Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Category archive: Television

Monday June 20 2016

I just heard someone, in a TV documentary I recorded, using the phrases “slow up” and “slow down”, in the same sentence.  He used these phrases to mean exactly the same thing, and in fact they do seem to mean pretty much the same thing.  Neither of these meanings have much to do with “up” or “down”.

It is fun, though, ruminating on when you’d use one and when the other, and why.  They aren’t exactly the same, or both would not persist.

Saturday June 18 2016

I am currently spending all my blogging time, apart from the late night hour or so that it took to bash out this, working on a summary of a talk given to Libertarian Home by Mark Littlewood, about Brexit.  Lilttlewood used to be for Britain staying in the EU, but has since changed his mind.  I hope to be sending that summary in to LH some time tomorrow.

Meanwhile, my understanding of the referendum is that the Jo Cox murder has made a bit of a difference, in favour of Remain, but that a stronger swing towards Leave has also been happening.

The whole immigration argument, now being pressed hard by the Leavers, is obviously making a big difference.  But I reckon some other forces are also in play.

I was struck by the news that Leave was appealing to Labour voters by saying that voting Leave would wipe the smile off the faces of Cameron and Osborne.  I think that’s probably proving to be very persuasive.  In a General Election, you can hate Cameron and Osborne all you like, and vote against them.  But, against you are all those people who think that a Labour Government would be a catastrophe.  They all vote for Cameron and Osborne despite not liking them.  But in this referendum, all those Labour voters whose overriding emotion is loathing of Cameron and Osborne can actually cause Cameron and Osborne to lose.  I’m guessing that’s a very appealing idea.

I also think that Eddie Izzard’s bizarre appearance – literally his appearance – on shows like Question Time destroyed with one viral image the claim that all Remainers are normal people and only the more unhinged of the Leavers are a bunch of nutters from some other planet.  Izzard reminded me of that bonkers woman in a beret that the late Victoria Wood once did, to such comic effect.

To be clear.  I’m not saying that everyone now thinks that those arguing for Leave are all normal.  Leavers have long been reckoned by normal people people to be, many of them, about as sane as a sackful of drunken badgers.  What Izzard did was say to the nation: Lots of us Remainers are barking mad too.

Izzard, in other words, completely changed a widespread and very influential idea.  If everyone had been supposing that all Leave freaks are actually not freaks at all, any of them, than the Jo Cox murder would also have changed things, a lot.  As it is, this horror story merely confirms what most people already know about Leave freaks.  They’re freaks.  Meanwhile, the mainstream politicians arguing for Leave are not nearly such freaks.  They are fairly normal looking.  They look normal in the way that Farage looked normal, when he was sitting next to Izzard on Question Time.  The Jo Cox murder doesn’t change that.

Izzard, on the other hand, actually changed things.  The murder of an MP is a much bigger deal than Izzard.  But that murder, horrible though it was, does not change what most people think about Leavers.  Many Leavers are freaks.  But what Izzard did was use his small national presence to suggest a really rather big change, and not in a way that helped the cause he was arguing for.  He said that many Remainers are freaks too.

That’s the problem with showbiz people.  They confuse showbiz popularity with being popular with the entire nation.  If you find a comedian to be annoying or just not very funny, you can simply ignore him, happily leaving those who adore him to carry right on adoring him.  The comedian makes a good living.  You are not bothered.  Problem solved.  Everyone happy.  Personally, I think Eddie Izzard has one joke - “Hey, I’m completely random in what I say!” - and I’ve heard it enough not to want to hear it again.  So, I now ignore Izzard.

But politics is, by definition, the stuff that comes for you whether you want it or not.  Politics is like having to sit and listen to a performer whom you don’t like.  When Izzard steps forward, dressed like that, spouting political opinions, he then provokes, from those who do not like what they are seeing, not a mere shrug of indifference, but active opposition.  Izzard made people want to vote against what he was saying.

In this recent piece in the Independent, it was claimed that how Izzard had been arguing was the problem.  I wonder if even the anonymous editors who signed off on this editorial really think this.  They carefully avoided saying that Izzard looked like a freak.  Which is fine for late night telly fun.  But it is not fine when the subject being argued about is the manner in which our country should be governed.  There is a reason that ambitious politicians do not, any of them, present themselves as Izzard just did.

If the Brexit referendum result is as close as it could well be, Izzard’s contribution to the Leave cause could prove to have been decisive.

This has been a been a rather muddled and repetitious piece of writing.  This is because I was working out what I thought, as I wrote.  The point about how the Jo Cox murder doesn’t change how anyone feels about Leave Freaks, but that Izzard’s pratting about does change what lots of people feel about Remainers, and that lots of people now reckon that a lot of Remainders are Freaks too, only emerged as I wrote.  But, me thinking aloud is one of the things this place is for.

Friday May 20 2016

For years I have struggled, with the graphics programme I have been using, to crop, not square (an option this programme does offer), and not to a size I specify (ditto), but to a ratio that I specify.  For years, I could not do that.  I repeatedly searched for such a thing, in other programmes, but evidently didn’t pick the right words.

Then, in France, I couldn’t remember the mere name (on such things do decisions hinge) of my regular photo-editing package, so I loaded PhotoCat, basically because it had “cat” in its name and I reckoned I could have Friday feline fun with it (ditto), to see if I could photo-edit with that, and I could, and I could do constant ratio rectangular cropping which was a most welcome surprise.

Thus are decisions made, by computer operatives.  There are two rules for getting things done in the modern world.  (1) Do not unleash solutions upon circumstances which are not a problem.  If it doesn’t help you to do something that you need to do, don’t bother with it no matter how cool everyone else says it is.  Cool is not a good enough reason to be faffing about with something.  (Faffing about to no purpose cannot be cool, because it isn’t, and because another rule is: worrying about being cool guarantees that you won’t be.)

And (2): if it does help you to do just one thing that you do want to do, then, if you can afford the money, the space, the bother, whatever, use it.  Then, when you are using that thing for that one essential thing, then, you can move onwards to finding out if it will do any other merely desirable things.  But, lots of merely desirable things and nothing essential is not good enough.

Using anything is difficult, if you only use it occasionally, to do something merely occasionally desirable.  This rule applies at all times, in all places, and no matter how “user friendly” the gizmo or programme claims itself or is claimed by other users of it to be.  Occasional is bother.  Always.  Don’t do occasional if you can avoid it.

Using anything is easy, on the other hand, if you do it regularly.  This rule applies at all times, in all places, to all things, and no matter how “user hostile” enemies of the gizmo or process claim it to be.  If a convoluted dance around the houses by a complicated route gets you an essential result, then dance.  Convoluted will quickly become imprinted on your brain, and easy, and reinforced each time you (frequently) use it.  This is how rats and ants do things. (Hurrah: other creatures!) They’ll probably outlast us.  Ants definitely.

The above explains why the division of labour was so epoch-making.  When you concentrate entirely on a small but rather tricky part of a big process, you will do it massively better than others attempting this tricky operation only sometimes, in among all the other things they are attempting.  The damn near impossible becomes routine and easy.

So, I prepared for a life of frequently PhotoCatting fixed-ratio rectangles out of my photos.  Using PhotoCat for that one thing.

But then, earlier this week I was cranking up PhotoCat, prior to some fixed-ratio cropping, and it refused to load.  It got to 80%, and then stuck there.  Who knows why?  Was this PhotoCat’s fault?  Was it something I was doing?  Probably the latter, but that isn’t the point.  It didn’t load. So, I went looking for alternatives, and I found one, called: PhotoPad.

