Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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- The outdoor map next to the Twelvetrees Crescent Bridge over the River Lea
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- Guess what this is
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- An important game and only a game
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- An old person television set
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This and that
As everyone else in the world found out several years before I did, a mobile phone is now an essential part of the kit you need to meet up with somebody. So, I made a point of having my mobile with me when G(od)D(aughter) 1 and I met up at Manor House tube last Sunday.
When I arrived there, at our predetermined time, I discovered that Manor House tube has three widely dispersed exits to choose from. Now you may say: “But how many ticket barriers does it have? One.” You are right, but what if the mobile phone reception at the ticket barrier, this ticket barrier being below ground, does not work? I needed to be out in the open.
Mobile phones cause plans to be more muddy and last-minute than they used to be, because that is what these plans can now be. GD1 and I had hoped that “the exit of Manor House tube” would be unambiguous, but we took a chance on that, because we would both have our mobile phones with us, and we could make it up as we went along if things got more complicated.
I picked one of the three exits and looked around for GD1. No sign. I left a phone message and a text message for GD1 saying to her: I am in the
Manor Park View Cafe, which is next to the big gate into Finsbury Park, which by then I was. Fifteen minutes later, I rang again, and eventually got through to GD1. She said: “I just sent you a text.” Ah. She was running a bit late, which, now that we all have mobiles, is okay because now such information is easily communicated.
Anyway we duly met up in the Manor Park Cafe, and we consumed consumables while deciding to have our walk anyway, despite the weather being vile, but also deciding that we would wait inside the
Manor Park View Cafe until it stopped actually raining.
What might have happened had we not had any mobile telephony at our disposal, I do not know. The old method, which is that you decide beforehand to meet at place X at time Y, used to work okay. Whoever got there first waited, and whoever was second said sorry, with whatever degree of sincerity seemed appropriate. But now, if you don’t bring a mobile with you, and if you don’t make constant use of it, you are misbehaving.
I brought my mobile with me to meet up with GD1, but at a critical moment I failed to consult it. “Getting old” will definitely be one of the categories below.
The question mark in my title is because I do not know whether or not this bench is unusual. Is it truly odd? Or did it merely seem odd to me, when I photoed it earlier this evening, because I noticed something I had never noticed before in such a bench, but which is actually not that unusual?
Anyway, this is the bench:
And what struck me as odd is those extra arms, dividing the bench into three individual spots. There are other seats like this, but I have never seen a wooden bench of this very trad sort, with those very untrad internal arms added. To me this was and is very novel. I found myself thinking: Is there something particularly London (It says “City of London” on the bench) about this, to me, very odd arrangement? Is this some sort of device to guarantee not being touched by the people who sit next to you, perhaps because there are three such people and they squeeze up against you? And is that very London? Something you definitely would not find in other more socially easygoing, less atomistic, places?
Also, somehow, given those extra arms, I expect also extra legs.
I encountered these benches (there were several, including the one I was sitting on when I photoed this other one) outside the Museum of London in the Barbican area of the City of London. In case you wanted to know.
I’m now knackered. For reasons too complicated for me to explain in my present knackered state, I didn’t get as much sleep last night as I would have liked. And then today I went on a photo-trek with Goddaughter 1. This was great, and I am entirely glad that I did this, but about two thirds of the way through these photo-treks I typically arrive at a state of knackeredness, and so it was today. Mostly it’s the feet. They ache. But, sitting down and resting only makes it worse when I try to resume.
We both took lots of photos, many of the best ones that I took being after I had become knackered, as also tends to be the rule with these photo-treks, hence my determination, every time, to keep trekking after becoming knackered. This is often because at the end of the trek there is a destination which keeps us going, and which is really good. This time, that destination, it gradually became clear, was Alexandra Palace. And Alexandra Palace is a great place from which to photo London and its Big Things, especially if the light is as good as it was today. The light at the end of the day is often the best, which is another reason to keep going, even if you become knackered before the day ends. So I kept going, and so, a great day.
But a knackering day, and I am now off to bed. I can, or so I hope, write when knackered. But working with my primitive little laptop, I now find it impossible to contrive any links or post any photos, So no links. No photos.
No photos also because, although it was a great day, I don’t know if I took any great (by my undemanding standards) photos. I have looked at them, once, but am now too caught up in what I was trying to photo and am not yet able to be objective about what I did photo and to pick out any truly good ones.
Photoed by me today at the top end of Victoria Street, aka Victoria, where there is a hurricane of new building going on, a horizontal slice of an old building:
If you click on that, you will be able to see, from the daylight in the windows and from the big horizontal chunks of metal between the windows, that this is another of those facades from olden days that’s being held up and behind which indoor modernity will be put.
What with my computer misbehaving, and having a meeting chez moi this evening, I am only in the mood for a bit of frivolity. Which is fine, because Friday is the day set aside here for frivolity of a feline nature. Earlier in the week I was able to connect the subjects of drones and cricket. Today, how about cats a cricket? And cats and drones?
Well, the best cats and cricket connection I have recently noticed occurred in a Channel 5 telly show called “Psycho Pussies: When Cats Attack”. Having spent the last few weeks showing us how various animals, cats, dogs, pets, or just animals, make us LOL, they now turned to the dark side of feline behaviour.
