Thursday, 31 July 2008

The Great Sheds of Bedfordshire

Almost every time I pass Bedford on the A421, I make a mental note that I must visit the mighty airship sheds at Cardington as I whizz past them on the way to somewhere else. I haven't got round to it yet, but as you can see here, they're pretty impressive structures. The two most famous residents of the Cardington Sheds were the Vickers R100, designed by Barnes Wallis and N S Norway (better known by his pen-name, Neville Shute) and the Royal Airship Works' ill-fated R101. The crash of the R101 on an attempted trial flight to India in 1930 did for the British airship industry what the later loss of the Hindenberg did for Germany's Zeppelins.

Here's a short film about the R101.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

The Eagle Has Landed (in South Kensington)

The Science Museum's putting on a fantastic-looking exhibition for schoolboys and nerds of all ages. A glorious pageant of techno-optimism from the cutting edge of the new Elizabethan Age - check out the Fairey Rotodyne in the top illustration. I believe there's a book of the Eagle's collected cut-aways out there, which I must track down some time. I'm sure my little boy will appreciate it when he reaches the appropriate age - well, that's my excuse, anyway.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

I'm in the sky...

There's quite a lot of "conceptual" art out there which I don't get. But the Sky Ear looks like a brave stab at doing something just a little more interesting. Wish I'd seen (and heard) it..

Friday, 25 July 2008

Widow Maker

A bit of aerospace stuff here about the 1960's Lockeeed bribery scandal as a reminder that all the BAE skulduggery with the Saudis, although deplorable, is nothing new in the arms trade.

And here's a German tribute to one of the results of that deal - Germany's adoption of the Lockheed F104 Strafighter, dubbed the "widow maker" for its accident record.

The previously anticipated computer replacement should be happening tomorrow; what with that and other activities, there will probably be a short blogopause.

See you after the hot flushes.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Icy beauty

There are quite a few photo albums being shared on line these days, but few can match the chilling, austere, inhuman beauty of this one.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Steam Leviathans

We're going on holiday to Somerset in September. Here's a visitor attraction I'd love to see, time and toddler permitting - Isambard Kingdom Brunel's pioneering iron-hulled steamship, the SS Great Britain. It's a great pity that his later design, the ill-starred but awesome Great Eastern didn't survive into the 21st (or even 20th) Century - that really would be a sight to behold.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Radovan Karadžić and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Fantastic news on several levels; former Supreme Commander of the Bosnian armed forces, the butcher of Srebrenica, Radovan Karadžić has been captured and charged with war crimes.

And just in case anyone was still tempted to take the genocidal maniac seriously, it turns out that the vicious old loon has been in hiding disguised in a long white beard and practising as a a purveyor of "alternative" medicine. Is it too much to hope that the idea of this horrible man peddling healing crystals, iridology, colonic irrigation and similar old blather will kill two birds with one stone, discrediting the merchant of death and the mumbo-jumbo merchants in equal measure? I was wondering what sort of alternative treatments the old fraud was specialising in - ethnic cleansing of your aura or something? The answer to my question is at hand - at the Harry's Place blog some digging's been done and the website of the company he was working for, "Psy Help Energy" (the "psy" presumably being short for "psychopath") has been uncovered. Glorious.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Straighten up and fly right...

Had a blast lat night at the Jools Holland concert. Before I went, the daily grind had me feeling stale and more cheesed off than a truckload of ripe stilton, but Jools, his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra and guests, including the mighty Ruby Turner were a much-needed tonic. The liveliest of live music; big, hearty, gorgeous, foot stomping, joyful tunes delivered with aplomb and panache.

There was a chill wind blowing in the park, soon forgotten when bouncing about amid a mass of smiling people. I'd forgotten just how good a great live concert can be. Sometimes we can live our lives on autopilot, running along the same familiar groove day in and day out, getting increasingly miserable and frustrated. At that point it takes a shock to the system to jolt us out of our rut. Well, if you gotta be shocked, there are worse shocks than a hefty slice of captivating rhythm.

