Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Society

Sunday August 30 2015

I just watched a recording I made of a BBC TV show called Proms Extra, which is a chat show that responds to and flags up London’s immediately past and immediately future Promenade Concerts.  They were asking themselves whether they minded clapping in between movements, in connection with a performance of The Planets, in which this had happened..  The assembled commentators agreed that they did not mind at all.

Two thoughts from me about this.

First, the assumption seems to be that people clap in between movements because they don’t know they’re not supposed to.  But I think it is much more knowing than this.  I think the audience has changed its mind about this.

There has been a huge movement in music-making to achieve an “authentic” sound, by which is meant the sort of sound made by the first performers of the pieces.  Well, why not more authentic audiences?  Time was when “classical” audiences would clap in between movements without hesitation.  Sometimes they would yell for encores, of symphonic movements, before the symphony had even finished, just like at the opera.  That in-between-movements clapping is now happening (has been for quite a while actually) at the Proms tells me that the current fashion for clapping in among big multi-movement pieces is a very knowing decision, a very musically educated decision.  We are not “supposed” to do this?  Well guess what, we have decided that we will do this.

It’s not only this, but I am sure that this is part of it.

Personally, I think that not clapping something like the tumultuous third movement of Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony, for instance, seems very unnatural.

However second, there is no doubt that this new convention, if new convention it will be, has not yet been fully established.  Sometimes it happens, sometimes not, and quite often in a rather tentative, awkward and rather indecisive way.  So, it must surely sometimes make life a little difficult for performers.

What if you have just given what you reckon was a tumultuously great performance of a movement which ends in a manner than just begs to be greeted with a round of applause, and there is silence?  In the older days, of strict inter-movement silence, fine.  I’m not finished.  But now?  Hm.  Did they not like it?  And, after a bit of silence, will they relent, and start clapping, just as I am starting the next movement?

The older regime of silence in between movements was at least a rule, which everyone stuck to and which newcomers quickly learned, from all the dirty looks they got if they broke the rule.  And performers could either pause or press on immediately, confident that no clapping would interrupt whatever effects they were seeking to create.

Thursday July 23 2015

Said I to myself - said I, on the 10th of this month:

I need to get out less, and this weather is not helping.

Tomorrow, the weather will be helping very much:

image

This is perfect.  My life today, in the last few days, and for the last few weeks, has been one mad social whirl after another, my contented solitude being having been violated seemingly every other evening and sometimes more often even than that, which is all fun and all that, but I find that an evening out puts a blight on creativity for the entire day, because what if I start something, want to finish it, but then don’t have time to, because I have a social whirl to attend and to get ready for and to find my way to and to find out about finding my way to?  Last night I whirled out to watch theatrical stuff in an unfamiliar and transportationally complicated part of town with a theatrical friend.  Tonight, I face another social whirl, to meet Perry II.  Every time I go out I take photos, but because of all this going out I have no time to show them to you people or not with the sort of insightful commentary that I want to attach to them without which what’s the point? - They’re just pictures.

So tomorrow (a day during which I have nothing else planned), I will stay in all day, and try (although I promise nothing) to do here a mammoth day of catch-up blogging, showing you a tiny fraction of the pictures I have been taking lately, all properly explained, and anything else I’ve been meaning to put here for some time that I decide to put here tomorrow, in not one, not two, but many postings.

We shall see.

Saturday July 18 2015

Incoming, this morning, 11.37 am:

Hi brian

Hi.

How are you?

Oh you know, much the same as ever.

My name is Chrystal. I am 25 years old. I am from Chongqing. I like your page. How often do you visit the site? I really want to communicate with you. I am good at Thai massage and really like to eat fish. What about you? I guess that we will have many topics to talk about.

Do you have some social networks? I will be waiting for your letter.

Best wishes
Chrystal

I was pondering my reply to Chrystal, asking for clarification about this site I am supposed to be visiting, but going on to say that she really is a bit young for me.

But then, incoming, at 12.12pm:

Hi brian

How are you?

My name is Eugenia. I am 25 years old. I am from Chongqing. I like your page. How often do you visit the site? I really want to communicate with you. I am good at Thai massage and really like to eat fish. What about you? I guess that we will have many topics to talk about.

Do you have some social networks? I will be waiting for your letter.

Best wishes
Eugenia

Uncanny.  Truly, truly uncanny.  They even both said “hi brian” is the same giant blue letters.  What are the odds?  Presumably, I should continue with the composition of my reply, and send a copy to each of them.  It’s almost as if one of them isn’t a real person.  Or even – the horror – neither of them is.  Does some terrible middle aged, male, ugly criminal want to know more about me, that he can then use to his advantage and to my disadvantage?  If Eugenia hadn’t copied Chrystal’s email to me, these suspicious thoughts might never have occurred to me.

Seriously though, these sorts of (and all the other sorts of) bullshit emails pollute email, by making you assume that any email from anyone which seems even slightly off key is bollocks, even if it isn’t.  You even think it may be bollocks if the person it’s from is someone that you know.  Because, maybe someone else stole that person’s name, or just guessed it or chose it at random.  I can remember when it actually made sense to trust incoming emails from strangers, unless they were obvious bullshit.  Those days are long gone.  At first, email seemed to create a bright new world of candour and of quick and easy communication.  But emails like the ones above clog up the pipes.  They may be a joke, but they are a joke we could all do without.

