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

Thursday June 01 2017

Should a tube map look like this, which shows the real places and distances of everything, but is confusing, especially if you are looking at the middle …

image

… ?

Or like this, which is the usual way you see tube maps, all designed, with inner suburban distances shortened, to make everything more clear, especially in the crowded middle …

image

… ?

Answer, do the map as a .gif and show both, morphing into each other.

Now that TV screens for advertising are becoming ubiquitous at tube stations, seemingly costing hardly any more than paper of the same size (changed by hand from time to time), why not have TV screens at tube stations with .gifs like this on show?  Maybe you could have buttons on them, so individual viewers could switch from one to the other in their own time?  Would this cause arguments between rival viewers?  Revised suggestion: Have three displays on one screen: on the left, real distances; .gif in the middle; “designed” on the right.

Thursday April 27 2017

A recent photo, taken in the Burlington Arcade, off Piccadilly:

image

Is this, I wonder, the place where Michael Portillo buys his clothes?  Here is the most Portillo-esque bit of the Cordings website.  Most of the clothes on show there are not so flamboyant.  Shame.

That’s GodDaughter 2, also photoing this enterprise, somewhat out of focus on the right there in my photo.  She is getting into the spirit of things not only with her finger nails but also with a sticking plaster on one of her fingers which is, instead of being flesh-coloured like a normal sticking plaster, bright blue.  I have not seen such a thing before.

Friday March 24 2017

Good news about a dog saving a child’s life here, linked to from Instapundit, no less.  And the Daily Mail now has the story too.  It’s interesting how the Daily Mail, behind a vast smoke screen of abuse from all those who like to abuse it (e.g. all Brit TV comedians), is now busily spreading itself throughout the English speaking world.  There’s a huge professional media gap in the USA, for something more Daily Mail-ish.

On the other hand, I read, with sadness, that long-time favourite-blogger-of-mine 6k has been setting fire to puppies.  This story has yet to go viral.

Saturday March 11 2017

I spent most of today watching rugger on the telly.

In the first game Italy got beaten by France, and in the second game, Italy got slaughtered by England.

Just kidding.  It wasn’t England v Italy.  It merely felt like England v Italy.  What it was was England v Scotland.  It was a brutal game and several players, both English and Scottish, got smashed out of it.  The difference being that while Scotland have about three superb players around which they have constructed a fine team, England have more like twenty superb players with which they have constructed an even finer team.  Scotland lost one of their best players today.  England also lost an equally good player, from an illegal tackle early on.  England carried on as if nothing had happened.  Scotland were utterly deranged and demoralised.

England were also riled up and determined to do really well, because although they now win every game they play, people had been saying that their last few Six Nations wins were not very good wins, especially the previous one, against actual Italy, where Italy had done some weird stuff with the rucks and had England all confused.  People were saying that Scotland, who have been playing really well, had a decent chance of beating England, despite the fact that the last time they won at Twickenham was in the reign of George III or whenever.

England looked excellent from the kick-off, and I think I must have felt that they were going to win convincingly even then.  I say that because, after about two minutes, one of the Scots did that illegal tackle, so illegally that they were saying he might be red carded rather than merely yellow carded, i.e. sent off for good instead of just for ten minutes.  And I caught myself hoping that he wouldn’t be sent off permanently, because that would spoil the game and mean that England’s inevitable win wouldn’t mean anything.  Much better for England to win against the full fifteen, was my feeling.  Which England duly did.

But those who said England might lose shouldn’t feel bad, because predicting the Six Nations is a mug’s game.  (The only certainly right now is that Italy will get beaten by everyone else.) I mean, put it like this.  Today England smashed Scotland.  In the previous round of games, Scotland hammered Wales, and yesterday evening Wales hammered Ireland.  So, England should have no trouble at all hammering Ireland, in the final game of the tournament, right?  Not necessarily.  The other way of looking at these three games (England/Scotland, Scotland/Wales, Wales/Ireland) is that in each of them, the home team won.  And when England play Ireland, the home team will be Ireland.  England have now beaten France, Italy and Scotland at home, but they only just beat Wales away, with a last gasp try.

But here’s an interesting fact.  Take a look at all the results so far.  Remove all the Italy games, all lost by Italy no matter where they played, and you are left with just one away win, in the form of that Wales/England game.  All the other games between the Not Italy Nations have been home wins, apart from that one Wales/England game.  If England can score another away win next weekend, they’ll be very worthy Six Nations 2017 winners.  They already are the winners.

My guess is that next weekend, England will manage the second of their only two (and the only two) Not Italy Nations away wins of the entire tournament, that Scotland (in Scotland) will smash Italy, and that France (in France) will beat Wales.

Monday February 20 2017

I’ve been meaning to post this image here for some time:

image

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.

Wednesday February 15 2017

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:

image

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.

Sunday February 12 2017

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.

Saturday February 11 2017

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.

Thursday February 09 2017

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:

image

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.

Sunday February 05 2017

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.

Saturday February 04 2017

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.

Thursday January 26 2017

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.

This was in connection with a show at the Vault Festival, at which a friend of mine is also performing, tonight.

Tuesday January 17 2017

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:

image

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.

You can now get a telly that is the same shape and size as that one was, and presumably far better to look at, for one fifteenth of that price.

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.)

Thursday January 12 2017

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.

Saturday December 10 2016

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:

imageimageimage

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.