Fearful Symmetry

Film. Books. Comics. TV. Music.

Posts Tagged ‘Non Fiction

Backroom Boys by Francis Spufford

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Backroom Boys

Recently finished Backroom Boys and was a bit disappointed in it to be honest since its been portrayed as the best book on technology in recent years. Admittedly, for the most part, it’s an easy read and there is quite a lot of interest in it – especially the story of the rise of mobile phones – but instead of looking at the hard-core techy bits it mostly dances around the peripheries of its stories looking at the sociological and economic aspects. This is probably why it’s been so highly rated by none-technologists… it’s technology-lite.

When I was a kid I had a poster of Concord on my wall and I always thought it’s one of the sadder aspects of the new century that such an engineering wonder is no longer flying. Spufford’s book has a chapter on Concord… but instead of looking at why is was so ground-breaking in the first place, or the reasons it was stopped from flying so quickly, Spufford concentrates on some economic jiggery-pokery that allowed it to keep going in the 80s. Interesting in itself but I can’t help feeling it’s not the real story.

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Written by Fearful Symmetry

July 24, 2009 at 10:07 am

A Teacup In A Storm by Mike Conefrey

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A Teacup In A Storm

A Teacup In A Storm

This was a Christmas present – the sort of book I would not normally buy for myself. It’s basically one of those things you are supposed to dip into but I ended up reading it cover to cover. This may give you some idea on how good I thought it was. It’s basically about exploration in all it’s aspects going into some detail for landmark journeys; covering mainly mountain climbing, in particular Everest; the Arctic and Antarctic, in particular the various races to the poles; plus various expeditions into Africa across Australia etc. Short, easy to read segments, are interspersed with lists, such as what various polar missions had for Christmas Dinner and extractions from publications. The latter includes some hilarious advice on how to avoid begin eaten by a big snake, apparently you let it eat half of you then stab it in the head. Don’t try that at home.

Whilst seemingly light and trivial, at it’s heart the book tries to answer a simple question: why do some explorations fail and some succeed? It seems to be mostly down to the character of the people, especially the leader. The way the he (and it’s almost always a he) picks his team, plans the mission and then manages the actual exploration is critical. A balance has to be struck between boldness and caution and simply knowing when to give up to save your men. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fearful Symmetry

July 6, 2009 at 9:38 am

Down And Dirty Pictures by Peter Biskind

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Down and dirty

Down and dirty

I’ve read and enjoyed Biskind’s earlier book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls (subtitled: How The Sex-Drugs-and-Rock ‘N’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood) so I was really looking forward to this on the film business in the 90s (this one is subtitled: Miramax, Sundance, And The Rise of Independent Film). Whilst Easy Riders is bursting with interesting information and stories about the great personalities of its time, unfortunately in comparison, Down and Dirty falls flat.

As the subtitle suggests the book chronicles the rise in importance of Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival and The Weinstien brothers’ Miramax films. Although it also includes by way of comparison, the downfall of October films, it has a much narrower field of view compared to the previous work with its coverage of multiple giants of industry including Scorsese, Spielberg, Lucas, Coppola, Friedkin, Altman, Fonda, Hopper, etc, etc. Down And Dirty does mention many directors and producers but perhaps, because the events are more recent, they have not yet risen so high in prominence, bar the odd exception – like Tarentino or perhaps Kevin Smith. Or may be they just had bigger personalities back then. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fearful Symmetry

June 26, 2009 at 11:11 pm