And the bad news for PhotoCat is that PhotoPad also does proportional ratio cropping, and does it rather more conveniently, because PhotoPad operates on my hard disc and doesn’t have to be uploaded from the www each time.  Unlike PhotoCat, PhotoPad is not www based, or whatever you call it, which I prefer because you can still use it if the www is out of action.  It’s now all mine:

image

That being a snap of a rather unusual form of transport that I snapped, in France.  I like how you can see what’s happening there, like when they zoom in on a detail in a computer picture in NCIS or a movie or something similar.  (Question.  Does art lead life in computing?  Does stuff like the above start out in the movies, just so absolutely everyone can get what’s going on, and then migrate to real life?)

PhotoPad does something else which PhotoCat didn’t do, or not for me, which is rotate much more exactly.  Most photo software seems to want to offer only rotation in 1 degree increments.  If they can do better, they don’t volunteer the fact.  But, PhotoPad does volunteer this.  With PhotoPad, instead of rotating something 1 degree or 2 degrees (or 359 degrees), you can do 1.38 degrees or 1.77 degrees or 358.61 degrees.  You’d be surprised, perhaps, how often that is a desirable refinement.  You can do it by eye, and let the numbers take care of themselves.  Terrific.  Cool, even.

So.  PhotoCat now offers me … nothing.  So, … see above.

Just now, while checking out the PhotoCat link for this posting, I successfully cranked up PhotoCat.  Whatever went wrong before has now gone away.

Too late.

Monday May 02 2016

As frequently threatened, this blog is going more and more to be about the process of getting old.  Yesterday’s posting was about that, and so is this one.

I have spent the morning doing various household trivia, internetting, and then, in particular, come eleven o’clock, keeping up with county cricket.  This really takes me back, to the time when, as a small boy, I was glued to my radio, keeping up with county cricket.  Then as now, just the numbers were enough to tell me a lot of what was going on.

Second childhood is catered to by tradesmen with just as much enthusiasm as first childhood is, the difference between that we second childhooders now make all our own decisions.

When I was a child, a magic machine that trotted out not just county cricket scores but entire continuously updated county cricket scorecards would have been a marvel.  Now, I have it, and just at the moment in my life when my actual life is winding down, and county cricket again seems like something interesting.  Between about 1965 and about 1995, I paid almost zero attention to county cricket.  I could not have told you who was winning or who had last won the County Championship during those decades.  The newspapers and the telly had remained interested only in international cricket, there was not yet any internet, and above all, I had a life.  But now that life as such is slipping from my grip, county cricket becomes an attraction again.

Notoriously, old age is the time when you remember your childhood better than anything else, or at least you think you do.  And the things that had intense meaning then have intense meaning still.  So it is that much of commerce now consists of digging into the manic enthusiasms that reigned six or seven decades ago, and rehashing them as things to sell now.  On oldie TV, such as I was watching last night, you see shows devoted to the obsessions of the nearly (but not quite yet) forgotten past all the time, every night.  As the years advance, shows about WW2 are succeeded by shows about 1950s dance halls or crooners or early rock and rollers, or ancient cars and trams and steam trains.  Often the shows now are about how the steam trains themselves are being revived, by manic hobbyists who have just retired from doing sensible things.

I know the feeling.  One of the best train journeys I recall from my boyhood was in the Cornish Riviera Express, driven by a huge 4-6-2 steam engine (for real, not as a “heritage” exercise) in about 1952, out of Waterloo.  I can still recall leaning out of the window on a curve, and seeing the locomotive up at the front, chomping away in all its glory, gushing smoke fit to burst.  I never quite turned into a full-blooded trainspotter, but like I say, I know the feeling.

A bit of a meander, I’m afraid.  But don’t mind me.  You’d best be going now.  I’m sure you have more important things on your mind.

Sunday May 01 2016

While channel hopping in search of an entirely different TV channel earlier this evening, I happened to catch this snatch of dialogue, from the TV show New Tricks:

“When you’re looking for something, it’s always in the last place you look.”

“That’s because when you find it, you stop looking for it, you berk.”

