DXMachina (dxmachina) wrote,

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Sharp Turns and Sharpe Learns

So, I finally got to take a ride on the new, not-quite-open section of the bike path yesterday. My first impression is, "What the frell were they thinking about?" I should explain. The path follows to old right-of-way of the Narragansett Pier Railroad, which ran from Kingston to Narragansett, by way of the villages of Peacedale and Wakefield. The completed first section runs through the Great Swamp from Kingston to the outskirts of Peacedale. I always wondered how they were going to get through the village, because Peacedale is in, well, a little dale. When the railroad was there, it was elevated. It ran along on a long stone and metal trestle, all of which was torn down in the eighties. (It's a shame they took the stone part of the trestle down. If it was mostly intact, they could've just built a couple of wooden bridges to replace the old metal ones, and everything would've been just ducky.)

All of this means that they had to find a way to go from the original right-of-way down to ground level as you enter the village. RI DOT in it's "wisdom" decided to use a switchback ramp to do it. Switchback ramps are the kind of ramps you find in ballparks, where you go halfway down the ramp to a landing, then turn 180 ° and go down another ramp. The Peacedale ramp has three sections, so there are two 180° turns that have to be negotiated. This is fine if you're walking, not so much if you're on a bike. Couple that with the fact that the ramp sits at the bottom of the steepest hill on the whole path, and you have the opportunity for a bunch of bikes to run smack into a concrete and chain link wall at 25 or 30 miles per hour. Morons! There had to have been a better way.

After you get past the ramp, the rest of Peacedale isn't too bad. Apparently the right-of-way near the old train station was privately held, so they routed that part of the path down Railroad Avenue, which hasn't been paved in decades, it seems. After that, though, it's great. The path runs along the side of an old cemetary for half a mile, then turns and pops out in the middle of downtown Wakefield, where they put in a light so you can cross Main Street. Beyond that you're behind houses until it ends at Rt. 108. The round trip from Kingston station is now just under thirteen miles. I'm not sure how often I'll do the new section. I really do hate that ramp.

Finished rereading Sharpes Rifles on Friday. It's interesting to compare it to the adaptation, and speculate about why they made the changes they did. The main story line is the same, Sharpe helps Major Blas Vivar raise the Gonfalon of Santiago, which causes the peasantry in the north of Spain to rise up against the French invaders. In the book, they raise it over the cathedral of a large city that is occupied by a thousand crack French troops. In the adaptation they raise it over a teensy church in a tiny village guarded by about thirty men. TV budgets are a bitca.

In the adaptation, there's a secondary plot about a missing banker, which is why Sharpe is sent out into the hills in the first place. It doesn't happen in the book (the Methodists show up, but they really *are* Methodists), because it isn't necessary. Sharpe is already in the hills, a quartermaster in a British unit that is running for it's life from the French. When all the other officers are killed in an attack, he finds himself in command of a unit on the verge of mutiny, and lost besides. He really has no choice but to join with Vivar when the opportunity arises. The reason for the change, I think, stems from the desire to show Sharpe being raised from the ranks onscreen (in the books it happened in India), which puts him in Wellesley's army at the start of the show, so they needed an excuse to send him out into the hills. It's a shame they couldn't come up with a better idea, because what they went with just feels tacked on.

The book, being longer, has the time to show the slow turnabout of Harper's and Sharpe's attitudes towards each other. In the adaptation it only takes a scene or two, really not enough time for the development of that kind of mutual respect.

And then there is Theresa. I will never complain about Assumpta Serna showing up onscreen, but the only reason she's there is so Sharpe can get some. (In the book, he never does.) In order to have her there, the character of Vivar changes quite a bit, too. In the book, Vivar is a very much the leader of men, a cavalry officer who is an extraordinary fighter and intuitive tactician. In the adaptation, Theresa does the fighting and instructs Sharpe in the ways of leadership, while Vivar is just sort of along for the ride, and you never really get why the Rifles would rather follow him than Sharpe. In his final duel with the Count, you have to wonder how he managed to win, since he's really shown nothing to that point. In the book there is no doubt that he's the better fighter of the two brothers.

I'll probably throw Sharpe's Eagle in the truck for my lunchtime reading this week, but meanwhile I started a reread of Sweet Silver Blues, the first in Glen Cook's Garrett, P.I., series of fantasy noir novels.

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