Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Saturday February 17 2018

I still get cheques through the post, and then I insert these cheques into my bank account by going physically to my local physical branch of my unlocal bank and by handing the cheques over to a cashier.  My bank, however, doesn’t like this.  Just like Tesco, they want me to do the work.  In Tesco’s case they now demand that I become my own check-out person and operate their computers for them.  So, it’s Sainsbury’s and Waitrose for me, from now on.  Bye bye Tesco.  In the bank’s case, they want me to do their work for them while I sit at home.  But, I like the exercise.  In the huge bank queue, I get to read a book concentratedly, because there is nothing else to do.  Good.

All of which is a preamble to the fact that when I came across this, I LedOL:

“Are you aware that you can now do all of this online?”

image

Genius.  K. J. Lamb, well done.

One of the many techniques they use to put you off actually going to the physical local branch of your Big Bank is to keep changing the people behind the bars.  And these total strangers are constantly, and insultingly, asking you to prove that you are who you are.  Well, madam, I’ve been banking with your bank for the last half century.  Who the hell are you?  Please could you give me proof that you actually do work here?

Someone should make a movie about a twenty first century bank robbery, where the robbers, who are disgruntled ex-employees of the Big Bank that owns the bank branch they bust into, bust into the bank branch, overpower the witless bunch of newbies who happen to be running the place that day, and park them all in a back room for the day with tape over their months, and then the robbers run the bank all day long, while one of their number hacks into the mainframe computer of the Big Bank that owns everything, and sucks all the money out of it.  The point is: none of the customers who visit the branch while all this is happening would find it in the slightest bit odd to be confronted by a bunch of total strangers.  That would ring no alarm bells at all, because this happens all the time.

Friday February 16 2018

You wait nearly thirteen years at BMdotcom for a giant penis photo, and then, out of the blue, two come along.  That one, in the post before last yesterday, and this one:

image

Crikey, blimey, etc..  Or as we Brits also used to say: Well I’m blowed.

Fox News, so also “other creatures”.

You Had One Job calls this an “unfortunate helicopter shot”.  But I bet the photoer could hardly believe his extreme good fortune.

I like it when cars are old enough to have round headlights, and I especially like it when they have not just two round headlights, but four round headlights:

image

Photoed by me in Wilton Road, on my way to Victoria Station, earlier this month.  My camera does artificially lit darkness rather well, I think.  In reality, things were not nearly so clear, or not to me.

I know, I know.  Friday is the day here for cats and other creatures, not for antique cars.  But, this car looks American, and I would not be at all surprised to learn that it too is some kind of animal, like a Cougar or a Mustang or some such thing.  Anyone?

Some day soon, you’ll be able to feed a photo like this into Google and say: What kind of car is this?  Perhaps that day is already here.

But hey, how about this?!?  I’m definitely getting better at this internet searching malarkey.  On the bonnet of this car it says “R/T”.  So, I typed “r/t car” into Google, and straight away got to this:

R/T is the performance marker used on Dodge automobiles since the 1960s (much like Chevrolet Super Sport). R/T stands for Road/Track (no “and"). R/T models come with R/T badging, upgraded suspension, tires, brakes, and more powerful engines.

So, which Dodge would this one be?  (Scrolls down through all the pictures on offer.) It would be, unless my eyes deceive me, the 1971 Dodge Charger Super Bee.  A charger and a “super” bee.  So, two kinds of incompatible other creature.  There you go.  What did I just tell you?

Thursday February 15 2018

Here:

image

The best comment I can think of is another photo, one of the many that I took in the Churchill Dungeon, this one being an item for sale in the gift shop:

image

I love words.  I sometimes I fail to think of the right ones, but they never fail me.  It just that I am sometimes not worthy of them.

