Saturday, December 8, 2018

A cold morning, promising to be bright. I've been awake most of the night, falling asleep only to dream about car crashes, so I'd just as soon turn my thoughts to sunshine. I've got packages to mail, cards to write, trim to paint, a novel to edit. Here's hoping that all of it makes me very tired by the time 1 a.m. comes around again.

I'm still splashing and wallowing in The Birth of the Modern. I love a big messy history-of-everything, and this is a classic . . . one excellent anecdote after another. Here, for instance, is some fake news, 1814-style:

"[Robert] Fulton's battleship carried thirty 32-lb guns firing red-hot shot and was also equipped to fire 100-lb projectiles below the waterline. With its 120 horsepower developing a speed of up to 5mph and independent of the wind, it theoretically outclassed any vessel in the British fleet. Stories of this terrifying monster, which was launched on the East River on 29 June 1814, reached Britain and grew in the telling. The Edinburgh Evening Courant doubled the ship's size and credited her with 44 guns, including four giant 100-pounders. The newspaper added: "To annoy an enemy attempting to board it can discharge 100 gallons of boiling water a minute and, by mechanism, brandishing 300 cutlasses with the utmost regularity over her gunwales and works also an equal number of heavy iron pikes of great length, darting them from her sides with prodigious force." [Weird grammar in the original]

If any of you care to make a scale model of this, I'd be glad to see it.

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