Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Sunday August 02 2015

Playing?  Yes.  It’s like they think test match cricket is some sort of mere game.

Cricket, says Cricinfo’s George Dobell, is no longer like this:

A few years ago - 2004 if memory serves - an elderly spectator settled down to watch a day of cricket at Horsham before the 11am start of play and promptly died. It was not until 9pm that anyone noticed. Such was the character of the crowd, and the cricket, that one more silent, motionless man in a chair hardly stood out.

He’s right.  The current England side is full of one-day cricketers.  And when they tried to beef up their top order for their latest test match, all they could think of to do was to sack one of the top order grafters (Ballance) and bring in yet another one-day batsman, a one-day batsman (Bairstow) who has done well in county championship cricket this year, so in he came.  Nobody will be surprised if they sack another grafter (Lyth), and I would not be surprised if another one-day belter (Hales? Roy?) came into the team to replace him, because one-day belters is all that there are to pick.

After all, if batting like Kevin Pietersen is what all the best batsmen do best these days, why try to find old-school grafters in the Boycott manner, if no such people exist of the necessary class?  (By the way, a basic reason why there is no clamour for Pietersen to return to the England team is that he now has no rarity value.  Bell, Root, Stokes, Buttler, Ali, all bat the way Pietersen does.  So does Bairstow.)

One day cricket also rewards those who can bat, in a twist-or-bust sort of way, and who can bowl in a similar fashion.  This doubles their chances of making an impact in a one-day game.  They get to place two bets instead of just the one.  England now have two such, Stokes and Ali.  Plus, Broad can bat after a fashion, and Root can bowl after a fashion.  Which means that England now bat, in a one-day sort of way, right down to number eight, where Ali now operates, and they now have five regular bowlers, because two of them are now Stokes and Ali.

Australia have the same feel about them.  Mitchell Marsh is supposed to be a batter and a bowler.  Mitchell Johnson is a dangerous slogger.  They too are inclined to try to hit their way out of trouble, David Warner style, rather than to graft their way out of it, the way they used to in the days of people like Bill Lawry, Australia’s Boycott (i.e. the guy Boycott was England’s answer to), whom I remember from my childhood.  Lawry grafted always, whatever the situation was.  Now, Warner slogs, whatever the situation is.

And now, all wicket-keepers can bat up a storm, ever since Gilchrist created that template, and actually, before that.  I remember am England chap called Parks, who could bat better than he could keep.  Now everyone picks the wicket-keeper who bats best, and they then give him extra tuition with a wicket-keeping coach.

The most memorable old-school test match I can remember was this one.  Six hundred played six hundred, and that was it.

For me, a turning point was Kevin Pietersen’s innings on the final day of the final test of the 2005 Ashes series, at the Oval.  England were 126-5, with Warne threatening to finish them off and leave Australia needing 150 to win and with plenty of time for them to do just that, and level the series and go home with the Ashes.  So, the one surviving front-line England batsman, Pietersen, had a match to save.  There were two ways for him to do it.  He could try to bat for a long time and make no runs.  Or, instead, he could try to slog lots of runs and thereby get England too far ahead, which is what he actually did.  Meanwhile, Paul Collingwood batted for about an hour and got next to nothing, which was also useful, but nobody except me remembers that.  Giles was spared having to bowl, but batted very capably instead.  I remember at the time how the commentators said, after Pietersen had just hit another six, that this was a strange way to save a match, but save it he did, and rather quickly, because England were suddenly way beyond Australia’s reach.

The most one-day thing of all about the current England v Australia contest is the way that these supposedly five-day games have all so far finished early, with one, one and then two entire days to spare.  At one point that most recent game looked like it might end with three days to spare.

Also very one-day is that all three games have been won, by whoever happened to win them, by large margins.  One team just happens to slog or bowl its way into a dominant position.  The other team tries to slog quick runs or take quick wickets to get itself back into the game, and, as teams doing this usually do, they fail, and the dominant-from-the-start-to-the-finish winner wins by a mile.

