Sunday, 4 March 2018

锁木从未被一群蜜蜂刺痛!

Two years ago, at the end of a forttnight’s holiday in Asia, my mother, my brother and I had a rest day in the scorching heat of Ho Chi Minh City, where we had had a good walk around the previous sweltering day.

I had bought copies of the 1903 and 1904 Wisdens with me, and I began to re-read familiar sections of the former issue, when I said:
“of the Surrey bowling there is nothing to be said except that 锁木 (“swǎw–mòo”) had some wonderful days and that Richardson, though no longer great, worked most strenuously.”
锁木 means “Lock Wood”, and referred to William Henry Lockwood, a deadly fast bowler for Surrey between 1891 and 1894, and between 1898 and 1903 after a series of accidents completely nullified his effectiveness between 1894/1895 (Ashes tour) and 1897.

My brother, who studied Chinese vastly more seriously than I ever did, still did not recognise what I meant by “锁木”, and – as I tend to do myself, read “swǎw–mòo” (I have never mastered the tones in Chinese) as “swarm–oo”. Without understanding who this “swǎw–mòo” was, my brother joked that he “died because he was stung by a swarm of bees” based on the mispronunciation! Bill Lockwood was very accident-prone and during his Australian tour severely cut a hand when a soda syphon exploded, and narrowly escaped both drowning and losing an arm. However, there is actually no evidence Lockwood (锁木) was ever attacked by a swarm of bees as my brother joked during any point of his life!

In the two years since we returned from Vietnam, I have again mentioned “锁木” and my brother repeats the joke about him being stung by a swarm of bees – to the extent that my mother finds it offensive even though she does not understand the Chinese pronunciation. In recent months, as I have actually tried to look at real cases of people being stung by a swarm of bees, this has become embarrassing because – although the claim is my brother’s joke – I have found that people can indeed be killed if a swarm of bees stings, and Mummy had known that for a long time. However, the joke is just too funny despite it’s silliness and the fact that my brother has long been pointing out to me that foreign names (“Lockwood” etc.) are almost never translated into Chinese by meaning (“锁木”) but are almost always translated more prosaically by the nearest allowable sound (thus “洛克伍德”, “lwàw–kèr–wǒo–dèr”).

Are these the worst albums ever?