I was only half watching, but my impression was that they were talking to the same small bunch of owners – owners willing to live with psycho pussies – over and over again. I surmise that (a) most cats do not thus misbehave, and that in most of the cases where cats do thus misbehave (b) evolution swings into action in the form of a lethal injection. But, there were a few masochistic pscho pussy owners, one of whom dressed up in cricket gear by way of self-protection rather than take the obvious lethal step. And there was my connection. Remember that for Friday, I said. And I wasn’t the only one to notice this cat/cricket angle.
As for cats and drones, well the internet is flooded with gruesome pictures of that dead cat that some psycho artist turned into a quadcopter, or whatever the small and amateur drones are now called. (Real Drones are as yet only used by Americans, to kill people.) I seem to recall doing a blog posting way back about this feline quadcopter, but cannot now find it.
However, far more amusing than this old and horrible story was what I also found during my quest for a drone cat connection, namely this:
The point being that for some, drones are, just like cats, pets. And, pets get lost. And when pets get lost, posters get put up, appealing for help.
I don’t reckon neighbours will be so sympathetic and cooperative, though.
Here are two people whom Mick Hartley recently encountered. He photoed them and stuck the picture up on his blog. And I reproduce it here:
So, how come this flurry of privacy violation? Hartley explains. (There are several very heavy hints in the categories listed below.)
I like cricket. And I like drones. But which is best?
There’s only one way to find out. Fight.
Actually, all the drone did there was hover, waiting to be clobbered, which, a minute and a half in, it duly was, by Chris Gayle.
What I want to see is a game where drones fight against each other. Or a war. Either would do.
Or, perhaps a demo.
This afternoon I went walkabout, with quite another object in mind than the Shard. But, the Shard was looking peculiarly beautiful this evening, at any rate from where I was standing, on the Millennium Bridge.
At present I am not seeing this picture nearly as clearly as you probably are, because my proper computer (Godot) is ill and my laptop (
Dawkins Judas) only has a very small and inadequate screen.
What I hope you are seeing is the sky looking very earthly, but the Shard looking almost heavenly. The sky looks rough and the Shard looks smooth. The sky looks matt and the Shard looks gloss. Sky behind the Shard is dark, the Sky reflected off the Shard is light. London is dim, but the Shard is bright.
Renzo Piano, who designed this wondrous Thing, saw all this coming. He knew that the Shard would reflect in a quite different way to a merely vertical Thing, and today this effect was to be seen at its very best. I can only hope that my photo gives at least a clue of what was going on.
Indeed. After meeting the extended family and photoing those Dinky Toys, I made my way back to Egham Station via the RAF Memorial at the top of the hill that overlooks Runnymede. Runnymede and a lot else.
In the foreground, the River Thames. To the right, in the far distance, London and its towers, just visible, if you are lucky with the weather. Next to London and a bit nearer, Heathrow Airport, with the Wembley Arch clearly to be seen behind it. Straight ahead, big reservoirs.
And to the left, Windsor Castle:
Click on that little picture to get the bigger picture.
I am having a recurrence of those computer problems I described in this earlier posting, but have discovered that my picture processing programme does function after all, after a fashion. But very badly, and I am posting this picture of Windsor Castle because I remember that picture to be good, rather than because I know it to be.
The pictures I took from the top of the RAF Memorial yesterday seemed to me better than ones I had taken before from this spot, and I suspect that this is because yesterday was the first time I had used my latest camera at this vantage point. But my computer problems struck again before I could check this feeling against actual facts.
So meanwhile, enjoy Windsor Castle, assuming that the picture is as enjoyable as I remember it seeming to be when I looked at it last night.
Today there was a big old Micklethwait family get-together at the ancestral home in Englefield Green, Surrey. Me, two brothers, a nephew and a niece plus partners, another niece, plus two little kids. I took photos of course, and I wasn’t the only one doing that.
I prefer not to show you pictures of my relatives, but I’m sure that nobody will mind me showing you these snaps:
Those are Dinky Toys, in really quite good condition, dating from the 1950s. I can even remember a couple of the names. The red van (which was my brother’s, not mine) was “Mersey Tunnel”, because it is a Mersey Tunnel police van. And the white car with green on it is a Singer Gazelle. Ah, Singer. Those were the days when Britain contained about a dozen distinct car-makers, with distinct names like Singer.
All these toys had already been extracted from all the other goods and chattels in the house and given to N and NP’s two little kids, before I arrived. Theoretically, three of these four antiquities were mine, or they were mine sixty years ago, but the kids seemed to like them and I was glad for these toys to be passed on. Such things are only worth proper money if the boxes have been kept, and of course they hadn’t been. And although these Dinky Toys, especially the two cars, are in really quite good condition, really quite good condition is not nearly as good as mint condition, moneywise. So, yes kids, you’re very welcome.
But one favour I did ask. Before you take them off to your home, let me photo them, just to remember them. Okay? Okay. So I perched them on my knees and took the shots.
One of the many good things about digital photography is that with it you can store fun memories in two virtual dimensions, rather than in three actual dimensions.
But, there is light. And there is light.
