Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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Most recent entries
- Union Jack Minis
- Breaking my Samizdata silence
- On the problems of half-parking with a half-car
- Roof party
- Crane lamp
- Headlights with cleaning brush
- Sign with sarcastic sneer quotes
- Godo and flowers
- Tate cat
- On meeting an American lady friend who likes to read my stuff about cricket
- A birthday party with difficult lighting
- On the unappealingness of classical music on the internet
- Bright buildings in front of dark sky
- Waiting for …
- The ballerina and her support act
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Category archive: Europe
Richard Morrison’s article about the impact of WW1 on music, for the Times, is very interesting, but it suffers from an outbreak of PID (Permanent Italics Disease). This is when you switch on the italics, but then forget or fail to switch them off again. Here is a screen capture of the offending moment and its surroundings:
This was posted on August 16th, in connection with a Prom that happened last night, but it has yet to be corrected, as I write this.
PID is particularly pernicious when it afflicts not only the rest of the text of the piece itself, but then continues throughout the entire page as you see it, as it does here. That is a site software blunder, as well as a posting blunder.
I got to this piece via Arts and Letters Daily, which perhaps explains how I got to it at all, what with the Times paywall and all. Does anyone know how that system is working out for the Times?
It seems a bit shoddy that you have to pay for such typographical ineptitude. It’s not so much the original error that I am unimpressed by. It’s the fact that nobody quickly corrected it. And the fact that the site software doesn’t confine the problem to the one posting.
To be a bit more serious, about the content of the article, I have long regretted Schoenberg’s depressing impact upon music, but I had no idea that the man himself was such a German chauvinist. “Now we will throw these mediocre kitschmongers into slavery, and teach them to venerate the German spirit and to worship the German God …” Good grief.
Trawling through the archives this evening, I came across this fine feline:
Photoed by me, in Battersea, about two months ago.
Back here in evil Britain, hundreds of black cats are being abandoned by their owners because, according to the Daily Mail, these black cats don’t look good in SELFIES (their capital letters):
Today the RSPCA announced a rise in the number of black cats being abandoned by their owners, and attributed it to them not photographing well.
A spokesman for the animal welfare charity said that more than 70 per cent of the 1,000 cats in its care were black, and blamed the trend for people taking pictures of themselves with their phones.
He said: ‘There are a number of reasons for us having so many black cats, including the fact that black animals tend not to photograph as well as other cats with more distinctive markings.
Other cats are also easier to tell apart, he said.
The spokesman added: ‘There is a national problem with rehoming cats of this colour.
‘We really are puzzled as to why this still happens but we would urge people to never judge a cat by its colour and look at its personality instead.’
This story is everywhere. I sense hostility towards digital photography, and in particular towards the evil practice of taking photos of yourself, an evil practice which now has its own word.
However, a selfie is when you take a photo of yourself. Owners are including themselves in their cat photos on incidentally. Often only the cat is in the picture. These photos are not being taken by cats, so they are not selfies.
Cats don’t take photos of themselves. If they had been caught doing this, on video for instance, I would definitely have learned about it and passed the news on to you people. All that is actually going on here is that black cat owners are finding it hard to photo their black cats and are consequently abandoning their black cats, and obtaining other cats, more like the one in my picture above, that are easier to photo. That’s a wicked enough story as it is, without misreporting it and put your mistake in capital letters. Socks, Daily Mail. Pull yours up.
Next up, an Italian shooting champion is on trial for using live cats as target practice. I sense hostility towards shooting champions, but it may just be towards Italians.
Finally, Cats is being revived, in the Millenium Centre, Cardiff:
The highlight of the evening was the singing which included lots of harmonies ...
Which is what you want. What with Cats being a musical show, consisting mostly of people dressed as cats, singing, and trying to be harmonious about it.
Rachel Howells continues:
Cats is at the Wales Millennium Centre until Saturday 9th August and includes many matinee showings so you have no excuses not to miss it.
Once again, we see the mainstream media getting their facts in a twist, this time because of faulty grammar. No excuses not to miss it? It would appear that, at least when it comes to their online content, the writing and/or editing at the South Wales Argus has gone to the dogs.
I have just done a comment at Samizdata, on this (about the recently concluded football World Cup in which England did its usual rather badly (although it did at least get there)), saying this:
I agree with the first comment, about how, if individualism explains this, England (England perhaps more than Britain) ought to be winning tennis, golf, swimming etc., routinely.
I think much depends on what a country (to use collective shorthand) just considers important, for several years rather than just for a few weeks. Like it or hate it (personally I hate it) Britain, definitely including England, put in a mighty effort (both individual and collective) to make a success (but damn the cost) of the 2012 Olympics, both as an event and by winning a ton of medals.
But from what I hear from football fans, English football takes winning the Premier League, and then doing well in European club competition, more seriously than doing well in the World Cup. The feeling I get is that the winning England footballer is the one who makes the most money throughout his career. A former Spurs manager recently talked about how some of his players would fake injury, and wanted his help to do this, to avoid being picked for England. That would knacker them to no personal career purpose.
Plus, there is this huge split between regular English fans who support their clubs week in week out, and people like me who watch the World Cup but not a lot else. That Germany Brazil game was the most memorable football game in years, for me. For a proper fan, it would be some obscure promotion battle or an amazing away draw against a European club that got their team to the last sixteen of the Champions League, or whatever. For a Man U supporter it would be that remarkable last ditch win against Bayern in the Champions League final.
Sadly, I think politicians have a big influence on this. The kind of power and money they command doesn’t make successful countries out here in the real world (Brazil, Argentina, etc.), quite the reverse. But it can make national sporting effort more successful, if by that you mean more medals and trophies. Angela Merkel is a big fan of her now triumphant football team. I wonder what else she and Germany’s other politicians did to support them, other than her showing up for lots more of their games than she had to.
Sport. War by other means. Discuss.
That last point is one I definitely want to write about more in the nearish future. How A-bombs and H-bombs have made all out war between Great Powers impossible, and caused an unprecedented outbreak of peace between Great Powers, and thus caused national rivalry to express itself in sport rather than war. That kind of thing.
It was posted in August 2012. Better, far better, late than never. I found this in their list of top twenty postings, top in popularity, presumably.
Another of those Things That Have Been Encouraged By Digital Photography. The Art is temporary, but the pictures of the Art will last far, far longer, on many, many hard discs.
Yes, I’m watching this bizarre game.
A commentator said of Brazil’s defenders that they are all over the place, or some such phrase, and added:
It’s like a testimonial match.
For you Brazil, ze turnament iss over.
My prediction? Germany 5 Brazil 2. My thinking? Momentum will shift. Brazil will be desperate - desperate - not to be further humiliated. Germany will spare them further humiliation and save their energy for the final.
Vee shell see.
Hansen and Shearer of the BBC are now raking it over at half time. Were Germany brilliant (Shearer), or Brazil awful (Hansen)?
LATER: I had a feeling about this game when I set the video recorder. But I hoped that it wouldn’t go to extra time because there is something else I want to record, starting at 11.30 pm. Please let regular time not end all square. Something tells me that my prayer will be answered.
FINAL SCORE: Brazil 1 Germany 7. Well, Brazil did score a goal. Right at the end. Just after Germany had missed making it eight nothing.
The Spaniards may now be feeling a bit less bad.
Taken by? No prizes for guessing who. Country? “Poland/Georgia”. Date? “Jan/Feb” of this year. That’s what it said in the email.
About every other day Google sends me news of Emmanuel Todd, news in French. Sometimes it is news of him talking on video, in French. I can just about order a croissant in a French shop, but that’s as far as my French goes.
So, imagine my delight on learning about this video, of Emmanuel Todd talking … in English!
What he is saying is that the different family systems of Europe mean that the different nations of Europe are politically incompatible, and accordingly that the Euro is doomed. Worth a watch, if that kind of thing interests you. In particular, the way that the Euro is putting Germany in charge of France is not at all what the French elite had in mind, and this means that sooner or later the French will have to dump the Euro. But first, their elite has to explain why it made this hideous blunder in the first place. Because dumping the Euro would mean admitting they should never have done it in the first place.
Tim Evans recently gave a talk to the End of the World Club (silly name, great talks) about politics, David Cameron’s politics in particular. He said that Cameron has no problem with Britain leaving the EU, while he remains Prime Minister. Sure enough, about two days later, an email from Tim arrives, complete with the link, saying: And so it starts ...
Regulars here, or for that matter there, will know that I have for many years now been at enthusiastic fan of the French historian and social scientist Emmanuel Todd. In recent years, this enthusiasm has at last started to become a bit more widespread.
Two of the world’s most important Todd-enthusiasts are now James C. Bennett and Michael J. Lotus. Quite a while ago now, they sent me an email flagging up a piece they had contributed to Hungarian Review, which contains some interesting biography about Todd, and about how his own particular family history contributed towards making him into the historian of the world that he later became.
Todd developed this grand theory, about how literacy triggers particular sorts of political upheavals in particular places, depending on Family Structure, and then when the political dust has settled fuels economic development, But what got Todd thinking about all this?
According to Bennett and Lotus, the starting point was: How Come The French Communists Are Doing So Badly And Never Seem To Do Any Better No Matter What They Try?
He was the product of an extended family of French Communist Party activists and journalists, and grew up hearing his father and relatives arguing around the kitchen table. Anglo-Americans had tended to regard the French Communist Party of that era as formidable, successful, and continually on the verge of seizing power. From the inside, Todd grew up hearing his family lament the eternal failure and futility of the Party. (He left the orthodox Communist movement quite early, and in fact was one of the first scholars to predict, in 1976, the coming collapse of the Soviet system.) For some reason, the Party was well established in certain regions, and completely without support in most others. The Socialists were dominant in others, and it was noticed that the same social classes would tend to support either Socialists or Communists, depending on the region, but never split between the two, and when they failed to support the one, would not switch to the other, preferring alternative parties. In other parts of France, neither party had a foothold, and the same social classes that supported either Socialists or Communists in their stronghold regions supported entirely different, and not particularly Marxist, parties. The reason for this split was constantly debated in Todd’s family circle, but no possible explanation seemed to hold water. It was a great mystery.
Once Todd began studies at Cambridge, and encountered what we are calling the Continuity School, he began developing a social analysis that perfectly predicted the voting patterns that had been such a mystery in his family’s kitchen debates. France is far from homogenous, and in fact is a patchwork of quite different cultures and family systems. When Todd saw the distribution of the various family systems of France, as established by inheritance rules and customs, he saw at once that both the Communist and Socialist electoral strongholds corresponded to the areas dominated by two distinct family systems. Where other systems prevailed, neither the Communists nor the Socialists could gain any real foothold.
You can see how Todd was perfectly primed to generalise the principle from France, and then England, to the entire world.
In the course of my Todd readings and meanderings, I probably was told (perhaps by Todd himself in his book about French politics (which I have long possessed (and which I see you can now get second hand for £2.81 (in English)))) that Todd had been raised by baffled and frustrated Communists. But I had not really taken it in.
In Germany. Done just with paint. Excellent, I think. Found here (scrolling down is highly recommended). Which I found because 6k recently linked to the same site, concerning something else, also very entertaining.
Incoming from Alan Little, from whom it is very nice to be hearing:
I thought this might be your sort of thing.
This being a collection, of course with photos, of 10 Spectacular Movable Bridges. Definitely my sort of thing.
My favourite (for me) new discovery was this:
That’s bridge number seven, the Hörn Bridge, in Kiel, Germany.
It’s notable that about half (by my calculations) of these bridges are for pedestrians, or for pedestrians and cyclists, rather than road or rail bridges.
In recent years, local politicians have been discovering that a bit of well-judged public spending on a Popular Public Thing can really juice up the tourist trade, boost property values and tax take, etc. This has meant, in particular, a proliferation of cute footbridges, often foot-and-bicycle bridges of course. They are cute, but they are relatively cheap, certainly compared to bridges for roads or railways.
London has two recent footbridges (three if you count the Hungerford Bridge footbridges as two bridges), and two more are now being talked up, the Heatherwick Garden Bridge, and the one they are talking about that will connect Battersea to Chelsea.
I also liked bridge number eleven (aka bonus bridge number one), the Barton Swing Aqueduct:
The aqueduct, the first and only swing aqueduct in the world, is a Grade II listed building, considered a major feat of Victorian civil engineering. Designed by Sir Edward Leader Williams and built by Andrew Handyside of Derby, the swing bridge opened in 1894 and remains in regular use.
Cool. Not something that anyone else felt the need to copy. But still, cool.
Incoming from Michael Jennings:
There is the end of Cape Bojador. This now scores high in the Brian blogs and Michael then goes there stakes.
Not very appetising looking, that having been my original point. I just reread that piece. Not bad.
And when you get south of the point:
Not a helpful place to sale next to.
And not just any old telly. BBC1, The One Show, no less, watched by millions. I was and I am impressed. Watch Elena Procopiu in action 25m30s into it, here, while it’s still there. (For future reference, this was on Tuesday December 3rd.)
Elena was born in Romania and did a piece to camera about Romania and about Romanians in England, entirely in a Romanian accent until right at the end, when she said in her regular English voice that lots of Romanians have been here for years. Many Romanians have already seen this performance, on the www. Some, who missed the bit at the end, were surprised that someone who has been in England for so long still has such a strong Romanian accent. None said that the Romanian accent was not a proper Romanian accent, which is not that easy to get exactly right, if you no longer have such an accent.
