Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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Most recent entries
- Two sunsets and two London towers
- Photoing last Friday’s Last Friday meeting
- My comment on the Six Nations so far
- UPS drones and drone vans
- Tim Marshall on the warming of the Arctic
- The outdoor map next to the Twelvetrees Crescent Bridge over the River Lea
- Marc Sidwell on experts
- Guess what this is
- Robots build a bridge
- The Robert Stephenson statue at Euston
- Cruelty to a fake animal – kindness to a fake animal
- Shopping Trolley Spiral beside the River Lea
- An Underground sermon
- Rubbish blogging
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Category archive: Television
I’ve been meaning to post this image here for some time:
Guess what it is. If in doubt, look at the categories list below. Then go here, to confirm what you must surely have worked out.
Many have described the event at which this happened as historic, but not because of this. But I reckon what you see in the above picture is what historians will end up being most impressed by, about this event, because it was a very public manifestation of a very impressive sort of technology, which is going to have a very big future.
On January 20th I attended one of Christian Michel’s 6/20 meetings. The subject was: The Meaning of Life. To be rather more exact, it was: What kind of question is the question “What is the meaning of life?”
So, when I was making my way home, via Earls Court Underground Station, I guess I was in a Meaning of Life kind of mood. Which might explain why I took this photo:
This particular message is a bit too sentimental for my liking. Those little hearts put me right off. But actually, I don’t really object to these little sermons that the Underground has taken to erecting at the entrance to its stations. This is because something that is merely written, no matter how big the lettering, is easily ignored. I think this is one of the things I like about signs and adverts and posters and notices. You can pay them all the attention you want to pay them, from a great deal, right the way down to absolutely nothing.
This is in sharp contrast to those appalling underground train guards who insist on preaching sermons over the intercom, instead of just telling you about how you have stopped in between stations because of a train still stuck at the next station. Those sermons are impossible to avoid.
See also those buskers who actually climb onto trains and play. Both these buskers and the tube train intercom sermonisers are on my personal Room 101 list.
The above also explains why Modern Art is so successful, but why, on the other hand, Modern Classical Music is so profoundly unsuccessful. It’s not that Modern Art is mostly good while Modern Classical Music is mostly crap. Modern Art is also mostly crap. But, crucially, when a piece of Modern Classical Music traps you (when played live, in between two bits of proper Classical Music), you are stuck with it until it finishes. Modern Art, in total contrast, is, when it’s crap, crap that is easily ignored. Even when it ambushes you in an Art gallery, you can still just walk right past it. Or, you can photo it, and then walk right past it.
I just started watching the Opera North Ring Cycle on BBC4 TV. Very good.
The basic problem with The Ring is how to stage it, and how to do the costumes. Extreme Trad, where they all dress like nineteenth century fictional fantasy characters almost always looks ridiculous, like a bunch of opera singers clumping about in silly costumers on a daft stage, which is of course what they are. (The only way to do that would be to do it as a fantasy cartoon movie. Which I hope somebody will eventually get around to doing.) But modern costumes on a stage that looks like the inside of a nuclear power station is even sillier, because it plays havoc with Wagner’s very carefully scripted symbolism. You end up with blokes who look like merchant bankers or geography teachers, holding spears and waving them at steam turbines, or some such ancient-modern mish-mash. Either that or they go totally modern, and rewrite the opera. Yes. They literally do not perform Wagner. If you change the Rhine and its maidens into a nightclub and some strippers, that’s something else, and something else pretty damn stupid.
What Opera North have done is film a stage performance. The singers all wear suits and dresses, albeit suits and dresses that were very carefully chosen. And then on top of that is photographically superimposed Wagner scenery, and, when it helps (it often does), simple words on the screen to tell you what is happening. Plus, because it’s the telly, you get subtitles to tell you what they’re singing about. (CDs have the best costumes, i.e. no damn costumes, but you do need to know what they’re singing, if you don’t do German.) It’s hard to describe, but I don’t need to, because you can sample it here, it you care to.
