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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: Language

Tuesday September 19 2017

This evening I started contriving what I hope will be the first of quite a few excerpts from The Judgement of Paris, the book referred to in the previous posting.  But it all took far longer than I had thought it would.  Those Frenchies and their accents!  Also, lots of numbers referring to endnotes had/have to be removed.  It has a lot of endnotes.

So, meanwhile, another photo taken by me in Paris, in the frigid February of 2012:

image

That’s one of the modernistical buildings of La Défense, reflected in another of the modernistical buildings of La Défense.  (Even organising those accents was a bit of a bother.)

Monday September 18 2017

Today I finally got to the end of The Judgement of Paris.  I have now started making a list of some short bits of it that I hope to reproducing here.

Meanwhile, by way of a small celebration, here is a Parisian photo I took, in Paris, way back in February 2012:

image

It’s the Tour Eiffel, of course, photoed from under it.  Tour Eiffel is pronounced “Tour F L”, rather that “Tour I Fell”.  Which reassures me that I know how to pronounce the leading historical character, Ernest Meissonier, in the above book.  “May sonni eh” rather than “My sonni eh”.

Anyway, a big and very interesting interruption has stopped interrupting me and my life, and I’m very glad about that.

Friday September 15 2017

Friday here at BMdotcom is Cats and Other Creatures Day.  So if I am out and about on a Friday, I always keep an eye out for relevant sights.  Sights like this, which I spotted in Putney this afternoon.

image

Potted Horse?  As in: horse meat?

Well, no:

image

Spotted Horse, as in: horse with spots.  A pub.

Picture of the entire front of the Spotted Horse:

image

I like how it’s than the buildings on each side are bigger.  This being, presumably, because the pub is some kind of preserved building from olden times, and as such impervious to the rising price of land and hence the rising pressure continuously to destroy and replace with something ever taller.

One day, the price of the land upon which the Spotted Horse rests will be such that a skyscraper will be demanded.  At this point, I would like to think that the Spotted Horse will mutate into the lowest two floors of this new skyscraper.  Why not?  The skyscraper will pay for all the confusion involved in contriving this.  Just because amusingly antiquated buildings need to become very tall buildings doesn’t mean they have to be destroyed and replaced entirely by modernity, especially when you consider how tedious modernity can be at ground level, a place where architectural antiquity excels.  No, put the modernity on top of the antiquity, on stilts.

Wednesday August 30 2017

I love the trappings of London’s tourist industry, and I love that I can enjoy these trappings by photoing them rather than by spending any of my own money on them.  This applies to small stuff in shops, and to bigger stuff out in the streets.  There are exceptions, but they are very few.

I don’t, for instance, buy even miniature vehicles, let alone drive around in my own life-sized vehicle.  But I love to photo idiosyncratic life-sized vehicles owned and maintained by others.  Vehicles like this one:

image

This is the Ghostbustours bus, the “London Necrobus”, as it says on the side.

Below left we see punning respellings of London sights and streets and squares:

imageimage

Rather disappointingly, on the right there is a sign, towards the back of the Ghostbustours bus, featuring no such respellings, so that people know where they can get on and off the Ghostbus.  I understand that this is necessary, but it rather spoils the fun.

It greatly helps that the bus in question is a classic Routemaster, still the favourite of many, including me, of all the different versions that there have been of the London double decker.  When tourists buy miniature London buses, this is the one they mostly buy.,

By blogging “Routemaster”, I just learned (a) that the word Routemaster also, supposedly (i.e., in reality: not), applies to Boris buses.  (The actual name for the Boris bus is: “Boris bus”.) And I learned (b) that, for quite a while now, there has been no more buying of Boris buses.  Blog and learn.

Monday August 21 2017

If you think this game was a mismatch, try this game.  Myanmar 45 all out off 22 overs in what was supposed to be a 50 overs each way game.  Malaysia 46-0 in 4 overs.  Ouch.

But what interests me is the names of the Myanmar side: KK Lin Thu, Lwin Maw, Zarni Thein (c), Min Wai, Paing Danu, Y Naing Tun †, H Lin Aung, Thuya Aung, YK Ko Aung, Y Naing Kyaw, S Htet Wai.

These guys are not just a bunch of expat Pakistanis who do construction work during the week and play cricket at the weekend, not that there’s anything wrong with that.  These are real Myanmarians.  Humiliating though this must have been for these guys, the scorecard alone tells us that the game seems to be spreading.

