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: History

Sunday January 20 2019

... but it ended up there.

This posting included the fact that I am out and about this evening, so here, today, that’s your lot.

Tuesday January 15 2019

Yes, I do believe it has finally happened.  Stokes, Woakes and Foakes are all in the same England cricket team.  Truly, an historic day.  Too bad Stokes is not Stoakes, and that Chris Woakes is not Ben Woakes.  As it is, we have to make do with Bens Stokes and Foakes, and Chris Woakes.

In other news: this.  My opinion?  What Steve says.

Monday January 14 2019

Last night, Spurs lost 0-1, at “home” (i.e. Wembley), to Man U.  I had been half hoping that Spurs might lose, because this would make it less likely that Man U would want to replace their current manager, Solskjaer, with the man whom he outmanaged last night, Spurs manager Pochettino.  Spurs really need Pochettino to stay, and they want Man U to back off trying to lure him away with their infinite money.  It is all explained in this piece.  I said that!  But alas, I didn’t say it soon enough.

This being why the Spurs strikers were so careful to aim all their shots at goal straight at the Man U goalie, David de Gea.  They want The Poch to stay with them too.

Just kidding.  de Gea did really well.  And concerning that, I liked this tweet at the end of the game last night from Watford goalie Ben Foster:

I see a lot of people saying all De Gea saves were straight at him, please factor in that the guy has some mad sense to know where to be at just the right time, you can’t teach that. Proper goally

But not very proper punctuation.  What has Ben Foster got against full stops?  Maybe he used up all his stops, performing a similar miracle to de Gea, for Watford against Crystal Palace.

I recall hoping on a previous occasion that my football team would lose.  England were playing Germany at home.  It was again a management issue.  It was worth England losing to Germany if that resulted in Kevin Keegan ceasing to be England manager.  Keegan is a great guy, but was wrong to manage England.  England did lose.  Keegan did step down.  Soon after this, England beat Germany in Germany, 1-5.  But sadly not in the World Cup or the Euros or whatever it was, which England and Germany both qualified for.  Germany presumably won that.

My thanks to Patrick Crozier, with whom I dined earlier this evening, for lots of details about the above, which I had either forgotten or never knew in the first place, like Foster being the Watford goalie and England playing Germany in the last game at old Wembley and then winning 1-5 in Germany.

Sunday January 13 2019

The reason I’m showing so many ancient photos here just now is because the weather in London is so very dreary, and I’m not going out much.  Instead, I am doing lots of tidying up and chucking out, provoked by those sofas.  And, I’m back to doing more at Samizdata than of late.

Here’s another relic from another era.  This is Southwark Towers, photoed by me on May 31st 2006:

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Relic because this really quite Big Thing was demolished in 2008, to make way for London’s ultimate Big Thing, The Shard.

At the time I took this photo, I had no idea that what I was photoing was about to disappear.

If in doubt, photo the photo.

Friday January 11 2019

I was in the West End earlier this evening.  Not having done any blogging here today, and today being Friday, I kept my eyes open for something creaturely.

I spotted this, in the window of one of those very Old School shops, in Cecil Court:

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Ah, cigarette cards.  Never had them here before.  And I don’t think poultry have been featured here before either.

Click to get them a bit bigger.

Friday January 04 2019

Or maybe that should be: How Twitter rots the brain.

Instapundit is a daily destination for me, and yesterday, there’s a posting about a piece at Quillette by Cathy Young about Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

So I read that, and am impressed.  Solzhenitsyn was a hero of mine when I was at school and university, and like Young, I was puzzled by his subsequent opposition to Western liberalism and fondness for Russian nationalism, along with all the nasty baggage that is liable to bring with it, like anti-Semitism.

At the bottom of the Cathy Young article is the suggestion that I should consider following Cathy Young at Twitter.  I do so.  I scroll down, and soon find myself smiling at otter jokes, all the otter jokes being based on the fact that “otter” is only one letter away from “other”.  Significant otters.  In otter news.  (Yes, Happy New Year again.)

And: Why did the otters cross the road?  To get to the otter side.

This didn’t take long at all.

Wednesday January 02 2019

I just posted something at Samizdata about a talk I’ll be doing for Christian Michel this coming Sunday, i.e. January 6th.  A rerun of this, basically, but with my thinking somewhat further advanced.

In the course of my homework for this posting, and for the talk itself, I came across these two rather fine images, which nicely illustrate the two history dates loom large in my story, the invention of the printing press …:

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… and the invention of the electric telegraph:

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I found these images here, and here.

Note how all the books are German.  A major impact of printing being nationalism.

