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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: History

Monday August 14 2017

For a while now I’ve had the Cricinfo Test Match Records page open, and also the particular page that deals with which test match batsmen have scored the most test match centuries.  But this page also contains some other information which I find even more interesting.  It includes, for instance how many mere fifties (i.e. scores between 50 and 100) each batsman has scored.  It also notes how many test matches each of these century-amassing batsman played in. 

Both of which additional numbers highlight how exceptional Don Bradman was.

About the only unexceptional thing about Bradman is how many test match centuries he scored, compared to all the other great batsmen on the list of top century makers.  The list contains, by my count, 75 names.  Tendulkar is top with 51 centuries.  Bradman comes in at 14th, with 29 centuries.  The bottom 9 on the list all got 15 centuries each.

But Bradman scored far fewer fifties, without getting to a hundred, than did any of his close rivals. The ratios for the top 10 century makers, starting with Tendulkar are: 51 hundreds/68 fifties, 45/58, 41/62, 38/52, 36/63, 34/33 (this is Younis Kahn of Pakistan – the only top century maker in the top 25 other than Bradman to score more centuries than fifties), 34/45, 34/48, 32/50.  The equivalent ratio for Bradman is … 29/13!  That’s right.  Bradman got past fifty 42 times, but on only 13 of these occasions did he then fail to get to a hundred.  You had to stop Bradman early, or the chances were that you weren’t going to stop him at all.

And he wasn’t easy to stop early either, as his hundreds-scored-to-test-matches-played-in ratio reveals.  Bradman played in just 52 tests, so he scored a century in more than half the tests he played in.  52 is the lowest number of tests played by anyone in this entire list of 75 test match greats, with all the other guys towards the top of the list having mostly played well over 100 tests.  Tendulkar, while scoring fewer than twice as many centuries as Bradman, played in 200 tests, almost four times as many tests as Bradman played in.

More Bradmania here.  But, not everyone loved Bradman.  As my Aussie friend Michael Jennings is fond of telling me, Bradman was and remains a rather divisive figure within Australian cricket, as I have been reading in a book called Bradman’s War.  The point being that, unlike many of his cricketing contemporaries, Bradman, who took no part in the real war, treated cricket as war.

Thursday August 03 2017

It’s no great surprise that, at the website of the hotel that now calls itself Park Tower Knightsbridge, they are keener to show you pictures of the hotel’s interiors and of the views to be seen from the hotel, than they are to show you what the hotel itself looks like to the outside world.

That being this:

image

That’s a photo of this building that I took five years ago, from Hyde Park, which is not a place I visit very often.  Personally, I am rather fond of this building.  But I am not the sort of person who would ever stay there.  I’m guessing that those who do stay there are not that fond of how it looks from the outside.

Park Tower Knightsbridge was designed by my favourite architect from the Concrete Monstrosity era.  Favourite in the sense that when it comes to your typical Concrete Monstrosity architect, I hate almost all of what they did.  With Richard Seifert, I just hate some of it, and rather like quite a lot of it.

Especially now that this style is in headlong retreat, and all the arguments about it concern whether this or that relic of the Concrete Monstrosity era should or should not be dismantled.  When this style was on the march, smashing everything in its path to rubble, I would gladly have said goodbye to Park Tower Knightsbridge (or whatever it started out being called), if that was what it would have taken to stop the Concrete Monstrosity style in its tracks.  But now, I favour the preservation of a decent proportion of London’s Concrete Monstrosities.  I suspect that they may turn out, in the longer run, like the medieval castles of old (definitely feared and hated when first built), in eventually being regarded as charmingly picturesque.

And, I especially like the Park Tower Knightsbridge, because of its striking concrete window surrounds, and its non-rectangularity.  See also No. 1 Croydon, which I think may be my absolute favourite Serfert.

Striking concrete window surrounds and non-rectangularity might also be why I like this next building, One Kemble Street, also designed by Richard Seifert, and already featured here in this posting, which includes a photo of how it looks when viewed from the upstairs bar of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden.

imageimageimage

I took these photos, within a few seconds of each other, minutes before taking this rather blurry photo of the ROH.