I hope they manage to learn, from this drubbing, that cricket is tough, rather than that it’s a waste of their time.

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.

Tuesday July 25 2017

My day was dominated by the acquisition, and then the installation, of one of these.  Which looks like this:

image

Sorry about all the blank white space there.  I’d fill it up with words, if only I knew how to do that.

But despite being the sort of person who is unable to make blog-words move closer to complicated shapes like that one, I made the gadget itself work perfectly.

I picked it up this afternoon from Chateau Samizdata, where all my Amazonia gets delivered in order to stop it being stolen from my place by thieves pretending to be delivery men.  (Only one of my neighbours has to be conned, and they’re in.) And this evening, I got it out of its box and put it all together, and it worked first time.  Now my new computer screen hovers miraculously over my desk, instead of being held up by an idiotically cumbersome and desk-space consuming stand.  I can even open it like a door and get at all the storage space behind it.

One of the symptoms of advancing years is that newly acquired gadgetry, of the sort that consists of about twenty different bits that you have to assemble yourself, just never works without about of week of assembling and re-assembling and effing and blinding.  But this one worked first time, and exactly as advertised.

It helped that the instructions were only in one language, English.  As a general rule, the more professional the instructions look, the worse they actually are.  It’s the difference between instructions written by lawyers who bury the instructions that matter in lots of defensively irrelevant safety instructions that a six year old wouldn’t need to be told, and instructions written, and illustrated, by someone who actually wants you to succeed in assembling the thing.

Maybe I’ll rewrite this for Amazon.

Thursday July 20 2017

I like her:

Harmanpreet Kaur lives and swears by her idol Virender Sehwag’s mantra of ‘see ball, hit ball.’ She represents the new-age India women’s cricketer, part of a generation that has been at the center of ad campaigns, endorsements and central contracts. She’s a path-breaker too, having become the first India cricketer - male or female - to sign a Big Bash League contract with Sydney Thunder in Australia. The deal came about on the back of an impressive showing during India’s tour of Australia in January 2016, where she made a 31-ball 46 to script India’s highest-ever T20 chase. In June 2017, she became the first Indian to sign with Surrey Stars in ECB’s Kia Super League.

And I liked her before I got to the bit about her joining Surrey.

Harmanpreet Kaur will be attracting a lot more attention from now on, because today she scored 171 not out off 115 balls against Australia.  See ball hit ball indeed.  Whether India’s 281-4 will be enough to get them to the final of the ladies World Cup remains, at the time of this posting, to be seen.

Already in the final are England, featuring Natalie Sciver (pronounced “Sivver"), scorer of two centuries in the tournament already, also of Surrey, and an early adopter of a new batting shot now named after her, the Natmeg.

LATER: The Australian chase began disastrously, and although from three down onwards they never stopped swinging they fell just a bit short, losing by 36.

BBC:

It’s been a thrilling tournament - and with a sold-out Lord’s final to come on Sunday, it’s no exaggeration to say that with the interest from the Indian market, we will be looking at the biggest game in the history of women’s cricket.

For me, the moment when women’s cricket stopped being ridiculous was when they stopped wearing skirts.  Skirts and pads was not a good look.

Wednesday July 12 2017

Everything involving computers is easy if you know how to do it and you do it often.  Everything involving computers is hard, if you only want to do it very occasionally, and if you don’t know (or don’t remember (which comes to the same thing)) how to do it.  Words like “intuitive” and “user friendly” are thrown about a lot when people like me say things like this, but they are bullshit.  It’s either very easy, or nearly impossible.  “User friendly” just means being presented with an incomprehensible lump of informational overload, in prettier letters and prettier colours and more prettily designed.

Why are computer things hard?  It is because computers can do so many things.  This means that whenever you are trying to persuade your particular computer to do something in particular, that it doesn’t usually do, you have to thread your way through a multi-page questionnaire, in the course of which you tell it: no, I don’t what that, or that, or that.  I want this.  And at any point in this Q&A obstacle course, you may find yourself confronted by a page of things to pick from none of which seem to have anything to do with what you are trying to tell the damn computer to do.