Here is some light, earlier this evening, bouncing off the Millbank Tower with its superb roof clutter, next to a crane, and arriving upon the little square of electro-magic inside my camera:
Yes, that is excellent roof clutter. Yes, that is a crane. But … it’s not a very remarkable scene.
But here is some light, earlier in the week, bouncing off the same Millbank Tower with its same excellent roof clutter, next to the same crane, and arriving upon the same little square of electro-magic inside my camera:
Put it this way. Had I not taken that shot earlier in the week, I’d not be showing you the one I took this evening. Which I only took at all to illuminate that earlier one.
I’ve been giving attention to and often photoing white vans lately, and am starting to notice interesting things about them, of which more in due course. (Maybe. I promise nothing.)
But meanwhile, Fridays here have not, lately, seen much in the cat category, which is a thing I like to do on Friday.
So, a picture of a white van with a picture of a cat on it would seem to be in order.
I have yet to photograph such a thing myself, but I did find just such a picture of just such a white van, here. But alas, the cat was on it for a not very internetty sort of reason:
There’s lots of cat related stuff on the www, but this is an aspect of cats and the keeping of them that typically gets omitted. All is cuteness. Spaying is ... not cute.
For most of today I was without my computer, and yesterday I could only use it in “safe” mode, the most obvious and lamentable effect of which was that I couldn’t see or manipulate pictures properly. So, I couldn’t do pictures for the best part of two days.
Pictures like this one, which needed cropping because to the left of this young man (as I looked and snapped) was a close-up of another young man’s face, with nothing in the way and hence totally recognisable:
What I liked about this picture at the time when I took it, on Westminster Bridge two days ago, was that the guy’s smartphone had a banknote on it. And what I liked even more about this picture when I took another look at it just now with my restored computer is that the man on the banknote is Benjamin Franklin.
Franklin, an enthusiastic inventor, would surely have loved the idea of his face being, two and a quarter centuries after his death, on a portable instantaneous communication and computation machine, with the ability to create and transmit instantaneous likenesses of one’s companions and one’s surroundings and to record and transmit verbal messages, and to perform many other tasks and wonders. Or: whatever he might have called a smartphone.
I don’t often go to pubs, because of the noise. But Goddaughter 2, raised in France, wanted to try eating a pie in a pub, so we went to the Barley Mow in Horseferry Road to see what they had. They had pies, which proved very tasty.
Two particular circumstances made the evening pure perfection for me, besides the pure perfection of Goddaughter 2’s company I mean.
First, they had the latest England v NZ cricket ODI on the telly, and I got to watch the conclusion of England’s outstanding and outstandingly successful run chase that has just levelled the ODI series 2-2. And second, this being the twenty-first century, GD2 had her smartphone with her and was texting with all her friends. I hope you aren’t bored because of me doing all this texting, she said. No no, I said, gazing happily at the giant telly screen, you just carry on my dear. Don’t mind me. As I said to her when we were leaving, had I been asked to chose the perfect hour and more to spend in a pub this week, then given that this pub had the cricket on the go, and given that my ever-delightful companion was apologising for neglecting me and communing instead with her smartphone, this hour and more would have been it.
There was noise but it didn’t matter. We didn’t do much in the way of conversation, in other words we didn’t shout much at each other, although we did a bit because it wasn’t actually that noisy. But we were mostly doing two separate things that did not require peace and quiet to work. GD2 didn’t need silence to read and write her texts. I didn’t need any television cricket commentators to tell me that England were batting up a storm.
As we left I asked GD2 if she reckoned the social media have made it better for women in pubs. She reckoned yes they probably have. If men in pubs are diverted by men’s stuff, like cricket on the telly, then any women they have dragged along with them are now able to entertain themselves, instead of just sitting there moping and getting bored. Or, if the men were a bit more gracious than that, they would force themselves to ignore the men’s stuff and do conversation, despite their strong inclinations. Also not ideal. So, social media definitely equals progress. And if the women are distracted by women’s stuff, then the men can play with their smartphones.
One of the very few uses I have found for my own smartphone, aside from telling me where I am and where to go when I am out and about, is acquainting myself with the latest cricket scores when I am out and about.
Wikipedia, which I assume to be reliable on something so politically uncontroversial, has this to say about the Buck Brothers:
Samuel Buck (1696 – 17 August 1779) and his brother Nathaniel Buck (died 1759/1774) were English engravers and printmakers, best known for their Buck’s Antiquities, depictions of ancient castles and monasteries. Samuel produced much work on his own but when the brothers worked together, they were usually known as the Buck Brothers. More is known about Samuel than Nathaniel.
Samuel Buck was born in Yorkshire in 1696. After publishing some prints in that county he moved to London. With Nathaniel he embarked on making a number of series of prints of “antiquities”, which consisted of ancient castles and former religious buildings in England and Wales. Starting in 1724, they travelled around these countries, and completed sets of prints for the regions of England by 1738 and for Wales between 1739 and 1742. These are commonly known as Buck’s Antiquities. During this time they also worked on a series of townscapes in England and Wales entitled Cities, Sea-ports and Capital Towns.
I mention these guys because here are their engravings of the Thames in London, seen from the south. All are worth clicking on.
For the first time ever on the net, here are high quality images of Samuel & Nathaniel Buck’s complete sequence of five views of London as published in 1774.
