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31st December 2018
A fallback message arrangement
Since I'm intentionally not publishing an email address here at the moment and my current email setup doesn't seem to be 100% reliable for incoming mail, I'm creating this entry for people who don't have an email address for me or do have one but suspect that emails aren't getting through. :
Comments to this entry will all be screened so that any private messages hopefully won't get released to the rest of the universe.
11th November 2018
Requiescat in Pace: Four Lost Empires
While we refer to some earlier political entities as empires, the one that originated and shaped the concept, at least in most European-derived languages, arose rather over 2000 years ago, first as a conception of the territories it ruled and then (just over 2000 years ago and originally rather separately) in terms of its ruler as emperor. This was the Roman Empire. :
No such entity, of course, lasts for ever unchanged, or indeed at all. Perhaps, indeed, the Roman Empire's first major change was to recognise itself as being ruled by a single, unique Emperor, and that did not, of course, prevent periods of civil war when contending individuals each claimed to be the one Emperor, and then gradually more common periods in which emperors more or less willingly recognised themselves as being co-emperors, still over a single Empire though perhaps with divided responsibilities for different sections of it - until after one such period, the separate imperial authority in one of the sections lapsed, nominally in favour of the one remaining Emperor but with most of the lapsed section in practice being permanently lost to the Empire and the remaining parts only regained for limited periods.
The remaining Roman Empire (and, usually at least in principle, single Emperor) lasted, through various vicissitudes and some discontinuities, for nearly another thousand years in Constantinople (also usually). A few centuries into this period, a rival claimant to the imperial dignity appeared in western Europe - Charlemagne - and this claim generated a series of successors (and separate Empire) which itself continued for just over a thousand years.
But for quite a while longer, there were still rulers recognised as emperors, ruling states internationally recognised as empires, with (rather less generally recognised) claims - or origin myths - to being the true successor of the Roman Empire. Up until 1917, there were four such emperors, with four empires. From 1922 (or 1924, very tendentiously), there were no such emperors - though one of the empires continued without change to its native nomenclature until 1945.
The first to go went in 1917 - the Russian Empire, the self-proclaimed "third Rome", with no territorial or organisational continuity from the previous Romes, but by far the strongest state still following the Byzantine, Orthodox Christian form of Christianity, and in this regard the implicit successor of the Roman Emperors in Constantinople. The Emperor was deposed in February/March 1917, and the Empire officially replaced by a republic that September.
The second and third emperors went in November 1918. The second (by two days) was the German Emperor, the latest established claimant, proclaimed in 1871 as the ruler of an Empire which was the successor, at a couple of removes through intervening confederations of German states, of the Holy Roman Empire which had been dissolved in 1806. The various imperial institutions and the Empire's constituent states went through a very rapid conversion to fully republican governance and personnel, but the state and its central institutions generally kept their old titles until 1945 (but note that the German word Reich does not automatically translate as Empire - in German, France is Frankreich and the United Kingdom the Vereinigtes Koenigreich).
The third was the Emperor of Austria, an empire proclaimed shortly before the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire by the last Holy Roman Emperor, and since then ruled by him and his descendants. The empire had disintegrated over the previous few weeks, and the remaining German-speaking part of Austria promptly converted itself into a republic.
The fourth and last of these emperors was not deposed until November 1922. While the Ottoman rulers had prioritised their other titles as Sultan and Caliph, they had at least since their conquest of Constantinople in 1453 (and of the remaining fragments of the Byzantine Empire within the next few years) also claimed to be Emperors of Rome (kaisar-i-Rum). The Caliphate remained as a religious title until March 1924 - but presumably the claim of succession to the Roman Empire disappeared with the Sultanate.
None of these imperial titles have ever shown any serious signs of revival - or, after a hundred years, any signs at all of doing so in future. But their disappearance changed the political face of Europe and the world - in some ways for the better, but in other ways probably for the worse. I have some more thoughts on this, but they are matters for a further post.
10th August 2017
Watching Worldcon 75 from a distance
: Again so as not to break with something of a tradition
of many years' standing, I have set up a temporary public friends group
of LJs and LJ feeds of people attending Worldcon 75.
