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Category archive: War

Sunday November 11 2018

Yesterday, I went on a shopping expedition which involved boarding a train at Charing Cross, which I planned to reach by going first to St James’s Park tube.

The first of the photos below (1.1) is of a taxi, parked close to where I live, with some sort of poppy related advert on it.  I like to photo taxis covered in adverts.  Temporariness, the passing London scene, will get more interesting as the years pass, blah blah.

Then, in Strutton Ground, just this side of Victoria Street, I encountered two besuited gentlemen wearing military berets and medals.  I photoed them both, with their permission, and I post one of these photos here (1.2), also with their permission.  Sadly, the other photo didn’t come out properly.

It was only at this point that I realised that, the following day (i.e. today) being Remembrance Sunday and what’s more the exact one hundredth anniversary of the Armistice of November 1918, London in the Westminster Abbey area would already be awash with Remembrance Sunday photo-ops.  My shopping could wait a while, and I turned right down Victoria Street.

The seven other photos below mostly involve small wooden crosses and dead autumn leaves - autumn 2018 arrived at Peak Dead Leaf yesterday - but they also include another poppy related advert, this time on a the side of a bus (3.3), which I photoed in Parliament Square:

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Sadly, the plasticated documents referring to “British Nuclear Test Veterans” (2.1) were insufficiently plasticated to resist the effects of the rain.  It began to rain some more when I was arriving at Charing Cross station and it did not stop for several hours, so I’m guessing these lists suffered further rain damage.  It’s odd how little sadnesses like this stick in your mind, in amongst the bigger sadnesses being remembered.

The autumn-leaves-among-crosses photos, all taken outside Westminster Abbey, are but a few of a million such that must have been taken over this weekend, in London and in many other places.  Is it proper to include two mere advert photos, even if they are poppy related adverts, in such poetically symbolic and dignified company?  I chose to do this because one of the things I find most interesting about these Remembrance remembrances is that, as each year of them passes, they don’t seem to be getting any smaller.  People still want remember all this stuff, even though all the veterans of World War 1 are now gone.  Hence the adverts.  If the adverts didn’t get results, they’d not be worth their cost.

As to why these remembrances continue to be remembered, and by such huge numbers of people, year after year, I think one reason is that each political tribe and faction can each put their own spin on the sad events being remembered, but in the privacy of their own minds.  For some political partisans, these ceremonies and symbols are a chance to wallow in the pageantry of patriotism.  For others, they are an opportunity to rebuke such nationalists, for stirring up the kinds of hostility that might provoke a repeat of the sad events being remembered.  “Patriotism” and “nationalism” being the words used to salute, or to denounce, the exact same sentiments.  But declaring red poppies to be a warning that the defence budget should be increased, or that they are anti-Trump and anti-Brexit symbols that Trump supporters and Brexiteers have no right to wear, would be too vulgar and partisan, so on the whole this kind of vulgarity and partisanship is not indulged in, not out loud.

The phenomenon of the political meeting where all present hear the same words but where each understands them to mean different things – I’m thinking of such words as “Britain”, “freedom”, “democracy” and “common sense” – has long fascinated me.  Remembrance ceremonies remind me, on a larger scale, of such meetings.  I attended many such little political meetings myself before I decided that mainstream politics was not for me, and switched to libertarianism, where meanings are spelt out and arguments are had rather than avoided.

For less obsessively political people, Remembrance ceremonies and symbols are simply an opportunity to reflect on the sadness of history in general, and in particular the sadness of the premature deaths of beloved ancestors – or, perhaps worse – hardly known-about ancestors.  We can at least all agree that premature death, in whatever circumstances, is a sad thing to contemplate.  And until young men entirely cease from dying in wars, Remembrance Sunday will continue to be, among other things, a meaningfully up-to-date event.

And so, year after year, these ceremonies continue.  Will this year’s anniversary come to be regarded as Peak Remembrance?  We shall see.

Sunday November 04 2018

This makes sense:

There are three separate things the larger Twitter user base demands from the company:

- the ability to send messages out to the entire world

- the ability to interact with fellow users

- the ability to send messages without the fear of toxic responses

The problem is it’s basically impossible to guarantee all three at once. Call it the “Twitter impossibility theorem,” to ape Kenneth Arrow. You can have an open Twitter, you can have an interactive Twitter, and you can have a troll-free Twitter, but it is basically impossible to have all three. One of the demands must be dropped.

