10 favourite Discworld characters

SusanStoHelEveryone will have their own favourite characters from the hundreds of humans, vampires, trolls and golems who stalk the plains and cities of Pratchett’s disturbingly familiar fantasy world. Here are 10 of the finest.

Death (and the Death of Rats, and Susan. Death pops up in the first few books as a classic Grim Reaper, a skeleton with cloak and scythe, but takes centre stage in Mort, the first unarguably great Discworld novel. Death is brilliant because of his bewildered fascination with the living creatures over whose little lives he presides: he ends up a sort of benignly chilling figure, fond of cats and curry, who has to be reminded not to boom “COWER, BRIEF MORTALS” in his voice like slamming coffin-lids while dressed up as Father Christmas for a children’s party. Sublime.

Granny WeatherwaxThe moral conscience of the witching business, Granny Weatherwax is the presiding spirit of the tiny, sheep-farming hill country of Lancre (a close analogue, one suspects, to Wales) and one of Pratchett’s most enduringly brilliant creations. Crotchety, eminently no-nonsense (the trolls call her “She Who Must Be Avoided”) and one of the prime exponents of Pratchett’s number-one virtue of common sense, Granny Weatherwax is another of the tough thinkers with hearts of gold who stalk through Pratchett’s fiction and are, one suspects, an important factor in its endless popularity. Catchphrase: “I can’t be having with that kind of thing.”

The Patrician, Lord VetinariThe kind of benign despot who would make Machiavelli faint with fear and envy, Vetinari presides over Pratchett’s capital city-state of Ankh-Morpork without ever needing to raise his voice (“Lord Vetinari wouldn’t stop at sarcasm,” says one character, quaking. “He might use … irony.”) Vetinari’s family motto is Si non confectus, non reficiat — if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it — which gives a clue to the formidable realpolitik behind this ex-Assassin’s government: Vetinari maintains control because everyone thinks he’s in control. Looks, from behind, “like a carnivorous flamingo”.

Nanny Ogg’ Hedge-witch extraordinaire, grandmother to thousands and possessor of “a grin that should have been locked up for the sake of public decency”, Nanny Ogg is the boozy, garlicky, song-singing counterpoint to her formidable colleague Granny Weatherwax. Never far from the sound of a popping cork, ever-ready to join in on memorable Discworld ditties such as “The Hedgehog Can Never Be Buggered At All” and “A Wizard’s Staff Has a Knob On the End”, Nanny Ogg is the life and soul of the Witches books. Pratchett, incidentally, says he’s always thought “that Nanny is, deep down, the most powerful of the witches, and part of her charm lies in the way she prevents people from finding this out.”

Sam Vimes is The most gloriously long-suffering of Pratchett’s characters, Vimes is a weary, unshaven, golden-hearted homage to every Tired Copper of page and screen who ever proclaimed that he was getting too old for all this. Perpetually called on to walk the mean streets again for one last job even when whisked off into aristocratic retirement, Vimes is the Discworld’s arch-detective, a cigar-chomping supercop with a moral pragmatism that rivals even the formidable Patrician. The first line of Night Watch sums him up pretty well: “Sam Vimes sighed when he heard the scream, but he finished shaving before he did anything about it.”

The Librarian. Originally a human wizard at Unseen University, the Discworld’s hub of magical academia, the Librarian was transformed into an orang-utang in a freak magical accident and refuses to be changed back. Such is the absent-minded inclusivity of the University that now, “if someone ever reported that there was an orang-utang in the library, the wizards would probably go and ask the Librarian if he’d seen it.” Also chief organist for the University, and terribly strong: “we’ve got,” claims Unseen U’s Archchancellor, “the only librarian who can rip off your arm with his leg.” Conversation limited to “Oook”.

Former conman and international man of mystery Moist von Lipwig who was almost hanged at the beginning of Going Postal for crimes against the state of Ankh-Morpork. But Survived, at the behest of the city’s cryptic Patrician, to become the motive force behind the capital’s modernisation. Lipwig masterminds the postal service, introduces paper money to Ankh-Morpork, constructs (in the 40th Discworld novel Raising Steam, out this month) a rail network and gives Pratchett the opportunity for some of his finest satiric stabs at modern culture. Also an expert cat-burglar.

TiffanyAching4Tiffany Aching is a trainee witch first introduced, in The Wee Free Men (2003), one of Pratchett’s many books to tackle very adult themes under the guise of children’s fiction. Only three of the Aching books are really good (you might as well skip I Shall Wear Midnight) but those three are some of the best Discworld stuff in years. Tiffany is a witch, but her main gifts are the peerlessly common-sensical ones of “First Sight and Second Thoughts” — the ability to see through groupthink and self-delusion and to reflect upon one’s actions. Brilliant stuff.

Cut-Me-Own-Throat DibblerThe Del Boy of Discworld, “purveyor of anything that could be sold hurriedly from an open suitcase in a busy street and was guaranteed to have fallen off the back of an oxcart”. So named for his refrain “And that’s cutting me own throat,” Dibbler turns his hand to several ventures in the three decades of Discworld novels — shampoo vendor, musical impresario, motion-picture executive, snow-globe salesman — but is rarely more than a deal-gone-wrong away from his most reliable staple, the trays of rat-onna-stick and sausage-inna-bun that “find a use for bits of an animal that the animal didn’t know it had got”.

