s character Terry Molloy. She absolutely deserves her Oscar. (Aged 94, she is still around as of this writing.) But she is the only credited woman actor of the entire film. (There are several uncredited women in minor speaking or non-speaking roles.)
Plot: I’m marking the film down a bit for the actual story. It’s pretty clear from early on what’s going to happy; the nice characters move along inevitable arcs of redemption at different speeds (apart from those who die trying), and the bad guy is irredeemable. My revolutionary soul is struck by the fact that while the evil unions are clearly portrayed as the problem, there is no corresponding critique of the economic system that keeps the longshoremen trapped in dangerous low-paying jobs. (Also the agents of state coercion are all good guys.) At least collective action does survive to the end. It’s a rather right-wing film, and I’m a little surprised to see so little commentary about this aspect of it online.
Brando: Being a film ignoramus as I am, I think the only other films I’ve seen Brando in are Guys and Dolls and The Godfather, which I will get to in eighteen years’ time, plus of course Superman. His performance here is pretty electrifying. I complained above that Terry Molloy’s character arc is a bit predictable, but Brando is completely magnetic as he portrays a not terribly bright kid who is compelled to raise his game and do the right thing, depite the potential personal cost. I commented earlier on his spark with Eva Marie Saint; I was also struck by the relationship with his screen brother, played by Rod Steiger (playing the older sibling despite being a year younger than Brando in real life). This is probably also the point to say that Steiger, Lee Cobb as the evil Mr Friendly and Karl Malden as the uncertain priest Father Barry all got Best Supporting Actor nominations. The only other film to get three Oscar nominations in this category is, again, The Godfather.
Cinematography: As noted above, Kazan chose to make the film in black and white, and it gives a tremendous sense of atmosphere which perhaps we might not have had in full colour. (A few seconds of colour film survive from filming.) The town of Hoboken, never actually named, is convincingly brought to life in the location shooting. (I don’t think any of it was done in studio.) The camera tells the story as much as the acting, and it’s the main channel for the Biblical references which reinforce the plot.
Music: This is really impressive. I wish I had been keeping a separate scorecard for the best incidental music in these films; this is up there with William Walton’s Hamlet, Hugo Friedhofer’s The Best Years of Our Lives, Miklós Rózsa’s The Lost Weekend and the various arrangements in Grand Hotel, and possibly the best of them if you like Bernstein’s kind of thing (and I do). Listen for yourself.
So I was generally satisfied with the film, despite some grumbles. You can get it here.
Next up is Marty, of which I know nothing at all.
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 Eighty 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)
- Fri, 12:17: Final exchange: @USAmbEU : Did you get out of bed on the wrong side today? @Josef_Braml : I’m not a diplomat!!! #CEPSlab19
- Fri, 12:48: RT @MarcoInBxl: ‘@USAmbEU Gordon Sondland: after Trump-Juncker meeting there has been little/no progress on implementation. There is a stro…
- Fri, 12:49: RT @goldthau: U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. comes out strongly on common transatlantic values – but does not move an inch on #trade, #defense…
- Fri, 12:56: Queens of Infamy: Anne Boleyn https://t.co/eKQzRnuXoD A fun profile.
- Fri, 13:30: RT @pernilleru: Gloves off at the Nikkei, Japan’s main business newspaper, owner of the FT: Editorial reads: “It is a problem if the UK gov…
- Fri, 14:38: What we can learn from the White Rose siblings https://t.co/3LOBgYXDf8 Fascinating piece on resistance to Nazis and… https://t.co/6dalaCnEYS
- Fri, 16:05: RT @MatGreenfield: Stephen Fry has written a Doctor Who story (though it was never produced). He exists in the Doctor Who universe (River S…
- Fri, 17:11: Using DNA tests, Dwight Manley found his birth father: L.A. politician Mike Antonovich https://t.co/auy8wgzlIZ We w… https://t.co/o97lquirAz
- Fri, 18:29: BSFA Award for Best Artwork, 2018 https://t.co/qPwFYql9LR
- Fri, 19:49: RT @mrjamesob: I blame wheels. Things were great before wheels. https://t.co/9DepF1q9RX
- Fri, 20:48: RT @nycsouthpaw: this transcript is literally everything I hoped it would be https://t.co/CrvBQ0pZMu
- Fri, 22:23: RT @MikaLaunikari: Doing a final read of my laid-out #PhD research before it goes to printing. This is how chapter 1 on #careers in the #EU…
- Sat, 10:45: Among the Vitamin K ‘Anti-Vaxxers’ https://t.co/PfQ3KqyKfm The obstetrician’s dilemma.
BSFA Award for Best Artwork, 2018
As noted earlier, the BSFA final ballot is out!
I'll have to be cautious commenting on anything that is Hugo-eligible, but that doesn't apply to the Best Art category, where there are eight finalists (which appears to be a record, presumably due to a multiple tie for fifth place). My own subjective and very unauthoritative ranking is:
8) Cover for Rosewater by Tade Thompson, Charlotte Stroomer (Orbit)
Geometric, didn't say much to me.
7) Artwork for Sublime Cognition conference, Sing Yun Lee & Morris Wild (London Science Fiction Research Community)
(see pages 3, 8 and 46)
Wasn't sure what I was looking at here!
6) “In the Vanishers’ Palace: Dragon I and II”, Likhain (Inprnt)
I generally like Likhain's work, but unfortunately these two didn't quite do it for me.
5) Wraparound cover for Strange Tales slipcase set, Ben Baldwin (NewCon)
Interesting art, not sure if it was more than the sum of its parts.
4) Artwork for Monster Portraits by Del Samatar & Sofia Samatar, Del Samatar (Rose Metal)
Again, interesting elements but wasn't sure that the whole composition worked.
3) Cover for Concrete Faery by Elizabeth Priest, Bede Rogerson (Luna)
Some great faces. I just liked the other two more.
2) Cover for Unholy Land by Lavie Tidhar, Sarah Anne Langton (Tachyon)
Interesting colours and composition.
1) Cover for Paris Adrift by E.J. Swift, Joey Hi-Fi (Solaris)
Love this. Lots to look at, interesting balance of colours, carefully structured. Gets my vote.
Previous votes in this category: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2011, 2010, 2009.
