Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Saturday June 24 2017

Yesterday, I was outside Kings Cross Station, and while there I tried to photo one of London’s more amusing little buildings, which looks like a lighthouse.

The camera I have had for the last three years still works, after a fashion.  But it is misbehaving, in ways that cause me to miss crucial photos.  So, I treated myself to a new one, which is very fine, but very complicated to operate.  Which partly explains why, instead taking a still photo of this lighthouse building, I made a movie which merely included the lighthouse building, lasting twenty one seconds, by mistake.

Here is a screen capture from that movie, paused at a moment that makes it look a lot better than it mostly was:

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This short movie also contained pictures of passers-b at crazy angles, of the pavement in front of me, along with occasional snatches of my bright blue bag.  (I’d happily show the whole thing, but as of right now, I don’t know how that works.)

But, the interesting thing was that there was also a soundtrack.  So, it was a real movie, rather than a silent movie.  You can hear those passers-by shouting, in some cases with their lips moving in perfect time with their shouting.

Hollywood, be very afraid.  Because, perhaps I will try repeating this, while pointing my new camera back at me (for which the twiddly screen (it has a twiddly screen (all my cameras have twiddly screens)) will be very handy), and with me saying something coherent.  Or maybe someone else cleverer than me.  Or both.  Or more.  But, I promise nothing.

The lighthouse building is in the middle of the above screen capture, and in the distance (this kind of situation being why I do love a zoom lens).  More about this building, and in particular about its recent renovation, here.

Friday June 23 2017

The internet loves animals, especially cats and dogs, and I went looking for Grenfell Tower animal stories.  Because, there’s always an animal angle, to just about any story, even if it wasn’t an animal story to start with.

Did many pets die in the Grenfell Tower disaster?  I wasn’t able to answer that one.  But there have been a number of stories about pets who either can’t now stay with their current owners, or whose owners have died.  Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, for instance, is helping out with temporary pet accommodation.

Animals were also heavily involved in the search for bodies in the wreckage, as MSM news explains:

Specially trained dogs are also vital to the mission. The search process is painstaking, and as dogs are smaller, more agile, and have such a keen sense of smell (better than any technology), the animals have been deployed at more challenging areas.

The upper floors of the 24-storey high rise, those most damaged, and where people are most likely to have been killed, benefit particularly from the dogs’ expertise.

The canines come from the LFB and the MET’s urban search crews. They’re given special equipment, and even little boots to protect their feet from heat and broken glass. While obviously dangerous, no fire dog has ever been harmed while out on an operation.

...

The dogs mean the sad and devastating process of finding the missing will be quicker. They can get into parts of the building humans simply can’t get to.

I particularly like the bit about those “little boots”.  Nice touch.  Both in the sense of what this detail adds to the story, and in the sense that this must make life easier for the dogs, despite any doubts the dogs might have when first made to put their little boots on.

More about these dogs and their boots, with a picture, here, in a story from last year.

Thursday June 22 2017

Well, two really.  Theirs, and mine:

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We are in the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern, which features a huge west-facing window that sucks the afternoon sun in, creating wonderful effects.  These are sharp and dramatic when you look at the whole picture, more subtle when viewed closer up.

I observe a couple having a photo session.  I do a big picture photo of the big scene (1.1).  Then I zoom in for more detail (1.2) complete with reflections, and to see the light in a different light, so to speak, less sharply drawn, more like a watercolour.  As they look at their photos, I zoom out again (2.1), and then as they walk off, satisfied. I zoom in again (2.2).

Things were made easier for us all by the fact that there was no Art cluttering up the place, or not that I could see.  That the Art in Tate Modern is so easily avoided is one of its best features, I think.  The architectural views, both inside and looking outwards upon London, are magnificent.  The Art, on the whole, less so.

