A year ago today … cake!

This, believe it or not, was a cake:

A year ago today, England beat New Zealand in the Cricket World Cup Final at Lord’s, by absolutely no runs whatsoever.

I gave this event my full attention at the time, but I only heard about this cake today, because I had this anniversary cricket commentary going while I was in the bath, and they talked about it at half time. Apparently Mrs Prince Charles 2, Camilla Duchess of Wherever, told someone called Julie Brownlee to make it, and she did.

Emmanuel Todd on the earthly rewards of aberrant beliefs

I’ve been reading Emmanuel Todd’s book, Lineages of Modernity. For any sort of review of this book by me, you will have to wait. But meanwhile, I did enjoy this snippet, about why people believe the things they do. In it, the historian Rodney Stark is mentioned admiringly, for having written books like A Theory of Religion (co-authored with William Sims Bainbridge).

Here is what Todd says (pp. 95-96):

In this piece of historical anthropology that we are conducting here, it is more reasonable to grasp the dynamics of faith on Earth, and to start from the elementary observation that a religion is not only a personal belief, but above all the sharing of a belief by a group of human beings on Earth. So let us agree that before it rewards us in heaven, a religion rewards us here below. We must understand why sexual asceticism and the love of the poor, extremist and deviant views for Antiquity, gave the individuals constituting the Christian group a positive reward during their lifetime.

To ask the question today, in a Western world that ideologically values sex and wealth, is crucial. For us, sexual asceticism and the love of the poor are now, again, incomprehensible extremist deviations, to be classified perhaps under the rubric of mere masochism. Today, sexual freedom and banking reign. This is where Rodney Stark’s work proves to be essential.

Influenced by the rational choice school, Stark has grasped the fact that the aberrant beliefs and behaviours of religious groups, whether masochistic or not, and the opprobrium that they bring upon their members, can for the individuals concerned be more than compensated by the group cohesion produced by stigmatization. The psychological cost of belonging to a religion, demanding for oneself but ridiculous in the eyes of the outside world, is so high that adherents can be sure that they belong to a group of exceptionally reliable people. The internal loyalty of the group is the true reward of the believing individual. This gratification is immediate, more secure and tangible than the promise of the hereafter. The argument developed by Stark applies to early Christians or Mormons in the United States, but we can see how it can also contribute to a better understanding of the survival of the Jewish people, who no longer appear to have persisted through history despite persecution but because of persecution.

We can reformulate this from a Durkheimian perspective. What the individual finds in the bizarre monotheistic religious groups of Late Antiquity – whether they were circumcised and refused to eat pork, or were disgusted by sexuality and fascinated by the degradation of the body of the poor – is a sense of belonging to a moral human group. In the chaos of the great ancient cities – Alexandria, Antioch and Rome – Judaism and then Christianity were, as Stark says, refuges. Christianity certainly offered, for later on, eternal life, in which its adherents could believe as a group. But what it immediately gave was an end to loneliness, a sense of belonging to a world of solidarity, and – in very concrete terms – psychological and even economic security. The Gospels, if read without prejudice, give the game away: there is a long series of miracles to do with food and health, and these point to a better earthly life rather than to eternal life.

Judaism does not generally promise eternal life, but among its faithful, in Antiquity and the Middle Ages, it fostered a courage and a contempt for death that yield nothing to those of the Christian martyrs. Its enduring power suggests that Homo sapiens is, in the end, more afraid of loneliness than of death.

Lining up Big Ben with a little Big Ben

On September 13th 2018, Big Ben was looking much as it does now, being smothered in scaffolding:

It looked, for a moment in October 2019, as if this scaffolding would come down, but all that went was the scaffolding at the very top.

So anyway, on that September day in 2018, on Westminster Bridge, I came upon a lady who had an answer to the problem of photoing Big Ben at a time when Big Ben was not looking like Big Ben. She put her own little Big Ben in front of the scaffolding encrusted actual Big Ben, thus:

Many Londoners find tourist fun tiresome. Personally I love it when tourists have tourist fun in this particular way, sticking their own small thing in front of a Big Tourist Thing, like Big Ben, or the Wheel or Westminster Abbey or the Shard. Whenever I see fun like this, I have fun of my own photoing it.

One of the photos I photoed of this lady was of her turning, and looking straight at me. She grinned as she saw what I was doing, and then carried on with her own photoing. Nevertheless, I choose not to include that photo in my little gallery of her. She was making a bit of a spectacle of herself, so it was a borderline decision.

She wasn’t making nearly such a spectacle of herself as was the lady featured in the previous posting here.

The South Bank (red) Lion

There has been lots of photo-reminiscing here lately, so here are some photos I took much more recently. Well, in May of this year anyway:

Yes, it’s the lion at the South Bank end of Westminster Bridge.

This South Bank Lion has quite a history, the strangest thing being that it used to be red. I was going to show you the “photo” of the lion when it was red that I found
here
, until I realised it was faked with Photoshop. But that link is worth following.

The lion hasn’t always perched on the bridge. His first home was on top of the Lion Brewery, a booze factory once based on a site now occupied by the Royal Festival Hall.

