The Handmaid’s Tale (TV series) – (not quite) midseason review

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Last night I caught up with the new Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale via wonderful All4. They’ve so far only broadcast 4 out of 10 episodes so I’m not even mid season yet. However, I already feel this may be another of those rare “the film is better than the book” scenarios!

To me “June” in the series seems so much stronger and more real than the nameless character in the book. I never truly cared what happen to the book woman but June has spirit and is silently fighting to retain her personality as well as her life. The fact that book woman never named herself, even in her own mind, was big points against her. She already seemed broken by the system. June is sweary and disrespectful (in her head). She appears to submit but we know what’s really going on in there. Also, Elisabeth Moss does a fantastic job of conveying June’s emotions. Especially the barely controlled panic in her eyes during the most difficult situations. You can see her running through scenarios in her mind as she weighs up possibilities and struggles to give the ‘right’ answer, the one that will keep her safe and alive.

A tiny highlight of episode 1 for me was the brief, blink and you’ll miss it, cameo by author Margaret Atwood! She swoops in at one point to clout Offred round the ear – both hilarious and terrifying. Fun as that was, episode 3 has been the real standout so far. Through flashbacks we see the insidious steps that were taken to remove women’s rights and independence. The necessary precursors to their eventual enslavement. Jeezo! This seems just a blink away from the world as it is today. It was horrifying.

As a 10 part series this production has the time to remain true to Atwood’s original book – no need for swingeing cuts to your favourite plot points. However, writer Bruce Miller has also managed to add to the tale: rounding characters, showing backstory. Most excitingly, The Handmaid’s Tale is frighteningly relevant to our current circumstances.

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum bitches!

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Book review – Gossip from the Forest by Sara Maitland

 

Gossip from the Forest: The Tangled Roots of Our Forests and Fairytales
by Sara Maitland
Published November 2012 by Granta Books
ISBN: 9781847084293

This started well, with the above – wonderfully feminist – definition of the word ‘gossip’. However, it quickly turned into an interesting but very confused book.

On one hand it’s a social history of England’s woodlands, examining how people have lived in and used the forests over the last thousand years or so. It’s also a fascinating breakdown of Germanic fairytales, their history and development. The author suggests that fairytales and forests are inextricably linked – an argument I find quite convincing. However, the problem for me is that Maitland spends her time frolicking round English woods (and a couple of Scottish ones) when the forests of the fairytales are in central Europe. The really nice premise of this book is spoiled for me by this odd geographic choice. I wanted to learn about the fairytales in the Germanic woodlands – their origin and real-world context.

A major bugbear for me was the author’s choice to visit a few Scottish woodlands… while still discussing english history! As well as just being insulting, those later forays into Scottish trees felt rushed, half-hearted and poorly written in comparison to earlier chapters. An attempt to pad out the book and nothing more.

The author’s re-tellings of several fairytales are excellent. If she had chosen to write two books, one about english woodland history and another about fairytales, I’m sure they would have made two very good works. Squashed together they seem disjointed, confused and un-natural.

Brexit negotiations under a minority government – via Second Reading

An impartial, factual briefing on Brexit from the House of Commons Library blog Second Reading

Theresa May intends to form a minority government and to work with allies, in particular the ten MPs in Arlene Foster’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), to press ahead with the Conservative Party’s manifesto commitments.
What might this mean for the Brexit negotiations?
Talks will still go ahead
Both Theresa May and the EU have said that the Brexit negotiations will still go ahead.

Talks are due to start in the week of 19 June, but they could be delayed, depending on how long it takes to form a new government. The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier tweeted an offer to delay the start of the negotiations until the UK is ready. However, there is no guarantee that the 27 remaining EU Member States would then agree unanimously to extend the negotiating period at the other end.

What is the Government’s Brexit mandate?

The election hasn’t made it much clearer what Brexit policies voters support. We only know that there’s no majority support for any party’s manifesto and Brexit plans.

However, David Davis appeared to suggest to Sky News at around 2am on election night that there would be no mandate for leaving the EU Single Market and customs union.

What’s the DUP position?

DUP and Brexit

In the June 2016 referendum Northern Ireland voted by 56% to 44% to remain in the EU, but two thirds of self-described Unionists in Northern Ireland voted to leave, and the DUP supported Brexit. The DUP is a long-time ally of the Conservative Party and its support has already helped the Government to pass the Article 50 bill which allowed Theresa May to trigger the Brexit process.

DUP Chief Whip Jeffrey Donaldson has said the DUP will continue to support the Conservatives on Brexit.

What might the DUP demand for their support?

There are areas of agreement between the Conservatives and the DUP: both want to protect EU and UK citizens’ rights, avoid a hard border with Ireland and end the jurisdiction of the EU Court of Justice.