A couple of weeks ago now, one anonymous person published a list of the 100 worst albums he could think of. It is given as a very large poster and then listed in a user-friendly text format in alphabetical order by artist:
  • Measure of a Man – Clay Aiken
  • The Click – AJR
  • Two the Hard Work – Allman and Woman
  • Dirty Work – All Time Low
  • NOW + 4EVA – Architecture in Helsinki
  • Generation – Audio Bullys
  • Sounding the Seventh Trumpet – Avenged Sevenfold
  • Never Gone – Backstreet Boys
  • Maroon – Barenaked Ladies
  • Lions – The Black Crowes
  • What the. . . – Black Flag
  • Forbidden – Black Sabbath
  • The Beginning – Blackeyed Peas
  • The E.N.D. – Blackeyed Peas
  • Epic – Blood on the Dance Floor
  • Evolution – Blood on the Dance Floor
  • #NEWGOREORDER – Borgore
  • Never Let Me Down – David Bowie
  • I‘m Not a Fan but the Kids Like It – Brokencyde
  • Fortune – Chris Brown
  • Graffiti – Chris Brown
  • Camino Palmero – The Calling
  • Charmbracelet – Mariah Carey
  • Glitter – Mariah Carey
  • Memories. . .Do Not Open – The Chainsmokers
  • Testify – Phil Collins
  • Scream – Chris Cornell
  • Full Circle – Creed
  • Milley Cyrus and Her Dead Pets – Milley Cyrus
  • Outta Sight/Outta Mind – The Datsuns
  • Destiny Fulfilled – Destiny’s Child
  • A Moving Picture – Devlin
  • One – Dirty Vegas
  • Thank You – Duran Duran
  • Revival – Eminem
  • Streets in the Sky – The Enemy
  • A Day Without Rain – Enya
  • Mania – Fall Out Boy
  • Playing with Fire – Kevin Federline
  • Angelic 2 the Core: Angelic Funkadelic/Angelic Rockadelic – Corey Feldman
  • Animal Ambition: An Untamed desire to Win – 50 Cent
  • Wake Up! – Pope Francis
  • Enclosure – John Frusciante
  • Music for Tourists – Chris Garneau
  • Cardiology – Good Charlotte
  • Good Morning Revival – Good Charlotte
  • UNO . . . DOS . . . TRÉ – Green Day
  • Listen (Deluxe) – David Guetta
  • Take It to the Limit – Hinder
  • FOR(N)EVER – Hoobastank
  • No Shame – Hopsin
  • Cyberpunk – Billy Idol
  • And Then Boom – Iglu and Hartly
  • Virtual XI – Iron Maiden
  • Blood in My Eye – Ja Rule
  • Speeding Bullet 2 Heaven – Kid Cudi
  • Music from ‘The Elder’ – KISS
  • Something about Kreay – Kreayshawn
  • The Rebirth of Venus – Ben Lee
  • ReBIRTH – Lil’ Wayne
  • Results May Vary – Limp Bizkit
  • One More Light – Linking Park
  • Authentic – LL Cool J
  • Sorry for Party Rocking – LMFAO
  • Slick Dogs and Ponies – Louis XIV
  • Baytl – Gucci Mane and V-Nasty
  • Red Pill Blues (Deluxe) – Maroon 5
  • Super Collider – Megadeth
  • Louder – Lea Michele
  • Hotel – Moby
  • Travistan – Travis Morrison
  • Dark Horse – Nickelback
  • A Lively Mind – Paul Oakenfold
  • Heathen Chemistry – Oasis
  • (One) – The Panic Channel
  • Metal Magic – Pantera
  • One of the Boys – Katy Perry
  • Liz Phair – Liz Phair
  • Having Fun with Elvis on Stage – Elvis Presley
  • Life on Display – Puddle of Mudd
  • Doll Domination – The Pussycat Dolls
  • Nine Track Mind – Charlie Puth
  • Eoghan Quigg – Eoghan Quigg
  • Lulu – Lou Reed and Metallica
  • Wanderlust – Gavin Rossdale
  • United Nations of Sound – RPA and the United Nations of Sound
  • ****hole – Gene Simmons
  • Get Your Heart On! – Simple Plan
  • souljaboytellem.com – Soulja Boy
  • Underclass Hero – Sum 41
  • 1989 (Deluxe) – Taylor Swift
  • Paula – Robin Thicke
  • Title (Deluxe Version) – Meghan Trainor
  • Jewellery Quarter – The Twang
  • Hotel California – Tyga
  • Famous First Words – Viva Brother
  • Raditude – Weezer
  • #willpower – will.i.am
  • 17 – XXXTENTATION
  • Warlord (Deluxe) – Yung Lean
What is noticeable to me is that I have bypassed almost every one of these albums, because all but a few were made after I stopped listening to the radio in the middle to late 1990s when I felt that what was played was just too loud, tuneless and noisy to interest me. It is true that within my occasional present-day readings of music that these or similar albums are listed as very bad, and I do almost always accept that viewpoint. Whenever I have listened to these or related albums, I can only say I dislike them quite intensely.

However, as I reflect on past music reading, I always have scepticism that the list is too ephemeral and is not focused on records whose badness will endure with those who attempt to remember them. With hindsight, most of the worst of the popular music I listened to in the cloistered environment of Keilor Downs was nothing more and nothing less than ordinarily bad. For this reason, I wonder if the albums listed here will simply become regarded as just that in the future, and do so desite finding them much worse vis-à-vis what I listed to as a child.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Not Thèrése Neumann’s favorite sign!

Today, on the last day of a great holiday in Tasmania – an island unrivalled for its comfortable climate and beautiful scenery – my brother has seen this sign on the banks of the Tamar River:
My brother says this would be Thèrése Neumann’s favorite sign because she (believed along with her parish priests that she) ate nothing but the Holy Eucharist for the last four decades of her life. Whilst I find the story endlessly titillating, it annoys my family to an extreme extent.

However, it is a ridiculous joke to say this sign would be Thèrése Neumann’s favorite! For one thing, she was not aiming that others not eat, although her inedia was an extremely special grace accoridng to her advocates. Much more importantly, the sing does not forbid eating per se, but just the Tamar’s shellfish because of potential contaminants!

