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

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Category archive: How the mind works

Saturday June 24 2017

Yesterday, I was outside Kings Cross Station, and while there I tried to photo one of London’s more amusing little buildings, which looks like a lighthouse.

The camera I have had for the last three years still works, after a fashion.  But it is misbehaving, in ways that cause me to miss crucial photos.  So, I treated myself to a new one, which is very fine, but very complicated to operate.  Which partly explains why, instead taking a still photo of this lighthouse building, I made a movie which merely included the lighthouse building, lasting twenty one seconds, by mistake.

Here is a screen capture from that movie, paused at a moment that makes it look a lot better than it mostly was:

image

This short movie also contained pictures of passers-b at crazy angles, of the pavement in front of me, along with occasional snatches of my bright blue bag.  (I’d happily show the whole thing, but as of right now, I don’t know how that works.)

But, the interesting thing was that there was also a soundtrack.  So, it was a real movie, rather than a silent movie.  You can hear those passers-by shouting, in some cases with their lips moving in perfect time with their shouting.

Hollywood, be very afraid.  Because, perhaps I will try repeating this, while pointing my new camera back at me (for which the twiddly screen (it has a twiddly screen (all my cameras have twiddly screens)) will be very handy), and with me saying something coherent.  Or maybe someone else cleverer than me.  Or both.  Or more.  But, I promise nothing.

The lighthouse building is in the middle of the above screen capture, and in the distance (this kind of situation being why I do love a zoom lens).  More about this building, and in particular about its recent renovation, here.

Tuesday June 20 2017

Why do people get so angry about other people who photo their food before eating it?

Here is a pizza that I photoed, before eating it, when we all went out to dinner following GD2’s end of third year singing recital:

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And very tasty it was too.  Thank you Da Mario‘s, if that’s how you say it.

Does the very thought of me taking the above photo, in a restaurant, annoy you?  Why?  Seriously, why?  By this I don’t mean: stop feeling annoyed you fool.  By why I mean why.  What is this feeling?

I’m not sure I can prove it, but I am rather sure that a similarly small but definite spasm of annoyance is felt when the same people who disapprove of food photoing observe other photoers using selfie sticks.

Yes, I think I have it.  What food photoing and selfie sticks have in common, beyond the obvious fact that both involve photoing, is that both practices are very visible.  If they bother you, they are hard to ignore, like a slight but irregular noise when you are trying to get to sleep, or people shouting near you in an already noisy (but predictably so and thus ignorably so) tube train.

The fact of these practices being so visible is what amplifies the annoyance.

Getting back to that food photoing thing in particular, why be annoyed?

Could it be that photography has now become something very different in recent years, but that some people need to do some catching up?  The marginal cost of the next photo you take is now: zero.  The marginal cost of the next phone communication you send: also zero.  So, taking and sending a photo of what you are about to eat is of no more consequence than just telling someone you are about to consume a rather good pizza, over the phone, with mere words.  A pizza photo says, quickly, what is in it, what sort of pizza it is, how big, and so forth, just as you might if you were talking about it.  A photo thrown into the conversation is just illustrated chit-chat.

But photography, traditionally, has tended to be a much more slow, solemn and artistic and expensive thing.  And the more artistic and cultured you are, or think that you are, the more you will know this.  Do these damn people think that every damn food photo they commit and emit is some sort of eighteenth century Dutch still life painting?

Well, it kind of is, or kind of can be.  But basically, no.  If you think they think this, you’ll think them very silly.  But, they don’t think this.  What they are doing is not Big Art, even if at its best casual photoing can resemble Big Art.  What they are doing with their food photos is small talk.

Could that be something to do with it?

Also in play are the more ignoble feelings aroused by others (a) enjoying themselves (b) not caring who knows it, and (c) not caring, in particular, about you and any moans you might have about what they are doing and how they are drawing attention to themselves.  You just know that if you said to them: Excuse me, would you mind not doing that? - they’d say something along the lines of: yes we would mind not doing that, get stuffed.  Eat you own damn food and stop complaining about us photoing ours, you idiot.  And they’d be right.  And you’d know it.

Tuesday June 13 2017

Indeed:

image

According to Laura Gibbs, this translates from Latin into this:

I am hopeful in times of danger; I am fearful when things are going well.

I love the internet.  Before the internet I would have seen this, been momentarily baffled, and would have forgotten it at once.  Now I photo it and later I learn what it means.  I then blog it and only then do I forget about it.

The building that proclaims this wisdom is now the Milestone Hotel.