That “first time ever” was in 2012, but news like this does not date.
Together the originals form a panorama of mid 18th Century London over 4 metres long. They show, in tremendous detail, the whole of the north bank of the Thames, between Westminster and the Tower.
Horizontality! Each is fairly horizontal to start with, but stitch them together ...
Just how accurate these engravings are of the former times that the Buck Brothers were purporting to recreate, I do not know. But I assume they give us a pretty good idea of how things were, until such time as aliens show up to reveal to us their tourist snaps from previous visits.
I especially like the last one:
I like this for a number of reasons.
First, it shows the spires of old London, and hence how very well the Shard fits into contemporary London. The Shard is of course the very embodiment of new London, but it also evokes old London, far more that most more recent London architecture.
Second, this shows old London Bridge, with all its buildings. What fun it would be for London to build itself another such bridge. One of the reasons I so welcome the new Blackfriars Station, on its bridge, is that it sets a precedent for just such a bridge with buildings some time in the future. This new Ponte Vecchio on Thames probably shouldn’t be in the middle of London, though, because that would spoil a lot of views. Why not a big bridge of this sort further downstream? Any decade now … If it were ever to happen, such a bridge would nicely complement the new Garden Bridge, full of plants, that Joanna Lumley wants to build. This is going ahead (… ”will” …), apparently.
And the third reason I like the above Buck Brothers panorama is that to the far right, it nicely shows what an imposing edifice the Tower of London used once to be. Here is the detail I mean:
Okay, that big building to the left means that the Tower is not as imposing there as all that. But it certainly gives you a clue concerning what an imposition it was when it was first imposed (scroll down to the quote there).
Every time a new gadget gets introduced which catches on, in public, there is a chorus of disapproval from unimaginative puritans saying: ban it, it’s evil, it’s stupid, it’s wrong, blah blah blah.
Selfie sticks have caused particular ire. Other people enjoying themselves, by photographing themselves, seems just too much to bear, for the unimaginative puritan tendency.
I say unimaginative, because it perhaps does take a little bit of imagination to realise that with a selfie stick you can get results that would be very hard to get by any other means.
But there’s no need for selfie sticks, say the UPs. Get someone else to take your picture, if you really do want a picture of yourselves with all of you included. And some people do just this. I often get asked to take other people’s pictures for them, so that all of them get to be in the picture instead of one of them taking it and not being in it. I do my best, but my best is, I fear, often very bad. Other people’s cameras are notoriously difficult to use correctly, first time, only time.
Besides which, try getting someone else to do this for you:
This couple were photoing themselves outside Westminster Abbey, with themselves in the foreground, and Westminster Abbey’s twin towers in the background. But not just Westminster Abbey in a general sort of way behind them. They wanted the camera looking up at them, and past them, to the top of Westminster Abbey, to those twin towers, and to the blue sky above them. A much more dramatic shot.
Imagine getting a passing stranger to take that shot. Try getting me to take that shot. Even if I was willing to crouch down, how would I know what was on the screen? How would I compose the shot? I wouldn’t. I couldn’t. It would be a random mess.
The only way they could get this shot was with a selfie stick.
I am not saying that they realised they wanted this sort of shot, and got a selfie stick in order to get it. Well, maybe they did. But what is far more probable is that they they got their selfie stick, just to take good selfies instead of begging incompetent strangers like me to take bad unselfies. And at first they took regular selfies, with the camera in the same sort of position as it would have been if someone like me had been holding it in the regular way, at a regular height.
But then they realised that they could point the selfie stick in any direction they liked and could place the camera any place they want to that the selfie stick could reach. It could go straight up in the air, or straight down, or partly down but right near the ground, as here. With it, they could choose the exact background they wanted and compose the shot perfectly. And as any photographer, even an amateur like me, will tell you, background is everything when you are shooting head shots.
Selfie sticks are great. Personally, I am not into taking self-portraits, except when I am reflected in the scene I am photoing, so I don’t need a selfie stick and I don’t have one. Above all, I don’t want a selfie stick because mostly I go photoing on my own. I very seldom need to be taking group shots that include me, the way people are if they are on their honeymoon, say. But just because I don’t need a selfie stick doesn’t mean that nobody else needs a selfie stick and that all who have selfie sticks should be yelled at.
I took the above shot of the selfie stick in action on the same day I took this photo.
Can artists learn about how to do art when they get old, from sportsmen? Can sportsmen learn from artists about how to handle their career twilights? I face my own twilight now, so I read Ed Smith’s piece about such things with keen interest.
The weird aspect of sporting maturity is that it happens so early in life. An athlete’s career is played out in fast-forward. Professional and emotional maturity are wildly out of sync. Andrew Flintoff told me recently that his cricket career was practically over before he felt at his most confident as a person. Many sportsmen feel the same. By the time they’ve grown up, it’s gone. The period of critical decision-making and the exercise of power arrives frighteningly early. Only when they retire do sportsmen become young again as they rejoin civilian time.
Yes, if you leave pro sport but land on your feet afterwards, much as Ed Smith himself seems to have done, it might be like being born again, rather than the slow death that it often seems to be for many sports people. But, no chance of any such resurrection for those artists, or for me. This is it.