But there are also disagreements. The DUP manifesto called for a comprehensive trade agreement with the EU, but also a customs union. And Arlene Foster doesn’t want the ‘hard Brexit’ implied by Theresa May’s ruling out of membership of the Single Market. The manifesto referred to “Ease of trade with the Irish Republic and throughout the European Union”, and a “frictionless border with the Irish Republic”.

Will the DUP demand concessions in return for support for the Great Repeal Bill and other Brexit-related bills to be brought before Parliament?

Theresa May is not forming a coalition government with the DUP, so it’s unlikely that there will be DUP ministers at the negotiating table. But DUP influence in UK negotiating positions could be felt if the Government is obliged to put more emphasis on the question of the border with Ireland. This might in turn give rise to a higher profile in the negotiations for all the Devolved Administrations.

Might Parliament be bolder?

A stronger opposition might feel more emboldened to use the tools at its disposal to scrutinise the Brexit negotiations. The Government may also be less likely to win any vote on a withdrawal agreement at the end of the negotiations.

Steering the unprecedented quantity of Brexit-related legislation through the Commons without a majority is likely to be more problematic than in the previous Parliament. Also the House of Lords might consider itself able to vote against Government Bills such as the Great Repeal Bill, if the Salisbury Convention was considered not to apply to a minority Government’s manifesto.

The general election has meant that new Select Committees are unlikely to be up and running until well into the autumn.

Is ‘no deal’ more likely?

A minority Government is likely to find it harder to agree a UK negotiating position, and to have less room to compromise in the negotiations.

This could make it harder to reach agreement – and therefore more likely that the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 without any withdrawal agreement. The increased likelihood of another general election probably adds to that risk, as does the increased possibility of a parliamentary vote against a withdrawal agreement.

Or, paradoxically, a weaker Government could give the UK a stronger negotiating hand. If both sides knew that the UK Parliament was unlikely to accept an unfavourable proposal, the EU might be less likely to suggest it.

Picture credit: brexit by airpixCreative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0)

source: secondreading.uk

…the horological journals…

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I am minded to write a short article for one of the horological journals…

This is an actual quote from an email I received this morning. Gloriously olde-worlde as this is, it was only the second archaically worded email I got today (both from external enquirers). The other regarded a case from 1807… and could have been written by a gentleman of that time!

I love my job.

 

 

Images of 1950s Glasgow in the National Records of Scotland

Fascinating photos contained within Glasgow Sheriff Court records held by the National Records of Scotland‏.

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Open Book

You might expect the pictures contained within Sheriff court Records to be graphic or disturbing, showing the details of crimes and their victims. Of course, this is often the case – but sometimes the pictures can instead give us a glimpse into social or local history.

In a payment case for damages for injuries occurring in a Glasgow washhouse or ‘steamie’ in 1959 we found this wonderfully candid shot. This photograph provides a snapshot into the working of such a wash house. The large washing machines can be seen in the background, with basins on the right, airing cabinets on the left, and tables for folding in the foreground. It definitely shows what a chore hand washing used to be and how much we take our home washing machines for granted! Such an everyday shot of a very ordinary place would usually not have been a typical subject for a…

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Book Review: Want You Gone by Chris Brookmyre

Want You Gone (Jack Parlabane #8)
Chris Brookmyre

Published February 2nd 2017 by Little, Brown and Company
ISBN: 9781408707173

“Chris” Brookmyre writes straight, solid crime fiction. I do miss the joyful anarchy of “Christopher” Brookmyre (and I dearly hope he comes back one day) but these books are certainly a thrilling read. A majo31356782r feature of this one for me was, in amongst enjoying a right rollocking read, I learned a whole lot of terrifying new stuff about hackers and data security. Top tip: TRUST NO-ONE! Ever.

I loved the few wee links to Brookmyre’s other works that show Jack Parlabane inhabits the same world. DI Catherine McLeod is mentioned in passing but my favourite was a cameo from All Fun and Games until Somebody Loses an Eye, one of my top 3 Brookmyre books.

Jack is something of a long-suffering character and I’m starting to imagine him as one, gigantic bruise (inside and out). Come on Chris, give the guy a happy ending! Just once. The trials of Mr Parlabane aside, this is an extremely well written, pacy thrill-ride from start to finish. Highly recommended.

Stationery fish and the rule of law

So, I’ve long been commenting on the fact that legal publishers seem to embrace the use of copyright-free images for their cover art. This, however, goes beyond. Surely this…thing is the product of some child-art-prodigy. An editors offspring maybe? It looks like a poor sad fish has been skewered by a paperclip.

I’m wracking my brains but I see no connection between stationery fish and the rule of law. Help me out?

41rv2mQ8s-L__SX312_BO1,204,203,200_Reinforcing Rule of Law Oversight in the European Union by Carlos Closa (Editor), Dimitry Kochenov (Editor)

  • Hardcover: 356 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (13 Oct. 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-1107108882