Wednesday July 01 2015

Yesterday I wrote here about the twenty-first century social obligation to use a mobile phone when meeting up with someone, because of the problems this solves and despite the problems this creates.  Hence the need for me to take my mobile phone with me when going photowalkabout with G(od)D(aughter) 1.

But, on Saturday evening, the evening before GD1 and I went on our walk, I was very nearly deprived of my mobile phone, by which I mean deprived of the ability to make use of it.

What happened was that, while I was also out and about on Saturday evening, a baritone-singing student friend of mezzo-soprano-singing student G(od)D(aughter) 2, sought the help of GD2.  His mobile had run out of puff and needed a recharge.  GD2 uses an iPhone, but Baritone has an Android mobile, so Baritone could not use GD2’s recharger.  What to do?

Between them they decided that I and my Android recharger might be the answer.  I guess that GD2 then rang me on my immobile home number and discovered that I was out.  Then, knowing my aversion and incompetence as a mobile phoner, and especially as a reliable receiver of incoming mobile messages, she did not not attempt to ring me on my mobile.  Or, she did try my mobile and I did not answer.

For various reasons that I still don’t understand and which in any case do not now matter, Baritone ended up coming to my home, armed with GD2’s key to my home, and having made his entrance, he “borrowed” my mobile phone recharger.

I want to emphasise that the above quote marks are not sneer quotes.  They are confusion quotes.

For, what exactly does it mean to “borrow” a mobile phone charger?  What GD2 meant, when she assured Baritone that it would okay for him to “borrow” my phone charger, was that it would be okay for him to charge up his mobile phone, using my charger at my home.  As indeed it would have been.

However, Baritone misunderstood this assurance to mean that it would be okay for him to “borrow” my charger, as in: take it away and make use it throughout Saturday evening, in other places besides mine.  I don’t believe that Baritone would have done this without that assurance from GD2, as he understood it.  After all, whereas charging up your mobile in situ is socially very okay, taking a charger away without permission is surely a twenty-first century social gaff of the first order.  But, Baritone thought that he had permission to do this otherwise unacceptable thing.  GD2 is adamant that she gave no such permission, but I believe that Baritone genuinely thought that this unusual procedure was, in the light of GD2’s assurance, okay.  He made this clear in a written thankyou note he left on my desk.

And it normally would have been okay.  Had I not been going on an expedition the following day with GD1, then the charger could have made its way back to my home some time on or around Sunday, and all would have been fine.  But, for all the reasons that were explained in the previous posting, I needed that charger by quite early on Sunday morning at the latest.

So, despite GD2s protestations, I acquit Baritone of wrongdoing.

But then again, Baritone is a baritone.  And baritones often behave very badly, quite often at the expense of notably virtuous mezzo-sopranos.  So maybe I’m being too kind.

All was speedily corrected by GD2, who was rather insulted by the profuseness of my thanks when she brought my charger back at 8am on Sunday morning.  Of course I got your charger back.  (See what I mean about virtuous mezzo-sopranos.)

It was just as well that I did get it back.  In addition to using my mobile for all that meeting up at the start of the day, I also used it for its map app, and to tell me how Surrey were doing against Gloucester.  Very well, as it happened.  Nothing like your sports team winning to keep you going when you are knackered.

However, I now understand better why people have cameras with mobile phones built into them.  What with my bag and all, I was having constantly to choose between knowing where I was, and photoing it.

Surrey are on a bit of a roll just now.  This evening they beat Gloucester again, in a T20 slog at the Oval.  Surrey needed a mere six runs from the last four balls.  So, how did they get them?  The last four balls went: wicket, dot, dot, six.  In English that’s: probable Surrey victory, possible Surrey victory, almost impossible Surrey victory, Surrey victory.  I got that off my laptop, but I could have got it from my mobile, if I had been out and about.  Provided it hadn’t run out of puff.

Tuesday June 30 2015

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.

Monday June 29 2015

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:

image

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.

Wednesday June 17 2015

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.

Wednesday May 20 2015

Here is a cropped detail of a photo I took on Monday, of a rather strange hair style:

image

The internet knows everything, but my image-googling skills are not good enough for me to learn what is going on here.  I have seen this kind of style before, so this is no mere individual eccentricity.  There is a group of guys who all style their hair like this.  But who are they?  What else, if anything, to they believe in, besides believing in having their hair done in this strange way?  Anyone?

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The Poppies (3): People taking selfies
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ASI Boat Trip 7: Other photographers
Sacred architecture and profane roof clutter - a speculation
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Meaning in sport
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When three’s company but four’s a crowd
Not the same thing
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Signs of civilisation
Girls these days flashing their cleavages it’s disgusting don’t know what the world’s coming to …
Theodore Dalrymple on the menace of honest public officials and much else besides
He is white and he is poking fun at himself
The white stuff
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Holiday
Probably not right - but definitely written
Chanelle and Ziggy - romance in the age of total surveillance
The drive to see smiles (and they have to be real)
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The rights and wrongs of multiple marriage
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