If you don't occasionally get shocked out of your robotic routine then you can lose sight of the world around you, like the people who follow satellite navigation systems without reference to the world outside. I particularly relished the story of the Syrian trucker charged with delivering a vehicle transporter load of luxury cars to Gibraltar, but ended up at Gibraltar point near Skegness, Lincolnshire, as a result of not questioning where his sat nav was taking him. Poor guy obviously needed taking out of himself. Something like this might have done the trick.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Concert

We're off to see Jools Holland later today. Here's the man doing his thing.

No time to do much of a post, so for your listening pleasure, here's another piano genius doing her thing - the late, incomparable, Nina Simone.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Night of the Hunter

Last night I mentioned, among some of the other cars he owned, dad's old Hillman Hunter. I don't speak Finnish, so I have no idea why these guys are, at least according to the caption on YouTube, singing about a Hillman Hunter. How refreshingly bizarre. Here's another tuneful tribute to the Hunter, this time in Persian (a licence-built version the Hunter, called the Peykan was manufactured in Iran until 2005).

And here's the Earl's Court Motor Show, 1966, featuring, among other exciting models, "the complete family car" - yes, the Hunter again.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Allegro, adagio

Whilst I was ranting on about this and that, I see that the Austin Allegro's been voted Britain's worst ever car in some on-line poll. I've not driven enough cars to have a strong opinion on the matter, but I do remember that my dad had an Allegro at one point in the '70's. A blue estate it was, with nasty plastic seats which stuck to your legs despite the little indentations presumably designed to stop that happening. It may well have been Britain's worst ever motor - I don't know, I never drove it. I think it may have been the last car he ever drove - I have a feeling he had it up to '79, when he died. If so, it was a bit of a low note to go out on.

At least he was driving British built, made and designed cars to the last, though - before the "all aggro" he drove a Mini, a Hillman Minx and Hunter, and probably something else made in Britain in the years which are beyond my recall. It's a lost world - the roads full of cars made in this country, my dad in his tweed sports jacket, pipe clamped between his jaws (who smokes a pipe these days?), me in shorts and a little green jumper with reindeer on it, the twenty first century seemingly a million years in the future.
That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again

Sentimental nonsense, I know - a lot of the days weren't that happy and we didn't always get on. Yet I miss those times, and him, still,





.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Respect agenda

"An armed society is a polite society", said right-wing science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein, apparently approving of the idea. Certainly it's a favourite quote of many "libertarians" and gun-nuts. I had a little dig at Boris Johnson on knife crime yesterday, but his combo of dressing up an uninspired observation with a Shakespearean reference, topped off with a non sequitur was music to my ears, compared with the fundamental wrongheadedness of Heinlein's observation.

Maybe it's just personal prejudice, but if I had to choose between people being rude to me and running the risk of them shooting me, I'd choose the option that increased my chances of not being shot. Perhaps our problem in the UK is not enough youths with knives - give 'em all a blade and they'd all stop slouching and start saying "please" and "thank you". Sheer blithering madness.

What's interesting about this particular strand of the libertarian right is the way that two extremes meet - the "hang 'em, flog 'em and shoot housebreakers to kill" brigade and the underclass of knife-wielding gangs who they despise both have fundamentally the same view of respect - it's something accorded to the powerful and the armed by the weak and unarmed. It's respect mafia-style. Do as I say, or I shoot. Libertarians? Where's the liberty? The obsession with enforcing your will by the threat of force is the precise opposite of libertarianism. It's the just sort of authoritarianism which that old gangster and tyrant Josef Stalin used. For some reason these "libertarians" always forget to acknowledge this particular hard man who knew how to enforce respect by the use of violence as one of their own.

Heinlein was in many respects a clever guy and had some interesting things to say, but I still find this, perhaps the most famous of his quotes quite, quite mad.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Pointed remarks

As I was getting ready for work this morning, I half heard Boris Boris Johnson on the Today programme talking about knife crime. What I thought I heard over the sound of me brushing my teeth or whatever other noise I was generating, sounded quite sensible.

I heard more of the exchange later in the day and improved comprehension didn't really improve the quality of the argument. In the Home Affairs Select Committee, BoJo was vigorously agreeing with the suggestion that somehow the authorities had to make knife crime seem less glamorous with the words "It is moronic, wasteful, and you know, it's not the death of Mercutio."