Well, I laughed.  And I reckon it’s an improvement on any of these.

I didn’t know New Tricks was such a success in foreign parts:

These curmudgeonly coppers, baffled by new technology, hating modern policing methods and clearly in no state to mount a rooftop chase, proved gripping to viewers across the globe.

Actually, it’s pretty obvious why New Tricks is so popular with TV viewers everywhere.  It’s because TV viewers everywhere are mostly the same age as the curmudgeonly coppers in New Tricks, and at least twice the age of all the other cops on television.

Speaking as an oldie myself, I can tell you that jokes about not being able to remember where you put things speak to me, very loudly.  Yesterday, my oldie friend was helping me with my Ryanair checking in (another thing not all oldies to put it mildly are very good at sorting out) and during this my debit card was required.  So I produced it, from my wallet, and two seconds later I placed my wallet … into a black hole, and couldn’t for the life of me find it anywhere.  It just totally vanished into thin air, into a parallel universe, with its entrance portal on the far side of the moon.  And then it reappeared, on top of the plastic sugar jar.

Sunday March 13 2016

The weather over the weekend has been excellent, but I have been stuck indoors watching the Six Nations, which England have just won, even though there’s a still another weekend to go, thanks to Scotland beating France today.

I nearly went out today, despite the rugby, which I could have watched the recording of instead of watching it live.  But this ...:

image

... which is the London weather forecast for tomorrow, persuaded me to postpone going out until tomorrow, since the weather tomorrow is also going to be good.  Weather forecasts this near to the actual time they forecast are always accurate.

But, where to go.  I am fast running out of new places in London to visit.  I know that this is not true, but - rather bizarrely - that is how it now feels to me.  And in order to make a proper early start, I need a predetermined destination to get me going.  But, which destination?  Memo to self: before bed tonight, I need to have fixed on something enticing.

What I am already thinking about is to go south, on foot.  Across Vauxhall Bridge, maybe, but then, instead of going somewhere from Vauxhall Station, or walking along beside the river, I have in mind to go onwards, inland, in a south-westerly direction.  What is Kennington Park?  Can Big Things be seen from that?  Time to find out.  Then maybe wander in the general direction of the City, towards the Big Things.

Important.  The mobile phone needs to be powered up, because I will need to know where I am at all times.

Monday March 07 2016

Yes, I’ve been continuing to photo taxis with adverts.  Here are half a dozen of the most recent such snaps.

First up, further proof, if you need it, that the internet has not abolished television.  People still like to be passively entertained, surprise surprise.  But the internet is in the process of swallowing television, so that they end up being the same thing:

image

Next, become an accountant!  Note how they include the word “taxi” in the advertised website, presumably to see whether advertising on taxis is worth it.  Note to LSBF: I have no plans to become an accountant.

Note also the Big Things picture of London, something I always like to show pictures of here, and note also how out of date this picture is.  No Cheesegrater, for a start:

image

Next up, a taxi advertising a book. I do not remember seeing this before, although I’m sure it has happened before:

image

Next, Discover America.  I thought it already had been:

image

Visit a beach.  I didn’t crop this photo at all, because I like how I tracked the taxi and its advert, and got the background all blurry, and I want you to see all that blurriness.  Nice contrast between that and the bright colours of the advert.  A little bit of summer in the grey old February of London:

image

Finally, a snap I took last night, in the Earls Court area.  And now we’re back in the exciting world of accountancy, this time in the form of its Beautiful accounting software:

image

As you can see, it was pitch dark by the time I took this.  But give my Lumix FZ200 even a sliver of artificial light and something solid to focus on, and it does okay, I think.  A decade ago, that photo would have been an unusable mess.

I am finding that taxi advertising changes very fast these days.  All of the above photos, apart from the one with the beaches, was of an advert I had not noticed before.

Which means that in future years, these taxi photos will have period value, because the adverts will have changed over and over again with the passing of only a handful of years.

