October 5th, 2020


Whoniversaries 5 October: Mind Robber #4, Paradise Towers #1, Remembrance of the Daleks #1

i) births and deaths

5 October 1916: birth of Ronald Leigh-Hunt, who played Commander Julian Radnor in The Seeds of Death (Second Doctor, 1969) and Commander Stevenson in Revenge of the Cybermen (Fourth Doctor, 1975).

ii) broadcast anniversaries

5 October 1968: broadcast of fourth episode of The Mind Robber. This is the one with the glorious fight between Zoe and the Karkus. Then the Tardis crew meet the Master of the Land of fiction, and Jamie and Zoe are threatened with being squashed inside a giant book...

5 October 1987: broadcast of first episode of Paradise Towers. Mel is looking for the swimming pool, and the Doctor is hailed as the Great Architect just before Richard Briers decides to have him killed.

5 October 1988: broadcast of first episode of Remembrance of the Daleks, the start of Season 25. Back at Coal Hill School in 1963, the Doctor and Ace are looking for the Hand of Omega, and Daleks can go up stairs!

My tweets

  • Sun, 12:56: AITA for telling my sister that she should have expected to be outshone by her best friend at her wedding? : AmItheAsshole https://t.co/KvlamVBUJv This is an extraordinary story which veers in a completely unexpected direction. Title does not reflect the punchline at all!
  • Sun, 14:48: RT @FiveThirtyEight: Earlier this year, we asked the question: What happens if a president (or presidential nominee) can no longer run for…
  • Sun, 15:54: Jeffty Is Five, Stardance, Gateway: published 1977, won Hugo/Nebula 1978 https://t.co/TtHb6baWmB
  • Sun, 20:48: RT @Cardwell_PJ: Of course he is playing to the crowd, and blaming Brussels always works, even after leaving the EU. But this is an asserti…
  • Mon, 09:30: Whoniversaries 5 October: Mind Robber #4, Paradise Towers #1, Remembrance of the Daleks #1 https://t.co/eDbls10CHR
  • Mon, 10:45: RT @jhmccunn: Good news! Of the 24 British laws Buzzfeed can't believe exist... almost half don't actually exist: https://t.co/DvTa1ewBVQ
train, tintin, leuven

Blood Monster; Being An Account of the Life and Death of the Emperor Heliogabolus - 2 Gaiman shorts

Two brief Neil Gaiman comics which I picked up from the Humble Bundle some years ago.

Second frame of third page of Blood Monster (art by Marlene O’Connor):

This one's only five pages, a father tells his kids a gruesome bedtime story and their mother is not amused, especially not by the consequent nightmares. That's it.

Second frame of third page of Being An Account of the Life and Death of the Emperor Heliogabolus:

This is a bit more substantial (15 pages rather than 5!) and I think it's the only case I have seen of Neil Gaiman illustrating his own work. It's a reflection on the third-century teenage Roman emperor, whose brief reign was characterised by religious and sexual controversy; Gaiman draws parallels with the ambiguous sexuality of Oscar Wilde, and imagines the short reign's excesses in sconomic but evocative detail. A memorable short piece.

I knew a bit about Heliogabolus from Gibbon Chapter VI:
In a magnificent temple raised on the Palatine Mount, the sacrifices of the god of Elagabalus were celebrated with every circumstance of cost and solemnity. The richest wines, the most extraordinary victims, and the rarest aromatics, were profusely consumed on his altar. Around the altar a chorus of Syrian damsels performed their lascivious dances to the sound of barbarian music, whilst the gravest personages of the state and army, clothed in long Phoenician tunics, officiated in the meanest functions, with affected zeal and secret indignation.
I dunno, it sounds rather fun to me. (When I read this passage out to my wife, she sensibly asked, "If their indignation was secret, how do we know about it?")
59 A dancer was made præfect of the city, a charioteer præfect of the watch, a barber præfect of the provisions. These three ministers, with many inferior officers, were all recommended, enormitate membrorum.
That is, because they had very large penises; but we don't write that bit in English, Mr Gibbon.
And this story prompted me to do a bit more digging on the subject of the holy stone (a fallen meteorite) which was the centre of worship in Heliogabolus' home town (Emesa in Syria, now Homs). After his death, it was returned from Rome to Emesa, where it remained the centre of worship until the official arrival of Christianity the next century and then Islam three hundred years after that. The temple of El-Gabal was converted into a Christian church of St John the Baptist in the late 4th century, and then part of it became the Great Mosque of al-Nuri. Apparently some parts of the Roman-era stonework remain in the mosque. I wonder if the sacred stone itself is still there, buried under layers of later religious history and architecture. Homs is not exactly a massive tourist destination right now, so it will be a while before I check it out for myself.

Blood Monster is available in the Prince of Stories collection, which you can get here, and Heliogabolus is available online here.

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