In addition to being a posting about how I am rather fond of these two Seifert buildings, it is also a rumination upon roof clutter.

Note how both these buildings have an abundance of roof clutter perched on their tops.  But note also how that clutter is so arranged as to be largely invisible to anyone standing anywhere at all near to the building.

If you image google either One Kemble Street or Park Tower Knightsbridge, what you mostly get are these close-up views, with all the roof clutter out of sight.  It’s like those who own these buildings care very much about the impression the buildings give to passers-by, and most especially to those who actually go into the building, but do not care about how the buildings look to the rest of London.  They probably figure that nobody really sees these buildings, except from nearby where you can’t miss them.  But from a distance, and now that the architectural fashion that gave birth to them has been replaced by other fashions, they just, to most eyes, fade into the general background architectural clutter which is London itself.  If there is clutter on top of them, well, that’s London for you.  London, like all big cities these days, abounds in roof clutter.

I don’t know.  I’m still trying to get my head around these thoughts.  Maybe it’s just convention.  On stage appearances matter, and offstage appearances do not.  When it comes to how things look, the side walls of these buildings count.  They’re on stage.  Their roofs do not count.  They’re off stage.

Wednesday August 02 2017

So I was trawling through the archives, looking for a suitable quota photo, and chanced upon this, from July 2007:

image

That’s a view looking out across the river, from the top of the Monument.  It’s nice, but it’s not of anything very interesting.  When I took this photo, it was nothing very special.  It’s Guy’s Hospital, which is, as they say, no oil painting.

But here is another photo I took from the same spot, of the same spot, looking out across the river in the same direction, five years later.  I’ve cropped it to make it easier to compare with the earlier photo.  By then, my naming of my photo-archives had become more disciplined, and I had no difficulty tracking it down.  And it isn’t only the light that had changed, is it?

image

This is why, when I am photoing a view, it’s a good idea to take a lot of photos, of everything.  You never know what will later turn out to be of interest.

More fundamentally, I don’t just like to photo London.  I like to photo how it is changing and how it has changed.  And it is precisely the dullest bits and the dullest views which are most likely to be transformed.  I mean, the Shard is not likely to be replaced in five years time by something different, is it?  But some no-name clutch of concrete slabs is just the kind of place that is about to be ripped to pieces and replaced by something far more eye-catching.

Or take the Gherkin.  They aren’t going to surround that with lots of even bigger towers, blocking most of the views of it.  Oh no, as the Americans say, wait ...

Monday July 31 2017

Today I followed England beating South Africa at the Oval, and listened to some of the BBC live radio commentary.  Today they did a prank on Boycott, telling him that the ICC was going to mess about with the classification of certain cricket matches in the past, declaring them no longer to have been first class, meaning that Boycott’s famous Headingley hundredth first class hundred was now only his ninety ninth first class hundred. Apartheid, etc.  Boycott believed it all, as did I, and was not a happy man, as was not I.  But they made it up.  Ha ha.  Boycs had to just shrug it off, but I bet he wasn’t best pleased.  As wasn’t I.

I don’t tune into Test Match Special to be told deliberate lies.  This kind of thing is only excusable if it’s the morning of April 1st.  There’s far too much of these kinds of lies maskerading as jokes on the telly.  Now, it seems to be spreading to the radio.  I mean, what next?  Made up cricket scores?  Anouncing that England have won when actually they lost?  Only kidding!  Gotcha!  Bollocks to that.

Coincidentally, later this evening I watched a rerun of Room 101, where one of the guests urged the oblivionising of the excuse of saying only joking.  The claim is that saying “only joking” makes everything that preceded this excuse, no matter what, alright.  I agreed with the Room 101 guest.  No, it doesn’t.  One of these days someone is going to have his head bashed in with a nearby implement following such behaviour, and it is going to be well-deserved.  Also, I trust, recorded for radio or better, television.

A much funnier bit of cricket radio, I thought, was yesterday, when they had father and son Surrey legends Micky and Alec Stewart on.  They’ve just named the Oval pavilion after Micky.  Plus, Micky Stewart recalled his days in the triumphant Surrey team of the nineteen fifties, which I recall vividly as a kid.  They prepared spinning pitches especially for Laker and Lock, apparently.  All the counties had pitches to suit their own bowlers, in those far off days.

