Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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- Going from knowing a piece of music to also knowing what it is
- Don’t mention The Wires!!!
- White Van Brians
- A Shiny Thing by Frank Stella Hon RA
- Richard J. Evans on how evidence can become more significant over time
- Another from the archives
- Big 4
- Another quota sign
- Magic clarified
- Viewing the clutter at Centre Point
- Giant cat head worn by a human
- BMdotcom abusive comment of the day
- Made-up London detectives in real London places
- Marc Morris on how the Bayeux Tapestry ought not to exist
- Fantastic day
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Category archive: Television
Yesterday, while walking along the sharp right kink at the top end of Horseferry Road, which I do a lot, I looked up into the bright blue sky and beheld things of colourful beauty. What do you suppose it is?:
Does this make it any clearer?:
Clear for those to whom it is now clear, but still not very clear for most, is my guess.
Yes, it’s a Big 4. And if you still don’t know what it is, apart from it being a Big 4, it is the Big 4 outside the fantastically over-the-top front door of Channel 4 TV HQ.
This Big 4 has changed a lot over the years. (You can see a few of those changes in among all this google-search-imagery.) Different artists and designers have taken it in turns to adorn its metal skeleton in a succession of different colours and costumes. The above is merely the latest iteration of this process. And definitely one of the better ones, I think.
I like how the colours all vanish once you get straight in front of the 4, and all you get is a relatively bland white 4. The effect is calculated to resemble the fleeting glimpse of the 4 that you get in the various intros you see just before Channel 4 shows on the telly. Note also how the sun at that particular later afternoon time of day picked out the white bits of the Big 4, while leaving the stuff behind it in relative darkness. I still don’t really understand how this happened, but I definitely like it.
The bad news, however, is that to get that particular Big 4 picture from the exact right place, you need to be standing in the middle of the road that turns south off Horseferry Road, past the left hand side of C4HQ, as we look at it, and at exactly the spot where the pavement would have been, right next to Horseferry Road itself.
So, finally, what we now see is the exact moment when a car came up right behind me and honked loudly, anxious to get past me and out of Horseferry Road instead of being stuck right in it, and honked at in its turn by angry cars behind it.
I immediately jumped out of the car’s way, and it politely waved thankyou as soon as it had made its slightly relieved way past me.
A lot of cars deliver and collect a lot of people to and from that exact spot, and they must get this a lot.
It started with this picture, which I took at the home of some friends a while back. I know exactly how you probably feel about this cushion, but on the other hand, I don’t care:
I love how the TV remote is there next to it. I had no idea at the time, or I would have made a point of including all of it.
But now the www-journey begins. At the bottom right hand corner of the cusion are the words “Susan Herbert”.
Obviously, I click where it says “visit page”, and arrive here. I scroll down, looking for the picture of Bill Murray and the artistic nude girl. I don’t ever find the picture of Bill Murray and the artistic nude girl, but I do encounter this, which is a posting about a big blue horse at Denver Airport. Clicking on “Denver Public Art Program” merely gets me to useless crap about Denver, but googling “luis jimenez mustang” gets me to pictures like this ...:
… and to an article in the Wall Street Journal from February 2009, which says things like this about the Blue Denver Horse:
Anatomically correct - eye-poppingly so - the 32-foot-tall fiberglass sculpture makes quite a statement at the gateway to Denver International Airport.
But that begs the question: What kind of statement, exactly?
“It looks like it’s possessed,” says Denver resident Samantha Horoschak. “I have a huge fear of flying anyway, and to be greeted at the airport by a demon horse - it’s not a soothing experience.”
Many people here agree, calling the muscular steed a terrifying welcome to the Mile High City.
Samantha Horoschak was not wrong. Because, it gets better:
Mr. Jimenez was killed working on the sculpture. In 2006, while he was hoisting pieces of the mustang for final assembly in his New Mexico studio, the horse’s massive torso swung out of control and crushed the 65-year-old artist.
Ah, that magic moment in the creative process when a work of art escapes from the control of its creator and carves out a life of its own, independent of its creator. And kills him.
Is it still there? How many more victims has it claimed? Has it caused any crashes?
I love the internet. And not just because I am quickly able to look up the proper spelling of such words as “posthumous” (which was in the original version of the title of this) and “kitsch”. It’s the mad journeys it takes you on. Who needs stupid holidays when you can go on a crazy trip like this without getting out of your kitchen chair?
Yes, they aren’t playing any squash today. It’s been rugby rugby rugby all the way.
First Wales knocked up a cricket score against Italy in Rome, and took the lead in the three-way race for the Six Nations. Then Ireland thrashed Scotland and took pole position. Now England and France are playing a mad game at Twickenham. At the moment it’s England 48 France 35. How mad is that? It probably won’t be enough, but England are giving it a right old go. England need about two more tries, I think, and since France are also scoring tries every so often, even that might not be enough. But. Five minutes to go, and England have just scored another try. 53-35. Bloody hell. This conversion has to go over. Then they have to score another try and convert that. Conversion over. 55-35. It’s on. It all has the air of been too frantic and unreal to work. But, maybe.
Trouble is, I’ve got a terrible headache and bunged-up face, and am in almost no state at all to enjoy it all. Maybe too much Parma ham at Christian Michel’s last night? That or the cheap white wine. But, I have most of it on video.
Game nearly over. England need one more try off, basically, the last play of the match.
No. England attacking but France hold out. Whistle. 55-35. Epic fail. But epic in a good way.
Wales were favourites after their big win in Rome, but they now have to make do with the bronze. Ireland win it. England second. A great day.
Squash? And what the hell is squash? Exactly. It’s a potentially great game, in which a couple of guys with slimmed down tennis rackets bash a black rubber ball around in a small courtyard. The trouble is that the courtyard is too small. As a result, the better the players, the harder it is to hit a winning shot. Watch a top squash game, and you are watching two of the people least likely ever to make a mistake, waiting for one of them to make a mistake. Watching paint dry is Shakespearian drama by comparison.
Well, rugby union is becoming like this. Two teams now consisting entirely of men-mountains knock seven bells out of each other for an hour. (Backs now look like forwards used to look, and forwards now look like laboratory accidents. The teams who are most depressing to watch are France and Wales, because they used to have diminutive attackers who did things like smoke, and dodge tackles instead of driving into them like human tanks the way everyone does now.) If either team gets tired, the other team might then score some tries, but if neither does, the contest is settled by the referee making incomprehensible penalty decisions, and by the two opposing penalty kickers.
Watching Ireland and Wales, two of the best teams in the Six Nations, is what is making me say this. It’s deep into the second half already, and for the first time in the entire game so far, one of the teams (Ireland) looks like it might score a try. But no. The ref has just blown his whistle, again, and Ireland fail to score. So Wales stay in the lead by four penalties and a drop goal, to three penalties.
Now Wales have just failed to score a try. The commentators are saying that this has been “a fantastic ten minutes of rugby”. No. Fantastic would have been if someone had actually scored.
The trouble is, the pitch is just not wide enough. I remember Bruce the Real Photographer saying this to me about a decade ago. He may have been right then, and I reckon he’s definitely right now.
And the Welsh have now scored, a really good try. Typical.
And now Ireland have scored, a penalty try, which is rather unsatisfactory but at least it’s a try. A penalty try is the one where the two scrums go at each other, and the defending scrum does something mysteriously illegal to stop the other scrum tanking themselves over the line. Wales 20 Ireland 16. It’s livening up.
Commentator: “It’s a thrilling encounter. It’s a shame there’s only about eleven minutes left.”
So. Squash for an hour. (One of the commentators called it “muscular chess”.) Then a quarter of an hour of rugby. This is what counts as “a fantastic game of rugby”.
Later: Wales 23 Ireland 16.
Incoming from Michael J:
Katy Perry and dancing Nazi sharks. I guess this is why you stay up for the Superbowl.
Actually I missed KP’s half time performance, but I have it on one of my various TV hard disks. I did stay up until the Superbowl ended, but I found myself only giving it about a third of my attention.
I did tune in at the end. That bizarre catch was fun. But the game ended the way it did because, at any rate in the opinion of all the commentators, the Seattle Seahawks made a horrible mistake. ("I cannot believe that call!") Truly great games are won because of something wonderful, not something horrible. In an ideal world, you want the losers thinking, not: “Oh Shit, What Were We Thinking?!?!? We’ll have nightmares about that for the rest of our lives.” You want them thinking: “Well, there was nothing we could have done about that.” And the winners can spend the rest of their lives remembering that they did it, not that the other guys did it for them.