Apologies for it appearing rather late and, partly because of the departure of many people from LiveJournal, being far shorter than previously. Currently, almost all of the LJs listed were already on my friends list but, if I spot others posting on LJ from or about Worldcon 75 who are not on the list, I may add them - though I might drop some of them again in a few weeks once it has receded into the distance. However, if you are a new addition, friending me back or having met me in real life or writing interestingly enough in your LJ that I have to keep reading it are good tactics for keeping you on my friends list.
If you spot any interesting LJs or LJ feeds about Worldcon 75, please feel free to comment here to tell me about them.
21st August 2016
Watching MidAmeriCon from a distance
: So as not to break with something of a tradition
of a number of years' standing, I have set up a temporary public friends group
of LJers attending MidAmeriCon.
Sorry that it's rather shorter and later in appearing than usual. So far, all the LJs listed were already on my friends list but, if I spot others posting from or about MidAmeriCon who are not on the list, I may add them - though I might drop some of them again in a few weeks once it has receded into the distance. However, if you are a new addition, friending me back or having met me in real life or writing interestingly enough in your LJ that I have to keep reading it are good tactics for keeping you on my friends list.
If you spot any interesting LJs or LJ feeds about MidAmeriCon, please feel free to comment here to tell me about them.
29th June 2016
Some post-referendum thoughts
Last Thursday, apparently, 72% of the UK electorate voted by rather under 17 and a half million to rather over 16 million voters that about 5 million other people currently usually resident in the UK were not welcome to be so. This was democracy - at least if you accept that the demos is to be defined by citizenship rather than residency. Of course, that is not what was officially being voted on, and so far as a considerable number of voters on both sides were concerned, it was not what they considered themselves to be voting on - but, seeing that migration was the predominant topic of Leave propaganda during the final three weeks of the campaign, it is not hard to see why quite a sizeable number of people seem to think it was. :
This makes me far from happy. Several of my friends, or at least acquaintances with whom I get on well, are among those five million. Quite a few more may be UK citizens now but were not born so. And some are no longer living in the UK because current UK immigration law, even before any Brexit-induced changes, made it impossible for them to establish permanent residence here. Some of them are here on LJ. Interestingly, some in each of these categories are both white (at least to all appearance) and non-European - not fitting either of the current British migrant stereotypes. That does not make the situation better, except possibly personally for them - in fact, it probably makes it worse, as so many other people who are seen as fitting one of the stereotypes has had to be coping with increasingly repeated abuse.
Was the decision democratic? Perhaps, perhaps not. Precedents within UK electoral practice can be found for both citizenship and residency as a determinant, with the more common one probably being citizenship. And the decision to use citizenship this time was explicitly taken, so it at least followed the accepted rules - at least so far as what was officially being voted on is concerned. So, at any rate to that extent, it needs to be accepted - particularly as people, not just in the UK or even in the EU but throughout the world (including any currently-inhabited satellites), need some certainty as to which decision has been taken. Any usable acceptance of reality relies on mutual trust. But intolerance of others was not a matter that was supposed to be part of the agreed question - and any attempt now to suggest that it was must be firmly rejected.
I have more to say, almost all of it deeply discouraging, about post-referendum politics in Britain and the prospects for withdrawal negotiations - if I can find the time, the words and the will. But that had better be it for now.
22nd June 2016
Tomorrow's EU referendum
I will be voting Remain tomorrow and, if you are British, have a vote in the referendum and have any doubt about which way you should vote, you should do so too. : ( Collapse )
23rd February 2016
An open letter to Theresa Villiers, Northern Ireland Secretary of State and MP for Chipping Barnet
Dear Ms Villiers :
As one of your constituents, with some Irish friends from both sides of the border, I was interested but slightly perplexed by your remarks in an interview today that suggest that the common travel area arrangements between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland could be expected to continue largely unchanged in the event of a Leave victory in the referendum later this year.( Collapse )
24th December 2015
(or acceptable substitute) and Happy New Year (or acceptable substitute) to all my friends (and anyone else reading here). :
My comments on this year to follow in a few days (or not as the case may be).
20th August 2015
Watching Sasquan from a distance
: Continuing with what has become something of a tradition
for quite a few years now, I have set up a temporary public friends group
of LJers attending Sasquan.