But I found some good ones this time, I think,

Wednesday February 14 2018

The internet never forgets:

image

That the Corbynistas are on the side of the crazies in the Middle East is of no direct relevance to British voters.  Who cares what they think about that outdoor lunatic asylum, provided only that they keep us out of it?  That’s probably what most voters think.  But Venezuela is relevant to Britain’s voters, because it is what Corbyn and his followers will start doing to Britain, if they ever get the chance.  Venezuela used to be a reasonably well functioning country.  Now it is: … Venezuela.

Tuesday February 13 2018

I like to take sneaky selfies, with other amusing things.  I have a file full of such selfies with other amusing things, from which I extracted the photo below.  This sneaky selfie has something very amusing in it, besides me.  So much so that I rather suspect I was photoing it (back in March 2010), and that I only got in the picture by accident.

image

Why I like to take sneaky selfies will have to wait.  My concern now is the other amusing thing, the gymnasium I was photoing, through its big front window.  This was in Warwick Way, where another doomed enterprise, Blockbuster Video, used once to be.

The particularly amusing thing, to me, about this gymnasium was that throughout the few short months of its woebegone existence, I never once, despite going past it every time I ever shopped in either my local Sainsbury’s or my local Tesco, ever, saw anyone in it.  Nobody exercising.  Nobody doing anything.

My theory is that the big front window put people right off the idea of doing what for spectators would have been dance routines.  Besides which, Warwick Way is not really a gymnasium sort of locality.  People in the Warwick Way area get their exercise by doing such things as going to their preferred supermarket and then lugging their numerous carefully chosen purchases, maybe to their cars, but more probably straight to their homes, in big bags.  Special places set aside for taking exercise happen only in places where life itself does not supply enough exercise to all those present, or so goes my theory.

LATER: It now occurs to me, eight years later, that maybe this was not a gymnasium, but rather a place for selling gymnasium equipment.  But whatever, I never saw anyone in their, either exercising, or trying out exercising equipment with a view to purchasing it.

Monday February 12 2018

The relationship between, and influence of, photography on artistic painting has always been intimate, and profound.

I can remember when landscape and figurative painting was everywhere.  That would be about fifty years ago and more.  But now?  Do any “important” artists do this any more?  Not many, is my distinct impression.  If there is any “realism” involved, it is usually realism with a twist, and often some kind of violation or distortion.  That guy, who was perfectly capable of terrific realistic painting, was one of the leaders of art out of mere realism.  “Psychological”, instead of literal, truth.

A big part of why this trend out of realism happened is to be found in pictures like this one, of a fire, done recently by 6k.  6k didn’t even have his “camera” with him, when he photoed this.  But, says he, “my phone did ok”.  More than ok, I’d say:

image

I recall speculating along these lines recently, at a party.  Painters don’t do the “beauty” of the “real world” any more (I said), in fact (I said) they don’t really do “beauty” at all any more, because now everyone can do great pictures, just by going click with their phones, and everyone now has a phone.

My companion illustrated my point for me by immediately taking out his “phone” and showing me some amazing landscape photos on it that he had taken that very day.  They were stunning.  His point, and mine, is that this required no very great skill on his part, just a half decent and half alert eye for something worth photoing.

So it is that “art” has not so much “advanced” into its various alternative realities of abstraction and conceptualisation, but rather has retreated into these things.  Chased out of doing beautiful recreations of reality by technology.

Sunday February 11 2018

But not this year.

But yes, last year’s Six Nation’s rugby tournament made it possible for one of the nations involved to achieve an even Grander Grand Slam than ever before, not just by the regular Grand Slam method of winning all its five games, but by scoring a maximum number of points in the final table, hereinafter termed “table points”, by scoring at least four tries in every victorious game.

The Wikipedia hive mind is utterly untrustworthy on matters which are politically controversial, but in matters of mere sport, I assume it not to lie very often, and here is what it says on this matter:

Played annually, the format of the Championship is simple: each team plays every other team once (making a total of 15 matches), with home ground advantage alternating from one year to the next. Prior to the 2017 tournament, two points were awarded for a win, one for a draw and none for a loss. Unlike many other rugby union competitions the bonus point system has not previously been used.

