Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Rebirot on Heroes?
Natalie Solent on Comrade Blimp
Michael Jennings on Confirmation that map use has seriously declined
Brian Micklethwait on Ashes to ashes
itrat batool on Ashes to ashes
itrat batool on Ashes black out
Michael Jennings on Ashes to ashes
Natalie Solent on Victor!
Natalie Solent on Victor!
Peter Briffa on Ashes black out
Most recent entries
- Ballerina with crane
- Taking photos with Big Flat Things
- Long Title (with italics)
- Confirmation that map use has seriously declined
- Comrade Blimp
- Ashes to ashes
- La Porte des Indes
- Friend on telly
- Sculpture at St James’s Tube
- Digital photographers holding maps
- More photos of things past
- Father Christmas Aerodrome
- How big should these squares be?
- Daniel Hannan’s latest book(s?)
Other Blogs I write for
6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
Another Food Blog
Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
Armed and Dangerous
Art Of The State Blog
Boatang & Demetriou
Burning Our Money
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
China Law Blog
Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog
Coffee & Complexity
Communities Dominate Brands
Confused of Calcutta
Conservative Party Reptile
Counting Cats in Zanzibar
Deleted by tomorrow
Don't Hold Your Breath
Douglas Carswell Blog
Dr Robert Lefever
Englands Freedome, Souldiers Rights
Everything I Say is Right
Fat Man on a Keyboard
Ferraris for all
Freedom and Whisky
From The Barrel of a Gun
Gates of Vienna
Global Warming Politics
Greg Mankiw's Blog
Guido Fawkes' blog
Here Comes Everybody
Hit & Run
House of Dumb
Iain Dale's Diary
Jeffrey Archer's Official Blog
Jessica Duchen's classical music blog
Laissez Faire Books
Last of the Few
Libertarian Alliance: Blog
Liberty Dad - a World Without Dictators
Lib on the United Kingdom
Little Man, What Now?
Loic Le Meur Blog
L'Ombre de l'Olivier
London Daily Photo
Metamagician and the Hellfire Club
Michael J. Totten's Middle East Journal
More Than Mind Games
Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism
My Boyfriend Is A Twat
My Other Stuff
Nation of Shopkeepers
Never Trust a Hippy
Non Diet Weight Loss
Nurses for Reform blog
Obnoxio The Clown
On an Overgrown Path
One Man & His Blog
Owlthoughts of a peripatetic pedant
Oxford Libertarian Society /blog
Patri's Peripatetic Peregrinations
Police Inspector Blog
Private Sector Development blog
Remember I'm the Bloody Architect
Setting The World To Rights
SimonHewittJones.com The Violin Blog
Sky Watching My World
Social Affairs Unit
Squander Two Blog
Stuff White People Like
Stumbling and Mumbling
Technology Liberation Front
The Adam Smith Institute Blog
The Becker-Posner Blog
The Belgravia Dispatch
The Belmont Club
The Big Blog Company
The Big Picture
the blog of dave cole
The Corridor of Uncertainty (a Cricket blog)
The Daily Ablution
The Devil's Advocate
The Devil's Kitchen
The Dissident Frogman
The Distributed Republic
The Early Days of a Better Nation
The Examined Life
The Fly Bottle
The Freeway to Serfdom
The Future of Music
The Happiness Project
The Jarndyce Blog
The London Fog
The Long Tail
The Lumber Room
The Online Photographer
The Only Winning Move
The Policeman's Blog
The Road to Surfdom
The Wedding Photography Blog
The Welfare State We're In
UK Commentators - Laban Tall's Blog
UK Libertarian Party
Violins and Starships
we make money not art
What Do I Know?
What's Up With That?
Where the grass is greener
White Sun of the Desert
Why Evolution Is True
Your Freedom and Ours
Arts & Letters Daily
Bjørn Stærk's homepage
Butterflies and Wheels
Dark Roasted Blend
Digital Photography Review
Ghana Centre for Democratic Reform
Global Warming and the Climate
History According to Bob
Institut économique Molinari
Institute of Economic Affairs
Ludwig von Mises Institute
Oxford Libertarian Society
The Christopher Hitchens Web
The Space Review
The TaxPayers' Alliance
This is Local London
UK Libertarian Party
Victor Davis Hanson
WSJ.com Opinion Journal
Bits from books
Bloggers and blogging
Brian Micklethwait podcasts
Cats and kittens
Food and drink
How the mind works
Media and journalism
Middle East and Islam
My blog ruins
Signs and notices
The Micklethwait Clock
This and that
Category archive: Movies
Yes. I spent my blogging time today fretting about the finishing of this. So, no time to do much here.
