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Monday July 31 2006

On Friday afternoon, as already flagged up here last Thursday evening, I had a recorded conversation with my friend Adriana Lukas about her work as a social media (?) consultant (??? - wrong word but can’t think of a better one – see below).  The question we started with was “What do you do?”, but we never really answered that, her “thing” being as close as we ever got.  And that despite the fact that the conversation went on a bit, twelve minutes over the hour.  Which is surely far too long compared to . . .  you know, what it ought to be, I suppose.  If you don’t have time like that to spare, I perfectly understand.  But, we found it interesting.

What we did do was sketch the historical background, in the foreground of which people with knowledge like Adriana’s are not only themselves convinced that they have something to offer to more traditional business people, but are also being searched out by those same business people.  These guys knows that there is something amiss with their regular ways of doing things, and that they need explanations and prescriptions for a new and altered world.  They face big problems, and big opportunities, famines and feasts.  Adriana can help.  She is starting to make a pretty good living doing this.

I fear that our conversation may seem too obvious and basic, but often that kind of stuff can be the best.  That’s how it often was when I was writing Libertarian Alliance pamphlets, and then when others wrote them with my editorial prodding.

Anyway, Samizdata got talked about quite a bit, because that was where we both got started with blogging.  Other blogs we referred to were this one, and this one.

Towards the end, we also talked about our shared enthusiasm for digital photography, Adriana being deep into Flickr.  I especially like this New York set of hers, one of them being this one of Adriana, presumably taken by some groovy New Yorker, but with her camera:


Saturday July 29 2006

Monty Panesar has this afternoon done for Pakistan’s Big Three – Younis, Yousuf and Inzy – and England must surely win now.

Nevertheless, by far the biggest cricket news today, in Sri Lanka and everywhere else where cricket is played or followed, is this:


Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara came together when Sri Lanka were 14 for 2, and when they were finally separated, 157 overs had elapsed, during which period 624 runs had been added to the total. During the course of their monumental partnership, several records fell by the wayside, the most significant of which was obviously the world record for the highest stand, not only in a Test, but also in all first-class matches: the earlier record for first-class games stood in the names of Vijay Hazare and Gul Mohammad, who’d added 577 for the fourth wicket for Baroda versus Holkar. In Tests, the earlier record was held by another Sri Lankan pair - Sanath Jayasuriya and Roshan Mahanama had added a small matter of 576 runs against India in 1997.

I think my favourite cricket stats are for stands, rather than individual scores.  My most vivid early cricket memory is not of Laker’s 19 wickets at Old Trafford in 1956 (much wallowed in during this current Old Trafford test), but of the big stand between May and Cowdrey at Edgbaston against the West Indies the following year.

Friday July 28 2006

I think that Monty Panesar somewhat resembles, especially when he celebrates having taken a wicket (he got three yesterday, including that of Lords double centurion Mohammad Yousuf which began the Pakistan collapse from 90-2 to 119 all out), the actor Hugh Griffith, shown on the right here in his Oscar winning role as Sheik Ilderim in Ben Hur.  Panesar photoed by me from off the telly yesterday, rather dimly reproduced by pausing my tape machine.


And while googling for pictures of Hugh Griffith, I encountered this, which enables you to hear (although not see other than in a still shot) that brilliant snatch of dialogue between Kenneth Griffith (who died on June 25th of this year) and Hugh Grant in Four Weddings.

“How do you do.  My name’s Charles.”

“Don’t be ridiculous!  Charles died twenty years ago.”

“Must be a different Charles, I think.”

“Are you telling me I don’t know my own brother?”


It’s the speed with which this conversation careers into a parallel universe which is so beautiful.  I love that film.  Nobody else seems to, apart from the general public, but to hell with that.

Tomorrow, assuming all goes approximately to plan, I will be recording a conversation between me and Adriana Cronin-Lukas.  Many of my readers will know exactly who this person is.  (She’s the one kneeling and Billion Monkeying here.) To those who ask: who she? I reply by copying and pasting the following:

Someone who left a very strong impression upon me, even before we got to know one another more, was Adriana Cronin-Lukas. There are few people in life with whom you connect on very intense levels, and know that your meeting was not a coincidence. Adriana is one of those people, to me (and others, of that I am sure). In addition to speaking at industry events - as she did the next day at Vloggercon on Net Neutrality - Adriana is making marks in the world as a Sherpa of social media, and then some.

When I met Adriana it was a coincidence.  But despite that, i.e. despite me being not only a devout atheist about God, but also a devout atheist about most of the God-substitutes that do the rounds these days (destiny, fate, California, manifest destiny, it was meant to be, etc. blah blah), we immediately became friends as if God Himself had deliberately introduced us.  It will be extremely interesting to see what kind of conversation we have, once my little podule machine is switched on.

As to that Sherpa reference, this insufficiently describes Adriana’s intentions towards the universe.  Although I suppose it is relevant that a Sherpa was equal first to the summit of Everest.

The only reason I mention this is that I just had an hour on the phone with Adriana by way of preparatory chitchat, which left no time for me to say anything much else here this evening.

I wonder what Adriana would think of this.  Maybe I’ll ask her.  I suspect she wouldn’t be totally hostile, because what Adriana C-L and Alice B-S have in common is an extreme dislike of dishonesty.

Tragically, as a result of communing with Adriana, I will probably miss the recorded highlights on the telly of day two of this, which today was really good:


Thursday July 27 2006

Tonight I scored a great social success by recounting, to two delightful young ladies who were hanging upon my every word, Micklethwait’s Law of Negotiated Misery.  Hurrah!  Young ladies do not hang upon my every word all that often.  When they do, it’s an Event.

Yet, tragically, my own life is now being scripted by this same law.  I get paid dribs and drabs of money to write Proper Blog Postings, because, although pretty good at this, I am now rather fed up with it, which means that people will now pay me at least some money to do this.

But when it comes to Billion Monkey photography, which I am also getting to be quite good at, I still get paid nothing.  Why?  Because I love it.

Last Saturday, for instance, I was invited to attend the naming ceremony and subsequent party for the recently acquired baby daughter of Tim and Helen Evans, and to bring my best camera.  “Tell me what we owe you,” said Helen, at one point during the afternoon, as I snapped away happily.  At which point the fateful words just leapt out of my mouth: “Oh, please, this is my present to Her Highness”, or words to that effect.

On Monday night, at that Globalisation Institute jamboree (see my photos here, here, here, and of course here (i.e. here)), it was the same story.  Think nothing of it dear boy, they’re on me.  And oh, the thrill of a personal name credit at Guido.  This is the poshest thing I have done, social kudos wise, since I deputised a couple of times for David Starkey on the Moral Maze.

I also love to podcast, heaven help me, and am fixed to do several more podcasts with several Really Interesting People in the days and weeks and months to come.  In exchange for no money whatsoever.  Also, thin end of the wedge, I’ve already done some podcasting – i.e. recording of other people talking, but into my kit – for other people, without me talking at all.  That’s how much I now like podcasting.

What’s the betting that in five years time, I am (a) being paid to do Billion Monkeying, and (b) being paid to Podcast, and that I hate both.

The universe.  Sometimes I really do not like it.