Today there was a reminder, for cricket followers anyway, of how sports careers, like lives, can be cut cruelly short. Sometimes, sportsmen only get to have just the one (short) life.
Two cricket fielders, both running for the same catch in the outfield, collided and had to be taken away in ambulances. The match was called off.
I learned about this in an odd way. Cricinfo was doing basic commentary. Just runs, dots and wickets as they happened. No frills. No explanations. And then, the commentary just stopped. What was going on? A complicated run out. Rain? But they usually say if it is raining. Eventually I tuned into the BBC’s radio commentary, and got the story.
Google “Burns Henriques” and maybe also “Surrey” during the next few hours and days, and you’ll get plenty of hits. Rory Burns and Moises Henriques are the names. Surrey is their county. At first I thought Surrey were maybe looking at another death (to add to this one, which caused havoc at the club). So, I imagine, did everyone who was at the ground and who saw it happen. But now that seems unlikely:
One piece of misinformation circulating was that Henriques was receiving CPR. Thankfully, rumour was quickly replaced by the sight of Henriques and Burns both sitting upright and giving the thumbs up as they were lifted into ambulances and taken to nearby St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester.
So, can you get hurt, do a thumbs up, and then go to hospital and die? What do I know?
Get well soon, gentlemen, and hopefully well enough to play again, also soon.
More sports news, old sports news, from a movie I’m watching in the small hours of tomorrow morning on the TV. I know - how does that work? - time travel. The movie is Secretariat, about a champion horse in 1970s America. So, the horse’s champion jockey, the usual diminutive jockey size, walks into the Belmont Ball on the eve of the big race, with a tall and gorgeous blonde on his arm. He is asked how he convinced the tall and gorgeous blonde to attach herself to him. He says:
“I told her I’m taller when I stand on my wallet.”
Old joke? Maybe so, but first time I heard it.
I had no idea how Secretariat would end. But I know the end now. Secretariat won Belmont (on June 9th 1973, by the way) by thirty one lengths, a Belmont winning margin never seen since. Even I know that’s a lot of lengths. I did not see that coming.
LATER: Burns (a confusing name in a story when injuries are being listed): facial injuries. Henriques: seriously broken jaw. Nobody died or is going to.
LATER STILL: One man’s facial injury is another man’s opportunity. Arun Harinath, playing for Surrey for the first time this season in place of Burns, has just scored a century against Glamorgan. Such are the downs and ups of sport.
A while back I visited a friend in Epping, and during our ramblings in Epping Forest that day, it was mentioned that there was a spot in that general area where the Big Things of London could be seen. Seen from a great distance, but seen, in a gap between the trees.
Lured by the promise of this view, I returned, the Sunday before last, and was duly shown this view. You could see what appeared to be the BT Tower, and when I got home I confirmed that it was indeed the BT Tower. But, handsome though the BT Tower is, there is more to the towers of London than the BT tower. Never mind. I contented myself with photoing decaying farm machines.
But there are no decaying farm machine photos in this posting, and for that matter no photos of the BT Tower. Because. About an hour later, in weather that (as had been promised by the weather forecasters) was improving, we stumbled (if you can stumble in a car) on a vastly improved view of London. We only got to that because my friend was using a hoped-for short cut to show me an antique railway station or a church or some such thing. But suddenly I yelled that the view I had hoped to see an hour earlier was now viewable. Stop the car. Stop the car. Let me get out and photo … this:
There they all are: Strata (the one with three holes in the top) Shard, Walkie-Talkie, Gherkin, Cheesegrater, Heron Tower, Natwest Tower, Spraycan. They’re all there. Apart from the BT Tower which is away to the right and hidden behind a hill.
As so often at this blog, what you are looking at is a great photo, taken just about technically well enough for you to realise what an even greater photo in all respects this could have been, if taken by a Real Photographer at the top of his Real Photographer game.
The only reason it has taken so long for me to stick up this picture is that, as you can surely imagine, I took a great many shots like this one, but later could not decide which one was the least mediocre. All were very striking (because of what was in them), and rather blurry (because I’m a blurry kind of photographer when I take shots like these), and interrupted by wires in the foreground (because I did not see those until I got home).
I took that photo on the right, of our location displayed on its map by my smartphone, in the car, just before we continued to what had been intended as our next destination. As you can see from this, we were well beyond the M25. The small blue blob in the middle is the location. Subsequent google mappery confirmed that we were twenty miles and more from the centre of London.
Sadly, the small blue blob in the middle is pointing, very misleadingly, in a completely different direction to the direction in which I pointed my camera to photo London. London is located below and to the left, i.e. towards the south west, the M25 being the road around London and the M11 being the road from the territory to the north east of London (involving such places as Cambridge), to London.
This spot is not all that far from Epping tube station. On a better day, I will return.
This view combines great distance with definite visibility to a degree that I have not experience and photographed from any other place. Does anybody know of any place that scores higher by this combined measure?
I include cranes in the category list below. There are, as always with big pictures of London, cranes.
Most churches in London are, if not dwarfed by modernity, then at least jammed up against something else big right next to them. But earlier this evening I visited a London church that is not like that at all:
This is All Saints Blackheath. I was there to hear Goddaughter 2 and two of her RCM fellow students sing some songs. Very good.
