Random books and films

I can’t blog about work for some reason, writer’s block and spring fever conspire to tie my tongue.

Reading Nigel Calder on Marine Diesel Engines and Peter Compton on Troubleshooting Marine Diesels. I am not a native motorhead but I like the concept of diesel engines, especially the image in my eye of rigging a replacement alternator belt out of a pair of pantyhose (pardon me mam, but can I have your stockings?) and fumbling in the dark in a wicked storm to close the seacock and clean the raw water intake.

I read Steven Johnson’s Ghost Maps after reading his tweet about The Invention of Air – loaded them onto the Kindle and read the former first; an account of the cholera epidemic of 1856 and the empirical proof the disease was transmitted through a corrupted well – and therefore was waterborne, and not, as was maintained by the health authorities, airborne via foul smells. I like medical detective stories and technical/scientific history – Berton Roueche’s Medical Detectives and Dava Sobel’s Longitude
are favorites – and Johnson is spectacularly smart. The epilogue is out of place, but compelling nevertheless, as it makes a case for urbanism as a dense force for progress and attacking the bucolic vision of telecommuting that I was partially guilty of spreading in the pages of Forbes from here on Cape Clam in the early 90s. Johnson makes the point that the filth of London in the middle of the 19th century was poisoning and killing the very concept of mega-metropolises, but science and technology made the modern hive possible. Interesting thinking on modern squatters, the Slumdogification of the Third World, and how telecommuters make poor terrorist targets because you won’t find 50,000 of them stacked onto an acre in a skyscraper.

The Big One is reviewed below. I started on Ian MacEwan’s Saturday (following a strong New Yorker profile) and have yet to tackle the latest magazines, including the new Atlantic Monthly with a funny Facebook parody.

In the movie department. I still have some movies to finish in the Essential Art House collection. When I finish I’ll think about writing a post on each of the 50, but for now film criticism doesn’t feel like a strong suit. My son Eliot is providing me with Netflix queue advice, so I’m getting deeper into the Italians, having watched Luchino Visconti’s  Rocco and His Brothers yesterday on the plane from Seattle to Boston.

Watching a graphic rape and stabbing in black and white with subtitles while sitting in the aisle seat in row 16 on Delta may not be as heinous a public act as watching porn in the SUV on the Southeast Expressway during bumper to bumper traffic … with kids in the car … but I was horrified myself and had to build a blinder quickly out of the vomit bag and the current issue of Sky Magazine. Stay tuned for more films. Tarr’s Werckmeister Harmonies was a stand out. Yasijuro Ozu’s Floating Reeds was another. Watch this scene from Tarr. The dude is outstanding.

In the sporting department. I took in two actual ballgames whilst in Seattle. One with Mitch Ratcliffe in which the Seattle Mariners lost to the Detroit Tigers and again two nights later with colleagues and my stepbro Jos. Nick when the Mariners beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.  I ate sushi at the ball game just to earn the right to say I have eaten sushi at a ballpark. I’d get slapped around and given a wedgie if I tried that in Fenway. I have watched, listened, or downloaded all 15 of the Red Sox games and am happy with their current winning streak. I am not a hockey fan right now — I’m too baseball OCD — but I do like to watch this commercial.

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