Or maybe it’s just that I spent two and half hours watching a really depressing Romanian Film, in a cinema with friends (which means no switching channels or going away), which was so depressing that eventually it became very diverting.  Nothing like the misfortunes of others to cheer you up, I always say.

Some quite pretty looking woman in a late night telly show has just said: “Is it just me, or is the whole world just falling to pieces?” It’s not just you dear.  And as if to prove my point, the man she said this to replies with his own contribution to universal happiness: “Everything good in my life is just sliding away, and there’s nothing I can do about.”

I’m definitely going to go on banging on about Micklethwait’s Law of Negotiated Misery, though.  I will never make any money out of it, though, because I like it too much.  Although I suppose one day I may get fed up with it, at which point people will then pay me to bang on about it, the way they don’t have to now.

Tuesday July 25 2006

Yesterday evening I was the officially appointed Billion Monkey at a GI party at 11 Carlton House Terrace, which is the Foreign Press Association!  Some of my snaps were used by Alex Singleton at the GI Blog, and some were used by Guido Fawkes!  I also stuck some more of these snaps up at Samizdata!


Guido had a camera with him, but my photos must have been better!

Other Billion Monkeys were also there!  Like this one!


. . . and this one!


And she played some Billion Monkey games . . .


. . . with her strict (see comment number 12 at Guido) friend!

Monday July 24 2006

Last night I made a small breakthrough with my little Panasonic camera, which is a DMC-LZ1.  For several weeks now I’ve taken the occasional snap with this camera without the little “SD” storage card.  Trouble is, I couldn’t then get these pictures out, because the little wire that connects the camera up to the computer doesn’t work.  However, last night I had a fiddle with the nobs on the camera, and found a way to copy these pictures, hitherto lost in limbo, displayable on the camera but otherwise inaccessible, onto the SD storage card, and thence into the computer.

Most of them were pretty poor, but one, of roof clutter on top of MI6, is excellent.  The roof clutter is, anyway:


Of such small victories is happiness painfully assembled.



Actually that’s not quite the shot, because in her snap she was holding her camera sideways not up and down.

I will have to get her to give me a tutorial about how to photograph indoors, in artificial light.  I use “automatic” for everything.  Maybe I could do better.

Saturday July 22 2006

Okay I’ll try again.

I arrived at Lords just before the tea interval.  Had I waited a further half hour I would have had to pay only £10 instead of the all day price of £20, but I wanted to press on with my day, and was immediately rewarded with a siting of my first of several celebs.

Yes, Boris, braying in his Boris voice that “It’s a draw”.  Behind Boris, that Space Pod is actually the new (by Lords standards) Media Centre, which is one of my favourite new buildings in the whole world.


As he walked past me, I grinned at him and said “Celeb”, and he grinned dutifully back.  Celebs are fair photographic game, is the agreed point.  Not that the distinction between celebs and civilians bothers me much.

Boris was eventually proved quite right about the result, but almost the first bit of action I personally set eyes on was the fall of the fourth Pakistani wicket.  Faizal Iqbal, our second ball in the first innings, was finally out in the second, caught Cook bowled Panasar.

This picture only shows the general view that I first saw, from the back of the stand to the immediate left of the Space Pod.


But zoom in a bit and you can see the England side in a huddle on the left, celebrating, and Faizal, with his back to us, trudging back to the pavilion.


A couple more wickets soon after tea and it would have been game on.  I wrote last Monday about how Pakistani batsmen like to play shots and might be unsettled by having to grind out a draw, and England captain Strauss in his after-match interviews said the same thing.  His plan was that England didn’t have to worry about runs and could pile on the pressure.  But as he also acknowledged, Pakistan batted well under said pressure.  Abdul Razzaq, who was exactly the kind of dashing stroke player that I and Strauss thought might lose patience, and Pakistan captain Inzaman-ul-Haq calmly batted out the final session, and I contented myself with taking snaps of what action there was.  These few are the best.


My favourite is the second one.  That must be a Pakistani physio sitting on top of Razzaq, but what on earth are they doing?  And a couple of the England guys appear to be drinking Toilet Duck.

But one moment Inzy was stroking it around for ones, twos and fours, and the next moment they were all shaking hands and it was finished, England being accompanied back to the pavilion by a man with one of the very latest hand-held miniature TV cameras.

I also photoed the ground as a whole, of course.  Cricket grounds are special, because, being so big, they are not all one big lump of unified stuff, however stylish.  The best ones, Lords definitely being a great example, are stylish in a quite different way, having several stylish buildings all jumbled together.  The first of these shots is cute and arty, but the best architectural snaps turned out to be panoramic, in a way that gives you a feeling of what it’s like to be there.


And, of course, I kept my eyes and lens open for Billion Monkeys.  But at first I saw hardly any.  Maybe they felt intimidated and even superfluous.  Great sports, such as cricket, have always been very, very happy hunting grounds for Real Photographers, and the ground was also dotted with film crews.


So instead of snapping spectators with cameras, I began by merely snapping the most interesting looking spectators, with my camera:


If those last two, Flintoff (the news on that front has suddenly turned bad again) and the Pindi Express, had been playing, it would have made a better game of it, and there would almost certainly have been a result.

At first, as I say, few Billion Monkeys, but then, as I moved ground the ground towards the pavilion, from stand to stand, especially after the game was over and they were setting up the little end-of-match presentation ceremony on the far left as I first saw the ground, I started to notice Billion Monkeys, and by the end of my day I had quite a decent collection:


Another classic water bottle snap there (number 3) and an excellent Monkey self portrait shot (number 6) to add to the collection.

Next, a couple of snaps of Channel 5 TV commentator Mark Nicholas and his gang, first waiting to do, and then doing, their thing, interviewing players etc.  Nicholas is in the dark suit, with the mike.  And unless I am grievously mistaken, that’s Boycott in the hat.  The celeb count was starting to rise!


Going back to that last of the Billion Monkey shots above, that hubbub, which happened outside the pavilion after the game was over, was, when I photoed it, just a hubbub.  I just stuck my camera in the air and tried to get all the other Billion Monkeys in action.  Snap snap snap snap.  (The marginal cost of digital photography is zero.  Underspend on cameras and overspend on storage media.  Blah blah.) But who or what was being hubbubbed?

It was only when I got home and took a more careful look at my snaps, on my computer screen instead of on the silly little screen on my camera, that I found out who the fuss was about.  Yes, Ian Botham!  I had been within about twelve feet of God, and I hadn’t even known it.


And then there were these guys.  They weren’t being mobbed madly, but they were being treated with way above average respect.  Signatures were being solicited.  Billion Monkeys were snapping.


Again, I only worked them out when I got home.  These guys were the umpires, Simon Taufel and Steve Bucknor.

The most pleasing snap of my entire day in the “what have we hear?” category was one of the Media Centre.


Yes, that media centre.

But now look at this snap:


In the 500 pixels wide version that you see without clicking on that, you just get a jumble, but when you click, you start to see that there are people there.  So let’s crop out these guys . . .


. . . and click on them.

That’s right.  Those are Test Match Special radio commentators.  It says so, on the sign.

Jonathan Agnew is clearly visible through the open window (which I seem to recall TMS demanded as a condition of operating in the Media Centre), and on his left and our right is Mike Gatting.  More dimly visible, but still definitely visible, to Gatting’s left, is Christopher Martin-Jenkins.  Did I ever tell you people that I was at school with CM-J.  Probably I did.  Well, anyway.  I was.  He was the captain of cricket in his last year, being an okay batter and an okay medium pace bowler.  But he also excelled in the end of term Footlights type review and was also very brainy, and I have not been at all surprised by his subsequent career path.

My camera has far better eyesight than I have.  It has a x12 zoom.  Bringing a camera to an event about quadruples the total pleasure I get from the event, because when I get home, I don’t just remember what I already saw; I get to see things which I did not see at all the first time around.  Without the camera, £10 would have been a bit steep for this Lords visit, given how flat the cricket turned out to be.  With the camera, £20 was a stunning bargain.  Best value entertainment I’ve had in a very long time.

Final shots:


On the left, W. G. Grace and an appropriately named roller.  On the right, two towers, glimpsed through a gap, on the way out.  Yes two towers.  Mostly that’s the tower of the Regents Park Mosque, but directly behind it is the BT Tower.

Because, when you think about it, this England v. Pakistan cricket match was, in its polite and good-humoured way, a clash of civlisations.  There’s a whole Samizdata posting to be done in connection with these snaps, in which the fact that the Pakistan cricket team has recently got more Muslim.  See in particular Mohammed Yousuf.

One of the reasons Strauss and I were disappointed at how patiently the Pakistanis batted in this game was that these Pakistani players have become more disciplined in their religious observances, as a team, encouraged by captain Inzamam, and as a result more disciplined as cricketers.

But I don’t want to suggest that this was a clash of civilisations in a bad way.  As I hope you can see from my pictures, Asian-descended and white Brits, and all shades and ethnicities and nationalities in between and all around, all mingled contentedly.  There was no “news”, i.e. unpleasantness, whatsoever.  (One of the things I like about the Internet is that it enables you to learn about non-news, satisfactory, nice-to-be-there events such as this one, in far away countries such as mine may be for you, instead of just about wars and famines and catastrophes.  The news at Lords last Monday was that it was a draw.  Yawn.  And the sun shone.  Nil all with three to play.  Nothing happened.

And all this at a time when the news type news in other parts of the Islam versus the Rest part of the world could hardly be worse.

With my favourite photographs, they often stick around on my hard disc and refuse to be ignored.  Finally, I surrender to them and stick them up.  Here are two favourites which I took about six weeks ago:


Click to get the bigger versions.

Both are of Westminster Cathedral, one of my very favourite London buildings, and both are shot from just inside the new retail palace across Victoria Street from the Cathedral, which has a kind of internal street through it along which you can see the Cathedral and in particular the tower of the Cathedral, which is one of my favourite towers in London.  And both snaps involve reflections off the shop windows on either side of this internal street.

I’m sitting here listening to Thomas Zehetmair playing the Brahms Violin Concerto, on the radio, Proms.  I missed the start, and before that, Schumann and Ligeti.  Curses.  I would especially have liked to hear the Ligeti.  However, the Brahms is very fine.  He found some really weird and otherworldly sounds in the first movement, and the cadenza sounded as if it was by Ysaye.  (Zehetmair having recently having had a big CD hit with the Ysaye solo violin sonatas.) Not at all your average sweet toothed wallow.


They’ve now reached the last movement, and neither this nor the slow movement before it sound or sounded quite as interesting.  I think the tendency is for most performances of this piece to sound approximately the same in those last two movements.  The first is where the soloist is both most tested and has most opportunities to make you really sit up and notice.

Ah!  The whole concert is being repeated on Radio 3 on Monday afternoon.  And it’s available for the next week as an “audio phile” whatever that means.  I haven’t had much luck getting my computer to play audio files of late.

Friday July 21 2006

This has so far not been this blog’s most glorious week.  The Lords pictures are all recomposed and ready to go up, but I still have to recompose the patter in between them.  The effort to rescue the Word file today ended in failure, very quickly.  Tomorrow maybe.  Like I say, doing it is much easier than blogging it.  So, more stream of consciousness drivel.

Here is a quote from an otherwise extremely forgettable romantic comedy, called Failure to Launch, concerning which critical responses have veered between okay and vomit.  Sarah Jessica Parker to Matthew McConaughey:

Do you want to spend the rest of your life having fun?  Or do you want to spend it with me?

imageI watched that last night, while redoing those pictures.  I thought it was well-executed garbage.  Is this better than good stuff badly done?  Often.

On the right, a different picture, of my friend Michael taken by my friend Elena, with Michael’s mobile phone.

Next, cricket news.  Today, Justin Langer played his first and according to the BBC maybe his last game for Somerset, against Surrey, who took an uncharacteristic hammering in the field.  Somerset made 668-8. of which Langer made 342.  So, he shows up for one game, and not even one game in Somerset, scores a triple century, and immediately buggers off back to Australia.  How cool is that?

Very cool indeed, unlike the London weather.  However, my refrigeration by hot bath (see previous posting but one) is working amazingly well, even if no commenter has yet explained it.  The latest effort is hopeless.  You just stand something cold next to something hot, and the hotness is drained out of the hotness.  But the point is, refrigeration makes coldness out of nothing.  Obviously if you put very very cold stuff next to averagely cold stuff, the cold stuff gets even colder, but that’s only if you start with very very cold stuff.  With a lot of coldness you can obviously contrive some moderate coldness.  But that’s not refrigeration.  Refrigeration is when you don’t have any very cold coldness to start with, only some electicity, but that at the end of it, you have icecubes etc.  As the man said: How do make a small fortune in sport?  You start with a large fortune.

News re the Middle East.  President Bush today summed up his view with one of those calculated Presidential asides, along the lines of: If Hizbollah stop with all their shit, then it’s problem solved.  Google google, yes, here we go:

“See, the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hizbullah to stop doing this shit and it’s over.”

Hizbollah, Hizbullah, Hezbollah.  I vote Hizb Allah.

Michael Portillo, on BBC1’s late night TV poltical chitchat show thought this latest Bushism to be unpardonably “simplistic”.  Ah yes, two plus two equals four.  How primitive.  We sophisticates know better.

And that concludes today’s obligatory posting.  On this blog you get guaranteed quantity (one posting per day) but quality fluctuates wildly, between postings and, as today, within postings.

Thursday July 20 2006

It is already midnight, and I am still slaving away with those Lords pictures, having been enticed away for a drink earlier in the evening.  Patience.  I really want to put them to bed tonight, before putting myself to bed.

UPDATE: Lords pictures not pending.  Concocted huge Word document, then Windows contrived not only to crash, but while doing that to bugger up the file and turn it into a uniform slab of gibberish.  Now seeking expert advice to recover earlier version of the same file, to save some of (about a day of) work I did.  Insert the most violent expletives you know to communicate to yourself how I now feel.

Wednesday July 19 2006

I should get out less.

Yesterday I went to Lords, just as I said I might.  It was really interesting and great fun, despite being a draw, and I have forty five photographs to show you of that.  So today, I prepared the photos for blogification, but I still haven’t finished.  Then this evening, when I could have been finishing that, I went to a book launch, and like a fool I promised I’d read the book and blog something about it.  And as if that wasn’t enough, tomorrow, I think I’ll be going to East London to photo London from the top of a tower.  All of these things take far longer to blog about than they do to do.  And the result of that is that I have to interrupt blogging about all the stuff that I have to blog about, if only because of all the wine I drank at the book launch, in order to blog something, but something that is about nothing and is therefore easier to write.  Life is a succession of self-imposed obligations that mean nothing and impress nobody, then you die.

So anyway, here’s a picture of me that someone else took, on their camera, which I then photographed, at that book launch.  Luckily, I had my own permission, but even if I hadn’t, I would have gone ahead and stuck this up here anyway, because in my opinion I wouldn’t have minded, and would in fact have been rather flattered.


Last weekend I went to supper at Michael Jennings’s, and the subject of refrigeration came up, by which I mean that I brought it up.  How the hell does it work?

Various futile attempts were made to explain the process to me.  However, I did get some advice.  When it’s hot, don’t take a cold bath.  That will only make you hot as soon as you step out of it.  Take a really hot bath.  This will refrigerate you as soon as you get out of it.  And you will sweat less.

Ridiculous.  So I tried it today.  And it worked.

It’s one thing for something to work that you don’t understand that you are not personally involved with, like a rocket that flies to the moon or a microchip that fits the whole of Wisden onto a thing the size of a centipede’s fingernail.  But when you do a piece of A level physics to your own body and it works but you don’t know why, that is peculiar.

Maybe the internet can tell me.  Quoth Wikipedia:

Refrigeration is defined as the process of removing heat from an enclosed space or from a substance and rejecting it elsewhere, for the primary purpose of lowering the temperature of the enclosed space or substance and then maintaining that lower temperature.

Refrigeration is, in short, refrigeration.  But how the hell do you do that?

The internet has failed.  It is telling me that light is produced by a luminiferous emanation, and that when I get a pain in my stomach this is caused by the fact that my stomach has a pain in it.

I know that refrigeration means things getting colder through energy being somehow squirted through them.  But how does that work?  Usually, when you stuff something with electricity or cover it with very, very hot water, the way I covered myself with very, very hot water this afternoon, it gets very, very hot.  So, why does it get cold instead?

If I don’t get any coherent answers here, I shall have to ask the Samizdata commentariat.  You have been warned.

Monday July 17 2006

England have finally declared against Pakistan, and are now trying, on the last day, with lunch approaching, to bowl Pakistan out and win.  England batted on this morning to make entirely sure that Pakistan couldn’t win, leaving Pakistan a notional 380 to get in two and half sessions.  The radio commentators whom I now depend on are being scornful of England’s timidity.

I think there may be a little more to it than this.  Strauss has already said that he hopes for great things from Harmison.  Don’t we all?  But England’s pace attack is rather weak, in the absence of both Flintoff and Jones.  If the quicks don’t do it for England captain Strauss, the way they so totally didn’t do it for England captain Strauss in the one-dayers, Harmison included, then Strauss must surely also be hoping for something special from Monty Panesar.  And I suspect that we may also be seeing (those of us with Sky TV i.e. not me) quite a lot of Kevin Pietersen’s spin bowling, in harness with Panesar.  Remember that Pietersen took a wicket, his first in test cricket, in the first innings of this match.  That perhaps being so, Strauss wanted to make sure that he didn’t have to worry about the very talented Pakistan middle order getting close enough to make a dash for it at the end, if wickets do not materialise.  If they do get to the dashing bit, then in Shahid Afridi they have just the man for the job.  By batting on, Strauss ensured that Harmison and Plunkett can bowl as much crap as they like in the effort to take a wicket or two, and Pietersen ditto.  Remember how easily Sri Lanka got 330 in the last (I think it was) of the one-dayers?  You can see Strauss’s point of view.

I also suspect that Pakistanis are the kind of cricketing matadors who prefer chasing heroically to grafting tediously, and might even lose more wickets if obliged to do the latter than if able plausibly to attempt the former.  Forced to graft, they may still take the occasional swipe, while simultaneously knowing that they shouldn’t.  They are thus now exactly where England want them to be all day: in two minds.

Anyway Pakistan are now batting.  Their top three batters seem to be second-stringers, who have, like nightwatchmen, to be removed before the real business of the day, trying to see off Yousuf and Inzy, can get under way.  Two of the top three are now out, both courtesy of Hoggard, and the third of them sounds like he won’t last much longer.  Yousuf is already at the crease, with Inzy the next in.  I think I just might take a trip to Lords.  With my camera.

Meanwhile: Surrey.  Hurrah!

Lunch.  43/2.  Vee shall zee.

I am about to concoct, in the small hours of Monday morning, as is my weekly custom, my next posting for the CNE Competition blog.  It will be about Tesco, and what a fine institution it is.  In particular, I will be referring to the spectacular price differences to be experienced when you visit Tesco . . .


. . . and when you go somewhere else.


You have to look a bit harder at that second picture, but in that, you can, if you try, observe that Red Bull now costs £1.19.  That’s now a 50p difference, and I have seen Red Bull costing a lot more even than £1.19, nearer to £1.50.

LATER: Well, I’ve sent off my CNE bit, and will link to it from here as soon as it goes up.  But one other thing.  I couldn’t help noticing the extreme contrast between how interesting and informative the Red Bull entry at Wikipedia, linked to above, is, compared to the bland bullshit that the Red Bull enterprise itself offers, most of it about cars and airplanes and not about fizzy drinky stuff at all.  It’s almost as if they don’t want to talk about their actual product, even that they think there might be something wrong with it.  So, sponsor an F1 team!  Have an air race!  But forget the fiz itself.

That Wikipedia entry contains an interesting link to something about the health hazards of Red Bull consumption.  I may well follow those up, and if I find things I don’t like, I might drop the habit.  If that happens, I won’t care how many stupid racing cars they pay for F1 maniacs to drive at two hundred mph.

Here is the July manifestation of what we hope will be an approximately monthly Alex Singleton/Brian Micklethwait mp3 chat about classical music.

We began by talking about Gramophone, the classical recordings magazine which started a long time ago, hence the name.  Then we briefly talked about the idea of including little snippets of music in these mp3s of ours, much as Rob Cowan and Leif Ove Andsnes do in their conversation on the latest Gramophone cover CD.  (I mistakenly said that this was in the BBC Music Magazine cover CD, when in fact it is the latest Gramophone CD.  Apologies all round.) Alex and I like the idea of including bits of music, but I fear the (not that great unless you’re me) technical complexity of doing that, and we both fear the cost of such snippets.  Could we perhaps find bits of music that we could use for free?  All suggestions welcome.

That muddle about saying BBC Music Magazine instead of Gramophone was only the first of several cock-ups I perpetrated.  I simply could not remember a couple of names of operas which I should have know (a symptom of advancing years I fear), namely (now I can think of them) Lakmé and The Abduction from the Seraglio.

The worst mistake I made by far was getting my Richard Strauss chronology in a twist.  I accused him of getting nastier and more bitter in his composing as he got older, when in truth it was the opposite.  I had the two somewhat scary Strauss operas, Elektra and Salome, in mind.  As this chronology shows, they are early works.  Der Rosenkavalier came just after those two, and Arabella was much later.

I hope the above blemishes do not spoil things for those of you who decide to give this mp3 a go.