Saturday February 06 2016

Today I have been what passes with me for busy.  By this I do not mean that I have been doing anything along the lines of work, of benefit to others.  Oh no.  But I have been paying attention to a succession of things, all of which involved me not being in much of a state to do anything else.

There was a game of cricket, there was a game of rugger, and a game of football.  England defeated South Africa.  England defeated Scotland.  And Spurs defeated Watford.  So, three for three. And then I went to hear a talk at Christian Michel’s, about The Unconscious, Freudian and post-Freudian.  Freud, it turns out, was right that there is an Unconscious, but wrong about a lot of the details.

On my way home from that talk, I took a photo.  Technically it was very bad photo, because it was taken through the window of a moving tube train.  It is of an advert at a tube station.  But my photo did the job, which was to immortalise here yet another assemblage of London’s Big Things, in an advert:

image

That’s only a bit of the picture, rotated a bit, lightened and contrasted a bit and sharpened a bit.

The advert was for these visitor centres, which sound suspiciously like what used to be called “information desks”.

I see: the Cheesegrater, the Wheel, the BT Tower, Big Ben, the cable car river crossing, the Gherkin, Tower Bridge, the Shard, St Paul’s, and the pointy-topped Canary Wharf tower.  I forgive TfL for plugging the embarrassing Emirates Dangleway.  If they didn’t recommend it, who would?

Because of all that busy-ness, I have no time to put anything else here today.

Tomorrow: Super Bowl!

LATER: AB de Villiers, talking about South Africa now being two down with three to play:

“I can’t help but think, shit we have got to win three games in a row to win this series. Shucks, I mean. But that’s the fact of the matter. In situations like this, whether you are 2-nil up or 2-nil down, you have to take a small step. The next game is important for us. Shucks.”

We all know what shit is, but now learn what a shuck is.

Thursday December 31 2015

I spent a lot of today doing an elaborate Samizdata posting with twelve photos in it, and now I am doing the same here.  Most of these ones are just of the I Just Like It sort.

Whether I have the time and energy left after posting the photos to say something about them remains to be seen.  Anyway, here they are, one for each month, in chronological order:

image image imageimage image imageimage image imageimage image image

Okay, let’s see if I can rattle through what they are, insofar as it isn’t obvious.

1.1 was taken outside Quimper (which is in Brittany) Cathedral, where they were selling that sugary stuff on a stick called I can’t remember what.  I stalked the guy for ever, until he finally obliged by sticking his sugary stuff on a stick in front of his face.  Never clocked me, I swear.  Although, when others stalk me when I’m photoing, I never notice them.

1.2 is the amazing coffee making equipment owned by the friend also featured in these earlier pictures.

1.3 is the men’s toilet in the Lord Palmerston pub, near Suicide Bridge, photoed soon after I took those.

2.1 explains itself.  2.2 is Anna Pavlova, reflected in the House of Fraser building in Victoria.  2.3 was taken on the Millenium Footbridge.

3.1 is 240 Blackfriars.  What I like about it is that in some photos, such as this one, it looks like a 2D collage stuck onto the sky, instead of a 3D building in front of the sky.

3.2 is the new entrance to Tottenham Court Road tube/crossrail station, outside Centre Point, seen from further up Tottenham Court Road.

3.3 is the Big Olympic Thing, seen from Canning Town railway and tube station.  A tiny bit of it, anyway.  To me, unmistakable.  To you, maybe an explanation needed.

4.1 shows me photoing shop trivia, in this case a spread of magazines dominated by the scarily intense face of one of British TV’s great Tragedy Queens, the actress Nicola Walker.  I first clocked her when she was in Spooks.  Now she’s in everything.

4.2 and 4.3 are both film crew snaps.  4.2 features a London Underground Big Cheese, who is a bit put out to find himself being photoed by the wrong person instead of by his own tame film crew.  He was drawing a lot of attention to himself, so I reckon him fair blogging game.  4.3 is another film crew, in Victoria Street, just loving the attention, who will be ecstatic when they hear about how they have hit the big time.  I like how there’s a movie advert on a bus right behind them.