I didn't blog my 2012 vote at the time, but for the record it was:
1) Dominic Harman for the cover of Eric Brown’s Helix Wars (Rebellion)
2) Blacksheep for the cover of Adam Roberts’s Jack Glass (Gollancz) – the actual winner
3) Ben Baldwin for the cover of Dark Currents (Newcon Press)
4) Si Scott for the cover artwork for Chris Beckett’s Dark Eden (Corvus)
5) Joey Hi-Fi for the cover of Simon Morden’s Thy Kingdom Come (Jurassic London
I have voted for the winner four times out of nine.
Also: Best Novel, 2018.
- Thu, 12:03: #CEPSlab19 77 minutes into the session and @Poli_Eleonora is the first woman to speak.
- Thu, 12:17: RT @FrancescoNicoli: @simonjhix: “to go beyond the second order election trap, the Eurosceptics must have a lead candidate. That creates re…
- Thu, 12:56: RT @DmitryOpines: “I guess we were a bit overcautious in requiring a backstop,” thinks absolutely no one in Europe watching both UK politic…
- Thu, 13:11: Met an old friend who works for @EFTAsecretariat at #CEPSlab19. Apparently UK’s Withdrawal Agreement with EFTA is r… https://t.co/HVFd5acSLd
- Thu, 13:24: RT @hostwriter: One year ago, Slovak investigative journalist #JanKuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova were killed in cold blood. His c…
- Thu, 13:28: RT @EU_Commission: Happy International #MotherLanguageDay! The EU counts 24 official languages and is home to over 60 regional or minority…
- Thu, 13:59: RT @Intereconomics_: “Brexit is one of the saddest things I have ever seen in my life.” Frans Timmermanns, Vice-President, European Commiss…
- Thu, 14:02: RT @brexitcountdow1: Brexit is 874 hours away. #brexit
- Thu, 14:44: #CEPSlab19 @SophiaRussack and @MartinSelmayr about to discuss What comes after “the Commission of the last chance”?… https://t.co/JZbc88QwFO
- Thu, 14:58: RT @LordRickettsP: I don’t think future historians will ask “why Europe failed to achieve an amicable change in its relationship with Brita…
- Thu, 15:12: There I am, checking my phone to see if anyone has tweeted a picture of me… #CEPSlab19 https://t.co/N0izxfFT7Q
- Thu, 15:30: RT @rcbregman: 1/ Here’s the interview that @TuckerCarlson and Fox News didn’t want you to see. I chose to release it, because I think we s…
- Thu, 15:41: “The campaign has not really started, for instance ALDE have not chosen a candidate yet.” “The fact that ALDE hav… https://t.co/WLEe0D5bpv
- Thu, 16:05: Abortion rights leader’s pregnancy surprises opponents: ‘Is that real?’ https://t.co/jpmUi1TSGH Cognitive dissonance!
- Thu, 16:22: Discussion of the future of UK-EU trade relations after #Brexit at #CEPSlab19 with @StefaanDeRynck and… https://t.co/0rXK2euHhz
- Thu, 16:23: RT @CEPS_thinktank: #CEPSlab19: The Future of UK-EU Trade Relations Join @StefaanDeRynck @panoskoutrakos_ L. Alan Winters Guillaume Van der…
- Thu, 17:11: RT @PeatWorrier: On this week’s Catalan trial in Madrid. You can’t prosecute your way to national unity. Political ideas cannot be driven o…
- Thu, 17:14: RT @davidwatson_m: Reflections on future UK-EU trade relations @CEPS_thinktank #CEPSlab19 inc: -UK’s obsession with int trade deals -UK sha…
- Thu, 17:25: “You are always talking about ‘Norway Plus’. That makes us Norwegians a bit nervous.” #Brexit #CEPSlab19
- Thu, 18:26: Nebula Short Lists – Goodreads/LibraryThing stats https://t.co/hTJGtMyrXC
- Thu, 18:51: RT @jimwaterson: Up to 70 claims of libel and harassment are being prepared by Rachel Riley and Tracy Ann Oberman against against Twitter u…
- Thu, 19:12: In memoriam: “For Pete’s sake: In this generation with multi-faceted Monkee Peter Tork” by @jeremylr https://t.co/iCyW7QmAh9
- Thu, 19:20: RT @gideonrachman: Rarely has a group been so inaptly named as the European Research Group. If they had done some actual research, we might…
- Thu, 20:48: UCLan recreates lost episode of Doctor Who https://t.co/jd30cEQNO4 This is brilliant!
- Fri, 08:10: Struck by Gwendolen’s decision in second chapter of Daniel Deronda (1876) to get “the evening train for Brussels” f… https://t.co/YGuNdBC6pM
- Fri, 09:30: 20 Tricks to Appear Smart In Meetings https://t.co/OJA85QZlOB None of this ever happens in real life. Except when it does.
- Fri, 09:52: Three years ago, I went to the Cosmonauts exhibition in the Science Museum in London. https://t.co/YzMfIyRXyo #space
- Fri, 09:57: RT @STGEUI: Good morning from Brussels! We start the second day of #CEPSlab19 with a critical reflection on #facts & #fakes. Are we guided…
- Fri, 10:04: RT @kevinhorourke: To those MPs hoping that a ‘clean break’ will make all those difficult choices and trade-offs vanish: no, it won’t. All…
- Fri, 10:37: RT @virginiamucchi: How many companies have fire #insurance? Most of them. And #cyber insurance? Only 9%. #newbusiness #CEPSlab19
- Fri, 10:45: Little, Brown to Publish Transphobic Novel That Erases Historical Trans Man https://t.co/Y5mM1MxcgB More on the James Barry controversy.
