Finished the audiobook of A History of Britain: At the Edge of the World? - 3000BC -AD 1603 by Simon Schama. Very good popular history. Based on a TV series, but it doesn't show too much except for the regular digressions into elaborate descriptions of architecture and paintings; obviously used to give the camera something to point at. Also a little bit erratic in what it covers: skims over things like the Wars of the Roses, pre-Roman Britain, and big chunks of Scottish history.
Still, written very accessibly with wit and a degree of passion. Informative, and manages to tell a good story without getting too teleological or Whig historyish.
Found it pretty much the ideal commuting audiobook: it's lucid, diverting and very easy to pick up where you left off.
What I'm Reading 2
Finished short spoof Jonathan Livingston Trafalgar Square Pigeon. Quite amusing if you've read the original, accurate even down to the black and white photos and vaguely sanctimonious text.
It was just the seasonality thing: have managed to get some garden peas in the pod from Tesco. Quite nice, but peas freeze very well, so there's not a huge jump in quality when you go for the fresh-shelled kind.
Got some broad beans still in the pods though, and that made a huge difference. When freshly podded they taste crisper, cleaner, tangier.
So, the compost bins have arrived in our area. Strangely, the leaflet says that you can recycle cooked food and bones. In fact it says "food waste" not composting: maybe they're actually incinerating it instead. The really bad stink from the giant compost heaps in the park has receded, though you do get a bit of a pong occasionally when you walk past. Haven't actually seen the heaps lately though: maybe they've just stopped composting there.
The bins seem OK. They're pretty small, which is OK for me, but a big family might be generating more waste. They seem pretty pest-resistent if you use them properly: pull the handle all the way down at the front and a section of the hinge locks the lid in place. Don't think a rat would be strong enough or a fox dexterous enough to get it open. There were no instructions though: hope people don't use them and leave them unsecured.
Went to see the Howard Hodgkin exhibition at Tate Britain. Big exhibition of semi-representational paintings by a British artist: broad brushstrokes and careful colours give effects that are sometimes crude, sometimes uncannily accurate like the Bombay skylines. Cool, no children, uncrowded. Pretty big exhibition.
Forgot to visit the sculpture garden, but saw a few of the things-on-top-of-other-things sculptures in the main hall.
Also had a look at the strandbeests in Trafalgar square. Not much wind, and they were mostly pretty motionless except for one being pushed around by kids, but it's definitely unsettling when the wind takes one and it starts rattling along. Interesting.
What I'm Watching
Saw the classic TV satire Network. Made in 1976, but feels more dated than that. The filming style is 1970s with naturalistic tracking, but the dialogue has a 1950s style: very unnatural with people delivering long, affected speeches at each other all the time.
Has some good moments, like the brilliant scene where the communist guerillas start haggling over their contract. Overall it gets a bit too preachy though. Think it suffers from the usual problems of prophecy: what it gets right (network TV dumbing down, angry ranting dominating TV) seems obvious, and what it gets wrong seems absurd (angry ranting actually being productive). Nicely cynical in the way the system co-opts everyone who thinks he's against it though. (Red=entertainment,green=originality,blue=intelligence).
It made #2 on the Onion AV club's Classic movies it's OK to hate.
Heinlein-style tesseract house in Second Life.
Did Charles Clarke suffer for his liberal instincts?
Unlikely-sounding unsourced rumour: Gordon Brown to denationalize NHS?
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