Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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Most recent entries
- The view from outside Waterloo Station
- Goodbye KP?
- Strange London buses
- Seaside muralist
- How Centre Point is looking just now
- Another horizontal advert for an only slightly more expensive drone
- First test against NZ – first day
- Blue sky
- Adverts for small and cheap drones
- High hair
- Hungerford Footbridges photographers
- An alien robot playing the cymbals and paps
- A photographer and an advert
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Category archive: Television
Take a train from … anywhere, into Waterloo. Exit your train, and go through the barriers. Turn right in the big concourse and carry on walking until you have gone as far as you can go, and you get to an exit. Step outside. You are in “Station Approach”:
I’ve messed with the visuals there, to make “Station Approach” readable.
You are wisely prevented by some railings from stepping out into Station Approach itself and being run down by a taxi. But turn right out of the exit, and make your way a few dozen yards along the narrow pavement, to the point in Station Approach where you can cross the road, to some steps that lead down into “Spur Road”. (The steps are right next to the S of Spur Road, in the image above.) But, don’t go down these steps. Stay at the top of the steps and enjoy the view.
To the far left, you can see the Walkie Talkie. To the far right, the Spray Can. Between them is the sprawl of south-of-the-river London.
It’s one of my favourite London panoramas, if only because everyone else who ever sets foot in this place is either in a hurry to get somewhere else, or in a hurry to catch a train. Nobody talks about this view, the way they do of the view from such places as Parliament Hill or the top of some of London’s big or even not so big buildings
What stops this view being talked up as a “view” is the prominence of all the foreground clutter. In the background, there are Big Things to be observed, but they do not tower over the foreground. If anything, the foreground clutter dominates them. Even the Shard is an almost diffident, even sometimes (depending on the light) spectral presence rather than a “tower”. Recently there was a TV documentary about the Tower of London, and the impact of it and the Shard, each in and on their time, was compared. The message was that the Tower then was like the Shard now. But these two buildings could hardly be more different. The Tower then was telling London then that the Tower was the boss. The Shard now politely concedes to London now that London is the boss.
And of course I love this view, because I love London’s clutter, especially roof clutter, and I love it when Big Things can be seen between and beyond the clutter, without necessarily dominating:
Those shots were all taken within moments of one another, just over a week ago, on a sunny afternoon, the same sunny afternoon I took this.
Stations are great linear photo-opportunities. This is because railway tracks have to be pretty much dead level. If the lie of the land is high, the tracks have to be lower, and if the lie of the land is low, the tracks have to be higher, which is also convenient because it enables the railway to jump over the roads on bridges and viaducts rather than compete with them at such things as level crossings. This causes the platforms of many a station to be at roof level rather than at ground level.
Level crossings will get road traffic across a mere double track out in the country, but are hopeless for getting past the tracks out of Waterloo, one of the world’s busiest railway stations. The traffic would wait for ever. So, bridges and viaducts it is, and that means that Waterloo Station itself is dragged up to regular London roof level. So even if you can’t see anything from Waterloo Station itself, you can from just outside it. You can from Station Approach. Well, I can, because I want to.
Am I going to have to stop denouncing test matches that clash with the IPL? The IPL didn’t seem to have a lot of close finishes this time around. (Yesterday’s final was over long before it was over, if you get my meaning.) And now, both England and New Zealand have all their top players playing test cricket, in England, in May. And playing it really well. NZ, a far better team now than they were only a few years back, got over 500 in their first innings and a serious first innings lead. But yesterday Cook batted all day, and Stokes scored a century that absolutely did not take all day.
What struck me, watching Stokes on the C5 highlights yesterday evening, was how sweetly his off-drives were struck. He is no mere slogger, although he definitely can slog. Thanks to Stokes, England can now, on the final day, win.
Stokes hitting two blistering scores at number six (he also got 92 in the first innings), and Root not wasting any time at number five, means that Pietersen can now kiss his test career a final goodbye. Had the England batting failed in this mini-series against NZ, and above all had it failed slowly, the cries for Pietersen to come in and beef it up and speed it up would have grown in volume. As it was, the slow guys at the top failed (Lyth and Ballance both twice over), apart from Cook yesterday, while the quick batters got on with it. This leaves no place for Pietersen. Bell? A decent innings in the next game will end any moans about him.
Meanwhile, this test match, as of today, is a real cracker. And today is one of those great test days in London where they cut the prices for the last day and Lord’s suddenly fills up with people like me. Not actually me, today. But I thought about it. And if I thought about actually going, it can’t be that I think the game is meaningless. Score one for the Old Farts who think that the IPL is just a faraway T20 slog of which we know little.
This game began with England being 30 for 4. Now NZ are 12 for 3, “chasing” (the inverted commas there meaning: forget about it) 345. Broad, a bowler who, in between match winning performances, looks like a bit of a waste of space, has two wickets already. Plus, Taylor, whom Broad has just got out, was dropped off him in the previous over, and that now gets mentally chalked up by both sides as further evidence that another wicket is liable to fall at any moment.