The Rhinemaidens are three opera singers in matching dresses on a stage, with wateriness added on top of them. At no point are you asked to believe that they are actually swimming about, naked, under water for minutes on end, and singing. I have never before not seen that scene look totally ridiculous, one way or another, and I bet it was totally ridiculous, one way or another, on the first night. This time, it was not ridiculous. That’s how very, very good this production was.
I particularly liked how, when Donner was summoning forth the right sort of weather for the Gods to enter Valhalla, at the end of Das Rhinegold, he was dressed like a conductor. He was dressed that way throughout, but it worked especially well for that moment.
Loge was particularly good, both as an actor and as a singer. His look and manner reminded me a bit of Stan Laurel.
When there are great big thick elaborate sandwiches going for a quid each at the end of the day in Strutton Ground I am sometimes tempted to have one too many, i.e. two. I did that yesterday, and although I love these sandwiches, they hate me, and when there’s two of them, they can act on this hatred. Which meant that my internal organs were in no state to confront the ferocious rugger game between Wales and England this afternoon. England eventually won with a well taken but still somewhat lucky (for England to get the chance I mean) late try. But for most of the game Wales had looked better and England were consequently, for most of the game, behind. (The more usual procedure is for England to look better and for Wales then to win with a late try, Wales having been behind for most of the game.) I’ll take the win, but it would be nice if, one of these weekends, England could simply race away to a nice big win. As it was, when I fret about a game on the telly, I often console myself for probable disaster by deliberately doing something else, to put it in perspective, to distance myself, to consume irrelevant aroused energy, blah blah blah. Today I got several quite significant household tasks done.
The other Six Nations rugger game today had involved Italy. Let’s just say that the Georgian rugby team, if they were watching, must now be feeling even more pissed off. They would surely have done better against Ireland than Italy did.
Tomorrow, I expect France to slaughter Scotland. If they do, England will be top and the only unbeaten team. If Scotland win, well, jolly ho Scotland. Rugby remains a very important game.
Football, on the other hand, is only a game.
LATER: France didn’t slaughter Scotland but they did defeat them, and England are indeed now the only team with two wins from two. France and Scotland both looked good, and England beating France is looking better and better.
One of the many dispiriting aspects of getting old is that your favourite sorts of technology revert to 1970s standards of reliability, even when brand new. This is because the kind of kit you want to buy is often no longer now being made, so if you can find it, it was made a really long time ago, and that means it is liable to not work properly.
Last week, I wanted to buy a small television set. Everyone else who wants a small television buys a tablet or some such contrivance. But I am me, and I wanted a small television set.
And this was the picture it showed me when I got it home and switched it on:
Yes, a television set that doesn’t work. When did you last experience that? It’s like globalisation never happened, and I am back to buying a television from GEC or Ferguson or some such fiascotic enterprise.
This was the only kind of small television they had. There were several rows of huge televisions, and a single row of even huger ones. But no small ones.
I tried to include in this posting a link to the actual television and where I bought it. But that website wasn’t working.
My fantastic weekend of sport on the telly is nearing its conclusion, the Super Bowl having just begun.
A rising star of rugby union commentary is David Flatman. He’s the bald one there. Flats. I bet they adore him for rugby club dinner speeches. That came out sarcastic, but I really mean it.
Flatman has a nice double act going with the posher Mark Durden Smith, intro-ing the Premiership highlights. Plus he was commentating for ITV on Italy v Wales today. And then this evening he was fronting the Anglo-Welsh highlights, with Andy Goode, whose surname rhymes with food.
Flatman just seems to set the right tone. He is knowledgeable and takes rugby seriously, but knows that others take it less seriously, and that it’s basically entertainment, and that’s fine. Having been a forward himself he relishes the pugilistic and collectivist nature of the forward game, as well as the open-field individualism of the backs. Above all, he communicates that he loves the game. “Love” being a word he uses quite often.
And, he is funny. Just before the first advert interval a third of the way into this evening’s Anglo-Welsh highlights, he signed off like this:
Don’t go anywhere. You can if you want. But don’t.
