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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

Saturday February 06 2016

Today I have been what passes with me for busy.  By this I do not mean that I have been doing anything along the lines of work, of benefit to others.  Oh no.  But I have been paying attention to a succession of things, all of which involved me not being in much of a state to do anything else.

There was a game of cricket, there was a game of rugger, and a game of football.  England defeated South Africa.  England defeated Scotland.  And Spurs defeated Watford.  So, three for three. And then I went to hear a talk at Christian Michel’s, about The Unconscious, Freudian and post-Freudian.  Freud, it turns out, was right that there is an Unconscious, but wrong about a lot of the details.

On my way home from that talk, I took a photo.  Technically it was very bad photo, because it was taken through the window of a moving tube train.  It is of an advert at a tube station.  But my photo did the job, which was to immortalise here yet another assemblage of London’s Big Things, in an advert:

image

That’s only a bit of the picture, rotated a bit, lightened and contrasted a bit and sharpened a bit.

The advert was for these visitor centres, which sound suspiciously like what used to be called “information desks”.

I see: the Cheesegrater, the Wheel, the BT Tower, Big Ben, the cable car river crossing, the Gherkin, Tower Bridge, the Shard, St Paul’s, and the pointy-topped Canary Wharf tower.  I forgive TfL for plugging the embarrassing Emirates Dangleway.  If they didn’t recommend it, who would?

Because of all that busy-ness, I have no time to put anything else here today.

Tomorrow: Super Bowl!

LATER: AB de Villiers, talking about South Africa now being two down with three to play:

“I can’t help but think, shit we have got to win three games in a row to win this series. Shucks, I mean. But that’s the fact of the matter. In situations like this, whether you are 2-nil up or 2-nil down, you have to take a small step. The next game is important for us. Shucks.”

We all know what shit is, but now learn what a shuck is.

Wednesday January 13 2016

Oliver Wainwright of the Guardian can be grumpy but informative.  Of facadism, which I have here been calling keeping up appearances, Wainwright says this:

The practice of facadism emerged in the 1980s, when construction technology made it possible to retain a mere sliver of a frontage, and as the rise of the conservation movement increased pressure to preserve the historic streetscape – even if it didn’t care much for what happened beyond the surface.

And more to the point, there are some great photos.  Photos like this:

image

Wainwright is of course angry about this unequal style collision.  He writes for the Guardian, and being angry about capitalism (aka everything except Guardianism) comes with the job.  But I actually quite like it when big modernism rises up behind smaller ancientism.  To put it another way, in Ayn Rand’s novel, The Fountainhead, the architect-hero Howard Roark is disgusted when a committee seeks to stick an ancientist front door at the bottom of his modernist skyscraper.  But I think this front door, at any rate as shown in the film they made of The Fountainhead, improved things.  It certainly made it easier to see where the front door actually was, which is often hard with totally modernist buildings, and used for about a decade to be impossible.  Ancientism evolved a way of handling front doors in a way that makes sense to all, and there is no more virtue in destroying these ground-level conventions than there is in abolishing English and trying to replace it with Esperanto.

Besides which, buildings are often hated, to begin with, for the very thing that causes them at a later date to be loved, namely their distinctiveness and their oddity.  Think of the Eiffel Tower, which at first was greatly disliked.  My guess is that much the same will apply to the above Cardiff oddity.

I also believe that the Carbuncle-Cup-winning Walkie Talkie will in the fullness of time mutate from Carbuncle to National Treasure.  I visited that building today.  More about that visit Real Soon Now, maybe, I promise nothing.

Sunday January 10 2016

For the purposes of this posting, bike fishing means fishing for bikes.  Not: fishing while on a bike.

As already noted here before Christmas, Amusing Planet has become a regular internet spot for me.  I especially liked this report, complete with photos like this:

image

Favourite line in the report:

Bike fishing has become one of Amsterdam’s unique tourist attraction.

My immediate reaction was: So, anyone can do it?  Do you need a license?  But what they really mean, presumably, is just standing there and watching while somebody else does the bike fishing.

A bike fishing competition might be really something.  And it still might be if it was fishing while on a bike.

Other recent favourite Amusing Planet posting: The Lady of the North.

Friday January 08 2016

I’m still catching up with some of the things I did last summer, even though it is now next year.  My gaff my rules.  In particularly, I still have finished reporting on Richmond Park.

Richmond Park is the very picture of unthreatening sweetness and light, especially on the sort of day it was when me and GD2 paid our visit to it.  But, as regulars here will know, I like to photograph signs, and maps, so that I will know where I’ve been.

In Richmond Park, there are big maps of Richmond Park, like this one:

image

This map is covered with the names of all the various places in Richmond Park.  Most of these names are quite nice, as you can see if you take a closer look (by clicking on it), at this closer-up view of the middle of the above map:

image

Prince Charles’s Spinney, Thompson’s Pond, Sidmouth Wood, and Queen Elizabeth’s Plantation, they all sound nice enough, in keeping with the suburban niceness of the place.  Although, I suppose “plantation” might suggest slavery.

But some of these names speak of a different and grimmer past.  How about, to take a closer look at some of them, names like these:

imageimage

Suddenly, Richmond Park becomes more like the sort of landscape that brings to mind, say, Vincent Price’s chilling enactment of the Witchfinder General.

Names like those two suggest interpretations that are probably far worse than the truth, of names like these:

imageimageimage

Spankers are probably just people who chase deer so that the upper classes can kill them for sport.  A saw pit is probably just a pit where sawing (of tree trunks) was done.  And Peg’s Pond is probably just the pond which Peg owned, and fished in.  But, I couldn’t helping thinking that Peg’s Pond was really the pond where Vincent Price made poor Peg swim, thereby proving that she was a witch.  And then she got hanged in one of the two hanging locations named above.

And how about these two names:

image

Bone Copse?  Killcat Corner? What on earth was that about?  Googling told me nothing, but that proves nothing.

Saturday December 26 2015

I did a Samizdata posting earlier today, soliciting help in decyphering a piece of text in a photo.  Earlier this month I photoed this lady holding up a message for the lady she was videoing to read.  Trouble is, the text was in something that looked like it was Russian.

According to Samizdata commenter Alex, the text is Kazakh.  It would appear that the lady being videoed was making a video message for her sister.  I expect further details to follow.

Ah, Kazakhstan.  Known in Britain mostly for being the home of Borat.

As it happens there’s a Borat photo I’ve been meaning to stick up here, of Borat on the back of a bus.  Here is that photo, on the right below, together with another Borat related photo which is one of my all time favourite snaps.  I took this Borats-plural photo, on the left here, in Piccadilly, on March 9th 2007, and it has been shown here already, on the day after it was taken.  The Borat on the bus photo was taken on March 14th, and is being shown here for the first time:

imageimage

Click to see these photos bigger.

When I googled for more serious Kazakhstan information, the most interesting info I found was definitely this.  Blog and learn.

Monday December 21 2015

I did a posting at Samizdata in 2012, about a trip I made to One New Change, but I don’t believe I ever displayed this photo, which I took soon after visiting the top of that excellent venue:

image

It is quite clear that this is a drycleaners.  Its name, alas, is not, in my photo, quite so clear.

Photo of this enterprise taken without my deliberate and rather malicious mistake here.

I have just got back from a party at Mchael J’s, having failed to do anything here before departing to it, and this was all I could manage.

But, I can add this.  During that party Michael said, while travel-talking about the Middle East:

The thing you have to remember about that part of the world is that Hezbollah are the good guys.

I think he was talking about Syria, but I could be wrong.  It was a good party.

Perry de Havilland also said something else very funny, but I have forgotten what it was.  It was a good party.

Good night.  Sleep well.  I will.

Saturday December 05 2015

Blatant quota photo, in the form of an interestingly informative vehicle snapped by me earlier this evening:

image

Shame about the superfluous piece of punctuation.

Earlier, my host and his guests were chuckling at a big flag host had in his living room, which said: DONT TREAD ON ME.  For DONT read DON’T.