While, so far, all the LJs listed were already on my friends list, I will probably be adding a few others who look likely to be posting from or about Sasquan - though I may be dropping at least some of them again in a few weeks once it has receded into the distance. However, if you are one of the new additions, friending me back or having met me in real life or writing interestingly enough in your LJ that I have to keep reading it are good tactics for keeping you on my friends list.
If you spot any interesting LJs or LJ feeds about Sasquan, please feel free to comment here to tell me about them.
(Quasi-political addendum: Feel free to comment, but unlike most years, I will be moderating comments on this post, to try to avoid getting into unwanted arguments. If you want to work out what I may or may not find acceptable, please see my previous post.)
How I voted on the Hugo ballot
I usually do another LJ post at this time of year, and it will be following this one very shortly - but, unlike most years, this year's Worldcon, by no apparent fault of the organisers, seems to be rather politically charged, to the extent that this will undoubtedly be reflected in commentary on it. So I am making this rather belated post about how I voted in the Hugos, to try to make my own perspective fairly clear and, hopefully, avoid getting into arguments not intended on either side and which I am unlikely to have the time and patience to deal with. :
Having said that, do feel free to comment - but please note that, this year, I will be moderating comments on these two posts.( Collapse )( Collapse )
22nd April 2015
You don't want the SNP controlling the next British government? Then (probably) vote Labour
During the last few days, the Conservative campaign in the current British general election has been busy raising the apparently awful spectre of the result being a British government controlled from behind the scenes by the Scottish National Party - and calling on voters to support the Conservatives to stop this happening. Unfortunately for them, unless this call is more successful in shifting support to them than all the tactics they have tried during the last six months taken together, current figures seem to show that this would simply increase SNP influence in the next parliament. : ( Collapse )( Collapse )( Collapse )( Collapse )( Collapse )
Of course, just because this is the situation nationally does not automatically mean that voting Labour is the best thing to do in every single British constituency - but that (if I have the time) is best discussed in another post
1st April 2015
The debating politicians problem
The schedule for Thursday's seven-way debate in the current UK general election campaign looks suspiciously like a solution grid for a certain type of logic puzzle. So, while I'm not willing to time-waste to the point of reverse-engineering the whole thing, here's a possible start: :
1. The politician standing three places to the right of the politician who is first to make their opening statement answers the fourth question immediately before the politician who is the last to answer the second question.
2. The penultimate politician to make their closing statement stands immediately to the left of the politician who answers the second question immediately before the second politician to answer the third question.
3. The last politician to answer the third question stands three places to the right of the politician due to make their closing remarks immediately after the politician who stands immediately to the left of the politician whose opening statement is due two turns before that of the politician whose answer to the first question is immediately before that of the politician who stands immediately to the right of the last politician to make their opening statement.
4.... [Continue as seems appropriate]
25th December 2014
for the current holiday period (appropriate name left for the reader to decide upon) and the year to come (exact appropriate period also left for the reader to decide upon - though I'd tend to assume that its length approximates to the time taken by the local planet to orbit the local sun).
18th September 2014
Loncon - in LJ links
In : my last post here
, a day or two before Loncon, I mentioned that I was setting up a Loncon friends' filter. Well, there were some good Loncon-related posts on it, and it seemed a pity to lose track of them. They have certainly brought back some memories, as well as talking about a number of things I missed (or couldn't have expected to know about) at the time.
So I went through the posts and stored the links. And then I thought - why not share the links? Particularly since I haven't managed to do my own report (at least yet).( Collapse )
13th August 2014
At LonCon 3, but still watching it
In most recent years, : I have been watching Worldcon through other people's LJs.
Well, this year, for the first time since Interaction in 2005, I'll actually be there and probably too busy to do much LJ reading, but why stop a tradition? I can always read it afterwards. So I have again set up a temporary public friends group
of LJers attending LonCon 3.
While most of the LJs listed were already on my friends list, I have added a few others who look likely to be posting from or about LonCon 3 (including several who I was surprised I'd not friended years back). I may or may not be dropping a few of them again in a few weeks once Loncon has receded into the distance. However, you certainly won't be dropped if you friend me back or have met me in real life (or do so in the next few days for long enough for me to make the connection between you and your LJ) or write interestingly enough in your LJ (or feed into LJ) that I have to keep reading it.