We also talked about Mozart’s operas, in particular The Marriage of Figaro, which Alex especially likes, and The Magic Flute, which is my favourite Mozart opera.

I also mentioned a couple of more recent operas, namely Nixon in China by John Adams and Akhnaten by Philip Glass.  There seems to be no DVD of Akhnaten, and the only DVD I can find of Nixon in China is this, which seems to be a somewhat sub-par exercise in pointing a camera at a stage production.

Next month: Saint-Saens!  Don’t ask me why, but I will ask Alex.  He asks the questions, and chooses the subject matter.  Happily, I very much like Saint Saens, especially Piano Concerto No. 4, the first Piano Trio and the sublime Carnival of the Animals.  We both like the Organ Symphony.

Saturday July 15 2006

I was on my way last night to a Putney Debate, eloquently addressed by Paul Coulam on the future of the Libertarian Alliance.  (Under the methodical and cash seeking leadership of Evans and Gabb, the LA does now seem to have quite a bright future.  A blog is due Real Soon Now.) And, as I often like to do, I went by the longer but more scenic route from Putney Bridge to Festing Road, i.e. alongside the river, where all the Boat Race type boats live, and where the Boat Race itself starts.

I have walked along that bit of the river often, but have never observed anything like this before:


They don’t call the lower stretches of the Thames the Tideway for nothing.  This would have been a better quota photo last night than the one I actually used.

I’m sure that this guy would have something to say about the excessive light in the top left of the shot, but the important thing for me was to get the line of detritus, together with the river and the slope on the left and some boats etc. on the right, to illustrate how this happened and where we are.

Out and about doing all kinds of things, plus there is a test match to attend to, so . . . Quota Photo time!


I have been classifying my many Billion Monkey photos by themes, like Where The Camera Is Really Clear, Where You Can See The Picture On The Screen, Billion Monkey Ladies With Bags, Billion Monkeys Pointing Upwards, and so on and so forth.  I also need another, called Billion Monkeys Hold Tight To Their Drinks, of which this one is one of the best so far.  I knew you’d be excited.

Friday July 14 2006

Guido Fawkes has had a good week, even by his own exalted standards.

I particularly liked this:

What does it tell the rotting body politic when this blog alone, according to web analysts Hitwise, is now receiving a larger share of visits than either the website for the Tory Party or the Labour Party. This has been going on for months (not just recently).

Guido has a policy of not doing interviews or of giving newspapers quotes, because unless it is live or you control the article yourself, you will be edited to fit the narrative. The narrative currently is that a conspiracy of politically motivated bloggers are doing down Prescott. The reality is that the truth is doing down Prescott. The truth will also bring down Levy . . .

I like that, especially the stuff about Guido doing better than the big two parties.  But I’m not sure that I agree with the last bit.  Whether and which bits of the truth are made to count for anything are surely the questions that matter.  Thanks to Guido, the bits relating to Prescott and Levy now count for that much more than they would have done otherwise.

The fact that “the truth” is now, finally, starting to hurt this government, even though for many years similar truths seemed just not to impinge, is not because of a few bloggers.  For another truth is that what used to be called Fleet Street has turned, or has now been turned by its various owners, firmly against New Labour.  Maybe the lobby correspondents continue to give the government as easy a ride as they can contrive, but journalists who are less closely connected to New Labour are now sticking the knife in, in a way that they weren’t as little as a year ago.

My understanding is that the “conspiracy” of which Guido is a part includes mainstream journalists.  As Antoine explained in our last mp3, they tell Guido some juicey titbit.  Guido reports it.  Iain Dale reports that Guido reported it.  The journalists can then report that “internet sites” reported it - the plural being quite important because it makes omitting the actual names of the “internet sites” a lot less ridiculous.  Which, after all, is true.  Internet sites did report it.

This is how Private Eye has always worked, and presumably still does, although I don’t read that very much now.  And I seem to recall a guy called Claude Cockburn who did a thing called The Week in the 1930s.  Yes.

Cockburn was a Communist.  The Private Eye writers, ideologically, were and are anything from Paul Foot to Christopher Booker, whoever has dirt dishing skills.  The fact that Guido is a Cobdenite (the preferred noughts label for a social and economic libertarian) says much about the times we now live in.  Whoever is the conduit for the stories that everyone knows but which nobody can prove, or dares to print, also gets to aim the scandal hose with special force at people of whom he disapproves.  As that last link illustrates, it makes Guido’s writing a lot more attractive that he is not a team player, so, when he has nice things to say about . . . Cobdenites, you are inclined to believe that he means them.

Guido tells his own story, imposes his own narrative.  Think about who is reading him.  Never mind those journalists, I’m thinking of all the mischief minded sixth formers and students, eager to soak themselves in the swim of things, and now able to do it with the click of a mouse.  That’s how important Guido’s narrative now is.

Thursday July 13 2006

imageSince I became a Billion Monkey and have started taking my little pocket-sized digital camera with me whenever I go out, as a matter of routine, I see the world differently and with greater alertness.  How many times have I emerged from South Kensington tube station?  A lot of times.  How often have I noted the statue on one of the traffic islands outside that tube station, of the composer Béla Bartók?  Tonight was the first time.  I was with friends and snapped hurriedly, not lingering.  On the right is the least unsatisfactory of the snaps I took.  It misses his face, but gets his name.

So how long has this statue been there?  I don’t know.  Maybe the internet does.  Yes, of course.  Wikipedia:

A statue of Bartók by Imre Varga, was unveiled on 2nd October 2004 outside South Kensington tube station in London.

Maybe I’ve not been back to this station between then and now.

I’ve never really taken to Bartók’s music, merely to a few particular works, such as the Third Piano Concerto (I got to know this with and still love above all others the old Geza Anda/Ferenc Fricsay DGG recording), the Concerto For Orchestra, and the String Quartets, especially No. 2, but perhaps I only like the string quartets because I like the sound of almost all string quartets.

I also have a beautiful old CD of Bluebeard’s Castle, which I liked a lot when I first acquired it, and which I keep meaning to listen to again.  My CD was one of those on the cover of the BBC Music Magazine.  It was sung in English, unlike most recordings of this work.  I remember that Sally Burgess, as Bluebeard’s latest of several wives, sounded especially lovely.  She has recently recorded this work again, again in English, for Chandos, and I heard some of that when it was the CD Review CD of the week, last week I think.  But she didn’t sound as good as I remember her from that earlier CD.  That often happens with singers.  By the time they get good and famous, the voice has gone to the land of wobble.

Here is another photo of the statue that shows more of how the head looks.

There doesn’t appear to be any direct Bartók link with Kensington, or not that I have found.  He didn’t stay there for a few months or anything like that, the way the young Mozart stayed in Ebury Street, there being a statue of the young Mozart in the adjoining Orange Square.

UPDATE: James Hamilton to whom thanks emails this link, which reveals that there is a Bartók Kensington connection, and a blue circle:

. . .  In 1921, Warlock visited Bartók in Budapest and helped plan Bartók’s London début in 1922.

That’s songwriter Peter Warlock.

In March 1997, it was therefore the Peter Warlock Society, in conjunction with English Heritage, who arranged for a blue plaque for Bela Bartók in London SW7, near South Kensington station, at 7 Sydney Place, the home of Sir Duncan and Lady Wilson, who hosted all Bartók’s visits to Britain from 1922 to 1937.