Monday December 31 2018

At the end of April and the beginning of May of 2018, I visited the city of Quimper, almost certainly for the last time.  The friends I have stayed there with several times are now living in the south of France, and their Quimper home is now someone else’s.  So, farewell Quimper.

On May 4th, on my last full day in Quimper, my hostess drove me to see the superb lighthouse at Penmarc’h, which is on the south west tip of Brittany.  And no, I don’t know how “Penmarc’h” is pronounced, and nor do I know what is really the correct name for this mighty edifice.  It seems to have many names.  But, it is a lighthouse, and it is in the town of Penmarc’h, so Penmarc’h Lightbouse it is.

Although she needed to get back in quite a hurry to prepare supper, she let me take the time to climb up the Lighthouse and savour the views of the town of Penmarc’h and of the Brittany coast.  Which were spectacular, as was the weather that day:

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The lighthouse I went up is the furthest from the sea of three structures, which would appear to have been doing, in succession, a similar job.  As time went by, they got smaller, nearer to the sea, and more dependent upon electronic technology.  Photo 3.1 shows the two smaller ones, as seen from the big one.

That same morning, I also checked out a huge and totally marvellous second hand shop in Quimper, and an equally huge and totally marvellous cheese factory, which was really more like a cheese refinery.

So, a really good day.  One of my favourites of 2018.  Except that the day after that day, in Paris, was probably even better.

Sunday December 30 2018

In search of worthwhile photos to show here, I find myself digging further and further back in the archives.  I looked for photos taken a decade ago, but found nothing that stirred any thoughts.  However, these four, from over fourteen years ago, do now seem to be worth showing.

The first is of the ghostly pillars of the old Blackfriars Bridge.  These are still there, looking now just as they looked then.  But, then there was no Blackfriars railway station on the more recent Blackfriars Bridge.  Blackfriars Station then only happened on the far side of the river, as we look north.

Second, a rather striking view of the City Big Thing Cluster, the striking thing being that most of the City Big Thing Cluster had not yet happened.  The Gherkin stands in almost perfect isolation, visible from all directions.  No Cheesegrater.  No Walkie-Talkie.  And definitely no 22 Bishopsgate, already the biggest of the lot of them so far.

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The third of these photos I include simply because I like it, or at least I like what it shows and how the photo is composed.  (Technically these photos are all very blurry and primitive.  The Canon A70 is the cheapest camera I have ever owned and used, and it shows.) In particular I like how we see so clearly the truncated end of the Millennium Footbridge.  (I should have a go at that view again, with my current and much better camera, on a much better day.)

And finally, the grey of the dying light suddenly looks blue, as grey did look with that Canon A70.  Tate.Modern was there, of course it was.  It isn’t that modern.  But, the Tate Modern Extension, which now stands behind Tate Modern itself, is still way in the future.

I show this photo because it very clearly says “Collection 2004” on Tate Modern.  Windows Image viewer, cross-examined, also says 2004, January 17th, and I am a lot more inclined to believe that, given that I know that the 2004 bit is right.  I’m guessing that Jan 17 is right also.  Goodness knows, it’s gloomy enough to be January.  So, nearly fifteen years ago.

Thursday December 27 2018

I just spent all my blogging time on another Samizdata posting, about Stephen Davies, the historian, who works for the Institute of Economic Affairs.

I included this photo in that posting:

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I took this photo with my very first digital camera, a Minolta Dimage EX.

I chose this camera because it offered the strange - then or since then - feature that you could separate its flash … thingy, from the bit of the camera that did the actual photoing.  I had to have flash, because indoor photoing of the people I wanted to photo without flash just did not then work.  Direct in-your-face flash was a feature of photo-portraiture at that time, and not in a good way.  But with my Minolta Dimage EX, I could hold the lens out to the left, at the other end of a length of wire, and thus light my victim not from head on.  I could shift the shadow from directly behind to off to the side, as in the above photo of Steve Davies.

I still have this old Minolta, somewhere.  I must dig it out, and photo it.  But not tonight.  Tonight, early (ish) bed.  Tomorrow, a party, for which I am very late with the preparations.  So, that is all.

Monday December 17 2018

I am now listening to this conversation between Roger Scruton and Jordan Peterson, about transcendence.  While so listening, I found myself thinking back to this morning, when I listened to the first half of Bach’s Mass in B Minor, as recorded by Sir John Eliot Gardiner.  I found listening to this recording to be an unsatisfying experience, which was why I did not also listen to the second half of it.  For me (and I emphasise that this is only my personal take on this recording), what this recording lacks is … transcendence.  To me, it sounds too brisk, too lively, too mundane, too earthly, too humdrum, too fussy.  Too businesslike.  Too lacking in legato.  Not enough grandeur.