Monday May 29 2017

About an hour after taking this photo, about happiness, two more photos that I took made me very happy.

The first photo was this one:

image

I had been hoping for something impressive in the way of a sunset, but this was better.  How come that big black line, somehow painted on the clouds?

Slowly, I worked it out.  There had to be a logical explanation, and my guess was that this was, to cut a long thought process short, the shadow of a vapour trail.  There was a vapour trail above the clouds, and the clouds were very thin, which meant that a shadow on the top of them registered underneath them also.

The trees were obscuring my view, because I was using them to provide shade.  But if I moved a bit, so I could see beyond and above the clouds, in the direction of the sun, would I be able to see such a vapour trail, above and beyond?

Yes:

image

There you go.

I’ve probably seen this effect before, but this is the first time I have really noticed it.  Image googling for “vapour trail shadow” got me to quite a few photos of similar things, but nothing quite like what I saw.

Some critics of digital photography complain that digital photography is a substitute for actually looking at things.  For me, digital photography has caused me to look at things more.

Thursday May 25 2017

I don’t remember how I recently found my way back this piece in the Telegraph, but I do remember noticing it when it was first published in 2014, because I remember the graphic in it about preserving various public views of St Paul’s.

However, I don’t think I actually read it right through in 2014.  In particular, I don’t remember reading this:

It’s no secret why developers want to build towers as tall as possible. The higher an apartment block is, the more money it makes. A rule of thumb is that each floor adds at least 1.5 per cent onto the value of an apartment.

“The fact is someone will pay more to be on the 29th floor than they will to be on the 27th floor,” says Mark Dorman, head of London residential development at Strutt and Parker. They are marketing the two new towers at Nine Elms (56-storey City Tower and 45-storey River Tower, ready in 2017).

“Surprisingly, too, as has been discovered in New York, you will get as much money for a high-rise apartment facing another high-rise block as you will for an apartment facing the river.

“The same rule applies in London; you’ll get more for an apartment with a view of The Shard or the Gherkin than you will for one with a view of the Thames. People in high-rises like to look at other high-rises.”

The piece then goes on to note that others, notably the Price of Wales, don’t like high rise buildings.

So, the people who like living in high-rise apartments are willing to pay for them.  Some of those not willing to pay for them don’t like them.  Guess who wins.

Plus, there are lots of people, like me, who are not willing to pay for high rise apartments, but who do like them, because they (we) like how London is and how London looks because of all these other people living in London, making all manner of interesting business and pleasure ventures viable, and making the entire place more interesting to live in and look at, and in my case a lot more interesting to take photos of.

Here is how the Telegraph piece ends:

As for those people who worry that it’s all foreigners who are coming over here and taking our high-rises, they shouldn’t get upset, says Challis. …

Challis being “head of residential research at Jones Lang Lasalle”.

… That battle is already lost.

“The fact is, one-third of the population of London was not born here,” he says.

“Take me – I’m Canadian. When it comes to internationalisation, I have to say that this is not a new phenomenon. This city is founded on its contribution to the globe.

“It’s time everyone woke up and realised what has happened. There’s no doubt in my mind that London is now the de facto capital of the world.”

All of which was written before Brexit happened.

And I’m guessing that Brexit won’t make much of a dent in any of this.  Some voted Brexit, I am sure, to put a stop to all this, or at least to slow it down.  I voted Brexit for other reasons, and also because I didn’t think Brexit would make much of a difference to the cosmopolitan nature of London.

In the longer run, I think and hope, Brexit will make London even more the “de facto” capital of the world.  In other words (see also “fundamentally”, “essentially") not really the capital of the world at all, but you know what he’s (and I’m) getting at.

Long before London became the “de facto capital of the world”, it was also the “de facto”, as well as actual, capital of England, in the sense that it has always been a Mecca for non-Londoners.  William Shakespeare for example.  He too was, by the standards of his time, an immigrant into London.  (Who went back home to die, as most immigrants don’t, but that’s a different story.)

Tuesday May 16 2017

This looks like an everyday urban scene, towards the end of a rather gloomy and cloudy day, with nothing much of any great interest to see:

image

But observe that cluster of chimneys, to the right of and a bit higher than the bus stop sign.

I’m talking about this:

image

I’ve lived a walk away from this delightful urban sculpture for about a third of a century, but I never noticed it, until today.

I’ll bet you anything there was a time when most people thought that the plague of chimney potted brick buildings that was marching relentlessly across London was the quintessence of ugliness, the way people think traffic jams are ugly now.  But now that such chimneys are no longer being built, but are instead merely being destroyed from time to time, we can relax and enjoy them.  And in a fifty years time, when the traffic jams start to retreat, people will realise that they look rather cute also.

Monday May 15 2017

Last night Spurs played their final game at the old White Hart Lane stadium.  They beat Man U 2-1, with Man U’s Wayne Rooney, no less, having the honour to score the very last goal there.  That will make a fine trivia question in years to come.

And today, the digging up of the old pitch has already begun:

image

Ouch.

I then ran the video for a bit, until there were cranes:

image

At the top there, you can see that open wound where the digging up has started.  And you can also see how the new stadium is replacing the old one, on an expanded version of the old site.

Here is a rather more pastoral photo of those same cranes, taken by me from out east, beside the River Lea, looking back across the Tottenham Marshes:

image

I am not surprised that they are now in a hectic rush to complete the new stadium as quickly as they can.  Home advantage is a very real thing in sport.  Spurs did superbly at old White Hart Lane this last season, the one now coming to an end.  But not nearly so well at Wembley, where they played their “home” Champions League and Europa League games, and where they will play all their “home” games next season, or in their regular away games, at other club’s stadia (-iums if you prefer that).  Typically, it was an away loss to West Ham which finally saw them lose all hope of winning the Premier League, and let Chelsea gallop away with it.

I don’t fancy Spurs for next season, or for the season after, when (and this is if all goes well with the new stadium) they will still be new to their new home ground.  Spurs will bust all the guts they have control over to get the new ground ready for the season after next, and I believe they’ll manage it, if only because the amount of money at stake will cover all the costs of rushing.

They also face the problem of keeping the likes of Kane and Dele Alli from signing for Real Madrid, Gareth Bale style.  It might have been better for Spurs if Dele Alli had postponed proving what a great player he is for a couple of seasons.

So, the sooner Spurs settle into New White Hart Lane the better.  But it won’t be easy to combine all this commotion by topping their third place in the Premier League in 2015-2016 and their second place this time around.

Hope I’m wrong.

Monday May 08 2017

For the last few days I haven’t been out much, and today I was confined to my barracks by email malfunction, and then by being required me to wait next to my computer, waiting to be told what was what by The Guru, after I had failed to make sense of it.  If you can’t send or receive email, modern life doesn’t work and all else is insignificant.

So, once again, my posting is about remembering sunnier times, this time those sunnier times being this time last year.  In France.

And nothing says France quite like an entire shop, in an impossibly picturesque seaside town, devoted in its entirety, to tinned fish:

image

Here, for the benefit of those who can read French, is a closer-up view of the sign:

image

Sardines, the queens of … well according to the internet, “conserverie” means: canning factory.

I bought fish paste:

image

The fish paste is long gone, but I have kept the cans as souvenirs.

Things like this are utterly ordinary, if, for you, they are ordinary, which they would be if you lived in France.  But I live in London SW1, where I cannot buy such things, and I find them beautifully exotic.  If I could buy these exact sorts of French tins in Sainsbury’s or Tesco, they wouldn’t be worth a second look or a first mention here.  But, I can’t.

Tuesday May 02 2017

Speculation: every lover of music has a particular style of music-making that he likes so much that he even likes it when it is done rather badly.  He likes, that is to say, not only this particular sort of music, but also the mere sound that it makes.  The Sound That It Makes music is, by definition, a kind of music that only you and a few like-minded freaks like.  All it takes is an efficient market and suppliers of such music will bid down the prices of it, and thanks to amazon, that efficient market now now exists.  There are bargains to be had, and I do like a bargain.

Here are my last dozen amazon.co.uk classical CD purchases:

imageimageimageimageimage
imageimageimageimageimage
imageimageimageimageimage
imageimageimageimageimage

Click on any of these if you want to take my word for it that this is nice music, but really, that isn’t my point here.

These CDs almost all fall into two very clear and distinct categories.  1.1, 1.3, 2.1, 2.3, and 4.2 are all of music by famous, front-rank composers, namely: Mozart, Liszt, Rachmaninov, and Beethoven.  Big names.  Top music.  The sort of music that all lovers of classical music tend to admire.

But, 1.2, 2.2, 3.1, 3.2, 3.3 and 4.3 are CDs of music by much less well known composers.  Louise Farrenc, Ludwig Thuille, Ferdinand Ries, Franz Limmer (a completely new name to me), Hummel (the least unknown of his lower division bunch), George Onslow, Franz Danzi, and Florent Schmitt.  The first names are included because these guys are not so well known.

4.1 is a box of recordings by Martha Argerich and friends, at the Lugano Festival of 2015.  Three separate CDs, of chamber works, some by big names like Brahms and Beethoven, Schumann and Schubert, and others by somewhat lesser personages, including Ferdinand Ries.  (RIes was a close friend of Beethoven.)

But what all of these CDs have in common is that they feature the piano, and in all but one instance, other instruments, mostly in quite small numers.  The outliers are the solo piano disc of Liszt, and the concerto discs by Mozart, and by Mozart and Rachmaninov.  But even Mozart piano concertos are famous for having what critics call a chamber music “feel” to them, with important parts for woodwind soloists, who often dialogue as equals with the piano soloist.

This, then, is my favourite musical style.  Piano, and a few other instruments.  There is no other musical styles where I buy bargain performances of pieces by composers where the only thing I know about them is when they lived.  Do the critics not rate the composers?  Do they think the performances are lousy?  Don’t care.  This is my kind of music.

When I was a kid, I played the flute, and the most fun I had doing that was when me and my siblings played together.  My two older brothers both played the piano and my sister played the oboe, all very well and better than I played the flute.  Was this what got me started with this sort of music?  Is this why I love it so much.  Maybe.  Don’t know for sure.

What is you favourite sort of music?  Remember my definition.  You love the music.  But even if the music is rather mediocre, you love the sound that it makes.

By the way, yes, that is a swan in the bottom right hand corner of the cover of 1.3.  But this is part of why this CD was so very cheap.  All over the world, tasteful classical music fans said to themselves: yes, this is quite good playing, but I can’t have a CD with a swan like that on the cover.  And nor can I own a CD which, on the back, quotes the pianist saying:

“I was always aware that my first recording had to be a portrait of Lizst.  Only he would enable me to present as a unity the many aspects of my soul.”

Me?  I just think that’s funny.  And Khatia Buniatishvili can really play, so who cares about the embarrassingness of her mere words?

Monday May 01 2017

I have become very fond of the cranes that sprout out of London’s Big Things to clean all the windows.  Architecture itself will never be purely “functional”, because it is anyone’s guess what precise function this or that building is there to perform, this being especially true of the biggest Big Things.  Are they machines for … whatever they do?  Or are they there to impress?  Both, of course.  So, what exact shape should the Big Thing be?  The architect can’t discover this.  He has to decide it.  Form does not rigidly and inexorably follow function.  Form follows function as determined by the dictates of the architect, and is as conventional and cliché ridden, as daring or as counter-intuitive, as the architect chooses to be.

But, out of these monuments to whim, these arbitrary sculptures, these three-dimensional illogicalities, there sprout these cranes, cranes which are impeccably functional.  They are what they are because what they are is what does the job best.  They possess an aesthetic purity that the buildings they are installed in quite lack.

So it is that, when trawling through my photo-archives, seeking quota photos, I look at photos like this one with new eyes, seeing things I hardly noticed when I first photoed them:

image

That’s the Walkie Talkie of course, photoed two years ago.  In front of it is the Blackfriars Station/Bridge.

The more and more eccentric are the windows, the more cranes are needed to clean them.

Sunday April 30 2017

I am intrigued by how political opinions influence aesthetic feelings.  Can you think that something is beautiful merely because it is the way that you think, in a political sort of way, that it ought to be?  I say: yes.

I am now experiencing an illustration of this tendency recently.  And the effect was thrown into sharp relief by the fact that I changed my idea of what the thing was, and that changed how I felt about it aesthetically.  Although the thing itself hadn’t changed at all, I immediately found myself liking the look of it better.  I had felt it to be ugly.  Now, although I wouldn’t call this thing very beautiful, I don’t see it as ugly any more.

This is the thing that I had been regarding as ugly, It is to be seen across the road from Victoria Station:

image

The ugliness of it is in its non-symmetry, and in the utterly irrational and incoherent contrast between the rectangular block in the middle of it and the curvey bits on the top and at one end.  Why would you make a thing looking like that?

The best way to see how ugly this thing is (or was), is to look at it from above.  Here is the google satellite version:

image

But then what should have been obvious to me all along became obvious.  The rectangular block wasn’t designed into the building we are looking at.  It had been there all along.  The curvey bits had merely been added to the rectangular block, at one end and on the top.  This building wasn’t all one design.  It was a doubling up of designs:

image

There you see a photo, which I took in 2009, of this thing while they were doing it.  It doesn’t prove that it was done in two entirely distinct stages, of which this is merely the second stage, but it seems to suggest that.  The new building activity seems to concern the curvey bits on the top.  The scaffolding next to the rectangular bits looks much more like the kind of scaffolding you put up when you are merely revamping an already existing building.  And that, I am almost sure, is what is happening there, to the rectangular bits.

What I now see when I look at this ungainly thing is that rather than it being a very ugly piece of one-off design, I now see it as a charmingly quaint urban agglomerative confluence of constrasting styles, such as London contains a hundred examples of, and hurrah for London.  London itself, as a whole, is just such a multiple design confluence.  Old meets new, and both live to tell the tale.  Or in this case new meets newer.  This weird-looking building is a two-off design, you might say.  It is a two-off design, and it looks exactly the sort of way a two-off design ought to look.

If I am wrong about it being a two-off design and I learn that actually it was all designed at once, I’ll probably go back to thinking it ugly.

Here are some more pictures of it that I have taken since then, from various angles:

image

That picture, to my eye, makes it look downright beautiful.  As does this next one, taken looking into the evening sun from the top of Westminster Cathedral, even more so:

image

But now, the plot thickens, or maybe that should be: the plot gets thinner, back to its original state.

My internet searching skills are very primitive.  I have just had yet another go at finding out what this odd building is called, at any rate by those who own it or who are in the business of renting it out.  And I have finally managed to learn that they call it “The Peak”.  Heaven knows why.  It doesn’t look like much of a peak.

Anyway, knowing this, I eventually found my way to this description of The Peak.  And what do you know?  (More precisely: What the hell do I know?) It would appear that this ungainly thing was what I had originally assumed it to be: a one-off design.  The whole thing was built all in one go.  So what had seemed obvious to me was not even true, let alone obvious.

The Sheppard Robson designed building adjoins the Apollo Theatre and replaces two existing structures. The Vauxhall Bridge Road and Wilton Road elevations incorporate robust Portland stone-clad columns and spandrels with intricately designed glass solar shading louvres between.

The louvres provide a dynamic visual effect to the building both during the day and at night. The prow of the building facing Victoria Street is curved, following the site boundary, and an arcade has been provided at street level to substantially increase the pavement width along one of the busiest pedestrian thoroughfares in central London.

So, what will I now feel about this building?  Will I go back to feeling that it is ugly?

This will not be a decision.  It will simply be a fact, which I will discover by introspection.  How do I now feel?  As of now: not sure.  My mind may decide that, because it had, for a while, been deceived by this building, and dislike it more than ever before.  But, I am starting to suspect that, having found beauty in this object, even though this finding was based on an error, my mind will be reluctant to surrender this happy feeling.

Incidentally, I have already posted here a photo of the roof of this building, and in particular of the crane that sprouts out of that roof to clean the windows.  I’m talking about the last of the three photos in this posting.

Wednesday April 26 2017

What follows is the speculation of a football non-obsessive, and it could all be nonsense.  So sprinkle lots of “so I surmise” and “it seems to me” all over it.  And then correct me if I’m wrong.  So, I surmise ...

If all Premier League teams were very roughly equal in strength, amd doing well or badly merely because of the vagaries of form and fitness and confidence and sheer dumb luck, you’d expect a few to be stretching out at the front of the field, and a few to be falling back at the back, with a big bunch in the middle.  The biggest points gaps would be at the top and at the bottom, with no big gaps anywhere near the middle.

imageNow look at the state of the Premier League, as of now, on the right there.

We do now see gaps at the top and at the bottom.  As of right now, leaders Chelsea are 4 points ahead of their nearest chaser, Spurs, and Liverpool are next, a whole 8 points behind Spurs.  Bottom club Sunderland is now 6 points behind second-from-bottom Middlesbrough, who are 4 points behind third-from-bottom Swansea.

And we also see a big bunch of teams in the middle.  The points gap between West Brom in eighth place and Burnley at sixteenth is a mere 4 points.

But the biggest points gap of all between adjacent clubs in the Premier League is between Everton in seventh place and West Brom in eighth place.  This gap is currently no less than 14 points.  The top seven clubs (Chelsea, Spurs, Liverpool, Man City, Man Utd, Arsenal, Everton) are now, you might say, the Real Premier League.

I distinctly recall the times when the Real Premier League only contained four clubs: Man U, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.  And then Man City joined it, with Liverpool slipping down.  So there used to be only four, but now there are seven.

This has had an interesting consequence, which is that the FA Cup is now important again.  Or so I surmise (see above).

The FA Cup used to count for a lot.  There was no Real Premier League in those far off times, or if there was I was not aware of it.  But there was a European Cup and a European Cup-Winners Cup, or some such thing, and all clubs wanted to win either the League or the Cup and preferably both, for the sheer glory of it.

Then, the European Cup or the Champion’s League or whatever started to get seriously into its stride and to mean serious money, to spend on now seriously well paid players.  “Getting into Europe” stopped being a bit of an afterthought and became what it was all about.  At around this time the Four-Team Real Premier League also got into its stride, and the best route into Europe, for Real Premier League clubs, became to ignore the FA Cup.  Remember when Man Utd didn’t even bother to contest the FA Cup and instead went flapping off to Brazil, to lose some mega-championship of the world game?  All that crap about The Magic of The Cup, and Anyone Can Win The Cup, blah blah blah, became very tedious, because Anyone Who Was Anyone (i.e. the Real Premier League) couldn’t be bothered with exhausting themselves trying to win FA Cup, what with them always being in Europe anyway and having the small matter of the Premier League to come at least fourth in to get back into Europe again. For the FA Cup, they put out their reserves instead of a real team, just to keep them busy and amused.  If they got beaten by Anyone Town, that was the fault of said reserves, was no huge surprise, and was no skin off the nose of the actual Real Premier League club.  Skin on it, if anything, because the season immediately became less exhausting for any first teamers who got dragged into going through the motions in the FA Cup.

But now that the Real Premier League has expanded from four clubs to seven clubs, a Real Premier League club can no longer take its route to Europe quite so much for granted.  At which point the FA Cup, which is another route into Europe, becomes of significance to Real Premier League clubs, the way it has never been since the Real Premier League got started.

This year, all four FA Cup semi-finalists were Real Premier League clubs.  (Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal, Man City.) When was the last time that happened?

Thursday April 20 2017

I always know when I am on the right track as a blogger.  It’s when someone quotes me.  (It’s usually either the Quotulator (I was most recently quotulated by him in this posting) or 6k.) This means (a) that I have said something interesting and somewhat novel, and (b) that I have said it well.  (b)-ing I do, on its own, regularly.  I regularly say obvious, banal, boring things clearly and fluently.  Don’t we all?  Nobody copies and pastes (b)-ing.  Frustratingly, I also do quite a lot of (a)-ing on its own, meaning: I say something interesting, but say it very badly and confusingly, with constant self-interruptions, this paragraph perhaps being yet another example of (a)-ing.  Nobody quotes (a)-ing either, because it just confuses and irritates people.  You have to do (a)-ing and (b)-ing all at once before you get quoted by anyone.

So, if 6k has just been quoting me, I must have said something good and said it right, right?  And 6k has just been quoting me:

First this, from earlier this week:

I still hate and fear golf.

And then this, from the posting that that recent posting linked back to:

I remember once having a go at it, when I was at my expensive public school in the middle of the last century.  I still remember hitting one golf ball really sweetly and deciding, right then and there, that I would never do this again, because if I did, there was a definite danger that golf would take over my entire life.  And I wasn’t having that.

Sadly for me, though, this is not the perfect piece of writing that I yearn to contrive, every time I place my fingers above my keyboard to start to type in this stuff.  It was not, that is to say, the blogging equivalent of a perfectly hit golf shot.  (a)-ing and (b)-ing were not perfectly combined. There is one crucial word missing.  Where it says: “… there was a definite danger that golf would take over my entire life”, I should have put “… there was a definite danger that playing golf would take over my entire life.”

Playing cricket, as a life-time occupation excluding all else besides doing whatever work was needed to stay alive, never appealed to me, for the simple reason that I was always hopelessly bad at playing cricket.  A cricketing life would have been a life of constant humiliation at the hands of all the other, better cricketers.  The occasional well flighted off-break or decently played single out to extra cover would not have begun to compensate for all the contemptuous fours and sixes hit off me (if and when I ever bowled) or the flying stumps (if and when I finally got to bat).  You can’t play cricket alone, against only yourself.  You have to have opponents, and if these opponents are almost always better than you, you aren’t going to have a huge amount of fun.

But playing golf is different.  Basically, no matter how they dress it up, golf is, or at any rate can be, a solitary game.  It is a game you can play against only yourself, and for me that would be a fair contest, rather than the permanent humiliation that me playing cricket regularly (by its nature, necessarily, against other cricketers) would have been.

6k notes that do I “love cricket”, and I do.  But to be more exact, what I love is following cricket, not playing it.  And following cricket, at any rate the way I like to follow it, fits in perfectly with me also having a life doing other more meaningful things besides following cricket.