There are already over sixty LJs in the friends group (more than I've ever had there before, I think - who said that LJ was dying?), but if you are at Loncon and want your LJ added, or you spot any other interesting LJs or LJ feeds about LonCon 3, please feel free to comment here to tell me.
5th August 2014
Britain, World War I and the neutrality of Belgium
Could Britain have avoided declaring war on Germany 100 years ago tonight? As things stood by the evening of 4 August 1914, I think that it was politically impossible not to do so. But I am also fairly sure that that had not been inevitable two or three days earlier. Britain had other problems, particularly in Ireland, and no real reason for believing that fighting a European war would help solve them. :
Britain's stated reason for declaring war on Germany, that Germany was violating Belgian neutrality, is (I believe) close to the real one. But it does gloss over some important factors. The German Empire had been formed several decades earlier by invasions of Denmark, Austria and France, and in none of these cases had Britain should the slightest inclination to go to war in their defence. And while none of them had a treaty declaring their neutrality, it is still difficult to believe that such a treaty would have caused Britain to go to war.
So what was different about Belgium? ( Collapse )
22nd May 2014
Some thoughts on today's elections
European and local elections coming up - so one of my relatively rare politics and voting-related posts. :
First, a declaration of my position: I'm a Labour Party member (even if an inactive one these days) and have always voted Labour. I will certainly be voting Labour in the European Parliament election next Thursday, and almost certainly for all three of my local Labour council candidates. So read my remarks bearing this in mind.( Collapse )( Collapse )( Collapse )( Collapse )
So, my final plea - if you haven't voted by post already, get out and vote in the European elections today, and the local ones if you have them this year. And, in the Euros, please vote for a party that seems to have at least a plausible chance of winning at least one seat in your area - though preferably not for UKIP. For the locals, I probably don't know your area well enough to advise.
25th December 2013
Best wishes to all...
as you celebrate/inveigh against/ignore as best you can (or other alternative - delete as applicable) the purported anniversary of the birth of someone who, on the (historically likely but far from certain) assumption that they even existed, was probably born at a quite different time of year (the claims for this time of year appear quite late historically and the date coincides with an apparently totally unconnected pre-existing festival); :
And as you live (hopefully) through the forthcoming annual period which is supposedly denominated by the number of annual periods from that birth until now - except that the likeliest information we have about the actual date of the birth suggests that it took place several years before the date from which we are currently counting.
29th August 2013
Watching LoneStarCon 3 from a distance
: As has become something of a tradition
in most recent years, I've set up a temporary public friends group
of LJers attending LoneStarCon 3.
While most of the LJs listed are already on my friends list, I have added a few others who look likely to be posting from or about LoneStarCon 3 - though I may be dropping at least some of them again in a few weeks once it has receded into the distance. However, if you are one of the new additions, friending me back or having met me in real life or writing interestingly enough in your LJ that I have to keep reading it are good tactics for keeping you on my friends list.
If you spot any interesting LJs, LJ feeds - or indeed other web resources - about LoneStarCon 3, please feel free to comment here to tell me about them.
14th April 2013
If I am interpreting : this entry
correctly (and after cross-referencing with this not quite complete list of nominations on Europa SF
), this year's ESFS Award winners, announced at Eurocon in Kiev this weekend, are as follows:European Grandmaster
Terry Pratchett (UK)
Iain Banks (UK)Hall of FameAuthor:
Andrei Valentinov (Ukraine)Artist:
Nikolai Redka (Ukraine)Translator:
Patrice and Viktoriya Lajoie (France)Promoter:
Istvan Burger (Hungary)Publisher:
SFX (UK)Spirit of DedicationPerformance:
"Vash Vikhod"(?) (Your Move), "Raido" theatre (Ukraine)Website:
Katerina Bachilo (Russia)Fanzine:
Fandango (Ukraine)Encouragement Awards
Stefan Cernohuby (Austria)
Ioana Visan (Romania)
Aleksandra Davydova (Russia)
Leonid Kaganov (Russia)
Livia Hlavackova (Slovakia)
Boris Georgiev (Georgia)
Julia Novakova (Czech Republic)
Oleg Silin (Ukraine)
Martin Vavpotic (Slovenia)
Anton Lik (Belarus)Honorary Awards
Harry Harrison (in memoriam)
Boris Strugatsky (in memoriam)