Here is another and better picture of the same church, in winter.
I love learning about two-man teams, and in Paul Johnson’s short, excellent biography of Mozart (see also this earlier bit) I have been learning more about just such a team, although a very temporary and unequal one:
In the meantime, Mozart had met his great partner, the Abate Lorenzo Da Ponte. The letter (May 7, 1783) in which he tells his father, “I have looked through at least a hundred libretti and more, but I have hardly found a single one with which I am satisfied,” also says he has met the new fashionable poet in Vienna, Da Ponte, who “has promised ... to write a new libretto for me.” The emperor had decided to abandon singspiel in 1783 and embrace Italian opera again, and he put Da Ponte in charge of the words. Da Ponte was a converted Jew, the son of a tanner, who had embraced Christianity in 1763. He had led a bohemian life, as a teacher, a priest, a lascivious escort of married women in the Venetian fashion, a friend of Casanova, expelled from Venice for sexual depravity, and thereafter making his living as a translator and writer in the theatrical world. He had an extraordinary gift for languages, rather like Mozart himself but on a much more comprehensive scale, and seemed to think multilingually.
Da Ponte wrote the librettos for three Mozart operas, The Marriage of Figaro (K. 492, presented May 1,1786), Don Giovanni (K. 527, October 29, 1787), and Cosi fan tutte (K. 588, January 26, 1790), and the collaboration between the two men must be accounted one of the most successful in the history of opera. By almost universal agreement, Figaro and Giovanni are Mozart’s two best operas, though a small minority argues that Cosi contains the best music and superb staging and that a first-class production can make it the best evening’s entertainment.
The two men worked successfuly together for two reasons. First, they both understood that creating an opera was collaboration and that composer and librettist both had to know when to give way; sometimes words must yield and sometimes notes. The truth is, of course, that Mozart was extremely adept at words as well as music, and often he took over as librettist, Da Ponte acquiescing. This raises the second point: Both men were good tempered, used to hard knocks, nasty words, and intense arguments. They had the admirable habit, essential to success in the theater, of drawing a firm line over a disagreement, once it was resolved, and moving on quickly to the next problem. Mozart’s good nature was absolutely genuine and went to the root of his being. He was incapable of real malice or the desire to wound (the one exception was the archbishop, and there, too, hatred was expressed in words rather than deeds). Da Ponte was a much more flawed creature. He was a fearful liar, to begin with, and his various volumes of memories are not to be trusted at all. His subsequent career after he left Vienna and went to New York, becoming a trader, a bookseller, a bankrupt, a poet, and other things, shows that his commitment to the stage and to music - drama, particularly - was not total.
Moreover, it is not clear that he recognized quality in opera. He thought the best composer he worked with was Vicente Martin y Soler, and he had the most fulsome praise for Antonio Salieri. The implication was that both were Mozart’s superiors as musicians. Both were more successful commercially at the time, and their operas were performed more frequently than Mozart’s - so were those of many other composers, at least eleven by my reckoning. But both were so inferior to Mozart by any conceivable artistic criteria as to cast doubt on Da Ponte’s musical understanding. And it is a significant fact that his three Mozart operas are the only ones whose libretto he wrote that have remained in the repertoire or that anyone has heard of today.
Hence the inescapable conclusion is that Mozart was the dominant figure in the collaboration. Da Ponte understood or learned from Mozart the need to keep the drama moving by varying the musical encounters and groupings, by altering the rhythms of vocal speech, and by switching the moods. He may even have understood the great discovery in the writing of opera that we owe to Mozart - the way in which character can be created, transformed, altered, and emphasized by entirely musical means taking possession of the sense of words. But the magic touch is always provided by Mozart as music dramatist.
I continue to photo white vans. The poshest white van so far is one I photoed today. Here’s the basic photo:
But, this being a posh enterprise, the graphics are a bit thin and polite, and my photo doesn’t help. So here’s a close up what it is:
And here are the services they offer.
Earlier in the day, I also photoed this white van, which also seemed rather posh:
Again, for the same sorts of reasons, here’s a close-up of what it is:
But, although “piano people” suggests people who play pianos, or at the very least tune them, all that these piano people do is move them from place to place, carefully.
There really are a lot of white vans out there.
Preview – England begin latest rebuild, announced the Cricinfo front page, betting on this latest one being a flop. But then what happens?
This. England batted first and this is what the Cricinfo guy said after their innings had finished:
5.45pm, tea Well that is extraordinary. Two scintillating hundreds, first from Joe Root but then usurped by Jos Buttler. Eoin Morgan and Adil Rashid playing their parts too in big partnerships, and all after losing a wicket first ball of the innings! Just some of the records here: England’s first ODI score of over 400, the first score over 400 in an ODI in England, the most sixes in an innings from England, the world record seventh-wicket stand in an ODI. Few others I’m sure. But England have played a blinder here and if New Zealand can get anywhere close to chasing it, we’re in for an outrageous evening. See you in 25 mins…
The last over of the England innings went like this: 1 W W 6 1nb 6 1. Both the sixes were hit by England’s number ten, Plunkett, in an innings consisting of those last four balls there after those two Ws. This took England well past 400 just when it looked like they might not get to 400 after all, on account of Buttler and then Rashid (they of the record seventh-wicket stand) getting out near the end.
