Bag of Spoons
Just off the A1(M)

Mon, 14 Jun 2004

Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson

I got into Neal a few years back when I bought Snow Crash. Since then I've read most of his books and enjoyed them despite his issues with writing good endings. Basically he's a geek and he writes about stuff I find interesting, often in great detail.

His previous book was Cryptinomicon, mostly about cryptography, that wove stories of WWII and the present day linked by certain, fictional families. Quicksilver takes a sizeable leap into the past by dealing with those same families in the 17th century.

I've been getting into history generally lately so this ties in well with what I've been reading about Isaac Newton. He features as a character in the book along with Pepys, Hooke, Leibnitz and various royals around Europe. What the book seems to be about are money and the flow of ideas. This was a fertile time for both of those with international money markets springing up and organisations like the Royal Society being formed.

My historical knowledge is too limited to know if it's a very accurate account of the events, but it is encouraging me to read more.

This is the first part of what he calls the Baroque Cycle. It's three books, but he shies away from Trilogy as it's more complex than that implies. The second book, The Confusion, is already out, but I need a break before I tackle that.

Neal has set up a wiki that annotates just about every page of the cycle as a way to find out more.

Thanks to Simon for lending me his copy of the book for a couple of months.

[13:18] | [] | Comments | G

Sun, 13 Jun 2004

Bill Bailey at Cambridge Corn Exchange

I've admired Bill's mix of surreal comedy and music for some time so I leapt at the chance to get tickets for his Part Troll tour. Milton Keynes was already sold out, but I just managed to get a pair of sets right at the back in Cambridge.

The stage set consisted of a pair of keyboards plus electric and acoustic guitars. Bill himself seemed to pace around a bit nervously whilst talking, but seemed more relaxed with an instrument in his hands. He claims not to be good at jokes, but his stream of vaguely connected themes had the audience in fits. I wasn't so sure about his use of questions to the audience as it just encourages show-offs to shout silly things, but I liked his use of 'heckle waiting'.

The musical parodies were excellent. Portishead, Kraftwerk, U2 and Chris de Burgh(?) all got the treatment. There was some nice use of lighting and projected images.

I keep smiling to myself as I remember some of the lines. It's not really stuff you can tell to other people. I can't make it as funny as he does.

Overall an excellent night.

BTW I noticed a few kids there. I'm sure some of the stuff goes way over their little heads, but he hardly swears, making him pretty family friendly.

[21:35] | [] | Comments | G

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