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I have a burning need to know stuff and I love asking awkward questions.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Game of Thrones baby names still proving popular

By Lizo Mzimba For BBC News

21 September 2018

Game of Thrones continues to be a popular source of parental inspiration, according to the latest list of the most popular baby names in England and Wales. A record 76 baby girls were called Khaleesi in 2017, the title enjoyed by Emilia Clarke's dragon-raising would-be queen in the award-winning fantasy TV and book series. Three more children were called Daenarys, the real name of the show's Mother of Dragons. And more girls than ever before received the name Sansa, another significant figure on the show. But if baby-naming is a reliable indicator, Game of Thrones' most popular character appears to be Arya, with 343 newborns given the same name as Maisie Williams' sword-wielding Stark. That's a big increase on 302, the number of Aryas named in 2016. Eleven baby boys, the same number as in 2016, ended up being called Tyrion, almost certainly in tribute to Peter Dinklage's Tyrion Lannister - perhaps the show's most intelligent character.

Animated movie Moana was released at the end of 2016, explaining why seven babies ended up receiving that particular name in 2017 - seven more than the previous year. The Star Wars universe has also continued to wield its influence on name choices. It's likely the death of Carrie Fisher in December 2016 was a contributing factor to the big increase (to 149) in girls being called Leia. Indeed, more children than ever before have been given names from a galaxy far, far away. Twenty-one were called Rey and 70 were called Kylo, almost certainly after the characters played by Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver in recent Star Wars instalments.

Three girls were given the name - but hopefully not the personality characteristics - of Harley-Quinn in 2017. The DC Comics villain and Joker's girlfriend was memorably played by Margot Robbie in the film Suicide Squad. In a similar vein, the success of the TV series Lucifer, in which the Devil leaves Hell and travels to Los Angeles, seems to have resulted in 11 boys being given the name of the show. It began in 2016, the year the name Lucifer entered the list for the first time. Four babies were given the name that year, a figure that increased by seven in 2017.

Reality TV is also getting in on the act. Before Made in Chelsea, the name Binky had never featured on the list. That all changed in 2014, and the number of Binkys has steadily increased with 10 newborns getting the name last year. In case you were wondering, Binky Felstead's real name is Alexandra. Choosing the right name for a newborn can be a tricky business. Luckily the world of TV and film is overflowing with unusual suggestions, and it's somewhere more and more parents are going to for inspiration.

[I do find myself cringing a bit when I hear what proud parents have named their new-born’s – names like Jack or Alex or even Arya are perfectly acceptable, but would you honestly name your child Binky or…… Lucifer? My advice to parents who do so would be to teach their children to fight – because they’re going to get bullied. A lot. Oh, and someone I work with knew someone who named their boy Huckleberry….. I wonder what they’ll get called in school. I’m guessing it won’t be Huck.]

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Just Finished Reading: Gut – The Inside Story of our Body’s Most Under-Rated Organ By Giulia Enders (FP: 2014)

As I get older I’m becoming more and more interested in the workings (and the failings) of my body. Part of that is insurance – knowing what to do when things go wrong. A big part of it is to know what to do to keep things ticking along nicely for as long as humanly possible. Books like this really help in that regard.

Like, no doubt, many of us I essentially ignore my gut until it does something odd or embarrassingly distasteful. I’m sure that most of us do. As long as it’s doing its mundane job or food processing and elimination we leave it alone to get on with things. When it’s humming along nicely, as it does most days, I just ignore it. How wrong I was. The author, who is a doctor of microbiology, makes the whole thing not only interesting (and frankly funny) but shows just how important our digestive system is – not just in extracting food and nutrients but in its role in our mental health too (go figure). One of the things that immediately jumped out at me was the fact that some skin diseases/issues had been greatly assisted if not actually cured by the partial removal of tonsils! How counterintuitive is that!

