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: Media and journalism

Monday July 16 2018

Charlie Waite:

image

Now following Charlie Waite

Thank you Mike Fagan, whom I already follow.

Waite is a very Real Photographer indeed.

Wednesday July 04 2018

Last night, England scraped into the last eight of the World Cup, beating Colombia in a penalty shoot-out.

Here’s a photo of England captain Harry Kane, celebrating the way people do these days:

image

The work of the PA’s Owen Humphreys, the last of this collection.

Monday June 18 2018

Earlier this evening I was in the City, checking out the latest Big Things, but this posting isn’t about that.

I care just enough about England doing well in the World Cup to have to try not to care, as opposed to truly not caring.  Countries like Tunisia are getting better at soccer, and countries like England are getting worse, so today’s game, Tunisia v England, was a banana skin almost guaranteed to embarrass England.  I chose early this evening for my City walkabout because the weather forecast was good, but also because if I was photoing in the City, I could forget about this sure-to-be excruciating game.

Fat chance.  For starters, I was constantly walking past pubs full of people crying out in unison and in frustration, at England’s evidently imperfect performance.  Also, I had my mobile phone with me, and it was able to tell me what the shouting was all about.  I tried not to mind when Tunisia equalised with a penalty.  I tried not even to know.  But I did, because I did.

Also, in one of those urban coicidences, I encountered two further soccer reminders, both involving Dele Alli, a Spurs player who also plays in this England side.  These two photos were taken by me within a minute of one another, the first outside Liverpool Street tube, and the second down on the tube platform:

imageimageimage

On the left, an Evening Standard headline, all about how ruthless England must be, against Tunisia.  Sadly, they ruthlessly missed almost all of the many goal chances they created.  Had that other Spurs player, Kane, not scored at the beginning, and then again right at the end in extra time, England would have been humiliated.

And on the right, an advertising campaign which Dele Alli was surely asking for trouble by agreeing to.  He is fronting for clothing brand boohoo MAN.  This is a photocaption waiting to happen.  When England fail to win the World Cup, and they will, quite soon, fail to win the World Cup, Dele Alli will be photoed, a lot, looking unhappy.  And the unhappiest photo of all will have the words “boohoo man” under it, in many media outlets.  This will greatly benefit boohoo, by getting its name talked about, so I suppose, come to think of it, that the prospect of such coverage has already greatly benefited Del Alli.  But I consider this very undignified, even if Dele Alli is already boohooing all the way to the bank.

Sunday April 08 2018

Yes.  From yesterday’s Times, in the Review section:

image

Here is what Roz is making of this.

Sadly, that wonderfully admiring review is behind a pay wall.  But: remarkable.  I don’t know how much difference a thing like this makes to sales, but it surely can’t hurt.  All those favourable Amazon reviews also help a lot, as Roa, unsurprisingly, confirms.

Here is a piece I did for Samizdata, more about crime fiction generally, but provoked by – and giving a plug to – The Devils Dice.

Why all this fuss from me about The Devil’s Dice is because Roz is my niece and because The Devil’s Dice is very good.  See also this earlier posting here.  I have not posted an Amazon review, because If I didn’t say I’m her uncle that would be dishonest, and if I did, then it would be dismissed as hopelessly biased, as it would be.

Roz’s cat is less impressed.

Friday February 16 2018

You wait nearly thirteen years at BMdotcom for a giant penis photo, and then, out of the blue, two come along.  That one, in the post before last yesterday, and this one:

image

Crikey, blimey, etc..  Or as we Brits also used to say: Well I’m blowed.

Fox News, so also “other creatures”.

You Had One Job calls this an “unfortunate helicopter shot”.  But I bet the photoer could hardly believe his extreme good fortune.

Sunday February 04 2018

I just heard ITV News describe South African politician Jacob Zuma as being “mired in a whirlwind” of something or other.  Controversy, or some such thing.  Yes, this.

Next thing you know, he’ll be blown away by a swamp.

Tuesday October 03 2017

To quote my own earlier words about David Hockney:

What I particularly like about him is that he doesn’t indulge in the usual artistic sport of epater-ing the bourgeoisie.  He is content to be bourgeoisie.

And as if to prove me right, in the same book I was referring to, I later encounter (pp. 105-106) this amazingly honest Hockney outburst:

The best form of living I’ve ever seen in Monet’s – a modest house at Giverny, but very good kitchen, two cooks, gardeners, a marvellous studio.  What a life!  All he did was look at his lily pond and his garden.  That’s fantastic.  He was there for forty-three years. ...

Two cooks!  Gardeners!  How rare it is to encounter such full-throated pleasure being taken in the idea of having servants to look after you!

You can feel the people who try to decide these things going off Hockney, and I’m guessing that this has been going on for some time.  I’m not saying that Adrian Searle, for instance, doesn’t mean the things he says in this Guardian piece about Hockney’s pictures over the years.  And I actually rather share some of Searle’s preferences as to which Hockney pictures are nice and which are not so nice.  Searle says they’ve got worse, basically.

However, I suspect that Hockney’s real crime is that he started out looking like a radical homosexualist, but then when homosexuality settled back into being just part of the scenery of modern affluent, successful, happy life, Hockney was revealed as being not angry about modern, affluent, successful, happy life.  He just wanted that sort of life for himself, and for many decades now, he has had it.  He would have been angry only if denied such a life by anti-homosexualists.  But he wasn’t.  As soon as the world started happily tolerating Hockney’s not-so-private life and made his picture-making life affluent and successful, Hockney was content happily to tolerate the world and to revel in its visual pleasures, natural and electronic.  The Grand Canyon!  iPhones!  Bridlington!

Capitalism?  Commerce?  Hockney’s not angry about it.  He’s part of it. He produces it, he consumes it, he applies it to his work, he knows this, and he loves it.  And he has long surrounded himself with a small and happy team of assistants and cooks and bottle-washers of all the sorts that he needs, to enable him, Monet-style, to concentrate on his picture-making.  Hockney is the living embodiment of the glories of the division of labour.  Aka: social inequality.

I surmise that this is what really makes Searle’s readers (i.e. Guardian readers) angry about Hockney, not the claim that his pictures have got worse.  They’re angry about modern life, and they’re angry that David Hockney isn’t angry about modern life.

And I suspect that Hockney is, in the eyes of Those Who Try To Decide These Things, helping to take the Impressionists down with him.

Tuesday September 26 2017

A day or two ago I got an email from someone or something selling greetings cards, claiming that my birthday, September 26th, is the most popular birthday there is.  Today, which is September 26th, the same email with only small adaptations bombarded me again.

The thing about modern individually targetted advertising - emails, adverts that pop up on your computer screen, that kind of thing – is that you don’t trust them.  For instance, what if some know-a-lot computer happens to know that my birthday is September 26th, as many such computers surely do, and thinks that it will get a rise out of me by typing September 26th into its mass-email about what date the most popular birthday is?

So I asked the www, parts of which I do somewhat trust, and according to this Daily Telegraph piece from December 2015, it’s true.  The Daily Telegraph these days is not what it was, but for what it is worth, here’s what they said:

A new analysis of 20 years of birth records by the Office for National Statistics shows a dramatic spike in the number of children born in late September, nine months after Christmas. …

Overall September 26 emerges as the most common birthday for people born in England and Wales over the last two decades.
It falls 39 weeks and two days after Christmas Day, meaning that a significant proportion of those born on that day will have been conceived on Christmas itself.

I don’t know how popular September 26th was as a birthday way back when I was biologically launched.  I’ve always thought of my parents as pretty straight-laced and careful about things like when to have children.  But, did they just get pissed on Christmas Day 1946 and start me up by mistake?  Maybe so.  (Maybe they got pissed carefully.)

Anyway, whatever, happy birthday me.

Monday September 11 2017

My recent life has been seriously deranged by this book, which is about French painting and painters during the nineteenth century.  It’s by Ross King.  Never heard of him until I acquired and started to read this book of his, but the loss was entirely mine.  (Sounds more like a boxing promotor than an Art write.) This is one of the most engrossing books about Art I have ever encountered.

I am learning about several subjects that greatly appeal to me.  There’s French painting, obviously, which I have always wanted to know more about, in particular the rise to pre-eminence of Impressionism, which is what this book is about.  There are fascinating little titbits about the rise of sport, the 1860s being one of the most important decades for that, because of railways.  There’s French nineteenth century history in general, which this book, bless it, contains a lot of.  In particular there is stuff about the 1870 war against the Prussians, and then the Paris Commune.  There is French geography also, French geography being something that many of the more affluent French (including the more affluent artists) were getting to grips with properly for the first time, again because of those railways.  There is a glorious few pages about a big bunch of artists going on strike!  There are huge gas balloons.  This is not the sort of book about paintings that is only about the paintings.  Which means that it is much better than most books about paintings, because it explains their wider context.  It explains what the paintings are of, and why.

I particularly like that the role of the media is well described.  Tom Wolfe did not (with this book) invent that.  Art critics, then as now, were a big part of the Art story.

But, although I know that I will be a much improved human being when I have finished reading this book, I am finding the actual reading of it rather tough going.  For starters, there’s a lot of it, nearly four hundred closely printed pages, and my eyesight isn’t what it was.  But worse, there are constant references to people and to things that a better educated person than I would already know a bit about.  Who, for instance, was Charles Blanc?  I feel I ought to have known this kind of thing, at least a bit.  And then there’s the difference between Manet and Monet, which is all explained, concerning which about the only thing I knew beforehand was that they were indeed two distinct people.  But, I feel I should have known more about exactly which of them painted exactly what.  I could have whistled it all up from the www, but I do most of my reading away from my computer, because that way my computer does not then distract me.  Ross King never assumes any knowledge, and introduces everyone and everything very politely, but I am still struggling to keep up.

Another problem is that this book is packed with little stories about excitements of this or that diverting sort, any one of which could have been the basis of an entire book, but in this book often get just one or two paragraphs.  (I’m thinking of those titbits about sport, especially horse racing.) Accordingly, I find myself wanting to stop, to contemplate whatever fascinating little yarn I have just read, rather than dutifully ploughing on.

But plough on I am determined to do.  Until I finish, you here must make do with inconsequential postings, based on things like my inconsequential photos, which I happen to have been trawling back through in recent days.  But when I finally do finish this book, there may be some rather better stuff here.  I promise nothing, but I have in mind to pick out some of those diverting little stories, and maybe also sprinkle in some pertinent paintings.

I also hope (but promise nothing) to do a more considered review of this book for Samizdata.

Thursday August 31 2017

Here.

I heard about this soon after it happened, because I had been semi-following the game, on account of it being at the Oval and involving Surrey.  When it said “play stopped by crowd trouble” or some such thing, here, I at once tuned into the internet radio commentary, and replayed the strange moment when they saw this arrow stuck in the pitch and the players all either walked off or ran off.  Later, they reckoned the arrow must have come from outside the ground, not from one of the stands.  So, not crowd trouble after all.  Good.

Usually, when there’s an act of obvious terrorism by an obvious terrorist, the BBC makes a big thing of not jumping to the obvious conclusion about why it happened.  But this time, it really wasn’t obvious, and so far as I know, it’s still a mystery.  I mean, why fire just one small arrow at a four day county cricket game, which was already heading for a draw, watched by a largely empty stadium?  A small shower of arrows, into the crowd, and preferably a dense crowd, well, that might have caused some real grief and real panic.  As it was, it felt more like some bizarre accident rather than anything very malevolent.  A kid maybe?  Or just someone really, really stupid.

Mind you, I’d not be nearly so relaxed about all this had Surrey been chasing down a target of about a hundred, which earlier in the day it looked like they might contrive to be doing, despite all of yesterday having been rained off.  Had this mysterious incoming arrow turned a probable Surrey win into a draw, then clearly Middlesexist terrorism would be an obvious motive to be looking at.  But Middlesex had already batted themselves out of trouble, and a game that was already dead on its feet managed to get put out of its misery in a way that was really rather interesting, entertaining even, given that nobody got hurt.

Surrey have made a point of drawing games this year.  They have scored just one win so far, but are sitting pretty safe in mid-table.  Yorkshire have two more wins than Surrey, but fewer points, on account of Surrey having only lost one game, with their other eight all drawn.  Yorkshire have won three but lost four.

Meanwhile, test cricket has also been pretty lively, but in a good way:

So, Test cricket is in danger, is it? Ha! Test cricket laughs in the face of danger. Twice in the space of 14 hours, the game’s world order has been thoroughly rattled, with two of the most memorable results in recent years. The first jolt came at Headingley, where West Indies upset England for their first victory in the country since 2000; the next day in Mirpur, Shakib Al Hasan bowled Bangladesh to a thrilling, historic maiden win over Australia.

The danger, that test cricket just laughed at, being the danger of tedium and of insignificance.  Not arrows.

