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.

How to keep busy during Lockdown

Farvardin Daliri passed the time by building a Giant Kookaburra:

“If a bird can laugh, why not me?” said Mr. Daliri, 65, who unveiled his work this week by towing the kookaburra, a beloved Australian icon, around his block in suburban Brisbane, where it cackled its distinctive laugh through a sound system installed inside.

He posted video of his project online without much thought. To his shock, it went viral, hailed by some as a perfect antidote for this moment. Others were simply confused.

Michael Jennings, who’s Facebook posting alerted me to the existence of this remarkable bird and the sayings and doings of its creator, said only this:

Straya.

I just think it’s a really flash bird.

The ups and downs of cricket (and of the City of London)

Ten years ago today, England beat Australia in the Final of the ICC World Twenty20, in Bridgetown Barbados. It seems that Australia batted first, lost early wickets and never recovered.

I watched the final dozen or so overs of this game at the home of Michael Jennings:

Happy memories. What could be better than watching England beat Australia at cricket, at the home of a friend, who is an Australian cricket nut?

My hard disc has a much better memory than I do. I had no recollection of this until I just looked up May 16 2010 in the photo-archives. And up came all these photos of a screen, telling of England’s triumph.

The Man of the Match was … Craig Kieswetter. Whatever happened to him?

It wasn’t good:

Craig Kieswetter, the England ODI and T20 wicketkeeper who was Man of the Match in the 2010 World T20 final, has announced his retirement following the eye injury he sustained last year.

Kieswetter was struck in the face when a ball went between his helmet and grille when playing against Northamptonshire, breaking his nose and damaging his eye socket. He returned for two matches at the end of the 2015 season, then went to play T20 in South Africa, but struggled with the effects of the injuries.

It could have been far worse. That I had definitely not forgotten about.

LATER: Here’s how the City of London was looking that evening, photoed from Michael’s local railway station:

No Cheesegrater. No Scalpel. And no Big Lump, the latest biggest one that has no silly name because it’s too boring. Not, in other words, yet, this, which is how Things are now, give or take a few cranes.

The Merlin and the man who made it fly

Sadly, Patrick and I were unable to record our intended WW2 bombing conversation this afternoon. Patrick has done his bit, but it turns out that my mere phone won’t suffice and I need to get Skype working at my end too, which is the sort of thing I am not good at and which will take me time.

But, the delay does mean I can do a bit more homework. Homework like pondering this question: What was the most impressive air war machine of WW2? The Spitfire, maybe? The Avro Lancaster? How about the de Havilland Mosquito? The North American P-51 Mustang, mentioned in yesterday’s posting?

Well, maybe none of the above. But, how about the aero-engine, also mentioned in passing yesterday, which powered all of the above? (Also the Halifax and the Hurricane.) Wikipedia has this resplendent photo, “Taken by JAW 19th November 2005 Pearce Air Force Base Western Australia”, of the engine in question:

Yes, it’s the Rolls-Royce Merlin. I doubt many of them looked like that, when they were fighting WW2. The one in this photo looks more like something we’d now see in Tate Modern. Well, we wouldn’t. But we should.

The Merlin was named, not after the noted wizard, but, like all the Rolls-Royce engines of the WW2 era, after a bird of prey.

I have long possessed and am now reading a book about the man (his name was Hives) who, more than anyone else, ensured the Merlin’s development and mass production in sufficiently war-winning numbers. The number in question being, according to Wikipedia: 149,659.

The Wikipedia entry on Hives is also worth a read, especially the bit about how Hives met, and won over, the “highly irascible but utterly pivotal” Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, the USA’s nuclear submarine boss during the Cold War, and got him to cooperate with the British nuclear submarine programme.

Howard Goodall on the world’s first recording star

I’ve been dipping into Howard Goodall’s Big Bangs, which is a book (based on a BBC TV show), whose subtitle is “The Story of Five Discoveries That Changed Musical History”. I have started at the end, with Bang Number Five, which was when Edison recorded sound. Here’s what Goodall says about the impact of the nascent sound recording industry on the life and career of Enrico Caruso (pp. 218-220):

Enrico Caruso was one of seven children born to a working-class Neapolitan family living in the Via San Giovanello. He received his first singing instruction as a choirboy in a local church, and as a teenager he made a few lire every night singing favourite Neapolitan songs for the cafe customers on the harbour waterfront. He began work in a factory, but eventually he was able to turn professional with his outstanding voice. After a shaky debut in Naples – he vowed never to perform there again – he was invited to sing at the holiest of all opera’s shrines, La Scala, Milan. It was here in March 1902 that Fred Gaisberg, the Gramophone Company’s European representative, heard Caruso performing in Franchetti’s popular opera Germania. Gaisberg offered the young unknown a deal to record ten arias for £100; Caruso duly accepted the offer, to the horror of Gaisberg’s London office, which tried to forbid the spending of ‘this exorbitant sum’. Gaisberg, however, backed his hunch, using his own money. That April, in Suite 301 in the Grand Hotel, Milan, the ten records were cut, beginning with ‘Studenti, Udite’ from Germania. Gaisberg went on to recoup his investment thousands of times over – and the records earned his company a fortune.

