A twenty-first century moment

Central to understanding it is that I still don’t understand it.

Okay, so earlier this evening my phone rang. I picked it up, and said, to some suspiciously silent silence, “Hello”. No answer. “Hello”. No answer. Down goes the phone. Who was that? Oh well.

If this had been the twentieth century, this would have been a “crossed line”. But, I thought, this is not the twentieth century. This is the twenty-first century. Do we still have crossed lines? I rather think not. Oh well.

A bit later, the phone rings again, and it’s GodDaughter 2. I know this because I recognise her voice. (My phone has no idea who’s ringing.) I asked: Did you ring earlier? No.
Well, I said “Hello” and “Hello” to somebody, but heard nothing back. She said, in an “OMG” voice: Oh My God. I was just talking to my Dad, she said. And he said he heard you talking, she said. While we were talking, she said, on some twenty first century computer programme the name of which I (as in: not GD2 – as in: I) forget, but which I (ditto) surmise enables third parties to join in the conversation, so you can have a group chat. In among the talk between GD2 and GD2’s Dad, the phrase “ring Brian” was used, for some reason I didn’t catch and still don’t understand (see above). So, the programme promptly rang Brian, aka me. But I don’t have the programme on my twentieth century telephone, so I could hear nothing. But GD2’s Dad heard me saying “Hello” “Hello”.

Later, GD2’s Dad’s phone rang me again, and I answered, “Hello” “Hello” etc, and a strange young man’s voice came on saying what must have been “Who are you?”, while I was busy saying “Who are you?” GDs’s Dad’s phone had rung GD2’s Dad too, helpfully putting us in touch, given that it had failed last time. GD2’s brother aka GD2’s Dad’s son answered at that end, which make the whole situation really clear, to both of us. Not. Oh well. GD2’s Dad and I had a chat, because we are both polite and could neither of us just say: But I wasn’t trying to talk to you.

This must be what they call Artificial Intelligence.

Please understand (see above about how I don’t actually understand) that the above description is only my guess about what was really happening.

A fond farewell to some disintegrated footwear

I am a terrible hoarder. I often find chucking useless stuff out damn near impossible. Especially if, as with the collapsed sandals pictured below, they have given me a decade and more of faithful service:

I find that the combination of photoing and blogging can take much of the sting out of such partings. These sandals don’t deserve to to be dead and buried, but dead and buried is what they must now be.

I did not do this posting for you. I did it for me. And for my departing sandals.

Some podcasting numbers

On Thursday, I did a little posting on Samizdata, flagging up the conversation that Patrick Crozier and I recorded on the subject of the Falklands War. I’ve already mentioned this conversation a couple of times here, but I think this is the first time I’ve mentioned any of them over there, on my version of the mass media. There has so far been only one comment on this Samizdata posting (way below the Samizdata average (but a very informative one comment)), but I think I detect a very slight and non-coincidental uptick in our listener numbers. These have gone from pretty much non-existent, to infinitesimally tiny. Which is a significant improvement, I think.

All of which means that I now want to record the number of downloads there have so far been for each of these conversations that Patrick and I have done, as of now, so that I can see if these numbers continue to rise, and so that I am prevented from deceiving myself about how much they go up by, if they do. Here’s the state of play, in reverse order of recording: The Falklands War (28); The First Wold War: what happened next? (15); Christianity (13); Brexit (18); Why the West won the Cold War (12); History (11); Transport (19); The importance of being number three (11); Trump (19); Diversity (13); Television 7 (7), 6 (9), 5 (9), 4 (7), 3 (7), 2 (8), 1 (10); The First World War (26).

I know, these are ridiculously small numbers. But so what? We both like having these conversations. Think of it not as any sort of business, where the number and satisfaction of consumers is what makes it worthwhile. See it as Patrick and me enhancing our social life by having a more disciplined conversation than if we had just banged on in a pub for an hour, and what’s more a conversation where we can be sure of exactly what we earlier said, should we want to be. My feeling is, from where I sit, that we’re not just chatting, we’re learning. Learning things, with our homework and from each other, and also we are doing that particular kind of learning that consists of arranging things inside our heads, so that they make more sense than they might if we didn’t record what we said. And if a few others find that they like listening to our conversations, so much the better.

Patrick Crozier and I talk about the Falklands War

As earlier noted, Patrick Crozier and I recently recorded a conversation about the Falklands War, involving both what we each remembered about it from when we lived through it (early in 1982), and what we have learned about it since, which was not a lot in my case but a bit.

It was a strange conversation, because we basically talked only about what happened and what we remembered, and almost nothing about what the war “proved” or “demonstrated”, about life generally or about the libertarianism that we are both supporters of in other contexts. The questions we began with were: What was it? What happened? How did events unfold? And that’s what we talked about. There were a few ruminations about the difference between a country which had fought several recent wars and another country which had not, and what that meant in terms of the differences between the people fighting each other. That difference being a major reason why Britain won. But even that was strictly to try to explain events, rather than to get all grand and philosophical and what it all meant.

What Patrick felt and what I felt at the time, about the rights and wrongs of it, were rather different. He was gung-ho and very clear. The Argies stole the islands and we should get them back, and do whatever that took. I was rather baffled and wanted Britain to win more because losing would be so terrible. Not least politically. Because, as we speculated, it would have been hard for Thatcher to have survived as PM if there had been a British military and naval catastrophe down there in the South Atlantic. (The South Atlantic being where, as so many Brits of my sort were rather unsure about at the time, the Falkland Islands are to be found.) There nearly was a catastrophe. Luck played a scarily big part, far bigger than we were told at the time.

Well, if you want to hear what we said about this strange war, and are not expecting any bigger lessons beyond a small and rather meandering history lesson, here is where to go.

Join the Police and get yourself nicer eyelashes

Earlier in the week, GodDaughter2 was out West, doing an audition (successfully as it turned out), and afterwards we met up. After dining, we visited the nearby Westfield shopping centre, and while she looked at some shoes or some such things, I took this photo, of an advertising screen, switching from one advert to another:

I only just noticed the above message-collision, while seeking a quota photo. Today was a busy day.

The miscalculations of the Tiggers

Way back in the Spring of last year, when the Brexit battle was still raging away in Parliament and when Theresa May was still the Prime Minister, Patrick Crozier and I did a podcast o this subject. A point that Patrick made very strongly was how the Remainers, presented with the opportunity of BRINO (Brexit in name only), instead were busily engaged in snatching defeat from the jaws of only somewhat modified victory. Since then, the Remainers carried right on doing this.

As Guido Fawkes explained gleefully in a posting a few days ago about the most visible and organised of the Remainers. These “Tiggers”, as Guido calls them, continued to trash any possibility of BRINO. And then they all got ejected from Parliament, leaving the field clear for actual Brexit, or something a lot like it, to proceed.

This posting of Guido’s is worth a read and a ponder, unless you were yourself a Remainer and can’t bear to think about it all. Thus is history made by the winners. And also bungled by the losers.

I found the picture there, on the right, by scrolling down here. A lot.

Marble race

Tom Chivers:

This is weirdly engrossing.

I am off out soon, to spend an unpredictable fraction of this evening with GodDaughter2. So I need something up here before I go, so I don’t have to fret about it afterwards. Preferably, something weirdly engrossing. Job done.

Thank you to: Roberto Alonso González Lezcano.

I Love The Internet. (Does ILTI stand for this? (Either way, it does now. (And to hell with (this.)))

Absent friends

I’ve not been out much lately, what with the ghastly weather, and you know, not so much wanting to. So I went rootling through the photo-archives for something worth putting up here, today. And came upon these, photoed at a social event of some kind, within two minutes of each each other, according to what my camera told my computer:

On the left, David Botsford. On the right, Helen Szamuely. Neither are now alive.

When I first got into digital photoing, it was to photo people, rather than things. So it is not a surprise that the people photos were, back then, better than the thing photos. Then being April of 2005.

Happy Birthday Dear GodDaughter2!

Happy Birthday is the worse song there is, because you only ever hear it sung by people who would never, never otherwise attempt choral singing. But this song, they do attempt, with a combination of extreme shitness and the excruciating embarrassment that comes with everyone knowing that they are perpetrating extreme shitness upon one another. This ghastly song reaches its nadir of ghastliness with that high note towards the end: Happy Birthday dear … whoever. Ghastly. Totally, totally ghastly. I have never heard Happy Birthday not sung ghastlily.

And then came last night. Last night I attended GodDaughter2’s birthday party, here. GodDaughter2 is studying how to sing, at the Royal College of Music, and so were the majority of those also present at the party. Oh, there were some civilians present, but the heart of it was singers. So there I was just sitting there, spouting rubbish to some poor defenceless singer, who had to listen to me because I am GodDaughter2’s Godfather, when, guess what: Happy Birthday starts up, behind me. I do not turn to look, thank goodness, because I am a very poor judge of singing when I am looking at it being sung. I just listen. And as soon as it gets under way, I realise that, for once, the Happy Birthday bit at the end is going to be sung not just non-shittily, but actually well, really well. So I don’t just enjoy that bit when it finally arrives, I am able to relish beforehand how good it was going to be. It was the opposite, in other words, of how Happy Birthday usually happens, when all present know beforehand how shit it will be, especially the last bit. and then have to listen to how shit that last bit especially duly is.

So Happy Birthday last night was … well, St Matthew Passion, eat your heart out. It was glorious. The high note was nailed to perfection by all who attempted it, and there were also harmonies. And I did not see this coming. I had forgotten all about Happy Birthday. It all happened in a rush. And when something that is usually ghastly is instead glorious, the glory is at least twice as glorious.

The entire party was, so far as I could judge after one champagne and two pints of lager (to get how that would be for you, multiply by three – I have a low alcohol threshold): really good. But even if the only thing about it that was good had been Happy Birthday, it would still have been great to have been there.