Twitter reminds me of that fish in The Hitchhiker’s Guide, which jumps into your ear and translates all the languages of the gallaxy into your language, which started wars because it meant that everyone could understand what you had said, and hate it, and be understood by you hating it.

Twitter doesn’t translate, but it connects the hitherto unconnected.

Friday October 19 2018

Over the summer, a friend of mine was performing in a show at Warwick Castle about the Wars of the Roses.  And early last August a gang of her friends and family went there to see this, me among them.  It was a great show, albeit wall-to-wall Tudor propaganda, and a great day out.

Warwick Castle is quite a place, being one of Britain’s busiest visitor attractions.  It’s No 9 on this list.

I of course took a ton of photos, and in particular I photoed the horses in this show, the crucial supporting actors, you might say.  The stage was out of doors, of course, and long and thin, the audience on each side being invited to support each side in the wars.  Long and thin meant that the horses had room to do lots of galloping.

None of the photos I took were ideal, but quite a few were okay, if okay means you get an idea of what this show was like:

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The basic problem, I now realise, is that the horse heads were at the same level as the audience on the opposite side to my side.  As Bruce the Real Photographer is fond of saying, when photoing people, you start by getting the background right.  And I guess he’d say the same of horses.  Well, this time, for these horses, I’m afraid I didn’t.

So it was a case of nice legs, shame about the faces.  (That link is to a pop song from my youth, the chorus of which glued itself to my brain for ever.  I particularly like the bit where they sing: “Shame about the boat race”.)

I recommend the show’s own Real Photographer, for better photos, potted biogs of the leading historic characters, and a little bit about the enterprise that did this show.

Friday September 21 2018

The high point, literally, of the expedition that GodDaughter2 and I made to Kew Gardens back in August was our exploration of the Great Pagoda. 

From the top of the Great Pagoda, you can see the Big Things of Central London.  But what the Great Pagoda itself looks like is also worth examining.

Here is an early view we had of it:

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And here is how it looked when we got closer:

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The Daily Mail describes the Great Pagoda as Britain’s First Skyscraper.

Now look how it looked when we got closer still:

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So, what are those sticky-outy things on the corners of each sticky-outy roof?

That’s right, dragons.  And we’re not talking merely inflated dragons.  These are solid looking and scary.  You couldn’t kill these dragons with a mere pin prick, and you wouldn’t dare to try.

Most of the Great Pagoda dragons look like this:

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We discovered when we got there that the recent restoration of this Great Pagoda had, only a few weeks before our visit, been completed.  We got very lucky with that.

Read more about these dragons, and about the Pagoda that they now guard, in this Guardian report.

This Great Pagoda, London’s very first Big Thing, was built by Sir Wiiliam Chambers in 1762.  The dragons were a feature of the original Pagoda, but in 1784 they were removed.  Being made of wood, and following a burst of wet weather, they had started to rot.

Wikipedia says that Kew Gardens was adopted as a national botanical garden in 1840.  Would that be when the Pagoda was opened to the general public?  Whenever exactly that was, Kew Gardens and the Great Pagoda have been what we now call visitor attractions for quite a while now.

During World War 2, the Great Pagoda was used to test bombs.  You can still see one of the holes they made in all the floors, to allow the bombs to fall.  Keeping that for everyone to see now is a nice touch, I think.

Kew Gardens contains lots of greenery, and green stuff on sticks.  What do they call those things?  Trees.  Kew Gardens has lots and lots of trees, of many different brands.

So, on the left here, the hole in the floor.  On the right there, the seat made from many trees:

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And in the middle, the seat, seen through the hole.

But back to those dragons.  The old rotting dragons have now been almost entirely replaced by 3D printed dragons, which look solid but which are actually far lighter than the old-time originals.

On the lowest roof, right near the ground, there was a different sort of dragon, which looked like this:

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I wonder what the story was of that one, for there did indeed seem to be only one such blue dragon.  Had the original plan been to make all the dragons like that one?  But did its structural weakness cause them to abandon that plan, and go with the other darker green dragon with its scary red tongue, and with its rather more solid wings?  Don’t know, but whatever the story is, the winning dragon design is pretty good also.