Jason Roy getting himself out to the first ball of the match was by no means at all the worst one-day innings you’ll ever see or hear about, because at least Roy only consumed one ball making zero runs. Thirty balls making not much more than zero is what will cost you your place in an ODI side, not very few balls making very few. Provided you don’t make too much of a habit of it, getting out first or second or third ball is okay. It comes with the territory.
Paul Collingwood was recently accused by various scumbag headline writers - headline writers are the origin of most of the biggest media lies, I find - of calling for “no consequences” cricket. But if you actually read the reports below the scumbag headlines by the scumbag headline writers, you find that what Collingwood really said was stuff like this:
“The guys in world cricket now who have taken the game to the next level are people like AB de Villiers, Glenn Maxwell, David Warner, Chris Gayle and they are playing as if they are in the back yard. It’s as if there are no consequences on their wicket whatsoever. Somehow a coach has to get that environment, certainly in the one-day form of the game, to where he can say ‘lads, you’re backed, don’t worry, you have games to fail, go out there and prove what you can do’. I think that is an important factor in how to get the utmost amount of skills from each player.”
“It’s as if there are no consequences ...” Of course there are consequences if you make a succession of small scores and no big ones, as Collingwood perfectly well knows and as he never denied. But the best players play as if that wasn’t the case, because they know that every few tries they’ll make big runs.
Talking of Jason Roy, Roy usually plays for Surrey, and also today, Surrey trounced Leicester with a day to spare, and are now promotion contenders. Leicester, big deal, I hear you sneer. But Surrey have had a bad habit of late of not taking enough wickets in such situations. They have, over recent years, bought in all sorts of big name England or nearly-England bowlers, who then try to bowl sides out at the Oval and lose the will to live, never mind bowl. This win was accomplished by younger bowlers with less starry names, notably by one young bowler called Curran, who also batted well. Also, Surrey now have a new spinner who is coming along nicely called Ansari, and there is talk of him playing for England soon, because he bowls better than Moeen Ali. But Surrey didn’t buy Ansari in after he had already proved his worth, they spotted him early and trained him up themselves. Ansari is also quite a good batter, having learned in recent months the art of hitting boundaries, which he never used to do until this season. It would be nice to see Surrey creating England players (or in Curran’s case maybe South African players, unless England come calling first) rather than just buying them in after someone else has created them, so to speak.
But I digress. In the NZ reply to England, the one-man wrecking ball that is Brendan McCullum hit two fours and then got out, off the last three balls of the first over. And whereas England were able to do without Roy, and later Stokes and new boy Billings, all of whom struck out with the bat, NZ really needed some slogging from McCullum to get them going, and they never truly recovered from his early departure. There were, in other words, consequences to McCullum getting out so quickly. See also: the recent World Cup Final. NZ ended up getting less than half England’s score, losing by 210.
England won the first test match against NZ in style, only to lose the second not at all in style. So they could easily make a hash of the next ODI against NZ, as everyone realises. But in the meantime: hurrah, and I am now going to settle down to watch the TV highlights.
I didn’t put these two covers next to each other. The Lady did it, outside its big old office in Bedford Street, London WC2. Here is what that office looks like, that being a shot of the sort I neglected to take at the time. You can see lots of covers in the windows along the bottom.
So, here are the two covers:
Shot December 15th 2014.
For those unfamiliar with Brit TV, the guy on the right is this guy.
Today, two snaps taken in April 2012 from the top of the tower of Westminster Cathedral, this being the Roman Catholic cathedral in the middle of Victoria Street, not the regular CofE Abbey, at the Parliament end of Victoria Street:
On the left, the Gherkin, the Parliament tower that is Big Ben, and the above-mentioned Abbey. And, in between the twin towers of the Abbey, we can also clearly see the tower of Tate Modern, and also the
Stock Exchange Lloyds building. On the right, the Shard (not yet finished) with its smaller elder brother Guy’s Hospital, and the Parliament tower that isn’t Big Ben.
It is possible that I have featured one or both of these views here before, but not lately, and anyway, my gaff my rules.
Lots of cranes. Always, there are lots of cranes.
Goddaughter 2 is a student at the Royal College of Music, where a fellow student of hers is a certain Edward Jowle. This evening, GD2 and I both greatly enjoyed the Grosvenor Light Opera Company’s production of Ruddigore, in which Edward performed the pivotal role of Sir Despard Murgatroyd. It was great, as was Edward in it. The duets Edward did with Dauntless (Jack Roberts) and later with Mad Margaret aka Lady Murgatroyd (Laura Burgoyne) were two of the evening’s highlights. I already know Edward a bit, so I was never going to tell him afterwards that he had been anything other than terrific. But the thing is, he actually was terrific. It was a quite small stage and a quite small audience, but his total command of both were nevertheless very impressive.
I also thought that director Vicky Simon did a fine job. Not everyone in the caste sang like a present or future pro, the way Edward and Jack Roberts did, or as the lady who sang the part of Dame Hannah (Charlotte Collier) did. Not everyone seemed perfectly cast. But everyone did as well as you could imagine them doing, and every moment was entertaining and absorbing, wherever you looked.