Simon Hoggart was quite impressed by BoJo's performance in the Select committee. But as a closer reading of the exchange reveals, BoJo's arguments are as floppy and disordered as his hairstyle. For he went on:

It is worth looking at the text ... It teaches us about the bogus glamour and the strong romantic, sentimental feelings that can attach to gang culture.


There's nothing I disagree with in BoJo's second remark but, of course it, doesn't logically follow on from his first, in which he implies that the death of Mercutio is something more elevated and romantic than the tawdry violence of modern knife crime. In his clarifying remarks, he argues precisely the opposite, that the gang culture in Romeo and Juliet is the same as that of modern street gangs, which is why the play can teach us about such things*.

A post in the Liberal England blog agrees with Simon Hoggart and praises BoJo for not being afraid of displaying a little learning, approvingly quoting Simon Hoggart as follows:

Now Boris doesn't quote the classics just to show off. He genuinely believes that the great works of the past illuminate our understanding of the present.

I'm all for a more educated level of public debate, but I think we've been starved of it for so long by the robotic PR-speak of most career politicians that as soon as someone like BoJo breaks the mould by alluding to Shakespeare or Cicero, we get all overwhelmed and go "gor blimey, guv'nor, you're a real toff an' no mistake", without stopping to consider whether the reference to Tacitus or Ovid or whatever actually makes any sense. So for me, the issue isn't the difference between being posh and being educated, but the difference between having a good education and being able to think straight.

For the record, it is the second of Boris' two contradictory statements which I agree with. And although any knife-related death is one unnecessary death too many, the literary/historical parallel does suggest that we don't live in uniquely violent times. After all, in Shakespeare's England and in the Verona he wrote about, youths didn't just carry knives. If they could afford it, they carried swords. Not weedy kitchen knives filched from mum's kitchen drawer, or Stanley knives out of dad's tool box, but dirty great metre-long, specifically designed for killing people, SWORDS. Murderous weapons which were also highly-prized bits of fashionable bling - as the Wikipedia article points out, the very word rapier seems to derive from the Spanish word ropera, stemming from ropa, or elegant dress. A dress sword. A fashion item to die for. Now there was a society with a youth violence problem.

Sometimes the past can teach us, but sometimes, as implied in the first part of BoJo's badly put together argument, distance lends enchantment to the view. Because they aren't here and now, brawling youths with swords do seem a bit more romantic than hoodies with knives. Knights, highwaymen, pirates and other violent members of past societies are romanticised and hollywoodised, morphed into Johnny Depp's roguish pirate captain, instead of teaching that outbreaks of violence have always been with us and have sometimes been a lot worse.

*credit where credit's due - at least he didn't drag in the word "relevant", much beloved of high minded people trying to speak wiv da yoof, innit.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Roll to Codex

After my recent ramblings about books, I've just come across a brief but informative account of one of the most important stages in the evolution of the book before the invention of printing; the change from scrolls to books with pages. More here.

It's interesting to see the role which Bibles played in the development of the codex - there's a parallel with the role which religious texts played in the later development of printing in Europe. If asked to name a book printed by Gutenberg, the first thing which would spring to most people's mind would be one of his Bibles.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Clangers

Living in Newport Pagnell, there aren't any famous traditional foods which originate on my doorstep - there's nothing as high-profile as Yorkshire pud, Lancashire hotpot, Cheddar or Stilton cheese, Melton Mobray pork pies, Bakewell tart or Cromer crabs around these parts. In fact, in the six-odd years I've lived in the area (and some of them have been quite odd), I've only heard somebody talking about a local recipe once.

I was talking to a part-time builder and retired rocket scientist from Wolverton at the time (had to name-drop that one, although I don't usually move in such eclectic circles), whose elderly neighbour decided he was looking a bit peaky one day and decided to cook him what she called a "Bucks clanger". This local delicacy seems to have been a sort of suet pudding with a bacon filling. I've never got round to cooking a clanger (which can only help you to lose weight as part of your calorie-controlled diet) and was looking for a recipe recently, when I found out that it's more of a generic dish of East/Central England than one specific to the county - most references I can find to the dish are to a "Bedfordshire clanger". There are also variations in the ingredients - apparently the more up-market versions of the dish used steak or pork, the bacon version being the clanger of the common people. In the original clanger recipes, the suet was studded with fruit, like a spotted dick.