On 30 November 2016, the 6 Nations Committee announced that the bonus point system will be trialled for the 2017 Championship. The system will be similar to the one used in most rugby championships (0 points for a loss, 2 for a draw, 4 for a win, 1 for scoring four or more tries in match, and 1 for losing by 7 points or fewer), with the only difference being that a Grand Slam winner will be given 3 extra points to ensure they finish top of the table.

So, you can now win all your games and score four tries or more in each of them, and get a maximum total of 5 times 5 equals 25 table points plus 3 table points equals 28 table points for the entire tournament.

As Round Two of the tournament drew to a close with the Scotland France game, just two teams can still win a Grand Slam of the old fashioned sort, with five wins by whatever margins.  But although England and Ireland both ran in a ridiculous number of tries in their games against Italy, neither managed to score four tries in their other game, against Wales and France respectively.  So, both England and Ireland are at the top of the table with just 9 table points each, and can only end with a maximum of 27 table points.  So no Even Grander Slam for anyone this year.

In my previous Six Nations posting, I wrote off Italy.  But they are at least, for this year anyway, proving to be entertaining losers rather than just loser losers.  Traditionally, Italy have defended well but offered nothing much in attack, beyond a few fluke tries of the sort you’ll always get against tiring or weaker teams.  But now, they seem to be prioritising attack.  This means that instead of getting beaten 20 points to 10 points (hereinafter termed “game points"), they now get beaten something more like 50-20 game points, which is a hell of a lot more amusing to watch.  Instead of trying to bring other teams down to their dreary level, they are trying to raise their game to the level of their opponents.  In table points parlance, Italy have switched from trying to win, or failing that lose by less than seven points, to trying to win, or failing that to lose while scoring four tries or more.  Personally I find this a considerable improvement.

Take yesterday.  In the Italy Ireland game, Ireland had their four tries bonus point in the bag by half time, with Italy having scored a big fat zero of game points.  But in the second half, Italy kept on trying for tries, and the try count was: Ireland four (more), Italy three.  So, although Italy were never going to get a table point from only losing by a bit, they were, by the end, just one slightly cleverer pass away from getting a fourth try, right at the death.  Shame.

In the other game yesterday, England scored two early tries and looked odds on to get at least four, but actually managed no more game points at all.  England were then very lucky, with the video referee refusing to award Wales what the commentators all said was a good try.  If that Wales not-try had been given they could well have won.  But then again, there was an amazing tackle by an England player when Wales looked odds on to score another try, by which I mean a different not-try, so maybe England deserved it.  It was very tense.  I had to be somewhere else, and ended up being late because I could neither watch it nor not watch it.  I ended up watching it and not watching it to the not bitter end.

France Italy, in two weeks time, looks like it could be a lot of fun.  Italy will be well up for it, and France might, if they get off to a bad start, become very edgy.  Whoever loses that is a likely Wooden Spoon winner.  Apparently there is no actual wooden spoon awarded to the losingest team.  Maybe there should be.  And then, holding it, the losingest team should have to do a Lap of Dishonour.  But no.  This year it will probably be Italy, again, and that wouldn’t be fair.

There now follows the dreaded Fortnight Wait, between Round 2 and Round 3, and after that there will be another Fortnight Wait, until Round 4.  In such circumstances people often say: “I can’t wait.” But they can and they do, because they have to.

Saturday February 10 2018

You Had One Job (a current Twitter favourite of mine) calls this “Brilliant”:

image

Agreed.

At a site called Idiot Toys they also do lots of gadgets with faces.  Or, they did, because (I just looked) things seem to have slowed down there lately.  But I can’t recall anything nearly as dramatic as the above image.

LATER: this.

Friday February 09 2018

Those little chinese cats, the ones that slowly wave their paws in the air, are often to be seen in gift shops.  But I never thought I’d see one of these pretend cats being copied by a real cat.

Dogs will copy, including copying their humans, like in this bit of video at the same Twitter feed, but I never knew that any cats were also this way inclined.  I didn’t know that there were actual copycats.