Everything about how the Great Pagoda looks, inside as well as its exterior, says: class.  This is a visitor attraction that I warmly recommend.  There is no lift, not originally of course, and not now, but the steps, although quite numerous, are at a comfortably mild angle - rather than, say, like the ones in the Monument.  Even better, each flight of steps you go up causes you to reach another actual floor, of the sort you can stand on, with windows looking outwards.  So, oldies like me can go up two floors, say, and then have a comfortable breather, without blocking anyone else on the stairs.  If we are on the right floor, we can even use that multi-treed seat (see above).

The weather on the day that GD2 and I visited Kew Gardens was not perfect.  The dragons look rather dark and menacing in my photos.  But that look works, I think.  And as days out go, this day out was pretty much perfect.

Wednesday August 29 2018

I did a posting about a Big Thing Alignment that I saw when I went with Darren to that cricket match at the oval, and I did a posting about how the last ball of that game looked, two days later, on video.

Now for some more photos I took on the day Darren and I went to day 2 of that game between Surrey and Lancashire.

The very first photo I took that day was this:

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I love how, in the middle of that big photo, we see one of those excellent You Are Here signs that you see all over London, and in many other spots, I don’t doubt, in not-London.  I really like these signs, and constantly photo them, if only to remind me for later of exactly where Here was at that particular moment.

Of this OCS stand, SteelConstruction.org has this to say:

This is a most appropriate use of steel, in a geometrically complex arrangement, which adds drama and visual excitement to a famous venue.

I was hoping that this OCS Stand, would be as open for people to sit in as it was in the above photo photo, because I have yet to experience the views from the top of that stand, surely as dramatic in their own ways as the stand itself. But on the evening when Darren and I were there, the OCS Stand was shut.  Shame.  Memo to self: I will photo these views.  If I have to make a special trip to the Oval just to ask about that, fine, I’ll do it, and keep on doing it, until they let me up there, preferably on a nice day.

Here is that OCS Stand, as it was looking at the second interval of the day, which happened not long after we got there:

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That photo makes the ground look pretty dark, even though the floodlights were on.  And it does not deceive.  The ground did indeed look dark, to the human eye.

Here is the Pavilion that faces the OCS Stand, which is where we soon moved to:

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Some like ancient, and dislike modern.  Others dislike ancient, and like modern.  Me?  I like both, and particularly like it when they are near each other, or (as in this case) facing each other, and I can relish the contrast.

One of the particular charms of cricket grounds – this being especially true of the two big London grounds, the Oval and Lord’s – is that they feature both (fairly(at least in style)) ancient, and (very) modern architecture.  In comparison,.I find big stadiums built all in one go very dull.  I went to a football game at Wembley, and if it hadn’t been for the big arch on the top of it, it would have been totally anonymous.  It’s not just the architectural uniformity.  It’s also that in a place like Wembley there are no gaps, and you can’t see anything except the stadium.  You could be anywhere.

Darren and I, what with Darren being a Surrey Member, sat in those
seats at the top, in the middle, and when you look out from there, across at the OCS Stand and to the left and the right of it, you couldn’t be anywhere but London.  Here is another view looking to the right, which includes that earlier Big Thing Alignment and several other random Big Things besides:

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And here is the view to the left, towards Battersea, where the new US Embassy, just up river from MI6, has detonated a building boom:

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But forget the US Embassy.  The reason I am showing you the above photo is to tell you how very dark the ground had become.  Forget playing cricket.  How on earth can you even see anything on that cricket pitch?

But seeing things on that pitch soon became very easy.  Quite soon afterwards, observe how very light the ground had become:

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The floodlights were blasting away in both of those photos, not just in the second one.  Yet, in the first, they were being totally outshone by the paltry remnants of daylight.  Only when daylight had seriously dimmed did the floodlights suddenly start to make their presence felt.  And even then the sky is still quite light, especially down near the horizon.

I have been to the Oval quite a few times, but don’t recall witnessing the extremity of this contrast ever before.  I think it helped that we were looking down on the ground from quite a height, onto the brightness of the ground.  But basically, I’ve never been there when it was properly dark before.

The reason the above photo, especially of the people near me to the left, looks like it was taken with flash is because there is another big clutch of floodlights coming crashing into us from off to the right, very nearby.

Finally, here are a couple of photos I took just after arriving at the ground, through the Hobbes Gate, which is behind the Pavilion, on the far side of the Oval from the river, and from me:

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One of the more agreeable features of London’s big two cricket grounds - Lord’s especially - is the number of giant photos there are on show, of cricketing heroes present and past.  It was the same when I visited White Hart Lane a while back.

Here is a closer-up snap of the Surrey ladies captain, Natalie Sciver:

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Sciver lead her team to victory on Bank Holiday Monday in the ladies T20 national tournament.  Her Surrey “Stars” beat “Western Storm” in the one semi-final, and then won the final against Loughborough “Lightning”.  Lizelle Lee got a century for Surrey in the final, but she got good support from Sciver, and Sciver excelled with both bat and ball in the semi-final, which was a lot closer.

I am fond of emphasising how sport has replaced war in the world’s luckier and richer countries.  Long may that trend continue.  What these giant pictures emphasise, or so it feels to me, is the local significance of big sports clubs, and the way that, in terms of how these places feel close up, sport is also busy replacing religion.  This is especially true now that the other great modern challenger of religion in this kind of way, the cinema, is fading back into a merely domestic past-time.  The elaborate imagery.  The regular attendance at an architecturally impressive locale.  The shared agonies and ecstasies of the assembled congregations.  The way that the calendar is carved up into a distinct pattern.  To me, it all feels very religious, and I am certainly not the only one to have noticed this.  (That link took only seconds to find.)

The Church of Cricket is, I quite realise, but a small sect, these days, at any rate in England, compared to the Universal Church of Football.  But the point about sport replacing religion in modern life still stands.

Friday July 20 2018

Indeed:

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I encountered this on Twitter this afternoon.  This is now all over the www.  But, I could not discern who had first taken this photo, or what they had said about it.  Twitter is bad like that.  People shove up photos like this one, but never say what their provenance is.  The worst offender when it comes to not linking when they should is “You Had One Job”, a gang of internet thieves, basically.  Whom I will not dignify with a link.

This has been a holding operation.  I have three quarters finished at least two different postings, but I don’t want to rush them.

This one, on the other hand, I do want to rush.  You want a funny caption?  Do your own.

You what?  I’m angry, and taking it out on you people?  Damn right I’m angry.  Surrey amassed a stupendous 250 in their T20 innings against Kent earlier this evening, and then instead of Kent failing to chase this down (Kent would definitely have failed to chase this down), it bloody rained and the two points were shared between the two sides.  There ought to be a rule that says if you make that many, and then it rains, you automatically win.  But is there such a rule?  Is there?  Of course not.

Tuesday July 10 2018

This afternoon I went on a really good photo-expedition, to Denmark Hill, as it happens.

However, today’s overwhelming photoing sentiment, for me anyway, is, for now anyway, regret.  That I missed, until I heard about it about an hour or more too late, this, what would seem to have been one of the biggest flypasts that London has recently witnessed, and maybe ever will again.  Damn.

So, no photos today.

Not even this one.

Thursday June 21 2018

Here is a recent Scott Adams Dilbert cartoon, although Dilbert himself is not involved in this particular one:

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I’ve always thought that one of the many things that won the Cold War for Civilisation and doomed Bolshevik Barbarism to defeat was stealth stuff.  By its nature, stealth stuff is undetectable, and the better it is, the more impossibly undetectable it is.  So, if you cannot detect it at all, it could still be there, and really really good at being stealthy.  Hell, it could be anywhere.  It could be right outside the Politburo’s front window.

Of course, it probably isn’t this clever.  But, how would you be sure?

This was why, when the Americans had got these contraptions working reasonably well, they revealed their existence.  They took lots of spooky photos of these spooky things, and made sure the whole world could see them.  Where, at any particular moment, they were, for you to photo, they did not reveal.

How can you defeat an enemy like that?

Same with Star Wars.  Shooting down all incoming nuclear missiles with all-powerful death rays.  Bollocks, right?  But, again, how could you be sure.

Now you see it – now you don’t
The notes for my talk
Thirteen ladies
The men but not the luggage - and a round of golf
Talking with - and without - a microphone
Faces on a Monument
Leo McKinstry on British resistance to the German Sealion
Wartime Encryption for Pigeons
Worse than bad form
Penis park
War and peace
A recognisable Lancaster and a recognisable Vulcan
Adam Zamoyski on Pilsudski
A different sort of Remembrance photo
A Nelson photo of mine finds a new home
An imperfect posting (with a photo)
Nadar takes photos from his giant balloon
Ross King describes how Louis Napoleon became the most important man in the world
Ross King introduces Meissonier
A disruptive book about nineteenth century French painting
Me and Patrick Crozier talking about WW1: If only?
War Memorial outside Westminster Abbey
August 2017 Old School Blogging (4): The exceptionalness of Don Bradman
The Roman Empire as a tube map
The same piece quotulated twice
City peddlers etc.
Me on war and sport - quotulated two years later
Lincoln Paine on how Rome mastered the sea by turning sea battles into land battles
London statues
Indian sign cautions against selfie sticks
Cruelty to a fake animal – kindness to a fake animal
World War One questions
The most newsworthy thing so far done by a drone
Mosaic diversion
Some more Christmas cheer
Remembering ten years ago
A blown up airplane and a dodgy internet connection
Rod Green on Boys and Men at the time of Magna Carta
A direct hit
A “What If?” concerning the Battle of the Atlantic
My next last Friday meeting: Patrick Crozier on the political consequences of WW1
Anti-drone drones
Trump
A Japanese torpedo bomber that could use some zoom
Ronald Harwood on Karajan
Steven Pinker on the (im)moral message of the Old Testament
Juliet Barker on Knights of Old: A lot of history in one paragraph
You can tell that drones have arrived because now they are being turned into a sport
Marc Morris on how the Bayeux Tapestry ought not to exist
The receiving station at Swains Lane (and the previous version of it)
Paul Kennedy on centimetric radar
Aerobots
The Bayeux Tapestry small enough to fit in this blog
Photo-drones fighting in the Ukraine and a photo-drone above the new Apple headquarters building
The Bayeux Tapestry – the ultimate horizontalised graphic
Sixty Charlie Hebdo demo signs that say something other than “Je Suis Charlie”
Knackered
Quota photo from Paris (also a selfie)
The Poppies (2): The crowds
The Poppies (1): What they look like
The illustrations for Christian Michel’s talk this Friday (plus some thoughts from me)
Michael Jennings at the Rose and Crown
Is it practise or practice?  (And: would perfect communication actually be perfect?)
PID at the Times
Football comment
Russian tanks in London
The Not-V2 at London Bridge Station
VC DSO DSO DSO DSO
South Bank signs
Feline ephemera
Omaha dead
How hydrogen bombs work
Jane Austen’s naval brothers
Heroes?
The Times of May 24th 1940
Antoine Clarke on life and libertarianism in Britain in 1913
Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
Crossrail grubbings
Me and the Six Nations under the weather
Classical CDs from Gramex
Bomber Command Memorial pictures
How gun control works and how it will defend Libertaria
Remembrance Sunday photos
76 operas and a monument in the wrong place for Hermann the German
That’s what I call a Health and Safety Notice
Absolutely not a private navy (except that it probably is)
Climate science as make-work for former Cold Warriors
Bouncing bombs and spinning cricket balls
Lancaster
Brianmicklethwait Dot Com headline of the day
Links to this and that
Super Galaxy
Anti-aircraft guns may not have killed many enemy airplanes but they did point them out
Taranis
Peaceful time in war zone
303 Squadron in the movie and on the telly
Three Gorges Dam picture
Separating the men from the toys - the future of warfare and of sport?
The cats from out of town that cleared out the rats during the siege of Leningrad
Osprey pictures
Luxembourg church in hill and Luxembourg footbridge
Frank McLynn: “Counterfactual history is the essence of history …”
Death to all who try to tiptoe past our guards while wearing giant baby costumes!
What-iffing
Thoughts concerning FDR’s warmongering nature
Redirect
Wingtipping a V1
They aren’t complete idiots all the time
“Who are you going to sell it to if we don’t buy it?”
Resizing Slim with Expression Engine
Switching from dumb bombing to smart bombing
If the Jews have been running the world they haven’t been doing it very successfully
Terence Kealey on the Wright brothers and their patent battles
Flypast!
Ed Smith on how baseball defeated cricket in America
A soundbite to describe Britain a hundred years ago
Probably not right - but definitely written
Remembrance photos
Short posting with short photograph
Did Hitler have a plan to conquer the USA?
A conversation - and another outage
American war memorial by the sea at St Nazaire
Cold War winner
Islam was peaceful and tolerant until the Christians attacked it
Mean bombers
Will twentieth century aerial warfare be repeated by toys?
What are the world’s biggest problems?
Another link to a friend and that’s your lot today
And further talk at Christian Michel’s about water and power
World War One talk at Christian Michel’s
Geoffrey Blainey on Ivan Bloch - the man who predicted World War One
Rubble
Admiral Coward
“Liberty might be defended, after all” - Tom Holland’s account of the Battle of Marathon