Most of the ten masters made on that occasion remain in perfect condition to this day. After their release, Caruso’s fame spread dramatically throughout Europe and America. He made two recordings, in 1902 and 1907, of the aria ‘Vesti la giubba’, from Leoncavallo’s opera I Pagliacci, which between them sold over a million copies. I Pagliacci was at this time a relatively new opera (it was given its first stage performance in 1892), based on a recent real-life criminal case. It’s hard to find a modern equivalent for this – a modern opera being as commercially successful as I Pagliacci. Even the hit records released from the shows of Andrew Lloyd Webber are based on stories from the past (Evita is probably his most contemporary non-fiction subject). As for the work of contemporary ‘classical’ composers, the thought of Harrison Birtwistle writing an opera which included a million-selling song is, let’s face it, laughable.

Caruso was to the early gramophone what Frank Sinatra or Maria Callas were to the LP, what Elvis Presley and the Beatles were to the 45-rpm ‘single’, and what Dire Straits and George Michael were to the compact disc: the ‘software’ of the music that drew listeners to the ‘hardware’ of the machines and materials. He was the first recording megastar, as much a household name in his day as Charlie Chaplin, prodigal son of another medium also in its infancy. Caruso’s voice had a timbre and range that perfectly suited the limitations of the medium, it could soar and tremble with such strength and depth that the background hiss and the indistinct accompaniment were all but forgotten. To many people, hearing him scale the summits of high opera was both miraculous and moving and this was not just their first experience of the true potential of the gramophone but also a gateway to the whole classical repertoire.

Edison’s humble contraption was to become a universal gift with the popularity of Caruso, catapulting classical music out of the small, exclusive world it had hitherto known.

The Gramophone and Victor Companies were buoyed by Caruso’s success. What’s more, all the other top singers now wanted a piece of the action, hurriedly dropping their objections to the quality of the medium once they realised that it could make them rich. The female equivalent of Caruso was Nellie Melba, an Australian soprano with a peach of a voice, and a good head for business, who held out until she got £1,000 – and her own label in passionate mauve.

Bird photos

Sublime (although not for the unfortunate fish):

Ridiculous (although the ducks don’t seem to mind much):

I found the sublime one by first admiring this amazing photo of a mosquito’s foot at Mick Hartley’s blog. I followed the link there (and I recommend you do this also), and then wandered (ditto). If you like wild and wonderful creatures, that is. (Many of of them are of course not wild at all.)

A Happy New Year of sport

The weekend just concluded is one of my favourites of the entire year, every year, because of sport. The Six Nations rugby gets started, which this time involved Italy getting slaughtered by Wales 42-0, and Scotland and England getting beaten by Ireland in Ireland and and by France in France. Then on Sunday evening the Super Bowl got started, and went on into the not-that-small hours. The Flyover Country MAGA Chiefs defeated the Coastal Elite 49ers with a great come-back at the end, so I was very happy about that.

Plus there was lots of regular sporting stuff that just happened to be happening. On Saturday morning there was a Big Bash League cricket game in Australia. In the BBL, I care only about how well the English players do, and in this game the Alex Hales Thunder defeated the Phil Salt Strikers.

I even took a look at the Australian Open tennis, in which Djokovich beat somebody. Everyone hates Djokovich, apparently, but he seemed okay to me.

There was also women’s rugby, snooker, and much else besides of a sporting nature, but women’s rugby, snooker, and much else besides of a sporting nature are none of them of great interest to me. What am I, a sporting obsessive?

Then on Sunday afternoon, Spurs beat Man City at English football, which tends not to happen these days. Spurs took both of their two chances, while ManC missed all of their eighteen chances, including a penalty that the Spurs goalie saved. That definitely softened the blow of England losing at the Rugby version of football to France.

What with all this excitement, it feels to me like now is the real beginning of the new year, a feeling intensified this year by Brexit, which caused January 31st to feel exactly like December 31st.

Happy New Year everyone.

Colourful architecture in the past and in the future

Tim Dunn tweeted the two photos below as a before/after pair.

Before:

After:

Before being how Wells Cathedral used once upon a time to look, and After being after the Puritans had got rid of all the colouring in, and had added a couple of towers.

