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

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Wednesday September 17 2014

This morning, I finally finished a big old piece for Samizdata about the benefits to the old of superpowerful computers, at the end of which I linked to these two pieces here.  (There is already a comment up, from Paul Marks, saying that computers have been bad for him, by keeping him indoors, and also confused.)

This piece has not only ended a long Samizdata silence by me; it also explained it.  I can’t quite explain why this makes it feel so much easier to put lots of stuff up there again, like I used to until this last month or more.  But, it does.

Tuesday September 16 2014

We have most of us seen these tiny little cars they make nowadays, which are about half the length of regular cars.  A seemingly obvious usefulness of such vehicles, aside from them using half the metal and less money and power to make them and move them, is that they can be parked at ninety degrees to regular parking, which does away with the need for all that “parking” and doubles (and more) the amount of space available for everyone to park in.

But you seldom see such cars actually parked liked that, and when you do …:

image

… (as I did about a week ago near to where I live) you realise that this is actually a much more complicated arrangement than it might at first appear to be.

Suppose you see a half-parking-space, between two other cars, and you park your half-car in that space, at ninety degrees to those two cars.

You just might be making it impossible for one or even both of those cars to get out, unless you do first.  I mean, maybe the car beyond the half-car above can get out.  Maybe those two cars are cooperatively parked, so to speak, with both vehiclese arriving and leaving at the same time.  But maybe the bigger car arrived first and will want to leave first, and was relying on being able to move backwards to get out, in which case …

Which actually makes me think this was cooperative parking, by the two vehicles in concert.  Otherwise there would be just too much potential grief involved.

I can’t think, off hand, of an easy way to sort all this out.  So, just as well it’s not my job to worry about such things.

There is also the fact that the half-car in my picture, isn’t actually quite a half-car, more like a two-fifths- or three-quarters-car, and it sticks out annoyingly.  This doesn’t matter much in a big wide road like the one shown, but in other roads it might matter a lot.

While browsing the archives looking for a photo to have on the front of my computer, combining niceness with not making my stuff invisible, I came across a rather good photo.

The horizontalisation opportunity was too good to miss:

image

Click to get it all.

Not good for the front of my computer.  Too much going on.  No big clear slabs of nothing for computer ikons to be seen against.  But I like it.

It was taken in 2012, from the top of a car park in Peckham.

More shots of and from the same spot, here.

Monday September 15 2014

I want one:

image

Dawkins just couldn’t handle www.dezeen.com, so today I had fun looking back through the last few days (with many more days yet to be looked at).  This cried out to be immortalised on BrianMicklethwaitDotCom.

Sunday September 14 2014

Yes, you read that right.  Sunday.  I am celebrating the fact that I now have a Proper Computer (a temporary arrangement called Godo) at my command by doing more than one posting here today.  There may (although I promise nothing) be even more than two.  The thing is, during the Time of Dawkins, I accumulated lots of interesting little titbits which it was too bothersome to be bothering with, but which I now want (as they say in California and now regrettably everywhere else (see also the even more vomit-inducing “reach out”, which means pestering by telephone)) to “share” with you.

So, first up, this luxurious Rolls Royce, from the time when us Brits were in charge of how they looked:

image

As it says just above the roof, photoed in Lower Marsh, on Sept 1st.

Round headlights, but … four of them!  This car dates from the days when the only way to jazz up car headlights was to have two of them side by side.  How impossibly glamorous is that?!?!  I seem to recall that the puppet woman who presided over International Rescue on the telly had a pink roller, with the same kind of headlights.  Lady Penelope?  Yes.  Follow that link, and you will be reminded that Lady P’s roller had two sets of three headlights.  Only a billionaire, or millionaire as they used to be called, could afford that kind of headlight array.  (To say nothing of those doubled-up front wheels.)

(And it is so great that I am now back to hunting things like that down in about fifteen seconds.  There is nothing like deprivation to make you grateful for large mercies.)

But Lady Penelope missed a trick.  Her imaginary roller didn’t have a brush to clean its headlights, but some real rollers did!  You will see what I am talking about if you take a closer look at this:

image

Yes, a sort of elongated rich person shaving brush, to keep those lights clean!