In the Army, I believe, they used to (and perhaps still do) call this: dumb insolence.  Dumb insolence is the offence of taking every word in the orders you have been given with extreme literalness and just waiting, dumbly insolent, to be given different orders, and meanwhile carrying on with what you had been dumbly and insolently doing, even though you know (because of the shouting) that this is not what is really wanted.  You shout at the computer to just use a bit of common sense.  I want this, you moronic machine.  Nothing.  Just the same old screen, and if you click on any of it, you get another page of irrelevance, or perhaps the right page but the exact same dilemma.  None of it seems to have anything to do with what you want it to do.

The fact that the more computers can do, the more there need to be people around who know how to tell the computers to do whatever very particular thing is actually required, rather than all the other things that the computer is now capable of doing, bodes extremely well for the employability of humans in the months and years and decades to come.  But meanwhile, if you happen not to know how to get the computer to do what you want, you can only hope and pray that at some future moment, the answer will drop into your lap.  Someone will tell you.  Your computer will suddenly, out of the blue, volunteer something relevant.  Or, it has been so volunteering all along, but because of all the other garbage it was also volunteering, you didn’t notice, but then, miraculously, you do notice, and bingo.

What brought all this on?  Well, my computer recently had some attention from the Guru and also some upgrades, and in among all this the computer changed its way of opening photos, which for me is a big deal.  I open a lot of photos from my archives, in fact I do this every time I am doing a quota photo posting, which is a lot, and when I do this I am usually in a hurry.  So, just when I really don’t need my computer to be misbehaving, it has been misbehaving.  The problem has been that instead of using “Windows Photo Viewer” to show me a photo that I click on, it instead decided to use something called “Photos”.  Quite different and lacking one crucial ability, which is the ability to take me from a photo up on my screen in “Photos” to the directory the photo is in.  “Windows Photo Viewer” can do this.  “Photos” can’t, or not in any way I know how to make it do that isn’t immensely complicated, every time.

How to correct this?  For about a week I couldn’t.  The internet, as so often, was no help at all.  It said that this was easy if blah blah, but if blah blah blah bah, then contriving the answer I wanted was really difficult and involved blah blah blah blah blahdy blah blah blahdy blah.  If you get my meaning.  (Which turned out not only to be incomprehensible, but also wrong.  See next paragraph.)

And then, the answer dropped into my lap.  I saw a page I didn’t recall seeing, with a question that I hadn’t noticed before.  I was allowed the option of opening a photo “with” a different programme.  But then crucially, I was also presented, in a way that I either hadn’t been shown before or that I hadn’t noticed before, with the option to put a tick in a box saying: always open the photo with this progranne that you have just chosen to switch to.  Problem solved.  My computer now opens photos, just as it always did, with Windows Photo Viewer, unless otherwise instructed.  Which I now know how to do, but will soon forget.  Which won’t matter.

The idea that computers are getting steadily more “smart” is a half truth.  Yes, they can do steadily more and more with each passing year.  But the more they know how to do, the stupider they get at actually doing it for you.

And oh look.  Just before posting the above, I was checking out an SD card that I used in my camera today, having forgotten to put my regular SD card back in it.  And this irregular SD card turned out to have a bunch of photos on it that I took in the summer of 2014, in France.  And it turns out that the French also have something that sounds to me a lot like Dumb Insolence, although I think it’s more like “polite rudeness” than that in your face deadpan British sneer.  You decide:

image

Whatever the exact translation, I bet this “douce insolence” is how French personal computers behave, when you a trying to make them do something new, and they just won’t be told.

For some reason, that was on the front window of a shop, called “Agatha”, in the Rue Gustave Thomas de Closmadeuc, in the town of Vannes, on the south coast of Brittany. A perfume perhaps?

Tuesday June 13 2017

Indeed:

image

According to Laura Gibbs, this translates from Latin into this:

I am hopeful in times of danger; I am fearful when things are going well.

I love the internet.  Before the internet I would have seen this, been momentarily baffled, and would have forgotten it at once.  Now I photo it and later I learn what it means.  I then blog it and only then do I forget about it.

The building that proclaims this wisdom is now the Milestone Hotel.

Friday June 02 2017

I have lots of Daily Mailish views on Modern Art, and like many such grumblers, I thought Art ought to be more skilful.  When observing a work of Art, it ought to be impossible to say “my kid could do that”, unless one’s kid was a very talented artist.  Skill.  That is what is so often missing from Art, these days.  Grumble grumble.

Two things to say about that.  First, that the skill of persuading the world to treat your random pile of junk as Art is no mean skill.  Most people can’t do this.  I certainly can’t do this.  And it isn’t only that it wouldn’t occur to me to try.  If I did try, it would never work.

But more seriously, the skill test suggests that when something clearly is skilful - and when it is also “of something” (another Daily Mail complaint about Art (i.e. that Modern Art isn’t of anything)) – the result ought to be wonderful.  And sometimes it sort of is.  But it also, to me, often feels rather pointless.

imageThe internet site that I know about that most embodies these antiquarian, but rather beside-the-point-now, artistic virtues is Colossal.  Posting after posting there is about amazingly skilful representational art, of this or that bizarre kind.  Famous people’s faces carved out of melons.  Flowers made of different coloured paper.

Or take this latest report, of a Japanese bloke who makes bugs and beasts, out of balloons.  On the right there, his version of a house fly.  Tremendously skilful.  How does he do it?  But also, honestly, why does he do it?

If you want a house fly, or a proboscis monkey, or a crab, or anything, made out of balloons, and will pay Mr Matsumoto for such a thing, I’m very happy for you.  If you think the object in question is unquestionably a work of Art, I’ll not quarrel with you.  And maybe I would agree that it is Art.  But it is still rather peculiar, I think.  Sculptures of monkeys made in more obvious ways are surely very easy to obtain.  So yes, your monkey is made of balloons.  But why?  Where’s the logic in that?

But then, more and more, I find Art as a whole to be very peculiar.  How do you define Art?  What qualities do all the things that have been called Art possess, that other things don’t possess?  I read a book not long ago where he just said: Art is whatever anyone says is Art.  Which is just a fancy way of saying: I don’t know.  But neither, he explained patiently, does anyone else know.

Monday May 08 2017

For the last few days I haven’t been out much, and today I was confined to my barracks by email malfunction, and then by being required to wait next to my computer, waiting to be told what was what by The Guru, after I had failed to make sense of it.  If you can’t send or receive email, modern life doesn’t work and all else is insignificant.

So, once again, my posting is about remembering sunnier times, this time those sunnier times being this time last year.  In France.

And nothing says France quite like an entire shop, in an impossibly picturesque seaside town, devoted, in its entirety, to tinned fish:

image

Here, for the benefit of those who can read French, is a closer-up view of the sign:

image

Sardines, the queens of … well according to the internet, “conserverie” means: canning factory.

I bought fish paste:

image

The fish paste is long gone, but I have kept the cans as souvenirs.

Things like this are utterly ordinary, if, for you, they are ordinary, which they would be if you lived in France.  But I live in London SW1, where I cannot buy such things, and I find them beautifully exotic.  If I could buy these exact sorts of French tins in Sainsbury’s or Tesco, they wouldn’t be worth a second look or a first mention here.  But, I can’t.

Sunday April 23 2017

I love it when a metaphor gets mixed.  But here is a metaphor that is not so much mixed as turned on its head.  It’s Samizdata’s Mr Ed, commenting on this, describing how our former PM David Cameron hoped that his EU referendum would see off UKIP and stop it sucking votes away from the Conservatives.  And it looks like that referendum will indeed see off UKIP, but not in the way that Cameron campaigned for.

Says Mr Ed of this referendum:

… a chance to lance the boil ended up boiling the lance.

Patrick Crozier (a couple of comments later) liked this also.

What particularly impresses me is how Mr Ed made use of those double double meanings, both of “lance” and of “boil”.

Sunday April 16 2017

Incoming, from “Phani”, to Cricinfo, during this game:

“Raina is trying too hard. Take a cue from Mccullum, start timing shits instead of forcing them. Be there till the end, not the usual batting paradise this.”

At the end of the ninth over of the Gujurat Lions innings, if you don’t believe me.  I’m guessing it will remain thus.

It’s never good to be forcing your shits.  On the other hand, being too rigid about the timing of them is often what leads to you forcing them.  Like Raina, you find yourself trying too hard.

And a Happy Easter to all.

Thursday April 13 2017

Indeed, a decade ago to the day, on the grass outside Westminster Abbey.  The word “selfie” didn’t then exist, but that didn’t stop anyone from doing it.  It was because so many were doing it that the word was needed:

image

I like how the soles of their feet are the bit of the photo that’s most in focus.

My first use of the word “selfie” was, according to my blogging software, in this posting.  It’s all about me.