July 17th, 2008

angry

Comment spam

I've had 19 comment spams in the last 24 hours, all from different dummy LJ accounts. Have the rest of you had more, fewer or about the same?
doctor who

July Books 16-20) The last Fifth Doctor books; and Fifth Doctor roundup

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And, since I read Terrance Dicks' rather flat adaptation of The Caves of Androzani a year ago, that takes me to the end of the Fifth Doctor's run as well. My two polls on the best and worst stories of each Doctor's era (full analysis coming soon) were pretty emphatic in their choices here, and I agree with the conventional wisdom: The Caves of Androzani was the best, and Time Flight the worst. The others that I enjoyed were Castrovalva, The Visitation, Snakedance, Enlightenment and The Five Doctors (though the last much more for the nostalgia value than for any artistic merit). But the lows were much lower than for any previous Doctor. Time Flight has particularly poor production values and plotting, but it just happens to be the worst of a generally poor bunch. If I had to sum it up, I would say that this was when Doctor Who started to look cheap rather than magical.

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Previous summary posts: the Fourth Doctor, Third Doctor novels, Second Doctor novels, First Doctor novels, the first three Doctors on screen.
Lib Dem, libdem

Political post #1 of 3) Ros v Lembit

Last night I attended the summer party of the Brussels branch of the [UK] Liberal Democrats, where the guest of honour was Ros Scott, the blogging Baroness. She is campaigning for the position of President of the overall party, to be elected in a few weeks from now in an all-member ballot. The other likely candidate is Lembit Öpik MP, who lost by a fairly substantial margin to Simon Hughes in 2004 (though he got my vote).

I didn't know a lot about Ros Scott before last night, but she talked a good line on how to run the party better; mostly to do with parts of the machinery I have had little to do with even in my more activist days, but it all seemed to make sense. Also it cannot be said that the events of the last few years have made Lembit's powers of judgement look particularly impressive, and I suspect that a lot of us who voted for him last time will be somewhat leery of repeating the experience. So as of now, the blogging Baroness has my vote; and good luck to her.
belgium

Political post #2 of 3: Belgium v Belgium

I was at a breakfast meeting this morning (ugh! Getting up at unaccustomedly early time) and found myself sitting (as Facebook folks will have noticed) next to one of the numerous living former prime ministers of Belgium. Although the meeting was on entirely a different topic, I could not resist asking him what he thought of the current crisis situation. He said that he felt the big mistake had been to allow the federal Belgian electoral cycle to get out of step with the regional elections: everyone was now positioning themselves for the 2009 polls for the various sub-national parliaments and Europe. I asked if there was now a chance that the federal elections could be brought forward to help resolve the crisis. He pointed out that the root cause of the current crisis is precisely the nature of the arrangements for the elections to the federal Belgian parliament, so unless that is sorted out first, the legitimacy of any new federal elections is not clear.

Leterme's government lasted longer than I predicted (since I actually predicted he wouldn't even get to the start of his term, never mind the end). My prediction now, in full knowledge of my previous inaccuracy, is that his party - whose new leader lives in the next village to ours, and used to be one of our numerous record-breaking female local councillors - will dump him and either find a different potential prime minister, or (more likely) opt to back someone else's candidate while licking their wounds, as they did last December. And Belgium will muddle through for another few years.

Edited May 2014 to add:, now that he is no longer one of Belgium's living ex-Prime Ministers, I shall reveal that my interlocutor at breakfast that day was Jean-Luc Dehaene.
eu

Political post #3 of 3: Sarko v the Plain People of Ireland

It may not have been apparent to President Sarkozy just how ill-advised his recent remarks on the Lisbon Treaty were. In Brussels circles, the official orthodoxy remains that the treaty should be ratified by all member states before the end of the year, and that the process in Ireland is not finished. In real life, of course, the process in Ireland is finished; there will be no second referendum, even though this is the preferred option of 26 other governments.

Context and nuance are everything of course, and we don't know if President Sarkozy was simply making the normative statement that for the Lisbon Treaty to survive, it is necessary to have another Irish referendum, or that the Irish must (with all the undertones of compulsion) vote again; both would roughly be covered by "Il faut". I'm open-minded, though also aware that the latter is entirely possible.

(Also subject to interpretation are his remarks last week about the tradeoff between further enlargement and Lisbon. When he said that the Treaty issue must be "settled" before any more countries can join the EU, did he deliberately not stipulate that it should be approved?)

The wider problem is that many inside the Brussels beltway just don't get how serious the problem is. Someone terribly well-meaning invited me to join a Facebook group the other day whose description began: "EU should not be a hostage of 1 milion Irish who voted NO to the Lisbon Treaty." Well, too bad; it is - and had there been similar votes in other countries, I can easily think of half a dozen which would have produced a similar result. As I've said before, I rather feel that the drafters of the grand design have been asking the wrong questions.
doctor who

Doctor Who: The Best of the Best

There were some surprises here, most of all the surprise that more people voted than in the previous poll. Myself, I find it much easier to decide which story I like least than which I like most; perhaps I am unusual in that regard.

Anyway, as before, going in order of decreasing consensus by Doctor.

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So that's it. Thanks for playing, and I shall probably do the same this time next year or thereabouts.