But there’s an internet out there.
Here’s a very quick vid, of Kenneth Williams opining (which would be a good word for him to say) about specialisation.
And here’s a really good photograph, to make up for the really bad photograph in the previous posting. I say really good photograph. What I mean is a photo taken by me that is okay, of a really good photograph, taken by a seriously Real Photographer. Limited edition, perfect paper, perfectly printed, framed, the works, worth hundreds of pounds:
Yes, it’s Dumbledore, making himself smile for the camera.
At the Do I attended last weekend, just after taking the photo in the previous posting, this photograph was one of the items being charitably auctioned.
This is the first charity auction I can remember attending. But, despite my ignorance of how to do such a Do, let me offer you a tip, for if you ever organise a charitable auction. Be sure to hand round a cash bucket immediately after the auction bit of the evening finishes, to enable all those who feel ridiculously guilty about not having bought any of the things being auctioned to part with a manageable amount of cash, without being encumbered with a unnecessary Thing, or worse, a Complicated Experience. If they had done that at this Do, I reckon they might have increased their money by twenty percent or more. They’d certainly have got twenty quid out of me.
… in among all the stuff that does not.
Foster’s flaccid Gherkin used to advertise erectile dysfunction treatment. Personally, I don’t think the Gherkin looks like a penis, more like a vibrator. Certainly not a gherkin.
And: Synthetic creature could “save nature” says Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg. Has this woman never seen any horror movies?
Related: Will Jellyfish Take Over the World?
Yes, incoming from Rob Fisher:
I am fascinated about why old things look old. Certainly print quality is part of it. Change, too: the Heinz beans logo (which has never changed as far as I can tell) does not look old in the way that some of these logos do.
I’m guessing this is follow-up to what I said here about how photography used to make people from the past look overly solemn, and what Rob said there, in jest, about the past being all in black and white.
Mark Twain must surely have been a bit more merry, in general, than he looks in the photo of him there, now colorised but still very grim looking.
What a lot of the colorised photos look like is stills from “historical” Hollywood movies. You expect Brad Pitt, dressed in olden times clothes, to step forward at any moment.
As for the logos, it is noticeable (although this doesn’t apply to all of them) that in quite a few of them, there was a flurry of (often quite radical) changes in and/or up until the 1950s and 1960s, but somewhat less in the way of change since. Often the later changes (see for instance: VW) are mere polishing. It’s like they were trying to get it right, and then they do get it right and stuck with it. At first they didn’t know quite what a logo was for and what logos are. They they did know. That is reinforced by the Firefox logo, which started in 2002 and then did the one early change in 2003, and that’s it.
How has the internet affected logo design?
Yesterday, I lived my life, but I am determined, having started, to finish telling you about last Thursday.
So, okay, I have now arrived at Westminster Tube Station.
Most tube stations consist of lots of underground tubes, not just for the trains but also for the people. Westminster Tube Station is different.
In its original form, it was a regular tube station, made entirely out of tubes. But then they built Portcullis House across the road from Big Ben and Parliament, the one with the giant chimneys on top, where MPs now have vast new quantities of office space to wreak their havoc. Many think powerful MPs are a good thing, because they will “hold the executive to account” better, but what they mostly now do is nag the executive to bite off more and more unchewable activity, and complain if the executive ever doesn’t.
While they were building Portcullis House, they combined that with doing a total rebuild of the tube station right underneath it.
And this time around, instead of grubbing about in the ground like moles, they just dug a huge, huge hole, like they do when building any other new building. Just deeper.