There, that wasn’t so bad.  Although there are probably several mistakes that I am, as of the smallest hours of 2016, too tired to be fixing.

Happy New Year to all who get to read this.

Thursday November 19 2015

Rather as a politician, when sacked, pretends that he has resigned to spend more time with whatever is left of his family, when a cricketer gets the elbow from the national team, the selectors always now say stuff like this:

James Whitaker, the national selector, said: “Ian Bell has been an outstanding player for many years and undoubtedly still has plenty to offer England in the future. It was clearly a difficult decision but he has struggled for runs in recent series and we felt that it was the right time for him to take a break and spend time working on his game out of the spotlight.

Outstanding player.  More to offer.  Take a break.  Work on his game.  Out of the spotlight.  And sometimes, it’s even true.  After all, Compton and Ballance are both back.  But the difference is age.  Compton and Ballance are still quite young.  Bell is at that age where he is either good now, or not.  He doesn’t have a potential big decade to offer in the future, just one or two more years right now.

Bell’s problem is that he has always been the kind of player who can make a good team better, but he has never been the kind of player good enough to make a bad team good.  And even when he was playing really well, which he did from time to time, you kind of didn’t notice.  He was never a “game changer”, merely a pretty good player, who sometimes did really well, and sometimes not so well.

Talking of bellends, for several years now the comedians on the telly have been using this, to me, peculiar expression, to describe people they are not impressed by and are inclined to mock.  But only now, wanting to add something to this posting, did I learn that the bellend is the head of the penis.  Which presumably makes the bell … Blog and learn.

Tuesday November 17 2015

So there I was, in the bath I think it was, listening to the cricket in Dubai, and Agnew mentioned what sounded like a rather interesting photo, of a very tall cricketer called Mohammad Irfan, being interviewed.  The particular fun being that Irfan is very tall, and both the interviewer and the cameraman are standing on boxes:

Agnew mentioned that he had seen this photo on Twitter, and that was enough of a clue for me to find it (scroll down to Nov 15 until you get to the bit where it says: “Love this pic of Irfan being interviewed") very quickly:

image

Bonus: another photographer in the shot.

More and more, the world is following me, in no longer wanted to exclude other photographers from its photos, but instead to include other photographers.

Monday November 09 2015

The German conductor Herbert von Karajan probably did more to popularise classical music after WW2 that any other single person.  His LPs and then his CDs and DVDs sold in their millions.  I have many Karajan CDs myself.  So, the question of whether he was any sort of Nazi and if so what sort remains a hot topic.

Playwright Ronald Harwood, author of a play about Wilhelm Furtwängler, was recently interviewed on BBC4 TV.  During this, Harwood mentioned, in contemptuous passing, that Karajan was obviously a Nazi.  Furtwängler was interesting because it wasn’t clear, hence that play.  Karajan?  Not interesting, because clearly he was.  He hired a Jewish secretary after the war.  What more do you need to know?

Well, I for one needed to know a bit more than only that, so I did some googling and came across this by Peter Alward, former vice-president of EMI Classics:

I first met Karajan in 1976, and we remained friends up to his death. He was one of EMI’s flagship artists in the late 70s and early 80s; most of his operatic work was for us, his symphonic work for Deutsche Grammophon. Yes, he cultivated the cult of the maestro - he was a shrewd businessman and recognised his market worth. He was not slow in coming forward and speaking his mind, but no conductor is a shrinking violet. I feel he was misunderstood. There was the glamorous image - the jet-set lifestyle - but this was all a defence. He was really very shy, a simple man with simple tastes. I vehemently oppose the theory that he was a Nazi. He was an opportunist. I’m Jewish, and if I believed otherwise, I wouldn’t have spent a minute in his company.