- Fri, 11:05: RT @virginiamucchi: How do you manage the #traceability of the news people read online? There is #legislation that allows the #digital #ide…
- Fri, 11:08: “British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt pledged common values, common challenges and German-British friendship in Be… https://t.co/v9j6tCgjdo
- Fri, 11:18: RT @EvaMaydell: Kicking off the #CEPSlab19 Prime Talk on the transatlantic relations together with @USAmbEU Sondland, @Josef_Braml and @kar…
- Fri, 11:20: Caught me talking to @KubaBrux at 0:13-0:20! #CEPSlab19 https://t.co/248yxlLrCk
- Fri, 11:21: RT @ReDefineEurope: The #US is happy with #EU countries investing more money and building more #military capabilities, but as long as thy’v…
- Fri, 11:52: RT @EUPanelWatch: Our panel watchers were at yesterday’s #CEPSlab19 by @CEPS_thinktank and found 5 men + 1 male moderator on the big stage…
- Fri, 11:52: RT @Intereconomics_: Harsh words being exchanged at the #CEPSlab19 session on transatlantic relations. US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondl…
- Fri, 11:52: RT @EvaMaydell: It has become clear that the Transatlantic relationship was taken for granted. We must reinvigorate this relation if we wer…
- Fri, 11:59: RT @DavidKleimann: Applauded dissection of US approach to transatlantic relations by @Josef_Braml vis-a-vis @USAmbEU. #CEPSlab19 https://t.…
Nebula Short Lists – Goodreads/LibraryThing stats
Lots to crunch here. First of all, the GR/LT stats for the Best Novel finalists:
|owners||av rating||owners||av rating|
|Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik||114,671||4.3||793||4.28|
|The Poppy War, by R.F. Kuang||76,250||4.04||371||3.98|
|The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal||27,696||4.22||321||4.08|
|Blackfish City, by Sam J. Miller||18,116||3.63||189||3.4|
|Witchmark, by C.L. Polk||15,627||3.92||182||3.71|
Impressive lead on all four metrics for Spinning Silver.
For Best Novella, there is also a clear leader, if not quite so strongly ahead, but the different modes of publication may mean that we are comparing apples and pears here:
|owners||av rating||owners||av rating|
|Artificial Condition, by Martha Wells||28,406||4.29||378||4.26|
|The Tea Master and the Detective, Aliette de Bodard||8,036||3.96||159||3.81|
|The Black God’s Drums, by P. Djèlí Clark||6,132||4.12||107||4.27|
|Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, by Kelly Robson||4,172||3.71||104||3.72|
|Alice Payne Arrives, by Kate Heartfield||789||3.79||14||4|
|Fire Ant, by Jonathan P. Brazee||540||4.27||4||4|
And we can do the same calculations also for the The Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book:
|owners||av rating||owners||av rating|
|Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi||267104||4.23||1333||4.04|
|Dread Nation, by Justina Ireland||49732||4.17||491||4.23|
|Tess of the Road, by Rachel Hartman||29456||3.94||266||4.07|
|Aru Shah and the End of Time, by Roshani Chokshi||30470||4.12||233||3.92|
|Peasprout Chen: Future Legend of Skate and Sword, by Henry Lien||1111||4.1||23||4|
|A Light in the Dark, by A.K. DuBoff||108||4.41||1||0|
Another front-runner. But the last of these is rather mysterious – only one owner who has bothered to register their purchase with LibraryThing? Surprisingly low for a Nebula shortlisted book.
Anyway, plenty of time to go.
- Wed, 12:34: RT @JusticeLeagueEU: @jonworth Reminds me of when @nwbrux diplomatically said ‘I don’t know why the minister said that’ when what he meant…
- Wed, 12:37: The Independent Group: Tories Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen quit party over Brexit to join ex-Labour… https://t.co/b5TyA6QDHa
- Wed, 12:47: RT @purves_peter: Almost ready to go https://t.co/CGL51Nbqrs
- Wed, 12:56: RT @Dublin2019: Still undecided about who to vote for in the Retro Hugos? Ian Moore investigates what else was happening in fandom in 194…
- Wed, 16:05: The world’s first democratically elected Muslim woman was from Georgia https://t.co/wfzXAW7Rgv Fascinating piece by… https://t.co/t2eF7bZ0d6
- Wed, 19:52: RT @ZNConsulting: Our @liorakern is at the #EUTweetUp with #EUinfluencer @JusticeLeagueEU, Spanish researcher @jaruizso, and Business Consu…
- Wed, 19:55: RT @JusticeLeagueEU: At @EUTweetup — people keep asking ‘where is your successor?’ @captain_europe
- Wed, 20:13: RT @pickwick: I always avoid the sports sub-conversation in the trans rights “debate” because the idea that sports being “fair” is more imp…
- Wed, 20:16: RT @sfwa: Announcing the 2018 Nebula Finalists! https://t.co/mwyp2vD3zw
- Wed, 20:20: RT @Mij_Europe: A few more data points to support my negativity @JGForsyth. Based on chats w all sides. Short #Brexit thread
- Wed, 20:22: RT @JGForsyth: That was quick https://t.co/mNHIUqR5Bc
- Wed, 20:48: Ooohhhh! https://t.co/7CKRYA5oq6
- Wed, 22:02: BSFA shortlist: Goodreads/LibraryThing stats https://t.co/rfai79UvHL #bsfa2018
- Thu, 10:45: RT @ColinYeo1: 1. I’ve seen quite a few people talking about “claiming” citizenship. That’s not usually how it works. Nationality laws, inc…
- Thu, 11:06: #CEPSlab19 starting with a manel… https://t.co/XhvyYbNNuv
- Thu, 11:09: RT @CEPS_thinktank: @nwbrux We are not proud of that. And will strive to rectify that next year
- Thu, 11:29: #CEPSlab19 @simonjhix explains why opinion polls are an imperfect guide to May 2019’s European Parliament election… https://t.co/Q9nl2keQUs
BSFA shortlist: Goodreads/LibraryThing stats
The BSFA shortlist is out – somehow I only spoted it today. (The Nebula final ballot is out too, but I'll post the stats for that tomorrow.)
There are five shortlisted novels, which were 8th, 13th, 16th, 17th and 32nd on my previous ranking.
|owners||av rating||owners||av rating|
|Tade Thompson – Rosewater||20,063||3.86||192||3.79|
|Yoon Ha Lee – Revenant Gun||7,147||4.21||146||4.06|
|Gareth L Powell – Embers of War||4,651||4||69||3.67|
|Emma Newman – Before Mars||3,504||4.09||75||4.05|
|Dave Hutchinson – Europe at Dawn||359||4.14||37||4.4|
It's striking that although Rosewater has the most owners on both systems, it's also relatively low-ranked, last on GR and second last on LT. Meanwhile Europe At Dawn and Revenant Gun take first and second place in both systems.
Well, we'll see.