As a result, the process of getting from station entrance to train, or from train to train (what with the station now being an interchange between the District and Circle Line, and the newer Jubilee Line - which is the one I was taking), is as dramatic and theatrical as battling through a regular tube station is grim and demeaning and demoralising. At Westminster Tube, you now go up and down inside a huge open space, like a department store with no stuff in it, and grey rather than all spangly and coloured. I love it, even though it has a decidedly fascist feel to it, maybe even because it has a decidedly fascist feel to it. At least its stylish fascism, rather than just lumpy and cloddish. But mainly, I think I love it because it is so different from a regular tube station.
While there last Thursday, I only took one shot, namely this:
Had I known I was on a Blogged Odyssey, I would have taken many more shots, of all that dramatic open space with science fictiony structure in among it, supporting the building above and the escalators within, but on Thursday all I thought I was doing was taking the tube. I would have taken shots like the ones here. Someone really should set a movie gun fight in this place, don’t you think? Perhaps they already have.
As for my picture above, it puzzled me for a while. At first I thought the right-way-round Westminster tube sign was some kind of double reflection, but there is only one sheet of glass involved, so it can’t be that. In the end I cracked it, metaphorically speaking. The Westminster tube sign is where it seems to be, but how it looks is confused by the reflection of the wall behind me. It looks like the sign is projected onto the wall. In fact, the wall behind me is projected onto the sign. To the left, you can see the regular wall that the tube sign is actually attached to.
That white circular thing behind me, actually a fire hose I think, looks like a full moon.
Once again, I fear most may not care. But photographed reflections are a thing of mine.
Overheard while channel surfing last night:
Her, trying to persuade him to carry on with the romance: “Do you believe in fate?”
Her: “Neither do I. You see. This was meant to be.”
This is from the movie Wedding Daze. One of those unregarded little movies which only gets two stars in the Radio Times, but which I think is a bit better than that.
Think about it: What’s the best way to make sure there is only goodwill out there towards Muslims?
That’s right: Kill all the bad Muslims.
It’s the way that he combines hate-the-hateful speech with everyone-live-in-harmony speech that makes it so funny, right speak with left speak. Reminds me of that great speech for the defence in Animal House.
This evening I attended the ASI blogger bash, and one of the speakers, Harry Cole, said something along the lines of: Lefties are better at comedy than the Right.. Which I suspect is a lot truer of Britain than it is of the USA. Closely related to that observation is that in Britain, as was also discussed, we are years away from anything resembling a British version of the Tea Party. The British Right, in other words, is not in tune with the Zeitgeist, or even any major slab of the Zeitgeist, the way the USA Right is in the USA. And even there, it may just be a temporary consequence of the Obama phenomenon,, which is a huge attempt to turn the USA into something entirely different. Europe, basically. When that attempt gets switched off, whenever that happens, the Tea Party may die with it. By which I mean either go home or else turn entirely into dull old regular politics.
LATER: Further illustration of the same proposition. When Cleese was funny, he was, if not Left, then at least anti-Right. Now that he’s not funny, he’s Right.
I am continuing to read Leo McKinstry’s book about the mighty Avro Lancaster, and of course I continue to track the cricket in Australia, where England have been suffering a characteristic one-day anticlimax following Ashes success.
So I was rather charmed to encounter, in the Lancaster book, this quote (p. 263) from an interview with one Norman Boorer, a draughtsman who worked with Barnes Wallis, the inventor of the famous bouncing bomb, which was used to destroy two big dams in Germany in May 1943:
Wallis had studied old naval cannonball techniques, where the bomb was fired on a low trajectory and bounced, giving it more range. In his experimental work, he also found that backspin would allow it to bounce two or three more times. George Edwards, who was working closely with Wallis, was a very good cricketer - he could probably have been a county cricketer if he had not been a designer. He was a fine spin bowler and he explained that if you spin it backwards it will shoot and if you spin it forwards it will dig in. There was the other point that when the bomb hit the dam, if it were spinning backwards, it would hug the face and roll down, whereas if it were spinning forwards there was a chance it would climb up over the top of the dam.
So there we are. Cricket won the war.
Bomber Harris was a virulent opponent of the dams raid, as he was of anyone or anything which, in his eyes, diverted anyone or anything from the job of flattening German cities and slaughtering German civilians. Even after it had succeeded, he remained a sceptic. Too bad he wasn’t similarly sceptical about his own obsession with winning the entire war only with his own preferred sort of bombing raids.