In my mind, I connect the idea that medieval cathedrals used to be riots of colour, which seems to be true, in addition to being an attractive idea to many (me included), with the idea that many new and recent buildings might benefit from a similar sort of process in reverse. In short, brightening up.

Here’s the sort of thing I mean:

I downloaded that photo from the www, but then lost where I had found it and couldn’t find it again. Nevertheless, there it is, the Sydney Opera House, lit up with what look like Aboriginal type graphics.

I also came across a French medieval cathedral lit up in colour like old Wells Cathedral

Which is all good, but such a thing only works well at night.

Actual paint, on the other hand, is permanent, and good luck persuading those who have got used to plain stone colour that they should instead get used to a highly controversial version of what their cathedral might have been like in the past.

Time for someone to invent magic electronic paint. This is the sort of paint which you can slap on just like regular paint, except that it is transparent, like varnish. But this varnish is different, because it consists of a billion tiny mass produced little magic spheres which, when activated by a magic message from afar, can light up in whatever colour you want. You sit down with your computer and Photoshop in lots of colours, and then you switch it on. Voila! It looks like it used to, before the Puritans went all puritanical with the first lot of paint. But, it’s only temporary so the grumblers who would have grumbled very obstructively will only grumble a bit and not enough to stop it. More Photoshopping means that you can switch to a totally different colour scheme, just by switching another switch.

Soon, all the now ugly concrete monstrosities will be covered in this magic paint, and the world will become a more colourful and much better place. Patent pending.

6 for 7

I love it when this kind of thing happens:

Except of course when it happens to one of the teams I support. Which it didn’t because this was earlier this morning in Australia’s Big Bash League, and who cares who wins that? Well, a few Australians I suppose.

I thought of calling this posting 647, but I reckon that would be one puzzle too many for non-cricket-obsessives.

In proper cricket, South Africa have followed on against England, but it’s now raining. Tune into that here. Although, if you care you’ll already know that, and if you don’t care you won’t care.

In earlier versions of this posting I counted the numbers and wickets wrongly. Sorry. But then again, not that sorry.

A sixteenth century map of the world

Via Twitter, and something called Map Porn, I found my way to this world map drawn by Ahmed Muhiddin Piri in the 16th century:

Yet I can only find one other reference to it on the www, in the form of a print of the above which is for sale, here, where it’s described as a “Fine Archival Reproduction”. So far as I can work it out, this is a bodged together guess about a map that “Ahmed Muhiddin Piri” (aka “Piri Reis”) did create, but which only survives in the form of a small fragment. We know he knew enough to have created such a map. So, hey, we did create it. But I could be completely wrong about this, because I’m still trying to get my head around it all. Perhaps this is a copy of a real map. Maybe the internet is full of descriptions of it, which I merely failed to find.

The reason I’m interested in this map, or the maps that enabled this map to be made, is that it illustrates how much more they knew about the geography of the world in other parts of the world than Europe. When Europe “discovered” the rest of the world, this wasn’t Europeans discovering a primitive and poverty-stricken place, which only started getting rich after they’d discovered it. What the Europeans discovered was lots of places far richer than Europe, like India and China. And that’s just what the Europeans were trying to do. Just because they also “discovered” such places as Australia and North America, which were poorer, doesn’t mean that their basic motive was to conquer the world. No, what the Europeans were trying to do was get connected with an already thriving world, with which they could import mystical luxuries like spice, and from which they could learn, but which they stopped from doing, by the conquest of the Middle East by Islam. So, the Europeans decided to go round. Round Africa. Round the world, by going west. (That being why the West “Indies” got called “Indies”. And why the people we now call Native Americans were know for many decades as “Red Indians”. Still were, when I was a kid. And still are, by some.)

The European economic breakthrough that made its presence felt in the late 18th century was, globally speaking, something of an end run, as Americans would say. As I learned from that book I’ve been enthusing about by Steve Davies, Europe remained disunited, developed modern guns and never stopped developing them, starting winning wars against the likes of Indians (real ones, in India), then went from inventing and improving guns to inventing and improving everything else and thus unleashed the Industrial Revolution. Europe only got out in front rather late in the story. Oh, it was special. But so were lots of other places.

As the above map illustrates. Or, I think it does.

And maybe it also illustrates something else. Interestingly, the one big thing it gets wrong, the thing only people nearby then knew about properly, was Australasia. Rumours about northern Australia made people think that Australia was part of what we call Antarctica. New Zealand? Again, locals on boats in islands to the north presumably knew about it. But people like Ahmed Muhiddin/Piri Reis, and his various informants? They had no idea.