The LuggageSpeechless, lethal and heralded only by the patter of thousands of tiny feet, this ambulant, man-eating suitcase is one of Pratchett’s most disturbing and brilliant creations. Constructed from “sapient pearwood” and faithful unto death to its owner, the hapless Rincewind (qv) the Luggage can snap up predators or dirty socks with the same blank abandon, popping open its lid again to reveal piles of clean laundry smelling of lavender. Also capable (in one of Pratchett’s finest phrases) of developing “a particularly malevolent look about its keyhole, the sort of look that says ‘Go on — make my day.’”

Wincanton, Somerset was officially twinned in 2002 with the fictional city of Ankh-Morpork from the novels, becoming the first UK town to link with a fictional place.Peach Pie Street and Treacle Mine Road are among the list of streets named after the comic fantasy series of novels at the Kingwell Rise development

 

World Freedom Day

World Freedom Day is a United States federal observance  and is celebrated on 9 November. It was declared by then-President George W. Bush to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of communistrule in Central and Eastern Europe. It started in 2001 when conservative youth groups such as Young America’s Foundation and the College Republicans urged students to commemorate this day (which they mark as the start of “Freedom Week,” thus including Veterans Day) by “celebrating victory over communism” through provocative flyer campaigns and activism projects. Many conservative political commentators and activists use World Freedom Day as an occasion in which to acclaim President Ronald Reagan, whom they regard as being responsible for the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War .

 Inventors’ Day ( Tag der Erfinder)

Inventors’ Day (German: Tag der Erfinder) in the German-speaking countries Germany, Austria and Switzerland is celebrated on November 9, the birthday of the Austrian-born inventor andHollywood actress Hedy Lamarr whose main invention was the frequency-hopped spread spectrum.Hedy Lamarr was an American actress and inventor, celebrated for her great beauty, who was a contract star of MGM’s”Golden Age.”Mathematically talented, she and composer George Antheil invented an early technique for spread spectrum communications and frequency hopping, necessary for wireless communication from the pre-computer age to the present day.When Lamarr worked with Max Reinhardt in Berlin, he called her the “most beautiful woman in Europe” due to her “strikingly dark exotic looks”, a sentiment widely shared by her audiences and critics She gained fame after starring in Gustav Machatý’sEcstasy, a film which featured closeups of her character during orgasm in one scene, as well as full frontal nude shots of her in another scene, both very unusual for the socially conservative period in which the bulk of her career took place

The day was proclaimed by Berlin inventor and entrepreneur Gerhard Muthenthaler  & IS intended to pursue the following goals:Encourage people towards their own ideas and for a change to the better & Remind people of forgotten inventors Whose inventions are still in daily use.and andsupport inventors of the present, visionaries and eccentrics to see things in a different light.-stimulate discussion and cooperation and bring change to our future Hollywood diva and inventor Hedy Lamarr,  was someone that tried to realise her idea. She did not become rich or famous from her idea (as an actress she was already). Her invention however, the frequency hopping process is still in daily use and an integral process in our mobile phones. Her birthday, 9th November, has been taken to represent all inventors and this Inventors’ Day.Avant garde composer George Antheil (died 1959), was the son of German immigrants and a neighbor of Lamarr in California, and had experimented with automated control of musical instruments, including his music for Ballet Mécanique, originally written for Fernand Léger’s 1924 abstract film. This score involved multiple player pianos playing simultaneously.During World War II, Antheil and Lamarr discussed the fact that radio-controlled torpedoes, while important in the naval war, could easily be jammed by broadcasting interference at the frequency of the control signal, causing the torpedo to go off course Lamarr had learned something about torpedoes from Mandl. Antheil and Lamarr developed the idea of using frequency hopping to avoid jamming: using a piano roll to randomly change the signal sent between a control center and the torpedo at short bursts within a range of 88 frequencies in the radio-frequency spectrum (there are 88 black and white keys on a piano keyboard). The specific code for the sequence of frequencies would be held identically by the controlling ship and in the torpedo Tag der Erfinder. This basically encrypted the signal. It was impossible for the enemy to scan and jam all 88 frequencies, as this would require too much power or complexity. The frequency-hopping sequence was controlled by a player-piano mechanism, which Antheill had earlier used to score his Ballet Mecanique.

On August 11, 1942, U.S. Patent 2,292,387 was granted to Antheil and “Hedy Kiesler Markey”, Lamarr’s married name at the time. This early version of frequency hopping, although novel, soon met with opposition from the U.S. Navy and was not adopted. The idea was not implemented in the USA until 1962, when it was used by U.S. military ships during a blockade of Cuba after the patent had expired. This work was honored in 1997, when the Electronic Frontier Foundation gave Lamarr a belated award for her contributions. In 1998, an Ottawa wireless technology developer, Wi-LAN Inc., acquired a 49% claim to the patent from Lamarr for an undisclosed amount of stock (Eliza Schmidkunz, Inside GNSS).Lamarr’s and Antheil’s frequency-hopping idea serves as a basis for modern spread-spectrum communication technology, such asBluetooth, COFDM (used in Wi-Fi network connections), and CDMA (used in some cordless and wireless telephones).Blackwell, Martin, and Vernam’s 1920 patent Secrecy Communication System (1598673) seems to lay the communications groundwork for Kiesler and Antheil’s patent, which employed the techniques in the autonomous control of torpedoes.Lamarr wanted to join the National Inventors Council but was reportedly told by NIC member Charles F. Kettering and others that she could better help the war effort by using her celebrity status to sell War Bonds.