Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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- An Underground sermon
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Category archive: Computer graphics
I am hopeless at drawing, as you can see.
But having been watching the Six Nations rugby tournament for the last few weeks, and having in particular been listening to the various television commentators, I feel the need to offer you all this attempt at a cartoon.
Anyone who wants to copy this, or indeed copy it and improve the graphics, is most welcome. I am surely not the first to have thought of this particular observation.
(There was a bit of fiddling about with the presentation of this, on account of my software not actually showing me exactly how a posting like this will look. Sorry about that.)
I just started watching the Opera North Ring Cycle on BBC4 TV. Very good.
The basic problem with The Ring is how to stage it, and how to do the costumes. Extreme Trad, where they all dress like nineteenth century fictional fantasy characters almost always looks ridiculous, like a bunch of opera singers clumping about in silly costumers on a daft stage, which is of course what they are. (The only way to do that would be to do it as a fantasy cartoon movie. Which I hope somebody will eventually get around to doing.) But modern costumes on a stage that looks like the inside of a nuclear power station is even sillier, because it plays havoc with Wagner’s very carefully scripted symbolism. You end up with blokes who look like merchant bankers or geography teachers, holding spears and waving them at steam turbines, or some such ancient-modern mish-mash. Either that or they go totally modern, and rewrite the opera. Yes. They literally do not perform Wagner. If you change the Rhine and its maidens into a nightclub and some strippers, that’s something else, and something else pretty damn stupid.
What Opera North have done is film a stage performance. The singers all wear suits and dresses, albeit suits and dresses that were very carefully chosen. And then on top of that is photographically superimposed Wagner scenery, and, when it helps (it often does), simple words on the screen to tell you what is happening. Plus, because it’s the telly, you get subtitles to tell you what they’re singing about. (CDs have the best costumes, i.e. no damn costumes, but you do need to know what they’re singing, if you don’t do German.) It’s hard to describe, but I don’t need to, because you can sample it here, it you care to.
The Rhinemaidens are three opera singers in matching dresses on a stage, with wateriness added on top of them. At no point are you asked to believe that they are actually swimming about, naked, under water for minutes on end, and singing. I have never before not seen that scene look totally ridiculous, one way or another, and I bet it was totally ridiculous, one way or another, on the first night. This time, it was not ridiculous. That’s how very, very good this production was.
I particularly liked how, when Donner was summoning forth the right sort of weather for the Gods to enter Valhalla, at the end of Das Rhinegold, he was dressed like a conductor. He was dressed that way throughout, but it worked especially well for that moment.
Loge was particularly good, both as an actor and as a singer. His look and manner reminded me a bit of Stan Laurel.
Dezeen details here:
Bring it on.
I love signs. So tedious to copy in writing. So easy to photo. And I was photoing signs yesterday, at Victoria Station.
Here are two of those signs that go well together:
I was just about to stick these up late last night, but discovered that BMdotcom was malfunctioning.
This is not the kind of sign I love to see, when trying to add stuff to this blog, or for that matter just to look at this blog:
Error Number: 1194
Description: Table ‘exp_throttle’ is marked as crashed and should be repaired
Query: SELECT hits, locked_out, last_activity FROM exp_throttle WHERE ip_address= ‘126.96.36.199’
But, as you can see, it’s now sorted. Unless you can’t see and it isn’t.
And until the next time something like this happens. Partly because of such cock-ups, I am, thinking of doing what all other bloggers who still exist did long ago, and switching to Wordpress, which The Guru also suggested. Comments on the wisdom of that from other gurus would be very welcome.
Meanwhile, while waiting for sanity to be reasserted here, I did a Samizdata posting, entitled Brexit has unified the Conservative Party and divided Labour. It has.
The trick with photography is knowing what to photo in the first place. In particular, you need to be photoing things that are not going to be the same if you come back later. Photoing captures the ephemeral, far better than it celebrates the eternal. This being why people like photoing their kids. Soon, they’ll be different. But, a photo of Big Ben? It’s been done. A lot. No point in another of those.
Or what about something else that changes, like the price of a piece of electronics? I took this photo of such a price, in February 2005:
I have helpfully picked out the price and photo-enhanced it, so you can read it without any clicking. That’s a terrible photo, technically, but no other photo in that directory ("miscFeb05") is anywhere near as entertaining.
I love how it is reduced from £7,999.99. So if you had bought it then, you’d have saved five hundred quid! Now five hundred quid is the entire cost. (Which you can now save by not buying it.)
This afternoon I read in the Evening Standard that Chelsea FC were hoping to get planning permission for a big new stadium, and sure enough, this evening, they got it. I guess they’re all pretty happy there, what with Chelsea being top of the Premier League and all. (Although, I can’t help mentioning their recent winning-streak ending loss by Spurs.)
Here’s how it is reckoned the new stadium will look (I found this picture here), from above, when it’s dark:
The architects are Herzog de Meuron, the same firm that did the Tate Modern Extension. And, they also did that amazing new opera house out in the estuary in Hamburg. And hey, that opened today, according to that report. Blog and learn.
But back to that Chelsea stadium, what strikes me, yet again, about this major eruption of architectural modernism is that while it is very modern, it is also very carefully crafted to fit the inevitably rather oddly shaped site. Indeed, the architects make use of this odd shape to give their stadium its rather particular, asymmetrical shape, while nevertheless contriving an exact rectangle in the middle, in the manner required by the rules of football. Form follows site plan. That’s the way modern architecture is now done.
(It would seem that the exact same principle applied to the new Hamburg opera house also. It was put on top of an “historic brick base”. A brick base, I’m guessing, which was whatever shape it was, and could not be otherwise.)
And what also strikes me, yet again, is what a total nightmare it would have been to have attempted a design like this Chelsea stadium without computers to keep track of everything and handle all those asymmetrical shapes.
(The Hamburg opera house was plagued with delays and cost overruns and defects and took a famously long time to finish. But that’s a different story.)
Today I visited Tottenham, and I intend to return tomorrow, both expeditions having been prompted by these two weather forecasts:
That I have already decided this evening where I will be going tomorrow, and that I already knew last night what I was going to do today, is typical of how I now do these expeditions. Trying to work out, in the morning, where I’ll go that day, given that the day is turning out nice, tends not to work so well. Being old and tired and physically lazy, I have to have an interesting and attractive destination in mind as soon as the day starts, in order to force me out the front door soon enough for the expedition to amount to something.
In this respect, I am turning into my Dad. When I was a kid I used to tease my Dad about all the planning that would go into family expeditions, and he used to justify this with questions starting with the words “What if?” What if, we get into an accident? What if, one of us gets sick? What if, the trains are disrupted? We need a plan capable of taking care of everything. I used to think he was being over-cautious, and that we ought to just get started and deal with problems as and when they happened, which they mostly wouldn’t.
Well, as I get older, I become less good at adapting, by which I mean that I can change a plan in mid plan, but that it takes longer and is more stressful.
But more fundamentally, I now suspect that my Dad may have needed his plan just to get him going at all. Without a plan to drive the expedition forward, with artificially created deadlines and reasonably enticing objectives, maybe he just wouldn’t have been able to muster the energy he needed to lead us forth into the world at all. Like me, he knew that he would be happier if he did get stuck into an expedition, and would be depressed if all he did was sit at home doing this or that amusing but trivial thing. So, he would devise plans to make himself do what he wanted to do. My Dad’s plans were not as he sold them to me, mere precautions. His plans were energisers.
But maybe that’s just me.
Or maybe it has been invented and the answer is it’s called lots of little flat screen televisions.
This thought was provoked by seeing this picture, at Mick Hartley‘s:
There’s nothing wrong with this Big Thing that painting it entertainingly wouldn’t put right, in fact very right indeed. It could become a well-loved landmark, if only it was spruced up a bit, with some bright colours. This Big Thing is called the Edificio Torres Blancas, and it is in Madrid. In Spain they like bright colours, right?