A few days ago I did a posting, featuring one of those faked up photos, about how they are talking of moving a bridge in Porto from down by the river to uptown. Unfortunately, I muddled up two different bridges. Michael Jennings informed me by phone of this muddle and then he added to the posting this further clarificatory comment:
The Dom Luis Bridge is in the centre of town, and is the principal pedestrian route from one side of the river the the other, the vehicle route for local traffic from close to the river one one side to close to the river on the other, and also (on the top deck) carries Porto’s light metro. The Maria Pia Bridge is the rail bridge a kilometre upstream that is no longer in use.
The Maria Pia Bridge was designed by Gustave Eiffel, although his employee Téophile Seyrig did much of the work. At the time it was the longest arch bridge in the world. Seyrig then (no longer working for Eiffel) built the Dom Luis Bridge, which then broke the record that had been held by the Maria Pia bridge. The two structures are similar, although the Maria Pia bridge lacks the bottom deck that the Dom Lewis bridge has. The two bridges are often confused. Also, perhaps rather sweetly, Dom Luis and Maria Pia were married to one other.
The plan to move the bridge away from the river seems a flight of fancy to me, although the basic problem that the bridge is very beautiful, very historically significant, and not presently used for anything does remain.
Michael spelt it Dom Lewis, but I’ve changed it to Dom Luis, because that does seem to be the proper spelling. Or maybe it is Don. Maybe it’s either Don Luis or Dom Lewis, and you can’t mix them. Whatever.
Michael, who happened to be just about to visit Porto when I said all this, was urged to send back photos of these two bridges. He did, for which much thanks.
Here is the bridge that is still very much in use, the Dom Luis Bridge, with a railway at the top and a road for cars and pedestrians at the bottom:
Taken with his iPad camera. Michael apologised for that, but I think it’s rather dramatic.
Later Michael sent two more pictures, presumably taken with a rather fancier camera.
First we have, again, the Dom Luis Bridge:
And here is the one they are talking about moving, the Maria Pia Bridge:
You can see why Portoans like their bridges, and why it seems like a nice idea to turn the disused one into a big piece of public sculpture.
Meanwhile, I repeat my earlier questions. Will people be allowed on top of the bridge to take photos from it? And: If Porto doesn’t want this bridge any more, can London please have it?
I have always liked that big bridge in Porto. Indeed, I blogged about it, in 2004.
Well, now there is a plan to move the bridge, which is no longer in use, to a higher spot in the town:
I think this is a fine plan. It would presumably make the bridge far more visible from afar. It’s amazing what a difference a distinctive Big Thing like this can make to a city. Ask Paris.
Will people be allowed to climb to the top of the newly located Porto Bridge? It would be a fantastic place to take photos from, except that I rather fear that the most visually interesting thing in Porto is the bridge itself. Views of the bridge, from various parts of Porto: great. Views from the bridge: rather ordinary? Don’t know. Hope that’s wrong. Actually, it looks pretty good.
Maybe if Porto doesn’t do this, London should put in a bid. Photoing London from that Thing would be stupendous.
LATER: Just had a call from Michael J saying I’m muddling up two different bridges. The one in the fake photo above is not the same one as the one in the photo in the earlier blog posting I linked back to. That bridge is still very much in use. The one that is no longer being used, which they are thinking of moving, is some way downstream. Michael is about to visit Porto, and has told me that he will try to take some photos of both. If he manages this, it would be most welcome.
More old photos, this time from the time when the Eurostar trains used to depart from Waterloo:
Taken with my old Canon A70, on June 21 2003. So, over a decade ago. I think the sign on the right of these three snaps is something of an exaggeration. That’s about how long it takes now, isn’t it? Not sure about that.
The pictures are all pleasingly worse than the ones I take now, with my Panasonic Lumix FZ150. It would be terrible to think that neither I nor my cameras had got any better between then and now.
Eurostar came and went from Waterloo from November 1994 until November 2007. Since then, not a lot.
In 2012 a new proposal for the future use of the station was made, namely that it becomes the London destination of all the UK’s sleeper trains. This may become necessary as the phasing out of Mk2 vehicles and their replacement with Mk3 will make the trains too long for the platforms at Euston, and construction of HS2 will make the long sleeper dwell times at Euston untenable. If the Paddington sleepers were also diverted this would concentrate all sleeper services at Waterloo International, thus making use of the former Eurostar lounge facilities for sleeper passengers.
I can’t say I quite follow the logic of all that, but at least Waterloo Eurostar-that-was has not been completely forgotten about.