I am delighted that McKinstry’s Lancaster has a chapter about the dams raid, having long wanted to learn whatever might have been patriotically wrong about the famous film they made about it, which I first saw when I was a mere boy, and which was based on this book by Paul Brickhill, which I first read when I was a mere boy. It would seem that Brickhill’s telling of the story is pretty much right.
Came across this photo, here, having been sent there to read something else that I’ve forgotten about. Let’s backtrack and see. Yes, apparently I was reading this, for some bizarre reason or other. Plus, rootling through these photos also got me paying some attention to aqueducts. So anyway, the photo (slightly flattened):
A chance for the New York Post to get in a dig at the Israelis for being horrid to the Palestinians:
The fishermen go out every morning hoping that they will be allowed to go out to sea, but Israeli navy forces rarely allow them to leave the shallow waters.
Because after all, under no circumstances whatsoever could “fishermen” possibly be doubling up as anything else.
So, also a chance for me to link back to a posting here about how my attitude to Israel is one of unconditional positive regard.
But putting all that to one side, nice photo.
Someone asked what the new mainframe looks like. It looks like this:
On the front, big black rectangular nothingness, like the Monolith in 2001. The Monolith, unlike Dawkins, is sort of a God, because it taught that monkey how to make a space ship by throwing a bone into the air.
But the nothingness at the front of my new mainframe is more prosaic than that. It is a big plastic door, which you open when you want to play a CD or a DVD or something. Besides which, I conjecture that many geeks have computers which they refer to as The Monolith. Dawkins, not so many. Dawkins it remains.
Some months ago I began reading The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross, which is a blow by blow account of twentieth century classical music. Reading and greatly enjoying.
Trouble is, it’s a very big book, even in paperback, which makes it not-ideal for carrying around London, travelling being one of the main ways I read books. (No internet to distract.) So, despite liking this book a lot, I now realise that I stopped reading it and that I switched to a succession of other equally enticing volumes that were not so big. I am only now back with it, having resumed at a time when I was at home, but de-internetted by new computer turmoil.
On page 317, Ross says something I have long thought, but never myself put into written down words, or even said out loud very much:
Hollywood may have been hazardous territory for composers, but they at least felt wanted there, as they never did in American concert halls. The shift to talkies had created a mania for continuous sound. Just as actors in screwball comedies had to talk a mile a minute, composers were called upon to underline every gesture and emphasize every emotion. An actress could hardly serve a cup of coffee without having fifty Max Steiner strings swoop in to assist her. ("What that awful music does,” Bette Davis once said to Gore Vidal, “is erase the actor’s performance, note by note.")
Well said, Bette.
But things improved. Ross continues:
Early movie scores had a purely illustrative function, which composers called “Mickey-Mousing”: if a British frigate sails into the frame, “Rule, Britannia” plays. Later, composers introduced techniques of musical distancing and irony, along the lines of Sergei Eisenstein’s counterpointing of image and sound. Music could be used to reveal a hidden psychological subtext, ...
Indeed. There then follows an admiring description of the music written for The Grapes of Wrath by Aaron Copland. Very influential, says Ross.
This soundtrack-composer-usurping-the-actors style of movie music only completely died out in the sixties and seventies, when they started using pop music for soundtracks, music with an insistent beat of its own which is quite unable to supply this kind of detailed and non-rhythmic “help” for actors. What a relief that was. Suddenly the actors were revealed as able to act perfectly well without such help. Every so often, I watch an old movie on the telly, starring someone like Doris Day, and suddenly we are back with that awful oh-look-she’s-adjusting-her-hat, she’s-a-bit-sad, ooh-now-Rock-Hudson-has-just-cheered-her-up style of movie musical accompaniment. I realise now that Doris Day was perhaps not a completely god-awful film actress with all the subtlety of a container ship trying to win a round-the-harbour speedboat race. It was just that the people writing, directing, editing and musically accompanying Doris Day’s performances were all tasteless idiots.