To repeat the point in brackets above: many, listening to this same recording, will hear exactly the virtues which, for my ear, it lacks.  Gardiner himself was certainly aiming at transcendance:

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That is the cover of this Gardiner recording, which is put out by Gardiner’s own label, Soli Deo Gloria, and Gardiner will definitely have approved that cover.

Neverthless, tomorrow, I think I will search in my CD collection for a different and older recording of this work, a less “authentic” one, the one conducted by Eugen Jochum.  This one.

Pause.

During that pause, I conducted that search, so that tomorrow morning I won’t have to search, or to remember that I must so search.  The CDs will be there, next to my CD player.

I also encountered, in one of the Amazon reviews of Jochum’s Bach B Minor Mass, praise for his recording of the Bach Christmas Oratorio.  I also placed this next to my CD player.

Christmas is, after all, coming.

And, what do you know?  The B Minor Mass gets an explicit mention in the Scruton/Peterson conversation.  I hour 18 minutes in.

Sunday December 09 2018

Just came across this, photoed by me in Piccadilly, on June 4th of this year:

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So, right around now.

Friday December 07 2018

You know how it is.  You go hunting, in your voluminous photo-archives, for a favourite recent photo, and damn it, you can’t for the life of you find it.  But you find other nice photos, and you stick them up on your blog instead.  We’ve all been there.

But today I did the opposite of that.  I went looking for some nice photos to stick up here, and discovered a very favourite photo, which I had previously searched for without success.

This photo was photoed outside Westminster Abbey and looking up Victoria Street.  You can surely see why I like it.

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Number one, it’s a statue.  I like statues, because I do, and in particular because they tend not to be mass produced, which means they immediately tell you where you are.  You are next to this statue.  There it is.  You can’t be anywhere else.  Knowing where you are is, I think, greatly to be preferred to not knowing where you are.  But even worse is when by the nature of the objects around you, you cannot learn where you are, because all the objects in your vicinity can tell you is that you could be anywhere.

And, number two reason why I like this photo is that behind the statue, and with the most prominent bit of it clearly lined up to be directly behind the statue but safely above it, there is roof clutter.  Not roof clutter that is uniquely voluminous, but still pretty good.  And mistily lit, in such a way that the building upon whose roof the clutter is cluttered does not upstage the statue by rendering it invisible.

The greenery on the right and the building bottom right I am less keen on, but they are, I hope you agree, not too annoying.  To the left, there was some somewhat more annoying stuff, which meant that the cropping on the left isn’t ideal.  But all-in-all, I like it a lot.

The statue is this one.  And the building behind it is called, at any rate by people trying to sell you office space in it, is called Windsor House.  I know it as that quite Big Thing next to the Albert.

This being Friday, is there a Cats or Other Creatures connection?  Well, yes: cats.  Big cats.  Four lions which are to be seen at the bottom of the column upon which the bloke scratching his back with a backscratcher is perched.  These lions do not appear in my photo, but there are there, at the bottom of the statue.

Also, the bloke on the top who seems to be scratching his back with a backscratcher is actually St George, and he has a dragon under his feet, which he is getting ready to clobber with a sword.

Sunday December 02 2018

Tom Holland, agreeing with this lady, says that this thread is a perfect illustration of why the Cromwell Museum’s approach to Twitter …:

… is an absolute model of what museums can achieve with the medium …

What the Cromwell Museum was saying, quite a while back now, was this:

A myth about Oliver Cromwell seen in films & TV is that he dressed dourly in black. The idea that all Puritans did is a Victorian myth; there isn’t a single contemporary portrait of Cromwell in black. He’s always depicted instead in armour or fine clothes.

Interesting.  I agree that this is a very good use of Twitter.

I am still pondering whether to bother with Twitter.  Its censoriou left-wing political preferencesrepel me, and its wearisome slagging contests seem hard to avoid.  (Said he, slagging off Twitter itself.) Postings like the above make me suspect that I may persevere.  They also tell me how to use Twitter myself, if I ever do this more actively than now, even though I am not a museum.

LAT|ER: See also, this, about another “myth”, this time based on a misunderstanding of clothing evidence.

Friday November 30 2018

On the eleventh day of this month, which was the one hundredth anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I, I showed a little clutch of Remembrance photos, taken by me outside Westminster Abbey on November 10th.

Here, just before the month of November 2018 ends, are a few more photos taken at that same time:

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These photos all focus – literally focus - on individual regiments and their circular signs.  My angle, today being a Friday, is how such enterprises often characterise themselves as animals, or use animals to remember where they had done military service.  Here we see two leopards, a sphinx (sphynx?), and a deer.

Click on each square above to get the bigger originals, with more poppies, and more crucifixes.