Marine v Spurs

I think, on balance, that I did want Spurs to win, but it would have been fun if they hadn’t. Biggest gap in League places in the FA Cup ever, apparently.

There was a burst of four Spurs goals in the first half, but Marine kept it to five, presumably because, the game having been won, Spurs sent on lots of children, one of whom actually scored their one second half goal.

But what fun it would have been if Marine had actually managed to score a goal. To satisfy me, they would have had to score four goals.

Deprived of such enjoyments, I had to get my fun from the geography of the ground where this game was played:

Yes, houses and their gardens, right next to the touchline, which meant that some of the TV pictures looked like this:

That’s a party in one of the gardens, watching the game through a see-through fence and revelling in the attention of the cameras.

Where is “Marine” exactly. (Another oddity is that it seems to be only football club of any significance not to have a place in its name.) It seems to be in a relatively posh place, name of Crosby, somewhere north of Liverpool. Apparently quite a few football high achievers and managers live around there. I think the ground they played this game was this.

Hitchens talks to Paxman

I fear that I may now be an I-may-be-about-to-die bore. In the sense that I can think of nothing which I am now doing or saying or even thinking which is not happening under the shadow of my recent lung cancer diagnosis. And given the subject matter of this particular posting, any pretence along such lines would be absurd. Which is why I start with that now. Which could get very boring.

Anyway, what I want to link to is this video, lasting about half an hour, in which Jeremy Paxman talks with the late and then staring his about-to-be-lateness in the face Christopher Hitchens.

Here’s a still from this video, which I think I am presenting because one of the many things I like about this conversation is how Hitchens looks. His head entirely shaven, his face serious, the very picture of a ancient stoic, looking both at death and at the kind of life he might have to suffer before death with an unflinching gaze:

Hitchens’s appearance reminds me of that of my friend and fellow Samizdatista, Paul Marks. “The Sage of Kettering”, as the Samizdata commentariat refers to Paul, looks a lot like this already, despite the fact that to the best of my knowledge Paul is only going to die in the same medically relaxed sense that we all are.

The link to this video was, of course, sent to me, by a friend who had learned of my current medical predicament and thought that I might appreciate learning about it and watching it. Which I very much did, having missed it the first time around.

The friend picked out a bit right at the end, where Hitchens says that he especially appreciated communications from strangers who had in one way or another appreciated something that he, Hitchens, had said or written or done. “If in doubt about whether to send me such a message, do not hesitate. Send it.” Or words to that effect.

He added that he regretted having failed to do this for others in similar circumstances.

I agree on both counts. I am being very cheered up right now by all the kind things that I have persuaded various people, not a few of them pseudonymous Samizdata people whose identities are otherwise unknown to me, to say to me about my own various sayings and doings over the years. And I too regret having failed to do as much of this as I could and should have, when I saw valued friends and intellectual comrades nearing their ends.

New category in the category list below: Death. Here’s hoping that at least some of the remaining postings I manage here are not thus tagged.

By the way, that could be quite a few more. Hitchens was facing the certainty of death, pretty soon, when he did this interview, and he duly died soon after it, I believe. Not long, anyway. All I can really say about my lung cancer is that it sounds pretty bad. But that might merely mean it being pretty bad for quite a while longer.

John Simpson Architects

Fake Ancient is my rather sarky description of architecture that looks like it was designed a whole lot longer ago than it really was. But at its best it can be very impressive, and this evening I channel hopped my way into a television show (episode 9 of those 10) about a certain John Simpson, who seems like he knows all about how to do this style, although I only caught the end of it. A new name to me. He shouldn’t have been, but he was.

From that, straight to the John Simpson Architects website, and immediately a rather surprising discovery. John Simpson Architects are the people who have been redesigning the Royal College of Music, which is where GodDaughter2 has for the last few years been learning about how to sing. Throughout that time, finding my way through the college to wherever she and I were meeting, or to where she was performing, was like some sort of Ancient Greek myth involving a Labyrinth, the Underworld, and frightful punishments like Eternal Damnation if you got lost.

With luck GodDaughter2 will retain her right to take me to the RCM, and enable me to see all the new reshaping that’s been going on once it’s well and truly finished. What I’ve seen of it, of what has been finished, has looked very nice, but I never thought to wonder who had designed it all.

I think this is because this traditional style, to be more polite about it, of doing architecture, and especially when it is done as well as it is being done at the RCM, doesn’t give off that sense of an individual architect, imposing his wilful whim upon everything, in a way that would have been totally different if a different architect had been let loose on the place. Traditional architecture is, in other words, the opposite of Starchitecture. That being the point of tradition. It looks roughly the same, no matter who is doing it, because “doing it” means following it. So, although I wish I had been more curious about who was doing what at the RCM, I wasn’t. It just was happening, seemingly of its own accord.

But now I do know who’s been doing the designing, and I’m very glad to have learned this.

Judging by his performances on the telly that I did catch, John Simpson still seems to have plenty of active life left in him, which is very good news. And there was me thinking that this kind of thing might be dying the death whenever Quinlan Terry dies his death.

A new Fulham stand (and a very good Spurs win)

Even as I write, they are showing a Premier League soccer game on the telly, and more to the point, at the BBC Website. Which means I can go back and watch goals without all the tedium in between, and also pause things, when instead of blokes just kicking a ball, they show something more interesting, like this:

Fulham are at home to Everton, and I can’t help suspecting that they are 1-3 down at half time because the people running the club have more pressing matters on their minds than how well their team is doing. They are building a big new stand. You can tell how seriously they are taking the job by the fact that they are prepared to have two platforms sticking out over the River, just to hold all the associated building stuff, presumably because there is nowhere else nearby to put it.

We are way out west, with Central London off to the left as we look.

With cricket and rugby, I find the routine stuff that happens during games interesting, probably because I actually spent longish periods of time when I was a kid trying to do these things myself and realising how hard they are to do right, especially passing in rugby, which the pros now expect to get right every time. But the regular moves of soccer, the kicking, the passing, the tackling, I find boring. I never bothered with this, because I was a goalie, so this never really came alive for me. The goals I like, or when the goalie stops a goal. And the more distant views as above I also like, for totally different reasons. So I really like being able to keep the visuals of a soccer game going in the background, and then when something of interest happens, to pick those moments out for myself, which you can do on the internet, but not when it’s on old school TV.

Yesterday, my team, Spurs had the sort of game they have in recent years tended to lose, or to draw disappointingly, namely a home game against a genuinely top club. For all their bizarre heroics in a recent European Cup (getting to the final), Spurs have never in recent years been any better than a best-of-the-rest team rather than a truly top team. But yesterday’s game, if they could only win it, would suggest true topness. So, yesterday, I had three very nice surprises. The first was when I learned that Spurs had gone one up, against Manchester City, no less. Second, even better, was when I later learned that they had gone two up. Then, best of all, they conceded no goals themselves towards the end when Man City were pressing to get back into it, and closed out the game. This is top team stuff. If Spurs can beat Chelsea at Chelsea next Sunday, then they really will start looking like a top team, and I might start paying them some serious attention.

Fulham 2 Everton 3, with a quarter of an hour to go. Go London Fulham, given that you are not playing against London Spurs.

I support all the London teams, unless they’re playing London Spurs. That’s right, I support Arsenal against all other comers. This enrages Real Football Fans, which is all part of why I do it. As does calling “Football” soccer, the sneer quotes because what of Rugby Football, American Football, table football, Australian Football, etc.? I’m a Londonist, see above, way before I’m a soccerist.

LATER: Here’s how they reckoned, in 2018, that this new stand would look:

From the report below that picture:

Fulham FC will redevelop its Riverside Stand to increase the capacity at its Craven Cottage stadium to 29,600. The work will also see the Thames Path opened for the first time, for pedestrians to walk from Hammersmith to Putney Bridge.

Memo to self: When they finish this, check it out.

Reflections on how an abundance of news every day has transformed American politics

This abundance, brought into being by the internet, means that you don’t have to read or listen to anything you don’t want to read or listen to. Whatever view you have of the world and what is happening in it, you can spend whatever time you have each day for such matters to confirm what you already see and think. I now think that the Democrats can only win the Presidency if they get away with their cheating. Meanwhile, Democrats think Trump is just a sore loser and a conspiracy theorist.

And I think the latest Lockdown here is a great folly.

The big change in America, brought by the Internet, is that the “mainstream media” used to be just that, but are that no longer. Before the internet, the “mainstream media” (basically the big television news shows) spoke to almost everyone but a few truly contrarian oddballs and freaks. Now, if you don’t entirely care for the point of view they give you, you can go elsewhere.

