Pompeii by Mary Beard (amazon .uk .com)
I’m not going to write a long review but just a brief overview of this book with a few online references for following up by myself and anyone else interested.
Pompeii starts with the falling pumice stone on the city of Pompeii on the 25th August 79CE. What book on Pompeii could start in any other way than to take you via the people trapped, and forced to witness forever to us this human tragedy 2000 years ago? Their frozen bodies at once connect us to this city in a way the buried city buildings never will. But after the introduction Mary Beard leaves the statues of the dead respectfully behind to give anyone interested a run down on the city, and what it can and can’t tell us.
Miss Beard has a good way of writing, she can summarise complicated points well and make them easily digestible, and she tries not to get too carried away, but let the actual evidence contain her assumptions.
It’s wonderful to follow the speculation forinstance about the possible one way road system or try to imagine the stench of the street / open sewer system of the town. How many people could read? How many citizens and slaves? How did the local elections work? The architecture, paintings, everything is gone over in the search for information about Pompeii and the Roman world, and through it I found myself building up a much more detailed picture than I previously had before.
The sections on making a visit and further reading make this book more than a vivid capturing of the city into the first book you should read if you are going to visit the city.
Mary Beard since writing this has produced with the BBC quite a few films including one on Pompeii, it’s below with a few other links.
Kirjava Keskiaika is a beautiful finnish website which opens up for anyone the oldest and most precious books existing in Finland, download the text in pdf format. Also the books and other medieval treasures are mapped and a short written history of the object given.
A nice article in HS about the Finnish construction industry in Libya through the 80′s which was as a market second only to Russia for them. There are lots of quotes here including a good one about having to remember about the different social and cultural structures they had to design for;
The dwellings in Ras Lanuf had to be big – an average 160 square metres. This is because there are no one-person households in Libya. The elderly and unmarried siblings live under the same roof with the nuclear family. The living rooms had to be big so that the men of the village would fit in to hold meetings. Women and children needed space of their own. When bathrooms were built it was important that the toilets did not point toward Mecca. -Pentti Murole
Our old company I know was involved in projects in Libya as well as other parts of Africa at that time, how much of it now rubble I don’t know.
23 lectures on Roman Architecture, in case you wondered what a first year history of Architecture course would be like.
A wonderful post and map (seen above) from Locating Helsinki about the coast at the centre of Helsinki and how it has changed, and Darren found a list of islands some of them shown on the image above which have disappeared. Another set of large changes are due to take place over the coming years also with the industrial port being moved and urban redevelopment happening in it’s place. Click on map for a larger view.
Yesterday Google updated their 3d buildings layer in google earth so that now downtown Helsinki is modelled. It all looks really good, but clearly some of the modelling was automated as there are plenty of building facades that are just the vegetation in front of the building. This should be cleared up in time though. Also I hope they can start to add more to Vantaa and Espoo and really make it a map of Greater Helsinki proper.
Also last week I started a flickr group Finnish Architecture and Google Map of the same name, the flickr group is totally public and just drop me an email to be able to edit the google map. Hopefully these two places can be for collaboration and discovery for everyone. Read on for the map.
That little old granny crossing Mannerheimintie infront of you may just have been a heroin addict. Between 1930 and 1950 Finland consumed more heroin per capita than anywhere else on earth.
In Northern Europe we were really the odd men out. Finnish heroin consumption was many times higher than that of Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland – and just to put that into perspective, we are talking the combined figure of those four countries.
It was given liberally out during WWII also, see the amazing story of Aimo Koivunen a commando during the war and one of the first Finns to overdose on speed. The reason for there being so much use of Heroin in Finland is because it was a prescription drug present in many popular medicines of the time. But when Finland wanted to join the UN it phased out use of the drug quite quickly.
Another map and model of predicting where a person will come from in europe based on his genetics.(via) It is only based on common variations and not rare ones so the chances are that the map can be made more accurate in the future at least until the genetic pool gets more mixed up with the increasingly common sight of mixed nationality marriages (even in Finland!).
White Death by Robert Edwards
Amazon uk | usa
As a British citizen I was brought up with the popular blockbuster WWII films and jingoistic historical notion ofÂ WWII being a kind of good versus evil battle. The idea is still somewhat preserved now with the Third Reich being the last word in totalitarian regimes, in the West at any rate. Added to this theÂ Eastern Front and the allies vital alliance with Russia is so little remembered in these notions of that war. Continue reading
Decoding the Heavens is a book about the Antikythera mechanism a 2000 year old device that could conceivably be called the worlds first computer. There is a nice short video of the man responsible for rebuilding it describing what it does.
When the Russians controlled Finland they built a nationwide network of fortifications. Afraid of a Barbarossa style attack and capture of the then Capitol St. Petersburg. Helsinki was also fortified although most of these fortifications were never used. Now much is destroyed or ignored, while some houses have old fortifications running through their gardens.
Krepost Sveaborg – A great site to find out about the Helsinki Fortifications in particular.
HS has taken some photos (list) of how they are now – zoom out on the map to about 10km and you will see what I mean.
Finland for Thought there are some good comments here too.
hugovk has some good photos.
Biologists have made a genetic map of Europe which as you can see roughly resembles Europe Geographically.
The map also identifies the existence of two genetic barriers within Europe. One is between the Finns (light blue, upper right) and other Europeans. It arose because the Finnish population was at one time very small and then expanded, bearing the atypical genetics of its few founders.
A couple of things come to my mind on seeing this map. One is the surprising genetic distance between Sweden and Finland, although Finland was part of the Swedish Empire for over 400 years, suggesting that Swedish immigration over that time really was small. Also that Poland faces Finland on the map but where do the Eastern Eurpean states figure, countries like Estonia for example, and it would be really interesting to map Russia onto this too.
ViaÂ actHeliski & NYT
Also found a periodic table of Europeans.
Cities By John Reader
Being currently housebound because of an ear operation I was able to get through this book quicker than usual. Anyway John Reader takes us on a historical trip through the city starting in Mesopotamia 6,000 years ago and finishing at the present day taking a quick view at the usual suspects, London, Rome, Venice, New York and a few others. I agree with the author that this book is needed as the city is ‘the defining artifact of civilisation‘, and by 2030 two thirds of us will be living in one. So the concept of the book is clear, better understand the city, how it works and how they differ and you will better understand civilisations and the forces at work in cities that even shape the outcome of wars and empires themselves. In answering the problems of the city we may be able to solve some of the environmental issues that face humanity now. Its optimistic and upbeat and demonstrates a love for the city and is full of interesting facts. Its pulled together very well too, and is eminently readable which is no small advantage. While perhaps the conclusion could draw from the whole book more clearly it is an excellent book and should be on every ones ‘city reader’ list.