I guess my surprise comes from me not having known any cats who were growing up in the company of other cats, and hence still at the stage of learning how to be a cat, by copying those other cats.

Thursday February 08 2018

The view from on top of my block of flats is jot quite high enough to be really great, like, say, the view from the top of the Tate Modern Extension.  Plus, there is the great lump that is Hide Tower, right outside my front window, which blocks off a huge chunk of London.

But if the light is playing games, things can get entertaining.  While grubbling back in the archives looking for a shot, from my roof, of the now deceased New Scotland Yard building just off Victoria Street, I came across this shot, taken just under two years ago, looking from my roof along Chapter Street, towards Battersea Power Station:

image

Cranes, roof clutter, vapour trails.  Lovely.

I find that I can best photo a sunset, not by photoing the sunset itself, but by photoing it with and behind buildings, and showing what it can do to buildings.  In the right light, the most commonplace of buildings can be transformed into something far less commonplace.

Wednesday February 07 2018

I have spent my day fighting against infrastructure overload and now I am tired.

Here, instead of nothing, is a selfie that I took, on a train, exactly one year ago:

image

That reminds me: I could now use a haircut.

But I wasn’t really photoing myself there.  What interested me was yet another of those London logos, in this case in aid of all this, with a random selection of Big Things, this one featuring the Gherkin, the Wheel, and St Paul’s.  The Shard, oddly, didn’t make the cut.

Tuesday February 06 2018

After a hard afternoon yesterday, exploring Churchill and his wartime government’s subterranean lair, I was, in the evening, in no mood to do much else.  But Christian Michel had one of his 6/20 evenings (yes I know, on the 5th (there was a reason but I have forgotten it)), and I forced myself to attend, knowing that I would not regret this.  And I didn’t.

The highlight of my evening was undoubtedly getting to talk with an artist and art teacher by the name of Elina Cerla.  We spoke about how we were both fascinated by the difference between how two eyed people see things, and how one eyed cameras, or camera-like gadgets used by artists, see things.  Summary: very differently.  Also about how she is more concerned to help people solve the artistic problems they consider important, rather than to shape them all into her preferred sort of artist.

She gave me her card before we went our separate ways, so I’m guessing she will have no problem with me linking you to that website.

You could become one of Elina Cerla’s pupils by doing what this says:

image

Having already wandered about in the website, I was particularly struck by that naked figure when I came across it elsewhere on the website, so I was intrigued later to find that she chose it to illustrate her teaching advert.  I think you will agree that this image inspires confidence that the time of pupils will not be wasted.  This is someone with definite skills to impart.

I am presently listening to this YouTube interview.  Refreshing absence of art-speak bullshit and political infantilism, of the sort commonly emitted by those who practice (or who are attempting) shock-art.

Monday February 05 2018

Today me and GD2’s Dad, who will return to Brittany tomorrow, visited the Churchill War Rooms and the attached Churchill Museum, underneath Whitehall.  Very good, and a lot bigger and more elaborate than we were expecting.  A lot of time, trouble and expense has been passed, taken and spent on this show, with its tiny and insignificant looking entrance in King Charles Street, just off the right hand side of St James’s Park.

I took a ton of photos, most of which came out pretty well.

I was also out this evening, so I’ve time to present only one photo now:

image

I was fascinated by the war, of course, but also by the numerous items of peaceful technology that were also also needed to fight that war, like telephones, fire extinguishers, standard lamps, electric fans, chairs, and the three pin power sockets they used then.  And the cooker, above.

A lot of these devices looked very familiar to me, me having been born in 1947, and the Cabinet War Rooms having the sort of kit that regular people often only got a bit later.

Sunday February 04 2018

I just heard ITV News describe South African politician Jacob Zuma as being “mired in a whirlwind” of something or other.  Controversy, or some such thing.  Yes, this.

Next thing you know, he’ll be blown away by a swamp.