Wednesday, July 19, 2006


An Fear Moncai sent me flowers, because he is far away and it has been a trying week. The great thing is, I sit way up at the end of my office, so the flower man had to walk past all my coworkers to get to me. Hooray!

Ahab's Wife

Now this is more the thing. An enormous modern take on the epic 19th century novel. A woman's perspective on whaling, a companion piece to Moby Dick, a book that takes every living thing that whaling stories of the time exclude - women, dwarves, dogs, cats, children, slaves, Indians, and openly gay men - and crams them all into one big stove-by-a-whale, ate-my-shipmates, lived-in-a-lighthouse, married-not-one-but-two-nutters, met-Frederick-Douglass-and-Nathaniel-Hawthorne romp. You know the kind of thing. This is a superb book. I recommend it unreservedly.
And I really want a print of that picture on the front, too.

To Hell or Barbados

Perhaps it is that I have finally read everything there is to read about the sea, but more likely it is that Mr. O'Callaghan is not the best writer of narrative history, but this is not an interesting or particularly enlightening book. It tells you in 250 pages that Cromwell sent somewhere between 12,000 and 50,000 Irish people to Barbados as slaves.

And that's kind of it. If you've never read a book about slavery, or transportation, or colonialism, I guess you might get something out of this, but even then it's not very well put together. It is not necessary, in a 250 page book, to repeat information. It's even less necessary to repeat the gory details of the 17th century slave trade, but he does. Lazy editing? Padding? Either way, not the most impressive. I'm sure a really good narrative historian could do a lot with this material, but... you get my drift.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

More car news

I've just had the helpful guards from Laytown station on the phone to let me know that if anyone hurts themselves on my car, I will be liable, and so I better get it shifted as soon as possible.

Very useful news at NINE O'CLOCK AT FUCKING NIGHT.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Warning! Contains swearing

Look who's got a myspace page.

Rude Italians

My blog does not get a lot of visitors. I do not have fun stories to tell about Mr. T, nor do I have photos of children with paint all over them. Which is fine and as long as my friends can keep up with my news (in a vague way, with all names changed to protect the innocent), and see that the books-with-pictures-of-ships-on-the-front obsession is still going okay, I'm happy.

Nevertheless, like everyone else who has a blog, I'm always curious to see who the strangers are who wash up here. For some reason, the query that seems to lead people here most often is "rude+italians". I know that this is because I once blogged about a book that claimed that Rome was full of rude Italians. But I've no idea why this is something that people would go looking for. Is it a band name? A play? A pron film? Lazy journalism?

Luckily, idle speculation without the interference of facts or subject knowledge is something at which we excel here in Accent Acres, so I'll get right on that right now.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

A good walk spoiled

I get up this morning at my usual time of 6am, determined to get out in the lovely summer sunshine with the Milo and the Cody for a nice walk.

I take a picture of some lovely people who have been camping up at the wall opposite Mosney train station. How lovely for them, I think.

The dogs agree to sit for a picture, as long as I give them a biscuit. Just so I can show everyone what a lovely morning it is, on our lovely walk.

Milo even has a little swim. See how warm it is, even at 7am? Lovely. How happy Mister Monkey will be to see what a nice time we had while he was away.

Oh look. How lovely. My fucking car is on poxy fire. Someone has torched it. At 7.45 in the morning. How nice.

And so the firemen come to put out my car. They do not talk to me or acknowledge my existence. They are busy putting out the fire. Cousin Housemate notices that one of them lights up a fag on his way back to the bee baw.

And now my car is left sitting in the car park, all melty and scorchio. As are my glasses, which were in the car at the time. And the ball throwers for the dogs. And my shopping bags (a carefully assembled collection).

I suppose it's my fault for having such a lovely car in the first place.


Friday, July 14, 2006

Phrases you don't like to hear, part four

We turned north, for Ahab would have another whale.

charismatic megafauna

I learned this phrase yesterday from The Economist, in a piece about the possible resumption of commercial whaling. Which would be very bad.

I know they're talking about minke whales, and not blue whales or right whales, but still.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Alone and unreal

Poor Syd. When I was 19 and 20, he was so important to me. I must have listened to The Madcap Laughs and Barrett (I had the two-in-one double vinyl set) every day for about three years. His songs are great, for singing, like.

Altogether now, yes I'm thii-iiiiiiii-iiiiiiiiiiiinking...

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Elizabeth Costello

J.M. Coetzee is not an easy or fun writer, and Elizabeth Costello is not an easy or fun book. Although it says clearly in white letters on the cover that it is fiction, it is not really a novel, but a series of lectures or essays around the themes of animal rights, evil, writing, confinement, humanity, religion, art, and the proper exercise of power. Clever thoughts and neat, spare turns of phrase abound. On the surface, it is about us following Elizabeth Costello, a writer, through a number of engagements such as delivering lectures, accepting prizes, visiting her sister at a hospital in Africa. All of these engagements bring out a different set of beliefs and trigger a different lecture, a different essay on one of the topics Coetzee has prepared earlier. Elizabeth Costello is in some of these positions - she is herded like an animal, argued with, misunderstood. Her personal space is invaded. She is struck, she reveals herself, she writes, she eats or does not eat, she tries to get into heaven, she goes to Antarctica. You, the reader, get to make of it what you will. The blankness of Coetzee's writing lets you make up your own mind about her, and whether she is mouthing his words or not. It's all very clever.

But of course, because I am the kind of person who does not normally read challenging fiction, fiction made of clever thoughts, I am suspicious of this book. Is Coetzee really clever? Or rather, are the ideas he discusses here really clever, or are they really basic philosophical questions that are so simplistic they can be inserted into a loose narrative and be packaged as fiction, even though they're not?
Was this an experiment to make me, a reader of fiction (and a reader of Booker Prize winners, at that, and therefore a reader of quality fiction, not any old tat) think that I am clever? Is it a mindless book dressed up as something more, like the ape from Kafka's story, which Coetzee discusses? Or is it really the well-thought out quality it appears to be at first reading?
It's hot. I'm tired, and I may or may not be rambling.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Sea of Glory

How is it, Nathaniel Philbrick asks, that a squadron of American ships can sail to Antarctica and be the first to map it as a continent, make some of the most useful charts of Pacific islands (some of which were still in use until the Second World War), come back with a collection big and important enough to start up the nation's first public science museum (the Smithsonian), and draw up some of the most accurate charts of the American northwest, and no-one has ever heard of them?
The answer: politics and bad management skills. Charles Wilkes, leader of the Exploring Expedition, was not a facilitator. He was a maverick and an ambitious weirdo who didn't know anything about the sea. He was promoted into a job he wasn't trained for and left hanging by the people who stuck him in there. When he got back from doing his job, he was buried because he raised too many questions and was unpopular. Sounds familiar?

Depressing, isn't it?

Happy July Fourth, America.

Bandwagoning Beijing

That's a phrase I came across last week in work. I've also been reading (skimming) stuff about Colombian paramilitaries, American televangelists who are trying to breed a red heifer (using god's own, er, mutations and natural selection) and some boring studies about fund-raising.
The lion sits at the desk next to mine. The christmas decorations sit on the desk behind mine. I will take a picture of the lucky cats soon.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Plucky Canada has own day

To all my homeys in and from the frozen north. Happy Canada Day.

Phrases you don't like to hear, part three

Daleks and Cybermen together could upgrade the world!