Opportunist sounds about right to me.  Karajan, like all conductors, needed power, over an orchestra.  Needing this sort of power, he had to avoid antagonising whoever the politicians were, the ones with the more regular sort of power.  But he did not care about politics for its own sake, merely as a means to the end of his music making.

Trouble is, you can surely say the same for a great many other servants of the Third Reich.  I bet plenty of rocket, airplane, tank, bomb and ship designers were equally opportunistic, and equally free of any positive desire to be Nazis.  But whoever happened to be Germany’s politicians, these people would have served them.  All they cared about was rockets, airplanes, tanks, bombs and ships.  Classical music was not as important to the Nazi regime as armaments were, but it was quite important.  Karajan did help.

The most interesting titbit I learned from this little burst of Karajan-googling was that apparently his second wife, Anita, whom he married in 1942, was burdened with a Jewish grandfather.  But hKarajan wasn’t merely “burdened” thus.  He burdened himself.  Wikipedia:

On 22 October 1942, at the height of the Second World War, Karajan married Anna Maria “Anita” Sauest, born Gütermann. She was the daughter of a well-known manufacturer of yarn for sewing machines. Having had a Jewish grandfather, she was considered a Vierteljüdin (one-quarter Jewish woman).

Just marrying a quarter-Jewess, before that was dodgy, is one thing.  Being a celeb and marrying a famous heiress with a famously rich and half-Jewish dad, and doing all that in 1942, is something else again.  That’s more than just hiring an entirely Jewish secretary after the war.

When I read about such people and about such times, I don’t feel inclined to condemn.  I merely wonder how I might have behaved, or misbehaved, had I been confronted by such pressures and such temptations.

Sunday October 18 2015

I’m talking rugby, not life.  If you came here because of the above headline but care only about life, relax, the Northern Hemisphere is safe.  It isn’t being culled.  It is merely that the Northern Hemisphere’s rugby teams haven’t been doing very well in the Rugby World Cup, which is now taking place in England.

Watching Ireland lose to Argentina had me conflicted, as they say.  On the one hand, another Home Nation succumbs to a Southern Hemisphere monster.  But on the other hand, England don’t now need to feel quite so bad.  Wales knocked out England by a whisker, and that was disappointing.  But England, Wales, and now Ireland, all got beaten by Southern Hemisphere sides.

And if Scotland do anything different against Australia in the last of the quarter-finals, about to be played, it will be a major upset.

England merely got the same bad news just the one game earlier.

Which means that, unless Scotland have entirely failed to read this script, the semis will be NZ v South Africa, Australia v Argentina.  These four teams have their own tournament every year, in their own stadiums.  Now, they are having another such tournament, in England.

As for France, well, they have done almost as badly as England, and perhaps worse.  They beat their minnows, as England did.  But, like England, they lost very upsettingly in the group stage to a home nation, Ireland in their case, and they were then completely shredded by the All Blacks.  Many neutrals had hoped for a repeat of 1999 or 2007.  By the end, even the humiliation of NZ only winning by one mere point in 2011 was expunged from the record.  This time around, the margin was: 49.

John Inverdale told a good joke after England got beaten by Australia 13-33.  He was in a taxi afterwards with a couple of England supporters, and one of them said: that was as bad as 1066.  Not really, said the other.  It was only 1333.

But 1362 (the year of the battles of Brignais and of Launac (blog and learn)) is quelque chose else again.  And if an All Black hadn’t dropped the ball just as he was about to score yet another try right at the end, it would have been 1367 or 1369, years in which other things presumably also happened in France.

LATER: Scotland have NOT been reading the above script.  They now lead Australia 34-32 with five minutes to go.  In-obscene-present-participle-credible.
But, penalty to Australia.  They lead 35-34 with a minute to go.  End.  “Southern Hemisphere clean sweep”, see above.

