Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

Home

www.google.co.uk


Recent Comments


Monthly Archives


Most recent entries


Search


Advanced Search


Other Blogs I write for

Brian Micklethwait's Education Blog

CNE Competition
CNE Intellectual Property
Samizdata
Transport Blog


Blogroll

2 Blowhards
6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adloyada
Adventures in Capitalism
Alan Little
Albion's Seedling
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
Alex Singleton
AngloAustria
Another Food Blog
Antoine Clarke
Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
Armed and Dangerous
Art Of The State Blog
Biased BBC
Bishop Hill
BLDG BLOG
Bloggers Blog
Blognor Regis
Blowing Smoke
Boatang & Demetriou
Boing Boing
Boris Johnson
Brazen Careerist
Bryan Appleyard
Burning Our Money
Cafe Hayek
Cato@Liberty
Charlie's Diary
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
Chicago Boyz
China Law Blog
Cicero's Songs
City Comforts
Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog
Clay Shirky
Climate Resistance
Climate Skeptic
Coffee & Complexity
Coffee House
Communities Dominate Brands
Confused of Calcutta
Conservative Party Reptile
Contra Niche
Contrary Brin
Counting Cats in Zanzibar
Скрипучая беседка
CrozierVision
Dave Barry
Davids Medienkritik
David Thompson
Deleted by tomorrow
deputydog
diamond geezer
Dilbert.Blog
Dizzy Thinks
Dodgeblogium
Don't Hold Your Breath
Douglas Carswell Blog
dropsafe
Dr Robert Lefever
Dr. Weevil
ecomyths
engadget
Englands Freedome, Souldiers Rights
English Cut
English Russia
EU Referendum
Ezra Levant
Everything I Say is Right
Fat Man on a Keyboard
Ferraris for all
Flickr blog
Freeborn John
Freedom and Whisky
From The Barrel of a Gun
ft.com/maverecon
Fugitive Ink
Future Perfect
FuturePundit
Gaping Void
Garnerblog
Gates of Vienna
Gizmodo
Global Warming Politics
Greg Mankiw's Blog
Guido Fawkes' blog
HE&OS
Here Comes Everybody
Hit & Run
House of Dumb
Iain Dale's Diary
Ideas
Idiot Toys
IMAO
Indexed
India Uncut
Instapundit
Intermezzo
Jackie Danicki
James Delingpole
James Fallows
Jeffrey Archer's Official Blog
Jessica Duchen's classical music blog
Jihad Watch
Joanne Jacobs
Johan Norberg
John Redwood
Jonathan's Photoblog
Kristine Lowe
Laissez Faire Books
Languagehat
Last of the Few
Lessig Blog
Libertarian Alliance: Blog
Liberty Alone
Liberty Dad - a World Without Dictators
Lib on the United Kingdom
Little Man, What Now?
listen missy
Loic Le Meur Blog
L'Ombre de l'Olivier
London Daily Photo
Londonist
Mad Housewife
Mangan's Miscellany
Marginal Revolution
Mark Wadsworth
Media Influencer
Melanie Phillips
Metamagician and the Hellfire Club
Michael Jennings
Michael J. Totten's Middle East Journal
Mick Hartley
More Than Mind Games
mr eugenides
Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism
My Boyfriend Is A Twat
My Other Stuff
Natalie Solent
Nation of Shopkeepers
Neatorama
neo-neocon
Never Trust a Hippy
NO2ID NewsBlog
Non Diet Weight Loss
Normblog
Nurses for Reform blog
Obnoxio The Clown
Oddity Central
Oliver Kamm
On an Overgrown Path
One Man & His Blog
Owlthoughts of a peripatetic pedant
Oxford Libertarian Society /blog
Patri's Peripatetic Peregrinations
phosita
Picking Losers
Pigeon Blog
Police Inspector Blog
PooterGeek
Power Line
Private Sector Development blog
Public Interest.co.uk
Publius Pundit
Quotulatiousness
Rachel Lucas
RealClimate
Remember I'm the Bloody Architect
Rob's Blog
Sandow
Scrappleface
Setting The World To Rights
Shane Greer
Shanghaiist
SimonHewittJones.com The Violin Blog
Sinclair's Musings
Slipped Disc
Sky Watching My World
Social Affairs Unit
Squander Two Blog
Stephen Fry
Stuff White People Like
Stumbling and Mumbling
Style Bubble
Sunset Gun
Survival Arts
Susan Hill
Teblog
Techdirt
Technology Liberation Front
The Adam Smith Institute Blog
The Agitator
The AntRant
The Becker-Posner Blog
The Belgravia Dispatch
The Belmont Club
The Big Blog Company
The Big Picture
the blog of dave cole
The Corridor of Uncertainty (a Cricket blog)
The Croydonian
The Daily Ablution
The Devil's Advocate
The Devil's Kitchen
The Dissident Frogman
The Distributed Republic
The Early Days of a Better Nation
The Examined Life
The Filter^
The Fly Bottle
The Freeway to Serfdom
The Future of Music
The Futurist
The Happiness Project
The Jarndyce Blog
The London Fog
The Long Tail
The Lumber Room
The Online Photographer
The Only Winning Move
The Policeman's Blog
The Road to Surfdom
The Sharpener
The Speculist
The Surfer
The Wedding Photography Blog
The Welfare State We're In
things magazine
TigerHawk
Tim Blair
Tim Harford
Tim Worstall
tomgpalmer.com
tompeters!
Transterrestrial Musings
UK Commentators - Laban Tall's Blog
UK Libertarian Party
Unqualified Offerings
Violins and Starships
Virginia Postrel
Vodkapundit
WebUrbanist
we make money not art
What Do I Know?
What's Up With That?
Where the grass is greener
White Sun of the Desert
Why Evolution Is True
Your Freedom and Ours


