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.

Lockdown chat with Patrick

On June 2nd, Patrick Crozier and I had another of our recorded conversations, this time about Lockdown.

In the course of this, I refer to a photo that I did take, and a photo that I didn’t take. The photo that I did take was this:

That being me, and another bloke, recording the fact of empty shelves in Sainsburys. The photo that I didn’t take, but talk about with Patrick, is the one I should also have taken of how the shelves laden with less healthy food – crisps, chocky bickies etc. – were crammed with yet-to-be-sold stuff, a lot of it offered at discount prices.

Patrick, in his posting about this chat, mentions something he thought of afterwards but didn’t say during, which is that what may have been going on with the crisps and bickies was not that people were shunning unhealthy food, but rather that they were shunning party food, on account of there suddenly being no parties being had. Good point. In my photo above, you can see in the distance, the drinks section. Plenty of drink still to be had also.

I remember, when I used to do chat radio, I used to regret not having said things I should have said, either because I had them in mind but forgot, or because I only thought of them afterwards. But, in due course, I realised that what mattered was what I did say. If that was reasonably intelligent and reasonably well put, then I did okay. People wouldn’t say: Ooh, but he forgot to mention blah blah. They would merely decide whether they liked, or not, what I did say.

Well, this time around, I think there was a huge elephant in the virtual room that we didn’t discuss, which I am sure some listeners would expect us to have at least mentioned. Sport. As in: There hasn’t been any! Patrick and I are both sports obsessives. He is a Watford fan. But he has had no Premier League relegation battle to warm his heart during the last few months. I love cricket, not just England but also Surrey. Likewise for me: nothing, despite some truly wonderful weather at a time when it’s often very grim. But, not a single sporting thing, other than ancient sportsmen reminiscing about sports contests of yesteryear on the telly. Yet we never mentioned any of that. Since a lot of the point of our chat wasn’t to yell at politicians and scientists, hut rather just to remember the oddities of our own lives now, this was a major omission. We talked, as we always do whether that’s the actual topic or not, about war, this time in connection with the question of which economic policy attitudes will prevail during whatever attempts at an economic recovery start being made in the months to come. Yet sport, the thing that has replaced war in so many people’s lives, got no mention by us.

Some customer feedback

Recently seen on Facebook, with that little “world” thingy at the top, which (I think) means he doesn’t care who reads it, beyond his circle of Facebook regulars:

I have had a problem with the hosting of the domain that my Gmail account is linked to with the result that it couldn’t receive email for several days. During that time I had to spend a ridiculous amount of time online and on the telephone sorting out something that wasn’t my fault. Suffice it to say that I am very impressed with the customer service of DiscountDomain24 (German company out of Saarbrucken) and I am really not impressed with Google’s. For those not familiar with Britspeak “really not impressed” means “I think their customer service stinks like a month old corpse in a pile of steaming shit”. Still, all working now.

Living on my own, I don’t get the twenty first century explained to me on a daily basis, so still cannot tell whether I am breaking some sort of Facebook rule. Can a friend who maybe recognises the above perhaps comment here? I mean, I was able to link to this, but can anyone? If they can, should I be telling them?

Here’s the link. I can get there. But can you? And should you?

Some or all of this may in due course disappear, depending on what anyone tells me about Facebook and its rules.

Candace Owens – alarm clock for black America

My thanks to Scott Adams for telling me about this video speech to camera by Candace Owens. (When I watched this video at the Scott Adams twitter feed, the top of her head was sliced off, sometimes even including her eyes. Not recommended.)

The heart of what Candace Owens says about the dramas now unfolding in America is that black Americans are the only ethnic group in American who make martyrs and heroes out of their worst people, i.e. petty and not-so-petty criminals who come to bad ends. George Floyd is now all over T-shirts, but he was actually, first, a petty criminal, and then a not-so-petty criminal, as Owens explains. By martyrising and glorifying wickedness and failure, you set yourself up for a life of wickedness and failure. And mostly: just failure.

What Candace Owens says seems to me, and to Scott Adams, very persuasive. I hope it will prove persuasive to those whom it is most particularly aimed at, which is black Americans. But what Owens says is partly aimed at old non-black guys like me and Scott Adams, because what she says is also universally appealing wisdom. Wise people don’t do this! Owens has certainly done nothing to stop me hearing this speech of hers.

A twitter commenter says that Owens will become America’s first female black President. But Owens is surely in the meantime attempting something smaller and more immediate than that, and in the longer run potentially bigger and better than that.

The “alarm clock” reference comes towards the end of the video.

When Dowding said to Leigh-Mallory that he often couldn’t see beyond his little nose

I’ve just read James Holland’s account of The Battle of Britain. Holland has a very low opinion of Leigh-Mallory, who commanded 12 Group in the Battle in question, and famously tangled with Dowding and Park of 11 Group. Later, in his book about Big Week, Holland mentions Leigh-Mallory’s contribution to the bombing offensive against Germany, and he is again deeply unimpressed.

As Holland notes, Dowding and Park got their London statues, however belatedly, while Leigh-Mallory, in addition to getting himself killed in 1944, got no such recognition. As far as Holland is concerned, justice was, belatedly, done, both positively for Dowding, and negatively to Leigh-Mallory.

But I possess another book entitled The Battle of Britain, the one by John Ray, which tells the story of the battle but which particularly digs into all the feuding that happened on the British side. I only read this book very casually when I first acquired it, so I’ve been having another go, to see if Ray could explain things a little more from Leigh-Mallory’s point of view.

I didn’t have to read long. Here, on page 18, is an episode described by Ray that does a quite a bit to illuminate why Leigh-Mallory didn’t get on with Dowding, and in general why it took Dowding so long to get his statue:

There was a general view that Dowding could be prickly and difficult, lacking the golden virtue of tact. Even his obituary in The Times noted that he was not an easy man, and one to whom ‘slackness, hypocrisy and self-seeking were not peccadilloes, but scarlet sins’.” These views have been summarized by Denis Richards, author of the official history of the RAF, in referring to Dowding’s unclubbable and less than co-operative nature, often displayed to those with whom he disagreed. ‘Dowding was really very difficult’, in his opinion and, as several opponents appreciated, ‘tact was not a weapon in Dowding’s armoury’.

The relationship between Dowding and Leigh-Mallory, ADC, No 12 Group, was far from cordial and a factor in the later controversy over tactics. At a conference following an air defence exercise in 1939 Dowding spoke for over an hour on the agenda’s 56 items, then allocated only five minutes each to his two Group Commanders. Worse was to follow when Dowding, in front of several other senior officers said, ‘The trouble with you, Leigh-Mallorv. is that you sometimes cannot see further than the end your little nose’.

Bloody hell.

Ray agrees with Holland that Dowding deserved better than he got in the way of public recognition once the war had ended. But Ray also makes it clear how Dowding got his nickname: “Stuffy”.

Isn’t it one of Macchiavelli’s rules that you shouldn’t insult a powerful adversary unless you also crush them?

I’ve never been anywhere near a battle, but it occurs to me to guess that commanding an airforce could be such a difficult thing to do well because the skill of flying an airplane in a war is so very unlike the job of being a senior commander. You could be wonderfully clubbable, but that wouldn’t make you any better at flying, at killing enemy flyers or at bashing you way to a target and then getting back home again. Likewise, great air warriors could be decidedly eccentric, or worse utter bastards, when back on the ground. No wonder, when some of these guys got older and became commanders, they were often a lot better at instructing their awed subordinates in how to fight, than they were at getting along with each other when grappling with other more subtle and complex dilemmas.

Zoom out

I just tried, for the first time, to make Zoom work. I wanted to hear what was said in a virtual meeting I had been invited to “attend”. But, I could hear nothing. I have no microphone, but I just wanted to hear what the others were saying. I could see various familiar faces yapping away, but could hear nothing. My speakers are working fine. (I now have music playing.)

Like all computer programmes, and there are no exceptions whatsoever to this rule – none, Zoom is trivially easy to make work if you know how to work it, and impossible if you do not.

Fucking computers. Trouble is, they know how to do a million things, so you have to be able tell them exactly which of those million things you want. If you fail to do this, which you often do because computers have zero common sense, you’re screwed.

There must a lot of this sort of crap going on just now.

LATER: There must be a lot of this sort of crap going on now because the time-honoured way to solve a problem like this is for a Zoom-savvy person to drop by and show me how to work it. Clunky, but the way to sort it. Except, that can’t now happen. The very problem Zoom was going to solve, not being able to have a proper meeting, is undeployable by me, because I can’t have a proper meeting to make Zoom work.

See what I said yesterday about how cities will never go away. Physical proximity is never going to stop being useful. Never.

Another recorded conversation with Patrick (about the WW2 bombing offensive)

Tomorrow afternoon Patrick Crozier and I will be recording another of our recorded conversations. Assuming all the technology behaves as it should, it will in due course go here. We’re going to be talking about the World War 2 bombing offensive. Patrick and I like talking about war.

So, what will we be saying? You’ll maybe get a clue of the sorts of things I may be saying if you read this posting, which I did for the old blog in July 2012, and which I have just copied onto this new blog, so you can now read it without having to get past a scary red screen, full of urgings that you go away at once.

I also have in mind to mention the North American Mustang, the birth and evolution of which was a fascinating story, and one perfectly calculated to cheer up any Brit who fears that America ended up making all the running in WW2. It was us Brits that got the Mustang off the drawing board, by paying North American to have a go at developing and building it in numbers. This was in 1940, way before Uncle Sam was interested in such things. And, it was a Brit engine (the Merlin) that ended up powering the Mustang, albeit a version of it made in America. The Mustang made all the difference because it was a great little fighter and it could go all the way to Germany and back.

Unlike our earlier recorded conversations, this one will be done over the phone, which I expect will be tricky. Face-to-face is so much easier. I daresay there’ll be moments when we both talk at once, and other moments where we are both waiting for the other to talk. Awkward.

The ease of face-to-face being a lot of the reason why cities exist. There’s lots of talk now about how work will now go on being done down wires instead of face-to-face, even after the Coronavirus fuss has all died down. More work will then be done down wires, I’m sure. But cities are too good an idea to abandon. Yes, in cities, you can more easily catch a disease. You can also be more easily mass-murdered by bombers, airborne or of a more primitive sort. But cities, I predict, are here to stay, because face-to-face, for all its drawbacks and dangers, will always be the best way to do so many things.

More telecommuting won’t finish off cities. Rather is telecommuting just another thing for people in cities to organise.

Battersea silhouettes

I’m still, as yet, going on quite long photo-walks. These are combined with shopping and a lot of exercise, the latter being even greater now what with public transport being off limits. There is plenty, since you ask, of social isolation, far more even than is usual. Nevertheless, I still fear that the photoing aspect may soon attract the disapproving attention of authorities, formal or informal. Too little shopping. Insufficiently strenuous exercise. Too much enjoyment. We shall see.

But in the meantime, yesterday afternoon, I checked out, again, the now stalled progress of the new apartment blocks that Frank Gehry has designed to go next to the Battersea Power Station. Last time I tried photoing these, the weather let me down. Not yesterday. Trouble was, the light was coming from behind the buildings I was most interested in photoing. But there was so much of it bouncing around that even though starting out from totally the wrong direction it was still a great improvement on the earlier trip, for photoing that Gehry-weirdness. Which I may or may not get to blogging about.

But as always, on a successful photo walk, the official destination was only part of the story. When I took another look this morning at what I had, I realised that, in among all the beautifully lit photos I photoed pointing one way, with most of the light coming from behind me, were photos like these, with me pointing the other way:

I’ve photoed that amazingly tasteless sculpture of the naked woman pointing herself forwards at the front of a boat, but this is by far the best photo of her I’ve ever photoed. The secret? Added cranes and roof clutter.

Also in the category list below is other creatures. Spot the other creature.

Punishing what you want

When I started concocting this posting, earlier in the week, I was watching a TV show about dogs behaving badly, called, if I remember it right, “Dogs Behaving Badly”. (Very), it turns out. Things like bribing them with dog-sweets to stop them misbehaving, which turned out to mean you are rewarding them with dog-sweets for misbehaving. Guess what the dogs continued to do. Until the English version of the Dog Whisperer started working his dog-magic.

While watching that, I was rootling through tweets I’ve been saving, to see if any were deserving of the immortality that comes with being mentioned here at BMNB.

These ones seemed good, and they chimed in rather nicely with that dog show I was also one-third-attending to.

Clarissa:

Currently experiencing the usual reward for demonstrating competence at work. …

Graeme:

More work?

Clarissa:

Bingo.

Graeme:

Well I hope you learned from your mistake!

Well, Clarissa is not a dog, so maybe not. Maybe she was rewarded for the more work that she did. But if not …

Hey, what with all this Coronavirus disruption, maybe Clarissa has managed to hang on to her job.