Saturday October 10 2015

I feel an orthodoxy developing.  Former England rugby international Austin Healey:

For now, let’s postpone the period of introspection and focus on maintaining what has the potential to be the best World Cup ever. Even with the final few pool matches to be played, it has been the best tournament in terms of attendance and the overall quality.

There you go.  We may be crap at playing these games, but we invented them all, and we have lots of great stadiums.  We know how to organise a game, even if we can no longer play it.

Plus, we have lots of immigrants from everywhere on the planet to come and cheer for everyone taking part.  We do tend to hate and fear foreigners quite a lot, especially in large clumps, but not as much as the damn foreigners do.  Which is what passes for friendliness, in the world now.  And these are not the kind of foreigners who want to live here in huge numbers of one nationality, and to corrupt our women and steal our jobs and defraud our welfare system.  (None of that applies to England’s football fans, who seem to be about two percent scum of the earth, which can rather spoil things.)

As for me, I find that I really am enjoying this jamboree.  I am enjoying all the pent-up anger of England’s anti-Lancaster tendency (I like to think of them “Yorkists"), who have been biting their tongues for the last few months, but who are now letting it all spill out.  Their ire seems mostly concentrated on Lancaster’s dithering and bizarre selection decisions, which have indeed seemed peculiar even to an ignorant onlooker like me.

Also, freed from the torture of hope, I find I am settling down to enjoy the rugby.  This afternoon’s game, for instance, is looking like an absolute belter.  As of now, with the clock having just past 35 minutes of the first half, it stands at 23-23.  Correction, make that 26-23, to Samoa, against Scotland.  Next up, Wales v Oz, and then England v Uruguay.

In the latter game, if all goes well, England will capture that vital third place in the group spot, and thereby qualify for the next World Cup in Japan.

Thursday September 24 2015

The platinum blonde woman who sings the introductory song sounds very unmusical and strangulated to me.  When she sings “A new age has begun”, it sounds like “Anewwayjazzbeegun”, with no breaks between words at all.  Very peculiar.  I now learn that I am not the only one to be unhappy about this singing.

My first observation of the actual rugby: lots of handling errors.  My impression is that the balls are bigger, fatter, lighter, bouncier, a bit like balloons.  So, when they hit your chest they don’t just stick there, they bounce off your chest and you’ve dropped it.

How good were Japan?  Yes, very good.  But.  But.  How bad were South Africa? Very, very bad.  There is a back story there, which the television commentators I am hearing seem extremely anxious not to discuss.  It’s all: the mighty Boks.  Apparently, they haven’t persuaded enough black men to play rugby, and racial quotas are deranging and demoralising them.  “Political football” etc.  Lawrence Dallaglio mentioned this stuff once, in passing, speaking of them “falling off tackles” (I think that was the phrase).  Of not really trying, in other words.  Other than that, nothing.  Japan got totally stuffed by Scotland yesterday, 45-10.  Okay, the Japanese hadn’t had much of a rest.  But even so, a bizarre result, unless Japan beating South Africa was at least as much because South Africa were bad as because Japan were good.  Scotland v South Africa might be … very interesting.

I really like London’s new Olympic Stadium.  Whenever I saw it before, it contained the 2012 Olympics, and I hate the Olympics so much that I couldn’t see how very nice the stadium is.  Now I can see this.  I think I now prefer the inside of the Olympic Stadium to the inside of New Wembley.  The only interesting thing about New Wemley is the big arch, seen from the outside.  That’s terrific.  One of London’s great new landmarks.  But the inside of New Wembley, which I have actually visited in person, is very dreary.  But maybe I was just in a bad mood, on account of it being football, and on account of this idiot jumping about in front of me whenever anything faintly interesting happened, so I had to either get up off my seat to see anything, or remain seated and in ignorance.

England look okay to me, but okay presumably won’t be enough to win.  But then again, most other teams seem only okay also.  Except the All Blacks of course.  How will they contrive to lose this tournament, I wonder?  They usually seem to find a way.  Last time around, they did win, but only by one point.