What I love about cricket is, yes, the game itself, but also the minutiae of its progress - the verbal commentaries and the numbers and the dots, the runs and the wickets, the constant flow of data.

Football is not like this, for me.  The actual processes don’t appeal to me nearly so much.  All that passing and tackling and dribbling and creating and missing half-chances.  These processes only really matter, to me, if they result in a goal, and in a way they only matter to anyone if they result in a goal.  With football, it’s only goals that count.  Only goals determine who wins.  And only the goals really speak to me, so I prefer to watch, if I watch football at all, the recorded highlights of football, and the more highlighty the better.  (This is not an argument that you should stop loving football or playing in or going to watch football matches or watching entire games of football on your television.  I am merely describing how football does and does not appeal to me.)

Cricket, on the other hand, and unlike football, emits this constant gush of truly meaningful information, information which all adds up to winning or losing.  And I relish the decoding of this information in the same way that an MI6 analyst must relish being able to tell what is happening out there also only by looking at data on a computer screen.

I only ever actually attend a cricket game as a special and very occasional treat.  I wouldn’t want to watch cricket, for real, in person, at the actual ground, day after day.  The very second-hand and rather arms-length nature of cricket data is, for me, all part of what fun it is to be receiving it.  Having played enough actual cricket in my extreme youth to have the game imprinted into me, like a first language, I know how diabolically difficult it is to do what good cricketers do routinely.  When, as happens from time to time, my computer screen announces a “w” (somebody just got “out"), I feel the same lurch of emotion that the real spectators and participants enjoy or suffer.  When I see a “4” reported at Cricinfo, and then read some guy telling me that it was a good shot rather than a mis-hit, I get almost the same pleasure from that as I would have got from actually seeing it.

Especially entertaining is if, say, an IPL team needs to clobber a boundary off the final ball of a T20 game (never mind – it’s just a sort of cricket game) to win, but will otherwise lose, and then a “6” shows up on the screen.  Hey, how about that!  Or, if a limited overs win-or-lose, no-draws-allowed game ends with, say, one team needing three to win off the last two balls (I seem to recall something like this happening in the IPL a couple of days ago), but with only one wicket left, and the penultimate ball suddenly announces itself to have been a “w”.  Game over.  Wow.

(Although, I have to admit that a big spread of Premier League games on a Saturday afternoon, with goals erupting quite regularly, and then final whistles all being blown in a sudden rush, is fun, provided your team’s circumstances mean that you have firm preferences for several of these games rather than just the one game.  Lots of significant games then adds up to something almost as continuously amusing as a single game of cricket.  To me.  (This is not an argument, see above ...)

I know, all very childish.  But following sport is rather childish.  And there’s nothing wrong with such childishishness provided that it doesn’t totally take over your entire life and turn you into a permanent twelve-hours-a-day seven-days-a-week child.  Because, what I especially love about following cricket is that I can combine it with other things.  Life, when I am following cricket, can go on.

I can now even carry a 1960s mainframe computer around with me in my pocket.  I can keep up with any games of cricket that are happening while being out and about in London, meeting colleagues and friends, and taking photos.  My cricket machine even doubles up as an A-Z map, complete with a blue blob that says “you are here”.  Amazing.  In short, and although there are days when it threatens to, merely following cricket has not totally taken over my life.  There are even days when my real life is so diverting that I neglect cricket entirely, and have to catch up later.

All of which means that when 6k says that what puts me off golf is its pleasure to pain ratio, and that he feels just the same about cricket, and how come I don’t? - well, with respect, and all my fault for failing to clarify the difference between playing golf and following cricket, but he has it all wrong.  Following cricket is continuous squirts of fun into the texture of everyday life, all pleasure and no grief.  Playing golf threatened continuous squirts of pleasure, but no everyday life at the same time.  It threatened a completely different life for me, and an utterly vacuous one, like being a drug addict (very like being a drug addict), with all my spare time and spare cash consumed by it.  Like playing outdoor solitaire, all the time and not doing anything else, and perhaps even stealing money to fund the habit.  (I am also terrified of actual drugs, for the same reasons.)

Because the thought of playing golf during every spare hour I had filled and fills me still with such horror, I have even avoided following golf, for fear that merely following golf might become a gateway drug to actually playing golf.  You want continuous data?  Golf, like cricket, supplies a constant gush of it.  But cricket data never says to me that I ought to pick up a bat or a ball and start trying to play the game, again.  I know my limitations.  Following golf?  Well, I just can’t take that risk.