Websites


Mainstream Media

BBC
Guardian
Economist
Independent
MSNBC
Telegraph
The Sun
This is London
Times


Syndicate

RSS 1.0
RSS 2.0
Atom
Feedburner
Podcasts


Categories

Advertising
Africa
Anglosphere
Architecture
Art
Asia
Atheism
Australasia
Billion Monkeys
Bits from books
Bloggers and blogging
Books
Brian Micklethwait podcasts
Brians
Bridges
Business
Career counselling
Cartoons
Cats and kittens
China
Civil liberties
Classical music
Comedy
Comments
Computer graphics
Cranes
Crime
Current events
Democracy
Design
Digital photographers
Drones
Economics
Education
Emmanuel Todd
Environment
Europe
Expression Engine
Family
Food and drink
France
Friends
Getting old
Globalisation
Healthcare
History
How the mind works
India
Intellectual property
Japan
Kevin Dowd
Language
Latin America
Law
Libertarianism
Links
Literature
London
Media and journalism
Middle East and Islam
Movies
Music
My blog ruins
My photographs
Open Source
Opera
Painting
Photography
Podcasting
Poetry
Politics
Pop music
Propaganda
Quote unquote
Radio
Religion
Roof clutter
Russia
Scaffolding
Science
Science fiction
Sculpture
Signs and notices
Social Media
Society
Software
South America
Space
Sport
Technology
Television
The internet
The Micklethwait Clock
Theatre
This and that
This blog
Transport
Travel
USA
Video
War


Category archive: How the mind works

Monday July 06 2015

This is another of those “memo to self” postings.  Well, really, all the postings here are memos to self, but this one is more than usually of that sort.

Earlier today, I managed, at last, finally, to do a Samizdata posting, after a gap of well over a month.  It seems to have been quite well received, which is very nice, but really the big thing for me now is that I have done it, well received or not.

And in the course of doing it, I think I have identified an error in my thinking about how I should be writing about Samizdata.  I think I was in the grip of what “writing for Samizdata” was supposed to be, for me, and what writing for Samizdata was supposed to be was writing one or nearly one Samizdata posting per day.  And then, there came a time when I was unable to do this.  And since I couldn’t do it, I pretty much stopped doing it.  By aiming at too difficult a target, I was failing, day after day, and that made me just give up totally.  That is very silly.  But that, I think, is part of what was happening.

But now (in fact the change is long overdue) I think the time has come to revise my model of what writing for Samizdata should now, for me, mean.  Me writing for Samizdata means not that I post something on Samizdata pretty much every day, but rather, that I work on my next Samizdata posting, pretty much every day.  This means, for example, that by close of play tomorrow, I should have made some headway, not necessarily very much, just some, towards doing another posting there.  The sequence of events will be: decide to what write about at Samizdata, and then start.  Make some headway every day.  Work at it.  Polish it.  Try to make it good.  When it is good, or seems so, then publish.  And if that takes a week, it takes a week.  The idea of doing something once a day survives, but not in the form of a finished blog posting once a day, just some work on a blog posting, every day.  Believe it or not, I took several days to concoct this latest posting, coming back to it again and again.  And that felt like the way I should now be doing it.

The thing is, posting something here every day is quite easy.  Not a total breeze you understand, but quite easy.  This is because my standards here are very low.  When I say something, I do mean something, aka anything.  But Samizdata demands stuff that is better than that.  It demands stuff that has been polished, worked on, really thought about.  In 2005 you could shovel any old junk onto Samizdata and get thousands of readers, and we did, and actually it was pretty good stuff because we had all spent the previous quarter of a century thinking about it, and because we knew that thousands of people were reading it, and commenting in their hundreds.  Now, that doesn’t work, or not for me.  I now feel that Samizdata, unlike this place, needs better than just any old thing if it is to compete with the mainstream internet media, as it now does.

We shall see.

