One of the last of the big political beasts of my (relative) youth has now departed.
He held office as Defence Secretary for 6 years but was more famous as a Chancellor of the Exchequer excoriated by the left for his adoption of wage controls in 1976 and immortalised in a song – to the tune of What a Friend We Have in Jesus – about the Callaghan Government which contained the line, “All the bad was done by Healey, all the good by Tony Benn.” But Healey in a deaperate bind. There had been an oil price rise of 400%. Imagine today’s politicians coping with that.
His obituaries on the television skipped over his war record to concentrate on his political career. But one of the most striking things I ever heard about him was that he was the Beachmaster (for the British sector) at the Anzio Landings a job of no small responsibility. He’s worth an obituary for that alone.
Denis Winston Healey: 30/8/1917–3/10/2015. So it goes.
The Prime Minister, David Cameron – known to this blog as Mr Irresponsible – has stated that the recent killing by RAF drone strike of two UK citizens in Syria is lawful as it was an act of self-defence and there was no alternative.
So. Let me get this clear. It is illegal for agents of the UK government to execute people convicted in the UK courts for murder, treason (or even arson in Her Majesty’s Dockyards) since the death penalty for such crimes has been abolished; but it is legal to do so to someone outside the UK’s legal jurisdiction, someone who has not been so convicted, or even put on trial?
How is that exactly?
(And what is to stop the government declaring anyone so guilty and despatching a drone to get rid of them?)
I thought we (the so-called civilised law-abiding nations) were supposed to be better than them (the likes of ISIS, ISIL or, the description I believe they themselves abhor, Daesh.)
We have been here before, of course. The major difference is that Gibraltar is British sovereign territory and Syria is not.
The Hugo Awards are, or at least have been, arguably the most prestigious in Science Fiction.
This year is notable for “No Award” coming first in five of the categories: thus equalling the total of “No Award” for all previous winners in the entire history of the Hugos. This would therefore be an odd phenomenon.
The explanation, for those who are unaware of the stushie, is that two groups of fans calling themselves Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies tried to game the system by creating lists of recommendations in the various categories and asking those of like mind to nominate these and vote for them in the final ballot. All of which is perfectly within the rules.
The beef of the puppies appears to be (I summarise) that they think the Hugos have in recent years been taken over by political correctness with people of colour, other minorities and women being (in their view) disproportionately represented on award lists. One faction of the puppies ascribes this as due to the actions of what they call “Social Justice Warriors.”
Another viewpoint is that since they failed to win in previous years the Puppies are just bad losers.
The Puppies claim that the stories which have been winning have been unreadable. This is certainly not true of last year’s novel winner Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. I have this year’s novel winner The Three-Body Problem by Chinese writer Cixin Liu sitting on my bed-side cabinet awaiting reading for review in Interzone. I understand that had another nominee, put on the Puppies’ list without the author’s agreement, not withdrawn from the contest The Three-Body Problem would not have made it to the final ballot. This looks ironic given the Puppies’ view of minorities. (In Hugo terms a Chinese author is definitely a member of a minority.)
To counter the Puppy strategy some people had advocated voting “No Award” in every category in this year’s ballot. Quickly scanning the results it seems to me that the voters have taken their responsibilities seriously. The nuclear option of blanket “No Award” has been eschewed. Instead “No Award” seems to have been used in the sense for which it was intended; that if the voters considered no nominee merited the award they placed “No Award” first, otherwise they placed it after nominations considered worthy.
It may be, though, that the Hugo Awards are now damaged beyond repair.
I was sorry to hear about the death of actor George Cole today. Anothe rfigure from my youth (and not so youth) gone. Mind you at 90 he’d had a good innings.
In his two most famous roles, Flash Harry in the St Trinian’s films and Arthur Daley in Minder Cole was always intensely watchable.
He had the advantage of learning at the feet of a master. The clip from St Trinian’s I saw on today’s News had Flash Harry in dialogue with the headmistress, played by Alastair Sim (who in real life more or less adopted him,) and I couldn’t resist a giggle.
According to a piece on the radio Cole was well liked by film crews as he behaved like a gentleman to them. Courtesy is never a hindrance.
It struck me on listening to the eulogies that the character of Arthur Daley – in which incarnation Cole delivered the immortal line, “What is occurring, Terence?” as something unforeseen went on – might have been an inspiration for Del Boy of Only Fools and Horses.