Anyway, when the now distinctly elderly Micky was about to leave the commentary box, one of the commentators said: “You won’t be with us much longer.” i.e. much longer with them, in the box.  The commentator had in mind that the answer to the final question he was about to ask needed to be brief.  But before the commentator could clarify his rather unfortunate way of saying what he had been trying to say, and quick as a flash, Micky said: “I feel okay.” Much mirth, including in my kitchen.

“I feel okay” was certainly the meaning of what Micky Stewart said, but maybe those weren’t his exact words.  There are lots of other recordings of BBC cricket stuff, but I couldn’t find any recording of this exquisite exchange at the BBC cricket website.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t there, merely that I couldn’t find it.  I hope that such a recording does exist because this exchange deserves to outlive the man who supplied its lightning quick punch line.  Micky Stewart was making a joke about his own imminent death, not inflicting any cruelties or lies on anyone else.

Sunday July 30 2017

I really like this description of where cool came from.  I don’t think I agree, but I like the way the guy puts it:

And what Frank Sinatra projected was: cool. And here is where the damage was done. Frank invented cool, and everyone followed Frank, and everything has been going to hell ever since.

In America, B.F., there was no cool. There was smart (as in the smart set), and urbane, and sophisticated, and fast and hip; but these things were not the same as cool. The pre-Frank hip guy, the model of aesthetic and moral superiority to which men aspired, is the American male of the 1930s and 1940s. He is Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep or Casablanca or Archie Goodwin in Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe novels. He possesses an outward cynicism, but this is understood to be merely clothing; at his core, he is a square. He fights a lot, generally on the side of the underdog. He is willing to die for his beliefs, and his beliefs are, although he takes pains to hide it, old-fashioned. He believes in truth, justice, the American way, and love. He is on the side of the law, except when the law is crooked. He is not taken in by jingoism but he is himself a patriot; when there is a war, he goes to it. He is, after his fashion, a gentleman and, in a quite modern manner, a sexual egalitarian. He is forthright, contemptuous of dishonesty in all its forms, from posing to lying. He confronts his enemies openly and fairly, even if he might lose. He is honorable and virtuous, although he is properly suspicious of men who talk about honor and virtue. He may be world-weary, but he is not ironic.

The new cool man that Sinatra defined was a very different creature. Cool said the old values were for suckers. Cool was looking out for number one always. Cool didn’t get mad; it got even. Cool didn’t go to war: Saps went to war, and anyway, cool had no beliefs it was willing to die for. Cool never, ever, got in a fight it might lose; cool had friends who could take care of that sort of thing. Cool was a cad and boastful about it; in cool’s philosophy, the lady was always a tramp, and to be treated accordingly. Cool was not on the side of the law; cool made its own laws. Cool was not knowing but still essentially idealistic; cool was nihilistic. Cool was not virtuous; it reveled in vice. Before cool, being good was still hip; after cool, only being bad was.

I found that at Instapundit.  It is from this.

I remember writing a pamphlet, way back when, entitled Why I Support The Contras, that included the observation that …:

… there seems to me to be something especially nasty about free, comfortable people choosing to decide questions of overwhelming historical and moral significance as if they were arguing about hemlines.

That’s in my penultimate paragraph, underneath my final subheading, “MORALITY AND STYLE”.  My point being that morality trumps style.

To put that in the language of cool and uncool, what I was getting at was that being an uncool anti-communist was good.  But being a cool pro-communist, or (almost as bad in my opinion) a cool anti-anti-communist, was evil.  And good and evil matter a hell of a lot more than cool and uncool.

I think that “cool” can be a virtue, related to the idea of “grace under fire”.  Cool, can, that is to say, overlap with virtue.  You can be cool while being – cool about being - good, or at least non-evil.

Cool and evil can go to hell, that being where it belongs.  But when Instapundit’s Ed Driscoll says, of that Michael Kelly quote, “spot on”, I disagree.  I don’t regard cool as being, in and of itself, evil.  It often is.  But it often isn’t.