Sunday July 05 2015

It may not be as dramatic a photo as this one of it, but I do like this:

image

There was a time when Modernism was supposed to destroy Ancientism.  Now, the two sit happily next to one another, and quite right too.  This aesthetic cohabitation began as a grudging political necessity.  Ancientism wasn’t going to roll over and die, it turned out.  Now, people have come to like the contrast.  And when I say “people”, I mean “I”.

Saturday July 04 2015

Today I was out and about in the sweltering heat of London, and unusually for me, I found myself noticing a news item:

image

The news item being that big cloud of smoke, somewhere up river from Tate Modern.  Seeing as how I myself live up river from Tate Modern, this was a bit troubling.  Was it a moderately big fire, quite near to me?  Would I return home to find my home ablaze?  Had I started the fire by leaving something switched on that shouldn’t have been?  Or was it, as I found myself ignobly hoping, a bigger fire, further away?

I consulted the www about this fire when I got home, my home not having disappeared, and there being no smoke anywhere near it.  Eventually the www revealed what had happened.  The fire was - and alas, as I write this, it still is - in Perivale, which is way out in the west of London.  And this was one very big conflagration.

To quote the Evening Standard:

An enormous fire is raging in a warehouse in a west London suburb, with smoke visible for miles around.

Some 100 firefighters are tackling the inferno at a large building in Wadsworth Road, Perivale.

About 30 people fled before the London Fire Brigade arrived, with flames erupting just before 7pm.

That’s what I was seeing, no question about it.

According to my camera, the above photo was taken at 8pm, so the fire had already been raging for an hour before I noticed it enough to take photos of it.  Not that photoing smoke is my forte.  Presumably photoing smole is like photoing anything else in particular, the more you do it, the better you do it.

No matter.  Many others will undoubtedly have been photoing that same huge cloud of smoke.  It was, like the ES said, visible for miles around.  You’ll have no difficulty finding better Perivale warehouse fire pictures, in the event that you want to see such things.  For me, it is enough to know that nobody died.

A BIT LATER: Looking at the above photo, and at some of the others at the other end of the link immediately above (notably the one from beyond Tower Bridge) I realise that one of the tricks of smoke-photoing is the put the smoke behind a very definite and recognisable building.  So here is another photo I took, of some of the smoke that had already travelled a bit further, to the area behind St Pauls Cathedral from where I was:
image

Trouble is, although St Pauls is very definitely St Pauls, the smoke is not so definitely smoke.  It could just be clouds, in my photo.  Like I say, smoke is not a speciality of mine.

As you can also see, there is a crane to be seen there.  I also photoed smoke behind a crane cluster, but showing you that would be to change the subject.

Wednesday July 01 2015

Yesterday I wrote here about the twenty-first century social obligation to use a mobile phone when meeting up with someone, because of the problems this solves and despite the problems this creates.  Hence the need for me to take my mobile phone with me when going photowalkabout with G(od)D(aughter) 1.

But, on Saturday evening, the evening before GD1 and I went on our walk, I was very nearly deprived of my mobile phone, by which I mean deprived of the ability to make use of it.

What happened was that, while I was also out and about on Saturday evening, a baritone-singing student friend of mezzo-soprano-singing student G(od)D(aughter) 2, sought the help of GD2.  His mobile had run out of puff and needed a recharge.  GD2 uses an iPhone, but Baritone has an Android mobile, so Baritone could not use GD2’s recharger.  What to do?

Between them they decided that I and my Android recharger might be the answer.  I guess that GD2 then rang me on my immobile home number and discovered that I was out.  Then, knowing my aversion and incompetence as a mobile phoner, and especially as a reliable receiver of incoming mobile messages, she did not not attempt to ring me on my mobile.  Or, she did try my mobile and I did not answer.

For various reasons that I still don’t understand and which in any case do not now matter, Baritone ended up coming to my home, armed with GD2’s key to my home, and having made his entrance, he “borrowed” my mobile phone recharger.

I want to emphasise that the above quote marks are not sneer quotes.  They are confusion quotes.

For, what exactly does it mean to “borrow” a mobile phone charger?  What GD2 meant, when she assured Baritone that it would okay for him to “borrow” my phone charger, was that it would be okay for him to charge up his mobile phone, using my charger at my home.  As indeed it would have been.

However, Baritone misunderstood this assurance to mean that it would be okay for him to “borrow” my charger, as in: take it away and make use it throughout Saturday evening, in other places besides mine.  I don’t believe that Baritone would have done this without that assurance from GD2, as he understood it.  After all, whereas charging up your mobile in situ is socially very okay, taking a charger away without permission is surely a twenty-first century social gaff of the first order.  But, Baritone thought that he had permission to do this otherwise unacceptable thing.  GD2 is adamant that she gave no such permission, but I believe that Baritone genuinely thought that this unusual procedure was, in the light of GD2’s assurance, okay.  He made this clear in a written thankyou note he left on my desk.

And it normally would have been okay.  Had I not been going on an expedition the following day with GD1, then the charger could have made its way back to my home some time on or around Sunday, and all would have been fine.  But, for all the reasons that were explained in the previous posting, I needed that charger by quite early on Sunday morning at the latest.

So, despite GD2s protestations, I acquit Baritone of wrongdoing.

But then again, Baritone is a baritone.  And baritones often behave very badly, quite often at the expense of notably virtuous mezzo-sopranos.  So maybe I’m being too kind.

All was speedily corrected by GD2, who was rather insulted by the profuseness of my thanks when she brought my charger back at 8am on Sunday morning.  Of course I got your charger back.  (See what I mean about virtuous mezzo-sopranos.)

It was just as well that I did get it back.  In addition to using my mobile for all that meeting up at the start of the day, I also used it for its map app, and to tell me how Surrey were doing against Gloucester.  Very well, as it happened.  Nothing like your sports team winning to keep you going when you are knackered.

However, I now understand better why people have cameras with mobile phones built into them.  What with my bag and all, I was having constantly to choose between knowing where I was, and photoing it.

Surrey are on a bit of a roll just now.  This evening they beat Gloucester again, in a T20 slog at the Oval.  Surrey needed a mere six runs from the last four balls.  So, how did they get them?  The last four balls went: wicket, dot, dot, six.  In English that’s: probable Surrey victory, possible Surrey victory, almost impossible Surrey victory, Surrey victory.  I got that off my laptop, but I could have got it from my mobile, if I had been out and about.  Provided it hadn’t run out of puff.

Tuesday June 30 2015

As everyone else in the world found out several years before I did, a mobile phone is now an essential part of the kit you need to meet up with somebody.  So, I made a point of having my mobile with me when G(od)D(aughter) 1 and I met up at Manor House tube last Sunday.

When I arrived there, at our predetermined time, I discovered that Manor House tube has three widely dispersed exits to choose from.  Now you may say: “But how many ticket barriers does it have?  One.” You are right, but what if the mobile phone reception at the ticket barrier, this ticket barrier being below ground, does not work?  I needed to be out in the open.

Mobile phones cause plans to be more muddy and last-minute than they used to be, because that is what these plans can now be.  GD1 and I had hoped that “the exit of Manor House tube” would be unambiguous, but we took a chance on that, because we would both have our mobile phones with us, and we could make it up as we went along if things got more complicated.

I picked one of the three exits and looked around for GD1.  No sign.  I left a phone message and a text message for GD1 saying to her: I am in the Manor Park Cafe, which is next to the big gate into Finsbury Park, which by then I was.  Fifteen minutes later, I rang again, and eventually got through to GD1.  She said: “I just sent you a text.” Ah.  She was running a bit late, which, now that we all have mobiles, is okay because now such information is easily communicated.

Anyway we duly met up in the Manor Park Cafe, and we consumed consumables while deciding to have our walk anyway, despite the weather being vile, but also deciding that we would wait inside the Manor Park Cafe until it stopped actually raining.

What might have happened had we not had any mobile telephony at our disposal, I do not know.  The old method, which is that you decide beforehand to meet at place X at time Y, used to work okay.  Whoever got there first waited, and whoever was second said sorry, with whatever degree of sincerity seemed appropriate.  But now, if you don’t bring a mobile with you, and if you don’t make constant use of it, you are misbehaving.

I brought my mobile with me to meet up with GD1, but at a critical moment I failed to consult it.  “Getting old” will definitely be one of the categories below.

Sunday June 28 2015

I’m now knackered.  For reasons too complicated for me to explain in my present knackered state, I didn’t get as much sleep last night as I would have liked.  And then today I went on a photo-trek with Goddaughter 1.  This was great, and I am entirely glad that I did this, but about two thirds of the way through these photo-treks I typically arrive at a state of knackeredness, and so it was today.  Mostly it’s the feet.  They ache.  But, sitting down and resting only makes it worse when I try to resume.

We both took lots of photos, many of the best ones that I took being after I had become knackered, as also tends to be the rule with these photo-treks, hence my determination, every time, to keep trekking after becoming knackered.  This is often because at the end of the trek there is a destination which keeps us going, and which is really good.  This time, that destination, it gradually became clear, was Alexandra Palace.  And Alexandra Palace is a great place from which to photo London and its Big Things, especially if the light is as good as it was today.  The light at the end of the day is often the best, which is another reason to keep going, even if you become knackered before the day ends.  So I kept going, and so, a great day.

But a knackering day, and I am now off to bed.  I can, or so I hope, write when knackered.  But working with my primitive little laptop, I now find it impossible to contrive any links or post any photos, So no links.  No photos.

No photos also because, although it was a great day, I don’t know if I took any great (by my undemanding standards) photos.  I have looked at them, once, but am now too caught up in what I was trying to photo and am not yet able to be objective about what I did photo and to pick out any truly good ones.

