The RSC’s Antony and Cleopatra at the Barbican

GodDaughter One’s Mum and Dad are members of a theatre-going gang, who take it in turns to organise for them all to go to the theatrical performance, about every month or so. Tonight it was Antony and Cleopatra by the RSC, at the Barbican. But GodDaughter One’s Mum was otherwise engaged, helping out with a jewellery show done by GodDaughter One’s Sister, so I went to the Barbican instead.

As so often, when I really pay attention to a Shakespeare play (and if you are seeing it in a theatre there is not a lot else to be doing), I learned a great deal about it.

I did not catch every word. Much of the support acting, especially by the young men playing various Roman soldiers and messengers, was decidedly school-play-ish, to my old eyes and old ears. These brand-X guys simply did not fill the auditorium properly. Since we were at the back, we suffered. Nor did it help that I for one could not see their faces properly, from that far away. But Antony and Cleopatra were both pretty good, as was Enobarbus. But honestly, only the music came over loud and clear.

I will be investigating this play further on the screen. YouTube offers this, which looks like it could be pretty good. I quite like north American accents in Shakespeare, given that it probably sounded more like this originally than it sounded like modern Posh English.

As for DVDs, this and this both look promising. Also: cheap.

Back in the Barbican, Josette Simon as Cleopatra yanked the verse around a lot, but that all added to the impression of her being a force of nature. Antony, played by Peter Byrne, was a very prosaic figure by comparison. I especially like the line in this Guardian review about how “Simon is excellent in the closing passages suggesting that Cleopatra is living out a fantasy of an idealised Antony”. Yes. So, best of all might well be a DVD of this RSC production.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

A clean dirty joke

Earlier today I was at a party, and sitting in on the party was Alexa, the cylindrical robot from Amazon. So, one of us asked Alexa to tell us a Dirty Joke. Alexa replied: “Why do you call a chicken covered in dirt crossing the road?” Answer, although I didn’t hear if Alexa actually said this or merely assumed that we’d get it: a dirty joke.

Not bad. And funny because, although a joke involving dirt, it is not a dirty joke in the sense of there being any sexual innuendo involved.

But, was Alexa trying to tell a joke? Or merely trying to do as she was told, without in any way understanding what the thing she was being told to do actually meant? I know, Alexa never “understands” anything. She’s a machine, with no consciousness. But, you surely know what I mean.

Another rather perfunctory posting. But, I spent quite a lot of my day going to a party, partying, and getting back from the party. I may, although I promise nothing, do better tomorrow.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Christmas is coming


Photoed by me in Oxford Street this afternoon,

Like I said: perfunctory.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog


Yes it’s a busy time here at Chateau BMdotcom. I have a meeting here this evening, for which I must now prepare, but, preparations are not helped by the fact that the two biggest supermarkets in my vicinity, Tescos Warwick Way, and Sainsburys Wilton Road, are both now shut, so that they can rearrange themselves, refurbish themselves, in time for Christmas presumably. (And in order to take our minds off the fact that the prices of everything are now shooting upwards.)

This is bizarre. Couldn’t they collude to take it in turns to shut, rather than colluding (I assume) both to be shutting at the same time? I am too busy, doing such things as trying to think where I will be going instead to buy food for this evening, to be able to expand here upon this peculiar matter. Let’s just say it’s lucky for capitalism that I really like it. If I didn’t, this might have tipped me over the edge into full-on Bolshevism, at which point I might have become the straw that broke the camel of capitalism’s back.

After tonight’s meeting, I then have a succession of pre-Christmas socialisings fixed, for over the coming weekend and into next week. All very nice and everything, but a struggle to keep track of, and to fit other necessary things around. Which is why postings here have been a bit perfunctory of late, and why that may continue for a few more days.

Or, it may not. Because actually, the urge to blog is, for me, hard to estimate the strength of beforehand. Often, I think, the feeling I feel when busy that there are Things I Must Do, causes me then to avoid doing these Things by instead … blogging.

Right now, for instance, I am supposed to be preparing for this evening. But instead …

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Leadenhall Market

Yesterday I showed a photo that I actually took yesterday, rather than last year or last decade. And today I’m doing the same. I’m showing you another photo that I took yesterday:

That’s the inside of the domed roof in the middle of Leadenhall Market in the City of London. This is another of those photos which is a lot easier to take if you have a twiddly screen, such as I always now have.

Here is the next photo I took, to show you which place I mean:

To me, one of the odder things about Leadenhall Market is that all the enterprises plying their trade in it would seem to be obliged by the house rules to proclaim their names in the exact same style and size of lettering. This is not what you get in most shopping centres, which is what this place basically is. But, fair enough: their gaff, their rules. And although in one sense this is uniformity gone a bit mad, in another sense it is variety, because this is not something you see very often.