And then this morning there was this:
6 1 6 . 6 6 | . 4 W 4 W 1 | 1 . 1wd 6 6 6
That’s the last three overs of the England Second Eleven‘s batting effort against the South Africa Second Eleven. I love how you can now follow these bizarrely obscure games. Ben Stokes, who has been having a rough time of it of late, is the one hitting six of those seven sixes at the end, and finishing on 151 not out (off 86 balls) , out of 378-6. Perhaps someone in the England First Eleven (recently crushed by Australia in a triangular warm-up tournament) will get hurt during the forthcoming World Cup, and Stokes will be inserted into their team. Such is the romance of sport.
Finally, here is a piece by cricket boffin Ed Smith, about how having fun is very important. Because of fun, Alexander Fleming invented penicillin, etc. But the real reason for fun is that having fun is fun. It’s articles like this that cause insane parents to send their children to Fun Classes.
I shouldn’t mock. It’s a good piece. And fun is what this blog here is mostly about.
Complicated day today, and then a complicated evening this evening, trying - and almost totally failing - to record a succession of tv shows each of which ended just as the next was starting. Luckily, the ones I screwed up will be repeated during the next few days. But, no thought of blogging until now.
So, one from the I Just Like It subdirectory. I’m on the south side of the River Thames, and I think I’m quite close to that bridge that now has a station on it.
Yes it’s a shadow selfie, involving very colourful food which contrasts well with the drab surroundings and the drab shadow of drab old me holding the food.
Taken in May 2006.
My rule about being a sports fan is be very happy when your teams are winning, but relax when they aren’t. Enjoy the good stuff. Let the bad remind you that it’s just games. I am not, in other words, a “real fan”, the sort of who puts his entire happiness at the mercy of events that are wholly out of his control.
And just now I am happy, because two autumn rugby internationals have just kicked off, Wales v Australia and England v NZ, and in both games the Brit teams have scored early - and frankly very surprising – tries. 7-0 Wales. 5-0 England. This is the kind of thing you must enjoy while it is happening, without assuming that it will get any better, in fact while assuming that it is pretty much bound to get worse. Protective pessimism. Am watching Wales v Oz on the telly. Highlights of Eng NZ on the telly later.
And Australia score under the posts. 7-7 with the easy kick (yes). But, according to the BBC:
New Zealand are reeling from England’s blitz start.
Don’t you just love it when the other fellows reel. Reeling is something only now done with an -ing on the end. Why is that?
I am giving a talk on Jan 6th at Christian Michel’s about Sport Being A Substitute For War. Just thought I’d mention that. I will try to write it down and will thus be able to shove it up here afterwards.
And NZ have now scored. 5-5 with a kick to come. And Oz have now scored another. Wales 7 Oz 12 with a kick to come. I must stop. Three antipodean tries have been scored since I started writing this. It’s only games.
Or is it? Wales Oz 7-14, but Eng NZ 8-5, to England. And now Wales have scored in the corner. Wales 14 Oz 14. I remember when rugby was played in mud and you were lucky to see a single try in an entire match. So far there have been six tries in under half an hour. Make that seven because Oz have just scored again.
Here is what the architecture of Tausendsassa Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser looks like:
Often cited for his colorful and curvilinear forms, his name translates to “Multi-Talented Peace-Filled Rainy Day Dark-Colored Hundred Waters.” In everything from his name to his unusual ideas put forth in manifestos, it is immediately evident that Hundertwasser was no ordinary architect.
Looks to me a lot like a beefed up version of Teletubbies architecture. Did they have that show in Germany? Yes. (This is not the first time the Teletubbies have been hailed as architectural pioneers.) I’m not saying this is a bad thing. I am just, as they say, saying.
Yes, you read that right. Sunday. I am celebrating the fact that I now have a Proper Computer (a temporary arrangement called Godo) at my command by doing more than one posting here today. There may (although I promise nothing) be even more than two. The thing is, during the Time of Dawkins, I accumulated lots of interesting little titbits which it was too bothersome to be bothering with, but which I now want (as they say in California and now regrettably everywhere else (see also the even more vomit-inducing “reach out”, which means pestering by telephone)) to “share” with you.
So, first up, this luxurious Rolls Royce, from the time when us Brits were in charge of how they looked:
As it says just above the roof, photoed in Lower Marsh, on Sept 1st.