- Tue, 12:56: Timothy the Talking Cat reads “Ender’s Game” https://t.co/iCjJ5RW9C8 Spot on.
- Tue, 16:05: On the Loss of Citizenship https://t.co/Rf18IQsxTi @PaulDBurgess reflects on Brexit.
- Tue, 16:34: RT @BlockchainforEU: #BlockchainforEU is unifying the #Blockchain industry’s voices. Learn more about our views on the #EU, #GDPR, our idea…
- Tue, 17:11: Is this Britain’s Macron moment? – POLITICO https://t.co/XxAnqurBKB One of those questions to which the answer is, “Probably not”.
- Tue, 19:38: Tuesday reading https://t.co/tgyRnD4cxG
- Wed, 10:45: Becoming Belgian https://t.co/FKYgEhM7qf @GarethHarding has joined the club.
Present Danger, ed. Eddie Robson
Last books finished
Expo 58, by Jonathan Coe
Tweaking The Tail, by John Leeson
The Life of Sir Denis Henry, by A.D. McDonnell
Bitter Angels, by C. L. Anderson
A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara
Daniel Deronda, by George Eliot
- Mon, 12:05: RT @britainelects: The following MPs have resigned from the Labour Party: Chuka Umunna (Streatham) Luciana Berger (Liverpool Wavertre) Chr…
- Mon, 12:56: Sometimes you see something that restores your hope in humanity. https://t.co/FhDjjliBAD
- Mon, 16:05: RT @notalogin: The middle initials “R.R.”, a ranked list: 1. J.R.R. Tolkien 2. George R.R. Martin 3. The Children R.R. Future
- Mon, 17:11: Iran: the revolution that shook the world https://t.co/vhcjECeXVN Well worth reading.
- Mon, 18:10: When the square root of n is less than or equal to n’s number of divisors https://t.co/KOb22DOi7p
- Mon, 18:57: RT @DmitryOpines: 1/ Click-bait headlines are damaging the Brexit conversation. A rage thread. I woke up this morning to the news Australi…
- Tue, 10:45: What Happens When Techno-Utopians Actually Run a Country https://t.co/LkYNZTZhR4 The fascinating and chilling story… https://t.co/gzZPWRRKHw
When the square root of n is less than or equal to n’s number of divisors
Just in case you ever needed to know, there are 55 positive integers whose square root √n is less than or equal to their number of divisors τ(n).
√n < τ(n) in 53 cases, and in two cases √n = τ(n): 1 and 9.
Or to put it another way:
The number whose square root is smallest relative to its number of divisors is 12, whose 6 divisors are almost twice its square root of 3.45.
There, aren't you glad I told you?
Edited to add: Looks like I miscounted and there are only 54.
- Sun, 12:56: Brexit: The Compromise (PDF) https://t.co/XoHcycmRfM @AndrewDuffEU sees a way forward.
- Sun, 13:49: RT @AlbertoNardelli: 1) measures have been covered multiple times by multiple outlets since first set out 2) it’s not a secret deal, but un…
- Sun, 14:21: RT @Dublin2019: Don’t forget, deadline for nominating in @TheHugoAwards is the 15th of March.
- Sun, 20:48: Stanley McChrystal: ‘I Think I Am at Peace’ https://t.co/OSWHQELz5C Fascinating @FT interview by @JananGanesh.
- Sun, 22:06: Return to Bosnia and Croatia https://t.co/NgmXWStTDS
- Mon, 08:53: RT @Jack_Blanchard_: Britain in 2019: They’re selling copies of the latest Ivan Rogers speech at the counter in Waterstones https://t.co/Wy…
- Mon, 09:00: RT @Usherwood: Theresa May sets course for Brexit disaster https://t.co/msuUlSKsPd
- Mon, 10:45: RT @tom_nuttall: This Niall Ferguson column is a cry for help https://t.co/1jIquvurvG https://t.co/9bKRkS5Mp3
Return to Bosnia and Croatia
Two weeks ago, I took F on his first trip to Bosnia. I lived in Banja Luka, the main city of the Republika Srpska (the Serbian part of Bosnia) from January 1997 to May 1998, and was joined by Anne and B from that September (B, who was born in June 1997, was very tiny). We then moved to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, from May to December 1998, before I got my first job in Brussels at the start of 1999; by then, F was on his way, but did not fully appear on the scene until July.
Since leaving Zagreb, I had been back to Banja Luka only once, in November 2002, though I'd passed through Zagreb a few times (most recently last June when I was stranded there one evening by air traffic problems). F had never been at all – we'd taken him to the Croatian coast when he was two, but not to Zagreb. So when I realised that I could take a long weekend of travel in advance of some work meetings in Zagreb on the first Tuesday in February, it seemed like a good opportunity to revisit the past.
Zagreb, nights 1, 4 and 5:
Night 1: Hotel Jägerhorn: good and central, boutique atmosphere, car park two blocks from hotel which made for slightly tricky navigation and suitcase-trundling, but at least there was a car park.
Friday dinner: Batak Grill, Flower Square branch, F's first ćevapi; basic but filling.
Friday drinks with T (former colleague) and H (T's partner): Grif Bar, newly opened, former button factory, smoky and noisy but didn't make me feel too old.
Zagreb, nights 4 and 5:
Nights 4 and 5: Hotel Westin, formerly the Opera, formerly the Intercontinental; standard international business hotel. Left to myself, I would stay a bit closer to the centre.
Monday dinner: Agava, nice traditional Croatian place among the many restaurants on Tkalčićeva Street (which has gone way more international and diverse than in my day).
Tuesday lunch: Vinodol, efficient business lunch.
Tuesday dinner: my former colleague P kindly cooked for me.
Wednesday lunch: at the airport.
Pictures here are from both legs of the trip to Zagreb, where we started and ended – F returned to Belgium on the Tuesday, but I had to stay an extra day. I rented a zippy little Clio from Enterprise at the airport.
F in front of the statue of Ban Jelačić in the central square.
(Statue by Anton Dominik Ritter von Fernkorn, 1866)
His parents and sister, 21 years earlier on the other side of the horse
Panorama with F in Flower Square (Cvjetni Trg)
His parents and sister in the same square in 1998
My old office at Preradovićeva 22. It's seen better days.
At the end of the street is Šoštarićeva 4, the building where we lived in 1998, then (left) and now (right x2).
