Archive for The North

the wisdom of crowds [book review]

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2022 by xi'an

As I had read rather negative reviews of the conclusion to Joe Abercrombie’s trilogy, The Age of Madness, which mixes the fantastic medieval universe of the earlier books with an industrial revolution leading to riots and the eventual overthrow of the aristocratic regime, I started reading the final volume with some worry that I would not enjoy it as much as the earliest masterpieces! However, the worry was not needed as I essentially read the book over two days, being stuck between two invasive neighbours in an eight hour flight being of course a further incentive..! Obviously, the series of trilogies has been going on for way too long and I have lost both track and interest in the genealogies of characters reappearing through them. Still, this conclusion (??) is rather neat, if somewhat less cynical and less brutal than for the others. Except of course that one very central character dies. And that another returns to her earlier self-enrichment tendencies by pretending to turn to charity work… The least cynical character ends up being Vic, the exécuteur des basses oeuvres (similar to Fouché who would end up being Napoleon’s chief policeman). The setting is very close to the French Revolution unraveling, with an out-of-touch aristocracy cannot handle riots fed by terrible working conditions (and fed by competing kingdoms and scheming mages). A first round in a search for a new (parliamentary) Constitution, à la Danton, followed by Terreur, a radical elimination of the State “enemies”, using a Tarpeian Rock rather than a guillotine, and then a successful counter-revolution supported by other states… The cover of the book actually uses a painting from the French revolution. This is however well-rendered, with great characters, little magic if any, and a parallel plot in the North following Rikke’s precarious hold through hilarious never-ending swearing dialogues. And a few unexpected turns. I thus really enjoyed the book. Except for the return of Bayaz which I would have done without as he appears rarely in the story and with no clear purpose.

The trouble with peace [book review]

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , on December 26, 2020 by xi'an

This is the second volume of Joe Abercombie‘s The Age of Madness trilogy, which takes place (as usual) in a renaissance-like universe, except it now comes with Da Vinci’s like industrial innovations starting to disrupt its medieval social order (and the role of magic, almost gone) and making this admittedly ugly cover relevant. (Just like the rich quotes and titles from his previous books, Abercrombie is demonstrating a serious grasp of literature, since the title comes from a line of Bertold Brecht: “You know what the trouble with peace is? No organization.”)

“Enemies are like furniture, aren’t they? Better chosen for oneself than inherited.”

This book is just as good as the previous one, if a bit slow in building its climactic battle and somewhat predictable. The characters are as formidable as previously, if facing steep odds and declines of fortune, with hilarious scenes and dialogues (as always with Abercrombie), including some pastiches of Trumpian talks. And a more serious take on the standards of the genre, with workers becoming a revolutionary force ready to overthrown the antiquated power structure. Looking forward the last volume, planned to be published a year from now.

guess what..?! Yet another worskhop in the endless summer Bayesian series!

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Running, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2018 by xi'an

Dennis Prangle pointed to me the perfectly timed i-like workshop taking place in Newcastle, on the days priors to ABC in Edinburgh and ISBA (similarly in Edinburgh!). (Note that Warwick is also part of the i-like network. Actually, the first i-like workshop was my first trip abroad after the Accident!) I may sound negative about these workshops, but on the opposite am quite a fan of them, just regretting that the main event did not take advantage of them all to reduce the volume of talks there. As I suggested, it could have been feasible to label these satellites as part of the main conference towards making speakers at these officially speakers at ISBA 2018 in case talks were required for support…

The i-like workshop 2018 is the sixth edition of a yearly series of workshops dedicated to the topic of intractable likelihoods, hosted by Newcastle University. The workshop will take place from Wednesday 20 June 2018 – Friday 22 June 2018 in Room 2.98, Armstrong Building, Newcastle upon Tyne. Registration is free and mandatory!

I spent a few days in Newcastle at the RSS meeting of 2013, with my friends Jim Hobert and Elias Moreno. Enjoying very much the city, its surroundings, the great meadow north of the city in a glorious sunset (I still bemoan not catching on camera!). And it is just in the vicinity of Hadrian’s Wall, just on the other side of the Borders, very close to Edinburgh in fact.

Manchester, United we stand!

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , , on May 24, 2017 by xi'an

This is the place
In the north-west of England. It’s ace, it’s the best
And the songs that we sing from the stands, from our bands
Set the whole planet shaking.
Our inventions are legends. There’s nowt we can’t make, and so we make brilliant music
We make brilliant bands

We make goals that make souls leap from seats in the stands
And we make things from steel
And we make things from cotton
And we make people laugh, take the mick summat rotten
And we make you at home
And we make you feel welcome and we make summat happen
And we can’t seem to help it
And if you’re looking from history, then yeah we’ve a wealth

But the Manchester way is to make it yourself.
And make us a record, a new number one
And make us a brew while you’re up, love, go on
And make us feel proud that you’re winning the league
And make us sing louder and make us believe that this is the place that has helped shape the world

And so this is the place now with kids of our own. Some are born here, some drawn here, but they all call it home.
And they’ve covered the cobbles, but they’ll never defeat, all the dreamers and schemers who still teem through these streets.
Because this is a place that has been through some hard times: oppressions, recessions, depressions, and dark times.
But we keep fighting back with Greater Manchester spirit. Northern grit, Northern wit, and Greater Manchester’s lyrics.

Tony Walsh

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