Earlier in the week Paul Collingwood of Durham was talking up Stokes, also of Durham. He can bat, said Collingwood, which he could say with confidence after Stokes made his first innings 92. Stokes can also bowl, said Collingwood and should do so earlier than he has tended to so far in his test career. He is not just a filler in, said Collingwood. Well, now, with the score a mere 16 for 3, Stokes is bowling.
At lunch, NZ 21 for 3.
LATER: And just when I thought KP was forgotten, there was Boycott on the radio talking him up, as a replacement for the as-of-now non-firing Ian Bell. So if England get hammered in the first two Ashes tests, with Bell getting four more blobs or near blobs ... Maybe KP ... I just added a question mark to my title.
LATER: Take a bow, Collingwood! Stokes gets Williamson and McCullum in two balls! NZ 61 for 5.
After an hour in the first test against New Zealand, England are now 30 for 4. This is exactly the sort of start the England bosses did not want, because it will amplify the clamour for the return of Kevin Petersen.
Here’s Ed: “Oh dear, an inevitably miserable summer for English cricket has now commenced ... and can already hear the plaintive cries of ‘KP, blah blah, must bring KP back ... blah, blah ... it’s SCANDALOUS, KP, blah blah, he’s box-office, you know ...’”
Well, you can see which side “Ed” is on. As for me, well, I want cricket to be entertaining and diverting. Whatever England do or do not manage this summer, first against New Zealand, and then against Australia, it will certainly be entertaining and diverting. If England win, hurrah! If they lose, then there will be all the “KP, blah blah” that Ed refers to. Sport is, among other things, soap opera, and it promises to be hugely soapy and operatic this summer, because England now look like doing very badly.
My main opinion about English cricket just now is, as it has long been, that the people running it seem to imagine that the I(ndian) P(remier) L(eague), now nearing its climax for this year, is “just another T20 slogfest”, when in truth it is the Indian T20 slogfest, which means that you can earn more money playing in it than in the rest of your year as a cricketer. Something like that anyway. It’s a lot of money, especially if you are really good at it. And money talks. Money says that the world’s best players now all want to play in the IPL, and that they will not want to play stupid test matches in England against England.
I will never forget the first day of a recent England/WI series, in England, in mid-may, when Gayle scored a terrific century. But, not a terrific century for the West Indies against England, a terrific century for the Royal Challengers Bangalore. I also distinctly remember blogging about this at the time, on the day, but cannot find anything by me about this.
Yes I can. Here:
I remember very little about that meaningless test series in England, but I do remember that on the first day of it, Chris Gayle scored a brilliant century. I watched this brilliant century on my television. But Gayle did not score this brilliant century for the West Indies, against England. He scored it for the Bangalore Royal Challengers.
You would think that the ECB would have got the message. How soon before cricket fandom everywhere just hoots with derision at these “test matches” in the sodden and frigid English spring? Such tests test nobody except the out-of-their depth second-stringers sucked into them. With the star players of the touring side missing, these tests mean very little. Sport is all about meaning. Drain the meaning from a game, and the thing is dead in the water. Literally in the water, if you are playing in England, in May, and you don’t get lucky.
So, memory does not deceive.
Well, it would seem that England still have the trick of enticing the best New Zealanders to come and play test matches in England, in mid-May. That is, the NZ cricket bosses are still able to insist that their IPL-ers come to England, in the nick of time. But this still isn’t satisfactory. I will be interested to see, when I watch the highlights of day one this evening on the telly, how big the crowd is.
England, at lunch, are now somewhat less soapy and less operatic 113 for 4, after the beginnings of a decent stand between Root and Stokes. But still very iffy.
Here is a picture I took in 2005 of Kevin Pietersen and Shane Warne, which I spotted at Waterloo Station in June of that year (it’s not one of those pictures):
Having had lunch, England are now 182 for 4, and the big stand by Root and Stokes is getting bigger and bigger. Stokes is really stepping on it. Hurrah! If England end up with a decent score, the KP clamour will fade.
And, happy coincidence, my other team, Surrey, are also right now enjoying a century stand for the fifth wicket, this time by Sanga and Roy. Roy is really stepping on it.
MOMENTS LATER: Stokes out, Sanga out, withing seconds of each other. Not so happy.
The video at the other end of that link sells the drone as being fun for tourists. But I now surmise that the first great impact of drones on economic life is now already happening, in agriculture, in the bit of it where a tiny number of people manage vast acreages of agricultural land, and where a tiny increase in productivity is worth millions. These people already have an entire industry of small airplanes doing things like crop dusting, which is a very ungainly process but still already well worth doing. Imagine the benefits of being able to do that and much more, at virtually zero cost. You could plant the crop. Spray the crop. Keep and eye on the crop. Only the actual digging up of the crop, or whatever it is you have to do to crops, would still involve a bit of old school work.
I just googled “drones in agriculture”, and then clicked on Images. Wow.
Drones are a bit like 3-D printing, as a technology. There is much talk of mere humans doing it for fun, in their homes (3-D printing) or while out and about having fun (drones) but the real impact of poth these technologies is in niche markets, where specialists are doing things that have long been done, but quicker, better, cheaper, and by-and-by doing things in their line of business that were never before doable. Drones, for instance, will make a lot of land farmable that was not farmable before.
I have always believed that the core skill of my generation, watching television, would end up having huge economic impacts.
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.