Stuck halfway through The Sunne in Splendour, long, highly popular, historical novel depicting Richard III as the good guy.
The first third was pretty good, with battles and political machinations depicting the second half of the Wars of the Roses. Did get a little hard to keep track of who was who at times.
Unfortunately the middle third is largely from the point of view of simpering twit Lady Anne Neville, and the book abruptly turns into a bodice-ripper, with lots of heaving bosoms and emotional angst.
Shakespeare's Richard got rid of her pretty quickly after the wedding. Hopefully she'll pop her clogs soon, but it's a struggle to continue at the moment. Hope it doesn't keep on like this with her replacement.
What I'm Watching
Saw the Ridley Scott version of Robin Hood at the cinema. Better than I expected. Takes a new angle by creating a kind of origin story. Thought it was an interesting attempt to synthesize the earliest myths where Robin was just a colourful commoner bandit, to the later myths where he was a noble.
Tries to be a bit darker and grittier than normal, but doesn't take too much of the fun out of it, thanks to a couple of decent supporting parts like Oscar Isaac as King John. Makes a few references to history, though fairly silly thought they were quite appealing At least this movie knows that there was a Magna Carta, even though she metaphorically dies in vain.
Thought it was significantly better than "Kingdom of Heaven", less lugubrious, more action, and didn't suffer from the constant plausibility problem of having Orlando Bloom as a ferocious medieval warrior.
Does drag a little bit in the middle though. Overall, not a bad effort.
Shame the original concept with Robin Hood as the bad guy and the Sheriff of Nottingham as the goodie didn't go anywhere though. Did find Russell Crowe's all over the place accent a bit distracting.
Saw the Nairy Baghramian and Phyllida Barlow exhibition at the Serpentine gallery.
Not bad actually. Didn't like the Barlow blobs so much, but Baghramian's steel and plastic abstract scultures are pretty elegant.
Overall, the new ConDem government doesn't look too bad so far, but there are a couple of worrying little signs.
George Osborne worries me: a clever young man with no real world experience, suddenly given immense power. This idea of counting future pension costs as part of government debt, even though no other nations do, and the costs are unreliable estimates anyway, is an example. I suspect he's overconfident of his ability to turn the UK into a model of balanced spending, and is going to end up just making our debt look worse compared to our competitors.
Constitutionally, I liked the idea of fixed-term Parliaments, but I imagined it would work rather differently, by penalizing any government that called election prematurely. For instance, the rule might be that the PM, Deputy PM and Chancellor all have to resign from Parliament if they do: that means they can't use premature elections to help them get re-elected.
Instead, the ConDem plan is to require a supermajority of 55% for votes of confidence, which doesn't penalize the government that calls premature elections, but restrains Parliament from doing so. But even if this administration is a stunning success, in future you could have a unpopular minority government with say 46% of seats, that can't actually govern since it can't win a majority on anything, but can't be gotten rid of since it can prevent the confidence vote supermajority. If this happens during a war or other crisis, this paralysis could be pretty bad.
The plans for a fully-PR-elected House of Lords seem very vague so far. But the plans to pack the existing house 100 new Lords seem quite specific.
There seems to be a lot of potential for abuse here. In practice, the House of Lords has served a useful purpose in recent years: its experienced if elderly legislators have managed to fix up problems with hastily rushed-through legislation, and at least being there for life makes it hard for them to be pressured with threats of the sack.
But if in the new Lords are subject to re-election, they will be under direct pressure from the current party leadership, especially if there's a full PR system where the votes go to a party list. Making the Lords more democratic could reduce even further its ability to be a check and balance on the Commons.
Overall on constitutional change it seems to me that even though the rhetoric is all about Fair Votes and Greater Democracy, the practical effect is more power for the ConDems.
|< I finally got around to watching the new Doctor Who | I just can't. >|