A favourite posting featuring Dame Edna

As already reported, those who now dip into the Old Blog are no longer greeted with the Screen of the Red Death. But Google still says it’s “not secure”, and the whole point of this New Blog is it works far better, no matter what kind of hardware you are using. So, I’m still transferring stuff from the Old Blog to here,whenever the mood takes me.

Yesterday I transferred a particularly favourite posting, from way back in 2007, which featured a photo by me of a celebrity whom I encountered in Piccadilly Circus:

There is also, in this old posting, a photo of men wearing mankinis. Being photoed by others besides me, naturally.

All this happened on the one afternoon.

Friday creatures Twitter dump (3): All the others

Further proof that a dog will put up with just about anything, including being biffed by a cat half its size, if it has been subjugated by humans and if the humans say it mustn’t retaliate.

Well that didn’t take long. So, here are the rest, all in one Twitter dump posting.

Congratulations to Laurence Fox, for standing his ground against the mob. Live long and prosper, Mr Fox, and in the fullness of time become Sir Laurence, for services both to acting and to sanity. (LATER: Fox laughter.)

Also on the subject of acting, my favourite recent Babylon Bee story was this:

Hollywood Actors Pledge Never To Take A Role Where They Have To Pretend To Be Someone Else

Finally:

Saw that here.

That’s it for BMNB today, probably (I don’t promise nothing). I’m off out this evening, to do Something, and it will take several hours for me to get ready.

LATER: Bird carries shark.

EVEN LATER (not Twitter, but I’m dumping it here anyway): Robot jellyfish.

Friday creatures Twitter dump (1): Feral chickens

Friday is my day for celebrating and denouncing the various splendours and atrocities achieved and perpetrated by Mother Nature’s mobile creations, of the non-human sort. I’ve already done Antlerball (see below). But much other Twitter related creature news has been accumulating on my computer, and it’s time for another blog-and-forget-about-it session.

First off: Feral chickens in New Zealand. The tweet, and the story that the tweet linked to:

A New Zealand suburb has emerged from the country’s coronavirus lockdown to find it has been invaded by feral chickens.

Around 30 of the animals have made a home of Titirangi, a suburb of Auckland, while its 4,000 residents were staying in during the Covid-19 crisis.

Now, locals are demanding action against the birds – which they say are damaging the area and leaving their human neighbours sleep deprived with their early morning chorus.

“Some people really hate them,” said Greg Presland chair of the Waitākere Ranges community board, which has been tasked with addressing the problem.

So, tasty, and now also very annoying. They’re doomed I tell you.

I was going to do all of these creature tweets in one posting, but that would clearly get way too long. So, this is just (1) of … several.

The Screen of the Red Death – and transferring postings from the Old Blog to this New Blog

My Old Blog now, if you click on it, greets you with this graphic horror:

Which puts me in mind of this old Vincent Price movie. No passing reader who happens upon that is going to go any further.

This Screen of the Red Death stuff never happened while I was still posting things at the Old Blog, but it did start happening a few months back. Just as well this New Blog was already in business. Well, in pleasure, anyway.

Ever since I began the New Blog, on May 1st 2019, I’ve been occasionally transferring stuff from the Old Blog to the New Blog, mostly beginning this exercise with the most recent stuff there, but earlier stuff also. And a regular trickle of people coming here do seem to read postings that have been transferred from the Old Blog. Especially the postings I’ve done about Emmanuel Todd, these having been among the first postings I transferred. Anyone who knows how to automate this process and would like to earn some extra dinner money, get in touch. But, warning: transferring stuff from “Expression Engine” to WordPress is complicated. Which is why I am doing it, for now, by hand, so to speak.

One particular thing that has driven this process forwards is that if I ever want to refer back to a posting on the Old Blog, I want never to oblige readers actually to go to the Old Blog, but rather to be able to read the posting here, me having transferred it to here before linking back to it. And that can get complicated, as I may or may not relate (I promise nothing), in a future posting here.

My favourite posting that is now here but used to be at the Old Blog is, I think, this one about Two geese. Or were they ducks? Whatever they were, geese or ducks, they were having a romantic interlude beside the River, and I photoed them.

Strange creatures in Exhibition Road

Just over a year ago, in May of 2019, I was making my way from South Kensington Tube, up Exhibition Road past Imperial College, to the Royal College of Music, there to witness a performance which involved GodDaughter2. While making this journey, I encountered this strange creature:

I wonder what that was, I thought to myself from that moment on. Then, while rootling through the photo-archives, as I do, I encountered this taxi-with-advert photo, which seemed to feature the above creature:

Now I had some words to work with, so googling went from difficult to easy, and I began to learn about the One-Eyed Creature. He is one of the stars of a juvenile movie franchise, involving such things as One-Eyed Creatures, but also similar but Two-Eyed Creatures. Despicable Me. Also Despicable Me 2. At around that time, Despicable Me 3 was being plugged. Also there is a Bean Boozled connection, involving some sort of toy. Now that I know I could understand all this, I no longer feel any need actually to do this. How do I feel about having once cared? Despicable Me, that’s how.

I think a symptom of getting old is that you see more and more things that baffle you, and you don’t like the feeling. It’s not that we Oldies really do care about knowing trivia like this. What we care about is not knowing.

Soon after photoing this One-Eyed Creature, I photoed this couple:

I don’t feel quite so Despicable for being entertained by these two, but I still do somewhat. I found a few mentions of them on The Internet, in connection with Halloween. But this was May, so, no reason for them to be out and about in South Kensington. But then again, no reason for them not to be.

Robot insects on the march

3D printed flexoskeletons. In English, that would be “a cheap army of robot insects”:

Engineers at the University of California San Diego have developed a new method that doesn’t require any special equipment and works in just minutes to create soft, flexible, 3D-printed robots.

The innovation comes from rethinking the way soft robots are built: instead of figuring out how to add soft materials to a rigid robot body, the UC San Diego researchers started with a soft body and added rigid features to key components. The structures were inspired by insect exoskeletons, which have both soft and rigid parts—the researchers called their creations “flexoskeletons.” The new method allows for the construction of soft components for robots in a small fraction of the time previously needed and for a small fraction of the cost. …

But what could an army of such robots actually do? The most obvious immediate applications would appear to be military. They could be what I’ve already said: an army. Of miniature kamikaze bugs, or some such horror movie type thing.

I wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of a hive of these little thingies.

Another fun thought: See the second category in the category list below.

Taxis with adverts – July to December 2019

I know I know. There’s only one person in the whole world who likes clicking through huge collections of photos of London taxis with adverts on them. Me. But such galleries of persuasive transport are now easy for me to put up here, and have always been easy for you to ignore, so here’s another, consisting of fifty-four taxis-with-adverts photoed by me in the latter half of last year:

Photo 49, bottom row, number four, features Ms Calzedonia, a shapely lady with writing on her legs. But even my original 4000×3000 photo did not enable me to discern what this writing says and my googling also proved insufficient. Anyone?

Also puzzling, merely from my photo number 40, is “Duolingo”, but this was easy to learn about, and pretty easy to guess. It’s for learning a new language.

Fifteen dancing ladies in 1923

I have now well and truly caught the Shorpy habit (from Mick Hartley mostly). Usually the photos at Shorpy are of Americans, but these ladies dancing (or just posing?) on a beach are British, although the beach is American:

Shorpy calls these ladies a “millipede”, but there are only fifteen of them. Most of them are holding the lady behind’s leg up, but the one at the front has to keep her leg up unaided, and the one at the back is doing no lifting. Just thought I’d mention it.

More seriously, changing fashions in figures is a fascinating subject. These ladies look to me a wee bit more plump than their equivalents now.

I remember noticing when Indian movie stars stopped being fat, and thinking: those Indians are finally eating properly. Good news. High status Indians no longer needed to prove they could afford to eat. They needed to prove that they could resist the desire to eat too much. I’m guessing that 1923 in Britain was still a time when food was somewhat scarce, albeit not as scarce as when these paintings were done.

I spend a lot more effort and time photoing and presenting my own photos than I do searching for good photos by other people. Basically, I let people like Mick Hartley do it for me. And Shorpy. Also this guy (I love that one). Any other photography suggestions would be most welcome.

Parshall and Tully (and Slim) on why Japan lost

I recently watched the 2019 movie about the Battle of Midway. Wanting to make a bit more sense of what I had just watched, I then purchased Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway by Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully. This seems to be a much respected volume, and now that I have started dipping into it, I find that, just as was promised, it is especially illuminating about the approach adopted by the Japanese side in this battle. Here is how the chapter entitled “Why Did Japan Lose?” ends (pp. 413-415):

British Field Marshal William Slim, who had been defeated in Burma by the Japanese in early 1942, but who would later return the favor by crushing them in the same theater in 1944, beautifully captured the spirit of his enemies in an excerpt written about the Japanese Army. He remarked:

The Japanese were ruthless and bold as ants while their designs went well, but if their plans were disturbed or thrown out – ant-like again – they fell into confusion, were slow to re-adjust themselves, and invariably clung too long to their original schemes. This, to commanders with their unquenchable military optimism, which rarely allowed in their narrow administrative margins for any setback or delay, was particularly dangerous. The fundamental fault of their generalship was a lack of moral, as distinct from physical, courage. They were not prepared to admit that they had made a mistake, that their plans had misfired and needed recasting. … Rather than confess that, they passed on to their subordinates, unchanged, the order that they themselves had received, well knowing that with the resources available the tasks demanded were impossible. Time and again, this blind passing of responsibility ran down a chain of disaster. … They scored highly by determination; they paid heavily for lack of flexibility.

This passage might just as easily have been written about Midway, as it perfectly encapsulates the problems the Japanese had when it came to altering their battle plans. In the matter of lack of moral courage, Yamamoto, Nagumo, and Yamaguchi were all quite clearly guilty as charged. Equally perceptive is Slim’s insight that sticking with a plan, even a bad plan, was a mechanism whereby the Japanese individual could personally absolve himself of responsibility for a defeat. Too often, though, the price for doing so was needless casualties, or even the outright destruction of one’s force, typically followed by the atoning suicide of the commander in question. All in all, this was not an effective model for winning a war against a numerically superior opponent.

By the same token, it is clear from many of the failures of learning and adaptation just discussed that the Japanese entered the Battle of Midway wearing doctrinal handcuffs, the effect of which was to retard still further their ability to innovate. Whereas American doctrine is generally presented to a commander as a codification of guidelines concerning the effective conduct of combat, the very nature of the Japanese military culture made its own doctrine far more rigid with regards to interpretation. This manifested itself in Nagumo and Genda’s disinclination to augment their tactical scouting assets with carrier strike assets, even in the face of accumulating evidence that the Americans were more alert than they ought to have been.

In the same way, the apparent unwillingness of First Air Fleet staff to even consider splitting the attacking power of Kido Butai after discovering the Americans later in the morning originated in doctrinal imperatives. Launching a quick attack against the Americans with CarDiv 2’s kanbaku before Tomonaga’s recovery, difficult though this would have been to implement, might have given the Japanese their best possibility to inflict more harm on their opponent than they actually managed. Yet, Japanese doctrine prescribed massed airpower as the correct answer to any tactical problem that arose, and Nagumo and his staff dogmatically stuck to that formula.

Likewise, Nagumo’s doctrinaire decision to close directly on the Americans had the effect of leaving his fleet positioned between two hostile forces (Midway and the American carriers). A decision to maneuver more freely, either to the north or northwest, could have mitigated some of the advantages that the Americans had accrued by virtue of the superior (and wholly intentional) initial positioning. Despite the Japanese love of indirect approaches at a strategic level, their love of closing directly to knife-fighting range at the tactical level was never better demonstrated than at Midway.

Some of these problems stemmed from the simple fact that in early 1942 the aircraft carrier was still a brand-new weapon system. As such, the body of doctrinal thinking in all the carrier navies was relatively small and still maturing. Other navies might have viewed an immature doctrine as being a tacit admission that some degree of interpretation by unit commanders would be required during the course of battle. The Japanese apparently did not see things this way – they stuck to the playbook, small as it might be. When improvisation was called for, they answered with the most expedient, and transparent tactic available-charging the enemy. Thus, in the critical matter of adaptation, the Japanese likewise failed abysmally.

Taken as a whole, the inescapable conclusion that emerges from a careful examination of the battle is the fact that the Japanese defeat was not the result of some solitary, crucial breakdown in Japanese designs. It was not the result of Victory Disease, nor of a few crucial personal mistakes. Rather, what appears is a complex, and comprehensive web of failures stretching across every level of the battle -strategic, operational, and tactical. Every aspect of the enterprise was tainted in some way. The surface manifestations of these deeper failures may ultimately have been a host of mistakes committed by individuals. And some of those mistakes were clearly more important that others. But the vast majority of them were in some way symptomatic of larger failures within the Japanese military and within the Navy’s cultural fabric, its doctrine, and its preferred modes of combat. They were the end products of an organization that failed to learn correctly from its past, failed to plan correctly for its future, and then failed to adapt correctly to circumstances once those plans were shown to be flawed.

Intriguingly, the seeds of many of these errors had been planted some forty years before, through the initial teachings of the Japanese Naval Staff College, and from the flower of Japan’s greatest victory – the Battle of Tsushima. They had lain unnoticed all that time, growing unchecked, waiting for the right time, place, and individuals to give them expression. Instead of culling these warped seedlings, the Japanese Navy had fostered their growth in the 1930s. The twin pressures of a violent nationalism, combined with the sure knowledge that they would be the underdog in any war with America, had conspired to skew Japan’s naval policies and doctrine still further during that time period. As a result, by the time the Pacific war began, and despite its undoubted tactical prowess, the Navy’s ability to mentally fight the war at a strategic and operational level was already fatally damaged. It was at Midway that the breadth of these shortcomings finally revealed themselves, with catastrophic results for both the Imperial Navy and the Japanese nation. Of course, in the larger context of the war, the Battle of Midway was just one of the first of a much greater harvest of bitter fruit that would fall from the poisoned tree of Japanese militarism.

The military defeats that began with the Battle of Midway stem from the harsh reality that, far from being the truly modern, progressive institution that it fondly imagined itself to be, the Imperial Navy was in fact possessed of the most parochial of outlooks. Instead of the quick, limited war Japan’s military leadership envisioned, the Pacific war soon revealed itself to be all encompassing and all consuming. In a shockingly short time, America had begun waging war against Japan across every strategic dimension available to a great industrial power – military, political, economic, and scientific. Japan was assaulted on the ground, through the air, and on and under the sea. Ultimately, it was beaten decisively in every one of these arenas. In this sense, Midway was merely symptomatic of the Imperial military’s larger failings. Most obvious was their fatally misguided decision to launch a war of aggression against the most powerful nation on earth. Having done so, moreover, they found themselves engaged in a conflict whose scope and complexity forced its participants to evolve at a frenetic pace. As it developed, for the Japanese this was a particularly daunting challenge. Despite the amazing speed with which they had modernized their fighting forces after 1848, they were still bound by thought patterns linked to an earlier military and cultural era, as well as the warped legacy of Tsushima. In the final analysis, it is no exaggeration to say that the conflict the Japanese military instigated in 1941 was not only beyond its resources, but also beyond its understanding.