I liked that. I didn’t go anywhere. I stayed here and wrote this.
One of the basic ways of getting a laugh is: take a cliché (in this case “Don’t go anywhere"), and then muck around with it. Along with North’s try against Italy, the above mucking about was my equal-best rugby highlight of the day.
Also another word of praise for the team that has been doing the American Football for the BBC, two black guys called Jason Bell and Osi Umenyiora, with Mark Chapman, who usually does proper football. If these guys don’t actually enjoy their sport and each other’s company, they do an excellent job of pretending that they do. However, I see that Mike Carlson, who used to monopolise all the American football commenting is now back for the final, aka the Super Bowl. If he does no irrelevant Trump sneering, it will be because he’s been told not to do that.
LATER: Well, that was worth staying up for. As Flats might have said:
Do go to bed yet. You can if you want. But don’t.
And Carlson was excellent. There were Trump jokes, but they were excellent too.
This weekend, the first weekend of February, is one of my particular favourites. The Six Nations begins, and on Sunday night, there is the Super Bowl. Mind you, France nearly spoilt it by nearly beating England at Twickenham, but in the end, all was well. England pre-announced that they were going to play attractive rugby, blah blah, but in the end, they settled for playing unattractive rugby and winning. The commentators all said England played badly, but I reckon they were understandably wrong-footed by France being so very good compared to recent years. It’ll be interesting to see how well France do in the rest of the tournament. They had all kinds of huge runners, some of whom were about eight foot tall by the look of them, and also a certain Louis Picamoles, who was out of the Six Nations for the last two years, but who today was declared to be the Man of the Match. I reckon England won the game in the first half, by being even at half time instead of twenty points down, as they well could have been. Oh, and Farrell kicked all his conversions with the accuracy of a champion golfer. Daly is apparently a long range specialist, and he kicked a penalty too, from long range.
And hey, Spurs have just won ugly too.
Aside from the sport, the other great thing about this time of year is that the days are back getting longer. Even now, only a month into the new year, the days are already an hour longer than they were. And by the time the Six Nations finishes, they’ll be another hour and more longer than they are now, with more photography time in proper light. Lovely.
Just heard an announcer on London Live TV pronounce Persephone as “Percy Phone”. It should be Per Seffany, in case you also are not sure. Y(oung) P(eople) T(hese) D(ays). They just don’t have the Classics.
The trick with photography is knowing what to photo in the first place. In particular, you need to be photoing things that are not going to be the same if you come back later. Photoing captures the ephemeral, far better than it celebrates the eternal. This being why people like photoing their kids. Soon, they’ll be different. But, a photo of Big Ben? It’s been done. A lot. No point in another of those.
Or what about something else that changes, like the price of a piece of electronics? I took this photo of such a price, in February 2005:
I have helpfully picked out the price and photo-enhanced it, so you can read it without any clicking. That’s a terrible photo, technically, but no other photo in that directory ("miscFeb05") is anywhere near as entertaining.
I love how it is reduced from £7,999.99. So if you had bought it then, you’d have saved five hundred quid! Now five hundred quid is the entire cost. (Which you can now save by not buying it.)
Sticking with sport, this morning I followed, on Cricinfo, most of the run-chase in the Big Bash League game of the morning. It happens in the morning over here. Some of the games are even being shown here on free-to-view TV, on Channel 5, although C5 hasn’t been so lucky with the games it has so far shown, both having ended rather tamely.
But, the one this morning didn’t end tamely. Oh no. The Some-city-in-Australia Aggressively Rebellious Types (perhaps of the animal sort by perhaps human or naturally disastrous) scored 222-4, which is the biggest score for a team innings posted in the BBL, ever. And the Some-other-city-in-Australia ARTs chased it down! How amazing is that? Very amazing.
Whenever I tune in to the BBL, I have a look for what English players are playing, by which I mean merely: have played for England. I very much want my cricket-playing fellow countrymen to impress the cricket world,but as to which Australian city hosts the winning team, well, I really cannot make myself care, not matter how hard I try. The Australian team with the more Anglos in it is the one I support. This morning, only one Anglo was involved, Stuart Broad.
Broad’s side bowled first, and Broad took no wickets for 39, which under the circumstances was not that bad. Not good, but not that bad. In reply Broad’s team for quite a while looked like they might breeze it, without needing down-the-order Broad to be doing anything with the bat. For as a long as a bloke called McDermott was batting, all was looking good for the Broad team. But in the end, Broad, batting at number 10, had somehow to make nine runs off the last three balls. He hit two fours and a one, to win it.
After Broad hit the second of his two fours, I yelled my appreciation, the only time I said anything out loud. Then, Cricinfo told me that Broad had fluked this secomd four by snicking it, instead of connecting properly like he did with the first four. And the final and winning one turned out to be a dodgy shot too. But never mind. Broad had done it. Rule Britannia. Go Blighty. “Broad’s final flourish in record chase”, said the Cricinfo home page. To me. I assume that in Australia, Cricinfo was attracting clicks to that same report by mentioning McDermott, just like the actual report does, in its headline, thereby at least suggesting that the report was the same for everyone.
Someone needs to write a game-theory type paper about why multinational club teams eventually end up getting more, and more fervent, support than merely national teams, and I am sure that plenty of someones have, because of course this has been going on with the Premier League for quite a while.
All this happens not because partisan patriotism is abolished. Rather does partisan patriotism fuel the eventual multi-national outcome. Having a couple of your fellow countrymen on a team, if it keeps happening, may well turn you into a supporter of that team. And they can work the same trick with other nations too, thus multiplying their support, and ability to sell goods adorned with the club’s heraldry.
Also, the management of the club can be first world, by the simple mechanism of holding the entire tournament in a first world country. That means that each club is better than most nations. And it all feeds on itself in a virtuous circle of enthusiastic sporting insanity, which ends up with everyone becoming citizens of the world.
Yes, The Railwa. I had continued my odyssey from Seven Sisters on the regular railway, to White Hart Lane Station. And from the platform, and then when I got outside, this was what I saw. The Railwa:
As you can see from the picture on the right, The Railwa used to be The Railway Tavern.
The y Tavern bit has disappeared because this is one of the many, many British pubs that has recently been shut down.
The other night they had a telly show about this, but it seems that it’s not all doom. Pubs are being shut by Big Booze, and often then turned into blocks of posh flats, which are more lucrative. But, some of the pubs are being saved, and taken over by The Community. Accompanying this is the rise of “craft beer” (I at first misheard this as “crap beer"), which seems to be a mixture of regular beer and fruit juice, and as such, sounds right up my street. When it comes to drink, I am a girl. My alcoholic drink, on those rarish times when I am in a pub, is: lager and lime. So it’s all going my way, apart from if I go to one of these new pubs and find it full of The Community.
To be a bit more serious, what I think I see happening here is that the old Working Class, the sort that used to smoke, and watch football teams while standing up and wearing cloth caps is ceasing to exist and what remains of it is being kicked out of the pubs by the new Working Class, the sort that doesn’t smoke, and designs websites and manages brands and works in call centres and which spent this weekend at the Robert Rauschenberg exhibition at Tate Modern. The fate of the Railwa is what happens when an industry goes through a transformation of this sort. Many of the old institutions collapse and get trashed, like the Railwa, by the look of it. Others get transformed in accordance with the new dispensation, as perhaps the Railwa will be.
I took this photo …:
This rather alarming message was displayed in the Waterloo Station concourse area, in rather large lettering, and you can see more of that if you click on the above horizontal visual slice.
All it was was part of an advert for the Top Gear replacement that Clarkson, Hammond and May are now doing for Amazon. But photography sometimes does this. But “this”, I mean that it can snatch messages out of the flux of everyday life – especially everyday advertising – and bestow upon them a portentousness that they don’t really radiate, when they are merely doing their job. Now that adverts can change their screens, there can be one message, and then another, like a TV advert. And the result is these snatches of text that can pack far more of a punch than they do in real life, so to speak.
No, I’m not talking about Cold Feet, I’m talking about my own cold feet, those things at the far ends of my legs.
Yesterday morning, I had a most unwelcome experience. I had got up for a piss, and had then hung around out of bed that bit too long, and my feet got cold. So far so regular. I eventually went to bed, and still my feet were cold. And then, despite the rest of me getting very warm, my feet refused to get any warmer, even after a short spell of sleep. I woke up with cold feet.
So, the rest of my body seems to have lost the trick, some of the time anyway, of sharing warmth with my feet. I actually had to get up again, and brew up a hot water bottle. I am starting to understand why old people are often to be observed with their feet in big bowls of hot water.
I have yet to experience feeling nervous about committing to something, and then my feet getting cold immediately after this feeling strikes, but I am sure that this experience will be bestowing itself upon me very soon. Getting old is, among other things, the process of learning that clutches of words that you had thought were merely clutches of words are actually cruelly accurate descriptions of genuine sensations, felt by you, as you get older. Under the weather. No stomach for it. And, in due course, I am sure: cold feet. There are plenty more. But (which is another Getting Old thing) I cannot now remember them.
It’s for lots of other things, for other people, like: a telly. But that is definitely one of the things that the internet is, for me.
Whenever a new kind of information storage or information transmission comes along, people fret that it will replace all the previous ones. And the others, which when they started were things that people fretted about, become good for you. When reading by the masses got started, there was concern that the masses were doing too much of it, getting addicted to it, enjoying it too much. Dear oh dear, can’t have that. But then telly came along, and reading suddenly became good for you. Telly was the thing that people were enjoying too much, wasting their lives on, etc. etc.
And now that the internet is here, you even hear people moaning that Young People These Days don’t spend enough time watching telly, because they are, you’ve guessed it, addicted to their smartphones (on which they watch telly).
My own feeling is that Young People These Days spend far more time than is good for them gadding about in the open air and watching tiny screens and not enough time sitting at home watching proper telly and proper computer screens, big enough to see what’s going on, the way God and Nature intended. But that’s a feeling, based entirely on which exact generation I happen to be a member of, not a real opinion. Young People These Days, as always, have better eyesight than oldies like me, and, unlike me now, they like to get out and have fun. When I was a (moderately) YPTD, I loved small screens, like the one on the Osborne. (Look it up. Another thing the internet is is a machine for telling you things like what an Osborne was.)
The thing is, new methods of information storage or information transmission typically give the old ones a new lease of life, rather than the kiss of death, at any rate at first and often for ever. Printing didn’t stop people talking to each other, it gave them interesting things to talk about. Trains caused a surge in horse transport, to get people to and from the station. The telly adapts books into telly-dramas, and people buy the books to find out what’s going on and who these people all are. Telephones, email and now smartphones make it easier to organise face-to-face meetings. The first big internet business sold books. And lots of telly shows now consist of bits from the internet, for those who like telly.
And now, for me, one of the most useful uses of the internet is enabling me to keep track of what’s on the regular old telly. Recently, for instance, I recorded a whole stash of Columbo episodes onto DVD. But, which episodes were they and what order should they go on the DVD in? The Radio Times only tells you so much? How many Columbo episodes were there? Who else besides Columbo himself was in them? Step forward, the internet, to tell me all about that.
See also this other blog posting that I just did, in which, among other things, I give a plug to a face-to-face meeting that I will be hosting tomorrow evening.
Well, for some, maybe they are. But not for many. Like I said, they’re a business.
Further evidence: University of North Dakota Offers Class on Starting Your Own Drone Business.
Further confirmation. My TV screen takes a while to warm up, so I often leave it on and just switch off the sound. And a moment ago, while listening to the radio, I was also watching daytime TV silently selling quite complicated looking drones at giveaway prices. A lot of money got poured into these things, to sell at around five hundred quid, in the highstreet, to people, to play around with. But these drones were today on sale for less than fifty. As individual things to have, they just haven’t caught on.
See also: 3D printers. Also not toys.