John C. Reilly – Ian Hislop

On the left here, John C. Reilly, shown enacting one of the Sisters Brothers, Eli, in the graphics advertising the movie of that name. On the right, Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye, and star of long-running BBC comedy quiz Have I Got News For You? My instant reaction, when I first saw that advert for The Sisters Brothers, was that Reilly looked like a homicidal and weather-beaten version of Hislop:

I can’t be the only one now noticing this. Yet googling “John C Reilly Ian Hislop” yielded only information about either John C Reilly or Ian Hislop. There was no mention of any physical resemblance between these two persons.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Why England are getting better at football

I’ve just watched England beat Montenegro at football, in Montenegro, 5-1. A few days ago England beat The Czech Republic 5-0, in London, and I watched some of that too. England are looking good.

Here is the most convincing explanation I have found of why. In the bit under the subheading “More ball-hoggers”, it says this:

You know that lad in school who never passed the ball? Turns out he was on to something.

Ashworth says English players are already more technical than he has ever seen thanks to a revamp of the academy system in clubs and a more consistent playing style with England.

But the FA wants to go further.

Peter Sturgess, the FA’s foundation phase coach for five- to 11-year-olds, has been telling coaches up and down the country that mastering the ball is his number one priority. Passing can come later.

“We are saying that passing is important but it’s not a priority for foundation-phase children,” he told BBC Sport. “The priority is building a massive connection with the ball so their individual ability on it, in tight and pressurised situations, becomes as good as it can be.

“You put 11 of those players together on a football pitch and they can play any system you want, because they have less chance of losing the ball.”

Ashworth and Sturgess just might be onto something. To have a good football team, start by having lots of “foundation phase children” who are good at controlling a football, with their feat.

LATER: Meanwhile, in Scotland.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

A classic episode

Well, I sat down to do a blog posting for here after a hard day doing this and that, but, while I was doing that blog posting, I was also half telly-watching, and I chanced, on my television, upon the classic episode of Porridge in which Fletcher keeps on being disturbed and ends up pushing the padre off the balcony (into a safety net). Fletcher gets punished with three days in solitary, and the final line is him asking the governor if he couldn’t make it a fortnight.

Instead of a regular blog posting, let this be a recommendation.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

A weekend without the Six Nations

Being logical about it, there are five Six Nations weekends each year, during which each of the Six Nations plays all the other Five Nations, and there are forty seven Six Nationsless weekends. But Six Nationalists like me know which weekends I am talking about. I’m talking about the one between week 2 and week 3 and the one between week 3 and week 4. The Six Nations is happening. But, it’s not. The Six Nations is under way. But it’s stuck. I have just endured the first of these two weird ordeals.

But in between these two black holes of non-Six Nationsness, the key game of this year’s entire Six Nations, Wales v England will be happening, in Cardiff. Both England and Wales have won their first two games, and only they can each still win a Grand Slam. England, with their three South Sea Island hulks playing, have been unbeatable, so far. And they have many times started out unbeatably against Wales. But then the Welsh play catch-up rugby, which is a game that they, unlike any other Six Nation these days, can actually play, and they often then win, despite England’s scrum being on top for the whole game. So I am taking nothing for granted. Especially when you consider that England will have only one Vunipola playing, the other one having hurt himself against France, as earlier noted here. But England will have a Tuilagi playing, in addition to the surviving Vunipola, so I just about fancy them to win.

Meanwhile, how did I survive the recently concluded weekend? Well, there were two good cricket matches to be following. There was an amazing test match between South Africa and Sri Lanka, which SL won by one wicket, following an unbeaten last wicket stand of 78, and what was clearly a wonderful 153 not out by their wicketkeeper Kusal Perera.

Here’s a picture of Perera celebrating that amazing win:

But, note those empty seats. I wonder how many people actually paid to be present at this game. Rather few, if that’s anything to go by. People are now saying, as they have been for many years, that Test Cricket is dying. But it keeps being interesting, in a way that the other crickets now played can’t ever really match, any more than a number one pop song can quite match a Bruckner Symphony. That’s if you like Bruckner symphonies.