You learn fast on the internet.

Tuesday July 11 2006

In my opinion people routinely underestimate the importance of the one clickness of the blogosphere.  The blogosphere makes it easy to get to places and start reading or watching.  For instance, today, I got, with one click, which worked, from here, which I regularly visit, to this, which I had never seen before.  And more to my point here, I don’t understand You Tube yet, because that would now take me several clicks.

Perhaps one reason why people underestimate the importance of one clickness is that to explain it really well, you would have to explain how frequently you get lost when it gets beyond one click, and you don’t like to do that because it makes you sound like a fool.  But you aren’t a fool.  You just get fed up with the irritation of it all, while all the while being acutely aware that with all those millions of one click options out there, where it does not get irritating, so why bother when the clicks start to multiply?

Yet if they try to explain any of that, pompous asses will queue up to say: all you have to do to sort that out is metagrobulise the back-end fidget.  That’s it.  That’s all you have to do.  Which bit of metagrobulise the back-end fidget don’t you get? Alas, too many of us have learned, perhaps in our schools, that ignorance is a crime, when in truth it is our natural state with regard to almost everything in the entire world and not to be apologised about in any way.  Me knowing more than you do about e.g. Mozart’s 23rd piano concerto (see immediately below), in the probable event that I do (although there is much about it that I do not know, e.g. how to play it), is evidence not of my superiority over you, merely evidence that different people like to acquaint themselves with different things.  And such is the abundance of things that one can now very easily investigate that even very big prejudices - such as: I can’t be doing with any classical music, let alone any particular bit of classical music – can be entirely rational, even essential.  For many, many persons now, the blogosphere is the place where we can put into practice the prejudice that if it ain’t easy to get to it, to hell with it.  The pompous asses (who invariably turn out under cross examination to have prejudices just as big on account of not being complete idiots) who say that this is evidence of our moral turpitude and general failure to understand even the simplest of things can go and metagrobulise their back-ends.

Sometimes you can improve even on one click, and get the click count down to zero, which is even better.  I like to copy pictures that I encounter elsewhere and that I like and stick them up here.  That way, you can enjoy them with no click at all.

image  image

Of course I also include a click to where I found the photos, so that with just one click you can learn who took them and how they feel about them.  That’s only polite.  And more to the point, very easy to do and to make use of.

imageLast Friday evening I went to the theatre, with my actress friend Elena and some friends of hers.  It was Keith Waterhouse’s play about the Spectator (among other organs) columnist Jeffrey Bernard, who used to drink a lot.  In the original production Bernard was played by - “the role was created by” - Peter O’Toole.  In this production, Bernard was Tom Conti.  I never saw O’Toole in this part, and last Friday was my first taste of this play.  My first sip, you might say.  Apart, that is, from occasionally reading the Spectator Low Life column while Bernard was still writing it.

And very tasty and entertaining the play was.  The set is excellent.  It’s a Soho pub, the Coach and Horses, which is apparently very famous, not least because of this play.  None of the lines in this set are properly parallel, even the picture frames being mis-shapen.  The verticals converge as you go upwards, like one of my digital photos of skyscrapers, and the floor slopes downwards, both so that we can see it better, and so that the feeling of not being able to stand up very well is reinforced, and Conti doesn’t have to be a drunk on a sober-looking stage.  (There is a small picture of Tom Conti on the set here, together with other good pictures

The show is basically a one-hander, but there are four other actors, two men (one middle aged and slightly fat, one young and good looking) and two ladies (both lovely figures, the blonde particularly nice looking), to play various friends, employers, jockeys, lovers, doctors, nurses, policemen, wives, and (two of my favourites) Mr and Mrs Backbone of England, who say nothing at all very loudly and at length in a country pub, during one of Bernard’s doomed marriages when he is trying to live in the country.  Most of these various people come on and then disappear, often after just the one line, very quickly, either by walking onto the stage and then off, or by appearing at a window with a sliding door at the top right hand side of the stage.  It all adds to the sense of drunken memories flitting hither and thither.  The best of these other actors was Royce Mills, who did all the slightly fat characters, on account – see above - of him being slightly fat himself.

I can’t honestly say that this play is “about” anything very much, other than about a funny drunk guy and his funny friends and acquaintances.  But I didn’t find myself grumbling about what it cost me (£17.50) at any stage during the evening.  I did worry about what the popularity of this play and the fact that the audience was enjoying it so much says about the State of Britain Today, blah blah blah, but not enough to spoil my enjoyment.

I knew as soon as it started, with the opening bars of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major K488.  Apparently Bernard was, just like me, brought up to love classical music, and whenever some outraged wife or girlfriend chucked him out into the street and he had to lug his suitcase and bags about looking for somewhere to crash, he always included Mozart tapes in his luggage.

Good man.  And I think this is a clue to the appeal of this play, and of this character.  Just like Mozart, Jeffrey Bernard was gentle, friendly, charming, on the surface, and as with instrumental music, nothing very obvious is happening.  There is no obvious story.  It’s not about anything, except whatever happenes to be in our protagonist’s head.  But, just beneath the charming surface there are undercurrents and hints of tragedy.  Sometimes, an abyss is glimpsed, and then, just as suddenly, all is charm and light again.  (Think: last movement of Symphony No. 40 in G minor K550.  The music at one point seemingly disappears off a cliff, leaping from “Mozart” to pure twentieth century atonalism.  Then, a moment later, it is as if it never happened.)

One of Elena’s friends also saw the original Jeffrey Bernard - in the first production of this play, I mean - Peter O’Toole.  Not Jeffrey Bernard himself.  O’Toole’s Bernard was, she said, an altogether more dark and dangerous figure than Conti made him.  Conti did lots of byplay with the audience, like a stand-up comic.  O’Toole was a more distant figure, less concerned with what the audience made of him, more visibly and continuously contemplating the abyss than Conti.

However, Conti is not new to this part.  He first did Bernard twenty odd years ago.  I am unclear whether what I saw last Friday night is the same set and same production as the original O’Toole show.  I rather think it is.  Ned Sherrin has directed throughout, and Royce Mills acted alongside O’Toole.  So I’m guessing this is a revival rather than a new production.

Presumably, then, there was Mozart for O’Toole as well.

Monday July 10 2006

With apologies for the delay, here is the latest Brian and Antoine podcast, recorded (shamefaced look) last Wednesday.  Luckily there’s nothing in it that dates too badly.  (The next B&A Elections mp3 will be some time next month.)

Timings and topics:

START – 1 min 30 secs: Intro

1 min 30 – 10 mins 15 secs: UK political bloggers and the beginnings of real political impact, as conduits for rumour and scandal about New Labour, John Prescott etc.  Guido Fawkes the hero here, and also a belated nod to Iain Dale.  Reflections on the nature of Labour Party difficulties with sleaze – Antoine: “moral blind spot”.

10 mins 15 secs – 13 mins:  MexicoDead heat in the Presidential election.  Antoine: Had Chavez kept his mouth shut these last few months, his man Obrador would have won.

13 mins – 19 mins:  Bolivia.  Referendum about regional versus centralised power.  Lefty President wanted more centralisation, but if anything got even less.  The two richest provinces will now have more autonomy, and others may learn from that example.  Possible posting about that by me here?

19 mins – 36 mins.  China.  General discussion.  It’s now only elections for Communist Party positions, but every little helps.  More to report for the media.  Chinese media are reporting about democracy elsewhere.  Growth of trading interests.  Chinese elite don’t want war.  But do they repress or try to manage change?  Antoine: these things can change rapidly.  As this (recently linked to by Natalie) proves.

Sunday July 09 2006

From the chapter on Puccini in Michael Steen’s excellent and entertaining book The Lives and Times of the Great Composers (p. 819 of my paperback edition):

Massenet had been appointed professor of composition at the Conservatoire in 1878, a time when the middle-aged César Franck was still struggling for recognition.  This appointment had the effect of polarising French musicians: almost every French composer either followed Massenet’s style or loathed it.  In this respect, he had a considerable influence on the development of music in France.  Debussy expressed one point of view, witheringly: ‘His brethren could not easily forgive this power of pleasing which, strictly speaking, is a gift.  His is a delightful kind of fame, the secret envy of many of those artists who can only warm their hands at the somewhat pallid flame provided by the approbation of the elect.’ Massenet and his adherents were no more than charlatans, talentless mountebanks: ‘For them and their tawdry products one or two booths at a fair would be enough.’

And then comes this:

Puccini, however, modelled himself on Massenet.  He had no pretensions to high art; that did not interest him.  His interest in literature was utilitarian: a play or story was worth looking at if it could be made the basis of a libretto.  He had a sure eye for this, and Tosca, Madame Butterfly, La Fanciulla and Il Tabarro, are based on plays which had been clearly successful in the market place.  ‘He conceived an opera above all as a spoken drama to which music was to lend a third dimension.’ In this sense, he was the forerunner of the composers of musicals in the 20th century.

You can’t judge the artisticness of art merely by asking how artistic the artist was trying to be.

Saturday July 08 2006

Out and about this evening in Leicester Square, snapping at a Billion Monkey, and once again I snapped at the moment he snapped, and he was snapping with flash!


However, this time I didn’t get what he was snapping, the way I did last time.

The London papers and TV news have been full of 7/7 a year on, etc.  Personally I don’t think 7/7 was a big enough deal to make a difference, the way 9/11 was.  The people who thought Muslim loonies are loonies and we need to watch out they don’t do anything (else) crazy still think that.  And the people who thought we mustn’t upset Muslim loonies, in case they do something (else) crazy still think that.

So, not having anything much to say about that 7/7 thing, I have just settled down to watch Office Space on BBC, as instructed here.

“The thing is, it’s not that I’m lazy.  It’s that I just don’t care.”

That’s not me, you understand.  That’s the guy in Office Space.  Me, I don’t work in an office, and people don’t say to me if I could do X, that would be great, they just ask like civilised people.

I am watching this movie now even though I own it on DVD.  Odd.  I often do this with DVDs I own.  Something to do with wanting to share them with the rest of couch potatodom.

Thursday July 06 2006

Busy day, and going out this evening.  So quota photo:


I love a good vapour trail.  Plus muck on the lens isn’t always bad, and I think I see some.

Taken from my roof.  These things are easier to spot when you can see the various bits moving towards each other with a decent amount of warning.  Total cliché I know, but there are days here when you definitely only get what you pay for.

I may manage to get the latest Antoine and Brian podcast up later this evening, with notes and all.  We did it last night.  But then again, I may not.  Ditto.

Bugger.  Just realised I did a posting last night, or this morning, or some such time.  I could have spared you that.

From a BBC London TV report on the psychological difficulties still being endured by railway workers in the wake of the 7/7 London bomb attacks of last year:

It could well be that dormant emotions will be rekindled.

One of the signs of advancing age is that you start noticing a decline in the quality of spoken English.  Presumably spoken English has been in decline since it was first invented.

And metaphors have been mixed since the beginning of time.  At any given time, the stock of regular metaphors includes many that are mutating from being real metaphors that people register as metaphors, to being mere words.  The metaphorical vibes just get lost.  Younger people mix metaphors because to them, they aren’t metaphors any more, just words.  Only the old still notice.

I had already noticed this from Shiny Media, by finding the link to it chez Tim Worstall . . .

We are looking for a Cricket obsessive to be the new Editor of our blog The Googly.

You’ll need to able to post at least 5 times a day for which we’ll pay you a monthly retainer.

Ideally you’ll be based in the UK, but we won’t rule out Cricket-loving Aussies, Kiwis, Indians, Pakistanis or even Danes.

Email me here with your details. If you blog already so much the better.

. . . when I got an email from Jackie D just making sure that I’d registered it:

Shiny Media doesn’t pay well, from what I have heard, but I love that it’s now possible to make at least some pocket money from such an obsession!


I’m almost tempted to apply, just to see what kind of deal you can get for something like this.  Would it count for anything that I am distantly related to the bloke who invented the googly?  True.  My mother’s maiden name is Bosanquet.

In truth, however, I am probably not obsessive enough (five times a day!) and frankly don’t known enough, and haven’t been to enough proper cricket matches.  And if I did start going regularly, my eyesight wouldn’t be good enough.  Plus, I’d have to get Sky Sport, and if that happens, I can kiss the rest of my life goodbye.  I’d get nothing else done at all.

Tuesday July 04 2006

Antoine is now fully vindicated.  It was said that Obrador would win, but Antoine, as I reminded you all (!) yesterday (see previous posting here), had his doubts.  And he has been proved entirely right.  Conservative Calderon now looks to have won, very narrowly.

Now this:

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s conservative presidential candidate Felipe Calderon declared victory on Monday in a bitterly contested election and official returns appeared to show his leftist rival could no longer catch him.

Calderon had a lead of almost 400,000 votes over Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador with returns in from almost 98 percent of polling stations and a senior election official said it was unlikely to change with a recount ordered for later this week.

A Calderon victory would ensure Mexico sticks to the free-market policies of outgoing President Vicente Fox and hold steady as a U.S. ally, bucking a trend of Latin American nations who have turned to the left and away from Washington in recent years.

Somehow if Obrador were winning this thing very narrowly, I don’t think that Reuters would say in their headline that he “creeps” towards victory, do you?

I believe in specialist blogging, even though I haven’t been doing it lately.  (But stay tuned for my relaunched edublog.) And a specialist blog that ought to exist should be called something like the Global Conservative, Right Around The World, or some such.  Its purpose, quite explicitly and unashamedly, would be to find all the centre right parties around the world, and back them against the centre left and not so centre left parties, ditto.  Who are our guys?  What nice things can we say about them?  Who are their enemies?  What’s the dirt on them?  Etc.

So in this case, the message would be: hurrah!  Go Calderon!  Obrador, into the dustbin of history with you, you bad person, your mother smells of elderberries, etc.

I’m too much the loony libbo to doing this myself, far too old and far too lazy.  Also I am too much the cynic about all politicians wherever they are on the spectrum, and not that happy about the very idea of a spectrum.  Politics is politics is my attitude.  Above all, I just tend not to like Conservatives.  They are either pompous asses reeking of unearned entitlement, or creeps, I reckon.  The world has to have them, to keep all the idiot lefties under some kind of control, but I find it easier to admire Conservatives from afar.