Wednesday June 21 2017

One of the many aspects of the horrible Grenfell Tower fire that makes it such a compelling news story is that the scene of the crime (which is what most now assume it to be) is so very, very visible.  This is not the kind of horror that can be sealed off by the police and hidden from view.  There it is, in all its photogenic horror, and there it will remain for quite some while yet.

Yesterday I lunched with GodDaughter 2.  She has been allowed no time to recover from her recital (the pizza in yesterday’s posting was consumed just after that happened), but instead has been plunged into rehearsals for this showVery hot, apparently.  Lots of stage lighting, and lots of standing around, as is the way with complicated rehearsals.  I, meanwhile, was also nearly immobilised by the heat, and just wanted to get home again and be truly immobile.  So, we spent less time together than we would have had the heat been less hot.

imageBut she did show me this photo, on the right there, which was taken by a friend of hers and along with a million other such photos, has been circulating on social media.  This particular photo was taken (I think I have this right) after the fire had erupted, and then been turned entirely black and dormant by the firemen.  But then, the fire got back into business, nearly a day later.  And I bet the heat made a difference to that too.

As for the politics of this, I don’t think Mrs May will recover from the bad press she has had as a result of this disaster.  (GD2 was very eloquent about that.) But my hope is that the Corbynistas are overplaying their hand.  People, says John McDonnell, have a right to be angry.  Of course they do.  But if too many of the people being angry are thought to be politicos who are merely pretending to be angry but who are really having the time of their lives, the Corbyn project might suffer.  I’m sure the Corvbyn high-ups are aware of this danger, but knowing what is happening with something is not the same as necessarily being able to stop it.  (Ask any fireman.)

In general I hope that what I heard Matthew Parris saying on the television on the night of the election is right, to the effect that the Corbyn phenomenon will now be subjected to the sort of serious critical scrutiny by the voters which last time around they bestowed only upon Mrs May.

Tuesday June 20 2017

Why do people get so angry about other people who photo their food before eating it?

Here is a pizza that I photoed, before eating it, when we all went out to dinner following GD2’s end of third year singing recital:

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And very tasty it was too.  Thank you Da Mario‘s, if that’s how you say it.

Does the very thought of me taking the above photo, in a restaurant, annoy you?  Why?  Seriously, why?  By this I don’t mean: stop feeling annoyed you fool.  By why I mean why.  What is this feeling?

I’m not sure I can prove it, but I am rather sure that a similarly small but definite spasm of annoyance is felt when the same people who disapprove of food photoing observe other photoers using selfie sticks.

Yes, I think I have it.  What food photoing and selfie sticks have in common, beyond the obvious fact that both involve photoing, is that both practices are very visible.  If they bother you, they are hard to ignore, like a slight but irregular noise when you are trying to get to sleep, or people shouting near you in an already noisy (but predictably so and thus ignorably so) tube train.

The fact of these practices being so visible is what amplifies the annoyance.

Getting back to that food photoing thing in particular, why be annoyed?

Could it be that photography has now become something very different in recent years, but that some people need to do some catching up?  The marginal cost of the next photo you take is now: zero.  The marginal cost of the next phone communication you send: also zero.  So, taking and sending a photo of what you are about to eat is of no more consequence than just telling someone you are about to consume a rather good pizza, over the phone, with mere words.  A pizza photo says, quickly, what is in it, what sort of pizza it is, how big, and so forth, just as you might if you were talking about it.  A photo thrown into the conversation is just illustrated chit-chat.

But photography, traditionally, has tended to be a much more slow, solemn and artistic and expensive thing.  And the more artistic and cultured you are, or think that you are, the more you will know this.  Do these damn people think that every damn food photo they commit and emit is some sort of eighteenth century Dutch still life painting?

Well, it kind of is, or kind of can be.  But basically, no.  If you think they think this, you’ll think them very silly.  But, they don’t think this.  What they are doing is not Big Art, even if at its best casual photoing can resemble Big Art.  What they are doing with their food photos is small talk.

Could that be something to do with it?

Also in play are the more ignoble feelings aroused by others (a) enjoying themselves (b) not caring who knows it, and (c) not caring, in particular, about you and any moans you might have about what they are doing and how they are drawing attention to themselves.  You just know that if you said to them: Excuse me, would you mind not doing that? - they’d say something along the lines of: yes we would mind not doing that, get stuffed.  Eat you own damn food and stop complaining about us photoing ours, you idiot.  And they’d be right.  And you’d know it.

Monday June 19 2017

Indeed:

image

The date I did the photo is on the bus.  The place is just past the 507 bus stop at the top end of Horseferry Road, which I go past on my way to the nearest tube station.  I cropped the photo a little, but was careful to include the flowers.

Whenever I see Chinese looking couples getting married in London, having a marriage photo-session, I take all the photos I can, of them and of their photoer.  The above is a nice variation on that theme, I think.  If there’s no photoing going on, the next best thing is an interesting vehicle.

Not much today.  Too hot.  Hot indoors.  Even hotter out of doors.  So, stayed indoors.  Mostly next to my big old computer, and its fan-stroke-fan-heater.  But at least I wasn’t running around getting even hotter.

Sunday June 18 2017

Yes, time for another collection of photoer photos, taken by me a decade and more ago.

Usually, if anything on a camera twiddles, it’s just the screen.  But there was a brief moment, just over a decade ago, when a tiny few cameras had lenses that twiddled.  The thinking presumably being that by storing a lens at right angles to its position when in action, a more powerful, because much longer (or maybe that should be deeper), lens could thus be deployed.

Here are eighteen photoers using such cameras.  That sounds like a lot, but it represents pretty much all of the photoers armed with this particular sort of camera that I managed to photo, ever.  Barring a very few that I missed when trawling through my voluminous photo-archives.

The idea never really caught on.

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There seem to be four basic models involved.

These are: the Nikon Coolpix 995, the Nikon Coolpix S4, the Nikon Coolpix SQ, and the Kyocera Finecam SL300R.  Everyone shown above seems to be using a variant of one of those three models.

What the mobile phone (I think) in the penultimate photo is, I do not know.

Perhaps someone can explain to me why such devices never caught on.  I would have thought that, then and now, this design or something like it would enable you to fit a lot more photographic bang into your pocket than would be possible otherwise, in cameras where the lens and the processing are all done in the one untwiddling and hence photographically very thin object.

I suppose another way of phrasing the same question would be: How the hell do the cameras in phones work, and work so well, what with them being so thin?

Saturday June 17 2017

I just did a posting at Samizdata about the flypast over London today, that went with the Trooping of the Colour.  That I photoed from my roof, insofar as I saw it.

I stuck up a lot of Samizdata-friendly photos there, but my favourite flypast photo was this, of a couple of planes seen through some foreground roof clutter:

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You may say: not very remarkable.  But I say: this is not the kind of thing I usually see from my roof when I go up there with my camera.  For me, this is remarkable.

Friday June 16 2017

It feels hard to write about anything else in London, other than that towering inferno.  This story will run and run, because it partakes of both genuine emotions of the strongest sort, and politicians and media people eager to fan the flames.  What happened?  Who exactly has died?  Whose fault was it?  You can’t blame the media.  Their job is to tell true stories, and this is one hell of a true story.

image

Daily Mirror story about a barking dog.

Politically, if you had tried to hand-craft a disaster calculated to do the most possible damage to the Conservative government, and to most encourage what now seems to be a rising tide of Corbynism, you could hardly have done it more perfectly.  Those political people who are now fanning the flames are filled with passionate moral self-confidence.  How on earth the long-term politics of all this will pan out, I have no idea.

Would a Corbynite government really turn Britain into Venezuela?  Probably not, but why take the chance?  That’s what I say.  But will enough of my fellow Brits agree with me, when the time to say comes round again?  As of now, it feels like: no.

Oh well:

Spero infestis metuo secundis.

6k liked that too.