The clanger also evolved over time, later versions having a meat filling in one end and a sweet one at the other, providing a complete meal in handily portable form for hungry farm labourers. There's a recipe here, which I've yet to test-drive.

And for the nostalgically inclined, here are some more clangers from rather further away. Just to clear up any confusion, Oliver Postgate once gloriously explained that:

The Clangers are not in any way alien. They are a perfectly ordinary family living in a detached residence. Nor, in reality, do they hoot or whistle. As there is no atmosphere to carry sound they converse in NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) which is not audible. So we had to fabricate an imitation as best we could.


Now it all makes sense....

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Incendiary material

I was thinking about classic science fiction dystopias recently. Although there are a few loons way out there beyond the fringes of reason who think book-burning's a good idea, I'm thankful that Fahrenheit 451 hasn't yet come to pass here Newport Pagnell. With all the books on my shelves, I'd be toast in next to no time. My partner's dark mutterings about my inability to part with any book I have any affection for and the resulting lack of shelf space in the house just confirm it: I'm a habitual bibliophile, harbouring an anti-social stockpile of incendiary material.

If technology allowed, I wouldn't actually mind getting rid of some books though - at least in their current form. I'm quite excited about the development of the e-book. Existing versions are expensive and limited, but it's an idea which has real potential, if/when the technology is developed. Imagine a robust, relatively cheap e-book, which used minimal power (the use of digital paper would help with this, as well as cutting down eye-strain).

Imagine publishers getting significantly sized catalogues on line in downloadable form. The price of print runs for books sold is taken out of the cost of book production - not to mention the lost opportunity costs a publisher is saddled with every time a print run doesn't sell as well as predicted and gets pulped or remaindered. Book stores are expensive to run - there goes another cost. The cost of moving things around is gone. And the financial risks of publishing are reduced when you don't have to produce and sell vast numbers of physical objects. In such a world, small-scale publishing and self-publishing could flourish.

There are people who think this would be dreadful - the people who love books as physical objects, the collectors of hand-tooled leather bound collector's editions. Sometimes books can be beautiful objects, I agree, but the most wonderful thing about books for me is their capacity to transmit knowledge, experiences, sensations and ideas. And to transmit those things effectively, they need to be reproducible and accessible. The format really doesn't matter that much. I don't know how the e-book thing will develop, but I think it would be marvellous if it turned out to be the next step in the democratising written knowledge.

Gorgeously illuminated vellum manuscripts are things of great beauty, but they were written by and for a priestly elite - too expensive and precious for the commoner. The really exciting developments in the world of literacy have been the ones which have made books available to nearly all. Printing - especially in the West, where our alphabetical writing systems have proved ideal for print - has been the big one. Advances in the technology have thrown huge areas of human knowledge and experience open to anyone able to master functional literacy. Maybe the virtual book will be the next leap forward in this process - the 21st century's equivalent of the paperback.

And if it is, then domestic harmony will be restored this home at least, once it's possible to fit the contents of all my books onto a small device like a memory stick. That's the Utopian vision - books disappearing not because of crazed book burners, but simply because because a small library takes up next to no physical space.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Back tomorrow

I've been unable to connect to t'internet for the last couple of days - I had no time to find out what was wrong during the week, but found out today that it was due to the latest Microsoft security patch and my ZoneAlarm firewall refusing to play nicely together. So I would be back blogging properly today, but it's been a busy day, what with one thing and another and my brain's tired, so I'll probably be vegging out mindlessly in front to the telly with a cold beer instead. Come to think of it a very cold Martini would hit the spot even better, but I don't think I can be bothered to go out to the shops and buy a bottle of vermouth.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Ghost Suburbs of the 21st Century


I'm not normally a Daily Torygraph reader, but this article, stumbled on in Dark Roasted Blend, caught my eye. At last, the 21st Century is becoming more science fiction-like. Unfortunately, it's less Arthur C Clarke and more J G Ballard, as, neutron bomb-like, the fallout from the Great Crash of the noughties leaves miles of empty new ghost suburbs in its wake:

The only sounds were the hum of air conditioning units cooling immaculately-furnished show homes where flat screen televisions played to vacant rooms and piped music emanating eerily from empty balconies.