George Edward Cole: 22/4/1925 – 5/8/2015. So it goes.
I know it’s not good form to speak ill of the dead but I’m afraid I can’t share the “National Treasure” stuff surrounding the passing of Cilla Black. She was undoubtedly a substantial entertainment figure of the 1960s though, with several big hits and many smaller ones. Yet to my mind her singing voice became too harsh when she upped the volume. In softer tones she could be quite effective though.
As to her later incarnation as a television presenter, I saw Blind Date once. It wasn’t for me. I never watched Surprise, Surprise.
I went off her completely when she was introducing some awards ceremony or other and mentioned Margaret Thatcher, at which the audience booed. Cilla then protested (against all reason) “But she’s put the great back in Great Britain.” Maybe for successful entertainers, but not for those left behind.
This was Cilla in her 1960s pomp, in a clip from Top of the Pops:-
Cilla Black: Surround Yourself With Sorrow
And here she is in her softer register. (Interesting that in the intervening almost forty years since I first heard her perform this song, to reflect our modern sensibilities the lyric has been changed from “ye’ll gerra belt from yer da’,” to “Ye’ll get told off by your da’.”)
Cilla Black: Liverpool Lullaby
Priscilla Maria Veronica White (Cilla Black): 27/5/1943-1/8/2015. So it goes.
As part of cost-cutting measures a proposal has been put forward to close 16 libraries in Fife. Three of these I have used and one of them has a very good stock indeed.
I have mentioned before how many libraries are within a few miles of Son of the Rock Acres. Most of these serve distinct communities. Not all of them are under threat but I would be sad to see any of them go. However, two of them are the ones I use most often.
As a result of this proposal the good lady and I have recently been borrowing a few more books than we would have previously in order to boost “footfall”. This means the books already unread on our shelves will have to remain there for a while.
Apparently the plans have been halted temporarily to allow for “consultation” – as is mentioned in this article where there is also a link to a petition to keep the libraries open.
Val Doonican was always determinedly old-fashioned and was probably more famous for Irish novelty songs, wearing woolly jumpers and singing while reclining in a chair than for ruffling the charts but he had a good crooner’s voice and five top ten hits between 1964 and 1967.
Doonican’s biggest was What Would I Be – a no 2 – and his cover of Bob Lind’s Elusive Butterfly reached No 5 in the UK charts – as, curiously, did Lind’s own version.
Val Doonican: Elusive Butterfly
Michael Valentine “Val” Doonican: 3/2/1927 – 1/7/2015. So it goes.
Despite her prolificity, I don’t recall reading much of her work (SF, Fantasy and Horror in the main) but her name was familiar to me. I may have noticed at the time that she wrote two episodes of Blake’s 7 but it wasn’t something I had at my front of my mind.
She was notable as being the first woman to win the British Fantasy Award for best novel (for her book Death’s Master.)
The last time I saw him on television – on This Week the week Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister – he seemed in fine health.
I have since read elsewhere that he didn’t look well during the General Election campaign. The death of his father only a few weeks before followed by his defeat at the polls after 32 years as an MP can only have added to his burdens even if he took it well at the time with his joke about “the night of the long sgian dubhs.”
Since his first election (for the SDP) he always came across as likeable – an almost priceless asset in a politician – even decent. The revelations about his alcohol problem didn’t puncture the sense of warmth people felt for him.
He was a man whose instincts seemed to be right. This was exemplified by his opposition to the Iraq War.
Public life in Scotland and the UK is diminished by his passing.
Charles Peter Kennedy: 25/11/1959 – 1/6/2015. So it goes.
I just read yesterday that 60s almost one-hit wonder, Twinkle, has passed away.
Her big hit Terry caused a fuss at the time it was released as it was about a boy who died in a motorbike crash. Coincidentally The Shangri-Las’ similarly themed Leader of the Pack came out at much the same time. I do remember my next to oldest brother buying Terry. He had a thing for records by solo female singers.
Another of Twinkle’s claims to fame is that she eventually married the Milk Tray man.
Here are both sides of the Terry single.
Twinkle: Terry (plus The Boy of my Dreams)
Twinkle’s only other hit, Golden Lights, was later covered by The Smiths!
Twinkle: Golden Lights
Lynn Annette Ripley. “Twinkle.” 15/7/1948 – 21/5/15. So it goes.