St Mark's Church, in 1997 and 2019.
The great local physicist Nikola Tesla, decorated for the occasion. He wasn't there in 1998.
Memorial commemorating Croatia's EU membership, 1 July 2013.
St George doing some smiting. (Anton Dominik Ritter von Fernkorn again, 1853)
I had time to go to one museum, where the rocket attacks on Zagreb in 1991 and 1995 are commemorated, but no photography was allowed.
Here's the funicular between the lower and upper towns, my colleagues talking in the background.
Banja Luka, night 2:
Hotel Jelena: new since my time living there, staff very friendly especially over breakfast.
Lunch: Kod Brke Pizzeria, tasty and good value
Dinner: Kastel, the ultimate dining place in Banja Luka, in the old Roman fort.
In my day, the square at the centre of the city was a building site, with the Banski Dvor, which housed the main government offices, and the National Bank on the northern side of the square.
Now it's dominated by the new cathedral, the Banski Dvor is under wraps and the president's office has moved across the road to the former bank. (I was really lucky with the light here.)
When I arrived in Banja Luka in early 1997, the first thing I did was to hire Danijela Dabić, aged 21, slim as a rake, smart as a whip, sarcastic as only a child of war can be. She was my best friend in Bosnia, and I learned more from her than I can ever express.
When I was last in Banja Luka in 2002, we met up for what we both knew would be the last time, and indeed we lost her a few months later. This was my first chance to pay my respects.
After the cemetery, we went to see her mother. We don't have much common language, but sometimes few words are needed.
Danijela's best friend D sorted us out. She was a student back in those days, sometimes playing with young B and dropping by the office for a laugh.
D now has a pretty responsible government position. For dinner we went to the Kastel, where I had last eaten with Danijela in 2002, and had a brilliant if somewhat emotional time.
D's parents still live in the apartment that we rented from them in 1997-98. The streetscape has filled out with some more new buildings.
Her parents and brother were very hospitable to us before we took the road south to Sarajevo via Travnik.
Travnik, Sunday lunch: Ćevabdžinica Hari,
The drive over Mount Vlašić to Travnik was, er, interesting. The rain over the previous couple of days had washed significant parts of the road down the slopes, up to half of it in places, and elsewhere rocks from above had fallen onto the road surface; some of them rather big rocks.
As we drove I was listening to a Big Finish audio, The Thousand Worlds, starring John Hurt as the War Doctor, in which he returns to a planet where he has not been for a while and discovers that the young woman student who he had got to know on his previous visit has now has a pretty responsible government position. It seemed to fit.
I wanted to take F to Travnik because of its tremendous cultural history: the Coloured Mosque, and also the heritage of Ivo Andrić who made the town famous in his best book.
An added attraction, according to D in Banja Luka, is Hari's Ćevabdžinica which she assured us serves the best ćevapi in Bosnia. She was dead right – the ćevapi were very good. When we got to Sarajevo, I mentioned to everyone I met that we'd had good ćevapi in Travnik, and they all said, "Oh, you must have been to Hari's then." Unfortunately the weather did not co-operate, and the Coloured Mosque was closed for renovations, so all we did in Travnik was eat Hari's ćevapi and then leave for Sarajevo.
The rain was getting worse, and on the fringes of Travnik we were diverted across a park to avoid the main road which was underwater. As we drove south we found ourselves splashing through the Lašva at several points. The little Clio performed well.
Sarajevo, night 3:
Hondo's Pansion: where I had usually stayed on my visits in 1997 and 1998, still run by the same two brothers, still very hospitable if a little basic (but good value).
Dinner: Ćevabdžinica Hodžić, claims more modestly to just have the best ćevapi in Sarajevo; certainly they were very tasty.
Drinks with O: Wine bar Dekanter, very helpful with suggestions; where the political elite hang out.
Monday lunch: Preporod, former Gajret cultural centre, very pleasant airy space
When I first arrived in Sarajevo in 1997, I was struck by the view from Hondo's Pansion where we usually stayed:
The National Library is particularly fine, especially with the castle in the background.
We met up with several old friends of mine, most particularly O, a former diplomat, who took us on his personal tour of the old city of Sarajevo, taking us around the confectionery shops and also very gently pointing out the street where he was born, and where his sister was killed during the war. We ended up in a very nice wine bar where the Bosnian elite hang out.
I felt that the old city had not changed much since the 1990s, but others assured me that I should have looked at the modern west of the city a bit more (I was fighting traffic jams when there, which perhaps proves their point about growth). F pointed out that there are very few Bosnian flags on display in either Banja Luka or the old town of Sarajevo (we saw one, outside the Bakijska džamija in the Baščaršija); again, I was told that you’ll see more in the western part of the city.
Time has passed, as demonstrated by these three pictures taken of the same building from the same vantage point over a period of 105 years, the second two by me:
Schiller's bakery (1914)
The remains of the former Young Bosnia Museum (1997)
The Museum of Sarajevo 1878-1918 (2019)
This museum makes a brave attempt to interest us in life in Sarajevo under Austro-Hungarian rule, but the fact is that most of us are interested in only one thing that actually happened there. They have done well, though, in terms of mementoes of the event that sparked the first world war:
The coffee cups used by Franz Ferdinand and Sophie Chotek just before the assassination;
the cutlery with which he ate his last breakfast.
The clothes and weapons confiscated from the assassin.
On Monday morning it was snowing with thick wet flakes which melted on impact, and I discovered that a hole in my shoe was allowing my foot to be saturated with freezing mush. We did manage a bit more culture:
Inside the Emperor's Mosque (actually Sunday evening)
The Svrzo House museum, a wealthy family's residence from the 19th century
The Jewish Museum, and the somewhat disturbing woodcuts of Daniel Ozmo
Finally, the War Childhood Museum's usual Bosnian exhibits were not on display that week; instead, there was a very moving set of objects donated by children of the Syrian conflict, reminding us that this century has not escaped the sins of previous times.
You can fly from Charleroi to Banja Luka for €20. I might do that quite soon.
- Sat, 12:56: RT @simonjhix: This really is an extremely articulate explanation of the problems of Brexit, far clearer and more sophisticated than anythi…
- Sat, 12:59: RT @Dublin2019: Don’t forget, deadline for nominating in @TheHugoAwards is the 15th of March.