The gut turns out to be more complex, more diverse and has much more of an influence on our physical and mental wellbeing than we ever though. Biologists are only now getting a handle on what goes on in our stomach and intestines. Long held assumptions of where our gut flora come from, how they operate, how they’re different in different populations or even between individuals are being proven to be inadequate at best. It’s all, as the author gets across in style, very exciting.

I did get a few funny looks reading this – both on the bus and at work – more so when people noticed my chuckling away as I read and the best pooping positions and much else besides in almost (but never quite) crude language. Never one to beat around the bush the author brings the gut out of the shadows to present it in polite society without the sniggers. Bathroom activities are one of the last taboos and because of that lack of public discourse can lead to unnecessary suffering and great problems down the road. Knowing what problems look like, feel like and smell like could, in these cases, be a literal life saver. Not being embarrassed to discuss such things with family, friends and your doctor is a healthy indication that you’re looking after your gut. Highly recommended for anyone who ever wondered what happens in your body between mouth and toilet bowl.     

Monday, September 17, 2018

A (not so new) Obsession.

It would appear that a long time interest of mine has turned into something of an obsession – even if (at the moment at least) a small one. For quite some time now I have had a decided interest in the period from the invasion of Poland in 1939 to the attack on Pearl Habor in 1941 when Britain stood essentially alone against the might of the Axis Powers. Not only was it a time of great danger it was also a time of great heroism and is a central point of our national mythology. Being British it’s actually a difficult era to avoid with so many books, TV series, documentaries and movies about the period. Two of the recent crop of movies in particular stoked my interest enough to move it in the direction of obsession – Nolan’s masterful retelling of Dunkirk and Oldman’s outstanding portrayal of Churchill in Darkest Hour. This in particular lit the fire as it raised a whole host of questions I wanted answering.

Churchill, as Darkest Hour rightly points out, was an unusual and unpopular choice for Prime Minister in 1940. I know some of those reasons why but wanted to know much more. Then there’s the leader of the Opposition to Chamberlin’s Conservative government – Clement Attlee. I know almost nothing about him so wanted to know more. Then, pre-dating the events of 1940, who did Britain get into such a mess? I know something about the process of Appeasement and the ‘peace in our times’ diplomacy but not enough to understand what was behind it all. Then there’s Lord Halifax – the Holy Fox – who was the ‘bad guy’ in Darkest Hour. Was he as portrayed or is that historians looking for a villain of the piece? Would he have actually sold Britain down the river for peace at any price? Then there’s Churchill himself. Did he really save England by taking up the position of PM when reluctantly offered it (I believe he did that and more but what was the truth behind the myth?). What of his long suffering wife Clementine and his children so intriguingly played in that scene in Number 10 on his first day in office as PM. What of his friend Antony Eden and what of Churchill’s relationship with the King which completely entranced me in the movie?

Once in power I was surprised by the Calais incident where the Prime Minister directly ordered the garrison to fight to the last man to give the men on the beaches of Dunkirk time to escape. What happened to the survivors? Was the ‘miracle’ of Dunkirk really that or was it a case of luck and Hitler’s reluctance to destroy the BEF when negotiations for an armistice was still a possibility? What happened to those who didn’t make it off the beaches and what happened to those who never made it to Dunkirk in time? Following on from the ‘miracle’ there was, quite naturally, the threat of invasion across the channel. Why didn’t Operation Sealion happen and could we have survived it? What happened in France post-Dunkirk? Why were they overrun in only 6 weeks despite the almost equivalence in forces in play? What happened to the French forces who made it to England and North Africa to continue the fight?

Taking a deep breath and a slight sigh of relief after Dunkirk and with the Battle of France over it was time for the iconic Battle of Britain. Was it the close run thing we have been led to believe? Why did we win in the end – luck, raw courage, British bloody-mindedness, or steady organisation and planning? Why, in 1940, did we have the fighters (amongst the best in the world), the organisation and RADAR ‘just in time’ that all took years to get into production?

So many questions, so many points of view around the actions of three of the most pivotal years in our long island history. I will endeavour in the upcoming years to try to answer them and I’ll let you know what I find out.