Thursday June 15 2017

I have posted here recently about the design of tube maps.

And I have posted here about how the Roman Empire surrounded the Mediterranean Sea.

But I didn’t expect ever to be posting about both, in the form of the same piece of graphics.  But now, Colossal has a posting entitled The Roman Empire’s 250,000 Miles of Roadways imagined as a Subway Transit Map:

image

If you click on that, you’ll get it big enough to clock all the station names.  (If your eyesight is in the same zone of dodgyness as mine.)

I actually think that this drives home the point, about Rome surrounding the Mediterranean, very well.  Just giving all the various tribes and countries and kingdoms involved a spanking on the battlefield is one thing.  Roman roads are something else again.  A Roman road says: We’re here to say, and we can do it again whenever we want.

Wednesday June 14 2017

In the movie of that name, the inmates were all rich and glamorous.  Well, they would be, they were played by movie stars.  And the fire spread slowly enough to last for a whole movie.

This tower contained mere people, and the flames spread very quickly, like … wildfire.

I presume that the social media are ablaze with images of this tower, but for me, being the age I am, it’s the Evening Standard that really brings these sorts of things home:

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As you can see, they originally went with “Inferno”, but later changed it to the more politically charged “Death Trap”.  On the telly, the story was already developing, along the lines of: they were warned.  But they did nothing.

The Evening Standard story so far.

Tuesday June 13 2017

Indeed:

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According to Laura Gibbs, this translates from Latin into this:

I am hopeful in times of danger; I am fearful when things are going well.

I love the internet.  Before the internet I would have seen this, been momentarily baffled, and would have forgotten it at once.  Now I photo it and later I learn what it means.  I then blog it and only then do I forget about it.

The building that proclaims this wisdom is now the Milestone Hotel.

Monday June 12 2017

Today I was part of a impressively numerous gang of friends and family who attended GodDaughter 2’s end of third year recital, at the Royal College of Music.

The RCM, seen from outside the Royal Albert Hall, looks like this:

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This photo was taken from just beyond the statue of Prince Albert outside the Royal Albert Hall, to the south of it.  By most standards, this statue is pretty imposing, but it is a miniature compared to the vastly bigger Royal Albert Memorial, which is to the north, the other side of Kensington Road, in Hyde Park.

After GD2’s recital, we went out and celebrated.  We ate.  We drank.  We photoed each other.  I photoed us photoing each other.  And I also took a few dozen photos in and around the RCM and its various Albert memorials, both before and after the recital.  More of that may follow (although I promise nothing).

For now, I’ll just say that although it is very hard to be objective about a person whom I have known since she was about four or some such tiny age, GD2, who is a mezzo-soprano, really seems like she is going to be the real deal.  Her voice gets stronger and more expressive, and her command of it more impressive, every time I hear her.

GD2 herself is not in the slightest bit strange, but when singing, she does strange, wonderfully.  Her performances of two of the songs from Day Turned Into Night by Iain Bell were particularly fine.  These songs feature Queen Victoria describing the life and death of – you’ve guessed it – Prince Albert.  The two that GD2 sang are very strange indeed.

Sunday June 11 2017

Indeed:

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Click on that sliver of horizontality to see the building in question.

No doubt this has already received much www attention.  And now, I attend to it.  Photos taken by me, outside Hampton Wick Overground Station, yesterday.

The graffiti in the Hampton Hackney Wick and surrounding areas is dispiritingly ubiquitous.  I prefer the way my part of town handles graffiti, which is for it all to happen in a tunnel.

Friday June 09 2017

I don’t go to Quotulatiousness every day, but I went there yesterday, and what did I find?  I found that this Samizdata piece of mine from 2015, was quotulated again.  The piece was about war and sport.  The earlier quotulation was from the sport bit.  Now he quotulates the war bit, which is how the piece begins.

I also told you here about the earlier quotulation.  Grander people than me have others to bang their drum for them, but if I don’t bang my own drum, nobody will.