Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Londonish things

Because I’m feeling rather Londonish, after spending a wonderful, peaceful, enlightened few days there over Thanksgiving at Jonathan’s place.

I’m not going to write about it now, though. The above picture will be enough to impart the magic. So, to business: Google maps and the British Library team together to create a London where the deep wells of history are placed over the streets. You must sink them yourself.

The St. Pancras hotel development seems... thankfully redbrick, but a large block in the sketches looks ominous. Old bricks used in new buildings do not matchmake naturally.

Travelling on the Docklands Light Railway is excellent when the weather is clear and the mornings crisp, and since London’s docks have always been its lifeblood, reading about them is an excellent way to jumpstart new adventures. As is dropping into an old London church or two.

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Shostakovich, and other things which matter

Sorry about the lack of recent posting. I’ve been rather wrapped up with work, not to mention the fact that a very good friend of mine visited last weekend and we talked about varied things instead of blogging about them. But while we’re on the subject, he's featured in a book which was published recently, so go buy.

The featured buy in this post, however, is here because I’m aware that it’s nearly Christmas (all too aware — the local shopping centre has had its trees and decorations up for a week!) and you'’ll obviously be looking for meaty yet excellent value classical purchases for your friends.

This set of Shostakovich’s symphonies is just that. Conducted by Mariss Jansons, who grew up while Shostakovich was still alive and composing, the works sweep and leap and jerk from the speakers in all their schizophrenic splendour, and there are only a few stretches where he doesn’t quite hit the mark, and where the performances could be described as ‘tasteful’. It must be very easy to perform the symphonies badly, but there’s never any of that here. I picked up all 10 CDs for £35; when you consider that there are 12 hours of first-time discovery here, and many more for the repeated listening this set effortlessly merits, it’s damn good value.

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