I love Gilbert and Sullivan, but Ruddigore is one of the less famous ones and I was seeing it on a stage for the first time. Beyond sensing that a reasonably happy ending would eventually be contrived, I had little idea of what was going to happen until it did. But it is a very strange show, as well as very funny. And the contrived happy ending is indeed rather contrived. But, having been outshone for a century and more by the likes of The Mikado and The Gondoliers and The Yeomen of the Guard, perhaps Ruddigore is an opera whose time has come. Ancestral oil paintings are very old school. But when the people in them come to life and the stage is suddenly filled with zombies, you could be watching a stage musical written just a few months ago.
Sadly, tonight’s performance was the last of the very short run that this production was getting. Unless, that is, you fancy a trip to Harrogate in early August, where it will apparently be given one more outing, competing for a prize with a dozen other G&S shows.
There will surely, however, be further opportunities to see and hear the likes of Jack Roberts and Edward Jowle in dramatic action. And although there is no point in me now recommending that you see this Ruddigore, when GLOC announces its G&S show for next year I will be recommending that, sight unseen.
Indeed. Photoed by me in September 2005, i.e. just under a decade ago:
Had I known how interested I would later become in white vans, I would have done a proper picture of the white van there. At the time all I cared about was the new Wembley Stadium, in the background there. But it says something that I considered this particular white van to be a worthy foreground to all that Big Arch activity. It also shows how white van graphics have progressed since then, the ones there being very straight and rectangular, like they’re done with Letraset, as maybe they were.
On the day I took that shot, I also took other shots like this one ...:
... and this one, which I recall especially liking at the time:
Blue sky. That never fails. Not then, not now.
My favourite shop in London is Gramex, which sells second hand classical CDs in the basement of 104 Lower Marsh, underneath the Book Warehouse.
Below is a picture I took this afternoon of a would-be purchaser of a classical CD patiently waiting for the attention of Gramex proprietor Roger Hewland, seated:
His gaff. His rules.
Today, he had some cardboard boxes out from which we were invited to select items to purchase, for nothing. (He had bought them for nothing and he was passing on the good news.) I selected over a dozen really good CDs, some of the sort I usually buy. Which was good. And others of the sort I don’t usually buy. Ditto.
Indeed. On the same day, March 10th of this year, that I took this, I also took these:
That concrete building already looks very different, and the numerous photo opportunities supplied by trees in March are all ruined by leaves. I hate leaves. All over London there are great views, totally ruined by leaves.
I took photos, but almost everything I took was terrible. This one, much cropped and enhanced, was one of the least worst ones:
That’s Sam Bowman in the middle there, with his back to the window, and on the right, Worstall, holding his glasses, waiting for Sam to finish his intro. That almost everyone had their backs to the windows didn’t help me photo their faces.
The only half decent photo I took was when I got outside, and photoed people who were saying those prolonged goodbyes that happen at these kinds of events.
Through the upstairs window you can see the party continuing.
The gist of Worstall’s talk was that the Green claim that the earth’s resources are about to run out is based on a failure to understand the meaning of the word “reserve”. Reserves are not all the resources they even know about or know how to go looking for; they are the resources that they already have lined up to be extracted, given current market conditions and current technological ability. The entire point of “reserves” is that they are already on the warehouse shelf, metaphorically speaking, and are indeed about to “run out”, aka be consumed. That these “reserves” are about to be consumed does not mean that all the earth’s resources, known and unknown, easily obtainable at today’s prices and with today’s technology or difficult, are all about to vanish, any more than the fact that all the food now in warehouses will soon disappear and then immediately be replaced means that we are all about to starve.
I have long suspected-stroke-assumed something along these lines. Good to hear it spelt out in detail.
It’s actually the final sentence of the Samizdata quote of the day:
Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.
It’s Edward Snowden, in one of those unwieldy comment thready things that I never read.
Guy Herbert doesn’t add what comes next, which is also good:
A free press benefits more than just those who read the paper.
Here is a picture of Edward Snowden, that I took in June of last year ...:
... in Battersea, right across the road from where the big new US Embassy is being constructed. (Pictures of that, as recently was and as soon will be, here.)
My rule for violating anonymity here at this blog, by sticking up recognisable pictures of strangers, is that if they are making a spectacle of themselves, then it is okay for me to carry on doing what they started. Someone wearing a weird costume in public or doing something weird in public, or just very deliberately looking spectacularly beautiful in public, are fair game.
There is nothing weird about this guy’s costume, whom I spied at Oxford Circus tube station last night, but he was behaving rather weirdly. So I photoed him, and here he is:
He, I am sure, had no idea that I was photoing him while he was photoing. Any more than I would have noticed if someone else had been photoing me while I was photoing him. Which it would have made perfect sense, to me anyway, for someone else to do. If I saw a bloke photoing a bloke photoing in the tube, I’d have photoed the pair of them like a shot, and what a shot it might have been.
Maybe a Real Photographer would like the lack of advertising in the advertising spots there, preferring arty grunge to vulgar commerce. But I reckon that adverts might have added even more fun to those shots, especially if there had been some relevant slogan or slogans involved. But now I’m just being greedy.