England crushed Australia in the first game.  But then, after they were crushed even more crushingly in the second game, everyone said, oh, England will now go back to grafting.  But no.  They didn’t.  They couldn’t.  They didn’t have the players to do that, even if they had wanted to.  And they won the third game by eight wickets, and only right at the end was Boycott a happy commentator, because the Australian tail in the third innings, and then the England top order in the final innings, both did a bit of “old fashioned” Boycott-type batting, or as close to that as modern batters can now manage.  This was why the match lasted a whopping three days, instead of a mere two.

Saturday August 01 2015

Following along from these pictures of earlier-than-now digital cameras, I have been doing further trawling through my photo archives, looking for weird old cameras in the hands of people wandering around the tourist spots of London, which typically, for me, then and now, means Westminster Abbey, Parliament Square, Westminster Bridge, and then along the South Bank.  And with this, I thought, I had struck gold.  This, I thought, from outside Westminster Abbey, nbjh is the weirdest camera of them all:

image

I took that picture, which I have somewhat cropped in order to eliminate the face of the man holding this contraption, on October 29th 2006.  At first I thought that this camera was a very ancient digital camera, for doing still photos.  A … well, a camera.  But after a little googling (that the company that made this thing is called “Sharp” was no help at all) I now learn that it is a Sharp Video8 8mm Video Camcorder Player Playback Hi8 Camera, or something a lot like that.

Whatever that is.  I have no real clue.  Does it mean that it is pre-digital, and that it records pictures on film?

The internet was very coy on the subject of what this thing actually is, and even more coy about when it was first on sale.  I myself have absolutely no idea, and would welcome enlightenment from any commenters inclined to supply it.

Friday July 31 2015

Here comes another of those Don’t Mention The Wires!!! stories, at favourite-internet-place-of-mine, Dezeen.

imageI have rather unkindly sliced a vertical slice out of one of the photos, of a truly extraordinary post (I mean a physical post in the road - not a piece of internetting), which is covered from the top almost to the bottom in The Wires!!!

But, maybe this is an oblique reference to The Wires!!!:

“The reason we constructed frames was to filter the surrounding environment, which changes fast in an unforeseeable manner,” explained architects Hyoungnam Lim and Eunjoo Roh.

They constantly take away some The Wires!!!, and install new The Wires!!!, in different places.  Could that be what architects Hyoungnam Lim and Eunjoo Roh are, rather delicately, referring to?

What all these Don’t Mention The Wires!!! stories suggest to me is that these are countries (the other big one being Japan) where electronic communication arrived when people were still very poor in other ways, and any politician who tried to restrain The Wires!!! to make them prettier, but more expensive, would be hanged by them.  Western trained aesthetes don’t like it, but know there’s nothing they can do.

I also recall hearing once about how in Japan, all buildings tend to be more temporary, because of earthquakes and all timber construction and suchlike, and that even religious buildings get torn down and rebuilt in another spot from time to time.  And if it’s temporary, who cares what it looks like?  If they want to make it pretty, fine.  If not, also fine.  If The Wires!!! will soon be different The Wires!!!, no worries.  Let The Wires!!! go where they want.

But what do I know?  I’m only babbling on like this to make entirely sure that this posting is longer than the post.

Looking at this some more, I do wonder if those architects maybe persuaded the electricians to rearrange these particular South Korean The Wires!!!, so that they are less visible from the Architecture, and if those frames, mentioned above, are as they are so that The Wires!!! cannot be seen through them.  They act like blinkers, in other words.

If so, it should have been explained more clearly.  As it is, we can only guess.

Thursday July 30 2015

A man who writes about cameras writes, here:

Camera makers have been trying for 150 years to develop an all-in-one camera that satisfies the needs of most photographers. The Nikon Coolpix P600 comes closer to filling that order than any of the other ultra-zooms I’ve tested to date, taking into account the issues at the wide-angle end of that monster zoom.

I love zoom.  My current amount of zoom is x24.  But, I really love zoom.  And there have been cameras out there, like this one with its x60 zoom, for quite a while now.  I was cautious, fearing that other things would have been sacrificed too much, for too much zoom, too soon.  But it is clear that Nikon’s marketeers have a wire attached to my mind and have been reading it:

The P600 was obviously designed for photography enthusiasts, by photography enthusiasts. Photographers who purchase the P600 will need to have realistic expectations – any camera with a 60x zoom is bound to be the result of countless mechanical, optical, electrical, and functional/operational compromises, and every one of those compromises is going to affect image quality in some way. The P600 will appeal to serious photographers who want to be able to cover a very broad zoom range of photographic genres without having to carry a heavy DSLR, a sturdy tripod, and a bag full of very expensive lenses.

And, he might have added, who doesn’t want to be wasting vital seconds faffing about with swapping lenses, while an animal like a cat or a digital photographer abandons the pose that got you (me) all excited, just before you (I) take the shot.

They also include a twiddly screen, which for me (me) is an absolute, no-twiddly-screen-no-sale, must.

Overall, the P600 does a remarkably good job of making those compromises palatable.

So, could this be my next camera?

Reviewers also mention that it is quite light, light as in not heavy I mean.

Best of all, although Amazon wants £500 for the P600, Amazon also kindly let me know that there is now a P610, which is a P600 and just a teeny bit more so, for under £300.

I am very tempted.  But I have been so happy with my x24 Lumix camera that I have not been paying attention to the camera market, until I happened to go back to it today.  Not only was I unaware of the existence, since several years back, of the Nikon Coolpix P610.  I also failed to clock the fact that since it was introduced, in about 2013 or some such year, the Nikon Coolpix P610 has acquired a bigger, more expensive and even zoomier younger brother, the Nikon Coolpix P900.  The Nikon Coolpix P610 is a cool red colour ...:

image

... but the Nikon Coolpix P900, maybe because it is aimed at money-less-of-a-problem semi-pro types (rather than at “enthusiasts"), is boring black:

image

The Nikon Coolpix P900 is also more expensive, and heavier, and heaviness is starting to be as much of a problem for me as expense always has been.  Is the Nikon Coolpix P900 worth that extra expense and extra weight, just to get x83 (!!) zoom, instead of a mere x60 zoom?  I am thinking, maybe not.

But mostly, what I am thinking is: that I would like to be able to compare these two cameras in a shop.  Remember those?  To see just how much these two cameras differ in bulk and weight.  This is the kind of thing that is hard to see from mere pictures, even if they tell you the weights in numbers.

And no sooner is the thought thought, than it is investigated, because this, as I keep being reminded, is the world we now live in.  Next stop, I think, will be a place like this, just to see if they’ll let me hold these two cameras, one in each hand, to compare and contrast.

Wednesday July 29 2015

The more I read of Telling Lies About Hitler (from which I have already posted an untypically amusing excerpt), the more engrossing I am finding it.

In it, Richard J. Evans criticised some of the more casual observers of the libel case that his book described, for arguing that David Irving ought to be allowed to write what he wanted, as if the case was all about David Irving’s right to be heard.  But it was not.  It was about whether David Irving could silence one of his more prominent critics, Deborah Lipstadt, who had called him a bad historian and a Holocaust denier.

Yet, there was a reason why this error kept getting made by less than conscientious observers of this case, as Evans himself explained (p. 201):

Yet as the trial got under way, it quickly became apparent that lrving was going to find it difficult to set the agenda.  The bias of the English law of defamation brings its own perils for the unwary Plaintiff.  By placing the entire burden of proof on the defence, it allows them to turn the tables and devote the action to destroying the reputation of their accuser.  Indeed, once the defence has admitted, as Lipstadt’s did without hesitation, that the words complained of mean what they say and are clearly defamatory, justifying them in detail and with chapter and verse is the only option left to them.  A successful libel defence therefore has to concentrate, in effect, on massively defaming the person and character of the Plaintiff, the only restriction being that the defamation undertaken in court has to be along the same lines as the defamation that gave rise to the case in the first place, and that it has, of course, to be true.  The defence had to prove that Lipstadt’s accusations of Holocaust denial and historical falsification were justified in Irving’s case. Thus it was lrving, not Lipstadt, whose reputation was on the line.  By the end of the third week of the trial, as Neal Ascherson observed, the defence had thus succeeded in turning the tables, ‘as if David lrving were the defendant and Deborah Lipstadt the plaintiff’, an observation shared by other commentators too.  ‘In the relentless focus on Irving’s beliefs,’ wrote Jenny Booth in the Scotsman, ‘it was easy to forget that it was actually Lipstadt’s book which was on trial.  Increasingly it seemed that it was Irving himself.’

Having thus put himself on trial, Irving was then found to be guilty as charged.

Tuesday July 28 2015

Certainly in London and I presume everywhere else in Britain, when you see lots of verbiage attached to the outside of a building site, it tends to be health and safety stuff, of the sort shown in this posting, which I did here in February 2011.  (That was the very first posting I did with the category “Signs and notices” attached to it.)

In the summer of that same year, I was in France, where I took the picture that follows.  But I never got around to displaying it here.  Here it is now:

image

This is a sign that I saw adorning the outside of a French building site.

To me, it resembles nothing so much as the credits at the end of a movie.  Every imaginable contributor to the building process is painstakingly listed.  Click if you want to be able to read everything more clearly.

Although I am sure I might be persuaded otherwise (for instance by people with knowledge of the relative merits of the actual work that tends to be done in each country), I think the contrast is rather in France’s favour.

In France, everything that has been done, and by whom, is listed.  Presumably it has been done in a manner to make the people who did it glad to have their names in, as it were, lights.  In Britain, every imaginable thing that might go wrong is listed, in the form of an imprecation that people not do this.  It’s the difference between being proud of what is being done, and being nothing but apologetic about it.

Right at the end, though, it does say: “chantier interdet au public, port du casque obligatoire”.  This means (unless the internet has gravely deceived me): “access forbidden to the public, helmet obligatory”.  So, a bit of health and safety nagging there.  But that’s all there is.

In Britain, you also sometimes get a rather shorter list of the grander and more professional of the enterprises people who are doing the job, but not nearly so much is made of this, compared to all the stuff about being ever so, ever so careful.

Monday July 27 2015

Today, from an advert in Shoreditch High Street, I learned of a game which is new to me …:

image

… Zorb football.  As I have already told you, in the heading of this.

Zorbing.

The website in the picture.

Video of people playing Zorb football.

The tackling reminds me of this.

Sunday July 26 2015

I like Palestra House, outside Southwark Tube.  It’s a bit trashy and seventies looking, but I like it.  Especially in nice weather, as it was when I recently photoed it, on the right here:

imageimage

On the left is how Palestra House was looking on March 31st 2005.  There was a faked-up picture of what they thought it would look like on the outside of the site, but you never really know these days, by which I mean for the last three decades or so.  Although, there was an early clue, in the form of the beginnings of the glass cladding, as you can see.

One definition of Modern Movement modernism sixties vintage (as opposed to the later and more stylish versions), would be to say that when it was being built you did know only too well what it was going to look like.  It was going to look like … that.  And that … was not good.

I think that Palestra House, on the other hand, turned out quite good.

Saturday July 25 2015

May 2005 was when I first really started noticing my fellow photographers.  My archives show that I had been noticing a bit before then, but that was when I really started taking photoer photos, to the point where there are now enough from that time for me now to choose only the ones where faces are not revealed, and still have plenty to pick the best of:

image image image imageimage image image imageimage image image imageimage image image image

My favourite is 4.3, the penultimate one.  The proof that I was getting serious was that I took lots of shots of this guy, which meant that the best shot was good of him and his amazing posture, and it was good of his camera, which like most of them, is of a sort you no longer see.

It is particularly noticeable how many cameras were silver coloured, in those far off days.  Now dedicated cameras are mostly black.

Friday July 24 2015

Well, it hasn’t really worked has it.  No way have I caught up.  But before today ends, I do want to show you this, because it is a cat and Friday is my cat day:

image

This photo is not mine.  It is Mick Hartley‘s.  I really like his photos, both the ones he takes himself and the ones he picks out for his blog that other people have taken.

What I love about Hartley’s photos is his attitude to colour, and to black and white.  He loves both.  He loves the black and whiteness of black and white, and he loves the colourfulness of colour.

So, that white cat above, for instance.  It adds an extra something that the white cat is surrounded by a white window frame, and that it is black behind the white cat.  And, neither the cat nor the window frame would be as white if it were not for the blue wall.

So, go to Mick Hartley.  You may not want to read the whole thing just because I do.  But, look at the whole thing.

When G(od)D(aughter) 1 and I left the Park View Cafe, the weather was still grim, as you can see in this picture, which is of an amazing building which we encountered just a few yards down the road:

imageimage

I was amazed.  But so amazed enough that I forgot to take a closer photo of all that signage so I could look it up later.

What is it?  And more to the point, what was it?  Because nobody says “We need a place to do indoor pretend rock climbing” and builds themselves something like that.

Well, here is the website for what it is now.  And here you can read about what it was originally built to accommodate:

For a small district, Stoke Newington is endowed with a generous amount of open space. To its north, there is the extensive West Reservoir, now a non-working facility, but open for leisure and surrounded by greenspace, at the entrance to which is the architecturally bizarre Castle Climbing Centre, once the main Water Board pumping station. It was designed, by William Chadwell Mylne, to look like a towering Scottish castle.

There should be more fake castles of this sort.  Why don’t people build such things now?  You’d think with all the current fascination with fantasy movies, Harry Potter, and so forth, there’d be rock and roll royalty queueing up to erect more stuff like this.  Do they not even try?  Or, do they try, but are they then rebuffed by boring local planning committees, frightened that if they allowed such things, before you knew it, everyone would be building whatever they liked.

“Castle Climbing Centre” ought to mean a Centre where you learn to Climb Castles.  But, it doesn’t.

During the same walk that I took this picture, and this picture, I also took these pictures, of photographers.

We start (top left) with a view of a photographer on the Millennium Footbridge, and end with a clutch of photos taken on Tower Bridge.  In between, I walk from the first bridge to the second, along the south bank.

As you can see, smartphone cameras continue to predominate:

image image imageimage image imageimage image image

As you can see, I am becoming every more careful to avoid showing recognisable - especially automatically-computer-recognisable – faces.  I have even included one photo (bottom right) where the whole point and fun of it is that a passing car hid the lady’s face, and thus caused the resulting photo to qualify for inclusion in this posting.

Also, I like that effect you get with glasses (top right), where you get a more focussed version through them of the otherwise blurry background.

I have been reading Richard J. Evans’s account of the libel trial which took place at the High Court in 2000, in which David Irving sued the American historian Deborah Lipstadt, and her publisher Penguin Books.  In one of her books, Lipstadt had called Irving a bad and dishonest non-historian, and Irving was trying to suppress this opinion.  Irving lost.

Richard J. Evans was the expert witness who did most to blow Irving’s claims to be an honest and effective historian out of the water.

The Evans book is entitled Telling Lies About Hitler.  At the end of the chapter in it entitled “In The Witness Box” (p. 231), Evans recounts a truly extraordinary moment, right at the end of the court proceedings:

And when it came to rebutting the defence charge of consorting with neo-Nazis in Germany, Irving’s habit of improvising from his prepared text led him into a fatal slip of the tongue, as he inadvertently addressed the judge as ‘Mein Fuhrer’.  Everyone in court knew that he was referring to the judge as ‘Mein Fuhrer’ from the tone of voice in which he said it.  The court dissolved into laughter.  ‘No one could believe what just happened,’ wrote one spectator.  ‘Had we imagined it? Could he have addressed the judge as “Mein Fuhrer”?’ Irving himself denied having made the slip.  But amid the laughter in court, he could be seen mumbling an apology to the judge for having addressed him in this way.  Perhaps the slip was a consequence of Irving’s unconscious identification of the judge as a benign authority figure.  Whatever the reason for it, with the laughter still ringing in its ears, the court adjourned on 15 March 2000 as the judge prepared the final version of his judgment on the case.

Bizarre.

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:

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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.

Wednesday July 22 2015

Indeed.

Busy day today, so another photo taken yesterday evening, at the southern end of Blackfriars Bridge:

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Dragons like these are to be seen all around the City of London, guarding the City from the rest of London.  This is the kind of thing Wikipedia surely gets right, so here is that link.

You can find lots of pictures of these dragons, but not so many photos that look the way mine does, with a blurry Big Thing and a blurry crane in the background.