I bet the brewery would have made a better concert hall than the accursed RFH.

This photo, on the other hand, of the lion with men and scaffolding is genuine:

The photograph above was kindly shared by Nick Redman of London Photos, whose grandfather (second on the left) was one of the scaffolders who helped move the lion from the soon-to-be-demolished brewery.

I found that here. Also well worth clicking on.

I assume this must be why so many pubs are called “The Red Lion”.

Apparently Emile Zola was very fond of this lion. Blog and learn.

First photos with the FX150

I can still remember the Great Leap Forward that the Panasonic Lumix FZ150 “bridge” camera was. For me if not for all of photoer-kind. For me, the best “bridge camera” I could have was my perfect camera. Tons of zoom, but no faffing about with different lenses to at once capture whatever sscene presented itself to me, near or far.

I went rootling through the photo-archives looking for some early photos I photoed with this wondrous new contrivance, looking at the first photo-expeditions I embarked upon, along the River, to the Victoria Docks, or just to Westminster Abbey and Bridge, to photo my fellow photoers, to pick out some photos that brought back the shock of pleasurable surprise I had when I first got my hands on it.

But then I realised I was looking in the wrong place. What I needed to see were not merely some “early” photos, photoed days or even weeks after I got this super-camera. What I wanted to see were the absolute first photos I took with this camera, on January 26th 2012.

And the very first one of all was this:

That scene, of my kitchen window and surroundings as seen from my swivel chair around which most of my life revolves, if you get my meaning. (It’s the chair that does the actual revolving.) I am happy to report that the big grey Thing, bottom left, which was for making ice, has been replaced by a slightly bigger black box, which also makes ice, and also looks after food of many other sorts, including in particular ice cream. Otherwise, nothing has changed.

On each side of the window are CD shelves, and the next few photos I photoed were all close-ups of CDs, edge on:

That was when it hit me, and I believe I can still remember this glorious moment. This was the camera I had been waiting for, all my life. The key point was not just that these were successful photos of distant details. I can tell from the numbering of these photos in the archive that there were no failures. None. All of my first dozen or so photos with this new camera came out fine, even the one of my pop music department, which was where it still is, way off to the left and way up near the ceiling.

Only the following day did I photo anything beyond my front door.

The first outdoor photo I photoed with my new FZ150 was this, dated January 27th, i.e. the following day, just before it got dark:

That’s looking across Vincent Square at the building activity in and around Victoria Street, which has been pretty much continuous, one place or another, for the last decade. Mmmmmm, cranes.

Since then, I have upgraded to the Panasonic Lumix FZ200 and then to the FZ330. But they are both really just the FZ150 with frills added. If my current camera, the FZ330 were to be snatched away from me, and I was given another FZ150 and told that this would be my last camera, I’d not be that bothered. Were I told that I would have to go back to the crappy camera I had before the FZ150, that would be a disaster. Soon after acquiring this FZ150, I wrote about it at some length for Samizdata. This confirms what, up until re-reading that, I had merely remembered. The FZ150 really was a huge step forward.

Hurrah for capitalism. It really is ridiculous that the world’s schools are now cranking out a whole new generation of nitwits, an appallingly significant proportion of whom seem genuinely to want to put a stop to this glorious process.

Linseed

Photoed by Martin Cook:

Are the tracks so far apart because they’re made by a crop sprayer? This is the countryside, so what do I know?

This and three more, bigger, here.

And in case you were wondering:

Linseed in uk mostly is grown for animal feed, pet food and human consumption. Lot goes to markets abroad to animal feed to produce animal products with higher omega-3 levels, such as meat and eggs etc.

Here.

Poetic perfection in a reopening pub

Rebecca Day tweets:

I’ve spoken to regulars Chris and Jimmy. Jimmy hasn’t gone to bed after his night shift tarmacking the roads. He had a shower and came straight here. He described the taste of his first Carling as being like an ‘angel pissing on the tip of my tongue’.

In her original tweet, Rebecca Day put “p***ing” and “his” tongue, so I’ve restored what Jimmy said to its original state of perfection. You’re welcome.

One of the services this blog supplies to its regular readers is to pluck occasional pearls of perfection like that (or that (or that)) from the torrent of swine shit that is Twitter, or at any rate what Twitter seems to turn into for many people.

Friday creatures Twitter dump (2): Confirmation that Nature sucks

More evolved ghastliness news from Steve Stewart-Williams:

This unfortunate snail is infested with a parasitic worm, which is mimicking a caterpillar so a bird will eat it. The worm will then reproduce in the bird’s gut, and its eggs will be released in the bird’s feces – which will then be eaten by other snails. Yep, nature kinda sucks.

Kinda?

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.

Crowd scenes by the River a year ago

On June 30th 2019, I was out walking, beyond and then on Tower Bridge, then back along the south side of the River, and then across to Embankment Tube and home. Here are some photos from that day, of crowd scenes:

At the time, I often thought I was photoing something quite other than mere people, in a crowd. At the time, the mere fact of lots of people all bunched up together didn’t mean much. It does now.