It is clearly a recent thing, and Wikipedia confirms this:

Between 1990 and 1991 the market received a dramatic redecoration which transformed its appearance, enhancing its architectural character and detail. The redecoration scheme received a special mention in the Civic Trust Awards in 1994.

Ah yes. Commercial, you understand, but not too commercial. The subtle business of not being too businesslike.

I passed through this place on my way to Monument tube, having been wandering towards the City and its Big Things from the Bethnal Green area, enjoying the last daylight of a very fine yesterday. Of which maybe more here later, and of which maybe not more here later. (This blog is also not very businesslike.)

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

The electricity meter man photos my electricity consumption with his mobile

Indeed. And, I got him to hold the pose while I photoed it:

Okay, mine’s a rubbish picture, but: you get the picture, and in any case the fact that you can’t read the numbers is a feature rather than a bug. I’m sure he got his picture. He has already typed into his other little machine a note of my address and electricity score. So it will be entirely clear to him which number he is confirming, or conceivably correcting, with his photo.

Just another example of what mobiles contribute to the economy, not just by doing newsworthy stuff like transmit big gobs of money or send portentous messages to and from people on the move, but simply by helping workers to do little bits of work. Often, mobiles and their cameras are used to record the progress of work. This is using mobiles and their cameras actually to do the work, because this particular work is recording.

I know: smart meter. Well, someone recently tried to install one, but for some reason it couldn’t be done, or not yet.

To really appreciate this, you have to have experienced what happens to your electricity bill when your electricity consumption is recorded wrongly.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog


It’s been a while since there’s been any horizontality here. (That isn’t the most recent piece of horizontality here, just one that I happen especially to like.) So, allow me now to correct this, thus:

Click to get the bigger original.

It’s a shop just off Lea Bridge Road, opposite the station. Photoed by me almost exactly one year ago.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

A recognisable Lancaster and a recognisable Vulcan

When it comes to showing off my photos, I am currently in full-on retro mode, and my latest little retrospective is of a few more photos I took when I was At the 2010 Farnborough Air Show, those being a rather greater number of photos which I posted from that show at the time, at Samizdata.

All four of these photos here feature the Avro Lancaster, and the final one also features a Lancaster and also the mighty Avro successor to the Lancaster, the Vulcan:

It was a great day. And it got me thinking quite a bit more about the Avro Lancaster, and in particular about its highly distinctive and recognisable shape.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Mugabe knows best

I was once briefly acquainted with a quite close relative of Robert Mugabe, and that person was truly remarkable in being utterly incapable of understanding how anyone could possibly disagree with the truth that he saw so very clearly. This person also looked exactly – spookily – like Robert Mugabe. (It was asking about this resemblance that got me the information that he was a close relative of Mugabe.) I have never known a more deeply stubborn person, ever. But it was not a stubbornness made merely of the desire or the determination not to change his mind. No. He was simply unable to change his mind. The idea of him ever having been wrong, about anything, was simply impossible for him to grasp.

If Robert Mugabe is anything like this relative of his, and everything I know about Robert Mugabe tells me that Mugabe is, in this respect, exactly like him, Mugabe may find himself sacked, imprisoned, or even executed, but he will never resign, or ever change his mind about the wisdom of anything he ever said or did. That he has not yet resigned has, according to the Guardian headline linked to there, has “stunned” Zimbabwe. I was not stunned.

They’ll have to force him out, like King Richard II was forced out by King Henry IV. But if Mugabe is forced out, there will be no scenes like the closing scenes of Shakespeare’s version of Richard II, where the deposed Richard comes to see the world and its ways differently, and to understand things more deeply. Simply, Mugabe is right, has always been right and will always be right, and if everyone else disagrees with him, it can only be that everyone else is, was, and will be, hopelesslyl wrong. Mugabe is literally incapable of understanding matters in any other way.

Mugabe is indeed now a rather confused old man. But his confusion concerns only how it is possible for so many people to be so completely mistaken.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Cranes and horses


Tilbury, September 2013. That’s what a BMdotcom wildlife photo should be. Creatures, yes, but also cranes.

At around that time, I made a series of trips out to London Gateway, London’s new container port, which is just downstream from Tilbury. Here‘s a recent report of how London Gateway is doing, which also has further news about animals in the area:

The £1.5bn construction saw a staggering 350,000 animals moved off site into new habitats. At one stage DP World’s office building on the site homed tanks of great crested newts before they were moved into newly created ponds.

However, the horses in the above photo were not disturbed, because they were just outside Tilbury. London Gateway is further down river. It was only several hours later that day that I set eyes on those cranes, from a great distance. Despite the gloomy weather, it was a great day. The photos bring it all back.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog