Monday, 27 April 2015

Erik Larson And Impending Doom, The Prequel

Quotation of the day ~ Linus Torvalds: the people have spoken...most of it was complete gibberish

I have just finished another, earlier, book by Erik Larson: Isaac's Storm (1999). It's the story of Isaac Cline, the head of the U.S. Weather Bureau in Galveston Texas from 1889 to 1901. Erik Larson is such a great writer that he can make meteorology exciting!

But here's the thing -- an event i had hitherto known nothing about. The worst hurricane in American history smashed head-first into Galveston on September 8th, 1900, killing over 6,000 people (some estimates put it as high as 12,000) (1800 people died in Hurricane Katrina, to put it in perspective).

Isaac saw the storm coming, but failed to appreciate its intensity. Later, in his autobiography, he claimed to have warned people to evacuate, but Larson argues, convincingly, that this simply wasn't true. Isaac was as astonished as anyone when roof tiles started flying through the air with such strength that they were decapitating people, and when the flood waters rose to beyond the height of his house (he nearly drowned, his wife wasn't as lucky).

A great deal of the book concerns itself with how hurricanes form; a lot concerns itself with life in Galveston on September 7th, 1900 -- where we meet all manner of the local citizenry ... and know that many of them will die. The sense of impending doom is overwhelming.

Here, lighten up, let's have a playlist:

Sky -- Sky 2
Pyewackett -- Pyewackett
Tangerine Dream -- The Essential Tangerine Dream
Ten Years After -- Watt
Home -- The Alchemist
Wishbone Ash -- Here To Hear
Max Webster -- High Class In Borrowed Shoes
Horslips -- Happy To Meet, Sorry To Part
Rory Gallagher -- Top Priority
Fairport Convention -- The Jewel In The Crown
Martin Carthy -- Sweet Wivelsfield
The Albion Country Band -- The Battle Of The Field
The Art Of Noise -- (Who's Afraid Of) The Art Of Noise
Brand X -- Unorthodox Bahaviour
The Cars -- The Essentials
Trigger Hippy -- Trigger Hippy
Runrig -- Party On The Moor
Bill Bruford -- Feels Good To Me
Tangerine Dream -- Poland
Led Zeppelin --III
Thunder -- The Joy Of Six

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Dead Wake

Quotation of the day: Erik Larson ~ I'm very perverse. If someone tells me I have to read a book, I'm instantly disinclined to do so.

I've just finished reading Erik Larson's latest book, “Dead Wake – The Last Crossing of The Lusitania,” and it's the best thing i've read in a while. You have to read it. ;-)

In case you don't know the name, Mr Larson is an historian whose forté is taking different historical incidents and linking them together in ways that one might not otherwise have considered, although in this instance, the link is fairly obvious. The book combines, in a fairly even mix, the story of R.M.S. Lusitania and its final voyage, with a description of the German submarine program during World War I and of life aboard U-20, the submarine that sank her in 1915, causing the deaths of nearly 1200 souls. It's a fascinating and compelling tale, an un-put-downable book.

As i read the tales of life aboard ship, friendhsips made, parties held, the lives of the elegant first-class passengers, i felt the same way that i did when i saw the film World Trade Center. An overpowering sense of impending doom. Those poor people heading into their offices on September 11, those poor people on the boat enjoying their voyage, with no idea what lay ahead.


Steeleye Span -- Commoner's Crown
Van der Graaf Generator -- Pawn Hearts
Peter Hammill -- Skin
Brand X -- Unorthodox Behaviour
Steeleye Span -- Ten Man Mop, Or, Mr Reservoir BUtler Rides Again
Sky -- Sky 2
Marillion -- Anoraknophobia
Jon Anderson -- Olias Of Sunhillow
Colin James -- Bad Habits
Fairport Convention -- Myths And Heroes

Monday, 13 April 2015

Crabby Joe's, Stratford

Quotation Of The Day: Joe Cocker ~ I think the only thing I would've ever been any good at was probably being a pub landlord. I've thought of that a couple of times.

And so today, my afternoon off, i hied me to Crabby Joe's Stratford outlet – a restaurant that had been closed for over a year after their erstwhile manager did a bunk with the day's takings and the contents of the safe. It's a small franchise and it was taken over by Corporate, completely gutted and re-designed and re-opened just a couple of weeks ago. Today was my first – and probably my last visit.

I didn't go in very often when they were open previously. They used to have complementary peanuts on the bar and the peanut shells all over the floor deterred me more than a little.

When i walked in at lunch time today, i was at first very impressed: the place looks great! Bright and spacious and cheerful, totally different to what it had been. Another point in its favour – they sell my beer. (Not everywhere does, and one factor in my going there today was that i knew that my usual pub was out of it until later this afternoon) (and i'm fussy about my beer – if i can't get it i'm lost).

A third point was, i am not ashamed to admit (shallow and dirty-old-mannish as i am) the servers' uniforms consist of low-cut and very tight t-shirts, and trousers that look like they were spray-painted on. If my bartender had been a blimp, this could have been grotesque, but she wasn't – she was, in fact, quite attractive and extraordinarily callipygous.

As for the food, there was nothing too different on the menu – same old schtuff you get everywhere. Burgers, wings, fingers, all that. I ordered a burger (they wouldn't cook it medium well for me, unfortunately – but the trend these days, especially in franchises, seems to be that all burgers shall be well done) with caesar salad and it was fine, very tasty in fact.

And my bill was very reasonable – two pints + lunch came to $28 + tip.

So far, so good, right? So why will my first visit quite possibly also be my last? Very simple: no Wi-Fi. I mean, WTF??? I mean, everywhere has free Wi-Fi, even the lowliest of the low, like A & W. When i go to a pub, usually alone, i like to catch up on email and Facebook and all the news of the day using the phone or the iPad, and that is what i like to do, dammit it. Couldn't do it today, though.

Oh, well, here's my most recent playlist:

Steeleye Span -- Commoner's Crown
Van der Graaf Generator -- Pawn Hearts
Peter Hammill -- Skin
Brand X -- Unorthodox Behaviour
Steeleye Span -- Ten Man Mop, Or, Mr Reservoir Butler Rides Again
Sky -- Sky 2
Marillion -- Anoraknophobia
Jon Anderson -- Olias Of Sunhillow
Colin James -- Bad Habits
Fairport Convention -- Myths And Heroes
Jon Anderson -- Deseo
Max Webster -- High Class In Borrowed Shoes
Steeleye Span -- Commoner's Crown
The Cecil Sharp Centenary Collective -- As I Cycled Out On A May Morning
Donovan -- What's Bin Did And What's Bin Hid
Dead Can Dance -- Within The Realm Of A Dying Sun
The Allman Brothers Band -- Beginnings