But, what do I know?  The thing is, this is an argument about the meaning of a word, and the meaning of a word is often controversial.  To know what a word means, you have to know about how it is used.  Knowing how you think it should be used is not the same thing.  All I can say is that in my conversational circles, cool is not necessarily wicked.

I am quite prepared to believe that in Sinatra world, cool did indeed become very wicked indeed.

Sunday July 16 2017

I loved the latest cars when I was a kid, and I still love the latest cars when I was a kid.  I loved theose cars then and I love them still, more and more, as both they and I get older.

Cars like this:

image

Which I photoed late in the afternoon yesterday.  I often visit Lower Marsh late in the afternoon on a Saturday, and once again, the above classic car made realise that yesterday was the third Saturday of this month, the day when the classic cars gather in Lower Marsh, from midday until middle-to-late afternoon.  By the time I was there, this and one other car were the only ones still lingering.  Memo to self, get there at 12 noon next time around.

So if I type in all the third Saturdays of the month for the next few months, helpfully listed here, maybe, on one of these dates, I’ll get there in time to see the real show, instead of just the odd late leaver.

August 19th
September 16th
October 21st
November 18th
December 16th

As I say, there was one other classic car hanging around in Lower Marsh when I got there.

This:

image

The point here being that while this Morris Minor Van is an amazingly well preserved classic vehicle, Pimlico Pumbers is an impeccably modern enterprise.

Like I say, they don’t use this van to do plumbing call outs.  It would appear to be a piece of artistic sponsorship:

We also have an unregistered 1966 Morris Minor LCV with only 67 miles on the clock. We purchased it in 1995 in primer paint and have since restored this classic model to its former glory and it now sports Pimlico’s blue and white livery. We have never taken it on the road to ensure that it stays in its original condition. Ted Connolly, Editor of Classic Van and Pick-up Magazine described this van as a museum piece.

But given that this vehicle does show up at classic car gatherings, I’m guessing this is a pretty good piece of business.

Friday July 14 2017

I spent a frightening proportion of my waking hours last week scouring London for the exact sort of computer screen than I wanted, and sorting out the resulting mess caused by one of the screens that I bought malfunctioning and then its identical replacement malfunctioning in the exact same way.  I may write more about that, but threaten nothing.

My scourings took me all over London.  On Tuesday, having had no success in any of the electronic toy shops of Tottenham Court Road and nearby places, like John Lewis in Oxford Street, I journeyed West, to Peter Jones in Sloane Square.  On my way, I had the latest of many goes at photoing the statue of the young Mozart in Pimlico Square, and this time, I quite liked the result:

image

That’s not a very good likeness of the statue, but I quite like the photo, because of all the rather nicely lit greenery, and even despite that strange object in the tree with wires coming out of it.  Something to do with electrical lighting, I think.  Next time I am there I may check, if I remember.  If you want to know more about the statue, you surely know how to do that, now that you know, if you didn’t already, that it’s there.

Peter Jones having not provided me with a computer screen, and me having then drawn a similar blank at PC World in Kensington High Street, I journeyed on Wednesday to Brixton, where PC World has what turned out to be an impressively large super-store.

On my way there, I wasn’t looking for photo-ops but encountered quite a few, including this one:

image

That’s a bust of Sir Henry Tate, in front of Brixton Library, which he founded and paid for.  Also Streatham Library, apparently.  And yes, Tate also founded a big old Art Gallery right near where I live.

To me, one of the intriguing things about my photo is the strange pattern of greenness (copper oxide?) which only partially covers the bust.  Most of the photos you get if you image google for this thing do their best to minimise this effect.  I made a point of capturing it, because it was what first got my attention.

Wednesday June 28 2017

This is one of my favourite statues in London, and this is one of my favourite photos that I’ve taken of it, one of quite a few over the years:

image

Photo taken just before I took these.

What would Beau Brummell have made of the smartphone?  And of these smartphoners?

More about the statue, where it is exactly, who did it, and so on, here.

Also: Longmire and Edward Green.

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.

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:

image

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.

Thursday June 15 2017

I have posted here recently about the design of tube maps.

And I have posted here about how the Roman Empire surrounded the Mediterranean Sea.

But I didn’t expect ever to be posting about both, in the form of the same piece of graphics.  But now, Colossal has a posting entitled The Roman Empire’s 250,000 Miles of Roadways imagined as a Subway Transit Map:

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If you click on that, you’ll get it big enough to clock all the station names.  (If your eyesight is in the same zone of dodgyness as mine.)

I actually think that this drives home the point, about Rome surrounding the Mediterranean, very well.  Just giving all the various tribes and countries and kingdoms involved a spanking on the battlefield is one thing.  Roman roads are something else again.  A Roman road says: We’re here to say, and we can do it again whenever we want.

Monday June 12 2017

Today I was part of a impressively numerous gang of friends and family who attended GodDaughter 2’s end of third year recital, at the Royal College of Music.

The RCM, seen from outside the Royal Albert Hall, looks like this:

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This photo was taken from just beyond the statue of Prince Albert outside the Royal Albert Hall, to the south of it.  By most standards, this statue is pretty imposing, but it is a miniature compared to the vastly bigger Royal Albert Memorial, which is to the north, the other side of Kensington Road, in Hyde Park.

After GD2’s recital, we went out and celebrated.  We ate.  We drank.  We photoed each other.  I photoed us photoing each other.  And I also took a few dozen photos in and around the RCM and its various Albert memorials, both before and after the recital.  More of that may follow (although I promise nothing).

For now, I’ll just say that although it is very hard to be objective about a person whom I have known since she was about four or some such tiny age, GD2, who is a mezzo-soprano, really seems like she is going to be the real deal.  Her voice gets stronger and more expressive, and her command of it more impressive, every time I hear her.

GD2 herself is not in the slightest bit strange, but when singing, she does strange, wonderfully.  Her performances of two of the songs from Day Turned Into Night by Iain Bell were particularly fine.  These songs feature Queen Victoria describing the life and death of – you’ve guessed it – Prince Albert.  The two that GD2 sang are very strange indeed.

Friday June 09 2017

I don’t go to Quotulatiousness every day, but I went there yesterday, and what did I find?  I found that this Samizdata piece of mine from 2015, was quotulated again.  The piece was about war and sport.  The earlier quotulation was from the sport bit.  Now he quotulates the war bit, which is how the piece begins.

I also told you here about the earlier quotulation.  Grander people than me have others to bang their drum for them, but if I don’t bang my own drum, nobody will.

Monday June 05 2017

A few hours after I took this photo (and not before all the latest terrorist dramas that were happening on the other side of the river (which I later crossed)), I took this photo, outside the Bank of England:

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This combines four things that interest me.

First, most obviously, it is a photo of an unusual means of transport.  Rather confusingly, this contraption had “PedalBus.com” written on it.  But when you type that into the www, you get redirected to pedibus.co.uk.  Where you also discover photos of contraptions with “PedalBus.com” on them.  Very confusing.

Second, the persons on the pedibus/PedalBus are making a spectacle of themselves.  People who make a spectacle of themselves are not entitled to anonymity, or not at this blog.  Photoers going about their photoing business do, mostly, get anonymity here.  But people yelling drunkenly, albeit goodnaturedly, and striking dramatic attitudes when I photo them, not.

Third, I like these downward counting numbers on the pedestrian light bits of traffic lights, which London apparently got from New Zealand.  (Blog and learn.) Very useful.  I like to photo them, preferably in combination with other interesting things.  Score.  Score again, because there is not just one 7 in this photo, there are two 7s.  This particular time of the day, just when it is starting to become dark, is the best time to photo these numbers.

And fourth, I am becoming increasingly interested by London’s many statues, as often as not commemorating the heroes of earlier conflicts.  I think one of the things I like about them is the sense of a very particular place that they radiate, just as the more showoffy Big Things do, but even more precisely.  They thus facilitate meeting up with people.  “In front of the Bank of England” might prove too vague.  “Next to Wellington” pins it down far more exactly.

The Wellington statue makes a splendid contrast with the pedi/PedalBussers.  Wellington is Wellington, seated on his horse (Copenhagen presumably), very dignified and patrician.  And the peddlers are the kind of people he commanded in his battles.

I don’t get why this statue is in front of the Bank of England.  Why isn’t there a Wellington statue at Waterloo?