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

100 years ago

Having been in the market for old Wisdens a lot lately – though only to improve issues where my extant copy is poor – it has long occurred to me that today marks the centenary of a critical death in the cricket world:
Colin Blythe, who died 100 years ago in World War I, was one of the greatest of spin bowlers and a great matchwinner and turnstile asset for Kent
Just as repetitive (or perhaps more accurately well-remembered and recited by myself) as the false rhyme “Mold bowled” (he actually threw) was in Wisdens from 1890 to 1902 is the phrase “Blythe bowled superbly” in Wisdens from 1901 to 1915. Colin Blythe’s left-arm spin bowling took over 2,500 wickets between 1899 and 1914, making him the twelfth-highest first-class wicket-taker, and his 70 ten wicket match returns is the fifth most of any bowler. Blythe’s vicious spin made him deadly on sticky or crumbled wickets, but with his deceptive flight and variations of pace he was in the 1900s frequently very effective on firm turf, especially with Arthur Fielder’s pace providing a sharp contrast at the other end. His resourcefulness was such that he enjoyed bowling to hard-hitting batsmen.

Blythe was over his decade opposed to Jack Hobbs probably that batsman’s greatest foe over his whole career. Hobbs averaged only 32.63 in innings opposed to Blythe, nineteen runs less than for his whole first-class career. In seventeen of thirty-six innings, Blythe got Hobbs out, and he made Hobbs watchful on the best of pitches.

On 1 June, 1907, Blythe achieved the best ever County Championship bowling analysis, when in less than three hours actual play he took seventeen wickets for forty-eight runs against Northamptonshire. However, the merits of this performance are easily called into question since the pitch was extremely slow and took extremely rapid spin quite unlike anything seen on today’s covered pitches. Moreover, Northamptonshire that year:
  1. averaged just 13.62 runs per wicket over twenty-one matches
    • to be exact the figures were 4,836 runs scored for 355 wickets lost
  2. never totalled over 264 in one innings
  3. never had any batsman play an individual innings higher than 81
  4. were dismissed on a sticky wicket by George Dennett for twelve runs all out ten days later
Nonetheless, I will give the full score of the game to just demonstrate what happened. Not a ball was bowled on the scheduled second day of May 31, and half the play was lost due to rain and wet ground on scheduled opening day May 30:

Kent:

F.E. Woolley b Driffield................26
H.T.W. Hardinge c Cox b East............73
James Seymour b Wells...................37
Mr. K.L. Hutchings b Driffield..........52
Mr. A.P. Day c Kingston b East..........23
*Mr. E.W. Dillon b East................. 4
E. Humphreys c Pool b Driffield......... 0
†F.H. Huish not out.....................19
W.J. Fairservice b East................. 9
C. Blythe c Vials b Driffield........... 6
A. Fielder b East....................... 1
Byes 2, leg-byes 1, no-balls 1.......... 4
TOTAL..................................254


Bowling: G.J. Thompson 15—1—76—0; East 33.2—6—77—5; Wells 6—1—34—1; Driffield 22—9—50—4; Cox 5—1—13—0

Northamptonshire:

†W.A. Buswell st Huish b Blythe......... 0 — c Woolley b Blythe............ 7
M. Cox st Huish b Blythe................ 0 — st Huish b Blythe.............12
Mr. C.J.T. Pool c Fielder b Blythe...... 0 — st Huish b Blythe............. 5
Mr. W.H. Kingston lbw, b Blythe......... 2 — lbw, b Blythe................. 0
G.J. Thompson b Blythe.................. 0 — c Hardinge b Blythe........... 1
W. East c Huish b Blythe................ 0 — c Huish b Fairservice......... 0
Mr. E.M. Crosse c Fairservice b Blythe.. 0 — c Hardinge b Blythe........... 2
Mr. A.R. Thompson c Seymour b Blythe....10 — c Humphreys b Blythe.......... 7
*Mr. G.A.T. Vials not out...............33 — b Fairservice................. 1
W. Wells c Humphreys b Blythe........... 0 — b Humphreys................... 0
Mr. L.T. Driffield b Blythe.............12 — not out....................... 1
Byes 1, leg-byes 2...................... 3 — Byes.......................... 3
TOTAL...................................60TOTAL.........................39