Good night..

Thursday June 25 2015

Here are two people whom Mick Hartley recently encountered.  He photoed them and stuck the picture up on his blog.  And I reproduce it here:

image

So, how come this flurry of privacy violation?  Hartley explains.  (There are several very heavy hints in the categories listed below.)

Sunday June 21 2015

Today there was a big old Micklethwait family get-together at the ancestral home in Englefield Green, Surrey.  Me, two brothers, a nephew and a niece plus partners, another niece, plus two little kids.  I took photos of course, and I wasn’t the only one doing that.

I prefer not to show you pictures of my relatives, but I’m sure that nobody will mind me showing you these snaps:

image imageimage image

Those are Dinky Toys, in really quite good condition, dating from the 1950s.  I can even remember a couple of the names.  The red van (which was my brother’s, not mine) was “Mersey Tunnel”, because it is a Mersey Tunnel police van.  And the white car with green on it is a Singer Gazelle.  Ah, Singer.  Those were the days when Britain contained about a dozen distinct car-makers, with distinct names like Singer.

All these toys had already been extracted from all the other goods and chattels in the house and given to N and NP’s two little kids, before I arrived.  Theoretically, three of these four antiquities were mine, or they were mine sixty years ago, but the kids seemed to like them and I was glad for these toys to be passed on.  Such things are only worth proper money if the boxes have been kept, and of course they hadn’t been.  And although these Dinky Toys, especially the two cars, are in really quite good condition, really quite good condition is not nearly as good as mint condition, moneywise.  So, yes kids, you’re very welcome.

But one favour I did ask.  Before you take them off to your home, let me photo them, just to remember them.  Okay?  Okay.  So I perched them on my knees and took the shots.

One of the many good things about digital photography is that with it you can store fun memories in two virtual dimensions, rather than in three actual dimensions.

Wednesday June 17 2015

I don’t often go to pubs, because of the noise.  But Goddaughter 2, raised in France, wanted to try eating a pie in a pub, so we went to the Barley Mow in Horseferry Road to see what they had.  They had pies, which proved very tasty.

Two particular circumstances made the evening pure perfection for me, besides the pure perfection of Goddaughter 2’s company I mean.

First, they had the latest England v NZ cricket ODI on the telly, and I got to watch the conclusion of England’s outstanding and outstandingly successful run chase that has just levelled the ODI series 2-2.  And second, this being the twenty-first century, GD2 had her smartphone with her and was texting with all her friends.  I hope you aren’t bored because of me doing all this texting, she said.  No no, I said, gazing happily at the giant telly screen, you just carry on my dear.  Don’t mind me.  As I said to her when we were leaving, had I been asked to chose the perfect hour and more to spend in a pub this week, then given that this pub had the cricket on the go, and given that my ever-delightful companion was apologising for neglecting me and communing instead with her smartphone, this hour and more would have been it.

There was noise but it didn’t matter.  We didn’t do much in the way of conversation, in other words we didn’t shout much at each other, although we did a bit because it wasn’t actually that noisy.  But we were mostly doing two separate things that did not require peace and quiet to work.  GD2 didn’t need silence to read and write her texts.  I didn’t need any television cricket commentators to tell me that England were batting up a storm.

As we left I asked GD2 if she reckoned the social media have made it better for women in pubs.  She reckoned yes they probably have.  If men in pubs are diverted by men’s stuff, like cricket on the telly, then any women they have dragged along with them are now able to entertain themselves, instead of just sitting there moping and getting bored.  Or, if the men were a bit more gracious than that, they would force themselves to ignore the men’s stuff and do conversation, despite their strong inclinations.  Also not ideal.  So, social media definitely equals progress.  And if the women are distracted by women’s stuff, then the men can play with their smartphones.

One of the very few uses I have found for my own smartphone, aside from telling me where I am and where to go when I am out and about, is acquainting myself with the latest cricket scores when I am out and about.

Monday June 15 2015

Every time a new gadget gets introduced which catches on, in public, there is a chorus of disapproval from unimaginative puritans saying: ban it, it’s evil, it’s stupid, it’s wrong, blah blah blah.

Selfie sticks have caused particular ire.  Other people enjoying themselves, by photographing themselves, seems just too much to bear, for the unimaginative puritan tendency.

I say unimaginative, because it perhaps does take a little bit of imagination to realise that with a selfie stick you can get results that would be very hard to get by any other means.

But there’s no need for selfie sticks, say the UPs.  Get someone else to take your picture, if you really do want a picture of yourselves with all of you included.  And some people do just this.  I often get asked to take other people’s pictures for them, so that all of them get to be in the picture instead of one of them taking it and not being in it.  I do my best, but my best is, I fear, often very bad.  Other people’s cameras are notoriously difficult to use correctly, first time, only time.