Sunday April 16 2017

Lincoln Paine is an admirably ambitious historian.  Here is the first sentence (to be found on page 3 of my paperback (but still very big) edition) of the introduction of Paine’s very big book, The Sea and Civilization, which is 744 pages long and which I have just started reading:

I want to change the way you see the world. ...

Good, because I bought this book in order to do exactly that, change the way I see the world.

In the following specific way:

… Specifically, I want to change the way you see the world map by focusing your attention on the blues that shade 70 percent of the image before you, and letting the earth tones fade. ...

Hurrah for the internet.  I went looking for a maritime history of the world and found this, which I might never have done if I had been relying on merely physical bookshops.

… This shift in emphasis from land to water makes many trends and patterns of world history stand out in ways they simply cannot otherwise. Before the development of the locomotive in the nineteenth century, culture, commerce, contagion, and conflict generally moved faster by sea than by land. The opening of sea routes sometimes resulted in immediate transformation, but more often it laid the groundwork for what was later mistaken for sudden change. ...

Here is an example of what you notice when you think like this.  On page 7, we read this, about the USA:

A maritime perspective complicates our understanding of the “westward” expansion of the United States. California achieved statehood in 1851, two years after the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill, when the territory was virtually unknown to Americans back east and the number of United States citizens on the Pacific coast numbered only a few thousand. Thanks to the extraordinary capacity of the American merchant marine of the day, tens of thousands of people reached San Francisco by ship, a mode of transportation that was faster, cheaper, and safer than the transcontinental journey, although the distance covered was more than four times longer. The United States conquered the interior of the continent - what are today known as the fly-over states, but at the time could aptly have been called the sail-around territories – in a pincer movement from both coasts, rather than by a one-way overland movement from the east.

On my TV I have just recently been watching Michael Portillo investigate that very “westward” expansion of the USA, with plenty of wagons and locomotives involved, but no mention at all of any ships.  So I know exactly what Paine means.

Paine goes on to assert (on page 9) that there have been …:

… changes in the public perception of the maritime world, for the merchant marine and naval services no longer hold the attraction for people that they once did, when ocean liners and freighters crowded the piers of Manhattan, Hamburg, Sydney, and Hong Kong. At the start of the twenty-first century, ships and shipping lines are the warp and woof of globalization. Ships carry about 90 percent of world trade and the number of oceangoing ships has grown threefold in the past half century. But the nature of shipping has led to the relocation of cargo-handling facilities to places remote from traditional port cities, ...

In other words: out of sight, out of mind.

About that, I am not so sure.  Maybe it’s more a matter of degree than he says.  I guess I’m a bit different, in that I have been particularly noticing both what is happening to London’s old docks and waterways (they’re being prettied up for tourists like me and for the new gentry (really, mostly, just indoor and better paid proletarians) who now live next to them) and where London’s new mega-dock is now nearing completion, downstream.  I am definitely not the only one who has noticed shipping containers.  As Paine himself says, in his final chapter, containers are driving globalisation, and much of the globe has surely noticed.  Indeed, this might be why Paine’s publishers judged the time to be right for the switch in focus that he argues for.  On the other hand, I did have to go looking for this book.  Nobody else brought it to my attention, spontaneously, as it were.

Talking of focus, my eyesight has now reached the stage of me only being able to read a book by holding it about two inches away from my face.  Spactacles don’t do it for me any more.  Usually this is fine.  But this is a very big book, and it is going to be a very big struggle for me to read it.  But I am determined to do all the struggling that I must.

Or, I might go to the internet again, and buy something like this contraption.  If I do purchase such a reading aid, it will presumably be as cheap as it is because it recently crossed the world in a shipping container.

Tuesday April 11 2017

I like this footbridge, and I like this photo of this footbridge:

image

I took this photo on the same day I took this gasometer with towers photo, and these cat photos.

We are looking down from the road bridge that takes Twelvetrees Crescent over the River Lea and Bow Creek.  It’s a delightful spot, to be found at the top right end of the Limehouse Cut.  On the right, we see the Limehouse Cut about to make its bee-line for the Limehouse Basin.  And on the left, the River Lea is about to wend its very winding way down to the River.  Where the Lea empties itself into the Thames is right near where I took these fish photos.

The reason I cross-reference all these photo-postings of mine is because the idea of these expeditions is not just to see amusing things in isolation, but in addition to that to build up the bigger picture in my mind of what that part of London, and in particular its waterways, is like.  All these walks need to join up with each other, in reality and in my head.  The latter I achieve by trawling back through my photo archives, by repeatedly meandering about in google maps, and by connecting up this blog posting with that one.  And by going on more expeditions.