Round headlights, but … four of them! This car dates from the days when the only way to jazz up car headlights was to have two of them side by side. How impossibly glamorous is that?!?! I seem to recall that the puppet woman who presided over International Rescue on the telly had a pink roller, with the same kind of headlights. Lady Penelope? Yes. Follow that link, and you will be reminded that Lady P’s roller had two sets of three headlights. Only a billionaire, or millionaire as they used to be called, could afford that kind of headlight array. (To say nothing of those doubled-up front wheels.)
(And it is so great that I am now back to hunting things like that down in about fifteen seconds. There is nothing like deprivation to make you grateful for large mercies.)
But Lady Penelope missed a trick. Her imaginary roller didn’t have a brush to clean its headlights, but some real rollers did! You will see what I am talking about if you take a closer look at this:
Yes, a sort of elongated rich person shaving brush, to keep those lights clean!
You didn’t get those on Morris Marinas.
Is not socialism truly stranger than a chorus of singing penguins?
LOL. I really did.
Just to add, as a memo to self, I have another musical-stroke-Venezuela blog posting to do at Samizdata, concerning something said by a BBC4 TV presenter at a Prom, following a performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony by Gustavo Dudamel and his Venezuelan orchestra, about what a wonderful vision it was of the world for one bloke to be telling everyone else what to do. I have the exact words (in addition to Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony) recorded, and I must dig them out. They were truly spectacular, as in: spectacularly stupid.
The BBC worships all things Venezuelan, but has gone rather quieter about that now.
Overheard in a TV advert for sweeties:
You can’t trust atoms. They make up everything.
Talking of which, I am now reading Lee Smolin’s book about String Theory. Basic message: It’s a cult. I haven’t yet read him using that actual word, but that’s what he is saying.
I am, of course, not qualified to judge if Smolin is right, but you don’t have to be qualified to express a judgement, and I judge that Smolin is right. And the way I like to learn about new stuff is by reading arguments about it, starting with the argument that says I am right about it. Smolin is basically telling me that my ignorant prejudice that String Theory is one of the current world’s epicentres of the Higher Bollocks is right, although he is careful not to express himself as crudely as I just did, for fear of upsetting his physicist friends, and because, unlike me, he sees some merit in String Theory.
I have known that String Theory was in trouble for some time, because Big Bang Theory’s resident String Theorist, Dr Sheldon Cooper, has been having doubts about it. He wanted to switch to something else, but they said: We hired you as a String Theorist and a String Theorist you will remain.
The above link is to a blog I had not heard of before, entitled Not Even Wrong. Not Even Wrong is the title of another book I have recently obtained with has a go at String Theory. I have not yet started reading this.
It’s true. You can’t trust atoms. And grabbing both ends of one and stretching it out into a string doesn’t change that. It makes it worse.
I just heard someone say in an American TV sitcom (I love American TV sitcoms) that they’re not going to answer the phone without knowing who it is, “like it’s 1994”.
I still do this, with my old 1994 style phone, which I greatly prefer to mobiles, because when I am out and about, I don’t have to answer it, and because phones connected to your house with wire cannot be lost, and because I know exactly where it is when it rings, and because that ring never changes.
Quite often, when I do answer, it’s a junk phone call, offering to extricate me from a financial error that I personally have not made by urging me to commit another financial error, and as soon as I realise it’s junk, I put the phone down. Does this constitute some sort of “success” for the junk phoning enterprise? Look, they answered! Because obviously they knew who we were, this not being 1994, and yet still they picked up the phone! Hey, we’re getting through!
Much of life these days seems to consist of doing many futile things, but contriving for these things the appearance of non-futility. These days? I suspect all days that have ever been, with humans involved, and no doubt many other species also, both before and now during the human epoch. Only the futile things and the means of contriving a non-futile appearance for them change from time to time.
I don’t mind junk phone calls. If they were more frequent, they would annoy me. As it is, if there is a pause in incoming phone calls lasting a few hours, it is soothing to be informed, even if only by a robot actor voice spouting nonsense, that my phone is still working. The pause was because nobody wanted to talk to me.
When answering junk phone calls, I pause any music that may be playing. I do not mind this. There is a part of my brain (yours too?) where you remember the musical phrase you were listening to when you last paused the music, and when you unpause it you carry on listening just as you would have done normally. I even suspect that pausing deepens my response to particular pieces of music, by fixing particular moments of them in my brain more firmly than might have happened otherwise.