Besides which, try getting someone else to do this for you:

image

This couple were photoing themselves outside Westminster Abbey, with themselves in the foreground, and Westminster Abbey’s twin towers in the background.  But not just Westminster Abbey in a general sort of way behind them.  They wanted the camera looking up at them, and past them, to the top of Westminster Abbey, to those twin towers, and to the blue sky above them.  A much more dramatic shot.

Imagine getting a passing stranger to take that shot.  Try getting me to take that shot.  Even if I was willing to crouch down, how would I know what was on the screen?  How would I compose the shot?  I wouldn’t.  I couldn’t.  It would be a random mess.

The only way they could get this shot was with a selfie stick.

I am not saying that they realised they wanted this sort of shot, and got a selfie stick in order to get it.  Well, maybe they did.  But what is far more probable is that they they got their selfie stick, just to take good selfies instead of begging incompetent strangers like me to take bad unselfies.  And at first they took regular selfies, with the camera in the same sort of position as it would have been if someone like me had been holding it in the regular way, at a regular height.

But then they realised that they could point the selfie stick in any direction they liked and could place the camera any place they want to that the selfie stick could reach.  It could go straight up in the air, or straight down, or partly down but right near the ground, as here.  With it, they could choose the exact background they wanted and compose the shot perfectly.  And as any photographer, even an amateur like me, will tell you, background is everything when you are shooting head shots.

Selfie sticks are great.  Personally, I am not into taking self-portraits, except when I am reflected in the scene I am photoing, so I don’t need a selfie stick and I don’t have one.  Above all, I don’t want a selfie stick because mostly I go photoing on my own.  I very seldom need to be taking group shots that include me, the way people are if they are on their honeymoon, say.  But just because I don’t need a selfie stick doesn’t mean that nobody else needs a selfie stick and that all who have selfie sticks should be yelled at.

I took the above shot of the selfie stick in action on the same day I took this photo.

Sunday June 14 2015

Can artists learn about how to do art when they get old, from sportsmen?  Can sportsmen learn from artists about how to handle their career twilights?  I face my own twilight now, so I read Ed Smith’s piece about such things with keen interest.

Choice quote:

The weird aspect of sporting maturity is that it happens so early in life. An athlete’s career is played out in fast-forward.  Professional and emotional maturity are wildly out of sync.  Andrew Flintoff told me recently that his cricket career was practically over before he felt at his most confident as a person.  Many sportsmen feel the same.  By the time they’ve grown up, it’s gone.  The period of critical decision-making and the exercise of power arrives frighteningly early.  Only when they retire do sportsmen become young again as they rejoin civilian time.

Yes, if you leave pro sport but land on your feet afterwards, much as Ed Smith himself seems to have done, it might be like being born again, rather than the slow death that it often seems to be for many sports people.  But, no chance of any such resurrection for those artists, or for me.  This is it.

Today there was a reminder, for cricket followers anyway, of how sports careers, like lives, can be cut cruelly short.  Sometimes, sportsmen only get to have just the one (short) life.

Two cricket fielders, both running for the same catch in the outfield, collided and had to be taken away in ambulances.  The match was called off.

I learned about this in an odd way.  Cricinfo was doing basic commentary.  Just runs, dots and wickets as they happened.  No frills.  No explanations.  And then, the commentary just stopped.  What was going on?  A complicated run out.  Rain?  But they usually say if it is raining.  Eventually I tuned into the BBC’s radio commentary, and got the story.

Google “Burns Henriques” and maybe also “Surrey” during the next few hours and days, and you’ll get plenty of hits.  Rory Burns and Moises Henriques are the names.  Surrey is their county.  At first I thought Surrey were maybe looking at another death (to add to this one, which caused havoc at the club).  So, I imagine, did everyone who was at the ground and who saw it happen.  But now that seems unlikely:

One piece of misinformation circulating was that Henriques was receiving CPR. Thankfully, rumour was quickly replaced by the sight of Henriques and Burns both sitting upright and giving the thumbs up as they were lifted into ambulances and taken to nearby St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester.

So, can you get hurt, do a thumbs up, and then go to hospital and die?  What do I know?

Get well soon, gentlemen, and hopefully well enough to play again, also soon.

More sports news, old sports news, from a movie I’m watching in the small hours of tomorrow morning on the TV.  I know - how does that work? - time travel.  The movie is Secretariat, about a champion horse in 1970s America.  So, the horse’s champion jockey, the usual diminutive jockey size, walks into the Belmont Ball on the eve of the big race, with a tall and gorgeous blonde on his arm.  He is asked how he convinced the tall and gorgeous blonde to attach herself to him.  He says:

“I told her I’m taller when I stand on my wallet.”

Old joke?  Maybe so, but first time I heard it.

I had no idea how Secretariat would end.  But I know the end now.  Secretariat won Belmont (on June 9th 1973, by the way) by thirty one lengths, a Belmont winning margin never seen since.  Even I know that’s a lot of lengths.  I did not see that coming.

LATER: Burns (a confusing name in a story when injuries are being listed): facial injuries.  Henriques: seriously broken jaw.  Nobody died or is going to.

LATER STILL: One man’s facial injury is another man’s opportunity.  Arun Harinath, playing for Surrey for the first time this season in place of Burns, has just scored a century against Glamorgan.  Such are the downs and ups of sport.

Thursday June 11 2015

I love learning about two-man teams, and in Paul Johnson’s short, excellent biography of Mozart (see also this earlier bit) I have been learning more about just such a team, although a very temporary and unequal one:

In the meantime, Mozart had met his great partner, the Abate Lorenzo Da Ponte.  The letter (May 7, 1783) in which he tells his father, “I have looked through at least a hundred libretti and more, but I have hardly found a single one with which I am satisfied,” also says he has met the new fashionable poet in Vienna, Da Ponte, who “has promised ... to write a new libretto for me.” The emperor had decided to abandon singspiel in 1783 and embrace Italian opera again, and he put Da Ponte in charge of the words.  Da Ponte was a converted Jew, the son of a tanner, who had embraced Christianity in 1763.  He had led a bohemian life, as a teacher, a priest, a lascivious escort of married women in the Venetian fashion, a friend of Casanova, expelled from Venice for sexual depravity, and thereafter making his living as a translator and writer in the theatrical world.  He had an extraordinary gift for languages, rather like Mozart himself but on a much more comprehensive scale, and seemed to think multilingually.

Da Ponte wrote the librettos for three Mozart operas, The Marriage of Figaro (K. 492, presented May 1,1786), Don Giovanni (K. 527, October 29, 1787), and Cosi fan tutte (K. 588, January 26, 1790), and the collaboration between the two men must be accounted one of the most successful in the history of opera.  By almost universal agreement, Figaro and Giovanni are Mozart’s two best operas, though a small minority argues that Cosi contains the best music and superb staging and that a first-class production can make it the best evening’s entertainment.

The two men worked successfuly together for two reasons. First, they both understood that creating an opera was collaboration and that composer and librettist both had to know when to give way; sometimes words must yield and sometimes notes. The truth is, of course, that Mozart was extremely adept at words as well as music, and often he took over as librettist, Da Ponte acquiescing. This raises the second point: Both men were good tempered, used to hard knocks, nasty words, and intense arguments.  They had the admirable habit, essential to success in the theater, of drawing a firm line over a disagreement, once it was resolved, and moving on quickly to the next problem.  Mozart’s good nature was absolutely genuine and went to the root of his being.  He was incapable of real malice or the desire to wound (the one exception was the archbishop, and there, too, hatred was expressed in words rather than deeds). Da Ponte was a much more flawed creature.  He was a fearful liar, to begin with, and his various volumes of memories are not to be trusted at all. His subsequent career after he left Vienna and went to New York, becoming a trader, a bookseller, a bankrupt, a poet, and other things, shows that his commitment to the stage and to music - drama, particularly - was not total.

Moreover, it is not clear that he recognized quality in opera. He thought the best composer he worked with was Vicente Martin y Soler, and he had the most fulsome praise for Antonio Salieri.  The implication was that both were Mozart’s superiors as musicians.  Both were more successful commercially at the time, and their operas were performed more frequently than Mozart’s - so were those of many other composers, at least eleven by my reckoning.  But both were so inferior to Mozart by any conceivable artistic criteria as to cast doubt on Da Ponte’s musical understanding.  And it is a significant fact that his three Mozart operas are the only ones whose libretto he wrote that have remained in the repertoire or that anyone has heard of today.

Hence the inescapable conclusion is that Mozart was the dominant figure in the collaboration.  Da Ponte understood or learned from Mozart the need to keep the drama moving by varying the musical encounters and groupings, by altering the rhythms of vocal speech, and by switching the moods.  He may even have understood the great discovery in the writing of opera that we owe to Mozart - the way in which character can be created, transformed, altered, and emphasized by entirely musical means taking possession of the sense of words.  But the magic touch is always provided by Mozart as music dramatist.

Tuesday June 09 2015

Preview – England begin latest rebuild, announced the Cricinfo front page, betting on this latest one being a flop.  But then what happens?

This.  England batted first and this is what the Cricinfo guy said after their innings had finished:

5.45pm, tea  Well that is extraordinary. Two scintillating hundreds, first from Joe Root but then usurped by Jos Buttler. Eoin Morgan and Adil Rashid playing their parts too in big partnerships, and all after losing a wicket first ball of the innings! Just some of the records here: England’s first ODI score of over 400, the first score over 400 in an ODI in England, the most sixes in an innings from England, the world record seventh-wicket stand in an ODI. Few others I’m sure. But England have played a blinder here and if New Zealand can get anywhere close to chasing it, we’re in for an outrageous evening. See you in 25 mins…

The last over of the England innings went like this: 1 W W 6 1nb 6 1.  Both the sixes were hit by England’s number ten, Plunkett, in an innings consisting of those last four balls there after those two Ws.  This took England well past 400 just when it looked like they might not get to 400 after all, on account of Buttler and then Rashid (they of the record seventh-wicket stand) getting out near the end.