But, what bright colours? The answer is to copy what they now do in Trafalgar Square, with that Fourth Plinth. In Trafalgar Square, they have solved the problem of what to put on the Fourth Plinth by keeping on changing it. That way, everyone gets to like some of the objects they put on the Plinth, and that way everyone who dislikes what is there now can comfort themselves with the thought that it will soon be gone. All can photo the ones they like and ignore the rest. Eventually, a winner may be declared. Eventually, a thing will be put there that seems to right, to so many people, that it will be decided to keep that thing there for ever.
That’s what they should do with the colouring of the above Big Thing in Madrid.
So, techies, get to work. What we need is a new sort of paint that you just slap on, but whose colours, down to the minutest detail, can then be controlled by a big old computer at ground level.
Or, this is already possible, as the advertisers are now proving with their changeable screens, and all that it missing is that this is, for a mere building, as opposed to a commercially profitable message, for the time being, too expensive.
Also, maybe the architect is still alive and vetoing any such notions, insisting that his masterpiece remain blancas, or failing that then at least grey all over. Time will soon correct this sorry state of affairs, if state of affairs it be.
From the BBC updates on the Scotland v Georgia rugby game at Murrayfield this afternoon:
Scotland have really struggled against the Georgian scum in the second-half.
Hastily corrected to “scrum”. Should have done a screen capture. As it is, you just have to take my word for it.
Actually Georgia is a great place. It recently came sixth in the world in one of those economic freedom charts, as I mentioned in passing in this posting
LATER: Oh dear. Not Murrayfield. Kilmarnock. Whenever you moan about someone else’s error, you make an error. It’s inevitable.
While searching yesterday for Brittany lighthouses, I came upon this photo of some Brittany sea:
Judging by the other photos taken at the same time, this one was grabbed through the window of a moving car. If that’s right, not bad, although I attempted some straightening, with rather imperfect results. Those programmes that can rotate in 0.1 degree increments, rather than just in 1.0 degree increments, have a definite edge, in my opinion.
Mostly, when I try to photo very bright light, my camera either tones the bright bit down or it turns everything else far too dark, one way or another trying to balance everything, and the effect is lost. By which I mean, it is not anything like what I saw. But sometimes it seems to know exactly what I wanted, and this time was, I think, one of those.
I hope to do something rather more substantial here tomorrow.
I’ve already shown a very similar picture of this building …:
… at this blog, in this posting. The above photo is only very slightly different, in that it includes the Spraycan on the right, but excludes the Walkie-Talkie. Also, I was able to compose it because I was on the platform of Battersea Park station, rather than in a train and just taking a chance.
I show another shot of this thing, because, well, I just like it. There’s something about the way it gets lighter at the top, and how photos of this thing end up looking like they’ve been faked up by an architect’s office before the thing has even been built. Photos of it don’t look real. They look like Photoshop.
When I started doing this posting, I had it in mind for tomorrow (which is a busy day), having already done a rather perfunctory posting about a cat, Friday being my day for cat-blogging. But it turns out that this blue building is also all about cats and other creatures. I tried googling it for that earlier posting, without success. But I just gave that another go, this time typing “"blue new building Battersea” or some such word combo into the great computer in the sky, and this time it worked. This blue building is the recently opened Battersea Dogs (and now also Cats) Home Veterinary Clinic & Centre of Excellence.
Blog and learn.
Today’s expedition happened pretty much exactly as guessed at yesterday. I went by train from Victoria to Battersea Park, then wandered back towards Vauxhall, and finally took a bus back across the river and home. I took over five hundred photos, including many that were really quite diverting. On the right is one of these photos. Just the one. Click to get the picture twice as big.
One of the many things that holds me back as a blogger is that I think of an idea for a blog posting, but the thing gets too big and complicated, and it never gets done. The trick is to say just one thing, not all the things that also relate to or are provoked by that one thing, just that one thing. The other things can follow, in further blog postings.
So, on the right there is what the Spraycan looks like, when reflected in some of the windows of the new US Embassy at Nine Elms, the one that they are building to replace the one in Grosvenor Square.
To remind you of which one the Spraycan is, here is an earlier picture I took of it, next to the moon.
Well, it looks like the shape and size of this photo demands that I now say some further things, of the sort that relate to or are provoked by this one thing. How very inconvenient and contradictory. Clearly, a photo shaped like this was absolutely not the right way to illustrate the need to say one simple thing. All of which is complicated by the fact that my inputting software doesn’t tell me exactly how the final postings will look. So, there’ll probably be too much waffling towards the end of this posting.
In an earlier manifestation of this posting, this paragraph was identical to the one above. The explanation of that circumstance being explained in the next paragraph. There should now be about the right amount of waffle here.
I’ve had a rather tiring day.
Recently I came upon another for the collection:
This is a footbridge at the back of the Strand Palace Hotel. I could find nothing about this footbridge on the www, but luckily I had already taken the precaution of asking someone local, just after I had taken my photos. This local was entering an office in the same street with the air of doing this regularly, and who therefore seemed like someone who might know. And he did. What about that bridge? - I asked him.
Yes, he said. That used to be the bridge that conveyed the servants from the Strand Palace Hotel, on the left in the above photo, to the servants quarters, which is what the dwellings on the right in my photo, behind the scaffolding, used to be. These servants quarters had, quite a while back, been turned into mere quarters, for regular people to live in. So, the bridge then got blocked off at the right hand end as we here look at it. But, the bridge continued to be used by the Strand Palace Hotel as an elongated cupboard. These old servants quarters are now being turned into luxury flats, which is why the scaffolding. But the bridge stays.
That the original purpose of the bridge was to convey servants, as opposed to people, is presumably why the bridge has no windows. Wouldn’t want to see servants going to and fro, would we. Fair dos, actually. A hotel of this sort – this one being just across the Strand from the Savoy - is a lot like a theatre, and the point of a theatre is not to see all the backstage staff wandering hither and thither. So, I do get it. And I doubt the servants minded that there were no windows. I bet they minded lots of other things, but not that.
I will now expand on the matter of the exact location of this obscure footbridge. As you can see from the square to the right, it is in Exeter Street, London WC2. I took other photos of this Exeter Street street sign, because I have a rule about photoing information about interesting things that I photo, as well as photoing the interesting thing itself, which is that I do. Sometimes, as on the day I took this photo, I even follow this rule. But I thought I’d try extricating a detail from the above photo, and see how I did. I blew the original up to maximum size, and sliced out a rectangle, tall and thin, with the street name in it. I then expanded (see the first sentence of this paragraph) what I had, sideways, lightened it, contrasted it, sharpened it, blah blah blah, and I think you will agree that the result is unambiguous. My point here is (a): Exeter Street, WC2, and (b): that such photomanipulation is not merely now possible. My point (b) is that it is now very easy. Even I can do all of this photomanipulation, really quickly and confidently.
I can remember when the only people who could work this sort of magic were spooks in movies, and then a bit later, detectives on the television.
Talking of spookiness, I included the surveillance camera in that little detail. In London, these things are now everywhere. Because of my sideways expanding of the photo, this camera looks like it sticks out more than it really does.
Proof that the day that Darren and I saw Surrey beat Gloucester was a great day out is that I have already done three postings about that day here, and have hardly scratched the surface of how much fun I (for only one) had, on that day.
Posting (1) about that day concerned vans. Posting (2) was about cricket, and in particular about the emerging cricket superstar that is Jason Roy. Posting (3) was about the Oval’s contrasting architectural Big Things, and about seeing (or not seeing) London’s biggest Big Things from one of the Ovals Big Things.
The final test match between England and Pakistan is now under way, at the very same Oval that I have been going on about. (England are getting stuffed, as I write this. Go here to be sure.) So it is appropriate that this posting takes us, those of us who are interested, back to cricket, and in particular to the photoing of a cricket scoreboard. Sporting scoreboards make for great photos, packed with memory-triggering information. Not just obvious things like the score of a particular game, but, as the years pass, forgotten names, and forgotten moments in remembered games.
I didn’t take many pictures of the old scoreboard that day, the one way off to the right of the Pavilion (as you look at it), but here is one of the pictures I did take of it, along with a lot of other stuff all around it:
You can’t really see the scoreboard there, unless you look rather carefully, so here is a close-up:
This looks to me rather like an eighties style computer screen, the sort that started you off with cryptic messages like: “A:>“. Such old screens often had orange letters or numbers on a black background. No doubt there have been suggestions that this scoreboard be replaced by something more twenty first century, but no doubt also, the old fogeys of the Surrey County Cricket Club drew the line at such vandalism. Cricket is, after all, a game typically played before an audience made up mostly of oldies. And as you can see from my pictures, this audience is too sparse for cricket people to be able to ignore the tastes of those who do show up.