Since I am now rambling like the really old person that I am rapidly becoming, let me ramble some more. In connection with none of the above, here are the wheels of a big mobile crane that I photoed in Victoria Street a while back. Click on it to get the crane:
I like cranes. That one is, I think, the Spierings SK599-AT5. I love how you can find out about things like this, these days. And this time it really is these days, rather than all days.
Here is a link to a toy version of this crane. Do contractors use toys like this to plan their jobs, I wonder? As well as just to decorate their offices or amuse their spoilt children?
It is now late morning on Sunday. Are sermons like this, when the priest is getting old, but is too well liked for anyone to want to sack him? With a blog you can ramble anyway, because nobody can sack you.
Bizarre day today, and am only now shoving whatever I can think of to shove up.
I went trawling through the photo-archives, and came up with this weird selfie shot from 2006:
Two cameras I no longer use. My previous pregnant-out-the-back telly. Some book about Something For Dummies.
The are two photos which I took last Monday. The one with the bright blue sky, me looking up, was taken in Wigmore Street. The one looking down, was taken from the ME Hotel Radio Rooftop Bar.
They are photos not so much of roof clutter, as of roofs, roof in all their elaborately designed glory. But, you can spot the late twentieth century incursions:
The aesthetic impact of radio and television aerials does not seem to be much discussed in the architectural world. It could be that it has, and I merely haven’t noticed, but I don’t think that’s it.
Here is what I think is going on inside the heads of architectural aestheticians, on this subject. The deal we will make with you mindless philistines is: you can have your damn aerials, because we know that if you are not allowed, by us, to have your damn aerials, you will hunt us down and burn us at the stake. But, we refuse to talk about them. We will not incorporate them into our aesthetic theories of how things look, and should look. We will not see them.
Which is how we got from the above scenario, where everything on the roof is elaborately designed, but the first few aerials have crept into the pictures, but have not been seen by the architects and their aesethetic guides, to this:
Yet still, they don’t see it and they don’t talk about it.
Really, really weird.
I’ve been pondering roof clutter for a while now, but the more I ponder it, the more weird the phenomenon is.
What this reminds me of is a distinction that my sociology teachers at Essex University all those years ago made much of, that between the sacred and the profane. The sacred stuff here is the regular “architecture”, the walls, the windows, the roofs, the interiors, and so on. All of that is sacred, and is accordingly obsessed over, every tiny square inch of it, every subtle colour change, just as priests obsess about every word in a prayer.
But those aerials are profane. They don’t register. They aren’t architecture, any more than a tracksuit worn by a impoverished member of the congregation in a church is a sacred vestment, the details of which must be argued about by bishops and theologians, or the sales pitch being done over the phone on Monday morning (by someone who had been devoutly praying on Sunday) is itself a prayer. That sales pitch is profane. Forget about it. Don’t even think about it.
Those aerials, in among the sacredness of all those designed chimneys and roofs and little towers, are profane. And hence invisible. Aerials are designed, by aerial designers, to make sense of radio waves. But they are not designed to be looked at. They are a pure case of form following function. Architects ought to love them, if they believed their prayers. But they don’t because what is there for architects to add? Nothing. The job has all been done, by profane aerial designers.
Well, I don’t know. I’m thinking as I go along here, but writing it anyway. Which is all part of why I have this blog. At this blog, I am allowed to be wrong. This is a thinking allowed zone, you might say, a place where the thinking does not have to be done before the blogging begins. This is, you might say, a profane blog.
Yes, I’m watching this bizarre game.
A commentator said of Brazil’s defenders that they are all over the place, or some such phrase, and added:
It’s like a testimonial match.
For you Brazil, ze turnament iss over.
My prediction? Germany 5 Brazil 2. My thinking? Momentum will shift. Brazil will be desperate - desperate - not to be further humiliated. Germany will spare them further humiliation and save their energy for the final.
Vee shell see.
Hansen and Shearer of the BBC are now raking it over at half time. Were Germany brilliant (Shearer), or Brazil awful (Hansen)?
LATER: I had a feeling about this game when I set the video recorder. But I hoped that it wouldn’t go to extra time because there is something else I want to record, starting at 11.30 pm. Please let regular time not end all square. Something tells me that my prayer will be answered.
FINAL SCORE: Brazil 1 Germany 7. Well, Brazil did score a goal. Right at the end. Just after Germany had missed making it eight nothing.
The Spaniards may now be feeling a bit less bad.