Bowling: First Innings — Blythe 16—7—30—10; Fairservice 12—5—17—0; Fielder 3—0—10—0 Second Innings — Blythe 15.1—7—18—7; Fairservice 9—3—15—2; Humphreys 6—3—3—1
That same year, Blythe took fifteen for 99 against South Africa on a wet pitch at Headingley – given the difference in batting strength likely a greater feat than his Northampton record from fifty days previously. It was 1908 and 1909, however, that saw Blythe at his absolute peak – he took 412 wickets in those two seasons, and carried a substantial burden on hard pitches with Fielder frequently unsound. In the 1910s, Blythe was not so good as before on dry pitches – the fast ball became more difficult with age – but so deadly was he on the many rain-damaged pitches that he headed the averages every year from 1912 to 1914.

In these early 1910s, Blythe was also almost certainly a critical factor in making Kent one of the few counties able to return profits year after year. For contrast, but for wartime cost reductions and the postwar boom Northamptonshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire – and very likely other counties like Derbyshire and Somerset – would have folded before the 1910s ended.

Whilst other factors like:
  1. Kent’s proximity to:
    1. London industrial patronage that allowed Kent – unlike most counties in southwest England – to maintain a significant professional staff
    2. a large body of cricket supporters in a very densely populated countryside
    3. a large body of wealthy businessmen and professionals who under the existing low-tax regime could afford time to develop the skills for top-class cricket and play it
  2. less rainy, hotter and sunnier summer weather than the wealthy northern counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire
certainly contributed, the presence of so resourceful and attacking a spin bowler was most probably a major spectator asset, and a larger asset than could be perceived from popularity with Kent supporters. The clearest conclusion from studying first-class cricket crowd figures is that attacking spin bowlingnot attacking batting – constitutes the essential requirement for first-class cricket to pay its way without subsidies from limited-overs forms of the game, or from wealthy patrons.

Class war of the world’s many

One comment today about last Sunday’s Texas school shooting by former Presidential running mate Paul Ryan said:
“What they need is meaningful gun control. Your prayers to the made up invisible being in the sky aren’t helping stop these repeated massacres.”
There may be scientifically a need for better laws or policies to deal with mass shootings, and prayers without action do do nothing. However, if one looks at the quote above, it becomes impossible to think they really care about shootings and only about having their own way – even if they earnestly and logically believe this selfish demand will reduce shootings, something evidenced in Europe and East Asia.

Nevertheless, this claim does not excuse the selfishness – underlying if not always or even normally explicit – in most atheist criticism of Christianity. By contrast, during the interwar period, belief that the secular working and academic classes were utterly and totally self-interested was throughout Europe a basic criticism of workers by the religious landowning and political classes. Today, in contrast, there is little belief in the United States that the growing, increasingly secular Millennial Generation is anything other than idealistic, nor that it is fighting a class war. Class war of the many is inherently opposed to hierarchical religion like traditional Christianity. A cosmology of equality before the law requires not that the worker have the tiniest political influence – indeed it regards workers’ lack of political power as divinely ordained because rulers are given power by God. Rather, it focuses on the moral obligations of rulers to ensure moral laws are in force, and more crucially, that the rulers themselves follow these laws. It is – I make no bones about this – fair to say that with urbanisation it became increasingly difficult for monarchs to be believed to be remotely satisfying these requirements. Even in medieval Europe the continent’s naturally intense class war was revealed via numerous peasant revolts. At that time, illiterate peasants could not understand philosophy – nor did the ruling classes allow them to – but no doubt envy was very widespread.

Nonetheless, one should not confuse cause for equality with selflessness. In fact, the two stand hostile to one another, because the masses demanding equality do not do so because they want sacrifices from the super-rich, but because they want to eliminate their own sacrifices. This drive is inherent in all class war, and no doubt has been a very important part of non-human animal social evolution within the Enriched World, where in many taxa there has been a strong trend from cooperative family group living to pair or solitary living with increased density of animal protein.

How to actually make the super-rich less selfish is another issue – as is whether the super-rich are inherently so selfish as the Left and Centre wish them to appear.