Shame the apostrophe cannot somehow be transferred from the car to the flag, thereby bringING (see comment) the grammar universe into alignment.

Back to the car: COMERCIAL is missing an M.

None of which should be brought up if he is rescuing you and your vehicle from a predicament.

And, I bet this posting contains a grammar or spelling mistake, because this is one of the subsections of Sod’s Law.  Whenever you sneer at someone else’s grammar or spelling, yours goes wrong.

Tuesday December 01 2015

Photoed by me, earlier this evening:

image

This is my regular laundrette.

There seems to me to be something doom-laden about these messages. 

LAST WASH: 6.45PM

CLOSE: 8PM

MERRY CHRISTMAS.

And may God have mercy upon your soul.

It’s the severity and coldness of the machines and the negativity of the news about that wash, after which no further washes may be washed, and about the close, after which the rest is silence.  In most other circumstances those merry wishes would be cheerfully inconsequential.  But not these ones.  They too seem to be spoken with funerial gloom, in a way that portends a Christmas which will, this time, be anything but merry.

Wednesday November 25 2015

Last night I did a posting at Samizdata about Milo Yiannopoulos.

Until today, when I dug him up on YouTube, I didn’t even know what nationality this guy is.  American would have been my guess, but basically I didn’t know, although I did learn yesterday what he looks like.  But for me he was basically a name, that I couldn’t spell.

Turns out he’s British.  Very British.  Who knew?  Everybody except me, presumably.  Blog and learn. 

I asked for the opinions of Samizdata commentariat, and got some.  I don’t know why, but I expected more variety in these responses, more doubts, more reservations.  Actually, the Samizdata commentariat has, so far, been uniformly approving of this guy.

Now I’m listening to him babble away, and it turns out that, being a libertarian and an atheist, I’m “touchy” - meaning oversensitive about being criticised - times two.  As a libertarian I’m obsessed with marijuana and with computer hacking.  (Actually: No, times two.) As an atheist, well, it turns out I dress stupidly.  (Yes.  True.) He does love to wind people up, which he does by saying slightly untrue and quite funny things.  He’s like that classic old Fleet Street type, the Opinionated Female Columnist, whose job is to overgeneralise in ways that are quite popular and pile up the readers, and to make the Outraged Classes really really outraged, and who eventually gets … old.

I’m starting to think he may soon be a bit of a has been.  But, at least he now is.

I think the article that I linked to from Samizdata may have been a peak.  It is truly brilliant.

What I do like is his interest in the tactics of how to spread ideas, how to win arguments, how to be able to make arguments despite the efforts of people who want nothing except to shut him up, by saying things that shut them up.

Thursday November 19 2015

Rather as a politician, when sacked, pretends that he has resigned to spend more time with whatever is left of his family, when a cricketer gets the elbow from the national team, the selectors always now say stuff like this:

James Whitaker, the national selector, said: “Ian Bell has been an outstanding player for many years and undoubtedly still has plenty to offer England in the future. It was clearly a difficult decision but he has struggled for runs in recent series and we felt that it was the right time for him to take a break and spend time working on his game out of the spotlight.

Outstanding player.  More to offer.  Take a break.  Work on his game.  Out of the spotlight.  And sometimes, it’s even true.  After all, Compton and Ballance are both back.  But the difference is age.  Compton and Ballance are still quite young.  Bell is at that age where he is either good now, or not.  He doesn’t have a potential big decade to offer in the future, just one or two more years right now.

Bell’s problem is that he has always been the kind of player who can make a good team better, but he has never been the kind of player good enough to make a bad team good.  And even when he was playing really well, which he did from time to time, you kind of didn’t notice.  He was never a “game changer”, merely a pretty good player, who sometimes did really well, and sometimes not so well.

Talking of bellends, for several years now the comedians on the telly have been using this, to me, peculiar expression, to describe people they are not impressed by and are inclined to mock.  But only now, wanting to add something to this posting, did I learn that the bellend is the head of the penis.  Which presumably makes the bell … Blog and learn.

Friday November 06 2015

The modified cliché is a standard method to spice up writing.  You take a too-much-repeated clutch of words, like a metaphor so stale that you hardly notice the metaphor any more, and you alter it or add something to it to bring things alive again.  (Said Vinegar Joe Stillwell of Louis Mountbatten: “There’s less to that young man than meets the eye.” I still remember something Harry Phibbs wrote about how he was “eager to intrude upon private grief”.)

Something similar can be done with architecture, on a far more grand scale:

image

The individual bricks, so to speak, of this architectural pile are impeccably dull.  Yet they are combined in a very dramatic way.  Which makes the impeccable dullness that is thus still very visible all the more entertaining.

Modifying a cliché has particular architectural advantages, because it means that you already know how the cliché bits work, because that’s been done thousands of times already.  (See this earlier posting.)

Of course, combining them in this new way could create all manner of problems of different sorts, so you still need to be careful.  But, despite the dangers, I like this.

Wednesday November 04 2015

Indeed:

image

For further information, go here, or here.

LATER: Van Beethoven.

Tuesday November 03 2015

... causing them to stay stuck inside my head for ever.

That’s it really.  Provided something can get out of hand inside a head.

What I am talking about, in the event that you don’t already recognise the syndrome, is that you think of something to put on your blog, and start seeking out links, and you find highly pertinent links to add, but at the far end of them, you find further highly pertinent things to add to the original posting, until it ceases entirely from being the piece of fun that blogging ought mostly to be, and becomes a giant piece of homework that never gets done.

So, memo to self: Stop it.

Friday October 23 2015

Earlier in the week, I journeyed under Trafalgar Square, in a pedestrian subway.  The subway was adorned with history lessons, one of which was this one:

image

I did not know this, about what a Mews is.  It’s not the kind of thing you ask.  By which I mean: I never have.  A Mews is a Mews.  I have never questioned this.  I accepted it.  And then someone answers the question: Why is a Mews called that?  Before I even realised I was ready to be told.

Click on the above picture, and get the darker and less artfully composed original.

Monday August 17 2015

A lot of my postings just now involve me showing you photos I took quite a while back, and this one is also one of those.

What happens is, I rootle through all my past photos, and then sometimes get an idea for a posting about a certain category of thing or human conduct or mode of transport or some such thing, and I start gathering photos to illustrate this, in a separate directory.  I am careful to copy photos into the new directory, rather than just transfer them there.  One of my rules is, keep all the photos you took on a certain day on a certain expedition all in one place.  But, no harm in copying from those directories into other ones which are about particular things rather than particular trips or particular times.

However, what often then happens is that I forget about it all.  So, the directory sits there, sometimes for years, and then years later I come across it again.  This happened last night, when I encountered a collection of photographs, assembled in 2010, of photographers who were also holding guide books.  I could tell that I had never used them in a blog posting, because when I do that, I always give photos different names.

Here are four of those photographers-holding-guide-books photos, all of which involve guide books with the word “Londres” on them:

imageimageimageimage

Click to get the bigger pictures.

I’m guessing that both the French and the Hispanics spell London as Londres, with the French calling it Londr and the Hispanics calling it Lon Drez.  But that’s only a gez.

And, yes (google google), I gezzed right:

Londres, the French, Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan and Filipino language name for London, capital of the United Kingdom and England

The guide book while photoing thing always appealed to me, not least because even then I was looking for ways to not photo people’s faces, and guide books often achieved that outcome for me very nicely.  But the phenomenon is also interesting because, slowly, it is fading away.  You do still see photographers flaunting guide books, but it is rarer now.

Instead, the smartphone is the new guidebook.  And, of course, increasingly, the new camera, for people like those shown above.  Makes perfect sense.

As for the lady above (in the picture bottom right) whose face I do here display (if you click), well, she was wearing a T-shirt saying, in London’s own language and therefore to attract the attention of Londoners like me: “believe me… i’m incredible”.  Somehow I don’t think it was “incredulous”.  Ergo, she was attracting attention with her own attention-attracting behaviour, ergo she was and is fair game for her face to go up, totally recognisably, (but nearly a decade later) on my blog.

Nearly a decade later because these photos were taken by me in 2006 and 2007.