You didn’t get those on Morris Marinas.

Here. They may not have intended it to be sarcastic, but that’s how it reads.

Saturday September 13 2014

My computer is in a sort of half-way state between being God and being Godot, and I feel that I am still awaiting the latter.  All the innards have been changed, as was promised, but it turned out they didn’t fit very well into the old case.  A new fan could only go in one place in the old case, and that place was awkward, involving stretching wires around things.  The graphics board went in a non-ideal place in order not to stretch the wires too much.  So, soon there will be another case, about an inch wider, which will enable the fan to be in a better place and that, I feel, will be Godot.  What I have now is something in between God and Godot.  Godo?

Anyway, I have spent my entire day catching up with myself, transferring stuff over from Dawkins to Godo, sending emails to myself (don’t ask), and sorting out all the pictures I’ve taken, which have remained on SD cards during the time of Dawkins, because Dawkins is not where I would even want them to be.

So, once again it is quota photo time.  And this time it is not cranes or a bridge or roof clutter but … flowers, in Victoria Street, photoed by me at the beginning of this month:

image

So, nature then?  Not really.  Behind, we have offices.  And the entire effect has been very carefully contrived by Westminster Council’s Nature Department.  I have never seen flowers growing like that when not coaxed into that shape by nature-controllers.  I think it looks a bit like a wasps’ nest.

I know, it’s over-lit.  But I like that.  It was a sunny day, and that’s how sunshine behaves when there are no Real Photographers about to take the strength out of it with their fancy filters and exactly calculated exposure times.  Sometimes the way that light overwhelms an autofocus, snap-and-hope snapper like me tells the story just as well as it would be told by a Real Photographer, and perhaps even better.

Anyway, I like it, and I hope you do too.

Friday September 12 2014

The Guru was finally able to deliver God/Godot this evening, but he only just finished, so time only for a quota cat, photoed by me in Tate Ancient yesterday:

image

More about that picture here.  It’s by David Hockney.

I didn’t know that you are allowed to take photos in the Tate, but I did so with increasing confidence.  There were official looking people well able to intervene and stop me, if they had wanted to.  But, they didn’t.  Interesting.  Was that always the rule, or is it only recent, in response to an irresistible tidal wave of students taking notes with their iPhones?

Thursday September 11 2014

Last night, at that birthday party I attended, I was asked all the usual questions about what I was doing.  Which is not a lot just now, what with my waiting for Godot problem.

Inevitably, in some of these cross-examinations, this blog came up, with me saying that I write here about whatever I feel like writing about, with very little thought for the interests of my readers.  Cats on Fridays, general trivia, etc.  I do Big Issues at Samizdata and trivia here.  Blah blah.

However, an American lady friend, whom I had not met in quite a while and whom I was very pleased to meet again, told me that she quite liked my trivia stuff, and that she even read my postings about cricket (this being the most recent one).  I thought that only I and Michael Jennings and Darren the Surrey Member were at all interested in those.  It seems not.

I’m guessing that this interest on her part is partly actual interest, but also partly that a principle is at stake here.  Which is: that the trivia that other people are interested in, but not you, is not actually an entirely trivial matter.  Life is not only Big Issues.  It is the small pleasures that give colour and texture and individuality to life.  Watever matters, to someone, matters.  Your opinion about what the Big Issues are should not be allowed to drive a tank or a government bureaucracy over my trivial pleasures.

So, her reading about the trivial pleasures of others is her asserting this Big Issue to herself, as well as maybe learning something about other little parts of the world, like the world of cricket (actually quite big of course, as I daresay are the worlds of embroidery and gardening and croquet and rap music and all the other little things in life that I don’t personally care about, other than to believe that tanks or government bureaucracies should not be driven over them).

Me being me, my way of asserting the importance of trivia, in general, to people, in general, is me writing about the trivia that interests me.

Her way of asserting the importance of trivia to people generally is her reading about the trivia that others write about.  But we are both making the same point.

I don’t want to say that I have entirely described why my American lady friend likes to read what I write about cricket.  I merely speculate that the above speculations might be a quite small part of why she does this.