Another reason I am now reading The Rest is Noise is that I recently attended a lecture given by Ross at the British Library. The lecture rather outstayed its welcome, for me. Ross had about twenty interesting minutes worth of stuff to say about descending base lines as a way of signalling sorrowfulness in sorrowful songs, but took an hour to say it. Nevertheless, the point was a good one and there were many delightful musical illustrations, my favourite being when he played “Hit the Road Jack”.
Afterwards, having already read and liked some of the earlier Alex Ross book, I bought a signed copy of the latest one. But, not having finished reading the previous book, I wanted to do that first.
No welcomes outstayed in either of these books, or not so far. Almost every page of them contains stuff just as worthy of blogvertisement as the above bit that I happened to choose. And if, when you are reading a book, you fancy a break, you can have one. Lectures happen in lecture time. Books can be read in your own time.
If you share my fondness for high tech, high up, ruthlessly functional clutter, which looks great simply because that is how it needs to be, rather than because any “designers” were allowed near the thing in its formative stages (the inverted commas being because these things are of course designed in the true sense), then I recommend the Arecibo Radio Telescope, which is in Puerto Rico. I especially like this photo, of which this is a mere excerpt:
The photos here are also excellent, and there, commenter “Ailis” supplies that vital piece of info that you are definitely wondering about:
Another interesting bit of trivia: The telescope was used in the James Bond, Goldeneye movie and of course in Contact.
No, that’s two bits of trivia, the second being superfluous.
Many days ago, Instapundit linked to a piece by Paulina Porizkova about aging. I remember Paulina Porizkova as the leading lady in one of my favourite not very good but I like it movies, Her Alibi. Apparently, though, she is not an actress who got married and gave it up. She is, or was, a “supermodel”, or as we used to say, a model.
Instapundit only linked to Ms Porizkova because in a list of “beautiful and strong and powerful women in their 40 and 50’s” she includes “although I hate to include her”: Sarah Palin. But I don’t care about that. What I think is that this is good writing:
When you’re used to one sort of treatment, it’s really hard to get demoted, even if that new treatment is still better than the average. Boohoo. I know. My life sucks. Now, I don’t actually know the exact cut-off age where beautiful ceases and “must have-once-been-beautiful” begins. It’s true it’s not forty-five. I can still get attention when I try really hard, even if it’s greatly reduced. But would I ever have dreamed that I would miss the time I couldn’t walk past a construction site unmolested? These days when someone whistles at me, it’s mostly a bike messenger about to mow me down.
In the sentence “My life sucks” above, it originally had an “is” between life and sucks, but I removed it.
If you follow the Her Alibi link above, you learn that Porizkova was awarded a Golden Raspberry for her performance in this movie, which perhaps explains her return to supermodelling. But I thought she was very good.
Driver swerves to miss cat, hits vet clinic
Seriously, what are the punctuation rules for headlines? And if I find I don’t like those rules, what do I think that they should be? I suspect my answer is: dashes. Only dashes may be used. And quote marks provided there are dots before the closing quotes.
When I wrote the above paragraph, I was also watching a dreary television play based on a poem, the kind of thing where they get charismatic actors in (Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson on this occasion) to rescue it, and to provide an audience. And it definitely affected my mood.
It was about a drunken self-pitying failed writer (now slaving away as an editor for a small publishing company) and the woman who had wisely abandoned him but had unwisely come back to see him again. It was presumably autobiographical. At one point Rickman was up on the roof, and I hoped he might either jump off or fall off, and die, dramatically, interestingly. But all he did was stagger back downstairs to find that Emma Thompson had, wisely, gone. (They had been having lunch.)
If only Bruce Willis had been on the roof as well ...
There will be no highlights of this winter’s Ashes on terrestrial TV according to a report in the Daily Mail.
The newspaper claims no terrestrial broadcaster responded to the tender document offering free-to-air rights because of strict limitations on the time they would be allowed to air any highlights package. It was expected the tender, sent out by IMG earlier this year, would attract interest from the BBC or Channel 5.
However, both broadcasters said scheduling restrictions put them off making any bid. The terms are believed to have stated no highlights could be shown before 10pm, a delay of almost a day, and they could not overlap with any of Sky’s live transmissions, which usually start at around 11.30pm, giving a very small window for them to be shown.