But the world needs Global Guidos.  (Come to think of it, “Global Guido” would be a much better name for such a blog than anything with words like “Conservative” or “right” in the title.) Since at least 1848, the left has been more or less globally united.  One of the big consequences of blogging, historians may decide, may be that free marketeers (my preferred emphasis) around the world likewise got politically, rather than merely ideologically, joined up.  Let’s hope so.

Monday July 03 2006

It looks like Antoine, in our podcast last week (12 mins 10 secs – 14 mins 35 secs), called the Mexican Presidential election about right.

Another Brian and Antoine democratic chitchat goes into the magic mini-machine tomorrow evening.  This time, for the first time, we are doing it away from my home and hence away from my computer.  So there’ll be a much longer than usual wait to see if we actually recorded it half decently or not.  Wish us luck.

And thanks for the sporty comments Antoine.  Every little helps.  Allez France.

I spend far too much time and money hunting out bargain CDs, but I keep finding spectacular treasures, spectacular in quality and spectacular in price, so I can’t help myself.  (But expect further extraordinary photos of CD shelves spreading everywhere.)

Latest bargain, for the incredible price of One Pound Sterling (and you have no idea how good a CD can sound until you have bought a fabulous CD for only One Pound Sterling, and it turns out to be fabulous), this:


Profil is a somewhat unknown label over here, so I guess Neil The Man With The Classical CD Crates es in Lower Marsh just wanted to get rid of it quick.  And when the other Old Geezers saw £1 on it they figured it can’t be that good.  Wrong, other Old Geezers!  (I already had other CDs by the Voglers which I liked a lot, so, at £1, which is less than a tube fare, what’s to lose?)

After I’d listened to it, and decided to do a little write-up of it here, I went googling for a picture of it, and for general internet reaction.  And the internet loves this CD every bit as much as I do.

This actually is worth knowing.  If people who know and love this infinitely knowable and lovable work (the Quintet) rate this performance very, very highly, then that means it’s worth me listening to it lots more times.  This is because you almost never get everything you can out of a really good classical CD the first time around.  If others, who’ve listened six times and not just the once and who really know the piece, e.g. because they’ve played in it, say it’s fabulous, that’s a big encouragement.

The thing is, with classical music, there just isn’t time to rely entirely on your own judgements.

I have numerous recordings of the sublime String Quintet, but fewer of the filler on this CD, the must earlier String Quartet D87.  On this CD, this was especially beautiful, and I really listened to this piece properly for the first time.

What I really like about this CD is the recording, which does full justice to the fruity, Brahmsian lower notes played by the viola and the cellos.  While listening to the Quintet, I thought, well, that’s because there are two cellos.  But the Quartet was similar, and similarly appealing.  The Vogler viola (Stefan Fehlandt) and cello (Stephan Forck) evidently know their business.  It’s no good having just the right recording if the stuff to record isn’t there in the first place.

This is a personal thing on my part.  I always prefer the treble switched down on my CD player, and the bass switched up.  CDs where this makes a difference are, other things being equal - which they never are, I know, but you get my drift - my favourites.  Plus, when I was a kid, I used to do lots of singing, with other people doing different notes.  Part singing.  And I loved the harmonies that created.  Although I used only to sing the top line (being myself a treble and a very good one) I liked then and still like to listen to the inner and lower parts in all pieces of music that I sang in or listen(ed) to, and I now often hum along to music with the bass line or one of the middle lines rather than the top line.  Obviously, the Schubert String Quintet, with its two cellos, is a natural for me.

One of the many things I find tiresome about concerts compared to CDs is that you can’t hum along with it at a concert, unless you’re someone like Glenn Gould or Rudolf Serkin and you’re playing it.

UPDATE: Nice string quartet photo here.

My friend Elena Procopiu has just got into a very good year-long drama course and has already started learning more stuff about drama, during the process of getting in.  (The entrance exam was that they just started doing drama training work with her and then decided if they wanted to carry on.  They decided that they did.)

Anyway, one of the things Elena has already learned is that, apparently, in Shakespeare’s time, actors were given their lines in the form of a role of paper, hand written, rather than in the form of a standard pile of standard pages like you get now if you’re in a play.  And to save scarce paper and scarce handwriting, each actor’s role only had its own lines.  All the actor got of the other actors’ lines was the cue,s in the form of the final three words of the other actors’ preceding speeches in the scenes they were in.  Thus, each actor had a different roll.  Which is why it’s called a role.  Same word, apparently, just spelt in the usual chaotic pre-printing-press different way that they spelt in those days.  “Which role is mine?” etc.  With everyone using a full text the way they do now, that wouldn’t make sense.  But if each roll only contains its own particular words, for that particular role . . .

I did not know that.

I live in central London and in central London just now it is very hot.  Plus, I still have stuff I have to do for here before I go to bed.

If you want something else from me, or from somebody thanks to me, try this, which made me laugh out loud.  I hope James Hamilton is not offended, but I think it’s hilarious that he reckons the ref in the England Portugal game did okay, apart from getting both of the two decisions that between them cost England the game wrong.

The first Samizdata commenter said that actually the ref got them both right, and maybe that’s right.  I didn’t actually see it myself, so what do I know?  That’s not my point.  My point is that according to James, he got them both wrong, but otherwise did okay.  Which is the equivalent of saying that a striker had a great game, apart from missing both of the two terrific opportunities he got to score a goal.  Which also makes a kind of sense, I suppose.

Saturday July 01 2006

Today I sat in my kitchen obsessing about sport and getting hot.  How sad.  Even sadder was that all my teams lost.

In the Twenty20 cricket, Surrey, having begun with two great wins, followed this up with two losses.  Brown and Benning scored about forty runs between them in both games.  They probably read my earlier Twenty20 posting, and got too sloppy and arrogant.  Who says the blogosphere has no impact?

So, with Surrey flopping, the best Twenty20 cricket this weekend was played by Sri Lanka, against England at Headingley today:


Okay if you don’t understand this, as she obviously doesn’t (thanks Natalie), then you will have no interest in any explanation of it from me.  If you do understand it, then you don’t need an explanation, do you?  That, if you think about it, is an observation that covers many, many situations in life.

I also kept half an eye on the football.  Losing to Portugal was less depressing than losing to Brazil last time around.  Last time, you felt that if England had beaten Brazil, they might have gone all the way.  This time around, beating Portugal would only have postponed inevitable ejection in the next round by a really good side, i.e. France.  And who knows how humiliating that might have been?  When we see what France do to Portugal next Wednesday, we may reckon we had a lucky escape.  Plus, I have got old since the last World Cup and I don’t care so much.  My bet?  Germany to beat France in the final.  Everyone will say that France are the better side, but everyone said that Argentina were the canine gonads until they came a cropper.  And everyone also said that Germany were crap, which they never are, are they?

But, it’s odd how it’s the World Cup, yet all the countries now left in are within a day’s drive of each other, in Western Europe.  Almost like the World Series.

(Something odd has happened with the spacing.  This was a bit longer, but the last bit was stupid so I cut it.  But the posting then refused to contract, and instead left a big gap.  I am hoping that this blather will fill the gap, and solve the problem.  Of course, it may only push the same gaping void down a little lower.  Ah!!  I get it.  It needed some categories.  The gaping void was where they go.)