(She, like me, probably also thinks that thinking about trivia can often lead to interesting angles on Big Issues, of the sort that merely looking straight at the Big Issues might cause you to miss.  Pointless fun and truly original insight are often delightfully close neighbours, I think.  But that’s a tangent for another time, hence this paragraph being in brackets.)

Wednesday September 10 2014

This evening I attended a young friend’s fortieth birthday party.  (You know you are old when people aged forty are young.) And I took lots of photos.  Before doing this, I asked our young hostess (the one who is now aged forty) if she would like me to take photos, or would actually prefer me not to.  She said please do take photos, so I did, in abundance. The best of them will be my birthday present to her.

As usual, my first look at them when I got home was a big disappointment.  The lighting was difficult and the background was a lot easier to focus on than dimly lit faces tend to be, so I have huge numbers of snaps of perfectly detailed backgrounds with blurry faces in front of them.  But the best of them will, I reckon, come out okay.  Most are not suitable for blogging, because private, but here is a crowd scene showing what the place looked like:

image

As you can see, an ecclesiastical setting.  The Cloister Cafe of St Bartholomew the Great, which is near the Barbican.

That photo is exactly as it came out of my camera.  No beefing up of the dark bits, which means that you can see what a tricky place it was to photo in.  I just took lots of pictures, in the hope that some would turn out okay, and I think that this is what happened.  There were many failures, but a few successes.  Once I get to work with my Photoshop clone, there may be more successes than it now appears.

Maybe I should have used flash, as my camera spent the entire evening urging me to to do.  But, I hate hate hate flash.  It is appallingly antisocial, and the results usually look terrible, as in: “Hey, that was taken with flash, wasn’t it?” and “Doesn’t your software have a tool to removing red-eye?” It probably does, but … uurrgghh!!

Tuesday September 09 2014

New Yorker classical music critic Alex Ross writes about how he still loves his classical CDs.  Partly, he admits, it’s nostalgia.  CDs were such a huge leap forward when they first arrived that that moment of pure joy is very hard to turn your back on.  I can still remember what my first CDs were: Nielsen 3, Brahms Sextets, Barenboim complete Beethoven piano sonatas, Strauss Alpine Symphony … Then there was the realisation that classical CDs would just get cheaper and cheaper and abundanter and abundanter, and then very soon the reality of that happy circumstance.  Gramex Boss Hewland prices his stuff with more than half an eye to what Amazon charges, and it remains worthwhile to visit Gramex from time to time, even as all the other central London second hand CD emporia have faded away.  He piles them high and sells them cheap.

Yes, the physical space occupied by CDs is a problem.  Those piles can get very high.  (Visit my home to see that problem on an enormous scale.) But, for me, the internet remains an unenticing place to purchase and play classical music.  I have accumulated some virtual titles, as a result of buying them new on Amazon and having an additional “cloud” version of the same thing piped into my computer.  But I wouldn’t want to be without the CDs whose purchase provoked this additional twenty first century response.

I wrote recently about the value of keeping things separate, in my case my big home computer and my music making equipment.  Even as my big home computer continues not to materialise, I still have music as good as ever, with no messing with some new kind of system to make it work.

But the central problem with classical music on the internet is that it remains, I believe, a mess.  Pop music having overwhelmed classical music economically during the last hundred years or so, pop music is the big driver of internet music, and internet music is entirely organised for the benefit of pop fans, and their discreet tracks.  We classicists are liable, as Alex Ross explains, to get lumbered with such things as John Eliot Gardiner’s Beethoven Nine labelled as being the work of Lyuba Organosova, merely because she tops of the list of soloists for the final movement.  The labelling of classical tracks on Amazon, where they offer you little snippets to listen to, is routinely done by naming the pieces with such things as their tempo or loudness markings, while neglecting to tell you what the piece is or what number movement it is.  They just can’t be bothered to get it right.  Fair enough.  I understand why they can’t be bothered.  We classicists aren’t worth bothering with.  Buy the CD or don’t and consider yourself lucky, is the message.  Until someone really big and well organised does bother about it, classical music on the internet will remain an off-putting afterthought, piggybacking systems devised for something else, rather than an enticing attraction.

When things get reissued, the labelling is liable to go completely to buggery.  I, for instance, have that Barenboim set of Beethoven sonatas on EMI from way back, long before the internet, when it first came out as a set of CDs.  Since then it has been reissued.  So, when the internet tries to assist me in cataloguing recordings I myself have made of it onto my hard disc, it gets it all wrong.  Useless.

Classical music on the internet will eventually get sorted out.  And when it does, I will, if not dead, presumably hear about it from my classical music mags.  A consensus will be announced, saying things like “Classical CDs really are pointless nowadays”, and when you read such articles, it will, after about a decade of premature enthusiasm of the geek-bollocks sort ("all you have to do is blah blah dance on the head of twenty seven pins blah blah blah turn seventy three cartwheels blah blah blah what could be easier? … yes it might all crash but to solve that blah blah blah ..."), eventually become true.  A actual, real world majority of Classical freaks will be using this single, best arrangement, and it will work, all the time, like email.  Or not.

Even when such a new classical dispensation does emerge, I will probably not bother to switch.  It’s not just sunk costs; it will also be declining costs.  As internet classical music becomes ever more appealing, so the price of mere CDs will sink and sink, until all of them can be purchased by me from Amazon, for £0.01 plus postage.

Meanwhile, I like that my CD filing system (aka my CD collection) is always accurate.  When I dig up a CD that says it is so-and-so’s recording of Brahms 4, it is, and then when I play it, it will be played in the right order.  Notes will be to hand to read about this recording if I want to, conveniently stored right next to the CD.

I do have lots of virtual music, as an addendum to my CDs, like those files that Amazon spontaneously volunteers, and like stuff I have recorded from the radio.  But the latter starts out being called something like DAB002, and I have never sorted out how to file it conveniently, or even to edit it into individual performances.  Life is too short to be bothering.  Why edit, when CDs are already edited.  Virtual music is strictly an afterthought for me.  Plastic music remains the thing itself, for me.  And (see above) I don’t believe I’m just being sentimental, even if I am somewhat.

Monday September 08 2014

Yes, I love it when that happens:

image

Congratulations to Jackie D for capturing it.

Sunday September 07 2014

I am still waiting for God.  But when God returns, he will be different.  Major internal organs will have been exchanged for faster and better ones, or that is the idea.  But, the new dispensation is taking for ever to arrive.

A new name suggests itself, for the new computer, when I finally get it and get it going.

Godot.

Saturday September 06 2014

Late this afternoon I had another go photoing the Ballerina, the idea being to do this photo again, but better.

But then I noticed what comely wenches the statues below her were, photoed them, and then picked one and photoed her with a crane behind her:

image image

What I like about her is that she looks so relaxed and happy about what she is doing, and for that matter about what she is wearing.  Pavlova, dancing up above them, looks otherworldly and untouchable.  The statues look like girls next door, but really nice looking.  To be more exact, they look like the kind of girls you wish had lived next door, instead of the ones who actually did.

When I click on either of the above photos, I get the big versions rotated ninety degrees.  All I can say about that for now is: my apologies.  It is far too late at night for me to be working out why this happens.  Does it happen for you?  Comments would help, as would explanations of what I am doing wrong or what is going wrong, or whatever.

Friday September 05 2014

You wait years for a classical music posting at BrianMicklethwaitDotCom, and then two come along in three days.  The day before yesterday there was one such.  Now there is this one.

Goddaughter 2, who is an aspiring classical singer, told me something this evening that many people in the world have long known but which I did not know, until now.  Or maybe I sort of knew it, but was glad to have my knowledge firmed up into real knowledge.  What GD2 said was: that the process of having a child, if you are a lady singer, can radically alter or even ruin your voice.  Something to do with hormones and muscles, and such things.  A friend of hers, who was a mezzo soprano, had a child, and became a soprano.  I.e. in plainer English, her voice went up higher.  Another singer, hired to sing at a noted provincial opera house in France because she was known already to have been very good in the part, had a child between being hired and the performances, and she had to be sacked because she went from excellent at singing to no good at all.

What a cruel world.