Computer battles

This blog is working fine, but my computer is not. It demanded a major upgrade of Windows, and life has not been the same since it deigned to do that, after the usual switch-it-off-switch-it-on-again palaver. My Photoshop(clone) is refusing to process photos, and everything looks different. Black mostly. Windows Photo Viewer or whatever the hell it is is a shambles compared to what it was. And now, it seems, I can’t even copy and paste a damn link, for phux ache. I wanted to insert the getting old link at this point, but my computer refused to even do that.

On the plus side, in the course of my various battles, I blundered into a way to make all the text on my screen 25% bigger, so i can now clearly read all about how my computer is failing to do what I want it to.

I think there are too many windows open. But that’s something to have a go at tomorrow. For tonight, good night.

At least the above bollocks seems to be loading okay.

LATER: Sorted. Switched-it-off-switched-it-on-again, again. I am indeed getting old.

And not a cloud in the sky

On and from the roof of my block of flats, yesterday:

We’re all confined to barracks, and the best weather of the year so far, by far, chose to arrive to celebrate the fact. About five solid days of not-a-cloud-in-the-sky perfection, ideal for any number of different and interesting photo-expeditions, and all we’re allowed to do is a little shopping shopping, go straight to and from work, and take a bit of exercise. As I get older, I become less and less inclined to incur the wrath of strangers, and me creeping about taking photos might, I can’t help feeling, incur the wrath of strangers. Up on the roof seemed like the best place to go photoing, and in particular to photo the annoyingly perfect weather.

Photo 1: The Broadway, taking shape. Photo 2: Millbank Tower, and new south bank apartments beyond. Photo 3: Parliament, The Wheel. Photo 4: looking towards Vauxhall. Photo 8: Central Hall Westminster. Photo 9: Shard.

Photos 5 and 6: Roof clutter, close up.

It’s Photo 7 that is the mystery. I’m going to have to go back up there and check that out. What’s the big tower on the left? What are the towers in the middle? Looks like they’re under construction. Guess, we’re looking towards all the building around Battersea Power Station.

A twenty-first century moment

Central to understanding it is that I still don’t understand it.

Okay, so earlier this evening my phone rang. I picked it up, and said, to some suspiciously silent silence, “Hello”. No answer. “Hello”. No answer. Down goes the phone. Who was that? Oh well.

If this had been the twentieth century, this would have been a “crossed line”. But, I thought, this is not the twentieth century. This is the twenty-first century. Do we still have crossed lines? I rather think not. Oh well.

A bit later, the phone rings again, and it’s GodDaughter 2. I know this because I recognise her voice. (My phone has no idea who’s ringing.) I asked: Did you ring earlier? No.
Well, I said “Hello” and “Hello” to somebody, but heard nothing back. She said, in an “OMG” voice: Oh My God. I was just talking to my Dad, she said. And he said he heard you talking, she said. While we were talking, she said, on some twenty first century computer programme the name of which I (as in: not GD2 – as in: I) forget, but which I (ditto) surmise enables third parties to join in the conversation, so you can have a group chat. In among the talk between GD2 and GD2’s Dad, the phrase “ring Brian” was used, for some reason I didn’t catch and still don’t understand (see above). So, the programme promptly rang Brian, aka me. But I don’t have the programme on my twentieth century telephone, so I could hear nothing. But GD2’s Dad heard me saying “Hello” “Hello”.

Later, GD2’s Dad’s phone rang me again, and I answered, “Hello” “Hello” etc, and a strange young man’s voice came on saying what must have been “Who are you?”, while I was busy saying “Who are you?” GDs’s Dad’s phone had rung GD2’s Dad too, helpfully putting us in touch, given that it had failed last time. GD2’s brother aka GD2’s Dad’s son answered at that end, which make the whole situation really clear, to both of us. Not. Oh well. GD2’s Dad and I had a chat, because we are both polite and could neither of us just say: But I wasn’t trying to talk to you.

This must be what they call Artificial Intelligence.

Please understand (see above about how I don’t actually understand) that the above description is only my guess about what was really happening.

ISIBAISIA

ISIBAISIA stands for “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. As I get older, I find myself wanting to use this phrase more and more, hence my need for an acronym. Which, I note, other persons are already using also.

Anyway, the latest thing that I’ve said before and now find myself in the process of saying again (while linking back to the first version) is something which you will encounter if you scroll down in among this, at Samizdata, namely this:

Recently there was a comment thread here about modern art, about how ghastly it is, how badly it bodes for Western Civilisation, etc. etc. But I believe that to be as pessimistic about the future of the West as some of those pessimistic commenters were, merely because of a lot of stupid abstract paintings, is to fall into the trap of regarding artists in the way they like to regard themselves, as a vanguard of civilisation (an “avant guarde”), rather than as mostly a rearguard. You simply cannot understand Modern Art without appreciating that it takes place in a technological space first developed by, and then abandoned by, the industry of making pictorial likenesses. Abstract art is, in many ways, a rationalisation of the fact that likenesses are now no longer demanded, on the scale of former times, from “artists”. It is primitive picture making, done in a part of town that used to be very grand but is now either stuck in genteel poverty, or in the other kind of poverty: a slum.

Old school art was a business as well as an “art”. …

Painting used to do likenesses. And the new point I am in the middle of making, in the next posting here, is that painting used to do beauty. But photography is now doing beauty also. (Expect a beautiful photo-illustration.) So painting has retreated out of that too. Art doesn’t “advance”. It merely ducks, weaves and accumulates, piggy-backing on technologies developed by more business-like businesses.

Brown Norwegian cheese (again)

In 1966, I had a three month holiday in Scandinavia, on a bike. This did not work very well in Norway, which is rather bumpy, but what did work well in Norway was the brown Norwegian cheese. I don’t have the ostehøvel that I used on that trip to slice the brown Norwegian cheese, because I gave it away to someone, but back home, I bought another one immediately …:

… and have been using it ever since, for slicing regular British cheese.

I had less luck finding any brown Norwegian cheese back home. Even since then, I have kept an eye open for this brown Norwegian cheese, in Brit shops, but I never found any.

Then I had a brainwave. Why not type “brown Norwegian cheese” into the www, and see what came up? Maybe the www could tell me which shop to try. And yes, you are right, I should have thought of this a lot sooner. See the contents list below, which will include: Getting old.

Anyway, the www did its stuff, and I was instructed to visit Waitrose in Oxford Street, which is in the basement of John Lewis. And I duly purchased a couple of … these:

“A Norwagian speciality. Mixed creamy whey cheese made with goat’s milk and cow’s cream.”

When you get inside this (and start slicing and eating), it looks like this:

Yum. £4 per cube. Worth every penny.

LATER: Sorry about the spotty plate. It really is time I got some plain white ones, on which dirt is more easily spotted.

A cricinfo commentator muses wisely about the nature of language

Snatched from the cricinfo online text commentary on this cricket match yesterday:

Hugh: “@ Dez, Spelled is perfectly acceptable, as well as spelt. Like lit and lighted. In any event the thing about language is, if you’re understood then it’s served it’s purpose. Thing with grammar pedants, they’re typically not the brightest.”

Wisely, aside from that last bit of abuse, which I only sort of agree with. Language keeps on changing. Just enjoy it, every so often having a LOL about it.

Over a lifetime, one’s attitude to language changes.

First, teachers (not always of the brightest sort) tell you what language definitely, definitively, objectively, carved into the fabric of the universe, is. Apostrophes so, “literally” literally means literally (which I still think it should (which it literally now does not for many people)), its is different from it’s because blah blah blah, blah blah blah is not correct stop it once, blah blah blah.

Second, you watch people literally driving a tank through all those and similar carved-into-the-universe rules (literally driving an actual fucking tank (and swearing (which is also objectively wrong))), and putting things like “)))” in their blog postings, and generally being wrong.

Three, you relax and realise that it was ever thus. Language always changes. Metaphors mutate into … words, often spelt wrongly. Lines get towed, and well, boo hoo, so what. Like the man said: “If you’re understood then it’s served it’s purpose.” And although that second “it’s” there, according to the pedants who taught me about it’s/its, should have been its, I actually think that spelling it it’s make at least as much sense.

And, I know I know, you can’t carve something into fabric; that would destroy it. But, you got the message.

Mariah says to eat crisps for Christmas

A feature, by which I mean a bug, of Growing old is that all the heartfelt love songs of earlier times are now recycled by their original performers to sell sofas, deodorants, food, etc..

All I Want For Christmas by Mariah Carey is one of my most favourite pop songs, long before sophisticates came around to realising how good it was. (Same with Abba. I loved them from the moment they won Eurovision, before even the Gays noticed them. With the greatest pop songs of a certain vintage, the rule was: Me, Gays, Girls, The Public.)

But now, it turns out that all Mariah Carey really wants for Christmas is …:

… a packet of potato crisps.

Personally I like potato crisps, hence my possession of this crisp packet. But, I despise almost all crisp advertising. What crisp advertising ought to say is: Yes, our crisps are probably bad for you if you scoff too many of them, but they taste terrific, even the plane old salt-flavoured ones. But oh no. Instead, they bribe celebs whose successes in life have been based on not scoffing crisps or similar products, to tell the rest of us to do this, by pretending that they do too, and thereby to imply that crisps are good for you. The more you scoff them, the thinner you’ll be and the better you’ll be at football, and you’ll be athletic enough to win an Olympic medal.

The thing is, though, that Mariah Carey has had serious difficulty staying slim, and she might actually be telling the truth, in now claiming to prefer crisps to the sort of boyfriend she could have when she was young and effortlessly slim and when the world was at her feet.

Displacement

So much for logic. More World Cup torture, for England anyway. By the end, it wasn’t even close.

Looking back on it, it seems to me that what England did in this tournament was what France have done more than once in the past. England amazed everyone by beating the All Blacks and thus cleared the way for someone else to win it. Too bad it wasn’t England. I trust South Africans are suitably grateful.

I funked it again, in the sense that I watched it, but couldn’t bear to listen to what the commentators were saying. But on the plus side: my bowels were emptied more thoroughly and rather earlier than usual; I managed to set the date on a newly acquired camera; some washing up got done; various other displacement activities were accomplished, including reading early bits of this rather good book about Shakespeare; I listened more carefully than usual to parts of Record Review, which is still going now (a suitably agonised Shostakovitch string quartet). I mention such personal trivia because this is my blog, but more to the point because I have nothing to add to the rugby expertise that rugby experts will now be lavishing on this event. In a year’s time the only person reading this posting will be me, maybe.

From the look of it, England made too many mistakes, and South Africa just played better.

A beaver shadow in Oxford Street

August 18th 2017 was one of those bright-light-on-light-coloured-buildings-turning-the-sky-darkest-blue sort of a day:

But when I photoed that particular photo, in Oxford Street, the mere bright-lightedness of the buildings or the darkness of the dark blue sky were not what I was focussing on, or at any rate trying to focus on. I know this, because the very next photo I photoed was this:

What I was interested in was that shadow. And it just has to be a beaver, doesn’t it? No other creature has quite that granny-bod shape. (The shadow is clearly not of that bobble on the right, as, with my terrible eyesight, I may have been guessing at the time.)

Sadly, however, I didn’t manage to get a look at or to photo a photo of the original beaver statue that was the cause of this shadow. I think I must have been too close to the building. Or, I tried to but not hard enough, and then forgot the beaver and looked at all the other things to be seen from Oxford Street that this same light was lighting up. Yes, probably that.

But then, earlier this week, while wandering through the archives, and spotting this beaver shadow as an obvious solution to the what-to-blog-on-Friday question which I face every Friday, it occurred to my slowing old brain that I didn’t just have a mysterious photo of a beaver shadow to ponder about and never explain. I also had a word – “beaver” – and that once you have a word, the internet becomes searchable, even if all you really have is an image and a guess about a word. So, “beaver oxford street”, and bingo, all was explained, instantly.

Why Are There Statues of Beavers On Top Of This Oxford Street Shop? asked Londonist, 32 months ago. Question asked, question answered:

If you glance up at the top of 105 to 109 Oxford Street (the building currently home to Tiger and Footlocker), you’ll see a strange quartet of creatures decorating the roof.

Four beavers, the top one holding a scroll(!), have been peering down on Oxford Street shoppers for 130 years.

Ah, I should have glanced. Then, I’d have seen them, or at least one of them. All I did was look, and then give up.

This is because 105 to 109 Oxford Street used to be Henry Heath’s Hat Factory and for many years, the hats made here were felted with beaver fur.

Londonist goes on to note that there is a big sign round the back of this building saying “HAT FACTORY” “HENRY HEATH Oxford Street”, and proves this with a photo. I recall taking a photo of this signage, several times. But where, in my ever more voluminous photo-archives, are such photos to be found? Search me. And I could search my V P-As, but it would take far too long.

One of the rules of blogging that I have had to learn is that if I have something to say, and want to say more but can’t, I should just say what I have to say, and leave the rest for later or never. So, the beaver shadow photos go up here, today, and any photos I have photoed of signs saying HENRY HEATH HAT FACTORY will just have to wait for another day or decade, in the event that one fine day or dark night I stumble upon them while looking for something else.

However, I do have just one more beaver photo to show you.

I occasionally visit John Lewis in Oxford Street, because it sells fine produce. Whenever I do this, I also, unless the weather is particularly bad, visit the very fine John Lewis Roof Garden, and take photos from it of the rest of London. So, I wondered if I had any photos taken from that spot, of any beavers, photoed in the direction of Centre Point, which is the big tower at the eastern end of Oxford Street, after which Oxford Street turns into New Oxford Street. Since I knew which directories to be looking in, this was a photo-archival search that made sense.

And, long story a bit less long, I came upon this photo (which I photoed in 2015):

And I took a closer-up look at this photo, in the spot where a beaver might be seen. And here, in the middle of the above photo, is that beaver, looking like a granny supporting herself with her umbrella (although this is really a “scroll(!)”):

Now clearly, even more than is the case with all the other photos of mine that I show here, this photo is no work of art. Canaletto can rest easy in his grave. But, as with so many of my photos, it’s the principle of the thing. This photo is photoable well, because look, I actually did photo it, badly.

I could even go back to this same spot and trying to photo the same photo, better.

Memo to self: do that, some time soon.

Happy birthday

Happy birthday to me, that is, because today has been my 72nd birthday. Several emails have arrived noting that various Facebook friends have been wishing me a Happy Birthday. I find Facebook baffling and useless as a means of personal communication, so am unable to access any of these messages on my Facebook feed, where I can detect no sign of them. So let me say here, to Robert L, Bjorn, Tim, Rob F, among others: thanks for all the good wishes.

In this computerised era, everyone is prompted by their various machines to do this, but it still means something that they actually do it.

Also appreciated were various phone calls. It tells you something about the experience of Getting Old (see the category list below) that all of these conversations included, in among the birthday greetings, medical discussions of various bodily malfunctions and of the efforts of the NHS, such as they have been, to correct these. My various friends and family are also Getting Old, you see. Older, anyway.

The general lesson from these medical conversations seems to be: if you want the NHS to start being properly on your side, get yourself classified as an emergency. Let me clarify this. You need to be threatening to die. Then, the NHS seems to stir itself into action. But if you are merely rather damaged and you are able to get worse before death looms at all threateningly, the NHS can’t seem to persuade itself to be that interested. It focusses its attention instead on manipulating the various queues it puts you in, in order to made its statistics look better than they actually are. Basically, it tries to keep you in a queue before it allows you to join the actual Official Queue, the one it wants to keep short, and thereby make itself look good. One of the friends I spoke with today said he had recently photoed a bench in a hospital corridor with the words “SUB QUEUE” attached to it.

Birthdays, when you are rather old, remind you that you are Getting Old. Which might explain why, to celebrate my own birthday, I have, by way of giving myself a present, chosen to have a good old grumble.