This had a knock-on effect on the mainstream media themselves. They started to acquire those inverted commas. They began not to be so mainstream. Their centre-left, what-the-government-is-doing-is-what-matters, if-you-want-something-sorted-get-the-government-to-sort-it attitude mutated towards an extreme left, put-the-government-in-charge-of-everything, capitalism-is-evil agenda. Why? Because if you thought the problem with government was that there was too much of it, you could now go elsewhere for your daily news, and commentary. You could choose, and daily have reinforced for you, any “extreme” agenda that suited you, in a way that only freaks like Marxists and libertarians of my sort used, before the Internet, to do (by writing our own news for ourselves). Now, if the “mainstream media” tried to appeal to everyone, they’d end up appealing to no-one. The smart thing for them to do was to choose the most popular “extreme” agenda and run with that. Which is what they have done, and which is why calling them “mainstream” no longer makes nearly much sense. (It sill makes some sense, because they have gone with the most popular extreme agenda. Which is still a bit mainstream, hence the survival of the expression.)

All that was needed to turn America into a profoundly different place was for a rival “extreme” agenda to arise, comparable in volume and force to the dominant extreme agenda, and, with Donald Trump arriving on the scene and proclaiming such an agenda, there you have it, America now.

And each tribe spends its entire day that it can spare telling itself how right it is about everything, and what evil nincompoops the other fellows are.

I’m part of this. I’m a Trumpist now. A Trumpist with libertarian trimmings and libertarian reservations, but a Trumpist. And I duly think that the Democrats are, on the whole and with various polite exceptions and reservations, evil nincompoops.

All of which explains why my posting here yesterday evening, about literal reflections, although it began as an attempt to change the subject away from mere politics, actually didn’t really do that. What that ended up being about was the human inclination to see what we’re looking for, rather than what merely “is” there.

See also, Scott Adams on two movies.

I’m now watching the election coverage by Newsmax TV

It’s 3 am on Wednesday morning, and yes, I am up again. Truth is, I did sleep a bit, but my actual night’s sleep has been slipping forwards, and it hasn’t actually begun yet.

Originally I was tracking this election by following the PJ Media live blog, but one of the people there said they were following Newsmax TV, and I gave that a try. I’m liking it a lot. No jokes, and constant explanations, for viewers whom they assume to be smart, but ignorant. No prior knowledge assumed. No doubt many Americans would find this insufferable. I am finding it very sufferable indeed.

The only slightly annoying thing is that there are four of them, and often they all seem to be talking at once. They need a chairman, to say: You, shut up. You: talk. Okay thanks, stop, now you. But otherwise, when they can agree who has the floor, it’s very informative.

Took me a while to work out that they are very pro-Trump. Which is exactly what I want. Pro-Trump, but not relentlessly and boringly so.

Is Newsmax TV “television”? Or is it merely stuff that’s live on YouTube? Until now, I had never heard of these people.

LATER: Well, their pro-Trumpery is actually pretty strong and obvious. And, as I’ve not yet mentioned: Trump is winning.

I’m going to bed now

I had planned to stay up all night, to see whether I get the President of the USA that (see below) I want. But, I’m tired, and it already (at 11pm UK time) looks like Trump has won. Early impressions can be wrong, goodness knows. Look what happened last time. But as of now, I’m fairly optimistic, more so than before the earliest evidence of what is happening started to emerge.

I’ll find out tomorrow. Or sooner, if all the fruit juice I’ve just been drinking gets me up in the middle of the (the as in: my) night.

Big sport day

Two IPL games have been happening, both disappointing. That being twenty-overs-plays-twenty-overs cricket, in India. Both games started out with low scores by the teams batting first, followed by relaxed and successful chases by the opposition, and neither contained any English players for me to support. I don’t care which IPL teams do well. I just want the England guys to do well. Some are doing okay, like Stokes, Buttler and Archer, who are all, if I remember it right, playing for the same team. Many are not doing so well. Roy got dropped early. Bairstow seemed to be doing okay, but also got dropped. Blah blah. If you care about the IPL, you’ll know how to follow it. If you don’t care, you don’t need any links from me. (This applies to everything in this posting. So, no links. If you care, you know. If you don’t care, you probably aren’t even reading this.)

So, the Rugby. My over-riding feeling going into today’s games, the last of the 2020 6 Nations, was that the English commentators were being insufferably smug about how well England would do against Italy and how badly Italy would do against England. Well, it’s now half time in that game, and England are up by a mere ten points to five, with each side having scored one try. England have to score four tries to probably win the title, but have kicked away all their possession, as I just saw Clive Woodward complaining about also. When will these people ever learn? This is the Six Nations. Anything can happen.

One thing in particular made me suspect that Italy might do well, which is that they have finally got shot of that guy whose name now escapes me who has been their best player for the last two decades. Sergio Parisse, is it? When a bad team has a “great player” playing for them, there is a temptation for the other guys to ease off and let him do it for them. But once he goes, all the other guys look at the team sheet and say: My God, we’re going to have to do this ourselves. And they can end up playing better. In particular, Italy have what looks to be a great fly half, who pulled off a wonderful dummy pass to score against Ireland last week. He looks really good. To say it again: It’s the 6 Nations. You, famous ex-England player, you don’t know what’ll happen. I don’t know. Nobody knows.

Oh, I just tuned back into this England game, and it would seem that England have scored another try, and need just two more to serve their purposes. Which is quite probable. Presumably they got a bollocking at half time. And yes, that’s exactly what the commentators are now saying. Italy 5 England 17, with somewhat over half and hour to go.

The France Ireland game that happens later is predicted to be a high scoring high risk affair, with both teams seeking to get four tries and a chance to win this thing themselves. So, I now predict a low-scoring stalemate, in which they cancel each other out, and win the tournament for England despite England’s worst efforts.

Why am I in such a bad mood about these games, because I definitely am? It’s partly Lockdown, and partly the fake crowd noises that happened during the earlier Wales Scotland game. Who do they think they are fooling with such nonsense? (Wales lost, by the way, not because Scotland were that good, but because they were not very good.) At least this Italy England game is being accurately reported by the television, without any added-on “atmosphere”. But, that makes it hard to take very seriously, because that means there’s no atmosphere. You need to be able to suspend your disbelief about these contests really really mattering. The seats in the stadium are all empty, and the only people you can hear shouting are the players. It looks and sounds like a training game. It needs to feel and sound like an actual life-and-death battle, but does not, at all.

It doesn’t help any that I have been suffering from persistent “lower back” problems, caused partly by having been sitting for far too long on the wrong sort of chair. I am now trying a different chair, but it’s too soon to say if this will work. This, for me, could be it from now on. If I could trade England winning the 6 Nations for getting rid of this pain in the arse, I’d do that deal in a blink.

England have try number three. They need just one more, with half an hour left. Expert prediction: Doddle. Me: Let’s just see about that, shall we? Meanwhile, England, after a very poor first half, are nevertheless 5-24 up.

In soccer news. West Ham are now leading Liverpool by a goal to nil. Will they do to Liverpool what Aston Villa did to Liverpool, and beat them 7-2? Well, probably not. Liverpool have already equalised. There’s been much discussion about why so many goals are being scored in the Premier League all of a sudden. It has been suggested that, in the absence of spectators, defenders aren’t taking their duties as seriously as they would if there were spectators present to jeer at them when they cock it up. But I would like to suggest another explanation which is that attackers are, for this same reason, a bit more relaxed, and hence better able to score goals, instead of turning into terrified blocks of wood or bodies of jelly just when they need to be at their sharpest. With no spectators to put them off, they can score goals just like they do in training.

England have just scored try number four. So, all those damn experts were right, despite everything. Boring.

Final score: Italy 5 England 34. My understanding is that if Ireland win by more than seven, or if France win by a lot, either of them could win it. But honestly, I find that I don’t care enough to check if that’s right. I’ll just wait to be told.

Result: Liverpool 2 West Ham 1. Boring boring.

Maybe I built all this up too much beforehand, only to discover on the day that I had become an adult. Maybe that’s my problem. It seems unlikely, but I suppose it could be that.

Apparently Ireland have to win by seven or more, and score at least four tries. So England are now hot favourites for the Six Nations 2020. Hoo ray.

LATER: Biggest laugh of the day. They got it wrong, and I got it right the first time! Ireland just have to win by seven or more. No four tries. Just win by a bit. France have to win by a mile, so, go France. But don’t go too well.

EVEN LATER: Well France obliged, by winning, but not by enough. England are champions. It didn’t feel like anyone was, really. The way France took their tries against Ireland was what I’ll remember from today.

How the old version of New Scotland Yard used to look before they knocked it down

In that posting I did yesterday, it would have made sense to have included also a photo of how the old New Scotland Yard building used to look, given that I showed photos of how the place where it stood looked after it had been demolished and what is now there instead.