The other good cricket game was one of those other crickets games, the final (finally) of the Big Bash League, contested between the Melbourne Poisonous Spiders and the Melbourne Big Hairy Bastards. Or some such belligerently metaphorical contestants. It was definitely Melbourne v Melbourne. Melbourne won, but not before Melbourne had looked certain to win but then suddenly collapsed, allowing Melbourne to snatch the trophy.

The two semi-finals having happened on Thursday and Friday mornings, I was up promptly on Sunday morning to follow this game. But it happened in the Australian afternoon instead of in the evening, and it was all done when I clicked in. Oh well. It was fun to read about.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Sporty Sunday

The weather outside is again really nice, but it’s wasted on me and my camera. Because, it’s Spurs v Leicester on the internet, England v Windies on the internet, and England v France on the TV. Football, cricket, rugby. How can a man ignore all that? Well, maybe “a man” could, but I can’t. Spurs have beaten Leicester (and now Man City are crushing Chelsea); and the Windies have got England back on the floor in the cricket (where England have been all series). As a test cricket fan I am glad that the Windies getting back into the swing of doing that well. For a while now, it has seemed that their only talent was for the limited overs stuff.

And, England are crushing (crunching) France, although a few French tries at the end would not surprise me. Two out of three is not bad

The first weekend of this year’s Six Nations was great, but the second, now nearing its end, has been rather flat. Ireland got back on the horse against Scotland yesterday, and Italy, as they do, lost. Now England are doing what all the commentators said they’d do to France, following their great win over Ireland last weekend. The charm of the Six Nations is how unpredictable it can be. On the first weekend France got beaten by Wales after being 16 ahead at half time. Italy got no less than three late tries against Wales when they were looking down and out, which was a definite surprise. When England got the final try to settle it against Ireland, the commentator said: Who saw this coming? Not me. But so far this weekend, it’s all gone with the not-especially-smart money. France are now 36 behind, so even if they get five late tries, they’ll still lose. It’s all looking a bit “waiting for the end” just now. The serious business of the game was being sorted when England got their four first half tries, which meant that their bonus points, for four tries and for winning by more than seven, were both settled, along with the win. Can England get over 50 points against France? Maybe, but it doesn’t feel like it matters. Yes, a commentator has just said: “The match has rather fallen asleep.” Indeed it has. The most important moment of this match may prove to be when one of the Vunipolas walked off injured.

Anyway, it’s over now. 44-8 England. Plus, when I was trying to find a report on England crunching France, I came across our Ladies crunching their Ladies.

The England men, meanwhile, have been transformed by their returning-from-injury South Sea Islanders, the Vunipola brothers and Manu Tuilagi.

Tuilagi is odd, in that he is pronounced Tooey Langy. Except by Jonathan Davies of course, who says Tooey Largy. Davies also says Viney Polar instead of Vooney Polar. The world needs to find a way to mispronounce “Jonathan Davies”, and keep on doing that until he learns his job.

But, hello. What’s this? The Windies 59-4 (after being 57-0!), replying to England’s 277. Two wickets in two balls to Moheen. Two more wickets in two more balls to Mark Wood, who I didn’t realise was playing. By the sound of it (i.e. from reading the Cricinfo chat), Wood should have been in the England side from the beginning. Only four wickets on day one. Ten wickets already on day two, and it’s not yet tea time.

It is now! Windies 74-5. Another to Wood. “England are rampant.”

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

The Boxing Day posting

And here, as promised yesterday, are the other dozen of the Christmassy (Google reckons it’s double ss at the end there rather than the single s I used to name the photos) photos that I was gathering together yesterday. They, like the previous lot, are shown in chronological order, the first one being from 2015 to now, the most recent from earlier this month:

I used half a dozen of these two dozen photos to concoct a Merry Christmas photo-posting at Samizdata, in the small hours of this morning, what with there having been nothing there yesterday, until I did that. And then faked the timing. Just like I often do here.

Which means that, for the last week, I have not only done something for here, every day, but have done something there, every day. More on the thinking behind this sudden burst of Samzdating here, some time soon, maybe, I promise nothing.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

An encouraging picture for Spurs

I became fixated on Spurs in the 1960s, like a baby goose, because then they were so good. Plus, I always like their Jewish angle and still do. I have supported them, strictly at a distance and media access permitting, ever since. They’ve been sporadically good since that ancient time, but never as good. Finally, that seems like it might be changing.