It's only a matter of time before the deserted high-end complexes are colonized by the survivors of suburbia - desperate, alienated, thrill-seeking, cannibalistic, techno-fetishists, staging car crashes in the deserted streets and doing unspeakable things to one another on the immaculately-tended lawns.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

It's a bear!

With my little boy three months shy of his second birthday, my reading habits have changed a bit recently. The current favourite bedtime story is We're Going on a Bear Hunt (the pop-up version). It's becoming engraved on my heart, like Calais. One more time....

We're going on a bear hunt.
We're going to catch a big one.
What a beautiful day!
We're not scared....

From Teddy Roosvelt's original "Teddy" bear, through Pooh, Paddington, Rupert and Bungle, most bears intended for small children's consumption over the last century tend to be cuddly, nonthreatening creatures, so the bear in Bear Hunt is a bit of an exception, being big and scary. It reminded me a little of another children's bear classic, The Teddy Bear's Picnic, a song which presumably wasn't intended to be frightening but always seems to me to have slightly threatening and sinister undertones. Especially in this version by Henry Hall and his orchestra. See what you think - vaguely unsettling, or just the product of some suppressed childhood trauma I must have had with a stuffed toy?

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Tidying up

No post today - I've been too busy watching tennis and giving the old blog a face lift, on top of the usual stuff. I may tweak things a bit more still - I'm trying to make the blog a bit easier on the eye.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Help! It's the rough, secular beast!

It's a funny old world. Apparently some people find this controversial. I can't see why - if anybody would care to point out which part of Pat Condell's piece is unreasonable, I'd be interested to hear why they think so.

Speaking as a convinced secularist myself, I don't mind what people choose to believe in or not to believe in (so long as causing harm to others isn't a core element of their belief system*). I don't even mind if they try to persuade me to believe the same things, so long as they make the effort to explain and defend their beliefs with something approaching a rational argument and don't try to threaten or coerce me into agreement.

If their arguments are compelling, convincing, well-thought out ones, I'll probably listen with something like respectful attention. If someone's argument seems to be bizarre, unsupported by any convincing evidence or reasoning I might laugh or I might call that person silly, or even repellent if I consider their world-view to be particularly unpleasant. But that's all, and compared to the way some members of "faith communities" respond to opposing beliefs, I think it's quite mild and unthreatening - I won't call for them to be ostracised, killed or condemned to an eternity of unspeakable suffering in the name of the hypothetical creator of everything which exists.

If somebody wants to mock or question some deeply held belief which I hold, well, I've got a few options without going nuclear; I could choose to ignore the slight, or I could sharpen up my arguments and prepare a spirited defence, or even admit that I've been wrong and reconsider what I think in the light of what's been said. What I won't do is to demand that what I believe is so much more important than anybody else's opinion that it must never, ever be questioned.

You see, compared to some of the more militantly religious people I hear banging on from their pulpits, I think that secular humanists like me are harmless pussycats, open to doubt, reason, persuasion and argument. And, personally, I think that's better than closed-minded zealotry, based on little or no evidence. I don't often like to blow my own trumpet, but I'm quite happy, proud and comfortable to be a secular humanist in a world where the worst are full of passionate intensity. That's what I believe, anyway.

*of course, very few people actually think that their own system of beliefs is harmful but, to borrow a phrase from the faithful, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions....

Thursday, 3 July 2008

A pea and nine tiny seeds, grains of sand and specks of dust

Before the sort of YouTube illustrations linked to in my last post, people had to resort to rather more homely ways to illustrate the vastness of the Universe. But some of them were still highly effective - I still love this, from Sir James Jeans' book The Stars in Their Courses (1931) - he's talking about the planets in our solar system:

They move around the sun in almost circular paths, rather like circus horses trotting or galloping round the ring-master ... the solar system has only one-way traffic - like Piccadilly Circus. The traffic nearest the centre moves fastest; that further out more slowly, while that at the extreme edge merely crawls....It is true that even the furthest and slowest of the planets ts covers nearly three miles every second, which is about 200 times the speed of an express train, but this is a mere crawl in astronomy....