Jason Roy getting himself out to the first ball of the match was by no means at all the worst one-day innings you’ll ever see or hear about, because at least Roy only consumed one ball making zero runs.  Thirty balls making not much more than zero is what will cost you your place in an ODI side, not very few balls making very few.  Provided you don’t make too much of a habit of it, getting out first or second or third ball is okay.  It comes with the territory.

Paul Collingwood was recently accused by various scumbag headline writers - headline writers are the origin of most of the biggest media lies, I find - of calling for “no consequences” cricket.  But if you actually read the reports below the scumbag headlines by the scumbag headline writers, you find that what Collingwood really said was stuff like this:

“The guys in world cricket now who have taken the game to the next level are people like AB de Villiers, Glenn Maxwell, David Warner, Chris Gayle and they are playing as if they are in the back yard. It’s as if there are no consequences on their wicket whatsoever. Somehow a coach has to get that environment, certainly in the one-day form of the game, to where he can say ‘lads, you’re backed, don’t worry, you have games to fail, go out there and prove what you can do’. I think that is an important factor in how to get the utmost amount of skills from each player.”

“It’s as if there are no consequences ...” Of course there are consequences if you make a succession of small scores and no big ones, as Collingwood perfectly well knows and as he never denied.  But the best players play as if that wasn’t the case, because they know that every few tries they’ll make big runs.

Talking of Jason Roy, Roy usually plays for Surrey, and also today, Surrey trounced Leicester with a day to spare, and are now promotion contenders.  Leicester, big deal, I hear you sneer.  But Surrey have had a bad habit of late of not taking enough wickets in such situations.  They have, over recent years, bought in all sorts of big name England or nearly-England bowlers, who then try to bowl sides out at the Oval and lose the will to live, never mind bowl.  This win was accomplished by younger bowlers with less starry names, notably by one young bowler called Curran, who also batted well.  Also, Surrey now have a new spinner who is coming along nicely called Ansari, and there is talk of him playing for England soon, because he bowls better than Moeen Ali.  But Surrey didn’t buy Ansari in after he had already proved his worth, they spotted him early and trained him up themselves.  Ansari is also quite a good batter, having learned in recent months the art of hitting boundaries, which he never used to do until this season.  It would be nice to see Surrey creating England players (or in Curran’s case maybe South African players, unless England come calling first) rather than just buying them in after someone else has created them, so to speak.

But I digress.  In the NZ reply to England, the one-man wrecking ball that is Brendan McCullum hit two fours and then got out, off the last three balls of the first over.  And whereas England were able to do without Roy, and later Stokes and new boy Billings, all of whom struck out with the bat, NZ really needed some slogging from McCullum to get them going, and they never truly recovered from his early departure.  There were, in other words, consequences to McCullum getting out so quickly.  See also: the recent World Cup Final.  NZ ended up getting less than half England’s score, losing by 210.

England won the first test match against NZ in style, only to lose the second not at all in style.  So they could easily make a hash of the next ODI against NZ, as everyone realises.  But in the meantime: hurrah, and I am now going to settle down to watch the TV highlights.

Monday June 01 2015

My rule for violating anonymity here at this blog, by sticking up recognisable pictures of strangers, is that if they are making a spectacle of themselves, then it is okay for me to carry on doing what they started.  Someone wearing a weird costume in public or doing something weird in public, or just very deliberately looking spectacularly beautiful in public, are fair game.

There is nothing weird about this guy’s costume, whom I spied at Oxford Circus tube station last night, but he was behaving rather weirdly.  So I photoed him, and here he is:

imageimage

He, I am sure, had no idea that I was photoing him while he was photoing.  Any more than I would have noticed if someone else had been photoing me while I was photoing him.  Which it would have made perfect sense, to me anyway, for someone else to do.  If I saw a bloke photoing a bloke photoing in the tube, I’d have photoed the pair of them like a shot, and what a shot it might have been.

Maybe a Real Photographer would like the lack of advertising in the advertising spots there, preferring arty grunge to vulgar commerce.  But I reckon that adverts might have added even more fun to those shots, especially if there had been some relevant slogan or slogans involved.  But now I’m just being greedy.

Sunday May 31 2015

Yes, again, but I do love her, especially now, when she presides over all that noisily aggressive building work all around her at the top end of Victoria Street:

image

Nothing says old school femininity like a ballerina, and nothing says old school masculinity like one of those extendable (but not at the time fully extended) temporary cranes.  Men are here.  But if here is the top end of Victoria Street, so too is the ultimate lady.