So, here is that old New Scotland Yard building, viewed from the roof of my block of flats, in 2016:

Not an especially distinguished building. Just a Brand-X Modernist box. I was fond of it because of its gloriously exuberant roof clutter, in such delightful contrast to its austere and repetitious facades. (The red spike in the foreground is the red spike on the top of the Headquarters of Channel 4 Television.)

Here is an earlier photo I photoed back in 2010 of this same building, from, of all out-of-the-way spots, the platform of South Bermondsey Railway Station, which is a substantial train ride away from my home off to the far side of London:

Yes, there it is, between the “other” Parliament Tower, the one with four spikes rather than just the one (plus a clock), and the Big Thing at the Elephant and Castle with the three holes in the top (seen sideways on).

Don’t believe me? Zoom zoom, crop crop:

That’s definitely it, I think you’ll agree. I didn’t realise I even had this photo until quite recently. I love these accidents of visibility, involving London’s Big or in this case not so big Things. It is a constant delight to me when out and about just what you can see, from just where.

Presumably you can now see the new Towers that they have built there instead, from that same South Bermondsey platform. Memo to self: Go back there and check that out.

A techno-prophecy from one of Rebus’s drinking pals

While channel hopping of an evening, I recently realised that episodes of the television version of Rebus are now being shown again. Having already read most of the books, I have found these Rebus TV adaptations to be frustratingly simplified and compressed. The books are complicated odysseys taking many days, and often weeks or even months, to unfold. They certainly take me several days to read. But these TV shows are brisk evening strolls by comparison. I paid less attention to the John Hannah episodes because he seemed to me wrong for the part of Rebus, and presumably also to many others because he soon made way for Ken Stott, who can say some innocuous line like “Is that right?” and send a shiver down your spine. And in general, I find the casting and the acting of the Ken Stott shows to be excellent. It’s just that convoluted stories like these need a decent number of hours and episodes to have their effect. You can’t do books like this justice in an hour and a bit for each entire book.

So, I’ve now been going back to the books to find out all the things that happened in them, as opposed to merely watching the highlights in the evening. Here is the very latest Rebus, which came out at the beginning of this month. But meanwhile, not wanting to buy a hardback of that latest one, and provoked by the TV version of Let It Bleed, I recently re-read that in the original. I’m a slow and easily distracted reader but I sped through it, having totally forgotten everything from when I first read it a decade or more ago.

I was especially entertained by a little snippet early on. The time is the mid-nineties, and Rebus is in the pub with his drinking cronies, one of whom is called Salty. Salty has an on-and-off career as an IT guy in “Silicon Glen”, and Salty is to be heard holding forth on the future of the internet and related matters (pp. 35-36):

‘So what I’m saying is, you can go anywhere on the superhighway, anywhere, and in future it’ll be even bigger. You’ll do your shopping by computer, you’ll watch telly on it, play games, listen to music … and everything will be there. 1 can talk to the White House if I want. I can download stuff from all over the world. I sit there at my desk and I can travel anywhere.’

‘Can you travel to the pub by computer, Salty?’ a drinker further down the bar asked.

With the wisdom of hindsight, we now know that there was more to all this than merely sitting at a desk, the way I am now. Computers have now gone miniature and mobile. Your computer won’t (yet) actually take you to the pub, but you can now take it to the pub with you.

So what does Salty say next?

Salty ignored him and held his thumb and forefinger a couple of inches apart. ‘Hard disks the size of credit cards, you’ll have a whole PC in the palm of your hand.’

Not bad for 1995, which is when this first came out. I had a vague recollection of Ian Rankin having been some sort of IT guy himself, before he got stuck into doing Rebus books, which would have explained his foresight in these matters. But no, there is no IT work in his bio, other than writing Rebus books on his own computer. He got all that stuff about the “superhighway”, and about mobile phones, from just picking people’s brains in pubs. (Which I am convinced was something that Shakespeare also did.)

When I recently encountered that TV version of Let It Bleed I didn’t give it my full attention, but this little pub scene is just the kind of thing that would probably have got cut from it. Doesn’t drive the plot forward quickly enough. Just background. But strip out all the “background” and the foreground becomes a dead and drearily predictable skeleton, which not even Ken Stott can save, rather than the complex living creature that you get hooked on when you read one of the books.

Maybe one day, televisual justice will be done to and for Rebus.