Before we leave Piccadilly Circus, it should be understood that we cannot represent the solar system by putting up a statue of Eros in the middle to represent the sun, and letting nine taxicabs gyrate round it to represent the nine planets. The statue is far too big to represent the sun and the taxicabs are enormously too big to represent planets. If we want to make a model to scale, we must take a very tiny object such as a pea, to represent the sun. On the same scale the nine planets will be small seeds, grains of sand and specks of dust. Even so, Piccadilly Circus is only just big enough to contain the orbit of Pluto, the outermost planet of all. Think of a pea and nine tiny seeds, grains of sand and specks of dust in Piccadilly Circus, and we see that the solar system consists mainly of empty space. It is easy to understand why the planets look such tiny objects in the sky.

Yet the solar system is crowded compared with most of space. If a pea and nine smaller objects in Piccadilly Circus represent the sun and planets, the nearest of the stars will be represented by a small seed somewhere near Birmingham-all in between is empty space.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

More perspective

Take a few minutes to explore space and time with YouTube. On this scale, everything human civilization has created is an invisible dot, all of human history less than the blink of an eye. Just think about that for a few seconds. It really is awesome, in the true sense of the word.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

An inhuman outrage

Weather forecasters, from Michael Fish, way back to Robert Fitzroy may get a bit of a hard time when they're thought to be getting it wrong, but they get off lightly compared to FitzRoy's uncle, Viscount Castlereagh. If he's remembered at all, it's mainly for the broadsides loosed at him by two of the big guns of Romantic Poetry. Shelley thundered:

I met Murder on the way –
He had a face like Castlereagh –
Very smooth he looked, yet grim;
Seven bloodhounds followed him

All were fat; and well they might
Be in admirable plight,
For one by one, and two by two,
He tossed them human hearts to chew
Which from his wide cloak he drew

On hearing of his death, Byron dismissed his memory with the unflattering lines:

Posterity will ne'er survey
A nobler grave than this:
Here lie the bones of Castlereagh:
Stop, traveller, and piss

Castlereagh attracted such hostility because, as Leader of the House of Commons, he defended the repressive policies of the then Home Secretary, Lord Sidmouth whose tenure saw the ruthless suppression of campaigns for greater democratic representation and smearing of reformers with the accusations of treason and sedition. Sidmouth's repressive measures ultimately included the suspension of habeas corpus and requiring the permission of a magistrate before any public meeting of more than 50 people pertaining to "matters of Church and state" could be held (the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 isn't as shiny, new and paradigm-shifty as the Home Office apparatchiks would have you think). Although Castlereagh was, by some accounts an accomplished diplomat, his reputation couldn't survive association with such bullies and sleazeballs as Lord Sidmouth's crew.

Little wonder that radicals such as Shelley and Byron despised Castlereagh; it's entertaining to imagine what they might made of the defenders of some more recent Home Secretaries, popping up to defend the indefensible, whether in the guise of extended detention without charge, restrictions on the right to peacefully protest, or ID cards. Mincemeat, hopefully.

Perhaps the most flagrant outrage committed on Sidmouth's watch, certainly the most visible was what later became known as the "Peterloo Massacre". At St Peter's Fields, Manchester, on August 16th, 1819, a crowd of over 60,000 gathered to attend a demonstration for Parliamentary reform, and especially for an end to such corrupt institutions as Rotten Boroughs. The local magistrates, fearing the size of the gathering, panicked and called in the military, in the form of the Manchester Yeomanry, who charged into the crowd, hacking away at peaceful protesters with their sabres. It is thought that eleven people were killed and some four hundred wounded.

A millowner, Thomas Chadwick, who was there, described the massacre as: "An inhuman outrage committed on an unarmed, peaceful assembly."

The deaths were only the beginning - the Government's response to the threat of radical unrest, which is how they saw such lawful demonstrations, was to crack down on the civil liberties of the population with the draconian "Six Acts" which introduced such innovations as "speeding up" the legal process by reducing opportunities for bail, cracked down on free speech, extended powers to search private property for arms.

The Peterloo Massacre has been compared to the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre in China. Although the numbers differ - the People's Liberation Army and their tanks may have killed anywhere from from several hundred to seven thousand people, as opposed to the eleven or so fatalities chalked up by the Manchester Yeomanry - there are compelling similarities; two groups of peaceful protesters, demonstrating for democratic reforms, crushed by military force because of the authorities' fear of subversion, followed by an aftermath of suppression and reprisal. History repeating itself? You decide.