- Sat, 14:45: RT @quartzen: It bothers me that I keep seeing posts about James Barry talking about his “secret.” As far as I can tell, he was quite open…
- Sat, 14:45: RT @jimfitzpatrick: Found this old sketch of Bobby Kennedy, one of my heroes then+now. Bobby and JFK stood up to the White Suprematists of…
- Sat, 16:05: British Concentration Camps: A Response to Jacob Rees-Mogg https://t.co/RjO2pxLllo Just in case you were not clear on the detail.
- Sat, 17:00: RT @Dublin2019: Membership prices rise Monday 18th February at 00:01 – Dublin time. Attending Adult Membership will rise to €235 Young Adu…
- Sat, 20:48: Porsche asks UK buyers to commit to 10% no-deal Brexit surcharge https://t.co/qRDABk14yM That’s the German car indu… https://t.co/GD7Lxigt0d
- Sat, 23:26: #TakingBackControl https://t.co/Tf7ffd9Id0
- Sun, 07:38: RT @iguardans_EN: So: as from yesterday, Brexit with no deal means the UK must find a bilateral agreement on Gibraltar with Spain… in the…
- Sun, 10:45: Hillsborough woman “livid” after accent test says she’s from Northern Ireland https://t.co/2s38UPxJN0 Hahahaha
- Fri, 20:48: Churches of Rome Wiki https://t.co/WxtpOn7kVn Hugely enjoying the information and occasional snark in this wiki.
- Fri, 21:01: RT @chrisgreybrexit: A highly revealing comment, not least for showing the complete refusal of Brexiters to take any responsibility whatsoe…
- Fri, 21:07: RT @garyyounge: One can only assume the wartime British public had a more nuanced view of Churchill then than much of the commentariat do n…
- Fri, 21:15: Jacob Rees-Mogg literally defending concentration camps. https://t.co/jfa5p2zXD1
- Sat, 09:41: RT @jonworth: 1000 hours to #Brexit!
- Sat, 09:45: The British-Irish Dialect Quiz – The New York Times – pegged me as Northern Irish (right) possibly Lisburn (not far… https://t.co/c2PodaVCsZ
- Sat, 10:45: RT @douchebagstrat: In five years, change management will be all about voice-optimised content distribution in a world defined by uncertain…
- Thu, 12:56: RT @alanbeattie: Roses are red, Violets are blue. Sugar is an interesting example of how what ought to be an efficient global commodity m…
- Thu, 16:05: RT @benjaminbutter: We need to stop pretending the coverage of trans people in the media is a ‘debate’. It’s abuse. The smears linking tran…
- Thu, 17:11: Very sad, well worth reading. https://t.co/tYdo7L9aQA
- Thu, 18:11: Very important thread. https://t.co/VARl8jJ3nj
- Thu, 18:18: RT @BBCkatyaadler: Frustration and #Brexit despondency reign right now in EU circles. “This new round of EU-UK negotiations is essentially…
- Thu, 20:48: Brexit: Government admits it has ‘run out of time’ to find ships to bring emergency supplies after no-deal… https://t.co/MwZ2idXwVi
- Fri, 10:45: Home Office apologises to man, 90, told to fly to US to renew visa https://t.co/7Y8aG9jrtE #BritainOfTheWelcomes
- Wed, 12:18: RT @nick_gutteridge: 1/ EU countries are ready to help May drag out the Brexit talks until March 21, when they will try to stitch together…
- Wed, 12:56: RT @peteqconsult: @pmdfoster https://t.co/WyH4NJJ0RL
- Wed, 13:40: Vote Leela and @Lou_Jameson !!!! Er, that is, vote for Chris Boucher. https://t.co/Bj7vg2ocxa
- Wed, 16:05: Spain’s trial of Catalan separatists is worse than an outrage – it is a terrible mistake https://t.co/ETqHfSiAwC Indeed.
- Wed, 16:34: RT @HenryNewman: I don’t get the fury about Olly Robbins’s comments. Isn’t the obvious truth that either MPs back the deal eventually OR…
- Wed, 17:11: The EU looks like the Soviet Union in 1991 – on the verge of collapse https://t.co/Vq9BqR8oBR Slightly alarmist hea… https://t.co/D40xUcap6u
- Wed, 17:57: RT @StefaanDeRynck: @Digbylj When you visited @MichelBarnier in our offices, a year ago, did you ever feel you were being “bullied”? He res…
- Wed, 20:48: The changing face of Irish nationalism could change Westminster too https://t.co/r0guyKiHKE @PatrickKMaguire attemp… https://t.co/kSZyuP4RR9
- Thu, 06:26: RT @eucopresident: No news is not always good news. EU27 still waiting for concrete, realistic proposals from London on how to break #Brexi…
- Thu, 09:28: RT @pmdfoster: Northern Irish businesses are being left in the lurch by #Brexit – what does that mean? /1 @ninusinessinfo, @UlsterBusines…
- Thu, 10:45: Brexit: How backstop has brought UK to boiling point https://t.co/7XU1nnRY6g Great as ever from @TConnellyRTE.
- Tue, 12:56: RT @theJeremyVine: This correction may look ridiculous, but the Huntley “Nicola” story has been used for the last year to make transgender…
- Tue, 14:18: Pretty much my assessment too. https://t.co/lVfuHXh1Na
- Tue, 16:05: How was the Irish Border drawn in the first place? https://t.co/Jn218wM7UE It actually could have been worse…
- Tue, 18:53: RT @davidallengreen: Another day of Brexit. Full steam adrift.
- Tue, 19:10: Tuesday reading https://t.co/kOjBcJm97S
- Wed, 04:33: RT @CitySamuel: Ok here are two perfectly plausible alternative interpretations of the snippets overheard here… bear with me as they are…
- Wed, 09:27: I wonder which it is? https://t.co/w1dvESHZcS
- Wed, 10:45: RT @oDTransform: What did Julian of Norwich mean when she said that ‘all things shall be well?’ Fascinating piece by Veronica Mary Rolf: ht…
- Wed, 11:49: RT @BrusselsGeek: Want to meet some of the nicest EU nerds scattered around Bxl? Next #EUTweetUp will take place on 20 February at the Gine…
Bitter Angels, by C. L. Anderson
Expo 58, by Jonathan Coe
Tweaking The Tail, by John Leeson
Last books finished
The Fire Sermon (sample), by Francesca Haig
Script Doctor: the Inside Story of Doctor Who 1986-1989, by Andrew Cartmel
The Life of Sir Denis Henry, by A.D. McDonnell
A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara
- Mon, 12:34: RT @EUTweetup: Next #EUTweetUp will take place on 20 February at the Ginette Bar on Place Lux. See you there from 18.30 and follow us (& th…
- Mon, 12:56: RT @csgmoore: Dear Conservatives, remember when you used to be the pragmatic party? And the party of business? Now people swap stockpiling…
- Mon, 16:05: RT @alexwilcock: Transphobic bigots who claim they support the interests of trans people but hate ‘activists’ are very familiar in LGBT his…
- Mon, 16:52: Baxendale’s books are nice to have; but I like Guerrier’s more, especially The Time Travellers. He gets my vote.… https://t.co/YY18gn2zVO
- Mon, 17:11: Interview with Serbia’s greatest SF writer, Zoran Živković, for Saudi TV. https://t.co/zlhu1EtC7C In English, Arabi… https://t.co/VxgbQL4Zph
- Mon, 20:48: Japan seeking big concessions from Britain in trade talks https://t.co/5zbr5Bx0TC #TakingBackControl
- Mon, 22:51: RT @Jgs_x: Very rarely read a book twice, but with an opening line like this it’s easy to make an exception: “Many years later, as he faced…
- Tue, 07:56: RT @BBCMarkSimpson: Rule no.1 of journalism. Question everything. Everything. https://t.co/6MFv0FKbYe
- Tue, 09:05: RT @Julian5News: A reminder that Commons Speaker John Bercow came last in an obstacle race on (the soon to be revived) Crackerjack, aged 12…
- Tue, 10:45: Why a no-deal Brexit is likely https://t.co/Gw9B1hDyro So says @Peston. Personally I am a little more hopeful about… https://t.co/O0eTyIEbCH
- Sun, 22:59: What SF to read? Results of a Facebook/Twitter poll https://t.co/RDxAkLszrb
- Mon, 09:42: The European Commission’s 60-slide deck explaining the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration. Clearer… https://t.co/te2N98CdyK
- Mon, 10:45: What fresh madness is this? #Brexit https://t.co/cai2OjUcVo
- Mon, 11:49: Day’s novels usually don’t work that well for me, unfortunately. Black’s three novelisations are all good, and he g… https://t.co/xiZNljFbnk
What SF to read? Results of a Facebook/Twitter poll
I was on the road last week, and will be again next week, so blogging will be light until things settle down.
However. An old friend contacted me on the first day of my trip, asking for recommendations for either "the three best sci fi novels? Or your three favourites?" I didn't really have time while travelling to give this the thought it required, so I outsourced the question to friends on Twitter and Facebook. The results indicate only the views of a bunch of people responding to a straw poll on a Sunday evening or Monday morning, but I hope that they are interesting. I recorded 264 recommendations for 143 different books by 101 authors. (I slightly lost count of how many people had contributed to the discussion, but given that people were generally recommending three books, it must have been around 80-90.)
The top two, with 19 and 18 votes respectively, were not hugely surprising: Dune, by Frank Herbert, and The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin. Dune has its faults, but it has a lot of merits too – the ecology, the planetary politics, the role of religion in society – and I think it's fair to say that by reading it you get a good sense of where sf has come from in the last fifty years. The Left Hand of Darkness is one of the best books ever written about sexuality without being particularly erotic; its politics is ever so slightly more progressive than Dune's.
Le Guin was the top nominated author on the list, mentioned by 31 people. This is mainly because the third book in the overall poll, The Dispossessed, with 10 votes, is also by her. (The other three Le Guin votes went to The Lathe of Heaven.) The Dispossessed is even more political, partly a parable about how where you stand affects what you see. These are all great books, and I am heartily recommending them to my friend if he wants only three.
As you would expect from a survey like this, people generally opted for the classics rather than more recent work. In fourth place, with seven votes, is the only book published this century that got more than three recommendations. It was, of course, Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice, which blew most of us away when published in 2013 – a book that is more military and cybernetic than Le Guin, but equally feminist and progressive. I think it would be particularly interesting for someone unfamiliar with the field to read it soon after The Left Hand of Darkness. In fifth place, with six votes, is a personal favourite of mine, Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny, which I will admit has dated a bit but is still a good read about men and women trying to be gods. I'm quite pleased that the top five include three books by women.
Finishing off the detailed reporting, three books by men tied for sixth place with five votes: Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell (which my friend has surely already read), Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut (which I'm sure he has at least heard of) and Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson (which I suspect is less well known outside the genre). Probably I should allow Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy here too, if I combine all the votes for it. I loved all of these when I first read them, though again I don't think Asimov has aged well.
My friend can stop reading here, as he's got his top three (indeed top nine) recommendations, but I'm sure others will want to know the final scores. The following six books, by four men and two women, got four votes each:
• Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
• The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
• Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
• Neuromancer, by William Gibson
• The Player of Games, by Iain M. Banks
• The War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells
I like all but one of these; if I had to pick a favourite, it would probably be The Handmaid’s Tale (recently a TV series of course). Personally I can't take Neuromancer, but I know I'm in a minority.
Eight books, by five men and three women, got three votes:
• Cyteen, by C.J. Cherryh
• Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick
• The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin (counting also votes for the Broken Earth trilogy)
• The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
• The Lathe Of Heaven, by Ursula K. LeGuin
• The Man in the High Castle, by Philip K. Dick
• The Stars My Destination, by Alfred Bester
• Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert A. Heinlein
It's difficult for me to choose a personal favourite between The Lathe Of Heaven, The Man in the High Castle and Stranger in a Strange Land. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? is of course the basis of Blade Runner. The Man in the High Castle is another recent TV series. Both are by Philip K. Dick, who got six books on the list, the most of any author. Particularly significant is that The Fifth Season and its two sequels won the Hugo Awards for Best Novel for 2016, 2017 and 2018, the only time an author has managed to win it three years in a row. Myself I'm not all that excited about them, but clearly lots of other people are. It's also the highest ranking on this list for a book by a writer of colour. Here my disrecommendation is for Cyteen, but again I know that most other readers think it's great.
Seventeen books by thirteen men and five women (one book is co-authored) got two votes. Five of these were published this century (marked with a copyright symbol ©).
• Ammonite, by Nicola Griffith
• Blindsight, by Peter Watts ©
• Brasyl, by Ian McDonald ©
• A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller
• A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge
• Flow My Tears The Policeman Said, by Philip K. Dick
• Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes
• Hyperion, by Dan Simmons
• Kindred, by Octavia Butler
• The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers ©
• Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood ©
• A Princess of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs
• Roadside Picnic, by the Strugatsky brothers
• A Scanner Darkly, by Philip K. Dick
• The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell
• The Star Fraction, by Ken MacLeod
• The Three Body Problem (counting also a vote for the trilogy as a whole), by Cixin Liu ©
Again there's one here I really bounced off while everyone else was excited by it, and it's Blindsight. (Also not wild about A Fire Upon The Deep or Hyperion.) I confess that I may not have actually read A Princess of Mars. But there's a particular favourite of mine here as well, A Canticle for Leibowitz. I also very much like Brasyl, Flowers for Algernon, Kindred and A Scanner Darkly. I am not sure if The Sparrow will stand up to re-reading.
Do you want to know what the other 105 books that got one vote each were? OK, though I must warn that the gender balance is a little embarrassing. For the record, they were:
Accelerando, by Charles Stross; Austral, by Paul McAuley; Babel 17, by Samuel R. Delany; The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal; Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut; The Child Garden, by Geoff Ryman; Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke; Children of Time, by Adrian Tchaikovsky; The Chrysalids, by John Wyndham; The City And The City, by China Mieville; Creatures of Light and Darkness, by Roger Zelazny; The City and the Stars, by Arthur C. Clarke; Dahlgren, by Samuel R. Delany; The Dark Side of the Sun, by Terry Pratchett; The Death of Grass, by John Christopher; The Demolished Man , by Alfred Bester; Doctor Who and the Dalek Invasion of Earth, by Terrance Dicks; Dogs of War, by Adrian Tchaikovsky; Downbelow Station, by C.J. Cherryh; Enders Game, by Orson Scott Card; Engine Summer, by John Crowley; Europe In Autumn, by Dave Hutchinson; Excession, by Iain M. Banks; Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury; The Female Man, by Joanna Russ; The Fifth Head of Cerberus, by Gene Wolfe; The Forge of God, by Greg Bear; The Glass Bead Game, by Hermann Hesse; God's War, by Kameron Hurley; Green Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson; The Hammer and the Cross, by Harry Harrison; Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World, by Haruki Murakami; Helliconia Winter, by Brian Aldiss; Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, by James Tiptree Jr; High-Rise Darkness, by J.G. Ballard; His Majesty's Starship, by Ben Jeapes; Hothouse , by Brian Aldiss; I am Legend, by Richard Matheson; If/Then, by Matthew de Abaitua; The Illuminatus! Trilogy, by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson; Isle Of The Dead, by Roger Zelazny; Jizzle (anthology), by John Wyndham ; The Kraken Wakes, by John Wyndham; Komarr, by Lois McMaster Bujold; Last and First Men, by Olaf Stapledon; Light, by M. John Harrison; Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow; Little, Big, by John Crowley; Lock In, by John Scalzi (who was one of the contributors to this survey); Look to Windward, by Iain M. Banks; Madd Addam trilogy, by Margaret Atwood; The Man Who Fell to Earth, by Walter Tevis; The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury; Martian Time-Slip, by Philip K. Dick; Memoirs of a Spacewoman , by Naomi Mitchison; Mission of Gravity, by Hal Clement; The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert A. Heinlein; More Than Human , by Theodore Sturgeon; The Mote in God’s Eye, by Niven & Pournelle; The Murderbot stories, by Martha Wells; Mythago Wood, by Robert Holdstock; The Name of the Wind , by Patrick Rothfuss; Nemesis Games, by James SA Corey; The Neutronium Alchemist, by Peter Hamilton; The Night Sessions, by Ken Macleod; Nine Princes in Amber, by Roger Zelazny; Nova, by Samuel R. Delany; Old Man's War, by John Scalzi (as noted above, a contributor; he did not vote for himself); On A Red Station, Drifting, by Aliette de Bodard; Passage, by Connie Willis; Past Master, by R. A. Lafferty; Permutation City, by Greg Egan; Pollen, by Jeff Noon; The Reality Dysfunction, by Peter F. Hamilton; Rendezvous with Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke; Restoration Game, by Ken MacLeod; Revelation Space, by Alastair Reynolds; Riddley Walker, by Russell Hoban; The Roderick trilogy, by John Sladek; Science Fiction for People Who Hate Science Fiction, edited by Terry Carr; The Separation, by Christopher Priest; The Shadow Of The Torturer) (and sequels), by Gene Wolfe; Shadow's End, by Sherri S. Tepper; Sirens of Titan, by Kurt Vonnegut; Solaris, by Stanislaw Lem; Space Opera, by Catherynne M. Valente; The Stainless Steel Rat, by Harry Harrison; Star King, by Jack Vance; Star Maker, by Olaf Stapledon; Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers, by Harry Harrison; Starship Troopers, by Robert A. Heinlein; The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, by Philip K. Dick; The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells; Too Like the Lightning, by Ada Palmer; 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke; Use of Weapons, by Iain M. Banks; Voyage Of The Space Beagle, by A.E. van Vogt; Who Goes Here, by Bob Shaw; The Wise Man’s Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss; The Wrong Man, by Danny Morrison; Women of Wonder, edited by Pamela Sargent; and The Year of the Flood , by Margaret Atwood.
Thanks, everyone who contributed.
- Sat, 12:04: Government cancels Brexit ferry contract with no-ship firm https://t.co/Idy6l4b4z0 Hahahahahahahaha #TakingBackControl
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- Sat, 16:05: Something positive, for a change. https://t.co/Oee55BzqPY
- Sat, 17:36: RT @pmdfoster: Obvious indeed. It’s the one area where the EU indubitably has superpower status. It’s because trade policy has become badly…
- Sat, 20:48: The battle for the future of Stonehenge https://t.co/bOHpZYL1QO All rather disappointing.
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