Sunday June 25 2017

I’ve been reading Adam Zamoyski’s book about Chopin.  So far, I love it.  And I love learning so much about a fascinating man, of whom I knew just about nothing besides his music, and the fact that he was Polish and is a very big deal in Poland, but that he lived mostly in France.

I have, in particular, learned just exactly how Polish Chopin was, and was not.  His father, Nicholas Chopin, was French.  But when the Polish aristocrat for whom he worked went back to Poland, Nicholas went with him.  In Poland Nicholas married a Polish woman, and Frederick was thus born in Poland, but with his French-sounding name.  It sounds French because it was French.

So far, I have reached the stage where Chopin has played his first few concerts at which he performed, to great acclaim, his first few compositions, most of them for piano and orchestra.  (I am very fond of these pieces, the two piano concertos and the various other one movement works for piano and orchestra.)

As for how Chopin played, Zamoyski supplies this especially pleasing quote, from an unnamed Warsaw newspaper critic:

He emphasised but little, like one conversing in the company of clever people, not with the rhetorical aplomb which is considered by virtuosos to be indispensable.

But Chopin found it difficult working with orchestras, and I’m guessing that this is partly why that stopped, and he concentrated henceforth on solo works.  But as I think the above quote reveals, that probably suited his manner of playing better.

Friday June 23 2017

The internet loves animals, especially cats and dogs, and I went looking for Grenfell Tower animal stories.  Because, there’s always an animal angle, to just about any story, even if it wasn’t an animal story to start with.

Did many pets die in the Grenfell Tower disaster?  I wasn’t able to answer that one.  But there have been a number of stories about pets who either can’t now stay with their current owners, or whose owners have died.  Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, for instance, is helping out with temporary pet accommodation.

Animals were also heavily involved in the search for bodies in the wreckage, as MSM news explains:

Specially trained dogs are also vital to the mission. The search process is painstaking, and as dogs are smaller, more agile, and have such a keen sense of smell (better than any technology), the animals have been deployed at more challenging areas.

The upper floors of the 24-storey high rise, those most damaged, and where people are most likely to have been killed, benefit particularly from the dogs’ expertise.

The canines come from the LFB and the MET’s urban search crews. They’re given special equipment, and even little boots to protect their feet from heat and broken glass. While obviously dangerous, no fire dog has ever been harmed while out on an operation.

...

The dogs mean the sad and devastating process of finding the missing will be quicker. They can get into parts of the building humans simply can’t get to.

I particularly like the bit about those “little boots”.  Nice touch.  Both in the sense of what this detail adds to the story, and in the sense that this must make life easier for the dogs, despite any doubts the dogs might have when first made to put their little boots on.

More about these dogs and their boots, with a picture, here, in a story from last year.

Friday June 16 2017

It feels hard to write about anything else in London, other than that towering inferno.  This story will run and run, because it partakes of both genuine emotions of the strongest sort, and politicians and media people eager to fan the flames.  What happened?  Who exactly has died?  Whose fault was it?  You can’t blame the media.  Their job is to tell true stories, and this is one hell of a true story.

image

Daily Mirror story about a barking dog.

Politically, if you had tried to hand-craft a disaster calculated to do the most possible damage to the Conservative government, and to most encourage what now seems to be a rising tide of Corbynism, you could hardly have done it more perfectly.  Those political people who are now fanning the flames are filled with passionate moral self-confidence.  How on earth the long-term politics of all this will pan out, I have no idea.

Would a Corbynite government really turn Britain into Venezuela?  Probably not, but why take the chance?  That’s what I say.  But will enough of my fellow Brits agree with me, when the time to say comes round again?  As of now, it feels like: no.

Oh well:

Spero infestis metuo secundis.

6k liked that too.

Wednesday June 14 2017

In the movie of that name, the inmates were all rich and glamorous.  Well, they would be, they were played by movie stars.  And the fire spread slowly enough to last for a whole movie.

This tower contained mere people, and the flames spread very quickly, like … wildfire.

I presume that the social media are ablaze with images of this tower, but for me, being the age I am, it’s the Evening Standard that really brings these sorts of things home:

imageimageimageimageimage

As you can see, they originally went with “Inferno”, but later changed it to the more politically charged “Death Trap”.  On the telly, the story was already developing, along the lines of: they were warned.  But they did nothing.

The Evening Standard story so far.

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.