I can remember scoreboards far more primitive even than this, where you hung the numbers on hooks. I even helped to operate such a scoreboard occasionally, when Englefield Green played nearby teams like Egham, Staines and so on, on … Englefield Green. Because yes, there really was an actual Englefield Green. There still is.
All that that old scoreboard showed was, as I recall, total runs scored, wickets down, batsman number this, this much, batsman number that, this much. And, if the other side had already batted, the other side’s total. Batsmen would not have been identified with numbers like 58 or 59, i.e. with the numbers on the backs of their shirts, because they wore no such shirts. Their number would be their place in the batting order, which is actually far more informative about the state of the game. If, say, there are seven wickets down, and batsmen 8 and 9 are batting, both with smallish scores, that’s one sort of game. But if batsmen 3 is still in with a decent score to his number, that’s a much better prospect for the batting side. “59” doesn’t tell you anything about whether the guy can bat or not.
Here is a much newer scoreboard, to be seen on the other side of the ground from the old scoreboard:
Here we learn who batsmen 58 and 59 actually are. Yes, they are the Curran brothers. They came together at the fall of the sixth Surrey wicket, and a lot depended upon them.
T(om) Curran is about twenty, and S(am) Curran is eighteen. On the day I took these photos, the Currans came together with the Surrey innings struggling for adequacy. There had been a flurry of wickets. More wickets now and not many more runs, and Gloucester would probably chase down the Surrey total easily. More runs now, and more wickets not so quickly surrendered, and Gloucester would have a fight on their hands.
For a while, the Currans “rebuilt” the innings, in other words scored rather slowly. But then the younger Curran (S(am)) stepped on the gas. Soon, this Curran partnership had become a …:
… and then, seemingly in no time at all. S(am) Curran had brought up his personal …:
… and the partnership was looking like this:
S(am) Curran got out soon after that, and was duly thanked by the scoreboard:
We can see the Surrey total on the old scoreboard …:
... the Surrey total being just about the only thing that the old scoreboard did tell us, during the interval. That’s the thing about old-school scoreboards. When they’ve nothing to tell you, they are unable to tell you anything else instead.
Surrey had done well. Although there had been no outstanding innings in the manner of Kumar Sangakkara, who scored 166 back in September 2015, Surrey had actually made more in their first innings this time around. Besides S(am) Curran’s fifty, there were also substantial scores from Davies and from Burns, and it all added up. The stand-out moment of the innings, the sort they call a “champagne moment” on Test Match Special, was when Surrey captain Gareth Batty hit a ferocious six that went smack into the middle of the new scoreboard. With no apparent harm done to it at all. Which was impressive on both counts.
Gloucester made a bad start:
That’s twice I’ve watched Surrey in a 50 overs game, and twice I have seen Jade Dernbach do decisive things.
There followed a promising stand, but it ended too soon, for Gloucester’s purposes:
I will end with a burst of horizontality. Darren was kind enough to say that he especially liked the posting I did after our previous Oval expedition which featured lots of adverts piled up in horizontal slices.
Here, which I hope Darren will also like, is another pile of horizontal slices, this time of Gloucester’s last six wickets falling in a rather humiliating heep, and the time at which each wicket fell:
As you can see, Surrey won easily in the end, with Batty again distinguishing himself with five wickets. Story of the day: Surrey got in a bit of a mess, but recovered. Gloucester got in a bit of a mess, never recovered and instead crumbled. If you’re there, your team winning narrowly may be better, but winning easily is pretty good also.
Don’t get me wrong, it was a very fine day indeed. Deepest thanks to Darren for sharing it with me. But, it wasn’t the magical day that the game that Darren fixed for us both to see last year was.
There are several reasons for this relative lack of magic. For starters, last time around, it was all happening, for me, for the first time. I had never before sat high up in the Surrey Pavilion like that, so last September I was doing that for the very first time.
The game in 2015 was a semi-final and was very tense throughout, in fact the result was in doubt until the final ball. The game last Wednesday was a handsome win for Surrey, which was good. But it rather fizzled out at the end, as handsome wins in sport so often do.
But the biggest difference between this game and the previous one was that whereas, in that 2015 game, a cricket legend by the name of Kumar Sangakkara made a superb century, in this game, there was no megastar super-performance, just a succession of very capable Surrey players doing very well, until the game was won.
The nearest thing to a dominant superstar on show last Wednesday was Jason Roy. Roy is not yet a cricket legend on a par with Sangakkara, and of course he probably never will be, having arrived only rather recently as an England one day and twenty-twenty star. But he has made one hell of a start, starts being what he specialises in. He supplied, for example, the rapid start that England had to have if they were to get anywhere near to South Africa’s huge score of 229 in England’s World T20 must-win game back in March of this year, in Mumbai. Roy hit four fours in the first over of that amazing and ultimately successful chase. Then, back in England, Roy did brilliantly in the 50 overs games earlier this year against Sri Lanka. He shared in the huge opening partnership with Alex Hales that won game two, and in game four he made 162, in another dominant England win.
On Wednesday, Roy got the game started in his usual style by hitting the first ball of the match for four. And I got a photo of that very predictable moment:
And so it continued, for a short while. But then, Roy got out for a mere 34, and Surrey needed many more runs to set a decent target. They got those runs, but the day would have been a whole lot more fun if Roy had hung around for longer.
Here is another and much better picture of Roy in action, which shows his face as well as one of his actions:
That shot, in both of its two meanings, was shot by a Real Photographer, again at the Oval, last Friday evening, when Roy played exactly the sort of innings that I would loved to have seen him play on Wednesday afternoon. This was a twenty-overs-each-way game. Roy again went in first for Surrey. But this time he stayed in, and slammed 120 not out. Roy and the formidable Australian, Aaron Finch, shared an opening partnership of 187, and Surrey ended up with 212-4. This was more than enough to crush Kent, but sadly, it was not enough to get Surrey through to the last eight, because another result went against them.
Darren, having so kindly invited me to accompany him to the Wednesday game, was also at the Oval on Friday evening, when I was busy hosting a meeting at my home. Perhaps this posting should end now, on that note of, I trust, good humoured envy. But I want to contrast the events of that game last Friday, which Darren witnessed and which I did not, with what happened in another cricket match, in Sri Lanka, that was happening at the same time.
On Saturday morning, yesterday morning in other words, I followed this other game on Cricinfo. Sri Lanka and Australia were playing out a test match. Remember those? The ones that sometimes go on for five whole days?
Sri Lanka, back home but still smarting from their disappointments in England, had got themselves out for a mere hundred in their first innings. But they then confined Australia to two hundred, and then got a real score in their second innings. By Saturday morning my time, Australia were struggling to get a draw, on the final day of a rain and light interrupted match. And in the course of this ultimately unsuccessful struggle, their ninth wicket pair, Nevill and O’Keeffe, resisted the Sri Lankan bowlers for more than twenty overs, without scoring a single run.
Here is a screen snapshot of cricinfo commentary, taken by me during this dot-ball-fest:
At that point, during over number 77, and as commenter Viran Salgado pointed out towards the bottom of that bit of commentary, it had already been twelve overs of dottiness with no runs having been scored. And when the ninth wicket eventually fell during over number 86 the score was still stuck on 161, with the final wicket falling three overs later, also at 161.
In other words, on Friday night Jason Roy made 120 and Surrey as a whole amassed 212, in the space of 120 balls. A few hours later, Australia, in the passage of play in their game against Sri Lanka that I have just described, faced almost exactly the same number of balls as that, and scored a grand total of: no runs. And in the course of all this relentless blockage, Sri Lanka managed to take: no wickets. 0-0. Zero for zero. Bugger all, for bugger all.
It’s not that nothing happened. It was riveting stuff. But this extreme contrast does illustrate how the game of cricket is now changing.