Today Spurs beat Chelsea at Chelsea, the last time they did that having been in 1990. Spurs are now in fourth place, which if they stay there is high enough to get them into the Champions League again. They are now 8 points clear of Chelsea in fifth. With seven more games to be played, it’s not settled yet, but things just got a lot better for Spurs.

I just watched Dele Alli’s two goals on the TV highlights, and with both it was not just the skill but the speed with which he did what he did that was so impressive. Before that, Eriksen hit what the radio commentators were calling a potential goal of the season. One of those long distance, fast and late inswingers.

So, to celebrate, here is a photo I took of the new Spurs stadium, which will get moved into next season or thenabouts. It will be a few games before the Spurs team settles in and starts enjoying their home advantage whenever they play there. But judging by how well they did this season at the at first unfamiliar Wembley, it shouldn’t take them too long to settle into New White Hart Lane.

So, this is how New White Hart Lane was looking last November, with one of the Walthamstow reservoirs in the foreground:

Mmmm. Cranes.

I haven’t checked progress more recently, and can offer no photos from since then. But here are 103 more pictures, and counting, of New White Hart Lane’s progress. I knew you’d be excited.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

I don’t know whether it’s the weather or my camera

I have a new camera, and I am not as happy as I would like to be about the photos I am photoing with it. They often seem vague and blurry, as if seen through a mist.

But then again, the humidity levels during the last week or two have been very high. Maybe the views have all looked as if seen through a mist because they were seen through a mist.

Here, for instance, is a photo of a favourite building of mine, the big decorated box that is the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, as seen from Westminjster Bridge, which is quite a way away:

But I got to work with my Photoshop clone, and beefed up the contrast, and darkened things a bit.

Thus:

Which looks a bit better. I’ve chased away some of the mist. The trees look greener. The details of the ROH’s exterior decoration are clearer.

I have a vague recollection of trying to reset my camera, so that it did things more darkly and more contrastingly. Maybe at that point, I contrived to do the opposite of what I thought I was doing.

But then again, not long after taking that photo, I took this one, of the giant 4 outside the Channel 4 headquarters building at the top end of Horseferry Road, a short walk away from where I live. I often go past it on my way home after an afternoon of wandering, and so it was that day, nearly a week ago now:

That looks bright enough and clear enough, doesn’t it? That’s without any zoom, i.e. space filled with blurriness. And without this weather making its presence felt, the picture doesn’t look like it needs any artificial editing attention. So maybe the camera is fine, and it has been the weather. And I just made the weather better.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Rooftops

As regulars here will know, I am constantly fascinated by what goes on at the top of London’s buildings. I love the Big Tops that are built to impress, like the Shard, the Strata, the Gherkin. I love all the decorative stuff done in earlier centuries. I love chimney pots, which used to come in all shapes and sizes. And I love all the anarchic clutter that electronic communication of various sorts has placed at the top of otherwise utterly bland and forgettable blocks.

So here are some recent snaps, celebrating all that:

Those are shown in chronological order of me taking them.

1.1, 1.2 and 3.2 are are all quite near to me, taken in the vicinity of Warwick Way.

1.3 is the kind of thing you see when a big building site gets into gear, and then of course stop seeing when the work is done.

2.1 was taken in Lower Marsh, I think.

2.2 is Strata, also taken in Lower Marsh ish, peeping over a roof with a decorative knob on it.

2.3 is a bit indistinct, being roof clutter reflected off a big glass fronted building, but the clutter is there if you look.

3.1 is a bit of a cheat, because it is the umbrella that makes the picture, not the decorative roof (Parliament) behind it. But again, the roof is there.

3.2 includes the top of the big tower on the other side of the river from me, i.e. on the south side.
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3.3 is a big lump in Park Lane, as viewed from just inside Hyde Park, near Hyde Park Corner. I went with a friend to Hyde Park yesterday, hoping to view a statue of Colin Firth as Mr Darcy, emerging from the Serpentine. No luck. Gone. Or maybe just not where we looked.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog