Fency

Incoming from BMNB’s Blogmaster Michael Jennings, a while back now, from Foreign Parts:

Like I say, it’s a while since this got here, but it deserves the immortality that is conferred upon photos when they are exhibited here at BMNB.

“Fency” is either a very posh way of saying “fancy”, or it is an indication that a lot of the goods in the store were stolen. Which means they’ll be cheap, which means that you can shop at this store with absolute frugality.

I cannot recall if the accompanying email said where this is. Michael?

Excellent wires!

LATER: Ah, it wasn’t “incoming from Michael”. It was at his Facebook page. Kathmandu, Nepal. I just nicked it. Hope Michael doesn’t mind.

Other creature news

In among all the vile bile, Twitter continues to serve up good Other Creatures news, especially in video form.

Here, for instance, is evidence that when it comes to shifting stuff around, while simultaneously showing a bit of common sense, robots would appear to have some way to go before they will be entirely replacing the working class.

Here is a delightful photo of two pigeons, who are checking out a photographer who is trying to photo a ceiling.

And, in otter news, here are otters doing something very strange, under a tree, in what turns out to be Singapore.

Meanwhile, via (the rest of) the blogosphere (David Thompson to be exact), an amplified cat and dogs who ate bees. The dogs look so happy, especially given how very unhappy they must feel.

On a more melancholy note, Mich Hartley tells of the Soviet whale “decimation” of the middle of the twentieth century. Decimation however, is surely the wrong word. It was far worse than that. The writer whom Hartley quotes seems to think that decimation means killing nine out of ten, because he talks of whale species being “driven to the edge of extintion”. But decimation wasn’t killing nine out of ten members of a Roman legion. It was killing one in every ten. It was to punish, not to extinguish, a legion. That verbal quibble aside, there can’t be too many reports of what an insanely destructive economic system the USSR imposed upon all its victims. And its victims were not only human.

Black Drongo and Crested Serpent-eagle + snake

Taiwan Birds (well worth a long scroll down there (some truly amazing birds (I think))) yesterday featured this remarkable photo …:

…, and has this to say about it:

Congratulations to Chen Chen-kuang … for winning the Hamdan HIPA Prize for his shot of a …

… see above.

And there was me thinking that “Drongo” was just a word made up by Australians to describe … drongos. Apparently drongos really exist, and presumably drongos behave in a way that Australians disapprove of.

Taiwan Birds adds:

Never leave your camera behind! And spend years refining your skills …

Indeed.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

A bridge held up by giant hands

Not really, I don’t suppose. But that’s how it looks.

I can’t recall how I came across this amazing bridge, but I think it was my Twitter feed. My first reaction was that this was some very high class Photoshopping. But no. Here’s a report from July of this year.

This Thing is for real. It is in Vietnam:

I found that photo here.

Given that the flood of big and impressive new bridges now seems to have receded (and given that big “new” bridges are now starting to collapse), the emphasis has switched to small and impressive new bridges. Of which this one is by far the most impressive, in my opinion.

These giant hands are going to trigger a flood of similarly inventive small bridges, with sculptors and engineers collaborating to outdo each other. Not all will be beautiful, but all will very recognisable and distinctive, which is the next best thing, I think.

People love bridges. It’s not just me. Look at all the people on that bridge.

Does the bridge have a giant figure beside it, who is holding the bridge, or are there just hands? If not, maybe that will happen soon. A statue holding a bridge. Why not?

How about London getting the man who did these sculptures (LINK TO THE OLD BLOG) to design a London footbridge, somewhere, in which two more such guys are holding it up? Or four? Or six? I’ll leave that to him and his engineer. But, London, do this.

All over the world, now, people – people like me – are seeing the bridge in the photo above, and are saying: Why can’t we have something like that?

And others are saying: Oh no, how ghastly. But to hell with them. Put the first such bridge in your area somewhere really ugly, where there’s nothing to spoil. That should silence the grumblers.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

A better way to package bananas

I can’t remember how Twitter caused me to arrive at this, but it did:

Bananas that are either not ripe enough or too ripe are a constant irritation to me. This – bananas sold in sets of bananas of different stages of ripeness – looks like a rather good answer.

A commenter immediately joins in and makes this into an argument about plastic in the oceans, the latest Green obsession that replaced the fading fear of climate catastrophe, except that the recent heatwave has now got them back going bananas about how the climate has now changed. Like there have never been heatwaves before. The climate presumably is changing, because it always does, but that’s no reason for humans to stop selling stuff to each other. Or for them to stop thinking of clever and helpful stuff combinations.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

A wedding photo session in March 2008

Ten years ago, plus another eleven days, there was a wedding photo session in Parliament Square, and I joined in, as I always do whenever I see this kind of thing happening:

I like how, top left and top right, they tied her train (?) to the railings, to get a better picture. That gives you just a small hint of how much trouble all concerned go to, to get good photos. Two Real Photographers, going at it for about half an hour.

And so totally absorbed in what they’re doing that they hardly notice me. Or if they do, they don’t care. Besides which, given what a spectacle, in a good way, they are making of themselves, they probably agreed with me that they were fair photographic game.

I wonder what sort of life they are living now. A good life, I hope.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Penis park

Here:

The best comment I can think of is another photo, one of the many that I took in the Churchill Dungeon, this one being an item for sale in the gift shop:

I love words. I sometimes I fail to think of the right ones, but they never fail me. It just that I am sometimes not worthy of them.

But I found some good ones this time, I think.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Slight celebrity similarity

For ages now, I’ve had these two pictures hovering about on my screen waiting to be put next to each other on my blog and then forgotten about, because they look quite like each other:

But, do they look enough like each other for it to be interesting? Maybe not. But there are times when you have to say to yourself: It’s only blogging.

On the left: Shakib-Al-Hasan, noted Bangladesh cricket allrounder. On the right, what he will turn into when a little bit older, or would if he had whiter skin: noted American actor Gary Sinise. Photos found here and here.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

How Michael Tanner both misunderstands and understands Turandot

Yesterday I attended a Royal Opera House Covent Garden dress rehearsal, of Puccini’s Turandot. Never having seen Turandot on stage before, I learned a lot. The singing was pretty good, especially the choral singing, but maybe I say “especially” about that because I generally prefer choral singing to “operatic” solo singing. The staging looked appropriately splendid and exotic.

But the best fun of all was, afterwards, finding this bizarre piece of writing by Michael Tanner, for the Spectator. What is bizarre is that Tanner disapproves of the characters and he disapproves of the “happy ending” at the end of Turandot, like some myopic Victorian moralist objecting to King Lear because of what sort of people they are and because of what happens at the end of that.

Turandot is obviously a very wicked and tyrannical ice-queen type of a woman. But Calaf earns Tanner’s special condemnation. This is because Calaf, being from Asia in olden times rather than the Home Counties of England now, prefers conquest, sexual and political, to the love of a good woman. He is going to subjugate Turandot, sexually and politically, or die trying, and damn the consequences. But in Michael Tanner’s world tenors are not supposed to think and behave like that. Their job is to embody virtue, not watch while the slave girl who has been in love with Calaf throughout the opera is tortured and then commits suicide to spare herself more torture. After which Calaf carries right on with subjugating Turandot. But the fact that Calaf is not the sort of person whom Tanner would want marrying his sister is rather beside the point. Or to put the same point a quite other way, it is exactly the point. It isn’t just the setting of Turandot that is exotic. These are profoundly different sorts of people to those that Michael Tanner, or for that matter I, approve of.

This is like denouncing the Ring Cycle because Wotan is a god rather than a geography teacher, or because the dragons in the Ring Cycle do not behave like hedgehogs.

Calaf was also criticised by Tanner for standing still and just singing, instead of doing lots of “acting” in the modern style. But Calaf’s whole character is that of a would-be ultra-masculine tyrant. And tyrants instinctively exude power and strength, for instance by standing still in a very masculine chest-out pose, and singing very sonorously, rather than by doing lots of fidgety acting. It is their underlings and victims who do all the acting, by re-acting to people like Calaf.

However, it often happens that critics who denounce works of art in rather ridiculous ways nevertheless understand them very well, and often a lot better than the people who say that they like them. They absolutely get what the artist was doing. It’s just that they don’t happen to like it. I recommend Tanner’s piece as a way of understand how very different Calaf and Turandot are from their equivalents in, say, La Boheme.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog