Print Story Oliver's Army
By TheophileEscargot (Sun Jul 16, 2006 at 10:47:39 AM EST) Reading, Me, Photo (all tags)
Reading: "Cold Skin", "British Wars". Me. Pics.

What I'm Reading
Finished Cold Skin by Albert Sanchez Pinol. Reads kind of like Yann Martel meets William Hope Hodgson. It's about a disillusioned ex-revolutionary, who in an effort to escape from civilization takes a job as a weather recorder on a remote island. He rapidly finds out that the island is under constant attack from aquatic monsters, and his only hope is the island's other inhabitant: a belligerent lunatic holed up in a fortified lighthouse.

Even in translation it's very compelling. The details of the situation are worked out impeccably, and it's a real page-turner as the protagonist sinks further into desperation and brutality as the ammunition runs out and the attacks continue.

It also appears to be an allegory of some kind, though it's very hard to pin down what it's an allegory for. Maybe it's just allegorical in general. Thought for a while that the characters might be an id-ego-superego thing, but that doesn't really make sense; or that the attacks by the monsters symbolize the struggles of life, but that seems over-generic. It might just be a parable for the corrupting nature of violent struggle. Anyway, well worth reading. Review, review, review

What I'm Reading 2
Also got through an audiobook: the second volume of Simon Schama's "A History of Britain" British Wars 1603 - 1776. Liked the first one, but this is even better: covers a much shorter length of time which allows him to focus a lot more closely on the details. Has a lot of detail on the slave trade, and battles of the British-French war in North America. He skips out most of the details of the American Revolution, not going into the military side of things much. Didn't miss that myself since I'm already moderately familiar with it: he might be short-changing some history newbies that way though.

It's pretty thorough over the Civil War, Restoration and Glorious Revolution though. Schama manages the very difficult trick of explaining and balancing the various actors and movements within it. He takes the modern approach of considering the Civil War as the British Wars; rather than the traditional approach of the English Civil War plus various side-shows. This volume has a lot more detail on Scotland and Ireland than the first one, which largely ignored them. Schama is suitably condemnatory over Cromwell; acknowledging that Cromwell was particularly brutal in Ireland for example.

If anything, Schama seems a little too disparaging towards Cromwell. He seems to present the Protectorate as being created almost on a whim; not rating him as being particularly religiously fanatical, which doesn't seem to make a lot of sense. Also, if Cromwell's takeover was gratuitous, why did things fall apart so quickly when he died?

It seems to me that to explain Cromwell at all satisfactorily, you have to see him as someone who very much wanted X, but was forced by the desperately unstable post-Charles politics to compromise greatly. You can see him either as a religious fanatic who was forced to compromise into pragmatism; or as pragmatist who just wanted stability but was forced to compromise with religious fanaticism. Schama seems to lean towards the latter, but that doesn't seem really sufficient to explain why Cromwell took power from Parliament in the first place.

Overall though: thorough, lucid and interesting. Takes a while to get through in audiobook though: this volume's 18 CDs, while the first was a mere 14. The third and final volume is another 18: will leave it a while to get my breath back.

Well, for only the second time in my life I've a lost a library book. Annoyingly, it was "Cold Skin" which I left on a bus after getting two-thirds through it. Was desperate to know the ending. so took another bus back to Charing Cross Road and bought another copy in Foyle's (had a nasty moment when Borders didn't have it). Hopefully the library will accept this one: it's the same edition, but they only had one copy left and the cover's a bit battered.

Only the Central Line was down this weekend: North London line was running fine. However, tried taking the number 7 bus straight home from Tottenham Court Road again which was fairly quick last time, and just got stuck in a nightmare of traffic along Oxford Street. It goes a lot faster after Marble Arch when it gets off the main roads: will take the Tube up to that point next time. Got incredibly frustrated as it took about half an hour to cover the last few hundred yards to Marble Arch. Even with plenty of space, two books, an Interzone, 8,000 MP3s, a water bottle and a notebook and pen it practically drove me batshit insane.

Tried to take a picture with my cameraphone but you can't really see the masses of buses ahead. Need a proper optical zoom. And a bus without a greasy front window.

Many buses

Some other snapshots: someone flying a kite on Parliament Hill, the Post Office Tower, Camden and some sky.

Telecom Tower


Living in Sky   What do you mean ``blatant rip-off of stark`s vertical-slice-of-sky sunset photo``

Coming soon in Theophile Escargot's Diary
Consumerism: Why trousers that unzip into shorts are not actually the answer to all ankle-to-waist fashion needs. Watching: "Twelve Angry Men". "Bleu Cheese": what the fuck are USians on about, why it's not a generic product, how it relates to "blue cheese" and "fromage bleu". Museums: "Rebels & Martyrs: The Image of the Artist in the Nineteenth Century".

< Photo Sunday*: Signpost | BBC White season: 'Rivers of Blood' >
Oliver's Army | 17 comments (17 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Nice pics by cam (4.00 / 1) #1 Sun Jul 16, 2006 at 10:55:48 AM EST
Are the London buses still double-deckers due to tradition or function?

Canberra used to have these weird buses that had a half-bus on the back with a canvas concertina to keep them visually together. Not sure why they didnt just buy British double deckers, being RHD and plentiful in London you would assume they would be fairly cheap.

Freedom, liberty, equity and an Australian Republic

They're introducing by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #2 Sun Jul 16, 2006 at 11:01:36 AM EST
"Bendy buses": single decker buses in two sections with a concertina in the middle. I hope they don't phase out double-deckers though: you don't get much of a view from a single-storey bus. Some of the double deckers look pretty new.

London transport has zero concern with tradition: any old stuff around is there purely because they don't want to pay for new stuff. You can obviously get more people in a double decker than a rigid single-decker, which means you only have to pay one driver's salary. Not sure if there's an advantage over bendy buses though: they might be able to get around tighter corners or do better in traffic.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
Bendy buses by komet (4.00 / 1) #4 Sun Jul 16, 2006 at 12:22:26 PM EST
Zurich recently trialed an insane double bendy bus that seats 200. I was surprised at how tight it turned round corners - the bendy bits really seem to assist in that. I wouldn't be surprised if your bendy buses actually have a smaller turning circle than the Routemasters.

<ni> komet: You are functionally illiterate as regards trashy erotica.
[ Parent ]
Not a Routemaster, probably, by ambrosen (2.00 / 0) #7 Sun Jul 16, 2006 at 01:54:01 PM EST
they're actually really tiny and light (8 tons), despite taking a lot of people. But a modern double decker's quite a bit larger (11 tons), and longer.

[ Parent ]
We have double-decker buses by spacejack (4.00 / 1) #6 Sun Jul 16, 2006 at 12:48:26 PM EST
They make the British tourists feel at home when they're sightseeing along Queen Street, King street, Charles Street, Elisabeth Street, Prince Arthur, Kensington Market, Queen's Park, etc.

[ Parent ]
bendies by MillMan (2.00 / 0) #9 Sun Jul 16, 2006 at 04:02:47 PM EST
fairly common in the US on longer express routes, and I did see some of them while I was in London. I think the double deckers are much more practical in a crowded city like London for the simple reason that they have a smaller footprint.

Everybody still hates me in this city and I hate everybody.

[ Parent ]
Oh yeah by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 2) #3 Sun Jul 16, 2006 at 11:03:24 AM EST
You've probably seen this video already: P47 gun camera footage from WW2.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
Clumsy fakes by Rogerborg (4.00 / 2) #5 Sun Jul 16, 2006 at 12:25:21 PM EST
I've seen the real footage on the Hitler Channel, and it's alll "Neeeaaaawwww - DACKA-DACKA-DACKA - ach, Gott in Himmel"

Metus amatores matrum compescit, non clementia.
[ Parent ]
Bleu cheese. by ambrosen (4.00 / 1) #8 Sun Jul 16, 2006 at 01:55:30 PM EST
Very strange portmanteau word.

Poll should be multi-select. by greyrat (4.00 / 1) #10 Sun Jul 16, 2006 at 04:07:07 PM EST

Oxford Street by nebbish (4.00 / 1) #11 Sun Jul 16, 2006 at 11:46:10 PM EST
Even cycling down it on Saturday was a nightmare, the buses were so close together you couldn't get between them, and just had to sit there waiting and breathing in the fumes.

You're better off walking than getting the bus on a normal day, they take ages.

Cold Skin sounds interesting: wishlisted.

It's political correctness gone mad!

Need to get rid of the buses, replace with a tram by jump the ladder (4.00 / 2) #12 Mon Jul 17, 2006 at 12:18:58 AM EST
Seriously, the air is horrid with all the diesel fumes. The only problem is that Oxford St is a major east-west axis of London so you'd have to rejig half thwe bus system.

[ Parent ]
A+ idea though by nebbish (4.00 / 1) #13 Mon Jul 17, 2006 at 12:40:30 AM EST
It's awful as it stands

It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
Hybrids would work by squigs (4.00 / 1) #14 Mon Jul 17, 2006 at 12:50:52 AM EST
They tend to use the battery at low speed and are most efficient with the stop start nature of buses on busy roads.

You could actually manage a complete electrical system if you could find a practical way to recharge at each stop.

[ Parent ]
fuel cell by garlic (4.00 / 1) #16 Mon Jul 17, 2006 at 07:07:24 AM EST
Busses are a good case for fuel cells since many of the drawbacks of a fuel cell for a car doesn't have the same effect in a bus.

[ Parent ]
If you're interested in more Seven Year's War... by atreides (4.00 / 1) #15 Mon Jul 17, 2006 at 03:37:46 AM EST
...I'm reading Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766 and it's quite good thus far... It's scholarly without being dry and does a good job of combining Brit, US, French and Native sources to give it a much more multifaceted view than most works on war. As a bonus, it posits that the Revolution was actually a result of the postwar problems this war created though I haven't gotten that far yet.

Have you seen The Passion yet? Here's a spoiler for you: Jesus dies.
"...compassion is more than a 16 point word in scrabble." - MostlyHarmless

Schama by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #17 Mon Jul 17, 2006 at 08:15:57 AM EST
Also gives it a certain amount of influence. The war against the French in the Americas was hugely expensive and led to a huge war debt for the British government, so it seemed pretty unreasonable when the colonists refused to pay taxes towards their defence.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
Oliver's Army | 17 comments (17 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback